Fragments of the Old West – Saddle Tramps

In keeping with an ongoing series of posts relating to the Old and Wild West is this 1/6th plate tintype of two men who look even more battered and ill-kept than the photo that recorded their image for posterity. These two men seem to fit the bill of those denizens of the Old West who were often described as saddle tramps. With no fixed abode, men such as these traveled for round up to round up, from odd job to odd job as the need directed or drove them. Often times these vagrant drovers flitted life away on both sides of the law – working for a rancher one day and rustling his cattle or thieving his horses the next. Their entire net worth was carried on the back of their horses (unfortunately not pictured here) which were often as ill-kept and shabby looking as their owners.

Saddle_Tramps

Above: 1/6th Plate Tintype (Ferrotype), Unknown Photographer, Western United States, c.1870s. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia/soldiersofthequeen.com

The taller, clean-shaven man at left wears grubby, fringed buckskin trousers, a collared vest, checked collarless shirt and a dark very wide-brimmed hat with one side brim turned slightly up making it resemble very much a darker version of that worn by the character Curly Bill Brocius in the classic western film Tombstone. To be true, these two character’s mode of dress is nowhere near as picturesque and flamboyant as that worn by the outlaw cow-boys in Tombstone.

The bearded man standing at right has a rather piratical look about him. The brim of his almost shapeless hat is turned almost completely up probably because it was the only way to keep the brim from falling down over his eyes. His jacket has only the uppermost button fastened in a manner popular at the time. He wears a boldly checkered shirt and has a bandanna tightly knotted around his neck. Given his overall look with a change of setting he could easily be mistaken for a member of a Boer commando from the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa c. 1900.

Perhaps the most telling details in this photograph are the men’s boots, the toes of which are completely worn through due to age and hard use. Given their shabby and well-worn look, it is hard to imagine how these men were able to scrape together the twenty-five cents that this photograph would have cost them.

Dodge City Kansas 1875

Above: Dodge City, Kansas c. 1875. Frontier/cowtowns such as Dodge City would have seen more than its fare share of saddle tramps passing though. Not long after this photograph was taken, Wyatt Earp was appointed town marshal of Dodge.

Fragments of the Old West – Cowhands* of Color

Although the precise number will never be known it is estimated that about one in four American cowboys were in fact of African descent.Black Ranch Hands

Cabinet Photograph sized Mounted Photograph. B. F. Craig – Photographer, Ballinger, Texas, United States. c 1900s. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com

The cattle industry that is so firmly associated with the Old West had its origins in Texas and it can be assumed that prior to the Civil War the overwhelming majority of black cowboys were in fact slaves. With the end of the war and emancipation it would have been natural for these men to continue on in the trade they knew best – but now by choice and for a daily wage.

The era of the great cattle drives from Texas north to Abilene and Dodge City in Kansas did not last long but indelibly shaped the character and reputations of the men who took part in them regardless of race, creed or even national origin.

Taken in the center of Texas cattle country, this photograph depicts two young black men who appear to be late 19th or early 20th Century cowhands.

While their actual trade will probably never be known for certain, the two young men certainly fit the proverbial bill for being cowboys or ranch hands from the early 1900s. Located almost literally “deep in the heart of Texas“, Ballinger (founded in 1886) was home to numerous cattle ranches any of which these men may have been employed. It is also possible that they were working on their own account, the owners of their own spread. Unfortunately, they are unidentified so researching their story will be problematic.

Ballinger Statue

Above: Prominently located in Courthouse Square in the town of Ballinger, the Charles H. Noyes statue honors a young local cowboy who died while roping cattle around 1919. The statue reflects the importance of the local cattle industry and is dedicated to “Spirit of the Texas Cowboy.”  Source: ballinger-tx.com

One interesting detail of the men’s costumes are the decorative buttons arraigned in a trefoil pattern on the seated man’s collar points. They are purely decorative in function and are typical of the small and individualistic sartorial flourishes so beloved by denizens of the Old West.

*During much of the historical period generally considered the “Old West” the term cowboy was looked upon with derision by many. It was often associated with cattle rustlers and outlaw types. A case in point was the so-called cow-boy faction of ner-do-wells who opposed Wyatt Earp, his brothers and “Doc” Holliday in early 1880s Tombstone, Arizona Territory. Those who plied an honest trade in cattle preferred such terms as cowhand, cowpuncher, cattleman, buckaroo (a derivative of the Spanish vaquero) or cowpoke. “Cowboy” would not begin to lose its outlaw stigma until around the time this photograph was taken.

