Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Union Labor Party in Kansas

Because so many Union Soldiers claimed homesteads and began farming in Kansas, the party of their old commander, Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, led many of them to adhere strictly to the Republican political party.  However, in the late 1800s laborers, including farmers, began to feel that the wealthy exerted more power in Washington.  They felt that too much legislation favored the wealthy and neglected or took unfair advantage of working class people.  

Laborers began forming political organizations, and the activity was initially stronger among employed laborers, such as factory workers and railroad workers.  Farmers tended to come together to find non-political ways to better their situation, their perspective as land owners working for themselves seeming to distinguish their issues from hired laborers.

Some of the early organizations attempted to influence government through lobbying rather than by forming political parties.  However, eventually political parties were organized.  The Prohibition Party chose candidates at the national level, but had greater success electing their candidates at local levels.  The Greenback Party also chose candidates at all levels, their focus being on the economy.  Yet, the Republicans and the Democrats remained the dominant political parties.

The Union Labor Party was originally organized by non-farming laborers, but in the 1880s they began to organize farmers as well.  Briefly, they recruited many voters from central Kansas.  However, it was about that time that the membership of the Union Labor Party nationally began to decline.  The Populist Movement in which Kansas and Texas played such important roles joined with other states, largely agricultural and ranching areas but not exclusively so, and created the People's Party, which reached its peak in the late 1880s and early to mid-1890s.

Union Labor Temple in Hutchinson, KS
When I saw the Union Labor Temple in Hutchinson, KS, I naturally but wrongly jumped to the conclusion that it might have been some early structure having to do with the Union Labor Party.  A little research informed me otherwise!

The old Union Labor Party that enjoyed a very brief popularity in Kansas among farmers prior to the creation of the People's Party was only one among many "Labor Parties."  Among them were the United Labor Party, the Industrial Labor Party, the Labor Reform Party, and even a coalition called the Greenback Labor Party. 

Among the books in Isaac's library were two by Henry George, including the one for which he was most famous, Progress and Poverty.  Georgisms were highly regarded, and his book sold around the world.  In 1886 he ran for mayor of New York City on the United Labor Party ticket.  He received 68,000 votes, primarily votes against corporate capitalism as much as for a particular party.

None of these Labor Parties survived as separate parties.  Their members were swept up into the other parties, either the two major parties, or in the case of many in our central Kansas region who briefly voted Union Labor, into the People's Party.

Yet, for one brief voting season, many of the male voters of this region turned away from the two old parties to vote the Union Labor ticket.  (Women did not yet have the vote.)  That is just a bit of our generally forgotten history.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Celebrating Thanksgiving with Pigs and Pigskins

A cake for a genuine pig lover!
I thought perhaps you have seen enough pictures of turkeys and pumpkins!  Last week's blog thanked all of you for your continued support of my blog and let you know how thankful I am for your ongoing interest in Isaac B. Werner and the history of the Populist movement!

Those of you who are regular followers know just how difficult times were for farmers like Isaac, and he recorded in his journal many Thanksgivings when people had too little to put much of a Thanksgiving Dinner on the table.

However, one year a farmer of better means went through the neighborhood buying up every fat hog in the community the week before Thanksgiving.  He loaded all of the hogs on a train and shipped them East.  His enterprise gave a great many neighbors a little money in their pockets with which to afford a real Thanksgiving dinner.

I doubt if any of them gave up their traditional pumpkin pies for a "Pig Lover's Cake," although I hope they gave a little credit, and perhaps an unspoken thank you, to their poor pigs for their Thanksgiving feast.  Perhaps this year you should raise a toast to all the pigs over the years who gave their skin to producing footballs!

The Thanksgiving postcard at right is circa 1900!  The tradition of rival schools holding their annual football games on Thanksgiving Day was widespread.  Fans loved it.  Mothers and wives who were left at home to prepare the holiday feast weren't so fond of the Thanksgiving Day football game tradition!

However, one of the all-time great college rivalry games, Texas vs. Texas A&M, came to an end not because of complaints from the women left at home to cook but rather because of money!  A new contract for broadcasting Texas football ended the tradition with the 2011 game.

