Thursday, December 1, 2016

Isaac Werner's Wagon

For nearly a decade after his arrival on the Kansas prairie, Isaac Werner did not go into debt.  Without a horse, he focused on planting and keeping the trees on his timber claim alive, growing a garden, and tending a peach orchard.  He managed to break some sod by trading his own labor in exchange for having a neighbor come with horse and plow, but the thick prairie sod was next to impossible for a man to break without horses or oxen.

With fewer farmers settled on the prairie and less sod broken, prices for what they raised remained high, and nature favored farmers with adequate rain.  Based on those prices and the accommodating rainfall, Isaac finally decided that he should go into debt to buy a horse, calculating that he could pay the loan back quickly with the crops he raised.

He bought his little mare Dolley Varden and borrowed what he thought would be enough extra to buy the necessary implements.  Unfortunately, Isaac was not the only settler to have decided to expand his farming operation, and as more crops were marketed, prices fell.  To make matters worse, the rainfall did not always come when it was needed.

Isaac discovered that becoming a serious farmer required more equipment than he had anticipated, and he went further into debt.  One of the most expensive purchases was a wagon that he bought from F. C. Shaler in St. John.  He focused on raising potatoes and corn, and he needed the wagon to deliver his crops to market.

Having anticipated paying off his mortgage quickly, he had not negotiated a long-term mortgage, and each renewal resulted in higher interest.  Like many other settlers, the most that Isaac could do was pay the interest owed and renew the note at ever-increasing interest rates.

At the recent Octoberfest in Stafford, Kansas, I saw a wagon which may have resembled the wagon Isaac bought from F.C. Shaler. The wagon pictured in the advertisement from the St. John County Capital is a Milburn Wagon, and the one I saw in Stafford was a Studebaker.

 The Studebaker Wagon was donated by Brian and Kathy Fischer, in memory of Wayne Dean Fischer.  Information from the donors indicates that this wagon was used in the early 1900s; however, it looks very similar to the wagon in the Shaler advertisement.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Veterans Then and Now

W.W. II pilot and dear friend, Emerson Shields
Isaac B. Werner was a teenager during the Civil War and was raised in a Pennsylvania community in which attitudes toward the war were strong and mixed.  In a book written by Isaac's former teacher, the secret organization of draft resisters is documented so closely that although it purports to be fiction, local people could clearly identify which characters in the book were patterned after actual citizens.  There were members of the Werner family who served, but neither Isaac nor his twin brother served, although many teenagers were in uniform during the Civil War.  

Because Union soldiers often took advantage of the law crediting each year of service for the Union toward the years required to obtain title to their homestead claims, many of Isaac's homesteader neighbors were former Union soldiers, among whom were close friends.  In general, however, Isaac was critical of these veterans, particularly because they tended to support the party of Lincoln, which was seen at that time as more sympathetic to Wall Street and the wealthy than to farmers and other laborers. 

Veterans honored at Macksville High School
Recently, my husband and I attended the ceremonies recognizing the service of veterans in our community.  It was the first time we had attended such occasions, and this year we went to St. John, Macksville, and Stafford.  It was quite moving for my husband, who had never been specifically recognized for his military service in that way.

What was interesting was that by chance a few days earlier, we had discussed what his 4 1/2 years of service had meant to our personal lives.  Although he did serve a short tour of duty overseas, he never faced combat, so that sacrifice that others made was not part of our experience.

Macksville students in program with Veterans
What we agreed was that his time in the military was a positive experience for both of us.  The opportunity to serve his country, knowing that it was an obligation of all young men of that time, strengthened his love of country, as it did mine.  There is nothing like living elsewhere and seeing prejudices and practices with which you disagree to make you take a closer look at your own.  There is also nothing like living elsewhere to experience historical cites, entertainments, foods, and all kinds of things you might not have otherwise encountered.  And, there was no place like the military to get to know people from all parts of our nation, people of all ethnic, economic, and religious backgrounds.  It was a growing experience that we would not trade.  My husband learned leadership skills that he used in his civilian career, and I taught English in two large urban schools much different from our own school backgrounds.  The draft was, from our view, an opportunity for young Americans to mature and learn discipline in service of this great country and take from their experience many positive things.

MHS student chorus

Setting a table for a missing veteran
The first Memorial Day after we had 'rescued' the old farmhouse, we invited our families to a dinner at the farm, a family tradition when I was growing up.  We sat in a circle before dinner and we invited every guest to mention a family member who had served our country so we could drink a toast to all of those who served.  Every person could name a family member who had served--themselves, a husband, a sibling, a child, a parent, as well as some of our shared ancestors.  Today, many families cannot name a close relative who has served his or her country.  That seems, to me, to be a loss for those generations and for all of us.  I do not encourage sending our young people off to war, but service to country does not have to involve carrying a weapon.

