Friday, November 28, 2014

Distributist of the world unite! National Small Business Saturday.

Saturday, November 29, is National Small Business Saturday, a holiday, of sorts, oddly enough thought up American Express.  This follows what's come to be known as "Black Friday", the huge shopping day that sees many businesses go into "the black" for the first time all year, which is a bit of a scary thought really.  The calendar year is almost up, which is the average businesses fiscal year, so it's spooky to think that a lot of businesses don't see a profit until now.

Black Friday is pretty recent in origin.  Not all that long ago the Friday after Thanksgiving was just the Friday after Thanksgiving, and indeed a lot of people who weren't in retail would take it off, just like they take off Boxing Day, the day following Christmas.  Now, however, that's no longer true and all sorts of sales and whatnot occur on that day, for both big business and small.  That likely got started because retail establishments were aiming for the many people who took the day off, and apparently had nothing else to do.  Now some stores even open at midnight of Thanksgiving Day, which is a bit of a sad thought.

American Express, in a move recognizing that even now a tremendous number of businesses are small businesses, decided that the day after Black Friday was a good day to focus on small businesses.  They wisely chose to avoid focusing on that Friday itself, which is already dominated by sales euphoria, and which is also the focus of some philosophical backlash by people who note that perhaps that's taking consumerism a bit too far.  A "stay at home" movement has existed for quite some time in reaction to Black Friday.  As for me, if I'm not actually at work on that day (which I often am) I'm usually using it to try to catch up on elk hunting, or perhaps on goose hunting.

What I'm often doing on Black Friday.

Or where I otherwise am on Black Friday, if not. . . .


That is, I figure, probably much more in keeping, I'd note, with where most generations of Thanksgiving Day celebrants were following Thanksgiving Day.

Anyhow, the interesting thing about this is that while we often hear that small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, and that they really do employ more Americans than anyone else, they really don't get very much attention from anyone. They aren't the focus of big retail frenzies, and they are pretty much ignored in real terms by society and our governmental institutions.  It shows how acclimated we are to the big retail, and big industrial, economy that we have. American Express, which isn't a midget by any means, deserves some praise for focusing the spotlight on them

I'm not going to go big into a detailed economic and legal discussion of our economy, but it is important to note that we've adopted an economic model that favors consolidation.  Indeed, one of the ironies of our economic system is that even though we adopted this partially by accident, we've adopted it so completely that any discussion o fit usually brings in shouts of "Socialist", when in fact our system requires government maintenance and support to even exist.  That's because, in spite of what we think, we don't have a capitalist free market economy, but a corporatist free market economy.

Now right away, I can see the hackles raise on the back row, but this is simply a fact.  While we no longer have a managed economy, as we did from the 1930s through the 1970s, we don't have a true free market economy either, and our economy is state supported in a way we're so used to, we don't recognize it.

What we fail to recognize is that our economy is corporate capitalist, as we think of corporations as natural.  Of course, they were not.  Corporations are creatures of the state.  We're used to the because they've been around so very long.

The essence of corporations is to take what would be naturally a partnership, business combinations of more than one person (although we now even recognize one person corporations) and treat them as a legal entity unto itself. By this means, the partners become shareholders and those shareholders are insulated against personal liability for the actions of the entity.  That's radically different from partnerships, where in their conventional form each partner is liable for the actions of the corporation.  The corporation, in turn, is regarded as a "person" under the law.

This system strongly favors consolidation, as it favors the growth of business entities by shielding the owners of those entities from liability. It'd be extremely doubtful, for example, that Walmart would have grown to its present massive size if the owners of that company were each individually exposed to liability.  I very much doubt it.  But because of that liability shield, corporations can grow massive, distribute their profits to their shareholders, and except where the shareholders work for the entity and commit a tort or breach within it and for it, their own assets are never exposed.

Corporations aren't new by any means, but their role in the local economy is relatively new, and well within the time frame of this blog's focus.  Indeed, determining exactly when corporations arose is really difficult, as there are various competing claims to that title, but they've been around for a long time.  At least in the Western world, those early corporations were different from the current ones, however, as they typically had royal charters which either simply licensed them to operate, or in some instances conferred upon them a monopoly on certain activities. So, in the mercantilist economy that preceded the American Revolution, corporations were basically anti competitive.

No matter who may be the oldest, it's pretty clear that the oldest ones that mattered early in our history were those organized in the United Kingdom basically for monopolistic or trading purposes.  One such entity, that still survives, was the Hudson's Bay Company, a giant in its era that owned darned near half of North America north of Spanish America.  That company's reach was so vast and so long that when The Corps of Discovery went to look for a route to the Pacific, what it was really doing was covering a vast stretch of ground that the Hudson's Bay Company was already managing as part of its corporate empire. Really, HBC was a pretty darned good sport about it.  Another giant was the East India Company, which controlled much of the trade in the English speaking world that plied the seas, and of course controlled the tea market to American displeasure.  Even colonial enterprises, early on, were often a sort of chartered merchanilist enterprise, so none of this was regarded as odd or unusual at the time.

By the time of the Revolution Americans were displeased with this sort of thing and we didn't have any real big corporations for a while, but those that did arise were basically big fur trading enterprises that were in competition with the Hudson's Bay Company.  HBC was already a model, so organization for corporate enterprises into the vast West were already established as a successful  model. Today we tend to look back on the trappers and mountain men as wild aboriginal free agents, and to some extent that's true, but in reality they were also the working end of vast corporate enterprises.

None the less, corporations as a major factor in the American economy didn't really get rolling until the Industrial Revolution hit our shores.  Before that, most people were some sort of yeoman really.

The Industrial Revolution changed all of that, and by necessity.  After all, large scale manufacturing isn't really well suited for privately owned enterprise, even though you can find rare, and they are rare, exceptions.  It took the corporate form to build big foundries, big smelters, big factories, and the like.  So with the Industrial Revolution, came in the corporation.

With that, came a whole host of other concerns and problems, including the separation of workers from their employer, and all that goes with that.  It also gave us monopolistic behavior, which previously had been encouraged by governments but which was now seen as a threat.  This gave us an entire era of struggle of one kind or another, with the government, in the Theodore Roosevelt era, stepping into control Capitol, and workers forming unions and even radial political movements in some places.  Marx wouldn't have appealed much to a bunch of farmers (and indeed, he sure didn't to Russian farmers), but he did to workers on the European factory floor.

Still, what this really meant is that industrialization and industrial products came in, replacing smaller artisans to some extent, or even to a large extent in some industries, but also spreading material wealth, albeit highly unevenly.  What it didn't do, at first, was to do much to how and where people bought things.

That came in slowly, as chain stores first popped up in the late 19th Century.  But as communications and transportation improved in the late 19th Century, new chain retail stores and mail catalog stores came in. Golden Rule, J. C. Penny's, Woolworths', Montgomery Wards, and the like, all became staples of American life.

These stores were always in competition with local businesses, but for some reason, perhaps mostly just self restraint, or perhaps due to local laws, or perhaps simply due to other factors, they didn't entirely displace them.  A big store like K Mart, for example, might sell a lot of the same items that local appliance store did, but they'd both still be there.