There have been many such rivalries over the years.  The University of Kansas and the University of Missouri played the first of their 19 consecutive Thanksgiving day games in Kansas City, MO, starting in 1892.  A Conference rule requiring games to be played on college campuses interrupted the tradition, although it was resumed in 1916 and continued into the 1940s.  Gradually college contests on Thanksgiving Day diminished, although many continue the tradition by scheduling games during the weekend following Thanksgiving.  

Many high school rivalries hold traditional contests around Thanksgiving, as well as decades old unorganized groups such as extended families, college fraternities, clubs, church groups, and other organizations who play "Turkey Bowls."

Professional Football teams have played on Thanksgiving from their inceptions.  This year the Minnesota Vikings are scheduled to play the Detroit Lions at 11:30 Central time on FOX; the L.A. Chargers will play the Dallas Cowboys at 3:30 Central on CBS; and the NY Giants will meet the Washington Redskins at 7:30 on NBC.  So, whether your family tradition plans Thanksgiving Dinner at noon, midday, or in the evening, chances are high that somewhere in the house the television will be tuned to a football game. 

I'm posting the blog early again this week, since the family cooks will probably be too busy cooking and washing dishes, pots and pans to read the blog tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day, and the football fans will be watching games from noon to nighttime!  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, wherever you are and however you spend your day.   

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thankful for Memories

In doing the research for my manuscript inspired by the journal of Isaac Beckley Werner and in writing this blog since 2011, I have often reflected on Isaac as a "forgotten man."  I began research about his family on and found only a few others researching the Werner family.  Now I am delighted to see several people adding to the Werner family information on Ancestry, and most of them have "poached" off my tree, which pleases me very much.  Without Isaac's journal, that would not have happened.  I am thankful my prairie bachelor left behind a journal of his daily life and the life of his community.

As Thanksgiving draws near, I am thankful for memories of family, memories that are often related to objects.  This week I am going to share some objects that relate back to the late 1800s when Isaac was keeping his journal, as well as some objects from the early 1900s.  It is my hope that this blog might encourage some of you to pull out family mementos of your own to share with younger members of your family.

I have chosen to enter all of the photographs in a small size in order to include more images, but remember that you can click on them to enlarge them.

Basketball Trophy
While I always assumed that the stereoscope pictured above right belonged to my grandparents, having read Isaac's journal I now suspect it was owned by my great-grandparents, as stereoscopes were very popular in the late 1800s and Isaac owned one.  I see a great many donated stereoscopes in local history museums, but if your family still has one, what a treasure to start a conversation with the younger members of the family about the subjects of the slides as well as the types of entertainment their ancestors enjoyed.

The basketball trophy at left was purchased by my father when the old Emerson School House was torn down.  Perhaps it once had a base with the name of the tournament and other information, but that is missing.  What I was told was that it was a trophy awarded to a team on which my father played.  I treasure it.  Many schools have stopped keeping all of the trophies, removing the older ones from the display cases to make room for new victories.  I'm sure you can guess that I am disappointed, as a sense of heritage is an important thing to pass on to later generations, in my opinion.  If your family has acquried old trophies, what a great opportunity to pass on a little family sports history to children and grandchildren!
Lady's Dressing Table Set

The lady's dressing table set pictured at right belonged to my great-aunt Verna, who was a young school teacher who contracted tuberculosis and died at the age of 23.  Her initials were VPB and if you enlarge the image you may be able to read them in the swirling monogram.  The material is Bakelite, an early synthetic plastic patented in 1906 by its inventor, Leo Hendrick Balkeland (1863-1944).  I was given this set as a little girl, and perhaps that contributed to my affection for this great-aunt who died long before I was born.  The lamp base that can be seen at the top of the picture is one of a set that was always on my mother's dressing table, and the dressing table itself  in the photograph belonged to my husband's mother.  Personal items and old furniture can bring ancestors to life in the imaginations of children.

Shot Glass
The shot glass pictured above left fascinated me as a child.  I think my fascination was a result of its tiny, child-like size, and I doubt that I had any idea of its purpose.  There was no liquor in my childhood home.  It's message, "Just a Swallow," did not convey any particular purpose to me until I was older.  By then I knew its use, and I understood that in his youth my father had enjoyed a drink but when I was a child had made a choice to abstain.  I respected that choice, and I respected his decisions on other occasions to share a celebratory drink with his grown children--interesting memories of a fine example set by my father.