W.W. II and modern Bombers
Emerson Shields spoke at Stafford, sharing his training as a young man plucked from a college campus into training as a pilot in what was then called the Army Air Force.  He was only 20 years old when he was promoted to lead the planes in his squadron into battle.

MHS band and veterans
The youngest veteran at Stafford was recognized for his service of two tours in Afghanistan with a red, white, and blue quilt.  The third grade class made pinwheel poppies to hand to each veteran present, and veterans were asked to come forward to sign a large quilt which year after year veterans in attendance at their Veterans' Day program are asked to sign.

Cutting cake with military saber

Another tradition in Stafford is to ask the youngest and the oldest veterans present to use a traditional military saber to cut the cake.  Two veterans present were 92 years old, and when asked to give their birth months to determine who was older, both were born just days apart in September.  The crowd voiced their desire to have both men join the youngest veteran in the cake-cutting ceremony!

Thank you to everyone who planned and participated in the Veterans Programs we attended, and thank you to all our veterans who have served and are serving our country.  May this Thanksgiving Day include a remembrance of all of you.

(Remember, pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Quilts: What's Old is New Again

In previous blogs I have written about thrift as a part of the creative process when women used scraps from sewing and pieces of fabric salvaged from outworn clothing to design quilts.  I still enjoy designing and making Scrap Quilts, but many quilters today are not interested in using scraps for their quilts.  While most quilts are probably still used on beds, some are intended as works of art, unlikely to ever be used as bedding!

Last week, we drove to Great Bend, Kansas to the Shafer Art Gallery to see the exhibit currently being shown.  "New York Beauty:  New Quilts from an Old Favorite" is the 2016 exhibit sponsored by the National Quilt Museum located in Paducah, KY, supported in part by the Kentucky Arts Council.

These quilts, selected from entries submitted from gifted quilters from all over, are not your grandma's quilt!  They are fabric and thread works of art deserving of display in an art gallery.

The L.E. "Gus" and Eva Shafer Memorial Art Gallery is located in the Fine Arts Building at the Barton County Community College campus.  It is not exactly easy to find on your first visit to the campus, but it is worth the search.  Drive to the southeast corner, and when you see the signs for the Fine Arts building you can find the Gallery tucked back in the northwest corner of the building.  

A donation from Art, Inc., further efforts of the Barton Foundation, and a generous gift from Mrs. Eva Shafer made what is sometimes called the "Gem of the Campus" a reality.  Admission is free and approximately 7,000 visitors find their way to the Shafer Gallery annually.  If you want to be one of those visitors in time to see the incredible quilts, you will need to visit the Shafer Gallery before the exhibit closes December 9, 2016!  The Gallery is open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"Do These Stripes Make My Butt Look Big?
Sue Turnquist's quilt at left, with the humorous title, was awarded 1st place in the 2016 competition.  You can see some of the other quilts on display behind me in the photograph above.  The quilt on the left side of the picture was awarded second and depicts Gene Kelly when he first arrived in NYC.  The portrait of his face, created from tiny pieces of fabric, is quite remarkable.

The top five award winners are included in the exhibition, but all of those displayed are amazing.  They represent a variety of themes, both realistic and abstract, in a range of sizes and shapes.  Selecting the award winners would have been a daunting task!

The quilt exhibition is not the only reason to visit the Shafer Gallery, however.  In 1981, Mrs. Faerie Denman donated 507 pieces from the art collected by her and her husband Cedric.  Today, the Gallery's permanent collection contains more than 800 pieces, including the painting by Gary Smith at right and works by Chagall, Matisse, Picasso and Audubon.  Also in the collection are works by Lindsborg's Birger Sandzen.   We enjoyed the bronzes of Great Bend sculptor Gus Shafer (1907-1985), after whom the Gallery is named.  The permanent collection includes the work of another Great Bend native, Charles B. Rogers.

As I have written in other blogs, the early settlers to the prairie were starved for opportunities to enjoy art, and opera houses to accommodate traveling performers were built in many towns.  Isaac Werner treasured books and framed prints, which comprised a significant part of his assets at the estate sale following his death.  How those settlers would have loved the libraries and museums now available to those who live on the prairie where our ancestors settled.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Save the ATSF Stafford Depot

Here's an important alert that fits well with this week's blog!  Visit my friend Kim's newest blog to read about the lovely, historic Stafford, Kansas train depot that is at risk of being demolished.  Kim is a wonderful photographer, and her photographs accompany the article.  The article gives the address for sending requests to BNSF to delay destruction while efforts are made to save it, and that address is  However, be sure to visit Kim's blog to read the details.   The depot is located in the same small town as the museum with the collection housing the hearse and other funeral objects described in this week's blog.  It is also the town with the Stafford County Historical & Genealogy Museum where I did so much of the research for my manuscript from old newspapers, as well as the museum preserving the glass plate negatives about which I have written in this blog.  This is a town that cares about its history.  Please help it save the depot by sending your comments on facebook to

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Imagining Isaac Werner's Funeral

The day we found Isaac Werner's grave stone, it was neglected and in need of repair.  (See "Finding Isaac's Grave," 1/13/2012.)  Since then, not only has the stone been refurbished but also much has been learned about the man.  Between my research and the faithfulness of readers of this blog, Isaac is no longer a forgotten man.