The Case of the Red Planet

Ok, so I have a slight obsession with the planet Mars of yesteryear. The Mars of today while still red, bears little if any resemblance to the celestial body that held the hopes of some great adventure like that which awaited Civil War veteran John Carter in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars. Nor does it still possess the sense of impending doom as foreseen by H. G. Wells in War of the Worlds. It should, but modern science – that killer of dreams – put an untimely end to that which we all knew, or at least hoped to be true. This tiny 1/16th glass plate image of Mars harks back to those halcyon but now long lost days.

Cased Mars Front

Above: Resplendent with its padded purple velvet liner, this tiny cased image pose several questions. The thermoplastic case is of the type commonly used just prior to and during the American Civil War. The glass image itself does not appear to be an ambrotype plate one would normally see in such case but may actually be a period magic lantern slide which was cut down to fit the case. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

When closed this c. 1860 thermoplastic cased image measures a gem-like 1 7/8 inches by 2 inches (4.8cm x 5cm). The image itself is not a true photograph of Mars since at the time there was no way of tracking a planet with a telescope over the very long exposure times required to produce an image. The common practice at the time consisted of an artist or astronomer observing the planet over a given length of time and creating a drawing or painting of what he saw. Then the finished artwork was photographed in a studio setting to produce the final glass plate image. Under very close examination this image appears to have been photographed from a watercolor painting.

Cased Mars Back

Above: The detailed outside of the thermoplastic case with a fruiting plant design. The tiny rose-headed pins which retain the cases brass hinges and clasp can be clearly seen. Often mistakenly referred to as gutta percha, photographic cases such as this example was made from thermoplastic, a putty made up of coal or sawdust mixed with shelac. The plastic material was then pressed into carved steel molds and baked. The resulting hardened material took on this dark brown or sometimes black coloration and could hold extremely fine detail. Thermoplastic could be somewhat brittle and subject to chipping and cracking. This example is almost unblemished. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

Unfortunately, there is nothing to indicate who may have produced or owned this little image but it must have been a prized and very unique possession then just as it is now.

 

A Map of Barsoom: Or Mars as John Carter knew it.

Returning to the Red Planet – or more properly one man’s vision of that same Red Planet, I present to you A Geographical Chart of the Planet Barsoom as beautifully drawn by Larry Ivie in 1962. This map was intended to illustrate the locals visited by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter in his adventures which began in A Princess of Mars. This 11 inch by 17-inch map was included as a supplement to The Reader’s Guide to Barsoom and Amtor by David G. Van Arnam “and others” (1963). An unbound 84-page “fanzine”, the Guide is something of a “Holy Grail” for Edgar Rice Burroughs fans and is not commonly encountered in today’s collector’s market. Perhaps it is best to describe the Guide as quite rare. Two editions were published with the first numbering 500 copies of which 200 were signed and numbered. Signed first printings can sell for upwards of $500.00 USD. The unsigned the second printing also produced in a very limited run. This map comes from a copy of the second printing.

Barsoom Map

Above: Larry Ivie’s map of Barsoom (Mars) which was included as a supplement in The Reader’s Guide to Barsoom by David G. Van Arnam (1963).  11 inches by 17 inches, Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

The map is in many ways the culmination of John Carter fans attempts at overlaying Burroughs’ Barsoom (the name given by Burroughs’ Martians to their home planet) with the geographical features of the real planet Mars. Naturally, this process has met with mixed results at best given the ever-changing amount of knowledge available on Mars itself. In 1963 when this map was created Mars was still that canal-crossed planet that captured Percival Lowell’s imagination some 80 years earlier.