Glass Keepsake Globe 
The Glass Lidded Keepsake Globe was where my mother put her jewelry until she could take the time to put it away properly.  It sat on her dresser and usually contained something for a curious daughter to admire.  Little girls may now have the benefit of Title Nine and be competitive athletes, but most of them still love jewelry, and keepsake jewelry that once belonged to ancestors is a wonderful way to share memories of those women.  One of my mother's best friends loved jewelry, and I remember that she belonged to an earring-a-month club.  I loved looking through her jewelry box when we visited her home, and she would tease me that if I married her son I could have all of her jewelry!  I didn't get the jewelry, but her son is still a great friend of mine.  Many sons also treasure watches, rings, and other items pass down through the generations.  Sharing the stories about the prior owners will make family jewelry even more special when it is received.
Mantle Clock

The Mantle Clock now sits on our fireplace mantle, and I know that my parents received it after the deaths of my father's parents.  At that time they received two mantle clocks, the second clock now in my uncle's family's keeping.  I wish my parents had told me more about this clock--did my grandparents purchase one or both of the clocks or did they inherit one or both of them from their parents, and if so, which family line?  The clock is a good reminder to share the full story of the past of family heirlooms with descendants. 

A Favorite Photo
The framed photograph of my father at right is just a reminder that Thanksgiving is a great time to get out the old pictures.  Kids like to see old pictures of themselves to hear the stories of events they were too young to have remembered, as well as see Mom and Dad in younger years!  But, while you are looking through the pictures together, it is also a good time to tell them about older ancestors and to write identifying names on the backs.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, and a special Thanksgiving Greeting to my many foreign followers.  On the 4th Thursday of November,  Americans traditionally take time to remember all of the things for which we have to be thankful.  I am very thankful to all of those who have followed this blog, both those long-time followers and those new-comers who have discovered the blog a bit later.  Some of you are regular visitors and others visit the blog for posts of particular interest.  I am thankful for the support of each and every one of you!  

Remember, you can click on the images to enlarge them, and you can share stories of your own about family objects that preserve memories by posting a comment below.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Random Thoughts for Veterans' Day

A great many of Isaac Werner's neighbors and friends were Civil War Veterans, including my own great-grandfather, pictured in a tin type photograph in his Union Blues.  A year ago my Veteran's Day blog honored a dear friend whom we have lost since then.  We are rapidly losing our W.W. II soldiers.  This year my Veterans' Day blog rambles a bit, but I hope it reminds you to think of the men and women who have in the past and who continue to protect and defend our nation.

Last weekend we enjoyed a short holiday, and during our  adventure we passed through the Kansas town of Lyons.  We spent some time enjoying their tribute to the veterans from their community, and the photographs that follow show their memorial on the corner of the courthouse square, as well as one example of the many individual tributes picturing their service men and women.  The banners hung from lamp posts around the Courthouse Square and along the streets.  Many communities continue to honor their veterans in a variety of ways, but we found the manner in which Lyons did so particularly nice.  

Veterans' Memorial in Lyons, KS
Banners around the square & streets

Our destination, however, was the Swedish-heritage town of Lindsborg, where we stayed at the charming Rosberg Bed & Breakfast.  A photograph album in the parlor revealed the extensive work done on the old Victorian home of the Rosberg family to bring it to its present elegant condition.  All five of its rooms were occupied during our visit, and if you decide to stay there, which we recommend, don't delay making your reservations, particularly if you hope to stay there on one of the special seasonal occasions.

My husband at the Rosberg B&B

Fireplace with Rosberg family photograph

So, you are beginning to wonder, what does this lovely Rosberg B&B have to do with Veteran's Day.  It is a bit of a reach, but there is a connection.

Poster of Gorbachev's Visit
Gorbachev Slept Here

As we began to walk down the hall toward our room, we noticed the pictures posted on the wall, including the one above left with Mikhail Gorbachev's picture.  In October of 2005, an event called "Chess for Peace" was held in Lindsborg, and Mikhail Gorbachev spoke at Bethany College.  