This too has changed over time, somewhat replicating the process that happened with manufacturing.  Manufacturing reached a point where it formed trusts and combines that were anti competitive, and then the government had to step in and bust them up.  Somehow, retail outlets have grown and grown to where now certain ones are such giants that they too have tended to squeeze out competition in many instances. Wal Mart is the classic example, which is such a giant that in recent years its been able to influence prices on the whole sale supply end as well as the retail end, and according to its critics its influenced the quality of some items, negatively, as well.

This is not to say that the slow erosion of small business is all due to Wal Mart or is all a recent phenomenon. But it has definitely occurred.  By the mid to late 19th Century it was already well the case that certain items were manufactured industrially and remotely.  Wagons and coaches, for example, weren't local builds, but made by national firms, like Studebaker.  Home spun clothing gave way, although not fully, to manufactured clothing by the turn of the prior century.  Horseshoes were made by large industrial firms.  Firearms, which saw the first assembly line manufacturing in the United States in the 18the Century were largely made by large industries by the mid 19th Century.  The trend, while not overnight, was definitely real.  Including in retail. Grocery stores, which had all been local affairs, started to become less and less local by the mid 20th Century.

Colorado Bakery and Grocery, a local store of the past in Ft. Collins Colorado.  It's now a brew pub.

For the most part, while the disappearance of small local enterprises may have been locally lamented, its' only been recently in the United States when this has sparked real concern.  Perhaps this is just because its gone so far, and now is stretching into areas that nobody ever considered possible, and perhaps also because we live at a time when it seems that an era when no local business at all is actually possible.  It probably won't happen, but local business do have to constantly worry about a big national or international concern coming in and squeezing them out.  A concern like that must have gave rise to the American Express campaign.

That campaign is sort of Distributist in its philosophical content, whether it realizes it or not.  It's interesting to see that advanced by a national outfit however, particularly one that's a as big as American Express.  Its uniquely American in some ways.

Distributism has been mentioned here before, but basically its a philosophy based on the principal of subsidiarity that holds everything should be centered on the smallest economic unit possible, down to the family if possible.  First really advanced by European Catholic writers of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries as an alternative to Socialism and Capitalism, both of which seemed set to destroy the lives of the average man at the time, and later on which seemed doomed to expire in the crisis of European politics of the early to mid 20th Century, it has been used to some extent, and often by accident, in various countries here and there. It also varies from adherents to back a government sponsored variety, and who would probably ultimately attack the necessity of corporations being as broad as they currently are, to radicals who would espouse a variant backed by Theodore Roosevelt in his later years that would have seen large corporations be regulated as public utilities with state ownership of a certain percentage of shares, to those who take a softer approach and just urge that people should act with Distributist hearts in their marketplace choices. That latter variant is the most widespread in actual practice, if not in philosophical discourse, and its the approach that American Express, probably ignorant of that fact, urges.

Front piece from a book by G.K. Chesterton, who together with Hillaire Belloc, was one of the two primary champions of European Distributist thought. Belloc's and Chesteron's Distributism was focused on agrarianism, which isn't universally the case for all Distributist, and was focused on the very small scale indeed.

Well, its interesting to see this now become an established American movement.  In that fashion, maybe it really is entering American public thought. Indeed, this seems to be how a lot of public thought enters to the American discourse, at least at first.  There are "shop local" movements everywhere, which now even extent do people who "get to know your farmer".  And there are anti big box adherents everywhere as well, indeed, I've met quite a few here and there.  It's not like a revolution, by any means.  Nor is it dominant in American thought at the present time, but it's surprisingly widespread.

Well, no matter what a person thinks of it one way or another, American Express deserves a little applause for its efforts, even from a cynic like me.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lex Anteinternet: Thanksgiving

Lex Anteinternet: Thanksgiving: Today, November 22, is the Thanksgiving Holiday for 2012.  Thanksgiving remains one of the two really big holidays in the United States, ...

Concepts of Race

 The way that things ought to be, and at that age typically are.  But beyond that, chances are these two young girls are actually of the same culture, which generally, but not always, is what people are actually talking about when they talk about "race".  Front piece to Holscher's Laws of Behavior.

Some of the thread that appear on this blog were started as drafts a long time ago. This is one such instance.  It's been more or less ready to publish as a text for months and months.  I just didn't get around to it.

A couple of events recently, however, caused me to rethink posting it.  For one, we've had the riots in Ferguson Missouri, which have brought race to the forefront of the national mind, in a probably unfair and skewed say. We also had the Presidents unilateral actions on immigration, which tends to bring race to mind as its generally presumed that most new immigrants and illegal immigrants are of some minority race.  And then a lawyer I know had sort of an odd experience at court the other day that had something to do with race.  So I took another look at this old thread.

Growing up in the Rocky Mountain West, I frankly thought very little about "race" as a kid.  To us growing up here, racism seemed a legacy of the distant past, or a weird relic in the South.  It didn't have much to do with us.  We were not really naive in these regards, it simply reflected where we lived.

Of course, a kids perception of reality doesn't match that which might be real, but for one reason or another, all that racial stuff that some regions of the country were, and still are, all tied up with just didn't have that much relevance here.  To a large degree, it still doesn't.  To those of us born and raised here, that people harbor deep fear or animosity towards American blacks, or other groups, seems bizarre.  Even with minor varieties of that we tend to find that people here are caught generally off guard.  I've occasionally met people who just moved here, for example, who will use some racial overtone that the rest of us have no frame of reference for and don't even know what they mean.  When it dawns on them that we don't get it, and aren't interested in learning to get it, they usually look embarrassed and if they stick around, they knock it off.  This isn't to say that there is no racism here, that wouldn't be true, but its certainly not like in some other regions of the country.

Which leads me to the American fascination with race, which is largely not shared by residents here.  On the national level, we're constantly treated to stories on race, and demographic trends on race.  It never seems to dawn on the commentators that race is a very fluid human construct, and indeed doesn't reflect anything in nature at all.

What is race?  People tend to define it by skin color, when there's really no basis to do that.  What they actually mean is culture, usually, which they erroneously conflate with skin color. What people really mean by a "race" is a culture, not a skin coloration, but they seem not to know that, so the categories they speak of are not only often not even real, but confusing at best.

Indeed, in physical morphology, while there are all sorts of physical attributes which are, or perhaps more accurately were, genetic adaptions to the environment, the actual genetic differences between one group of humans and another is inconsequential, if interesting.  Skin coloration, eye color and even height, are all genetic adaptations to specific environments. But morphological differences in humans, while apparent to us, really have very little significance in terms of variety in the human genome.  It is perhaps natural that people sort of instinctively fear a group of people not looking exactly like themselves, as that probably goes back to our ancient tribal structure in which any group of people not part of the immediate tribe was a potential danger, but people can and always have gotten over that pretty quickly.

When we look at how race has really been treated in the US, what it shows us is that its really based on something else entirely, or at least for the most part, and that's very revealing in terms of current news and analysis.

