Thursday, January 10, 2019

Money and Politics

I just finished reading Moyers on America, A Journalist and His Times, published in 2004. (I often buy books that I overlooked when they were originally released, and sometimes I am even slow to read books I buy new.  So, before you dismiss this as a blog about recent politics--although 2004 isn't really very recent--I am actually going to blog about the mid-1890s.)

Those of you who are regular followers of the blog are already familiar with the election of 1896, when the Populists joined the Democrats to nominate William J. Bryan, although they split the vote over the Vice-Presidential nominee.  You may want to scroll down to "A Documentary Treasure," posted 11-8-18 to see the local ballots from that election and to "A Peek Into the Voting Booth in 1986" to consider the political environment of that era.

However, the quote from Moyers that inspired this blog is from the wealthy businessman, Mark Hanna, who raised money for the Republican William McKinley.  Hanna said,, "There are two things that are important in politics.  The first is money, and I can't remember what the second is."  Quoting from Moyers, Hanna was "the first modern political fund-raiser, and money was all that mattered to him.  He tapped the banks, the insurance companies, the railroads, and the other great industrial trusts of the late 1800s for contributions of some $6-7 million to the campaign of presidential candidate William McKinley:  big bucks back then."  Bryan raise only 1/10th of that amount.

If you are a serious blog supporter you may even recognize Hanna's name, for he appeared in a political cartoon that I have previously posted, still engaged in financial political matters.  This time, according to the cartoonist and  Nebraska Senator Allen, whose words inspired the cartoon, Hanna was engaged in a little payback for the wealthy McKinley supporters.

To explain the cartoon, President McKinley called for volunteers in 1898 for the Spanish-American War and proposed bonds to pay for the war.  Sen. Allen objected:  "...the people desire to pay as they go.  ...They do not want this government at the end of the war indebted more than it is at the present time."  Allen believed speculators were trying "to foist upon the people a perpetual national debt.  ...There is not one of that power, sir, who would not see this government sunk to the bottom of the ocean if he could make a fortune by it."

You may remember that the sinking of the Maine had been erroneously blamed on the Spanish.  The cartoon caption reads:  "Hanna--"I don't see anything down there that money won't pay for." He is depicted as a diver amassing bars of gold as a result of the war.  To refresh your memory about the Spanish-American War, you may want to visit "Remember the Maine," posted 8-11-2016.

The vast amounts of money spent on elections today may dwarf Hanna's efforts in 1896, but election fund raising and the benefits those contributions have for our elected officials (and the influence gained by contributors) make Hanna's quote as understandable today as it was in 1896--"There are [still] two things that are important in politics.  The first is money, and I can't remember what the second one is."

(You can click on the images to enlarge them.)

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Curious Mind

Geologist at work
Isaac Beckley Werner had such a curious mind.  Not only was he observant about things around him, he exercised his curiosity by recording what he saw in his daily journal so that he could document events or compare changes in the seasons and his crops from year to year.  His love for learning is also apparent from his many books and the wide variety of topics his library contained.

One particularly interesting entry in his journal involved his first trip to Sun City to market potatoes.  The soil in that area was too rocky and shallow to raise potatoes, so those living there were good customers, and he generally received a better price for his potatoes in that community.  The long, hard trips were worth it.

On one of those trips, he paid close attention to the terrain and recorded in his journal how he believed the valleys and gullies were formed over centuries.  He wrote like a geologist, evidencing his reading on soil erosion and the impact of freezing and water and the sculpting of the surface of the land over eons.

Really a realistic sculpture
This brings me to the subject of this week's blog, the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas.  How Isaac would have loved wandering through the 10,000 square foot walk-through diorama depicting what the region of Kansas was like at the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.  The depiction of creatures of that era, drawn on the walls and presented in full scale animated models, stimulate visitors' imaginations to almost feel as if they have been transported back in time to experience what it must have been like.  Isaac would surely have loved the fossils, including the famous "fish-within-a-fish" in the permanent display.

Famous 'Fish-Within-a Fish Fossil
Isaac Werner was definitely the sort of person whose mind was eager to learn about a broad spectrum of subjects, and it was his nature to enjoy sharing what he learned.  That desire is clear in the fact that he was a popular lecturer at local meetings of farmers seeking new ways to survive on their claims.  It was also apparent in his writing for populist newspapers and  journals, as well as sharing his farming experiments utilizing different seed varieties and altering planting depths and distances between rows to see what worked best.  He was eager to share descriptions of tools he invented or modified to be more suited to local soils.  His mind was a sponge,  soaking up information from his reading, his observations of neighbors' methods (both their successful and failing efforts), and his own experiments.  How he would have loved visiting the Sternberg Museum.


Sternberg Mural & Animated Model

Remember, you can click on the images to enlarge them, and you can read more about the museum at or call for their hours at 785/628-4286.