I felt like I was walking in an authentic Old West town or a movie set — and I was. The site was the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island, Nebraska, a collection of historical buildings filled with furniture and the little items of everyday living that make a living history museum authentic. Costumed interpreters guided visitors through buildings, including Henry Fonda’s birthplace. Visitors start at a modern museum building that features displays of area history, and the grounds include the town, a farm site, and an Indian earth lodge. The website is www.stuhrmuseum.org. Read the rest of this entry »
Archive for the ‘History — The West’ Category
I could spend a lot of time (and money) in this store. It is the Fort Western Old West Shop in Lincoln, Nebraska, specializing in authentic historical clothing of the late 19th-century American West. The reenactor can completely outfit himself or herself in either dress clothes or ranch wear in the Old West Shop, which is nearly as big as entire western stores in Ohio. The website is http://www.fortwestern.com/old-west-shop/. Read the rest of this entry »
When the snow melted, thousands of cattle lay dead.
Cowboys rode the range in the spring of 1887, finding death and disaster at every turn. Cattle, trying to find shelter from the blizzard, died from cold, thirst and starvation, and the winter of 1886-1887, eventually called the Great Die-Up, changed the West.
It started with complacency caused by wet summers and mild winters. Ranchers in the 1880s ran cattle on the open range. They bought parcels of land with water and thus controlled the rest, which was useless without water. They owned monstrous herds and used no fences, some ranches numbering hundreds of thousands of acres. They bet their fortunes and the lives of their animals on a weather pattern that was too good to last. Mild winters and wet summers encouraged them. Read the rest of this entry »
This HO locomotive is a replica of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad’s switcher J.W. Bowker, named for the line’s master mechanic. The V&T bought the locomotive in 1875 from Baldwin Locomotive Works. The book “Virginia & Truckee” by Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg was published in 1963. The V&T served the silver mines in Nevada. My friend Mark is correct that the song “Darcy Farrow” takes place in that area.
The Blizzard of 1887
When the snow melted in the spring of 1887, thousands of cattle lay dead. Cowboys rode the range, finding death and disaster at every turn. Cattle, trying to find shelter from the blizzard, died from cold, thirst, and starvation, and the winter of 1886-1887, eventually called the Great Die-Up, changed the West. It started with complacency caused by wet summers and mild winters.
Ranchers in the 1880s ran cattle on the open range. They bought parcels of land with water and thus controlled the rest, which was useless without water. They owned monstrous herds and used no fences, some ranches numbering hundreds of thousands of acres in size. They bet their fortunes and the lives of their animals on weather that was too good to last. Read the rest of this entry »
“It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are — perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find.
— Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, in his surrender speech, 1877
Indians wrapped in blankets — it’s an enduring image of the Old West. And that image speaks mightily of the complex, interwoven relationship that Indians and whites shared as they at times coexisted peacefully and at others fought over land. Read the rest of this entry »
This advertisement for “The Old West” is dated 1980. I subscribed to The Old West in 1974 after seeing such an ad and in my foolish ignorance of the size of Time-Life sets thought that the series would comprise nine volumes, as shown in the photo, and I wrote in my 1975-76 journal about the number of volumes I owned and the number I had to go. The never-ending series of books led to a running joke with my friend Dale where we made up book titles about extremely specialized subjects: Cloud Patterns, Kerosene Lamp Chimneys, and the like, and my mother made up the title Quilt Patterns. The series eventually ended at 27 volumes, and I’m thankful for every volume. As with all Time-Life sets, the series introduces the reader to a vast subject with a solid overview of each topic. For some, one book on a particular aspect of the West is enough, and if a person is inspired to dig deeper, Time-Life mentions plenty of places in its bibliography and within the text to continue the study. Read the rest of this entry »
Time-Life published The Old West in the 1970s and issued revisions of early volumes even as the series continued. The books were heavily advertised on television and in print and were available bimonthly through mail order subscription. When I subscribed in 1974, the price including shipping was $8.91 per book. With the Master Index, the series comprises 27 volumes. T-L published a one-volume compendium called “The Old West” in 1990. Read the rest of this entry »
I encountered the photography of Solomon D. Butcher at the Nebraska State Historical Society Museum in May, and ever since I keep seeing his photographs in seemingly every book on the Old West. Butcher photographed thousands of Nebraska pioneers, most often standing in front of their sod huts, leaving for future viewers a starkly realistic portrayal of the living conditions on the Nebraska frontier and letting us look into the determined faces of those who left behind comfort, home and family to stake their claims to land. Read the rest of this entry »
Massachusetts Rep. Robert C. Winthrop uttered the catchphrase that pushed two countries to war, “manifest destiny,” in Congress on Jan. 3, 1846, a phrase that first appeared in print in 1845 to describe the notion that it was our country’s divine mission to occupy the continent from sea to sea.
The country was heading toward war with Mexico following the admission of Texas as the 28th state on Dec. 29, 1845. Mexico, called a late stage in the breakdown of the Spanish Empire, won independence from Spain in 1821, but that independence was followed by a nearly uninterrupted series of revolts. Texas won independence from Mexico in 1836 after Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, but Santa Anna’s successors rejected the agreement and still considered Texas a Mexican province. Read the rest of this entry »