Isaac's probate records provided a great deal of information about his burial.  I know that a burial suit was purchased and from whom his casket was obtained.  However, I do not know if an actual funeral ceremony was held.  The preface  to my manuscript describes the funeral I imaged for him, conducted by the friends who appear in his journal.  The people and the relationships described in the preface are well documented, but the service is identified as imagined.  It is one of the things that concerns publishers who expect strict historical events to be depicted.
In a way, I suppose, I gave Isaac the funeral I believe he would have wanted.  I imagined those he was closest to in life gathered at the grave site to bid him farewell.  I described the songs he might have chosen and a singer he knew to lead the group in song.  I selected passages from his beloved Shakespeare that Isaac might have wanted read by his friend with the politically trained voice to read those passages well.  Each of those choices was based on my extensively researched knowledge of Isaac's friends and his preferences; yet, I cannot know if the service I imagined reflected any similarities to his actual burial.

At the recent Octoberfest in Stafford, Kansas, I thought of Isaac as I visited a display of antique items associated with funerals.  I doubt that Isaac would have been conveyed to the cemetery in a hearse, and there was certainly no fee included for such a conveyance in his estate records.  It seems more likely that he would have been conveyed in a common farm wagon.  The elegant black hearse on display was more likely used for funerals in town, and for those times, Stafford was a long distance from the cemetery in which Isaac was buried.

Also displayed was a long wicker basket used to transport the body from the location of the deceased's death to the mortuary--a sort of gurney for its day.

A child's casket was also displayed, a sad reminder of the large number of deaths among children at that time.  Isaac's friends, Wesley and Elizabeth Logan lost their daughter Perlie when she was only 4 1/2 years old, the third of their children to die.  Doc Dix and his wife Susan had lost three very young children before they came to Kansas, where their daughter was born.  William Campbell lost his wife Eliza in childbirth, and she is buried between two daughters who died in infancy.  There are more examples that occurred in Isaac's community, but I mention these three because they were all among his closest friends.  The need for tiny caskets in the 1800s was significant.

The horse-drawn hearse was donated by the Rex and Mary Milton Family, together with a fur lap robe (visible on the  seat of the hearse), mittens, and a foot warmer.  The hearse was used after 1886 until the 1920s.  It was kept, along with the horses that pulled the hearse, in Nunn Livery Stable on the east side of Main Street in Stafford, Kansas.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Celebrating a Century

Our Aunt Celebrates her 100th!
On October 20, 2016, my husband and I had the privilege and pleasure of joining our family to celebrate the 100th birthday of our dear Aunt.  On her birthday friends in the community where she has spent her adult life waited in line to wish her Happy Birthday.  Some times during the 3-hour reception the line extended outside, and although she hated seeing their long wait, she wanted to let each person know how much she appreciated their having come.  One of those waiting was a baby only a few days old, one hundred years separating their births!

The next afternoon family members gathered for a second day of celebration and photographs.  The mother of one son, she now has three grandsons, two great grand sons, and two great granddaughters, the youngest of which is 95 years younger than her great grandmother.  

5-yr-old great granddaughter
She is an accomplished painter in oils, and some of her paintings were displayed.  We selected an art book as one of her gifts, but another gift was truly a gift from my heart.  My mother had begun embroidering a pair of pillow cases, one of which I finished for Mother.  I remembered the remaining unfinished mate to the pair and finished it for our aunt, in effect giving her a gift from both my mother and me (although Mother died six years ago), completed with thread from my collection which includes thread from my husband's mother and grandmother--our aunt's sister-in-law and mother-in-law.

Lyn giving our aunt the pillow case
We also found a 70+ year old photo of her and her husband with a group of family and friends.  We made copies to share with the family, and although she could not recall seeing the photo, she did recall the day it was taken.
Our aunt and her son with photo
Family enjoys the photo
The family gathered in a circle to share fun memories we recalled about her.  Music has always been an important part of her life, including giving piano lessons and playing piano at her church.  My husband recalled the memory of his Aunt as his piano teacher--a short-lived experience.  

However, he particularly wanted her to share her memories concerning all of the changes she had seen in her lifetime.  She remembered how excited everyone was by the news that Charles Lindbergh had flown across the Atlantic, although as a 10-year-old girl she did not quite understand the achievement of Lindbergh having left Roosevelt Field on May 20, 1927 to fly alone across the Atlantic and land at LeBourget Field near Paris 33 1/2 hours later.