In the United States, blacks have always been regarded as a separate race.  No surprise there, as surely a group of people couldn't enslave another group in the conditions in which American slavery existed and not rationalize that away.  And blacks remain the freakish exception to what we will see is the rule, as they are still regarded as a separate race today.  Right away, I'm sure, some will be thinking "well of course they're a separate race", but they aren't so regarded everywhere in other cultures.  In Brazil, or  Cuba, for example, where there are many people of black genetic heritage, they're not regarded as a separate race.  In the US, on the other hand, the concept of black being a seperate race is so strong that it even applies to people whose genetic heritage if 50%, or less, black. That's really odd.

 Jack Johnson with this first wife, Etta Terry Duryea.  She was a Brooklyn socialite.  Their relationship was turbulent, and she killed herself in 1912.  All three of Johnson's three wives were white, and he was massively controversial at the time.  Upon the occasion of his second marriage, at least two southern ministers urged that he be lynched.  In a sign of progress, today three marriages might be slightly noted, but that they were interracial probably wouldn't cause much notice. As evidence of that, a certain family of half Armenian extraction, notable for being notable, and members of what was once regarded as its own race, have interracial marriages and nobody ever notes that, nor do they regard Armenians as a separate race either.

It's particularly odd in a cultural context, as we will see, as the majority of American blacks have ancestors who arrived in this country, or in the proceeding colonies, well before most whites, and they are steeped in the American culture.  In spite of the occasional shout outs to African cultures, by and large the African heritage of American blacks is very muted, if there, and therefore they're amongst the most American of Americans, which in most instances would wipe out the cultural distinctions.  Indeed, for those not from certain areas, that seems pretty evident when you are in a region that you are not from, as whites and blacks pretty clearly are part of the same regional culture in those locations.

But, its even so strong that it attaches to blacks whose family history doesn't go back very far in the US, which is a minority of American blacks.  President Obama, for example, is regarded as black, when of course he's half white, and his father, absent from his life while he was growing up, was a Kenyan.  That means that he doesn't really share in the African American experience very much, and yet he's regarded as black.

Indians were also regarded as another race from the onset, and like blacks, they remain so regarded, and perhaps for similar reasons.  Contrary to what is generally supposed, they were often widely admired by their conquerors, but at the same time they were regarded, by and large, as a separate race deserving to be conquered.  And their categorization as a separate race continues on, which we will see is definitely an exception to the rule.  As they do maintain separate cultures, perhaps that is the reason.

 Crow Indians, Crow Agency, 1940.  People have persisted in regarding Native Americans as a separate race, adn they are a separate series of cultures.  None the less, as a culture they fit into the rural Western culture as well, as this photo demonstrates.

So turning to race in general once again, consider that up until probably World War One or so Italians and the Irish were regarded as separate races, and as much so as American Indians or blacks.  Jews were very much a separate race.

Indeed, so were the "Anglo-Saxons".

And that tells us a lot about how "race" categorizations are false.

The early colonist in this country were largely from Great Britain. They were also almost all Protestant, if not all the same type of Protestants. And their view of the world was that they were the vanguards of Protestant Christianity against Catholicism and Heathenism.  They were English and Scots pioneers, and they viewed themselves as right thinking.  People could come around to their way of thinking, or get out of the way. Those who didn't, even if it was King George III, would be pushed out of the way.

Looking at the world that way, they came to view themselves as a special people, culturally.  And with that, they came to view most other peoples as a bit inferior.  Not just blacks and Indians (and often there was a begrudging admiration of Indians) but other Europeans as well. This was particularly the case with Catholic Europeans, although people of Jewish extraction were also very much regarded as a separate race.

The Irish in particular, who were a difficult British people who just wouldn't get with the Protestant plan, in their view, were a separate inferior "race". The "Irish Race" was tricky, lazy, and diminutive, and distressingly Catholic, in the English view.  The French were a swarthy Catholic group which seemed distressingly willing to mix their DNA with the native population.  The Spanish were a traditional enemy. As the late 19th Century came on, the Italians were another "dark skinned" "race". These views were held very seriously.  So seriously that those of English extraction came to self identify as being a separate race as well, the "Anglo Saxon Race".

 Political cartoon from the 1860s, depicting the fear that the United States would be consumed by Irish and Chinese immigrants, who are both depicted as odd looking races.  In the cartoon, the Irish and Chinese immigrants swallow the US, and the Chinese immigrants swallows the Irish one.  Today, nobody would regard the Irish as a separate race, and by and large Asians tend not to be either.

The defining nature of these views, which were often characterized in terms of physical appearance, had nothing to really do with how people looked, but what they believed.  Americans of strongly English descent began to regard themselves, as the English also did, as Anglo Saxons, a super charged colonizing enlightened race, with these other people being members of lesser races.

Well, nobody today regards Italians as a separate race.  What happened?

 Italian immigrants in Eastern city, at a time when Italians were considered a separate race.

Well, time happened in part.  The immigrant populations blended in and rose up economically. As that happened, their alien nature seemed less alien, and it eventually came to disappear entirely. And, of course, strongly ethnic aspects of their cultures did diminish.  And inevitably, in spite of the nature of human self segregation, there's always the case of some English heritage young lad suddenly finding some dark skinned Italian lass fascinating, with a marriage ensuing, usually, when that first occurs, to the mutual horror of the two separate ethnic groups.  Over time, however, people refocus and the concern becomes one on actual cultural and philosophical differences; i.e, shared local culture, shared economic status, shared religion, etc. 

This is what has happened to nearly every "race" in the US, with the exception of blacks and Indians to some degree, although both of these populations are much more mixed and part of the general American culture than imagined.  None the less, it's notable today that Asian Americans, for example, are largely regarded as being the same race as the "white" majority, whether or not the Census Bureau regards it that way.  In large patches of the country, various groups that still have some racial identity in some places also no longer have any in most places.  Most Americans wouldn't regard East Indians as a separate race, but a separate culture.  Most also wouldn't regard Armenians, or North Africans, as separate races, but rather separate cultures.

With blacks and Indians, the story is oddly different.  The reasons are hard to discern, but it probably has a great deal to do with poverty and also with their unique histories.  With blacks having the legacy of slavery attached to their history, and being burdened with ongoing poverty, perhaps a strong national concept of race has been hard to eliminate.  Slavery, it seems, is the national burden that just won't go away.  Something similar might be the case with Indians, who are also an impoverished group, and who lost the continent.  Poverty in particular always produces its own problems, one of which is a prejudice against the poor.  Being a conquered people may also stick. And, of course, the United States entered into a peculiar relationship with those people in conquered in later years, in undertaking to maintain them somewhat, while attacking their culture at the same time, thereby preserving them in place and reducing them to poverty.

This brings me to Hispanics and other new groups.  I'm constantly reading that the country is becoming more "diverse".  Maybe it is, but I suspect that Hispanics are a group that's going to be regarded as its own race, now that they are a significant demographic, about as long as Italians were, and for the same reasons.  Fifty years from now, to be Hispanic will be to claim a certain ethnic heritage, and that will probably be about it.

