Thursday, October 1, 2015

Early Kansas Expedition

Zebulon Montgomery Pike
Most Kansans know about the Lewis and Clark Expedition begun in 1804, the year after the Louisiana Purchase.  The Expedition started up the Missouri River in the spring, and after five weeks they paused to make camp in the area which became Kansas City, KS.  They continued their expedition up the Missouri River, traveling the river boundary which became the northeast corner of Kansas.

Less well known is the Pike's Expedition, which began in 1806 under the leadership of a young army lieutenant named Zebulon Montgomery Pike.  His purpose was to ascend the Missouri River and upon reaching the area which became Kansas, to visit Indian tribes.  His intended path was to continue into New Mexico, turn south to encounter the Red River, and then travel on the Mississippi to St. Louis, from which his journey had begun.  

He fulfilled his mission of visiting Indian villages, beginning with the Osage tribe, from whom he bought supplies.  Next he visited a Pawnee village that had previously been visited by Spanish troops.  The story is told that Spaniards had gifted the villagers with blankets, saddles, bridles, and other gifts, including Spanish flags which flew over the village.  Pike demanded that those flags be removed, but the demand was not immediately fulfilled.  Eventually the old chief laid the Spanish flag at Pike's feet and the American flag was raised over the Chief's tent.

Pike's Expedition headed into Colorado, 'discovering' the great bald peak that now bears Pike's name.  They went south into Spanish territory and were taken prisoner for a time, until being escorted to the American frontier and released.  The Pike's Expedition took a year before returning to St. Louis as ordered, and although their expedition may be less well known, they returned with much valuable information about the territory that became the state of Kansas.

Isaac B. Werner came to Kansas in 1878, seven decades after these early adventurers.  Their expeditions acquired the information that informed and mythologized the area which later attracted settlers.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Back to School

The Emerson school Isaac helped build
Now that the school year 2015-2016 is back in session, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the earliest schools on the prairie, and the ideals for education of populist writers.

The standards for educating children have been a political issue since the founding of America.  Today's politicians debate Common Core, but the involvement of politics in education is not new.  Populist writers that Isaac read who expressed views on education included Edward Bellamy.  Looking Backward, set in an imaginary future, contrasted 'modern' educational practices with education in Isaac's time, focusing particularly on the importance of educating all citizens, not just a privileged few.  "...[W]e should not consider life worth living if we had to be surrounded by a population of ignorant, boorish, coarse, wholly uncultivated men and women...No single thing is so important to every man as to have for neighbors intelligent, companionable persons.  There is nothing, therefore, which the nation can do for him that will enhance so much his own happiness as to educate his neighbors.  When it fails to do so, the value of his own education to him is reduced by half, and many of the tastes he has cultivated are made positive sources of pain."  Bellamy's ideal emphasized the importance of universal education:  "To put the matter in a nutshell, there are three main grounds on which our educational system rests:  first, the right of every man to the completest education the nation can give him on his own account, as necessary to his enjoyment of himself; second, the right of his fellow citizens to have him educated, as necessary to their enjoyment of his society; third, the right of the unborn to be guaranteed an intelligent and refined parentage."

The 'new' Emerson School in about 1920
The Progressives of Isaac's era disapproved of segregating students into public and private schools.  In another novel written during that era, Caesar's Column:  A story of the Twentieth Century, by author Ignatius Donnelly, an imaginary future is again used to describe how past ills have been corrected.  "We decreed, next, universal and compulsory education.  No one can vote who cannot read and write.  We believe that one man's ignorance is not only ruinous to the individual, but destructive to society.  It is an epidemic which scatters death everywhere.  Continuing:  We abolish all private schools, except the higher institutions and colleges.  We believe it to be essential to the peace and safety of the commonwealth that the children of all the people, rich and poor, should, during the period of growth, associate together.  In this way, race, sectarian and caste prejudices are obliterated, and the whole community grow up together as brethren.  Otherwise, in a generation or two, we shall have the people split up into hostile factions, fenced in by doctrinal bigotries, suspicious of one another, and antagonizing one another in politics, business and everything else."

