Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Happy Wanderer

I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.


My knapsack on my back.

I love to wander by the stream
That dances in the sun,
So joyously it calls to me,
"Come! Join my happy song!"

I wave my hat to all I meet,
And they wave back to me,
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet
From ev'ry green wood tree.

High overhead, the skylarks wing,
They never rest at home
But just like me, they love to sing,
As o'er the world we roam.

Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die!
Oh, may I always laugh and sing,
Beneath God's clear blue sky!

Lyrics by Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Glass Plate Negatives

A little over a week ago, I went to an antique/junk store near Chuckanut Drive (heading to Bellingham, WA). I have been to this store before and found a wealth of fascinating things for very little money. This time around, I found a series of glass plate negatives for only $1 each. Of course, being negatives, it's hard to get an accurate idea of what was being represented. I scanned this one into Photoshop, inverted the colors, and voila. This is what you have. A horse and buggy, a family riding on it to... dunno. Close examination shows that the horse in the back is an appaloosa. Unfortunately, the scan took a lot of the details away. I will probably have to have this developed by a specialty photo lab if I want to see the true details. When looking closely at this, it is very detailed to the point where I can seen their faces (albeit reversed) and the jewelry they were wearing (necklaces). It's too bad I can't find a way to capture this photo in its detail by scanning it; I even tried using my extra-awesome camera to take a macro photo and then reverse color. That didn't work.

So. I present to you a photo of a well-dressed family in (what is probably) the 1890s.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

George and Dorothy -- The New 1961 Cub Cadet

These photos were, according to the date stamp, taken in October 1961. The guy is clearly a proud owner of a new garden tractor called the Cub Cadet, manufactured by International Harvester between 1961-1963. These tractors were predecessors to a whole line that followed, yet used a different engine. The shown model, from what I've learned, has a cult following among collectors. There are several websites dedicated to the hobby of collecting and restoring them. The Cub Cadet was evidently the first line of small garden tractors of their kind that were manufactured during the time when there was a rise in country-home living. There were a variety of aftermarket attachments like lawn mowers, snow blowers, front loaders, among other things.

These people were obviously happy while posing on their brand new 1961 Cub Cadet. It looks like they are clearing some property, though honestly it must have taken more than a Cub Cadet to accomplish that. The photo of the woman has some writing on the back that reads "Even Dorothy can drive it." There is no information on the man's name, but I'll call him George.

Monday, September 15, 2008

'Prospecting' Was More Than Just a Verb

This dapper gentleman, sporting a very put-together ensemble, appears to be gazing meaningfully down a hill or maybe even mountain. The thing I find hilarious here is that his pose seems intentionally "candid" during a time when candid photos were virtually non-existent. I can only wonder whether the man with the umbrella chose his own pose, or whether he was told by the photographer (in a serious tone, of course): "Put your right foot over your left and lean toward the tree. And focus on that snag up ahead while I count to 10."

When I see photos like this, I feel an air of intended suggestion; this fellow is leaning in a manner most debonair, pinning the ground below him with the point of his superfluous (from the looks of the weather) umbrella. His style of dress is also rather formal, suggestive of railway employment.

From reading all of the old letters from my family, I learned that there was a considerable amount of crossover when it came to finding "prospects." Rail men invested in mine claims and miners invested in railways. However, real estate ownership was every one's ultimate goal.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cheerful Travelling Companions

These ladies appear to be decked out and ready to go somewhere. Looking at the photo, I can imagine them boarding a train for a short ride for a weekend visit. Are they sisters? Friends? The shadow of a third woman photographing them shows that she, too, is wearing a hat in the same style. Their faces are difficult to see in the bright light of the sun, but I can see the cheerfulness of the woman on the left and she looks like the kind of person who would be fun to know. This photo was probably taken in the early 1920s, perhaps even a little earlier.

H.B. Kirby: The Gun-Toting Fisherman

Fishing in the Puget Sound has always been a big industry, but it hasn’t been without its share of controversy. Long before the white settlers came along, Native Americans had been historically fishing along the Puget Sound using a variety of techniques including reef-net fishing. Reef nets were often created with nettle fibers and cedar (or willow) bark, and were strung between tethered canoes or some other kind of anchor (often large stones found during low tide) from their end. They were strategically placed in ways that would guide salmon along shallow artificial reefs, where they were caught.