Indeed, it's already the case that I read piles of wedding announcements in the newspaper every week between people with Spanish surnames and English, or other, names. These cultures are already mixing at an extremely rapid rate, and not just in terms of marriage, but culture.  Some time ago I attended something at Mass where a person self identified as Hispanic, but who would have been impossible to identify that way by appearance, and this is becoming the absolute norm.  Hispanic last names are rapidly only indicating ethnic heritage and not race, and usually mixed American ethnic heritage, the same way Irish, German or Italian last names do.  Hispanics may have been a strongly identifiable minority in many places, and indeed they still are, but they're rapidly entering the mainstream and vice versa, the latter being an interesting process we rarely think of.  Just as minority cultures pick up and adopt large parts of the majority culture, the majority culture adopts parts of the minority culture as well.  Across the street from my office, for example, there's a Mexican restaurants that's really Mexican.  It's very popular with local Hispanics, but most days at noon, any more, it's swamped with everyone else.  An establishment that started off being patronized mostly by members of its own culture now no longer is, even though it hasn't changed a bit.  Restaurants are, of course, a superficial example, but it's also interesting how many people now celebrate Cinqo De Mayo in some fashion, and Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated at Catholic parishes everywhere.

This doesn't mean that any one ethnic group doesn't have its own unique cultural aspects to it, of course. But the differences in culture do decline over time. St. Patrick's Day, for example, is still a serious day with strongly Catholic Irish Americans, but it's also a national party for those looking for one.  Cinqo De Mayo has already gone from being a date somewhat remembered in Mexico as the anniversary of a battle against the French, to being an excuse to have Mexican food.  Columbus Day still brings out Italian Americans in some parts of the country, but in most regions they ignore it like everyone else.  And of course the American habit of intermarriage means that after awhile everyone is pretty much everything.

This doesn't mean that we've now entered racial bliss, where nobody is a racist. That's obviously not true. And cultural differences between different groups of Americans still exist, with most being harmless.  But what it probably means is that the country ought to really focus on persistent poverty in some of the ethnic groups long burdened with it, as that poverty is a principal source of remaining racism.  Taking that on won't be easy, but it has to be done.  Included with that, are some pretty hard and difficult decisions, which the country generally hasn't been too willing to undertake recently.

The Native American Side Of The Thanksgiving Menu : The Salt : NPR

The Native American Side Of The Thanksgiving Menu : The Salt : NPR

For Native Alaskans, Holiday Menu Looks To The Wild : The Salt : NPR

For Native Alaskans, Holiday Menu Looks To The Wild : The Salt : NPR

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Random Snippets

Just under 18% of Americans report that they smoke cigarettes.

In the 1944, 41% of Americans smoked.  Up through the 1980s, it was still 38%.  Quite a decline.

Lex Anteinternet: Contempt of Court

For the second time in a little over a  year, we've been treated, or perhaps mistreated, to examples of large sections of the American population rejecting the rule of law, for the concept of mob rule.  This is, to say the least, disturbing in the extreme.I commented on the last instance in July 2013 here, in this post, Lex Anteinternet: Contempt of Court: As I noted there, I don't follow criminal trials as a rule, but the case of Florida v. Zimmerman proved impossible not to follow.  In that case, the jury found the accused, Zimmerman, innocent by way of an application of the traditional doctrines of self defense, but which resulted in widespread public outcry, including a comment by President Obama.

Now the nation, and indeed the world, has been witness to the degree to which quite a few Americans resort to the old concept of lynching crowds over the jury system, to which we supposedly all claim happy allegiance.  Americans are fond of saying that we have the best justice system in the world, but we're pretty quick any more to demonstrate that we'd really rather return to the old, old days of trial by local majority or even economic result.  To anyone who actually believes in any sort of justice system, this should be disturbing in the extreme.

This arises, of course, in the context of Ferguson Missouri man Michael Brown being shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.  

Worth noting, the way that this has been framed in the public mind seems to have been in error from the very onset.  Brown, in the public mind, is often portrayed as a child, but he was an adult man of 18 years old. For those who think that's a child, we should keep in mind that at 18 you are old enough to vote, old enough to serve in the armed forces, old enough to be treated as an adult in every fashion except for the purchase of a handgun, and of the age where if you are charged with a crime, you are charged as an adult.  Officer Wilson wasn't really much older, only being 28 years old at the time, a difference which seems large when  you are 28, but not so much later.

Nobody will ever really know what happened that night, but what seems to be the case by way of credible evidence is that Wilson stopped Brown, who had just stolen cigars from a convenience store.  That Brown wasn't a saint is really glossed over in this, but by the same token the theft of cigars is a misdemeanor and not of the crime which, under the common law of old, entitled an officer to use deadly force by its simple existence.  Felonies, for what its worth, did fit into that classification at one time.  But theft is theft and to be detained by an officer following a theft is always something of concern to the thief, which at that point, Brown was.

This resulted in some sort of a scuffle.  We'll never know what happened, but by the end of it, Wilson had drown his sidearm, after having been hit at least several times by Brown, and shot him.  Wilson fired something like 12 rounds from his sidearm, hitting Brown six times. 

Now, generally a person would focus on the number of rounds expended, which seems high, but quite frankly its been the police norm for several decades.  At one time police officers carried revolvers of small caliber, and generally they operated in a world in which simply hitting a suspect usually meant he'd give up. The exception for decades was the FBI, which operated in a world in which suspects were usually extremely dangerous and would fight it out, sometimes with some surprisingly heavy weapons.  In turn, FBI agents usually carried .45 ACP handguns, a heavy handgun that did big damage if you hit a person, anywhere.

Staring in the 1970s, however, police forces switched to semi automatic handguns which was coincident with the rise of drug use. Drug use made a lot of suspects really dangerous, as they'd lost all reason as a result, and so they'd keep on keeping on.  Most police handguns are anemic, however, and so the training that has come up over the years, starting first with the training in New York City, has been to have officers keep on firing until a suspect goes down.  Frankly, in my view, most forces might be better off with a bigger handgun that required a single shot, but that's not what most departments use, save for some specialist within large departments, and in some sheriff's offices.

So, was the use of force excessive?  Well, we weren't there.  So the matter was sent to a grand jury.  The answer isn't clear from these facts alone.  We can't say its excessive based on number of rounds fired alone, and we can't say that Wilson didn't act excessively either. After all, Brown is dead.

Here's where the disturbing trend comes in.

Grand juries deliberate in secret.  Not all states use them, but Missouri must.  They can take in all kinds of evidence, nearly without restraint. At the end, they have the call on whether to charge or not.

Here, they decided not to.

The mob isn't accepting it. But the mob didn't hear the evidence. And the protest has spread around the nation, and there are calls to charge Officer Wilson with Civil Rights violations.

This is no different than the lynch mob of old.  The mob has decided what is right and wrong and it wants its decision carried out. But, should we heed the mob, we have no justice system.  A justice system which cannot render an unpopular decision isn't a justice system, it's a farce.  People protesting this decision are arguing for a type of jurisprudence found in Fascism, or Communism.  They should be ashamed.