Douglas Township, Stafford Co, KS school about 1917
Isaac was a member of the Farmers' Alliance in his community, and he contributed books from his own library to the local organization. Isaac had more confidence in educating farmers than in political activities, although he did support the People's Party of the progressive era.  

In Isaac's time parents were eager to have a school nearby for their children to attend, unlike some of today's parents who make the choice to home school.  While most of the schools in Isaac's old region are public, in urban areas, private and charter schools are numerous.  How best to teach children, and what to include in the curriculum remain disputed issues.  The educational ideals envisioned by progressive authors of Isaac's time for the 20th Century have not been implemented.  (See "Once There was a Community," 3-5-2015 and "A One-room School House Surprise," 7-12-2012 in the blog archives.)

Everyone wants what is best for the children, but deciding what is best remains the subject of rancorous debate!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Music and History

Ad from The Etude, Dec. 1915
Recently I have had many reasons to reflect on the role of music in our lives.  The most personal reason is that my piano had been in storage for 2 1/2 years, and having it available to play once again is wonderful.  It was on its side atop a piano mover's dolly, covered in packing blankets and a canvas drop cloth in our home during the construction, and as carefully as we protected it, I was worried.  I was also worried about the process of putting it back together and on its legs again.  It has been moved a few times before, but usually I hide during that process, afraid to watch.  This time I was needed to help with protecting the newly installed and finished floors, so I couldn't hide.  I even stayed to photograph the pivotal moment of attaching the third leg.  All went well, without a scratch to piano or man. The piano tuner concluded with the playing of Beethoven's Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor when he finished--a real treat!  (I do play, but not well enough to deserve this beautiful instrument.)

Setting up my piano
As the construction on our house nears completion, one of my tasks is sorting the things from our storage room into the "save" and "discard" piles.  This is a particularly difficult task for a genealogist and history researcher, but I am slowly making headway.  Among the things that made it into the "save" pile is the December 1915 issue of The Etude, from which the advertisements in this blog were taken.  The magazine includes not only articles but also music, and the editorial near the front of the 1915 Christmas issue read, "But the world is purging itself of the horror of war and the makers of war.  All the more reason why we should do our utmost here in America to proclaim the great message of peace."  (See "My Steadfast Tin Soldier, A Sequel," 10-2-2014 in the blog archives for a reminder of that era.) 
Ad from The Etude, Dec. 2015

Although the issue of The Etude that I found is not quite of the era in which Isaac B. Werner lived, it made me think of him nonetheless, for Isaac loved music.  His journal includes references to music in the churches of Rossville, IL, to spending evenings with friends who played musical instruments, and to the enjoyment of singing at Farmers' Alliance meetings.  (See "Music on the Prairie," 1-24-2013 and "Songs for Farmers' Gatherings," 11-5-2013 in the blog archives.)  The Etude magazine from 1915 contains advertisements for cabinets to hold sheet music, disk records, and player piano rolls, but for Isaac and most of his neighbors their musical entertainment had to be self produced.

Music is not just about entertainment.  I was recently reminded of that by folksinger, storyteller, and autoharp virtuoso Adam Miller, who performed at the library in St. John, KS.  As his brochure says, "Folksongs travel through History.  History travels through Folksongs."  
Adam Miller
Performing with autoharp and guitar, he sang one song using a version naming Texas rivers in its lyrics but told us that the same song is found in other regions includes the names of rivers from that locality; he also sang a traditional hobo song, a song about Amelia Earhart, and a song about a Kansas pioneer, among others.  He described American folksongs with their roots in English ballads.  There are folk songs about war, railroads, and sailing.  Folk songs were sung by cowboys, soldiers, sailors, and pioneers, and the lyrics tell of their lives.  It truly is history put to music, and Adam shared many examples.

An appreciative audience listens to Adam Miller

He especially enjoys singing folk music in schools, and if the young man in the audience at the St. John library is a typical example of how students relate to Adam's music, they must love it!  He calls his programs Singing Through History! and according to his brochure he has performed live for over 1.5 million American students in 48 states.  As someone who considers knowledge of history essential to the citizens of every nation, I especially appreciated the idea of bringing that history to young people through folk music!

Enjoying Adam Miller
If you want to learn more about Adam Miller or check out some videos of his performances, you may google Adam Miller folksinger.  You can also go to his website to sample some of his songs or buy CDs.