Barsoom Map Detail

Above: A detail from Larry Ivie’s map of Barsoom depicting Burroughs’ hero John Carter along with one of the huge multi-armed green Martians to the left of Carter’s and at right Carter’s ever faithful pet calot named Woola. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

Barsoom Map Detail 2

Above: A detail of the main portion of A Geographical Chart of the Planet Barsoom. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

ERB-In-His-Office

Above: John Carter creator Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) in his office with another of his wildly successful creations Tarzan. As a young man, Burroughs would serve as a trooper in the 7th U.S. Cavalry at Fort Grant, Arizona Territory before receiving a medical discharge in 1897. He would then launch himself into a career as one of the great science fiction/fantasy authors of the early 20th Century. Image: thejohncarterfiles.com

While several dozen maps of Barsoom have been published at various times and places – Burroughs created the first himself – none have been able to reconcile the real and imagined versions of the planet with any great success. The reason for this is quite simple – Burroughs wrote The Princess of Mars in 1917 when almost nothing was known about the actual surface of the planet. In a way, this worked out quite well for the author since he was in no way constrained by actual planetary science and could give his fertile imagination free reign to create at his own whim which he did with great abandon. A good example of his sidestepping what one might have considered major technical issues, Burroughs had his hero John Carter fall asleep in an Arizona cave and simply wake up on Barsoom. He would later return to Earth in much the same manner.

Barsoom Map Krenkel

Above: The special title plate by illustrator Roy G. Krenkel which was included in the Guide. 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches, Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia. 

Barsoom Map Preface

Above: The Guide’s preface by Dick Lupoff gives an excellent impression of the publication’s overall look and handmade quality. Mostly typewritten, the Guide’s 85 pages were unbound and mailed to subscribers looseleaf in a large envelope. In a nod to fans, Lupoff signed and dated the preface from “New York, Jasoom”. Jasoom being the Martian name for Earth in the John Carter stories. 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

 

 

All Aboard for Mars!

I am an avid collector of memorabilia connected with the planet Mars and the following pages of correspondence are probably the strangest Mars-related items in my possession. The following handwritten letter typed lyrics and music manuscript was sent sixty years ago to Professor Charles E. Waring in 1958 by a Mrs. Beatrice O’Malley of Dublin Ireland while he was head of the chemistry department at the University of Connecticut.

Mrs. O’Malley seems to have been enamored with the budding U.S. space program and sent her song and accompanying music to Professor Waring after reading about what must have been a hypothetical mission to Mars. The song originally titled The Satellite Song and then updated to All Aboard for Mars by Mrs. O’Malley when she read about the proposed trip to Mars. Mrs. O’Malley states that the lyrics were her original work and noted on the back of the sheet music that the tune was the work of a Mrs. Madge Carroll. Mrs. O’Malley dedicated the song to the U.S. Army.

Mars Song Letter

Above: Beatrice O’Malley’s 1958 handwritten letter to Professor Charles Waring of the University of Connecticut. She appears to have originally written the enclosed song and music to commemorate the successful launch of America’s first satellite Explorer I in January 1958. Mrs. O’Malley apparently updated her song and music after reading an erroneous news article about an impending U.S. manned mission to Mars. Why she chose Professor Waring as the recipient of her musical endeavor is unknown. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

Mars Song Lyrics

Above: Beatrice O’Malley’s annotated typed lyrics for the Satellite Song, retitled by her as All Aboard for Mars. She dedicated the lyrics to the U.S. Army which oversaw the Explorer I program. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia

Mars Song Music

Above: Beatrice’s music manuscript for All Aboard for Mars. I have made no attempt to have the music played. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

Professor Waring wrote back a kind letter to Mrs. O’Malley and seemed to be rather impressed with the music (I have never asked anyone to play it so am unable to offer my opinion on the matter) and suggests that she copyright her work.  He also mentions his time in Ireland during World War II and his affection for the country and the Irish people.

Mars Song Response

Above: Charles Waring’s file copy of his thoughtful response to Beatrice O’Malley’s letter of 12 June 1958. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

The following biography of Charles Waring by John Tanaka, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, at the University of Connecticut where Waring’s papers are held:

Charles E. Waring was born in Philadelphia, PA, in 1909 and attended Muskingum College for his undergraduate work (B.Sc., 1931). He then went to Ohio State University where he earned the Ph.D. in 1936. While at Ohio State, he met Geraldine Howald. On December 19th, 1936, Waring with a bright new Ph.D. also acquired a wife, Geraldine. In 1936, Waring was hired as an instructor of chemistry at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. In 1939, he was one of five to be awarded the Lalor Foundation award for proficiency in chemical research. He chose to carry on his research at Oxford University, England, in collaboration with the internationally famous authority on chemical kinetics, Dr. C. N. Hinshelwood.

