Thursday, September 28, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 318

Devils Tower, Wyoming, early 1920s

We stopped at Devils Tower on our summer road trip and found this old photograph from the early 1920s made into a postcard available at the visitor center.  Devils Tower Monument was the first National Monument established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.  The photo on the card comes from the Devils Tower Natural History Association ( and was published by Shoshone Dist., Co., Box 8, Cody, WY 82414.  

Devils Tower as seen from several miles away

Devils Tower is located above the Belle Fourche River in the Bear Lodge Mountains, part of the Black Hills, in northeastern Wyoming near Sundance and Hulett, Crook County.  The butte rises 1,267 feet or 386 meters above the river and is 867 feet or 265 meters from the base to the summit.  It is extremely impressive close up and can be seen for miles.  

Near the Tower the Spearfish Formation of red rock is dramatic and interesting.  The dark red color of the sandstone was caused by oxidation of iron minerals in the rocks.  The colored hillsides reminded me of the Painted Hills in the John Day area of Oregon.

A placard explaining the origin theories about Devils Tower

Devils Tower from the trail

There are several Native American folklore stories about the Tower usually involving giant bears and children fleeing from them, asking the Great Spirit to save them.  Hearing their prayers the Great Spirit made the rock rise from the ground toward the heavens so that the bears could not reach them.  The groves on the sides of the Tower are said to be the claw marks of the huge bears as they tried to climb the rock.

 Sign asking visitors to respect the place

There are signs along the paved trail around the Tower informing visitors of the Native American heritage as asking visitors to respect the place by staying on the trails and not touching items that had been placed there by the tribes.  

 Small red ribbons tied to pine tree near the base of the Tower

We did see red ribbons and small items tied to a small pine tree near the base of the tower but did not touch them.  The Tower is sacred to several Plains tribes, including the Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa.  The Tower is can be scaled by climbers; however, during the month of June when the tribes conduct ceremonies around the monument climbers are asked, but not required, to stay off the Tower.  Most honor this request.

For more information, see:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 317

Mount Rushmore, 1937

Although there was a postcard Thursday about Mount Rushmore on 21 August 2014, I am putting up another one now because every so often I am lucky enough to find a series of postcards with old pictures that tell a story.  This week four cards shared are from Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.  All four cards were found at the Mount Rushmore gift shop.  All have black and white photographs from the Denver Public Library Western History Collection and are Impact, Designed and Distributed in the U.S.A., printed in Korea publications.  The card above has the identifier #26383 at the upper left on the reverse.  Not all the heads had been completed when this picture was taken in September 1937 for the unveiling of the Lincoln face.  The cards show the progress of the monument from the bare mountain face to the completed project and include some of the workers as well.  The fifth card is a modern photograph of a worker cleaning the surface of one of the heads.

Mount Rushmore, ca 1923

This second card shows Mount Rushmore before work on the sculpture was started by Sculptor Gutzon Borglum.  The photograph dates to about 1923.   On the reverse, upper left, is #26384.

The Lakota Souix called the mountain, “The Six Grandfathers.”  Among American settlers it was known variously as Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Rock and Keystone Cliffs.  There are at least two stories about how the mountain got its current name of Mount Rushmore.  Charles E. Rushmore (1857-1931) was a New York businessman and attorney who visited the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1885 to check titles and properties of an eastern mining company owned by James Wilson concerning the Etta tin mine.  

In one story he is said to have made friends with the miners and prospectors.  When he asked what the name of the great granite peak was he was told it did not have a name but it would be called Rushmore from then on.  The other story related by rancher, Jerry Urbanek, is that Rushmore went to the Black Hills each year to hunt big game.  One day he asked the name of the mountain and was told it was called Slaughterhouse Rock.  Rushmore joked that his frequent trips gave him the right to have the mountain named after himself.   More or less as a joke the locals started called it Mount Rushmore.  Forty years later in 1925, Rushmore made the largest single contribution of funds, $5,000, towards Borglum’s sculpture on the mountain.  The United States Board of Geographic Names officially recognized the name Mount Rushmore in 1930. 

Mount Rushmore, in process, ca 1934

This third card with a photograph from the early 1930s shows the beginnings of the project.  It has #26380 on the reverse.

Originally Borglum planned to put Jefferson to the left of Washington but the lack of carvable stone and the poor quality of the rock led to the removal of the partially completed head in 1934.  The white section on the stone next to Washington shows where the uncompleted Jefferson head was removed.  Construction on the monument began in 1927 with the faces completed between 1934 and 1939.   Borglum had planned to depict the figures from head to waist.  After he died in March 1941 his son, Lincoln Borglum took over as leader of the construction but due to lack of funding the project was forced to end in October 1941. 

Mount Rushmore with some of the almost 400 workers, ca 1941

The fourth card from about 1941 has the number #26381 and shows some of the almost 400 workers who spent 14 years creating Borglum’s sculpture known as the “Shrine of Democracy.”  Gutzon Borglum’s son, Lincoln, is shown at the far right of the second row.

The mammoth size of these heads, 60 feet or 18 meters, is shown on this fifth card with a modern photograph showing a worker plugging natural fissures in the rock face.  New improved sealant has also replaced material used by Borglum in the 1930s.  This postcard has RP427 on the reverse and is from the South Dakota Department of Tourism, 2015.

This summer Bob and I decided to drive across the country to Marietta, Ohio, where my son and his family live, instead of flying.  We planned to visit parks and monuments as part of the trip and also stop in Salt Lake City, Utah to visit with Bob's son and his family.  It had been 17 years since I last visited Mount Rushmore.  We didn’t see any mountain goats near the monument this time but despite the extremely hot weather we did walk part way around and took several pictures from different angles.  The visitor center area includes Borglum’s workshop with models of the sculptures.