The next time you listen to a folksong, pause to consider the history it contains.  Remember:  "Folksongs travel through history.  History travels through folksongs." 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Transportation Then and Now

Ribbon cutting at the Kansas Aviation Museum
When Isaac B. Werner arrived in Kansas in 1878 he did not have a horse.  His only means of travel was on foot, unless he was fortunate to catch a ride with a neighbor going to town with a wagon.  More than once Isaac wrote in his journal about walking to St. John, the county seat about sixteen miles from his homestead.  Eventually, Isaac bought his horse, (See "Isaac's Dolly Varden, 12/28/2012 in the blog archives), and later he acquired his own wagon.

The H. Russell Bomhoff Attrium
Recently we attended the grand opening celebration of the restored Kansas Aviation Museum in Wichita, Kansas, and I could not help but contrast Isaac's mode of transportation on foot with the rapid advancements in flying only a few decades later.  How rapidly transportation changed during those years!  Wichita calls itself the Air Capital of the World, and with justification, considering the number of airplane manufacturing plants, other aviation related manufacturing, McConnell Air Force Base, several general aviation airports, and the commercial airport recently renamed Eisenhower International, with its beautiful new terminal, all located in Wichita.

Museum building center front 
The history of aviation has its roots in Wichita and its future role in aviation firmly secured, so it is appropriate that the beautiful Art Nouveau terminal at the old commercial airport be restored to house the museum.  Art Nouveau was most popular during the period 1890-1910 and is now considered a transition period in architecture between the popularity of historical revival styles and the new Modernism.  As these buildings disappear, the restored terminal becomes an even more important example to preserve.

Dreams and plans for a terminal at the airport finally brought about the start of construction in 1932, but the Depression caused work to cease temporarily before resuming in 1934, with the completion of the terminal in 1935.

Detail of front
With the military base next door, commercial air space was no longer appropriate at the old airport, and the new commercial airport was relocated several miles to the west.  Various uses were found for the old terminal, but without air conditioning it became unsuitable for any modern use.  Demolition seemed its likely fate.

Additional details
With the cooperative efforts of the city and the generosity of donors, the terminal was rescued and renovated.  One of the major donors to the project was the father-in-law of our niece, whose generosity is honored in naming the refurbished atrium the H. Russell Bomhoff Atrium.

It was in the atrium that the ribbon-cutting ceremony was held, and guests enjoyed a buffet, which included clever cookies with the Kansas Aviation Museum logo on them.  We walked around to see the exhibits and visited the room designed for young visitors.  At that time the museum was hosting Home School Programs for ages 6 to 17 and Summer Camps for various ages, sharing the importance of Kansas Aviation with another generation. 
Visitors study a display

I mentioned in my blog about Castle Rock how often we ignore interesting places nearby ("Castle Rock," 8/27/2015), and the Kansas Aviation Museum is a place that Kansas residents especially should add to their list of interesting sites.  Whether you love aviation or architecture, it is a place all visitors would enjoy!  

Display case, TWA stewardess
Isaac, who died in 1895, might never have imagined that people living at the time of his death would one day fly or that Kansas would be so important to the Aviation industry.  However, the way he enjoyed tinkering and inventing things, I am certain the possibility of flight would have intrigued him.  

Cookie with logo
(In order to post more photographs I have published the images in a small format.  To view them in a larger size, just click on the image.)

Museum information:  3350 South George Washington Blvd., Wichita, KS 67210; 316/683-9242;

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Status of manuscript update

Credit:  Lyn Fenwick.  Stereoscope similar to Isaac's
As those of you who follow my blog know, it has grown out of the research I have done about Isaac B. Werner, acquaintances mentioned in his journal, the community and its activities, and the exciting political era in which Isaac lived.  You know how I found Isaac's journal (See "Finding Isaac's Journal," blog archives 10-23-2011), how we visited his childhood home in Wernersville, PA ("Isaac's Birth & Childhood," 11-4-2011) and his home in his mid-twenties in Rossville, IL ("Isaac's Years in Rossville, Illinois," 2-23-2012).  You also know what an important part of Isaac's life the political issues of his day were ("Politics & Wealth in Isaac's Day," 10-18-2012).