This would be different if we had any reason to believe that the grand jury ignored the law.  But on the contrary, it appears they did not.  They had a difficult decision to make but they appear to have made it properly.  Nobody who wasn't in the grand jury really knows what the evidence in this matter even is.

This entire trend has become increasingly common in the United States in recent years.  We already have seen people charged with crimes that are really economic class crimes, or even simply political crimes, as the population feels good about them.  Those trends are hugely disturbing as they suggest that success in business or in politics risks being criminal.  Now we're seeing the old, old concept of revenge revived as a basis for judicial action, and it should never be.  People who feel strongly that we need a just system of justice should be disturbed.


 Remounts. World War One.

I've been doing a series of posts here recently on transportation.  I started out with the default means of transportation, walking, and then recently I did one on bicycles, the device that first introduced practical daily mechanical transportation to most people, most places, in the western world, and which continues to be the default means of daily transportation for a lot of people around the globe.  Here I turn to nearly the oldest means of alternative ground transportation (accepting that floating transportation was the second means for humans to get around, following walking), that being animal transportation. And when we discuss animal transportation, we mean for the most part equine transportation, at least in the context discussed here.. 

Mounted men on saddle horses, draft transportation with wagon pulled by draft mules, and pack transportation with donkeys.  A unique photograph, in Yosemite, if the three basic types of equine transportation with the three basic equines.

I didn't start with horses in this recent series, in part because I'm pretty familiar with horses myself and so they're sort of second nature to me, part of what the process of posting here hopes to help me overcome as a writer.  But I also didn't start here with horses as:  1)  walking makes more sense, in terms of a starting point and; 2) we all think we're so used to the story of the Equine Era that we tend to misunderstand it, and have to start somewhere else.
Copper, a Saddlebred, which I once owned.

Of course, noting this, I'm not completely accurate as I've written on horse transportation quite a bit actually, and well before this recent series.  One of the relatively popular topics on this blog has been the Revolution In Rural Transportation thread, which was once one of the top ten popular ones.  But we're taking another look at it now, in any event.  And we're taking a look at it in the same fashion we did for walking and bicycles, that is, we're starting way back in antiquity, but we'll conclude by looking at that period in the 20th Century when things really began to change.  Like most things of this type, we'll tend to find that this topic is subject to Holscher's First Law of History, everything happened earlier than generally supposed, and Holscher's Second Law of History, everything last occurred more recently than you suspect.

As previously noted, for eons and eons, people basically walked. And also for eons and eons agriculture was extremely basic, or perhaps more accurately nomadic.  Archaeologist for a long time have spoken of "hunter gatherers", but in reality most "hunter gatherer societies" are actually hunter, small scale farming and gathering societies.  Not all, of course, in regions that are very well provided with vegetative food, there was no farming, and in some rare areas of the globe where these societies still exist, that's still true.  A recently issue of the National Geographic featured once such group in Brazil, for example, that still did very little or next to no farming, instead gathering and hunting.

Humans spread across the globe in vast antiquity, of course, and at some point somebody had the idea of herding the game animals that would cooperate, essentially converting themselves from hunter/gatherers into hunter/herdsmen/gatherers (or low yield farmers).  How long ago this occurred is debated, but it seems relatively clear that the animals that were first herded are the ones that pretty much still are, with some later additions.  Aurochs (wild cattle), horses, reindeer, onakers (wild donkeys) and camelids.  Something about these big animals made them easier to semi domesticate and herd than others, leading to domestication.  Reindeer, I have to note, still really surprise me in this category, and of course a wild reindeer differs from a tame one not at all, even now.

And it was reindeer, some believe, that humans first rode, and a long while back  As odd as that is, the origin of the idea to ride a reindeer, if you are a reindeer herder, makes obvious sense.  It'd get tiring following them around on foot day after day.  If they are there anyhow, why not just ride one, assuming that it'll put up with it, which apparently they can be broken to do.

According to those who have studied this, it was in the region where reindeer herders and nomadic horse herders overlapped that riding horses first occurred. This is no surprise, really, in that anyone who has herded horses must find the prospect of herding them from the ground a daunting prospect.  Only on horseback could the herdsmen really plan on keeping up.  When they saw mounted reindeer herders, the idea of mounting a horse must have come nearly immediately.

 Soldier riding reindeer at survey camp of Eastern Siberian Railway
Imperial Russian soldier riding a reindeer, the first thing, it seems, humans rode.

But it probably took at least a little time. Those horses weren't domestic horses in any sense of the word. They were barely what we'd consider horses at that, more in the nature of ponies really, and very wild. But the men were wild too, and soon entire steppe cultures were mounted.

The horse spread out everywhere in the old world from there.

But they didn't really spread evenly.

 [Village criers on horseback, Bird On the Ground and Forked Iron, Crow Indians, Montana]
Crow Indians, who repeated in the 18th Century what our distant ancestors in vast antiquity experienced on the Steppes, adopting animal transportation as a start up proposition.

Contrary to the schoolyard myth, where some romantic child proclaims "we could all go back to riding horses", there was never a day in any sort of farming community or urban community in which "everyone rode horses". At the same time, however, the impact of horses was so vast, and their use as a transportation and draft animal so significant, that it can hardly be appreciated by most people today. Truly, as we've tried to explore in at least one other thread, it was a world in which people worked with animals.

Only in nomadic and semi nomadic cultures did everyone, or at least nearly ever male, ride.  The original tribes coming out of the steppes certainly did.  Their successors, people like the Mongols and the Huns, did as well.  The Arabs were a horse, and camel, mounted people back into their early history, and a certain percentage of them remained that way until quite recently, indeed some still are, giving their name to the hot blooded horse which lived throughout the region.*  Certain African peoples were heavy uses of horses.  Some Germanic tribes along the Rhine were reported by the Romans to be nearly entirely mounted, as a culture, on the cold bloods of the region.  Turks were a nearly completely mounted people when they came out of Central Asia on a horse that was, for all practical purposes, the same stock as the Arab Horse.  the Cossacks, a Central Asian people in their own right, were a nearly unique mounted people in close association with a much more agricultural and industrial people.  And of course, when horses came on to the North American plains in the mid 1700s, some Indian tribes adopted them to the extent of becoming completely mounted people.

 Imperial Russian Cossacks. Cossacks are associated with military service, but they were a mounted people in any event and their use as cavalry reflected a cultural trait.  It must have been cold when this photograph was taken, as the Cossacks depicted have their hats pulled down, which was not the norm.  Usually, they cocked them at an angle and pushed them towards the back of their heads.  Horses depicted here may be panjes, Russian ponies, with "panje" meaning "peasant".

Otherwise, however, in other societies, and very early on, riding a horse generally meant that the rider was some sort of agriculturalist who lived with and used horses, such as a mounted stock worker; occupied a role in society that meant he had to have a horse issued to him, such as a soldier or mounted policeman, or was wealthy and could afford the expense of keeping a horse, even though he didn't live, perhaps, where the horse was kept and didn't take care of the horse, or the tack, himself, on a daily basis.