It just happened that we had reserved the room Gorbachev had occupied.  It is said that in Colonial times in America, as well as the early years of our young nation, lodging places would boast that famous men had slept in their establishments.  If all of the boasts had been true, these men would either have needed to travel to a different inn every night of their lives or to have spent many nights in several places!  However, Gorbachev did sleep in the pictured bed--and so did we!

This is not the place for political comments about the current relationship between the United States of America and Russia, nor are those of you reading this blog likely to be in need of being reminded.  

The 1987 visit to the Reagan White House
However, some of you may need to be reminded of the mid-1980s and early 1990s when that relationship was quite different.  As the Soviet General Secretary in those years, Gorbachev sought to revive the Soviet economy and to institute reforms, with one of his first being an anti-alcohol campaign to fight alcoholism.  In 1988 he introduced glasnost, intended to give the Soviet people more freedoms.

Perhaps I should mention that in 1977 my husband and I visited the USSR at the time foreign tourists were first being permitted to visit.  We were part of a group, as independent travel was not yet permissible, and well trained guides accompanied us as most of our time was spent in the two major cities of St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad) and Moscow.  Naturally, that experience may have caused us to pay more attention to news about Russia in the following years.

While Gorbachev's intentions were to institute his reforms within the existing political structure, the taste of new freedoms stimulated nationalist feelings in the Soviet republics that led to riots and violence.  In March of 1990 Gorbachev became the President of the Soviet Union, but the revisions he had envisioned never were accomplished.  Events in 1991 became even more chaotic, further splintering the Soviet Union.  August of 1991 ended what Gorbachev had tried to create, and on December 25, 1991 Gorbachev announced his resignation as president.

Gorbachev and H. W. Bush in 1990
During some of Gorbachev's years in office, however, there were times when the Cold War thawed, agreements were negotiated, and the Berlin Wall came down.  Our Presidents visited each other's countries, and the world seemed to be a safer place.

Gorbachev did not entirely disappear from politics following his resignation.  His disappointment was apparent in a 2011 interview with the BBC in which he said, "The electoral system we had was nothing remarkable but they have literally castrated it."  In a 2013 interview,  he said of Russia, "...politics is increasingly turning into imitation democracy."  While he credited Vladimir Putin's stabilization of Russia after the extremely turbulent years, Gorbachev has criticized the backsliding of democratic efforts and has voiced concern about corruption, and in 2009 he was willing to meet with Pres. Obama and V-Pres. Biden in that administration's attempt to "reset" relations between the two countries.  

His criticisms of Russia and his willingness to consider a "reset" of Russian and American relations should not be misunderstood, however.  For example, he has defended Russia's annexation of Crimea and he openly disagreed with our leadership during the Iraq War of 2003.  He also blamed our economic model for the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

My point, as we honor our Veterans, is that whether the current political environment is relatively peaceful or frighteningly unstable, our military is there, fulfilling their duty to preserve the peace and protect us in times of danger.  Thank you to those who have served in the past and to those who protect and defend us today.

May leaders around the world find their way to Peace.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Farewell, Old Friend

Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick
This past weekend we said farewell to a dear old friend who has been a part of the farm since before I was born.  The 1941 Farmall M  was purchased by my Grandfather prior to Pearl Harbor.  When he suffered a stroke a few years later,  my father came back to the farm and purchased the tractor from his dad.   He farmed with it until his death in 1976, after which my mother sold it at the farm sale.  For  13 years the Old Red tractor saw hard use and neglect, until a cousin spotted it on a sale lot and called my husband to tell him it was for sale.

Old Red 13 years after being sold

We were "City-Folks" at that time, living in Atlanta, Georgia, but my husband bought it for me, sight unseen.  His step-father enjoyed restoring old machinery--with a preference for John Deere tractors.  Just this once he took on the task of restoring something RED!  It was a challenge, but when we came home for Christmas one year he surprised us with the completed job.  Larry's mother had acquired a Santa suit and enlisted me to create a face for Santa, and the old Farmall M with Santa at the wheel decorated their yard for the holidays.
My husband sees what he bought!