Merely by looking at the dates of those early blogs, and knowing the prior transcription of Isaac's journal that took 11 months and the hours and hours of research before I could begin the first draft of the manuscript, you have some idea of how long I have been working on sharing Isaac's story.    You may even recall that in the blog "Writer's Angst," posted 8-23-2012, I declared the manuscript "finished!"  I was wrong...

Titles of books that were in Isaac's library
Since then there have been many revisions and severe editing to reduce the length of the manuscript.  There were also two years during which I served on the board of the new Filley Art Museum in Pratt, KS, during which Isaac was neglected. 

Since leaving the museum board, I have returned to Isaac (in between obligations connected with construction at our farm house, which have definitely been a distraction).  However, to all of you who have followed the blog so faithfully and those who have continued to inquire about the status of publication, encouraging me by sharing your eagerness to read the book, I offer this status update.
Political cartoon of workers confronting the wealthy
I set out to tell Isaac's story in such a way that it was of value to scholars but enjoyable reading for general readers.  Perhaps that was impossible--leaving some references too superficial for scholars but intimidating  general readers with all the footnotes.  I am about to tackle a major re-examination of the manuscript, focusing more on writing a history for general readers.

Two editors who reviewed the book proposal were kind enough to offer their advice.  One advised that it was apparent that my primary interest was in telling the story of Isaac and his community and suggested I eliminate most of the political history.  The other advised that it was apparent that my primary interest was in telling the story of the political era's impact and suggested I reduce the emphasis on Isaac.  I appreciate the advice given by both of them, as apparently contradictory as it may first seem.  In fact, I think both were right and that their advice relates to my problem in trying to write a history for both academic and general readers.

Hay rack typical of what Isaac owned
Recently I read a review from London's Guardian newspaper of the book, The Great Silence: 1918-1920, Living in the Shadow of the Great War.  The newspaper reviewer wrote:  "If, instead of looking at the great sweep of find out the small, everyday things that people of all stations in life were can convey a sense of the past that no conventional history can offer."  The reviewer concluded with praise for the book's author, Juliet Nicolson, calling the book a treasure "...from a writer who understands the vital importance of small details."

Isaac's Journal
Juliet Nicolson used such individuals as the king and his manservant, the prime minister and the postman, to describe daily life following W.W. I. To reveal conditions during the so-called Gilded Age of Andrew Carnegie and George Pullman, I have Isaac and his community, as well as the leaders of the Progressive Movement, who often came from the working class of farmers, miners, and factory workers.  These ordinary people illuminate the vast differences between them and the better-known wealthy class.  The everyday struggles of workers just to survive explains the rise of the populist movement intended to confront the political power of the wealthy.

Too many people think of Kansas in terms of cowboys and Indians, tornadoes, Dorothy Gayle and the Wizard of Oz, and KU basketball, but Kansas has an even richer history.  I am confident  that Isaac's journal has given me the opportunity to share the history of the Progressive Movement during the late 1800s through the daily lives of real people in Isaac's community.

The confrontations between men of the Gilded Age and workers in the Progressive Movement during the late 1800s is no less interesting than Britain after W.W. I.  I hope by focusing more on a history for general readers, I can revise my manuscript to make it even better!  My goal will involve what the Guardian newspaper reviewer called "the vital importance of small details," with less emphasis on footnoting every reference to Isaac's journal and generally known historical facts.  Thanks to all of you for your continued encouragement and interest.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Castle Rock

Old photograph of Castle Rock
Returning from a niece's recent wedding in Colorado, we spotted a sign directing travelers to Castle Rock.  How many times do all of us take for granted interesting places and events in our general area, thinking we will visit them another time or just taking them for granted because they are nearby?  We had heard about Castle Rock, and we must have passed that sign other times when we were traveling the interstate, but we had hurried by without noticing.  Perhaps like those other times when we kept driving, we were tired and eager to get home, but when my husband asked, "Shall we go see it?" I replied, "Let's do it!"  We left the paved road behind and were on our way

Near Castle Rock, credit Lyn Fenwick
The region in which Castle Rock is located is known as the Smoky Hills of Kansas, and the outcroppings of limestone rocks in what is primarily pasture land present a very different terrain from the sandy loam fields around Isaac Werner's old homestead.  After driving 14 miles we saw a small sign directing us to turn left toward Castle Rock, and when we spotted the outcropping of limestone rock pictured at right, we assumed we were getting close.