 Cavalier and Roundhead (rich and poor)
 Cavalier and Round Head (Rich and Poor).  The cavalier rides a hot blooded horse, the peasant is riding a donkey. The position of the donkey rider is correct, that being for reasons I'm unaware of, except for very large donkeys called today "Monster Jacks", people ride the rear of the donkey, not its middle, perhaps for the reason depicted here in which the peasant's donkey is carrying a load in addition to a rider.  This scene depicts a condition which existed for eons.  Even in ancient Greek society only the well to do were mounted.  Everyone else generally walked.

 Returning from market
Rural family returning from market.  This family, man, woman and child, are using horses as saddle animals, with the lead horse also packing quite a load.  Pretty typical farm family scene the globe over.

 British Cavalry passing through wrecked village
 British cavalry during World War One.  British officers, going into the war, were largely drawn from a traditional landed or semi landed class, and would typically have learned to ride at home in their youth.  Regular enlisted volunteers wold have learned to ride in the Army.  Mounted reservists were typically in Yeomanry units, who were drawn from rural regions and probably also learned to ride at home.

The archetype of the British cavalryman in World War One, mounted on a very large charger.

This meant that the great mass of people in most societies, in anyone era, weren't regularly riding horses and probably weren't riding them at all. This was certainly the case after the start of the Industrial Revolution, but was even the case in most places before that. If we take Medieval Europe as an example, the reason that we find Medieval Chivalry so interesting is that they're an example of what we note here.  "Chivalry" comes from the word "cheval", French for horse.  Chivalry were the well to do landed gentry who could afford to own horses, and therefore part of their obligation in society was to serve as mounted warriors, i.e., knights, in times of war.

 Saracens, North Africans, and French Chivalry, at the Battle of Tours.  French mounted combatants would have been largely drawn from the landed class.  Foot soldiers from less well funded classes.  The Saracens, on the other hand, probably were drawn mostly from North African mounted tribesmen.

But even in the United States, at least by the mid 19th Century, this was tending towards true.

Now, surely early in the country's history, the percentage of men who rode was undoubtedly fairly high.  When farming dominated as it did at that time, most men would have had some ability to ride and in some regions of the country it was a necessity.  Even New England fit that category early on, with one type of horse, the Narragansett Pacer being associated with that region and being noted for being a pacing gaited horse, suitable for comfortably traveling significant distances.  But as cities and towns developed, this became less and less true.  Which isn't to say that there weren't occupations that rode, there were, some of which would surprise us today.

Many lawyers, for example, rode as part of their occupations.  Judges frequently did. Indeed, that fact is memorialized today by the term "circuit court" which remains in use, although nobody rides or even really drives a circuit today (although there are districts, at least in Wyoming, where one judge presides over courts in different locations).  One now retired judge in Wyoming's Seventh Judicial District had a small statute of a circuit riding judge in his office for years.  At any rate, for many years, entire teams of lawyers rode circuits, following a judge who also did.  This was particularly true before roads were improved in any fashion, as a coach is an uncomfortable or impossible vehicle if the roads are bad, but a horse can go absolutely anywhere.

Some clerics did as well, all of which was referred to as "riding a circuit".  Methodist ministers are frequently associated with this, and Catholic Priests in some regions of the world relied on mules to such an extent that mules were somewhat reserved for them at law.  In one South American diocese an early Bishop, who was later canonized as a saint, spent something like the first seven years of his appointment in the saddle, just covering his very large diocese.  Well into the 19th Century, or even the 20th, there were certain regions of North American where to be a Priest or minister meant you had to ride.

Mail carriers also did, and to such an extent that a "post" rider was part of the post office's original seal.   And the term "posting" is associated with the Post Office, although that's not the only explanation for that term referring to rise to the trot.  Some rural routes in the United States were still served by mounted mail carriers as late as the 1940s.

Rural mail carrier, Kentucky, 1940.  Of note here, this rider is using a flat, or "English" saddle, which we would expect for this region of the country at this time, but which films invariably do not get right.

Mounted policemen were a common feature of most big cities well into the 20th Century, and there were also rural police forces that were entirely mounted.  This is something, in a diminished fashion, that carries on to the present day.  Urban police forces themselves really started making an appearance in the US after the Civil War, when towns and cities had grown sufficiently large that a county sheriff's office or a town marshal no longer would suffice for city policing.  As policemen covered quite a bit of ground a fair number of them were mounted. And as this tended to immediately follow the Civil War, quite a few early police forces were equipped with forms and tack that strongly resembled that of the Union Army.  Even today police departments with significant mounted units tend to use tack that strongly recalls that of the late 19th Century U.S. Army.

And while this thread doesn't really seek to fully explore it, well into the mid 20th Century the military used a tremendous number of horses and mules.  Every army that fought in World War Two used at least some mounted troops, and some armies used significant numbers of them.  Even the United States, contrary to what is commonly believed, had some mounted men in Europe during the war.  The Germans and the Soviets had a lot of mounted men.  The last mounted assaults by formations of mounted men in the U.S. Army, the Soviet Army and the German Army, all occurred in the spring of 1945.**  The United States, recognizing the declining importance of horses in the war, but still requiring huge numbers of mules, continued to have a Remount program until about 1947, when it was finally turned over to the Department of Agriculture, complete with some captured German horses brought back into the US post war.***

Jonathan Wainright being promoted to Brigadier General in 1938. Wainright would become a prisoner of the Japanese early in World War Two and would famously endure the war in captivity.

Some armies used huge numbers of horses for transport. The Germans, again, provide a prime example. The Germans actually used more horses in this role during World War Two than they did during World War one, and by the wars end they were principally horse powered in terms of transport and artillery transport.

Cavalryman training at Ft. Riley Kansas, 1942.  The U.S. Army's cavalry training facility remained in operation until after World War Two. The date the last cycle was trained is uncertain, but it was likely in 1946 or 1947.

Cavalry, globally, had a much longer run that people imagine, because it actually still exists, or perhaps more accurately mounted infantry does in some armies.  At least one central African army still has mounted infantry.  Mounted infantry units figured prominently in the wars in Rhodesia and Angola of the 1980s, proving to be highly effective in both instances.  Paramilitary mounted troops, moreover, exist in a lot of armies that patrol remote areas of the globe.  And, mounted bands continue to exist as irregular troops in some places of the globe where mounted banditry lives on.

And then there's military mules.

Mules, in fact, remain a big untold, in part, story for World War Two. The US, German, Italian, and British armies all used huge numbers of mules, with the Allies having a particular advantage in this category a the United States produced the best mules in the world, and really still does.

U.S. Army mule, 1863.  Most Civil War mules were pack mules, but some infantry formations were ultimately mounted on mules to give the infantryman mobility. This was repeated again during the Indian Wars, when it was found that on campaigns infantry couldn't keep up in the early stages of the campaign with cavalry.  They generally could if a campaign became long, however, as cavalryman were mounted one trooper per horse, something generally not done with civilian horsemen.  Cowboys, for example, typically rode seven horses to the man in the 19th Century and still ride several horses to the man today.