In the period 1936 to 1946, he rose from instructor to assistant professor at Brooklyn Poly. It was during this period that he initiated his research in the fields of kinetics and mechanism of gas and liquid phase reactions and free radical reactions; kinetics of fast reactions at ultra-high pressures; kinetics and thermodynamics of solid and liquid propellant systems; and combustion mechanisms of high energy fuels.

In 1946, Waring joined the faculty at the University of Connecticut as Head of the Chemistry Department. There were eight on the teaching staff in the department at the time. When he relinquished his administrative duties in 1966 to return to full-time teaching, the department had grown to 22 members. Waring was able to carry on a full research program in addition to his administrative duties. During his tenure at the University, he served as an adviser for 24 Ph.D. students and nine M.S. students. It was under Waring’s leadership that the department was one of the leaders in the University to institute the Ph.D. program.

In addition to the academic research carried on in his research laboratories, Waring was very much involved in the application end of the science. From 1942 to 1946, he was a member of London Mission, OSRD (Office of Strategic Reseach Development). From 1946-1966, he was a Technical Aide, Division 16, NDRC. He spent the summers of 1951 to 1953 in Europe and England on a scientific and technical assignment for the U.S. Government. In 1961, while on leave from the University, he served as technical director and head of the Research Department, Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake. For his wartime service, he was awarded the Presidential Citation for Merit (WWII) for contributions in the field of physics, optics, and technical intelligence.

Charles Waring died on February 16, 1981.

Above: Not all past visions of Mars were kindly. In this apocalyptic telling of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds titled The Great Martian War the Martians launch their invasion of Earth while we humans are in the midsts of World War One. Source: www.history.ca

Calling All Earthlings…

This remarkable piece of sheet music comes from back in the day when we all knew that life existed on Mars and there was no need for multi-billion dollar rover projects to prove the point. Published in 1901 by the E. T. Paull Music Company of New York, A Signal From Mars colorfully illustrates that which was hoped to be.

A Signal From Mars

Above: E.T. Paull’s (the “E.T.” portion of his name was purely coincidental) fantastical cover art for the 1901 sheet music edition of A Signal From Mars. Approximately 10 1/2 inches by 14 inches (27cm x 35cm). c. 1901. Source: The collection of Edward T. Garcia.

The turn of the 20th Century saw a huge upsurge in the public interest in the Red Planet. Much of this fascination stemmed from H. G. Wells’ 1898 publication of War of the Worlds. While it would still be some 70 years before humans would actually take that “giant leap” to another celestial body, the incredible strides in technology that had occurred during the latter part of the 1800s gave the public the sense that space travel was a real possibility and not simply the dream of certain writers of popular fiction. It was in their minds only a matter of time.

The idea that Mars was in the possession of a mighty network of canals had been postulated by Giovanni Schiaparelli as early as 1877 and about 20 years later Percival Lowell proposed that these canali were, in fact, the product of an advanced civilization. Lowell presented his theory in a series of books: Mars (1895), Mars and Its Canals (1906), and Mars As the Abode of Life (1908). This colorful and melodramatic sheet music edition came in the middle of this Martian craze.

The E. T. Paull Music Company was noted for stunning chromolithographic artwork that graced the covers of the sheet music that they published. There were two editions of A Signal from Mars. In the first, the Martian mage is shown looking at Earth through a backward telescope as in this example (hardly a convincing sign of an advanced civilization) a mistake that was corrected in the second edition of this march and two-step by Raymond Taylor.

Life on Mars

Above: As is almost in answer to the signal from Mars comes this cover illustration from the March 30, 1911 issue of LIFE magazine. As envisioned by American illustrator/futurist Harry Grant Dart, ships from Earth illuminate the red planet in turn with a humorous play on words. 9 inches by 11 inches (23cm x 28cm). Source: The collection of Edward T, Garcia.

While popular scientific consensus now believes there are no Martians to be found certain wiser people still hold a torch for our long hoped for celestial neighbors. After all, if the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs, C.S. Lewis, Robert H. Heinlein and Ray Bradbury kept an open mind on the subject, why not the rest of us?