She continued by recalling how her father had taken her to see Charles Lindbergh when he came to Atlanta on October 11, 1927.  She remembered standing in the crowd watching him land at Chandler Field in Hapeville (near Atlanta) at 2 p.m. on a drizzly afternoon to be welcomed by a crowd--in which a father and a little girl not quite eleven stood.  Lindbergh was welcomed by Atlanta Mayor Isaac H. Ragsdale and Georgia Governor Lamartine Hardman and was taken to Atlanta where a parade was held with 20,000 people gathered along the route.

Her memory may not have included specific dates, but she definitely remembered the excitement of his flight and the experience of going with her father to see Lindbergh's return to Atlanta, the city where her family lived prior to their move to Kansas.

She also recalled both of her brothers having served in W.W. II.  With the experience and wisdom of age, she reflected on how her parents must have worried until the boys were safely home again.  She admitted that she was a young teacher at the time and loved her brothers very much, but it was not until she was older, with a family of her own, that she could truly understand her parents' feelings.  Later, she married a young man who had also served his country, and she enjoyed telling us how her father had a hand in playing matchmaker!

Byers, Kansas Grade School Band about 1954
It was a very special occasion for her and all of her friends and family, but it was also an excellent reminder that not all of our history is to be found in books.  Just as past blogs have included information about the preservation of old photographs, this blog reminds us how important it is to listen and record the memories of family members. In a fast-changing world, we do not need to be 100 years old to have memories of things our children and grandchildren will never experience.  Share your own experiences and record the memories of other family members before they are forgotten!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Kansas Mortgages and the Supreme Court

Cartoon from the St. John County Capital
In the late 1800s, many Kansans like Isaac Werner were struggling with debt.  Most had mortgaged their property as collateral at the time they borrowed money, but drought and lower crop prices made farmers unable to pay their loans, and they faced the possibility of foreclosure.  Merchants also suffered when farmers could not pay for merchandise bought on credit, their businesses furthered jeopardized because customers no longer had cash with which to shop.  Transactions entered into when the future looked bright became tragic for many as times changed.

The Kansas People's Party legislators tried to relieve the economic crisis by retroactively altering the law to impose limits on foreclosures whose mortgages did not give borrowers that relief at the time the documents were signed and the money was loaned.  The Republican majority on the Kansas Supreme Court overturned that law, but after the next election when a majority of People's Party judges assumed the Kansas bench, the law giving borrowers relief was reinstated.

Cartoon from the St. John County Capital
That resulted in an appeal to the US Supreme Court, where Justice George Shiras, Jr. wrote the opinion.  The court ruled that the terms when the contract was signed could not be altered by the Kansas legislature retroactively after one party to the agreement had relied on the promises of the other party, despite unanticipated hardships.  Although the law was clear and the ruling was correct, Justice Shiras added a note that the ruling was not intended to address the fairness of these mortgage contracts.

Too often, people do not understand the role of judges.  They are the watchdogs  protecting our laws and when people bring cases to the court they must determine the outcome based on the law, not on their personal feelings.  That is what Justice Shiras attempted to explain.  At the time the farmers received the money from the banks, they agreed to certain terms which the bank required in order to make the loan.  It was contrary to established law to permit the desperate farmers to get the benefit of modified foreclosure protections retroactively when the bank had relied on stricter requirements at the time they agreed to loan the farmers money.

It isn't about whether it makes the judges happy to adhere to laws.  Rather it is their duty to apply the laws in all cases, without regard to their personal feelings.  

US Supreme Court Justice George Shiras, Jr.
People who disagree with rulings sometimes object that a case was overturned on "technicalities," but that shows their bias or misunderstanding of the law.  We all depend on the courts to resolve matters according to law, not just in the easy cases but also in those cases that seem difficult.  Clearly Justice Shiras was sympathetic to the plight of the farmers who had worked hard and would lose the benefits of years of backbreaking labor if they could not pay their notes and the banks foreclosed on their farms.  Yet, it was what they had agreed to when they received the loan and the bankers had kept their part of the bargain.

So if you hear someone complaining about a court overturning a case on a technicality, do not misunderstand the meaning of "technicality."  "Technicality" means that something was done wrong or the law was not applied correctly.  In criminal cases particularly, sometimes hateful or disgusting people benefit from the technicality or error in their trials, and those are the hard cases.  Yet, we would want to be protected by the laws if we stood before a court, and if judges began ruling willy-nilly as they personally found fair, none of us could depend on our laws.