Castle Rock is located on private land, and there are no large billboards to direct visitors.  Eventually we saw another small sign indicating we needed to turn left again, and we pulled onto a smaller road which was barely more than what a cattleman might use to get back to his pasture to tend his livestock.  At last we saw two parked cars, and we pulled alongside and walked up a bluff.  Looking off to the north, we got our first glimpse of Castle Rock.
Our first glimpse of Castle Rock, credit Larry Fenwick

We could see roads around Castle Rock, so while I paused to take photographs, my husband went exploring to find the access to those roads.  Castle Rock is a limestone formation weathered by wind and water to create what reminded people of a castle and resulted in its name.  Obviously that weathering continues, and the effects can be exacerbated by people climbing on the rocks.  If you study my photographs closely and compare them with the older photograph at the top of the blog, you may see that one of the castle-like shapes at the top of a pillar is gone, having fallen after a thunderstorm in 2001, perhaps having been weakened by climbers.

Photo credit:  Lyn Fenwick
Castle Rock is located north and west of Isaac Werner's claim, too far for it to be likely that he ever saw it.  However, many early settlers did, for it was a landmark on the Butterfield Overland Dispatch route (also known as the Overland Trail). 

Imagine travelers crossing the prairie without the paved roads and signage that we have.  Well-traveled routes surely had wheel ruts to help guide them, but those may have been hidden by the prairie grass or faint in rocky soil.  Natural landmarks were their guides, and the towering Castle Rock must have been a welcome sight to many travelers.

Pond Creek Station near Wallace, KS
Even more welcoming may have been the  stations built along the stagecoach route.  Today one of the Butterfield Overland Dispatch stage company buildings has been preserved, not far from its original location.  Located on US Highway 40 in Wallace County, KS, the station was built in 1865.  It survived being moved in 1871 and 1898, finally being returned to near its original location.  The restoration still retains bullet holes from Indian attacks.

We were glad we took the time to deviate from our route in order to see Castle Rock.  Standing on the bluff, we could see for miles, and it was easy to imagine what a courageous undertaking it must have been for the early settlers to leave family and familiar settings behind and strike out for a new life in faraway places they knew only from often exaggerated descriptions in newspapers and promotional flyers.  For many, perhaps most of them, it meant saying good-bye for the last time to family members and friends.

Photo credit:  Lyn Fenwick
We were glad we added a few hours to our journey in order to see Castle Rock and to reflect on the early pioneers like Isaac B. Werner and some of our own family members who made the journey West.  But, we were also glad to get back to the interstate and make the journey to our home in air-conditioned comfort and in time to sleep comfortably in our own bed!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Finding Margaret

Isaac's notation regarding his mother
On June 7, 1890, Isaac B. Werner wrote on the flyleaf of his journal "Mother was born Dec. 12th 1812 and yet living June 7th 1890.  I. B. Werner."  The love of a son for his mother, whom he had not seen in many years, seems apparent.

Margaretha Beckley was born in Lebanon County, PA on the 11th of September, 1812.  At the age of thirty she married William Werner, who was slightly more than ten years older.  They made their home in Heidelberg, Berks County, PA, and fifteen months later twin sons, Isaac and Henry were born.  Both boys were given their mother's maiden name as their middle names.

Two years later daughter Emma Rebecca was born, and two years after that daughter Elmira, who lived only briefly.  Their last child was Henrietta, born three years later.

Approaching grave
Margaretha, also known as Rebecca, was widowed in 1865, and for a time she and her two surviving daughters remained in the family home before moving into nearby Reading.  Emma married first, wedding Wm E. Good, and in 1877 Henrietta married Rev. Samuel Palmer.  When Rev. Palmer was called to pastor a Lutheran church in Abilene, KS, Margaretha went with them.  She died on the 22nd of February, 1893 and was buried in Abilene.  The Palmer family moved to Lawrence, KS after her death and are buried there.

