Friday, March 30, 2012

When agriculture was the industry in Wyoming

As any Wyoming resident knows today, mineral extraction, i.e., oil, gas, coal, etc., drive Wyoming's economy. But this wasn't the case. It was agriculture that really dominated the early economic history of the case, and still forms the essence of its image, as this UW article notes: Wyoming agriculture fashioned state’s national, international image

Oil and gas made an entry into the state as early as the 1890s, and newspaper reports at the time, particularly those of the Natrona County Tribune, were simply gushing over its prospects. Still, it would take some time for oil and gas to really take off, although take off it did. Nonetheless, agriculture was the dominant industry in every way in the late 19th Century and early 20th. It's difficult to overestimate how dominant it was, and how many industries it supported. A glimpse of one of those industries is provided below.

It's difficult in some ways for us today, even is a state that revers cowboys, to imagine what the agricultural Wyoming was like. The average town resident is aware of it, and not. And certainly most people are not aware of it to the same extent that the 19th Century and early 20th Century Wyomingite was.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Old Hotels

This is a room in a renovated century old hotel in Cheyenne Wyoming. I recently stayed there while traveling for work.

I've stayed in a few very old hotels before. Many years ago I spent a night in the Virginian in Medacine Bow, but it's frankly so long ago, I don't really recall it all that well. I was quite young at the time, and what I recall about that is that every room did not have bathroom, something that I found very odd at the time, and which I bet is no longer the case.

Much more recently I've stayed at the Hotel Higgins in Glenrock, a nice local older hotel. I don't know the age for sure, but it's probably approaching a century in age. About 17 years ago I spent a night in the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The Stanley is famous for being used as the set of the film The Shining, but it also had some preexisting fame for being the location of the founding of the American Dental Association.

The reason I note all of this is because it's my observation, and one of the types of changes we note here, that hotel rooms were once pretty darned small. The rooms of the The Plains Hotel, where I just stayed, are very small. This isn't to say they were bad, they were just small. I don't recall the rooms in the Virginian, but the room we stayed in at the Hotel Higgins was small. The rooms at The Stanley were larger, however, but they weren't enormous either.

Apparently hotel rooms of an earlier era were just smaller. But then, why wouldn't they be? Most people weren't traveling with their families (and still aren't, for the most part, most are business travelers) and before television, and even before radio, what would you actually stay in your room to do? No TV, no radio, no internet, back when they were built. You could read, but then it doesn't take a very big room to do that.

A friend of mine pointed out that the major room in older hotels was the lobby. Above is the lobby of the Plains. I can see where that would have been true. After walking over from the train station, back way back when, and checking in, why not hang out in the lobby? The Stanley has a palatial lobby. The lobby of the Plains is pretty big. The lobby of the old Hotel Townsend, now the courthouse for Wyoming's Seventh Judicial District, was not unsubstantial.

It also occurs to me that then restaurants were a pretty significant feature for hotels, and bars. They still are for some hotels, but much less so for "Business Hotels" or "Business Motels". Reflecting the era, Business Motels usually have a breakfast room with easy to go breakfast items, but no restaurant. Older hotels, however, usually had a good enough restaurant that it drew town trade, and often still does. The Plains Hotel, The Virginian, or The Brown Palace in Denver, for example, all have restaurants or bars that draw in town trade.

I should note here that I'm not giving a negative review to The Plains Hotel. Its been renovated and it's not bad. It's just that the rooms are small.

MeridethinWyoming: In the Span of a Lifetime

MeridethinWyoming: In the Span of a Lifetime

Courthouses of the West: Jackson federal court among 60 on chopping block

Courthouses of the West: Jackson federal court among 60 on chopping block: While news isn't our regular feature here, here's something that's topical for this site: Jackson federal court among 60 on chopping block...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Society of the Military Horse • View topic - Prices at the Dawn of the Gasoline Age, Dusk of the Equine

Society of the Military Horse • View topic - Prices at the Dawn of the Gasoline Age, Dusk of the Equine

 This was originally posted over on SMH, as:

Society of the Military Horse • View topic - Prices at the Dawn of the Gasoline Age, Dusk of the Equine

I'm reposting it here, as it related into the topics addressed here.  Here's the post:

This is a bit off topic for the forum (of course the thread in general is) but it's a question I have that maybe Joe or one of the other folks knowledgeable on vintage autos can answer.