Holbein's painting of Sir Thomas More
In the movie A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More is asked by his son-in-law William Roper:  "So now you give the Devil the the benefit of law!"  To which More replies:  "Yes, what would you do?  Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?"  Roper answers:  "Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that.

Here is the important reply from More:  "Oh, and when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide Roper, the laws all being flat?  ...[D]o you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?"

(If you are not familiar with this motion picture, I recommend that you find a copy to watch.  The devout More adhered to his faith and willingly suffered the legal consequences, sacrificing his own life by respecting both the laws of his country and the tenants of his faith.)

Beware someone who criticizes judges who overturn a lower court's decision on a technicality.  As much as the farmers in the late 1800s may have been disappointed by the US Supreme Court's decision, those judges were doing their jobs as duty demanded.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Looking to the Past

For those of you who follow this blog, you know that one of the things I believe most strongly is the importance of learning from history.  (See "I Love History," 1-3-2012 in the blog archives.)  As the 2016 Presidential Election Day nears, I have tried to reflect on what things are most important to me in deciding for whom to vote.  This blog shares the five guidelines I have created for myself, and includes quotes from our past presidents which relate to the considerations important to me.

1st:  Knowledge of the Constitution.  Politicians come and go, but it is our Constitution that has guided and defined us for more than two centuries.  I distrust those who think they are wiser than our Founding Fathers and who lack an acquaintance with our nation's history or who presume to enter national politics without a thorough, well informed knowledge of our Constitution and the political traditions that honor it.

Lincoln:  "We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution."

Washington:  "The Constitution is the guide which I will never abandon."

Pierce:  "The storm of frenzy and faction must inevitably dash itself in vain against the unshaken rock of the Constitution."

2nd:  Respect for the office and the men who have preceded them.  The office of the President is greater than any one person, and anyone who holds that office should understand that great truth and should enter office with a sense of humility and honor for the office he or she will briefly hold.

Truman:  "When you get to be President, there are all those things, the honors, the twenty-one gun salutes, all those things.  You have to remember it isn't for you.  It's for the Presidency.

Polk:  "May the boldest fear and the wisest tremble when incurring responsibilities on which may depend our country's peace and prosperity, and in some degree the hopes and happiness of the whole human family."

3rd:  Respect for all Americans.  When the President swears to protect and defend the Constitution, he or she must assume the responsibility of serving all Americans, not just those who voted for him or her.  The Constitution belongs to all of us, and the President serves all of the American people.

Kennedy:  "If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity."

Woodrow Wilson:  "If you think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself.  Character is a by-product, and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig."

Nixon:  "With all the power that a President has, the most important thing to bear in mind is this:  You must not give power to a man unless, above everything else, he has character.  Character is the most important qualification the President of the United States can have."

4th:  The President must be a role model for Americans, and especially for our children.  The President must understand that once he or she is elected, he or she is no longer just a private citizen but rather is a symbol of the nation to the world  and an example for all of us.  The President must conduct him or herself with the dignity of the office and to do less belittles all of us.  And, especially, the President's words and actions are an example to our children, for good or for ill.

Wilson:  "One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels.  The thing to be supplied is light, not heat."

McKinley:  "That's all a man can hope for during his lifetime--to set an example--and when he is dead, to be an inspiration for history."

John Quincy Adams:  "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader."

5th:  Just as the President serves all of the People, a person's vote cannot be based on a single issue.  I believe that a voter must consider which candidate has the character, the wisdom, and the experience to serve the nation in all things. 

Monroe:  "It is by a thorough knowledge of the whole subject that [people] are enabled to judge correctly of the past and give a proper direction to the future."

Those are the five guidelines which I use to evaluate the character, experience, and wisdom of the candidates asking for my vote for President of the United States.  The comments made by past Presidents have made me proud of the men that Americans have elected in the past, whether or not those Presidents always lived up to their own intentions.  If you like, some of you may wish to share your own guidelines, but please do not advocate for your choice nor criticize the candidate you reject.  Respect that many people follow this blog and not all of us will vote for the same candidate.  What is important is that we reflect carefully on our decision.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Presidential Election of 1896

Democratic Presidential Banner from 1896

Americans seem to think the Presidential Election currently in the news is the wildest one yet, but last week's blog shared some of the elections that have been called "the dirtiest."  This week I will share events of the 1890 elections, the last Presidential Elections of Isaac B. Werner's lifetime, which were pretty crazy!!

The era most of us know as the Gilded Age was great for a small segment of Americans, but for farmers like Isaac, as well as other workers engaged as miners, small ranchers, and factory laborers, times were hard.  The big issue became whether adhering to the gold standard to keep a stable economy was best or whether implementing bimetalism to include silver would benefit more ordinary Americans.

Cartoon from St. John, KS County Capital
For farmers and other working class people who were suffering most economically, 'Free Silver!' became the rallying cry.  The Republicans had the political wealth and power, but the People's Party believed that if they joined with the Democrats in nominating William J. Bryan as their Presidential candidate that their combined votes could defeat the Republicans. 