It seemed sad to me that Margaretha, spelled Margaret later in her life, had been buried far from any other family member, especially far from her husband William, who was buried in the old Hain's Church burial grounds in Wernersville, surrounded by the graves of many generations of Werners.  (See Isaac's Birth & Childhood," 11-4-2011 in the Blog Archives.)

Margaret Werner's Grave
With the assistance of Twila Jackson at the Heritage Center in Abilene, I learned that Margaret Werner was buried on Lot 12, Block 29 in the Abilene Cemetery, District One.  Four years after my correspondence with Ms. Jackson, my husband and I finally visited Margaret's grave.

The Abilene Cemetery is a lovely shaded cemetery, and Margaret's grave is in the first Block as you enter, to the far left side under an ancient tree.  The cemetery entrance is off of a busy street, and opposite the entrance is a school; however, within the cemetery grounds the trees and gently rolling terrain provide a peaceful setting.

A small visitors' building with a touch screen computer and printer made locating Margaret's grave simple and provided us with a print out map.  We quickly found the stone, and although it was quite weathered, we could make out the inscription:  "MARGARET R./ wife of/ Wm WERNER/ DIED/ Feb 22, 1893/ AGED/ 80 yrs  5 mos  11da/ Resting till the resurrection morning"
Read inscription in above text

By the time of Isaac's death in 1895 he was no longer writing in his journal, so I do not know his reaction to the death of his mother.  As described in the blog, "Finding Isaac's Grave," 1-13-2012 in the Blog Archives, he is buried in Neeland's Cemetery in Stafford County, KS.  By 1900 the Palmer family had left Abilene and were living in Lawrence, where Margaret's daughter was buried in 1931.  Margaret's husband and the infant Elmira were buried in Wernersville, as was Isaac's twin brother Henry, who died in 1913.  Her oldest daughter, Emma, predeceased her mother and was buried in Reading following her death on Dec.  21, 1890. 

Ironically, although Margaret was buried far from her husband, she was buried in the same state as two of her children, Isaac and Henrietta, and William was buried in PA where their other three children are buried.

Margaret's grave looking east
As America was settled and generations moved westward across the continent, it was not uncommon for family graves to be separated by great distances.  Nor was it uncommon for a single family member to be buried with no other family graves nearby, as the family moved away from that location.  (See "Cemetery on the Hill," 2-7-2013 in the Blog Archives.)

Having spent so much time in Isaac's company, reading his journal and his published writings, I almost felt like a friend, visiting his mother's grave on his behalf.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Gopher vs. Mole

Photo credit:  Leonardo Weiss, Gopher
On June 3, 1888 Isaac B. Werner wrote in his journal:  "[John] Garvin and I at hand replanting Golden Beauty [corn] listed ground so much taken by the gophers or moles following the subsoiler."  I can certainly identify with Isaac's annoyance, for we regularly find mounds of dirt on our lawn, as well as sinking into shallow tunnels dug too near the surface.  Like Isaac, I tend to use the terms "gophers or moles" interchangeably or spoken together as if they were a single hyphenated word.

2014 row of transplanted maple seedlings

Last summer I was so proud of my row of transplanted maple seedlings.  We caged them to protect them from deer, and every day I carried water to them.  By autumn they had grown to the top of their cages, and the two at the far end of this photograph had done particularly well because they received more sunlight.

Mounds of dirt from tunnels under our lawn
Early this spring I walked out to admire the end two, which I could not so easily see from the house, and as I approached the first one, I couldn't see it.  I walked all the way there and even walked around it in disbelief.  It had disappeared!  I looked up and down the row and all the others were bare from losing their leaves in winter, but they were still in their cages.  The tree at the far end, which had grown quite tall, was leaning a little.  I walked over to make sure it wasn't growing through its cage, and as I reached to pull it straight, it came loose in my hand, cut off at the soil.
Missing cottonwood seedling pulled underground

Gophers or moles had pulled one tree straight down nibbling at its roots and young trunk until it was gone, and was in the process of doing the same to the second tree.  Naturally they chose the finest trees!

