This is before the earthquake, but Market Street looks chaotic: cable cars, autos, horse-drawn carriages and pedestrians dodging all of them. You see the Ferry Building, which still stands, at the end of the street. The camera was mounted on the front of a cable car, so the people and cars crossing the tracks are crossing in front of a cable car.
This was shot only about four days before the catastrophic earthquake and fire, but by that time the film was safely on its way to New York to be developed. I wish all the people in the film had also been out of town.
This excerpt is sharper than the longer versions on YouTube.
Just think what life was like in rural America before and after the mail-order catalog. Aaron Montgomery Ward used the trains in Chicago to get goods to far-flung parts of the country. Mr. Ward and his partners stocked goods to launch their first mail-order catalog, but his stock was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. He did not give up but started over, an inspiration to us all, and the Montgomery Ward Catalog debuted the following year. It was a single page long, basically a price list with ordering info.
I own a replica of an 1895 Montgomery Ward Catalogue, published by Dover. I am writing a novel set in the West in 1894, so an 1895 catalog is fantastic for me, but some of the items are remarkable. For example, it offers music boxes, the kind we had as children for our jewelry, but these played three songs, or six or eight, depending on how much you wanted to pay … it was the days before radio.
We’re all familiar with old butter churns where the person pushed a pole up and down. In 1895, people ordered butter churns that were boxes or barrels with a side crank. Everything’s up to date in Kansas City! If you could spend another fifteen or twenty-three dollars, you could buy a treadmill to attach to the churn’s crank and put your sheep, goat or one or two dogs walking on it, and they’d churn the butter.
The latest styles: those little hats women wore, with lots of bows on them. Corsets. Stereoscopes — here’s a link to my post on those . At over 600 pages, it offers thousands of items. It had no competition at the time, years before Sears & Roebuck.
Aaron Montgomery Ward used his fortune to sue the city of Chicago twice to remove and prevent structures in Grant Park, shown below, a lovely park between the skyscrapers and the lake. Bully for you, Mr. Ward.
Wild times at the Bird Cage Theater in the silver boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona.
The Bird Cage Theater website proudly quotes the NY Times from 1882, when the Bird Cage Theater was new: “The wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast.” That’s New Orleans to San Francisco, quite a ways.
At the Bird Cage Theater, stairs backstage lead down to one of the wicked areas. There are some bedrooms where prostitutes entertained customers, and they are right beside poker tables. The poker players must have heard a lot of embarrassing noises from behind the prostitutes’ doors a couple yards away from their card game.
The poker games went round the clock. You’d sign up and have to wait a day or so for your spot to open. Someone would go and find you when it was your turn.
This basement is shown in two small photos on the home page, on the right. They are not labelled, but here’s how to find them: where the text reads: “recently, six more rooms …” the photo beside it shows one of the prostitutes’ bedrooms. Below it, you can see a table and chairs where men, and maybe women, played poker. Wild and wicked, indeed.
In History of Wyoming, T.A. Larson writes that roller skating rinks operated in Wyoming cities in the 1880s. They were popular with adults as well as youngsters, and in the eastern U.S. as well. I suppose most rinks in Wyoming had wooden floors, the same as most sidewalks of the 1880s.
Wyoming has cold winters, but the plains have few ponds for ice skating. Indoor roller skating rinks provided fun all winter long. Imagine — cowboys roller skating on their trips to town.
The discovery of the buried 1856 riverboat Arabia and its 200 tons of cargo began with a house call to repair the refrigerator of “some old character” whose name has been forgotten. Refrigeration company co-owner David Hawley showed up for that repair in the 1980s and recently told me the man had three walls covered with newspaper and magazine clippings: one wall of UFOs, another of Bigfoot or something similar, and a third wall with clippings about sunken steamships. This last was the only one he “could get into,” he said with a smile during my visit to the Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.
David Hawley read old newspapers and maps to find the nearby Arabia. He was joined in his treasure hunt by his father Bob, brother Greg and family friends Jerry Mackey and David Luttrell.
In 1987, they visited the owner of a farm, a retired judge, and told them they believed there was an old steamboat filled with cargo deep below his field, a half-mile from the Missourri River. (The river shifted course after the steamboat sank.) To their surprise, Judge Sortor said he knew, and that his ancestor Elijah Sortor had known when he bought the land in 1860. The story, and the exact location, had been passed down through the generations.