U.S. Army mule, World War Two,. or perhaps 1930s.  This mule sports a Phillips Pack Saddle, a type of load specific pack saddle system developed after World War One.

U.S. Army mule column.  Note that this string of mules is not tied together, the way civilian pack strings normally are.  These mules are so well trained they are following each other in a single column, without being tied.

Pack mules remained in the U.S. Army until the late 1950s, at which time the last U.S. Army unit that was a pack transportation unit, a reserve unit in Colorado, was phased out.  However, even at that, the Armed Forces never quit training troops how to pack horses and mules. The Army's Special Forces still does, and within the past decade it has issued a new manual on the topic. The Marine Corps has maintained an active pack transportation school the entire time.  As horses and mules have been used recently in Afghanistan the wisdom of doing this has been demonstrated.

Pack horses and mules were not just a military thing, of course. Certain industries and enterprises relied extensively on pack horses and mules well into the 20th Century.  While its sometimes claimed that the Jeep replaced the horse in the Army, what it really replaced was the pack mule, sort of, and this is sort of true of the pack mule in the civilian world as well.  Be that as it may, there's still pack mule, and horse, use today, including by the Federal Government. The Forest Service maintains a remount program even now, in which it teaches a small number of its personnel in riding and pack mule use, and it keeps a string of pack mules in the Rocky Mountain West.  Pack mules and horses receive extensive use by outdoorsmen, particularly large big game hunters, and some continue to use them simply for packing trips.

 Jeeps and mules, World War Two.

Setting riding (and packing) aside, and military use, the big presence of horses that has really been forgotten was the use of horses in draft, or draught.

 [New York City. View along waterfront on West Street; many freight wagons; street car]
Street scene, New York City, 1904.  This photograph was taken the year after Henry Ford introduced the Model T, and the year after Harley Davidson first started manufacturing motorcycles.

For most people, horses intersected with daily life in the form of a horse in harness.  While most people didn't ride, everyone depended on draft horses, and this became more the case during and after the Industrial Revolution, than before.
Omaha Merchants Express and Transfer Company, 1908.

For most people, horses intersected with daily life in the form of a horse in harness.  While most people didn't ride, everyone depended on draft horses, and this became more the case during and after the Industrial Revolution, than before.

While its hardly appreciated now, the means of transportation, at least locally, for most of the Industrial Revolution and well into the 20th Century was by draft horse.  Local transport companies owned thousands of horses across the United States. And in the first quarter century of the 20th Century, railroads were the largest owners of horses in North America. That may seem odd, but that's how the things delivered by rail were delivered.

Transport horses so dominated in North America that they impacted the types of horses produced by individual farmers, who were the sources of nearly the entire supply.  Prior to the Industrial Revolution, farming dominated the horse market and farmers, always being practical and economically minded, raised horses of a type called a "chunk", that being a short blocky horse that could be used for riding, driving, or pulling.  The Morgan or Canadian horses (the two being closely related to each other) provide perhaps the most familiar example of that type of horse to us today.  But in the cities, transport companies had demands for specific types of horses that they desired, and heavy haulers wanted a heavy horse.  The common view today that the big draft horses we see in parades were "farm" horses isn't really correct.  In fact, they're not desirable as a rule for farming, as their angle of draft is to severe.  They became that big and blocky when heavy haulers favored that type of horse, and that type of horse really only became so big and blocky at the end of the horse transport era.

In fact, the urban draft market was so heavy, and so dominated what private horse supplieres were producing, that it concerned the British Army, which relied upon Canadian horses for a reserves supply of remounts, and began to concern the U.S. Army, which had always secured its horses from private vendors as well.  The English never did develop a Remount program, but the United States did after World War One, when the direction things were headed in was pretty plain.  This put the U.S. Army directly into the horse ranching business, leading to a system in which the Army owned the stallion and had its choice of offspring.  Governed under strict military guidelines, this lead to an improvement in the quality of horses in the United States, and in fact is largely responsible for the conformation of Quarterhorses today.

Remounts, 1923.

Draft horses in cities and towns were such a part of ordinary life that we can hardly even conceive of it today, or the same reason that we don't think of light trucks and work vans much. They're just part of the background of life, and dominated much of what would have been regarded as normal, necessary and vital of everyday life.  In other words, stuff we totally tend to ignore in our own lives today.

Small beer wagon, 1939.  Note the heavy draft horses being used.  The wagon driver is a "teamster", giving rise to that term, and to the original union for them which survives today.

Draft horses and freight wagons delivered beer to bars, ice to butchers, fish to fish mongers, milk to people's houses, ice to their homes for their "ice boxes" and coal for their furnaces.  By the early 20th Century the first cars and trucks had made their entry and long distance travel was by rail, but in towns and cities horses were truly the beasts of burden, pulling wagons and carts in every town and city.
 Budweiser wagon, 1943.  Probably the archetype of horse drawn freight wagon, in many people's minds

Ice wagon, with very placid light draft horse.

And how the ice was cut.  Horse drawn ice saw, heavy draft.

United States Fuel Administration poster urging Americans to order coal early, due to the potential of World War One shortages.  This poster depicts heavy draft horses in use, which is no doubt accurate for this type of work.  It also depicts a dump box on the wagon, showing how wagons were as specialized as truck boxes are today.

Horses also performed the role that dump trucks and blades performed in cities and towns.  Dirt, and snow, removal was horse powered.

Draft team removing snow from a railroad crossing, St. Lambert Quebec, early 1940s.   Horses are heavy drafts.

[Wagons removing snow]
Snow removal, New York City, 1908.

And all of this well into mid Century as well.  The delivery of ice tended to be carried on by wagon, as a dying industry, until it died, being perhaps one of the last urban horse drawn freighting services to continue, but it continued in some locations in to the 1950s, as people slowly replaced their ice boxes with refrigerators.  Today, perhaps somewhat ironically, it's Budweiser's giant beer wagons that are popular in the public mind, as they've made it a symbol, and the big beer wagons were always dramatic. But a lot more ice was hauled in towns and cities than beer.

Horses also provided light transportation, both through the private ownership of carts and buggies for those who could afford to keep them, and for hire as well.

Light Irish cart of a type typical in Ireland up through the 1940s.  Irish carts of this period are typically referred to as a "dog cart", reflecting that they were light carts.  In the United States another type of light cart was called a "dog cart", but it was a light two seated cart, which was sort of the sports car of its day, and used in pretty much the same fashion as sports cars today, by pretty much the same class.  Ireland and the Irish were heavily associated with horses, being a rural people who depended upon them enormously, and horse related sports remain popular in Ireland today.

Once again, it was of course the case that not everyone owned a buggy by any means. They cannot be thought of as the equine powered predecessor of the automobile.  The same problems that confronted the average urban dweller in regards to a saddle horse, confronted them in regards to a buggy, if not more so, as it entailed keeping at least one horse. Some occupations did typically own buggies, however, with physicians being particularly likely to own one.  Indeed, this was so much the case that one type of buggy was called a "doctor's buggy".