Recently our nurseryman Roy was here with his crew to plant some blue spruce trees we added to our landscape,  (See "My New Landscape," 7-31-2014 in the blog archives) and  I told him the story of my disappearing maple.  He listened to my accounting of the destruction by either a gopher or a mole, and when I finished he quietly gave me an education.  "It was probably a gopher," he said, explaining to me that gophers eat earthworms, grubs, vegetables such as carrots, radishes, and lettuce, and the roots of shrubs!  Apparently they also like tender young maple trees, which must have offered a fine feast during winter when other delicacies were scarce.

Photo credit:  Kenneth Catania, Vanderbilt University, Mole
The greedy gopher(s) were not finished with their underground thefts.  This summer as I walked the row of cottonwood seedlings that I had been tending, I saw a pencil-sized hole in the center of the mounded earth watering saucer where a healthy seedling had been just hours before.  The soil was not disturbed as it would have been if the little tree had been yanked up.  Instead, the supple young leaves had slipped easily through the hole as the seedling was pulled downward by the hungry gopher!

Moles, on the other hand, prefer earthworms and other small invertebrates they find in the soil.  As a gardener, I was annoyed to learn their preference for earthworms, but their dining habits are even more gruesome.  The mole's saliva contains a toxin which can paralyze earthworms without killing them, and moles store the still-living, paralyzed worms in underground larders to consume later.

The photograph at the beginning of this blog, taken in Ano-Nuevo State Park in California, is of a pocket gopher.  There are about 35 species of gophers found in Central and North America.  The photograph just above is of an Eastern Mole, 'ScalopusAquaticus,' a true mole of  the Talpidae family.  They and their close relatives, particularly shrews, are found all over the world.

1921 Debenham & Freebody ad
An interesting story I learned while doing the research for this blog involves Queen Alexandra, wife of the UK King Edward VII.  When the queen purchased a mole-fur coat she started a fashion trend.  Moles had become a serious agricultural problem in Scotland, but the queen's trend turned Scotland's pest problem into a lucrative industry.

Not only is mole leather extremely soft and supple, the pelts have a uniquely velvety texture.  Animals that live on the surface tend to have longer fur with a nap that lies in a specific direction.  Because moles need to move backward and forward in their underground tunnels, their fur tends to be short, dense, and lacking any directional nap.

The likely culprit stealing Isaac Werner's corn and nibbling off my young maple and cottonwood trees was a gopher, but the culprit gobbling up the beneficial earthworms that gardeners love is more likely to be a mole.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Isaac Werner's "Currency"

Potatoes of many varieties, by Scott Bauer
In the late 1800s, as cash became increasingly scarce, neighbors bartered with each other, often swapping labor.  Before Isaac got a horse, he swapped his labor in exchange for neighbors' horses and plows.  Isaac was a talented carpenter, and he built houses and furniture to earn cash or exchange for plowing.  (See "Isaac's Dolly Varden," 12-28-2012 in the Blog Archives.)

Isaac also used his potatoes as a form of exchange.  In the spring he could barter or sell his seed potatoes, saved in his cellar from the previous season's crop.  In the summer as he dug potatoes, he often took them to town to exchange with merchants as credit for the merchandise he purchased, as well as receiving cash to pay other bills.  (See "Isaac's Potatoes," 2-17-2014 in the Blog Archives.) 

Earliest postage stamps
When he repaired and painted a buggy for a neighbor, the man set up a credit account at Doc Dix's post office store so Isaac could get the supplies he needed for the job.  When he ordered a sign painter's handbook for instructions for painting the buggy, he paid for the booklet by enclosing stamps. 

During the Civil War the use of postal money orders evolved to allow Union soldiers to send money home.  Sending cash through the mail was risky, and even stamps enclosed in lieu of money presented the danger of theft.  Registered letters, which had to be signed for at every point where the letter changed hands, offered some degree of security for sending cash through the mail.  However, the money order system initiated in 1864 offered the greatest safety.  The bill to establish the system passed through Congress without any serious debate.

Postal Money Orders from 1897
The image at left shows two US postal money orders from 1897 offered on e-bay for $490 and sold for "Best Offer."  The fee for the first money orders was 10 cents up to $10, 15 cents up to $20, and 20 cents up to $30.  Not every post office was authorized to offer postal money orders, the authority being based on the amount of business done by each post office.  Isaac recorded in his journal receiving money orders twice and also recorded using a money order to send payments.  Sometimes traveling salesmen, workers, and showmen used postal money orders payable to themselves almost as a form of travelers' checks.