The next step, said one discoverer, was like playing the board game Battleship. Test drillings encountered the hull, and to find the perimeter of the boat, the men used a magnetometer and planted orange flags in the soil.
The water table was only ten feet below ground, thirty-five feet above the main deck. Massive pumping was required so that the hole would not fill with water.
First, they found wood from the ship, then a shoe. The contents of the first barrel dazzled them. It was packed with beautiful china.
One discoverer recounted in the museum’s film that the family went home and stayed up late into the night, thrilled. They knew they would find 200 tons of cargo from 1856. He said on that night he realized that this collection should not be sold piecemeal or broken up. Judge Sortor, the owner of the land, agreed.
The treasure included everything a frontier settler, rich or poor, might expect to find in a store. My previous post describes the find, some of which is on display at the Arabia Steamboat Museum.
Once unearthed, the artifacts needed to be preserved, and quickly. The discoverers, some of whom owned a refrigeration company, installed huge coolers in caves. Some dug a hole (80x20x10 feet), put in artifacts, and kept a garden hose turned on for two and a half years while they contacted museums for advice. The solution was polyethylene glycol.
How much did all this cost? A cool million.
One discoverer described this project as a joy for the family and friends. I visited the museum twice, and each time the lights came up after the movie, a member of the Hawley family stood in front to welcome us and answer any questions. That’s how I got to chat with David Hawley and ask him about the day he learned about sunken steamboats and buried treasure.
After 132 years in mud, the champagne still fizzed when uncorked. It tasted fine, as did the pickles preserved before Lincoln was president, and none of the 20th-century treasure hunters got sick from this antique food or drink. The French perfume bottles still held a sweet, floral fragrance. You can dab on a reproduction at the Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, where I went with fellow attendees of the Women Writing the West Conference.
In 1856, when the steamship Arabia snagged on one of the many fallen trees near the banks of the Missouri River, the impact frightened its passengers, including women and children traveling to reunite with their husbands and fathers on the frontier. Children fell in the river. Although all the people were rescued, the steamship and its 200 tons of cargo sank into the river silt immediately.
The cargo, intended for stores at the edge of the frontier, is a gateway to the past. Most of the 200 tons was intact. More than two tons of metal tools and hardware were recovered.
The website of the Arabia Steamboat Museum, www.1856.com, states that this is the largest single collection of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world. While buried in the mud for 132 years, the temperature remained constant and there was no oxygen, factors which helped preserve the items. Proteins like leather did not decompose. More than 4,000 boots and shoes were recovered, and when the Arabia sank with them, it may have created a shortage of footwear, a hardship for frontier families.
From cognac to wedding bands to two pre-fabricated homes, the recovered cargo is a buried treasure of historic significance.
The 400 barrels of Kentucky bourbon on board were never recovered. None were found when an 1897 effort sent a chamber under water, and none when the entire steamship was unearthed 90 years after that, by five local business owners. They speculate that the men on the Eclipse, which salvaged an engine from the Arabia shortly after it sank, might have helped themselves to “Kentucky’s finest.”
Those five Kansas City business owners discovered this steamship and its cargo in 1987-88. Finding the Arabia started as a hobby and became a quest. I will post that story next Thursday.
Happy Fourth! In 1900, town picnics and other community events, like church picnics, were the order of the day.
I love zooming in on online digital photographs. Below is a link to a candid shot of people enjoying the Fourth of July at Alpine Park in Salida, Colorado, in 1903. The lone man in the bandstand may have just finished reading the Declaration of Independence aloud, which was usually part of July 4 celebrations. Two women talk under a parasol. People are dressed up, and girls wear ruffly dresses.
Click here to open the link to the photo. (Trouble linking? See end of this post.)
Zooming in amazes me. Here’s how to do it:
Locate the yellow bar with a minus and plus sign at each end. Beside the plus sign is an icon that says Full Browser when you scroll over it.
Click on Full Browser. (If you want to return to previous view, just click this again.)
Move the blue square along the yellow bar, toward the plus sign, but not all the way. This enlarges the center of the photo.
Hold the mouse key down and drag the picture up. As you move, wait for the new parts of the photo to load. You can drag from side to side.
Here’s another photo of the same celebration with a carriage draped with flag bunting and the decorations on the horses’ heads. Check out the little girls in their best hats!
I will start posting on Thursday mornings. Happy Fourth of July!
Trouble linking? Type in digital.denverlibrary.org and search for: City Park Salida 573 and Alpine Park Salida 574