From Caesar’s Last Battle

This small 2.6 once (73.7 g) football-shaped lead object was picked up in southern Spain at the probable site of the Battle of Munda which was fought on 17 March, 45 BC. It is, in fact, a Roman sling bullet used in that the final battle of Julius Caesar’s Spanish War which fought between Caesar and the forces of the sons of his late rival Pompey the Great.

Sling Bullet

Above: Two views of the same Roman sling bullet found at the suspected site of the Battle of Munda. The 45 BC battle was Julius Caesar’s last victory prior to his assassination less than a year later on the Ides of March, 44 BC. The heavy lead bullet measures about 2 inches (5cm) from end to end. c. 45 BC. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

Pompey was already dead by this time having been murdered in Egypt after fleeing his defeat by Caesar at Pharsalus in 48 BC. The Pompeian forces of about 70,000 at Munda were commanded by Pompey two sons Sextus and Gnaeus and one of Caesar’s former officers Titus Labienus. Caesar was in personal command of his 40,000 men aided his young nephew Gaius Octavius (the future emperor Augustus) and Marcus Agrippa. Caesar won a lopsided victory losing about 7000 men to his adversaries 30,000. In spite of the vast differences in casualties, the battle was actually a close fought thing, with Caesar having to join the ranks of his legionnaires at a critical moment in the fighting. Most of the Pompeian casualties were the result of the slaughter following the rout on the field.  Caesar describes the battle in his Commentary on the Spanish War. Munda would be Caesar’s final battle and he would fall to assassin’s daggers in Rome less than a year later on 15 March 44 BC.

This lead sling bullet seems to have been crudely inscribed twice with the Roman numeral “V” which would indicate it having come from a slinger attached to Caesar’s V Legion – Legio quinta alaudae. The V Legion was the first Roman legion raised from non-citizens. Made up primarily of Gauls, the legion was first raised by Caesar in 52 BC during his Gallic Wars. It soldiered on long after Caesar’s death until it was destroyed at the Battle of Tapae, in the Dacian War of 86 AD.

Sling Bullet Incised

Above: The same sling bullet with the apparent Roman numeral “V” incised twice in opposite directions (so it could be read regardless of which end was flying towards the enemy?) Marking sling bullets in some manner was a very common military practice in the Classical World. c. 45 BC. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

That the bullet may have been inscribed by the legion is not all that surprising. There was a long tradition of doing so in the Classical World. Sometimes the bullets were made with insults or curses cast into them. One Greek bullet was found bearing the terse statement “Take that”. Another later bullet from one of Caesar’s earlier battles against Pompey boasted that is was intended “For Pompey’s Arse”.

The slingers used by Caesar at Munda, probably from the Balearic Islands, were lightly armed and unarmored auxiliary troops attached to his legions. They were generally deployed as skirmishers on the wings of a legion or in front of it and were often the first element of an army to engage the enemy. Sling bullets such as these could out range arrows of the time and created wounds very much like that of musket balls of later eras.

Balearic_slinger_Sarmiz

Above: A modern-day reenactor in Romania depicting a Balearic Islander slinger of the type often employed by the Romans. Although this reenactment depicts the Dacian Wars fought by the emperor Trajan in the early 2nd Century AD, this slinger would much resemble those who fought at Munda some 150 years earlier. He wears no armor and his only protection is a light round shield. His only defensive weapon is a short sword or dagger. He wears an extra sling wrapped around his head. Photo: Kamy Photography.

Slingers Trajan

Above: A Roman slinger as depicted on Trajan’s Column in Roman. The column’s spiral frieze records Trajan’s campaign in Dacia (101-106 AD). Wearing only a short tunic and cloak, he carries his sling stones in a fold of the cloak. No pockets in those days. His only other weapon is a dagger.

The ovoid football shape of the bullet was probably intended to give the projectile better ballistic qualities. With a proper spin imparted on it – like that on a modern American football – the bullet’s range and accuracy would have been greatly increased. Modern studies have estimated that lead sling bullets had the hitting power of a modern .44 Magnum revolver round.

The precise location of the Munda battle site is not known but it is believed to have taken place near La Lantejuela, Seville, about halfway between Osuna and Écija. It is at this location that a large number of lead sling bullets – this example included – have been found.