In addition to the post office, express companies also got into the business of transporting money, primarily for banks but also smaller amounts for private citizens.  Following the example of the post office, American Express began selling money orders in 1881.  Isaac makes no mention in his journal of an American Express office.

This concludes the series on early forms of paper currency and substitutions of other means of exchange and barter.  You may read the prior blogs on the topic in the July 2015 archives.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Earliest Currency

Wampum Belt given Wm Penn in 1682
Isaac B. Werner lived on the prairie for several years without incurring indebtedness.  He swapped labor with neighbors and grew crops for his own consumption, as well as selling and bartering his produce.  However, he needed a horse of his own in order to be able to break enough sod to plant sufficient acreage in crops to prosper as a farmer.  He borrowed money for the first time to buy his horse Dolly  (See "Isaac's Dolly Varden," 12-28-2012 in the blog archives), with extra cash to buy implements.  Thereafter, cash received and paid became the controlling issues of his life, finding sufficient cash to pay interest on his notes but rarely having anything to apply to repayment of principle.

Massachusetts Colonial Currency
Because of their relationship with Great Britain, the colonies designated their money using British terms--pounds, shillings, pence; however, the value assigned to those terms varied from one colony to another.

Apart from the traditional measures of exchange, there was also the use of commodities, not only crops like tobacco and skins such as beaver pelts but also wampum.  The image above depicts the belt of Wampum given to William Penn by the Indians.  Wampum beads were made of various things, but the rarity of the material contributed to the determination of value.  Often sea shells were the material used, found even in the wampum of inland tribes and obviously of greater value than such things as bones and seeds available in their region.

Colonial bills of credit were not backed by gold or silver.  Rather, they were simply promises to pay, and when colonial governments had nothing with which to pay their debts the bills lost value or became worthless.

South Carolina Colonial Currency
During the Revolutionary War, the colonies were expected to help pay for the costs of the army, but most regarded the allocated amount as a "request" rather than an obligation and did not submit full or even partial payments.  The colonial government borrowed money that they had little or no way to repay, offering small likelihood of repayment of the bills of credit they printed.  They turned to the wealthy Robert Morris of Philadelphia, who used his own money to help resolve the indebtedness of the fledgling nation.  He is a hero of the Revolutionary period that few Americans know anything about.  (See "More Money Comments," 7-23-2015 to view a bill with the image of Robert Morris.)

Continental Currency
Benjamin Franklin printed 1779
Then, as now, counterfeiting was a security issue, and the British further weakened the Continental government's credit by counterfeiting their bills in massive quantities.  Morris also paid the counterfeited bills if presented to him for payment, as leaving them in circulation weakened the Continental government just as much as if they were authentic.

After the US Constitution was ratified, a coinage system was established with the passage of the "Mint Act" in 1792.  Paper money was not issued until 1861, but silver certificates and Treasury notes were issued prior to that time,

National Bank Note from Emporia, KS
Between 1793 and 1861 private banks could be granted state charters which allowed them to print and circulate their own money, and approximately 1,600 banks did so.  It is estimated that 7,000 varieties of "state bank notes" were put into circulation.

From 1863 to 1929 the federal government allowed private banks to print National bank notes on paper authorized by the US government, and although thousands of banks issued these notes, the same basic design was used by all of the banks.  The image of the National Bank Note at right was printed by the First National Bank of Emporia, KS.

In 1913 the Federal Reserve System was established and Federal Reserve Bank notes were issued, and for a time both the national bank notes and the Federal Reserve bank notes were issued.  Today, only Federal Reserve currency is produced.

Once Isaac B. Werner went into debt to buy Dolly, more loans followed in the 1880s and early 1890s.  The money was quickly spent on machinery, seed, horses, and interest.  In fact, Isaac was only able to pay interest most of the time, renewing his notes at ever increasing interest rates.  This was the period during which private banks could print "national bank notes."  Isaac did most of his banking in St. John, but it is uncertain exactly what currency he received from the banks when his loans were funded.