Elsie Shannon

street.jpgS.D. Butcher, LOC, nbhips 14488

I am quite certain that the date that the Nebraska historical society has set for this image—1892—is wrong. Judging from the automobile alone, my guess would be closer to 1904-1915. Another factor that makes 1892 virtually unbelievable that this is an essentially rural area and the image is bristling with power or telephone poles.

There are way too many lines there, I think, for it to be power—I tend to think it must be telephone. Given the massive number of insulators, it seems that it could be1890s given the improvements in switching (resulting in fewer lines) didn’t happen until later in that decade. However, to contribute more context, the first transcontinental telephone call wasn’t until 1915—so the presence of so many subscribers in rural Nebraska in 1892 just doesn’t seem right. If any reader has a clue about the car (probably the most datable object here) that would probably be the easiest way to zero in on it.

Looking at the figures on Wikipedia for car production, there aren’t any numbers prior to 1899. From then, it seems to be pretty small until at least 1904. But that’s not really what got me excited about this image. Take a closer look.

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A Turkey

turkey.jpgSolomon D. Butcher, “The Power of Suggestion” — LOC, nbhips 2836

Annotation reported by LOC: “The photographer had bad luck with the negative and knocked a big hole in the roof of the sod house. Not wishing to make another trip of 60 miles to make new negative, painted in what might pass for a turkey.” Another annotation:

Butcher later reported, “Mr. Hohman [the homesteader] said, ‘What is that?’ the photographer trembling in his shoes remarked ‘Looks like a turkey’ Hohman said it couldn’t be as turkeys were not around. Besides, they did have any white ones. His wife spoke and said, ‘Yes, Theodore don’t you remember me telling you to drive the turkey’s away.’ That settled it. But to this day I expect Hohman wonders where that old white gobbler came from.”

Butcher’s 1916 annotations to the collection cited by John Carter in Solomon D. Butcher: Photographing the American Dream p.14

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S.D. Butcher’s Pioneer History of Custer County and Short Sketches of Early Days in Nebraska (1901)

Blazing a Pathway and Personal Pioneer Experiences by J.D. Strong

In every new undertaking in life, whether political, religious or social reform, or the opening of some new and untried commercial avenue, or settling and establishing homes in a new country, the most picturesque and interesting character is always the pioneer—the one who blazes the pathway.

It is said that England’s people are divided into two classes—royalty, and the rest of the people. American history is made of two classes—the pioneer and the rest of the people.

The pioneer is in a class all by himself; he is the advance guard in every great enterprise; he is the “firing line” in every contest; a stranger to defeat and upon intimate terms with victory, no matter how long deferred. In the settlement of America his ax awakened the first rude echoes of the woodsman’s craft in the primeval forests of the East and of the South. His rude bark first rode the waves of the great lakes, searched their bays and inlets, and reared crude homes on their murmuring shores. His plow first turned the rich black loam of the middle west, and made it yield supplies for the wants of many. His feet first left a white man’s trail upon the arid sands of the “Great American Desert,” and his courage and skill turned it into a “land of plenty.”

Undaunted and undismayed, he found his way through treacherous passes and over snow clad summits of the Rockies, and at his magic touch they yielded up their precious metals. Cities, towns and railroads appeared in every valley like the realization of some magician’s dream.

Thus from shore to shore of this mighty continent went the pioneers of civilization, the heroes of border strifes, the men and women who “blazed the pathway” for the actual settler, who followed to find a home and independence. (63-64)

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