For years, I drove a single cab truck. But, with two kids, it became impossible. Now I drive a crewcab truck, and I hardly ever run across a true single cab anymore. When I do, it's usually a company truck. I also have an old Mercury Cougar "Sport Coupe" which I bought well used as it has a 4 cyl engine, was cheap, and gets good gas mileage. It's a "sport coupe" as it has a hatch back and back seats, but my son can hardly sit back there now, and it's not practical if more than two of us are going anywhere. As its' a daily driver for me (and I'm really cheap. . .I haven't fixed the heater in the past two years, which if you know our winters. . .) it works out okay.

Now, here's my question. In the early auto days families were generally larger, and I'm under the impression that most families had a car. But I know that coups were popular.


A car owned by my grandfather.
A couple of replies:
 They were nearly always called "business coupes" or "doctor's coupes"...a two passenger car with a trunk rather than a rumble seat. Doctor's were especially early and enthusiastic users of the automobile and a car specially suited to their needs was very good marketing. This begs the question of why? Because in the day of house calls, which ray right up to the 30s at least, the expense of keeping a horse - or more likely two horses, feed stabling and other services was a real drain. They were an ideal market in that they needed what the automobile provided and usually could afford the initial investment.

Business men were another major targeted market... presumably they could afford a car and a good many of them could afford to keep a car for business purposes... If they had a family they could have a sedan or touring car as well. My mom's godfather, a wealthy man who was an adult when the automobile was a new invention, kept a car at his summer home so the chauffeur could drive him to the train every morning... a distance of about 1/4 mile!

There are probably many more reasons, not the least of which was that they "looked good" in the popular mind and that frequently took precedence over practicality - as it still does.

 It's interesting that you note that they were called "business coupes". That's how my father referred this car, of his father's. It was a "business coupe".

I think they do look sharp. I once passed on a 1939 Plymouth Coupe that was a very reasonable price, and I really regret it. Pat

 It was my understanding that a lot of the coupes were used by salesmen because of their tremendous trunk space. They could carry their merchandise and deliver their goods saving the shipping charges for themselves.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Irish Canadian Rangers

On a day in which things Irish are generally celebrated, some posters for the battalion my great grandfather and his sons helped organize and equip. . .the Irish Canadian Rangers.

They were recruited from Irish Canadians in Montreal, but they were not able to bring the unit up to full strength. Therefore they ultimately also recruited in Ireland. In the end, they were folded into an other Irish unit in the Empire's forces.

Definitely a slice of days gone by. World War One saw the last of the privately raised, privately equipped efforts in the Empire, and the same is true in the US in regards to just prior to the war. Theodore Roosevelt would have repeated his Spanish American role of raising a special unit if allowed, but Woodrow Wilson disallowed it, and the Army frankly wasn't keen on it being done.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

‘I ain’t Dutch’: Doug Crowe

‘I ain’t Dutch’

Disappearing Homesteads

This is a 20th Century homestead located in Natrona County, Wyoming. And it's a nice one.

It was probably built in the teens or twenties. The house is small, but it had steam heat. It also had a concrete cistern. The small stout barn has the name of the owners proudly burnt into the beams. In short, the homesteaders were prosperous. . . but only for awhile.

The Great Depression did this homestead in. It failed, and a neighboring rancher bought it from the bank. This is the story of homesteading all over the West in the 1930s. Thousands of small homesteads were consolidated into larger, neighboring ones. While I've never seen any figures on it, it would be my guess that the average actual working ranch in Wyoming today is probably made up of the remnants of at least five other ranches, all of which would have gone belly up during the Great Depression.

There was a lot at work creating this. The weather, the economy, and mechanization. The impact on the land, however, was enormous. Hundreds of families moved off the land, and into towns and cities, forever.