Sign for physicians office, 1940s, recalling the relatively recent era when doctors had buggies as part of their occupations.  Oddly, the buggy depicted is not the type which is called a "doctor's buggy", but is more of a "dog cart".

Stage Coach, 1910, Riverside New York.  Note, this is well after most people would associate traveling in this fashion, and in a location you wouldn't typically hear of either, but both were common.

Hansom Cab, New York City, 1896.  A wagon called a Hansom Cab is still a tourist attraction in New York today, although New York's recently elected mayor, in an act of unreality and political buffoonery, declared an intent to eliminate them, showing the increasing extent to which the politics of that city are divorced from the the real world.  Horse, it should be noted, has his head in a feed bag.  The horse is a light or medium draft horse.

Public Transportation, Washington D.C.

All of this doesn't even begin to address, of course, the services horses that were present in any one city, such as the thousands of horses used for fire departments all over the country.

[D.C. Washington. Fire Department activities: horse-drawn hook & ladder truck leaving firehouse (folder 438)]
Washington D. C. Fire Department

The last of the Horses Engine Co. 205, New York Fire Department
 New York's Engine Company No. 205, the last horse drawn engine company in the New York City Fire Department, 1922.

Horses even had an impact on the features of cities and towns. A nationwide public effort was undertaken in the early 20th Century to provide nice watering basins for them, and they still exist in quite a few towns and cities.   A nice one, for example, exists in downtown Denver, although I have yet to take a photograph of it. Iron rings were sent into sidewalk cement as well, for tying horses up while their owners did their business.  One of those remained in a sidewalk near my office building, at which point it became a victim of  a sidewalk reconstruction effort.  And of course every town of any size had a livery to accommodate horses.

Shower for horses, a feature in big cities during hot weather, put in by people sympathetic to horses.

Outside of the cities, horses provided the horsepower, if you will, for everything, for a very long time.  That they supplied the muscle for freighting in the 19th Century is no surprise, but what may be a surprise is the extent to which this continued on well into the 20th Century.  Indeed, as odd it may see, the early transport for the oil industry was horse powered.  One of my wife's great uncles worked as a freighter with a large team for one of the early oilfields in this region.

Zurr's Station and Water Tank, Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road, Placer County
Water wagons.

A unique photograph showing every mode of transport, almost, in the early 20th Century in Alaska.  Horse, foot and bicycle.

And of course horses and mules were critical for agriculture and for much longer than people generally suppose.  This is very well known, but how long this continued on is not appreciated.  People suppose that tractors came in around the same time as the car, and the conversion to the internal combustion engine happened overnight.  This is simply untrue.  Engine powered farm machinery was slow to come in, in some ways, and horses and mules remained the farm standards well into the mid 20th Century (and remain the ranch standard, in some roles, today).  The Great Depression, for one thing, slowed mechanization of the farm, which had only barely begun to commence when it got rolling, and while tractors and other machinery had existed for a long time by that point, they were far from universal on the farm.

Plowing, late 1930s.

Sheepherders, early 1940s. Scenes like this still occur, and were very common in the West well into the 1980s.

A mule and a plow, what the Government advertised for those seeking farm resettlement loans.

Mule-drawn wagon with water supply near Jeanerette, Louisiana

Horse drawn water barrel, Louisiana, 1938.

 Combine, 1910.

 Saddle horses at branding.

Perhaps the most surprising thing for most people may be how long this went on, and that it even does to a small extent today.  A common conception of things is that cars came and the engine replaced the horse overnight, but it did not work that way.  Cars did come in rapidly for personal transportation, which isn't a surprise as they offered something that their main competitor, the bicycle, did not for average people, that being distance.  A person could cover a lot more ground with a car than they ever could with a bicycle, and even go from town to town.  But things were slower in other areas.  Horses carried on in urban freighting well into the 1920s and in some roles into the 1950s.  Horses carried on in the everyone's army until the after World War Two, and mules beyond that.  In agriculture average farmers in some instances kept on farming with horses and mules into the 1950s and in ranching horses have carried on in the West to this very day.

 Horse market, Omaha, 1914.


This is a topic that's actually a bit hard to conclude, as in some ways the story of horse use isn't complete.  Horses remain with us, and even in the most industrialized countries, there are working horses today.  Horses remain in use in ranching for example, to a far greater extent in the West than people imagine.  They even carry on in the stock industries of Italy and Spain, which we don't think of much here. They continue to have a role in policing, and have been reintroduced in some towns and cities in recent years, and have gone back into use patrolling the border.  The Army, which went away from horses with finality following World War Two, and from mules in the late 1950s, has even found that it isn't possible to completely escape them, and Special Forces troops were mounted once again at the start of the war with Afghanistan.

Truth be known, but for the fact that we're so acclimated to machinery, the horse would be well suited for more roles than it currently fulfills.  Horsemen know that, but it's hard to advance that point without sounding hopelessly romantic.  Anyone who has ever ridden much, for example, well knows that the vantage from the saddle is much greater than that from the ground, and searches that are routinely undertaken by parties of walking people, or sometimes with aircraft, would be better off supplemented by riders. Frankly, the walking people could entirely be replaced with riders.  Much more policing work could be done with them, police forces just aren't all that familiar with them today.  And so on. Of course, all that's easy for me to say, as I like horses.

The horse continues to cast a pretty long shadow today.

*Hot Blood v. Cold Blood.  Hot blooded horses are those lighter horses that stem from more southerly regions, originally, such as Arabs.  They're generally "hotter", more lively, than Cold Bloods. Cold Bloods are heavy horses, stemming originally from a wild Northern European horse.  They've given their blood lines to the draft breeds today.  Of course, there are mixes and most horses have some hot blood into them today, to some extent.

**The last U.S. Charge by a mounted unit was one conducted by the Mounted Reconnaissance Troop of the 10th Mountain Division in 1945.  Commonly it is claimed that the last US charge was by the 26th Cavalry Regiment, in the Philippines, in 1942, which is correctly only if only a cavalry unit, rather than mounted infantry, is considered.  The last charges in which U.S. troops of any kind participated have occurred in Afghanistan with Special Forces troops attached to the Northern Alliance.

The last German charge may have occurred when a German cavalry unit charged across a US unit in an effort to flee the advancing Red Army in April, 1945.  However, so many German troops were mounted during World War Two this is somewhat difficult to determine.  Likewise, the Red Army used cavalry until 1953 and determining when the last Soviet charge occurred would be difficult. The Soviets may have conducted mounted actions internally after World War Two as they confronted internal resistance after the war in areas that had formed anti Soviet guerrilla bands during the war.

The last regular Army that the US probably served alongside that had mounted cavalry formations might be the Republic of Korea's army, which still had mounted units in 1950 when it was attacked by the North Koreans.  On the other hand, the British have actually used provisionally mounted troops in the Balkans in recent years, so this may not be correct, and the US has used, as noted, some Special Forces troops who have been mounted in Afghanistan.

***For more on the topic of Military Horses, including this topic, see The Society of The Military Horse website, the place that's the absolute last word on this topic.


Related threads:

A Revolution In Rural Transportation.

Riding Bicycles


Working With Animals.