The Treaty at Point Elliott in 1855 was a lands settlement treaty between the U.S. government and the Native American tribes in the Puget Sound area. It dislocated the Lummi tribe, which was native to Point Roberts, away from various areas including Point Roberts; in return it granted the Native tribes unregulated fishing rights in areas that had been used over time. Obviously this “solution” didn’t please everyone. In 1883, the Lummis appealed the treaty, and by 1894 commercial fishers and the Lummi tribe were at a deadlock over fishing grounds.

This document from 1900, referencing H.B. Kirby, documented the rental of equipment (which was commonly to make fishing traps) to a man named H.B. Kirby. From what I have found, I gather that he was a skilled fisherman. While sleuthing around, I have discovered some things about good ol’ H.B.

1) He was involved in creating some of the first fish traps in the Puget Sound region
2) He was known to tote a gun and intimidate people

According to the book A History of the Puget Sound Country [1]:

In the spring of 1884 he [Duncan Neil McMillan] came to Tacoma to engage in a fishing business and in company with his brother, Malcolm and H.B. Kirby, put in and operated one of the first fish traps on Puget Sound, but, as the market proved poor during the season, they abandoned the industry for a time.

This was apparently not enough to deter H.B. as his name resurfaced in the midst of a fishing area dispute at Point Roberts. Much like Alaska is separated from the U.S., Point Roberts is a little enclave on the tip of a peninsula in British Columbia that is actually beneath the U.S. boundary line at the 49th parallel, so it is part of Washington State. Many native tribes, especially the Lummi, had deep roots in the salmon fishing there. In 1884 the Alaska Packers Association (APA) established a cannery at Point Roberts and some vigilante fisherman took issue with the (legal) Native American fishing presence. The APA began placing salmon traps among the Lummi’s reef-nets at Point Roberts, and there was some resulting animosity. In 1883 the Lummi tribe appealed the Treaty, which had previously forced them out of Point Roberts and other historic fishing sites. However, the Alaska Packers Association had a legal right to fish there too, and this became an issue over time. By 1894, it was at a point of becoming violent.

Old Polen, a member of the Lummi tribe residing on the relatively-new Lummi reservation on the Lummi Peninsula, recounted how the Alaska Packers Association had put up three large traps in front of Lummi fishing ground. He said that in 1894, while he was fishing, he was assaulted. [2]

H.B. Kirby, who was then in the employ of the defendant Association, came to the shack occupied by me on the beach and ordered me to leave and stayed around until I left. He threatened me with injury if I did not leave.

Another Lummi tribe member, Harry Sewalton, had similar testimony about H.B. Kirby, and claimed that Kirby threatened him with a revolver while he tried to fish. He also accounted how the APA used a pile driver to place piling at the fishing area he was using. According to Sewalton, the APA also destroyed his fishing equipment, including anchors, ropes and appliances. H.B. Kirby went into Sewalton’s shack at his shack with the revolver and told him to leave.

Ultimately, the court upheld the Alaska Packers Association’s right to fish at Point Roberts and reef-net fishing was abandoned by the tribal people there.

This receipt of rental from the Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Co., was issued in 1900, six years after the Point Roberts incident. I have no knowledge of what became of H.B. Kirby beyond this date.

1 William Farrand Prosser, A History of the Puget Sound Country: Its Resources, Its Commerce and Its People: with Some Reference to Discoveries and Explorations in North America from the Time of Christopher Columbus Down to that of George Vancouver in 1792 . The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903

2 Richard E. Clark, Point Roberts, USA: The History of a Canadian Enclave. Textype Publishing. Bellingham, Washington, 1980.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lady and Little Dog

The date is clearly marked, yet there are no real hints of where these smiling characters were at the time, other than in a halcyon environment. Apparently little dogs have been trendy since long before Paris Hilton started popularizing the whole dog/accessory thing. The look of contentment on the faces of both the lady and the dog are priceless.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Knopp Inc. Punch and Cupcakes c. 1960s

I found these photos in an antique store in Pacifica, Ca. last November. The photos have so many intriquing little details that I would love to know more about, but this is as close to being a fly on the wall I can be 40+ years later. (Click on the photos for an enlarged view.)

The photos depict a group of people, probably work associates, socializing inside an office of Knopp Inc., and electrical equipment company in Emeryville, California. It seems there must be some kind of celebration taking place due to an achievement of some kind. Next to the cupcakes, there is a sign that reads "WE MADE IT!" and in smaller type below it it says "the Boss RAY". In the photo with the car, there is a plaque that shows the name of Knopp Inc. Could it be Boss Ray who is posing outside the building?

I was taken by the details in the photos with all the people -- the rotary phone, the metal file cabinets, the poster on the wall advertising Trans World Airlines (the now defunct TWA). The punch and cupcakes; the ladies dresses. I wonder what that day was like and what they were celebrating. I looked up Knopp Inc. and saw that they are still around, boasting 80 years in the biz.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fire Ditching and Train Wrecks

This is a letter written by my great-great-great uncle Ezra describing a train wreck which could have taken his house out and/or killed his family. Just a day in the life back in 1889.
As a side note, Washington became a state on November 11, 1889, and this letter was written while Washington was still a territory.

Burnett, WA
August 9, 1889

Dear Bros,

Yours received some days ago but some way have been busy and am pretty tired tonight. Been working my poll tax out and it about used me up. My hands are so soft. I was ditching in water and my hands burn in water, and my hands burn and smart pretty bad. Awful disagreeable weather now today and very smoky, so smoky a person cannot see 80 yards at any time in the day, and you can scarcely see sure at all. It smarts a persons eyes and almost strangles one. Hope it will rain soon sure as nothing else will clear it. Am mighty glad you have such good prospects for lead and hope you may strike it rich. If you get in a tight place I can help you some. I think I could send $150 any time. We are looking around for some good investment for it now. Guess I will buy a lot some place and let it lay, be good some time. Wish I could buy a good farm but every thing high in the shape of farm.

Had quite a wreck here yesterday. We are right at foot of a heavy grade and sometimes trains get away and come down flying. Yesterday morning at 6:50 a.m. a train was standing in front of the depot getting orders, and an extra came looming out of the smoke above about a quarter of a mile away, and coming about 15 miles an hour. The engineer of the train standing by the office made a jump, reversed his Engine and released his brakes and then jumped his train. Just started to move as they came to get her. I did not know whether to run or to stand still. Our shack is on the outside of the sharp curve right at the foot of the grade, and is not a safe location by any means. I stood back and watched the engines come together. I tell you, it looked bad. Two cars loaded with steel rails reared upright at the door and then swerved to one side just missing the house. Had they struck 4 or 5 seconds sooner it would have taken the whole end out of the house. Mrs. B. was not at the house, kids were back away from the track so I took chances to see the Biz. Everybody jumped. It was a great sight to see them popping out the windows of engine and going end over end. A fireman got his knee knocked out, is all that was hurt.

Olive is down to Burnett with her sister tonight. Her sister is an agent. There she has an agency post office and small notion store, a nice house to live in. Her bro, a young fellow of 19, is keeping house. They are fixed nicely. The wires are in there now you see. I have changed the address of the letter as we can get mail from there easier than from Melrose, it is One South Prairie Coal Mines. Her Bro weighs coal.

I was over to Seattle week or so ago. I tell you, that is a busy town. Never saw so much work going on in any place in my life . Can’t get anything to eat for miles as you have engaged ahead and every what place is a restaurant While I was over there I called on Lizzie Daugherty, or rather Malone. They have a nice place and 2 fine looking boys. Vincent told me she was there where I was in Ellensburg. She is rather hence sick to go back to Columbus. I expect we will soon have a new sister-in-law and I don’t know what to think of her. I think she is a good woman and smart, and will make AB a good wife. I don’t like all the family but maybe she won’t stick to them very close as she seems to have a mind of her own and I think the relatives will have to keep their place. At least she is about as different from Flora as anyone could be. She’s about the size of Laura.

Having lots of fires out here. I suppose you see accents of them in papers. Yakima still whole, but can’t tell when it may follow the rest at any time. Still streets are so broad that they have a good chance to fight it and they have rather both sides of every street.

Our kids continue well and grow slowly every day. Will soon be as big as Bertie as he improves and grows so much faster. About the pictures of your chaps, we have one of Holly taken in Iowa and a large photo of Nadine is all. I think we sent you one of our kids taken in Portland a couple of years ago. Well, my hands hurt and I am mighty tired so I guess I will nap a little. Our work is pretty heavy and keeps us close. As I do night work I am able to work where they call me, making it very handy but when a fellow has to get up a dozen or more times a night, it breaks him up pretty bad. I expect biz will be pretty heavy for a while now until I get what in, which will be a year in spring. We had a fine watermelon yesterday. Can’t raise them on this side of mountains but lots of them in Yakima County. Well good night. Write soon and often.