Mount Rushmore, 2017

There is a half-mile loop trail and boardwalk in the front of the mountain that we walked.  Behind the heads is a chamber with a vault holding 16 porcelain enamel panels with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, biographies of the four presidents and Borglum and the history of the U.S.  The chamber and vault were installed in 1998 as part of a planned “Hall of Records.”  There is a trail up around the back to where the chamber is located, but it was too hot to try that hike the day we were there.  The Hall of Records has not been completed as yet. 

 Somewhat by accident we spotted this marker along the loop trail.

Inside Gutzon Borglum's workroom with models of the presidents

Inside the workshop there are models of what the sculptures were to look like.  Due to lack of funding, only the heads were ever completed on the mountain.

Gutzon Borglum by Lincoln Borglum

For additional information and pictures, see:

21 August 2014, Beware of the Rug, Thursday postcard -- Search:  Mount Rushmore

Thursday, September 14, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 316

Irma Hotel aka Buffalo Bill’s hotel in the Rockies, 1902

Continuing from the theme of last week’s postcard is this new card using a vintage photograph the Buffalo Bill Hotel, otherwise known as the Irma Hotel, in Cody, Wyoming, published by Shoshone Distributing Co. Inc.  The original photograph comes from the Park County Archives.   It has the identifying code, PC-SHO 075 at the lower left on the reverse side of the card.

The hotel is still open for business today as both a hotel and restaurant.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.  Built by William (Buffalo Bill) Cody, it opened in 1902 and is named after his daughter, Irma.  The hotel quickly became a social center for the town of Cody.   Under pressure from creditors Buffalo Bill signed the hotel over to his wife, Louisa, in 1913.  After Cody’s death in 1917 the property was foreclosed and sold to Barney Link who sold it back to Louisa within a year.  Louisa kept the hotel until she died in 1925 at which time new owners, Henry and Pearl Newell, took over expanding the hotel and building an annex in the 1930s.  Pearl died in 1965.  The hotel collection of Buffalo Bill memorabilia was given to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and proceeds of the estate were used as an endowment for the museum. 

For additional information, see:

Thursday, September 7, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 315

Buffalo Bill Cody & Annie Oakley

This modern day postcard found in the gift shop of the Buffalo Bill museum, Cody, Wyoming, shows pictures of western legend Buffalo Bill Cody and sharp shooter, Annie Oakley together with a photograph by Dewey Vanderhoff of the Buffalo Bill sculpture titled “The Scout or Buffalo Bill – The Scout” by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.  Shoshone Distributing Co. Inc. of Cody, Wyoming published the card that has an identifying number of #67364. 

The statue in the center of the card was dedicated in 1924 and is located at the end of Sheridan Avenue in Cody, Wyoming not far from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.  It stands on a large stone base that represents nearby Cedar Mountain where Cody wished to be buried.  He was buried at Lookout Mountain in Colorado instead. 

Even though Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was persuaded by Cody’s niece, Mary Jester Allen, to sculpt the piece she also funded most of the approximately $50,000 cost out of her own pocket.  Later she would go on to establish the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1931.  Her son, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney funded the establishment of the Whitney Museum of Western Art at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.  The statue was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. 

Phoebe Ann Mosey (1860-1926) who was born in Ohio became known as Annie Oakley and was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter.  Annie was one of nine children born to Jacob and Susan Mosey.  Her father died when she was 6 years old and she began trapping before she was 7 and shooting then hunting by age 8 in order to help support her siblings and widowed mother.  Because of poverty Annie did not have opportunities to regularly attend school until she was in later childhood and as an adult.  When she was 15 years old she won a shooting competition with Frank E. Butler, a traveling show marksman and dog trainer who had offered $100 to anyone who could beat him. 

She later married Butler and they joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in 1885.  Annie adopted the stage name of Oakley when she began performing with Butler.  Just barely 5 feet tall, in advertisements for the Wild West Show she was called “Little Sure Shot.”  One of her more famous tricks was to split a playing card held on edge and put several holes in it before it touched the ground.  She performed this trick from 90 feet away using a .22 caliber rifle.  She believed it was important for women to know how to use a gun and it is estimated that during her lifetime she taught approximately 15,000 women how to do so.

William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917) was born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory, lived for a time in Toronto, Ontario Canada, moved to the Kansas Territory and was in Denver, Colorado at the time of his death.  His story has many similarities to that of Annie Oakley including the fact that both came from Quaker families; although, it does not appear that Cody was raised a Quaker.  When Cody was 11 years old his father died and he began working to help support the family.  He claimed to have been a trapper, bullwhacker, Pony Express rider, wagon master, stagecoach driver, and hotel manager.  Historians, however, have not been able to document all of the claims and suspect that he may have fabricated some as publicity for his traveling Wild West show.   He got his nickname of Buffalo Bill when he contracted to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat. 

When Cody was 23 years old he met the writer Ned Buntline.  Buntline published a story based on Cody’s adventures and his own imagination that was serialized in the Chicago Tribune.  There were subsequent sequels by Buntline and others beginning in the 1870s and continuing on into the early 20th century.  The Buffalo Bill Wild West traveling show and the legend were born in part due to these stories.  Cody took his show around the United States, Great Britain and Europe where audiences were entranced with being able to view a piece of the American West.  Performers acted out Pony Express rides; Indian attacks on wagon trains, and stagecoach robberies.  The finale was usually an Indian attack on a settler’s cabin with Cody and a group of cowboys riding in to defend the settler and his family.  Many of the re-enactments from this Wild West show later found their way into 20th century cinema and literature. 

For lots more additional information about both Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill Cody, see: