Saturday, October 9, 2010

No Neckties Allowed #2 - Steunenberg pinback, Big Trouble...again, and a readers comments

This is my second installment of "No Neckties Allowed." What that means is an informal entry of recent happenings, new links, miscellaneous stuff and whatever tickles my fancy. I think I will identify the entries by using the above photograph of the small Whitehead & Hoag pinback button that you may have seen elsewhere on this blog. It is patent dated July 17, 1894, April 14, 1896 and July 21, 1896 on the back. I only have this one and would sure like to find be on the look out.

The pinback was part of a collection put out by Whitehead & Hoag of all the States Governors & Governors-Elect at the time. Clink on the right photo to enlarge the circa 1896 catalog page and of course look for Idaho. I don't own this catalog but see it kicking around online for around $350 - $400. The photo comes from Hake's Americana & Collectibles where it doesn't look like they got any bids with a starting price of $400. As you can see, the pinbacks sold for 5 cents a piece. Find a Steunenberg pinback and I will buy it off you for double or triple the questions asked.

I started reading Big Trouble (BT) by J. Anthony Lukas again this past week. This may be my third or so read through from cover to cover. Of course, BT serves as a primary research instrument because it really is BIG and Lukas really was quite good at documenting and referencing the material and sources. With all my research and quoting, I have probably read it many more times in various segments. I find as I have learned more about these events, pieces of the story spun by Lukas take on new significance and pop off the page where they may have been missed before.

I have a whole box full of BT books but just one old tattered paperback version that is marked up, written on, covered with post it notes and markers, has lists of stuff on the once blank pages and I have to tape it back together now and then when it falls apart into pieces. For those of you not inclined to wade through the complete volume of BT, there is an abridged cassette tape that was produced and sold and can still be found online through used book stores or eBay. It consists of four cassettes with a total of about six hours running time. That is pretty short compared to the whole book. The audio sticks to the main story line with none of the detail and historical digressions that folks either love or hate. I had to learn a little love too on my first read through.

I always thought the audio version would make a good basis for a movie. Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century came pretty close to meeting that need although I still think Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks could do some great things with it...maybe a Saving Governor Steunenberg?

The publisher never produced the BT cassette on CD but I am going to get it transferred over soon and make it available. I won't be selling it for profit or anything and the publisher never plans to put it on CD (at least not until the Spielberg/Hanks movie comes out!) so I probably won't get sued. Although reading the complete book is much more rich in terms of historical detail, if you just haven't been able to stick with it, give the abridged audio version a try. I think you will like it and may find yourself coming back to the book for more.


No Neckties Allowed #1

Idaho's all-time, top ten scoundrels

Law & Order watching over the Capitol

More from Capitolshots Photography

And an email this week from Les Wright. Thank you Les, for permitting me to post your message and for your contributions to the discussion and historical research. You will be hearing more from me.

October 8, 2010

Hello, Mr. Richards.

Let me start by saying that finding your blog has been a real treasure trove for me. I've been studying "Harry Orchard" for something like 25 years, now. It was frustrating, too, believe me, having only his book: "Harry Orchard", as a reference in trying to learn more of the behind-the-scenes story - like who he really was. Harry never revealed that and a lot of information about himself or his family. My own research, pre-Internet, was frustratingly slow and produced very little in the way of satisfactory results.

Years ago, I was given an old red hardcover book simply titled "Harry Orchard". I didn't read it right away, even though it was given "especially for me"... that it was something I needed to read. When I did read it, there was no turning back. I had to find out who this person was and why he did what he did.

Sniffing around old and dank, dusty libraries and archives produced nothing for years. When I got over my prejudice of computers and the Internet, I began to unravel the mystery of Harry Orchard. I was able to find out his real name - Albert Horsley - and even traced his genealogy back to the "Old Country", the same as my ancestors. Horsley was born in roughly the same area as my grandfather, too, though I doubt their families knew one another.

Finding your blog was an accident (I think) in that I was just trying to remember another site's location I had perused from time to time. I see you have been in contact with Horsley's family, as well. My own attempts to find them have been futile, though I have attempted a dialogue with some of Hattie Simpson's family. (She was the woman Horsley mentions in his book with whom he absconded to Nelson BC.) They rather politely told me where I could take myself. Like with your Larry Taylor fellow, there are some folk that don't like having their family history scrutinized, even though it's been several generations that have passed. Personally, I know it's not only his or my family that has some colorful individuals in it's history. I think we all have dirty laundry if we were to go back far enough. At any rate, there won't be any IWW hitmen going after us, now, after all this time.

Anyway, as stated, your blog is very detailed and informative. I've been putting my own little dossier together on Harry Orchard. Like I mentioned to the Simpson's, I have no interest in publishing a book on the subject, it's just for myself and my family. I have no interest, either, in doing anything for the local SDA Church, whom, for the most part, have shown next to zero interest in this story. Funny, too, as this Church has helped shape North American history in a very significant way. I have been in contact with the Caldwell SDA Church, though, their membership being very cordial and helpful to me in my research.

Harry Orchard, for me, was a very familiar fellow and one that I can understand... even empathize with, to a very great degree. He was and is a social pariah, something that represents the side of humanity no one really wants to have deal with or even acknowledge. Harry shows us what even a small, insignificant-looking fellow can do under the right circumstances, with the right influence and provocation. I don't see him as the embodiment of evil, nor as they only perpetrator in this story. He did have an alcoholic and abusive father that effectively drove him out of his home long before he would otherwise have had to leave. He then continued to parasite off of his earnings, showing little regard for honesty in his dealings with his son or the community. It is said that a man learns the most from his father in terms of character. If so, then Lyman Horsley has a lot to answer for in the character-building of his son.

I, too, know what it is like to hit the skids and reach the lowest depths of existence. The blackness that surrounds you, in times like these, seems insurmountable. Death does seem like a viable solution. I can well imagine what Orchard went through while he awaited trial in prison. I know that he must have found peace with God (there truly are no atheists in foxholes) and made a true confession and renouncement of his sins. He could have gotten off easy like the rest of his cohorts, yet, he chose to accept his punishment.

Well, I've bent your ear long enough. Primarily, I just wanted to praise your blog and offer thanks for doing it. I also learned a lot about your great-grandfather in my studies. He was a man's man and a brave one. The world truly didn't deserve such an individual and he certainly didn't deserve to go out like he did. Life doesn't play favorites, however, I believe that God has His hand over Frank Steunenberg. If the world hasn't forgotten him, God surely will not.

Take care, Mr. Richards.

L.A. Wright

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