Love to all,
As Ever,

Easter Egg Hunting

Proof that the Easter Bunny has been around since at least the 1950s.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Scene of a Wrecked Police Car

The rejection letter*, written on July 8, 1949 from the Seattle Post Intelligencer's Editorial Secretary, reads:

Dear Mrs. P----.

We are returning the photos you submitted to us for our perusal however on the account they were received so long after the accident occurred we are unable to use them. Many thanks for sending the to us, anyway. Sincerely, Miss ---------

*authentic letter and photos, most likely taken in Whatcom County Washington. I smeared out the names on the extremely unlikely off-chance that these people are still living.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Pet Kid -- 5 Weeks Old

Disclaimer: This is a fictional letter with a real photo of an unknown goat.

Dear Sister,

Your most welcome letter of the 19th rec'd. I can't say as things have been too bad, irrigation lines improved upon greatly, were able to bring in enough water to get a good crop of hops this last season. Joseph has been out just west of Sacramento last week looking at a prospect. God willing we will go in on the the property with Hanson and Phelps, both of them good men, trustworthy.

We are raising some hogs, fine corn-fed and fetching a nice sum after slaughter. Also some goats, I have an orphan kid, it's mother died after getting sick from a wound on her leg. Poor baby, I'm naming her Flora, she's friendly and follows me around. I am selling my quilts in town now. Do you have word from East? Well will close now, write again soon when you can.

Your loving sister,

Scatterbrained History Becomes Me

I am starting this blog as a repository for my ever-growing collection of old letters, photographs, newspaper clippings, and other items of interest that I have begun collecting in the last year or so. I have heard some people refer to these types of items as "ephemera" but to me, that term seems to take away from the significance of these things. They may be from times past, and they may be random, but they were part of day-to-day life once. Maybe one day if I'm lucky, the scraps of paper around my computer will be interesting to someone trying to piece together who I was in my life. Looking around me, there are:

  • receipts from an antique store and Trader Joe's
  • Post-Its with indecipherable reminders to do things that I can't quite make out
  • a threatening letter from Farmer's Insurance
  • and a button I popped off of my pants.
One could surmise that I am a whimsical spender and scatterbrain who gets into rear-ends collisions after eating. And one might be anywhere from 50-100% correct.

Never one to be too interested in "history" as it was presented to me in textbooks, I avoided the subject other than to learn the things required for a grade. For a long time I had trouble finding a context that made the history I learned relevant. History sections of the bookstore have always seemed to mock me and try to pick fights with me as I walk past on my way to the self-help, I mean, literature section.

All of that changed with my grandfather John gave me a collection of letters written by his great uncle Ezra with the hope that I'd be able to transcribe them. Being a fast typist I agreed with enthusiasm, but realized soon enough that I was in way over my head. Way over. To begin with, there were about 300 letters, many of which were several pages long. Making matters more difficult, the letters were written in the late 1800s in a style of script which was completely unfamiliar to me. On top of that, the language of the time was very different. Most of his letters, which I will delve into on this blog if I don't get distracted first, discuss his attempts to make money in mine claims or land ownership or by being a supplier. He was a railway telegrapher who worked his way west as a station agent, and there were many different terms I had to learn in order to make sense of them. However, I eventually did plough through the letters. It took me a year and a half, but they are now back with my grandfather who will be presenting them to various historical societies. I scanned them all in order to have my own copies, and I will probably post some of them.

In the mean time, I will say that I am realistic about the possibility that no one will ever read this blog and if they do, it may be infinitely boring. At very least, it will probably be somewhat irritating. After all, I'm it's author.

Yours Most Resp'y,
Ezekiel Barzillai Smythe

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Christmas 1952

I imagine that this was someone's favorite aunt, visiting for Christmas at the home of her sister in Irvine, California. Of course I have no idea whether this is true or not. Dressed in a smart suit with pearls and a special brooch that may have been reserved specifically for Christmas, she sits on the tapestry davenport and casually smokes in front of the spangled tree. Aunt Irma, we'll call her, has travelled by bus from St. Louis and will return just after the New Year, 1953. For Christmas she received a new apron, a set of napkins and napkin rings, a book of poetry by Robert Frost, a drawing from Niece Beatrice, and a fruitcake made by Sally in the Palmer tradition.

This is a fictional account.