Because we continued to live in distant cities for several years, the Farmall M made its home with its restorer, and later, in the repair shop of my husband's brother--a rather awkward insertion of red, since his brother managed a John Deere dealership!  Eventually we returned to the farm and built a barn, and the Farmall M was finally home again.  The Old Red Tractor celebrated its first Halloween back home with Jack Pumpkinhead (a character from Baum's Wizard of Oz series) sitting in the driver's seat to welcome guests to our Harvest Moon Barn Dance.

Old Red and Santa
Although the crop land the Farmall M had once farmed with my father, my brother, my husband, and an assortment of male cousins occupying the driver's seat, our land was now leased and farmed by much larger tractors.  However, the Farmall M resumed its responsibilities by dragging a mower  around our farmstead.  Old Red was back at work!

Farmall M with Jack Pumpkinhead
Eventually green equipment began to invade the farm, and Old Red began spending more time alone in the barn, out of the weather.  If tractors have feelings--and it seems as if the Farmall M would have after being a part of this family for so many years--it must have been sad for Old Red.  At the family reunion held at the farm in 2004 soon after its return, the red tractor was the star of the show.  The nephews, now with gray in their hair but who had come to the farm to help their Uncle Ralph during summers when they were teenagers, just had to take the Farmall M for a spin, and it occupied the center of the family group portrait.  Now it sat unused and alone.

I once thought about using the Farmall M as the central character of a children's book, and I had written an outline and imagined the illustrations I would draw of the old tractor.  However, one of my favorite children's book illustrators, Loren Long, beat me to it!  His brave red tractor named Otis is the central character in a series of children's books, but Otis looks a lot like our old Farmall M!
Loren Long's Otis
Our old Farmall M

I didn't realize how much the tractor I rode with my father when I was just a little girl resembled Otis until I got out my most recently purchased Loren Long Otis book.  I have a variety of Loren Long's books in my collection, in addition to the Otis series, and I have given his books to children, which they love.

I had just come into the house after saying good-bye to our old tractor when I decided to tell the story of Old Red on my blog instead of in a children's book.  After all, Otis seemed to be a great stand-in hero for our Farmall M. I took one of Loren Long's books, Otis and the Kittens, off the bookshelf, and I couldn't believe how many of the photographs I had taken of our old tractor were similar to Loren Long's portraits of Otis.  I believe they must be close relatives!

Loren Long's Otis
My father's view
Feeling quite sentimental about saying good- bye to our old tractor, I had sat in the seat to photograph the view through the steering wheel that my father must have seen for uncountable hours.  I could hardly believe it when I found a similar illustration drawn by Loren Long!

I was not one of those farmer's daughters who learned to drive a tractor and helped out in the field.  My contributions were more traditional, cooking meals for hungry harvest hands.  However, I often took cookies and a cold drink to the field and rode a few rounds with my father or my older brother, and after I was married and my husband occasionally helped at the farm, I sometimes rode with him.

My last photo on the Farmall M
I had been surprised and a little confused when my husband bought our old tractor.  Yet, I confess, I loved seeing it back on the old home place when we returned to the farm.  Even after we stopped using it and the effort of getting it out of the barn to sit by the gate on special occasions were reduced to a rarity, it was hard to think about ever allowing the tractor to leave the farm.

Yet, finally, that decision was reached.  I thought I was being very reasonable about it, but when the time came I shed a few tears, although I am very happy to see it go to a special cousin--one of those who drove it when he was a young man.  We are confident that his affection for the old Farmall M is nearly as great as ours.

Our last farewell at the farm
I have tears in my eyes as I type this--silly to some of you I am sure, but not to everyone.  Even in this time when farmers trade tractors frequently, you can still hear a touch of nostalgia when they speak of the first tractor they drove or the tractor with which they began farming.  It is not unusual for retired farmers to begin restoring old models, just as my husband's step-father did.  

I know I will miss the old Farmall M, but I am confident we did the right thing.  My cousin just sent me a text with a picture of the old tractor, delivered safe and sound.  It looks right at home!

Cropped images from Loren Long's Otis and the Kittens are copyrighted and must not be forwarded or printed.  They were inserted in this blog solely for educational, non-commercial purposes and to personally promote my recommendation of Loren Long's books for children.

Remember, my photographs were shown in a small size to allow more images to be included, and you can enlarge them by clicking on the image.