The caption on the cartoon showing Uncle Sam trying to ride his bicycle with only one wheel, identified as "Gold" reads:  "The country will never be Prosperous again until Silver is restored to full and unlimited coinage."  The "Silver" wheel lies on the ground, crushed by "Demonitization" with the guiding light of a lamp left behind on the ground labeled "Common Sense."

It was William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech at the Democratic Convention, with its reference to drip down economics, that probably lifted him above other potential nominees, and it was certainly Bryan's nearly exclusive focus on "Free Silver" that led the People's Party to nominate him, despite the fact that he was not a member of their party!

When it came to selecting the Vice-Presidential candidate, however, the Democrats and the People's Party nominated different candidates.  The Democrats chose a wealthy man from the east coast, hoping he would bring some votes from those Republicans who favored silver (and there were a few who did).  The People's Party nominated one of their own as the Vice-Presidential candidate, wanting to be represented on the ticket. 

The tactic did not succeed.  Republican McKinley received 271 electoral votes while Bryan received only 176.

Four years earlier in the 1892 Presidential Election, bimetallism had also been an issue, with the Democrats choosing Cleveland as their candidate, the Republicans choosing Harrison, and the People's Party choosing Weaver.  Cleveland prevailed with 277 electoral votes to Harrison's 145 and Weaver's 22.  The poor economy during Cleveland's administration was blamed on adherence to the gold standard by many in the People Party and Cleveland's own Democratic party, and they demanded bimetallism.

Political Cartoon from St. John, KS County Capital progressive newspaper

The above political cartoon uses the bicycle theme to illustrate why bimetallism beats the gold standard.  President Cleveland is depicted riding a unicycle, cheered on by the wealthy.  The caption reads:  "Cleveland--'This blasted wheel wobbles too much.  I never can catch that fellow ahead and you might as well save your breath.  I am in a perplexing and delicate predicament as a result of ill-advised financial expedients.'"

The poor economy set the stage for the Democrats in 1896 to nominate Bryan as their candidate.   People's Party candidate Weaver's weak performance in 1892 motivated the populists in 1896 to make the unusual decision to select the nominee of the Democratic ticket for their own Presidential candidate, while at the same time nominating a different man for Vice President. 

The Republicans who favored bimetallism split from their party to form a splinter party, as did the Democrats who favored retaining the Gold standard, while the People's Party nominated a Democrat as their candidate, resulting in William Jennings Bryan having two different running mates.  Talk about a crazy Presidential Election!

So, as you follow the news of the upcoming Presidential Election of 2016, perhaps you can take some comfort in the fact that as crazy as it may seem to you, America has survived crazy Presidential elections in the past.

By the way, although Bryan did receive a strong showing of 47% of the popular vote in 1896 to McKinley's 51%, the electoral vote was McKinley 271, Bryan 176.  That difference shows how important it is that candidates pay attention to states with more electoral votes during their campaigning.  It also explains why we see so many charts on our television screens showing the likely votes of the "Important" electoral states and why Isaac's old home state of Kansas, with fewer electoral votes, is rarely mentioned by the television commentators. However, in the 1896 Presidential election, Kansas was at the heart of political news.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Political Rhetoric in the Late 1800s

Although Isaac Werner did not have a television or the internet, he too was bombarded with political rhetoric during presidential campaign seasons.  The above cartoon is from the St. John County Capital to which Isaac subscribed.  Most of the political cartoons they published used the image of Uncle Sam to represent the nation, and a depiction of a wealthy man to represent the imbalance in power of the wealthy in political decisions.  However, this cartoon depicts a senator and the president to express why the People's Party, representing farmers, miners, and other workers politically, was growing.  On the left a farmer shows how getting 40 cents a bushel for his wheat is less than what it costs to raise it. (See which compares 2016 with those low markets.)  On the right, striking factory workers are shown being fired upon by government troops.  (The government had also sanctioned the use--by such men as steel magnate Carnegie--of hired private armies like the Pinkertons to confront striking workers.)

In addition to political cartoons, campaign buttons were also used even prior to Isaac's time, although the cheap manufacture of flat discs with a straight pin came into use during his era, specifically in the 1896 presidential race between McKinley and Bryan, when the People's Party and the Democrats both nominated Bryan.  One button I found online read "In McKinley we trust; in Bryan we bust" dealing with their opposing views about the gold standard vs. bimetalism.  To read more interesting information visit "The Long Story Behind Presidential Campaign Buttons and Pins," by Elizabeth King in the May 17, 2016 issue of "Time Magazine."  Also interesting is the website on which very early campaign buttons are pictured for sale.

