You would have to have been an Alaskan in the last century to understand the importance of this photo.  For those in the Lower 48, take a look at a map of Alaska.  Note the Aleutian Chain extends some 1,500 miles from the mainland. South of the Aleutians, the sea is ice-free courtesy of the Japanese Current.  North of the Aleutians there is no such current and the ice can get 15 feet thick.  During the Alaska Gold Rush, Nome and all the boomtowns along the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers were frozen in from late September until mid-June. The ice on the Bering Sea usually ‘broke’ about the first June and one of the first ships through was the Revenue Cutter BEAR.  (The Revenue Cutter Service was the forerunner of the United States Coast Guard.) The entry of the BEAR into the Bering Sea in June meant ‘law and order’ was back in Nome and along the Yukon and Kuskokwim river sheds. Today ‘law and order’ can arrive by plane.

 

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In about 1910, Alaska Gold Rush newspaper editor/printer/investigative reporter George Hinton Henry published scathing but true stories of United States Commissioner in Tanana, Alaska, George Bathurst. Bathurst responded by sending Henry to jail for 90 for contempt of court. Not to be silenced, Henry hired another writer to continue to publish scathing articles on Bathurst. The Commissioner then put the printing press in jail.  When Henry was released, the printing press was not. Henry moved on to another community and the printing press was dumped in Tanana garbage pit – where it was recovered in 1923 and is in Central, Alaska today.

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Like many fashions, high heels have come a long way since the 10th Century when the Persian cavalry ‘invented’ them to keep their shoes in stirrups. When high heels found their way to Europe, they were a fashion statement for men, as you can see in this portrait of Louis XIV of France.  They rapidly became a symbol of wealth and status, so quickly they had to be regulated. Commoners were only allowed heels 1 ½ inches in height. If you were a member of the bourgeois, it was one inch.  An inch and a half for nobles but for royalty, a full two and a half inches. It was not until the mid-1800s that high heels became a strictly feminine mode of dress. 

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25th Infantry Regiment, 1890 

At the end of the Civil War, many black Union veterans chose to remain in the service. They were sent west where they became known as “Buffalo soldiers.” The term originated because their thick, curly, black hair which was reminiscent of buffalo hair. About 40% of the soldiers in the West were black and the Buffalo Soldiers survived as an operational until after the First World War. They fought with distinction in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Philippines and 350,000 served in France during the First World War. Historically interesting, they also patrolled what would be become our National Parks.  These yet-to-be-called “Park Rangers” wore Stetson hats with what was called a “Montana Pinch” to better shed water during a rainstorm.  Today these hats are the distinctive “Smokey Bear Hats.” From 1895 to 1897 and later in Cuba, John J. Pershing served as their commander.  In fact, he lead the Buffalo Soldiers up San Juan Hill in Cuba. Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt of the Rough Riders was quoted as writing to a friend: “I wish no better men beside me in battle than these colored troops showed themselves to be.” When Pershing served at West Point, cadets who disliked his high standards nicknamed him N**** Jack. The press softened it “Black Jack.”  When asked about the nickname, Pershing stated the black troops were some the best men he had ever commanded.

 

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In 1854, Levi Boone became Mayor of Chicago on the Know-Nothing Party whose tenets were strongly anti-immigrant and what would later be called ‘America First.’ Boone, a Baptist and Temperance enthusiast, believed drinking was akin to worshiping the Devil – particularly on the Sabbath. So he dealt the Chicago liquor industry a double-blow: he ordered all taverns closed on Sunday and increased the cost of a liquor license by six times, from $50 to $300. It was not popular and viewed as anti-German because, of course, Germans were the only ones drinking beer. On April 21, 1855, a massive protest march was held which was so large Mayor Boone ordered the bridges over the Chicago River closed. A riot ensued and one of the protestors fired on the police, He was killed, the lone death of the riot. In the aftermath of the Lager Beer Riot, the price of a liquor license was dropped to $100.  Nothing was said of Boone’s attempt to honor the Sabbath by closing taverns on Sunday. The Sabbath is Saturday; Sunday is the first day of the week. 

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Not much of a photo, eh?  I agree. But in the early days of Alaska, this was PROGRESS!  During the Alaska Gold Rush, there were boomtowns scattered across an area 1/5th the size of the Lower 48. Some had post offices, others had telegraph lines but most had zip. But every town needed a court because bad people were everywhere.  In smaller towns, there were mining councils that dispensed justice. Larger communities had federally-appointed magistrates.  But some towns were so wild they needed bonafide judges even though the judges were in Juneau.  So the Territory of Alaska established a “floating court” where judges would take steamships – and then motor launches as you can see here – to “courtrooms” in saloons, churches, meeting halls or even residences to dispense justice. This photo is the “floating court” on its way to Unga, more than 1,000 miles by water from Juneau, in 1915.  The Wheels of Justice move slowly and in Alaska they often came by boat.

 

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An ancient Greek joke tells of a master and his slaves who are on a ship being battered by a powerful storm. As the slaves are shrieking in terror, the master yelled, “Why are you complaining? In my will, if I die you are all to be set free!”

This man is an ID-10-T.

If you don’t know what an ID-10-T is, write it without the dashes.

ID-10-Ts are everywhere and their stupidity is staggering.  The proof is this billboard.  How could anyone have put this up without knowing it was incorrect?  Well, when you have an ID-10-T in charge, no one can predict what will happen.  

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The Golden Age of Hollywood glamorized the cowboy and the Wild West. Unfortunately, what appeared on the silver screen ended up in our history books and far too many Americans believe all of the cowboys were white – and that all of the soldiers on the fronter were white.  And all the United States Marshals were white. Wrong! America’s frontier was a magnet for black slaves and later free blacks because, well, it was a frontier.  You could be ‘free’ and while the wages were not good, you would be paid for your work.  About 40% of all soldiers in the West were black – buffalo soldiers – and about the same percentage of cowboys were black, Mexican, Indian or a mix thereof.  And more than a fair share of United States Marshals, like this unnamed man, were black. So don’t believe everything you have seen at the movies.

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All Roman roads had mileage stones, set one thousand paces apart. The term “mile” comes from the Latin mille, one thousand. It was estimated that Roman army units marched at the rate of five feet per step.  The actual “mileage” of roads was standardized in 1959 at 1,609.344 meters – in the United States as 1760 yards.  

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Anne Royall was one of – if not the first – first female journalist. She grew up poor in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. At 16 years of age she and her widowed mother were employed by a wealthy American Revolution major, William Royall, as servants. He eventually married Anne and she lived comfortably until 1812 – when she was 43 – when William died. The Royall family sued Ann for her inheritance and, after seven years of litigation, won and left Anne penniless. She spent four years traveling around Alabama writing letters which later became the book Letters from Alabama. She went to Washington D. C. in 1824 to petition for a federal pension as the widow of veteran. She received the pension, but the Royall family claimed most of it. While in D. C. she became a journalist and asked President John Quincy Adams for an interview. He turned her down.  Undismayed, she waited until the President went swimming in the Potomac River. As he was bathing naked, she sat on his clothes and refused to leave until he answered her questions making her the first presidential interview by a woman.

She wrote extensively and in 1831 started publishing an investigative newspaper, Paul Pry, out of her home. The paper focuses extensively on political corruption and fraud. Paul Pry grew into The Huntress in 1836. She hired orphans to set type for the journal and faced financial hardship with the Post Office refused to deliver her issues to subscribers. She died in 1854 and was buried in the Congressional Cemetery, a cemetery where plots are reserved for those who helped form the nation.

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