The earliest buttons were primarily purchased by supporters to wear the button of their favorite candidate.  These early buttons were expensive to make, so it was logical that supporters were more likely buyers or buttons were produced by the candidates for their supporters to wear.  In the 1960s the trend toward buttons made by private marketers increased.  On the Ron Wade website, the earliest "anti" buttons I found were from the Reagan-Carter era, and most humor was fairly gentle.  One more abrasive button read "Nutrition Quiz:  Which one is the vegetable?" with an image of a ketchup bottle and a cartoon of Reagan below the question.  Another read "Nancy gets red dresses; We get pink slips."  Lampooning Carter a button read "The Carter Special:  A little peanut butter; A lot of balony" [sic], and another depicted a peanut in top hat and cane and asked "Do you want a Nut in the White House?"  Certainly these aren't complimentary, but they don't reach the level of vulgarity that anti-Hillary buttons reached among vendors outside the Republican convention.  The parody of Trump's hair on buttons is more akin to the buttons of the 1960s.

However, dirty politics are not new, although in the past the mud was thrown by surrogates rather than by the candidates themselves.  The election of 1800 in which John Adams and Thomas Jefferson vied for the office of President is often named as the dirtiest.  A Connecticut newspaper wrote that if Jefferson were president "murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will openly be taught and practiced." In 1828 in the race between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson the abuse included slandering Jackson's wife.  In the Douglas-Lincoln debates, Douglas called Lincoln a drunk.

Not all dirty politics are Presidential nor national.  In fact, a race for Kansas state representative split Isaac's community.  In 1892, two men who lived within walking distance competed, one on the People's Party ticket and the other a Republican.  Although the People's Party candidate won easily throughout the district, in their home township he won by a single vote.  The old newspapers document the rancor of their campaigning.

Hatefulness, slanders, and misinformation is nothing new to politics, but the internet certainly spreads them faster!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Kansas Artist

Birger Sandzen's "The Bridge"
Those of you who follow my blog will recognize the painting at left, for it was previously posted in my blog about the works loaned by the Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery to the Vernon Filley Art Museum for a wonderful exhibition several months ago.  (You may also remember the blog post about the now collapsed natural bridge near Sun City which many of us remember visiting as a child.)  These blogs can be visited in the blog archives.

Farley's in Lindsborg, KS
My husband and I had intended to visit the Sandzen Gallery in Lindsborg, Kansas since that exhibition, and on a recent beautiful autumn Sunday afternoon, we finally made the trip.  We began our visit with lunch at Farley's, a delightful restaurant in downtown Lindsborg.

The Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery is located on the left just inside the Bethany College campus gates.  The 1-story Gallery was dedicated in October 1957 and includes not only the work of Sandzen but also many other well-known works by his contemporaries, as well as prints by familiar artists such as Rembrandt and Durer.  Visitors might also be surprised to discover the wonderful Chinese and Japanese collections of the museum.

Sign near entrance to campus with gallery behind sign
Surprisingly, the Sandzen Gallery admission is free; however, like many museums, donations are essential to maintain the facility and carry on the programs.  The special exhibits during our visit were the work of Maurice Bebb, for which the wonderful hard cover catalog was done by Sandzen Curator Cori Sherman North, an exhibit of glass created by native Lindsborg artist Helen Koon Gragert, now living in Oklahoma, and a delightful exhibition of self-portraits by Kansas artists.  Having just done a self-portrait myself, I particularly enjoyed seeing the range of self-portraits displayed--classic, humorous, philosophical, modern--in a variety of media.  You may enjoy them too at the Birger Sandzen Museum website, where the full show catalog with all of the self-portraits may be viewed.
Sandzen home & studio

Birger Sandzen's Studio is only steps from the back door of his former home, and the Gallery is responsible for maintaining the studio.  It was not open when we were there, but we walked around the exterior.  I was charmed by the setting, beautifully landscaped.  Look right, and you can almost picture Sandzen striding down the back steps of his house, eager to paint!

Birger Sandzen's Studio
How fortunate Kansas is to have not only the Gallery, with its impressive collections, but also the studio of Sandzen.  Naturally, the studio represents another financial responsibility for the foundation that supports both the Memorial Gallery and the Studio.

It will not surprise any of you who follow my blog to know that we left with books from the Gallery gift shop and tucked a little more into the donation box to help support the Gallery & Studio.  If you are interested in learning more, you may visit their website.  The Sandzen Gallery has been particularly generous to the Pratt community in loaning the works to the Filley for the "Kansas Ties" exhibition of August 22 through November 30, 2014.  Many people in the Pratt area are collectors, and some of Sandzen's work is currently on display at the Filley Art Museum.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

P. S. to Libraries

I just discovered that September 25-October 1 is Banned Books Week.  I thought that was interesting, since this week's blog features the importance of books, libraries, and librarians!  The article I read said that this year the emphasis focuses on the importance of diversity in children's books.  A review showed that only 10% of published children's books have multicultural content.  That is not reflective of our population.  As for banned books, many popular books have appeared on that list over the years, including "The Wizard of Oz"!  Since my post shows my husband reading from "The Wizard of Oz" I thought it was worth mentioning that sometimes well-intentioned people  get a little carried away when it comes to banning books.  That is another instance in which the role of librarians can be so important!

Maybe that banning is why the Scarecrow looks so perplexed!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Libraries Make the Difference!

Reading Oz in Macksville Grade School Library
Whatever the cost of our libraries the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.  --Walter Cronkite

Isaac B. Werner left family behind to build a new life in the West, and as a young druggist he prioritized the acquisition of a fine library at the top of his list for spending saved cash.  When he decided to move further west to claim a homestead and timber claim in Kansas, he managed to find a way to ship his impressive library to his prairie home. 

His collection of books included a wide range of subjects, including law, penmanship, history, art, literature, biography, travel, politics, elocution, grammar, medicine, and other topics.  (See "Isaac's Library," 2/2/2012; "Who Reads Shakespeare," 5/30/2013; and "Art in Isaac's Life," 1/22/2014, in the blog archives.)  Isaac was a serious reader.  As I have indicated in other blogs, I attempted to purchase some of the titles Isaac had owned, buying the oldest editions I could find to better represent the editions he owned.  The scholarly content of most of the books he collected stand as evidence that he was a sincere autodidact.  See "Isaac, the Autodidact," 11-13-2014 in the Blog Archives.
Summer program in Macksville City Library

"...[W]hen a library is open, no matter its size or shape, democracy is open too."  --Bill Moyers

One of Isaac's ideas was to establish a library in the County Seat of St. John, where farmers and populists could go to study.  His local Farmer's Alliance did establish a library in the Emerson School where they met.  Isaac built the book cupboard, and members, strapped for cash as they were, voted an assessment to purchase books.  Much of the library was gifted by Isaac from his own collection, however.

Today we are fortunate to have access to books, whether we are rich or poor.  Schools have libraries, and in Isaac's old community there are fine public libraries in St. John, Pratt, Stafford, and even the small town of Macksville.

"The Public Library once an ode to the glory of our most democratic institutions and a culturally necessary prompt to defend them like we would defend our freedom to live, learn, and be--a freedom to which the library is our highest celebration."  --Maria Popova

Used book store in Philadelphia
Today we are also fortunate to have easy access to books through the internet, whether we are ordering books for our own libraries or reading e-books or excerpts available online.  What is less available online, however, is the guidance of librarians.  

"I see them as healers and magicians.  Librarians can tease out of inarticulate individuals enough information about what they are after to lead them onto the path of connection.  They are trail guides through the forest of shelves and aisles--you turn a person loose who has limited skills, and he'll be walloped by the branches.  But librarians match up readers with the right books."  --Anne Lamott

Statistics show that fewer people read books today, finding their entertainment and information elsewhere, and libraries are trying to adapt.  Not only are computers a part of modern libraries but also objects (like cake pans) may be checked out.  DVD rentals seemed to be an important part of one local library's service to the community during a recent visit that I made.

"The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community."  --Paula Poundstone

The ability to check out unconventional things at the local library may not seem to serve the ideals expressed in the foregoing quotes, but a library containing the most incredible books ever written serves no purpose unless people come to the library to read those books.  When Laura Bush said, "I have found the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card," I doubt that she was referring to the ability to check out things other than books.  Yet, perhaps the visitor that comes for a cake pan will leave with an armload of cookbooks, or the child that checks out a movie will discover books about that historic period or movie theme--especially if the librarian is a good "trail guide" with time to direct the visitor to appealing books.

Take a book/Leave a book in Pratt, KS
For Norman Cousins, "A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life."  Sadly, no ideas will be born if the library does not attract readers.  Imagine the excitement of children attending the country schools of Isaac's community in the late 1800s if they entered any one of the public libraries today's residents enjoy.

Libba Bray expresses the potential that many of us have come to take for granted:  "The library card is a passport to wonders and miracles, glimpses into other lives, religions, experiences, the hopes and dreams and striving of ALL human beings, and it is this passport that opens our eyes and hearts to the world beyond our front doors, that is one of our best hopes against tyranny, xenophobia, hopelessness, despair, anarchy, and ignorance..."

Isaac and his neighbors who settled the Kansas prairie knew that.

(P.S. for Pratt area residents:  After several months of renovations the Pratt Library is planning to reopen for adult and teen sections on October 24th.  The library will be closed Oct. 17-22 to move the book collection into the new locations. That will accomplish Phase I and II, with Phase III scheduled for the end of the year.)