Monday, December 9, 2013

Murals of Ottawa, Kansas

Downtown Ottawa Kansas mural
The Martin Tractor Company was founded in Ottawa, Kansas in 1911. Over a century, the company grew to include several locations in Kansas. I don't know much more, but I love the mural. It is located on the Adamson Bros' building at 102 S. Walnut in Downtown Ottawa. As best I can make out, the artist's name is "Morton."

The mural shows the former Martin Tractor Company building at the intersection of the Missouri Pacific route (the large engine on the right)  with the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe route (the small engine approaching the viewer from the distance). This latter route is now the Prairie Spirit Rail-Trail path which runs from Ottawa to Welda, Kansas.

Note. If you know the artist's full name, I would love to have it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Downtown Ottawa 1912

Downtown Ottawa 1912?

By 1912 when this image of downtown Ottawa, Kansas was taken, Ottawa had electric lighting, a waterworks and telephone system, several grain elevators and flour mills, furniture factories, a large creamery, brick and tile factories, several machine shops and a soap factory. Two years earlier in 1910, it recorded a population of 7,650.

There were three city parks: Forest Park, to the north of the river; College Park, on the south bank; and the court-house park occupying the city block on Main between Third and Fourth streets.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Downtown Ottawa, Kansas parade 1938

Life in Ottawa Kansas was not always easy.

In 1929, the Great Depression stuck the stock market and the foundation of nation was shaken to its core. Unemployment skyrocketed. Two years later, storms covered the Midwest in a blanket of suffocating sand and dust. By 1932, Bing Crosby was singing Buddy Can You Spare a Dime.

In the spring of 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed a weary but hopeful country:
 I see one-third of the nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished . . . the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
Kansans did their part, planting corn and wheat, creating wind breaks to cut down on blowing dust, and singing a happy tune. Read Soul of a People. But, it wasn't easy.

Abandoned farm, Ottawa, Kansas 1938
Image, Special Collections and University Archives, Wichita State University Libraries.

In 1936, Japan invaded China. The following year German troops invaded Austria.

In 1938, Frank Capra's You Can't Take it with You, won the Oscar for Best Picture. In Kansas the Stearman Aircraft became the Stearman Division of Boeing Airplane Company. Things were looking up. Still, life was no picnic, but there was time for a parade, especially if you had a pocketful of dreams.

In 1939, the rain came back to Kansas.

*The video was filmed with a home movie camera in 1938 by Harold J. Lamb. In 1938, Bing Crosby recorded Pocketful of Dreams and the earlier 1932 version of Buddy Can You Spare a Dime. The iconic song was written in 1930 by lyricist E. Y. "Yip" Harburg and composer Jay Gorney.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

1955 Downtown Ottawa

The year is 1955, the United States is at peace.

Downtown Ottawa at 3rd and Main
The Korean War ended two years earlier. The French are mired down in a war in Indo-China, not the United States, yet. But peace at home is uneasy. In the midst of good news, the troubling fact is that the Russians have created the Warsaw Pact. The Cold War has begun and the stakes have never been higher, as the Russians detonated their first hydrogen bomb two years earlier.

Dwight David Eisenhower is president of the United States. He suffers a heart attack while vacationing in Denver, and an anxious nation follows his recovery. Fred Lee Hall, Republican, defeated George Docking the year before and is now governor of Kansas. W.W. Robe is mayor of Ottawa.  A post World War II economic boom is going on after a brief recession in 1954. Eisenhower initiates the Interstate Highway Program and the car is king.

It has been four years since the Great Flood of 1951 submerged downtown Ottawa. Hobart Parks who scoured the local Ottawa newspapers for information did not have much to say about Ottawa that year. From the Ottawa Herald, he reports that two new men's dormitories were built for Ottawa University. Parks Annals.

The summer of 1955 and Downtown Ottawa bustles with weekend shoppers.

The same year, Ray Kroc starts franchising MacDonald restaurants, Disneyland opens in Anaheim, California, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and James Dean dies in an auto accident, after starring that year in both Rebel Without a Cause, and East of Eden. The biggest hit single on the records chart was Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets, followed by Sixteen Tons, sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford. Dinah Shore was on TV and had two hit songs, including Love and Marriage, which topped out at number 20 on the charts.

And in 1955, the hottest new car on the road was the Chevy Bel Air, which offered the now legendary small block V8 engine and Ferrari-like front grill. And yes, Dinah Shore was singing See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet on her popular TV show.

1955 Chevy Bel Air

Monday, January 7, 2013

Postcard Main Street Bridge Ottawa

Main Street Bridge 1910
Hello Winnie Clemmons
Main Street Bridge 1910

Before the flood wiped it away, the Main Street Bridge was a Pratt Truss style bridge. Truss because the structure consists of connected triangular elements. It is called Pratt because the truss includes vertical members and diagonals that slope down towards the center.

This bridge (1885 -1926) is actually the second bridge to cross the Marais de Cygnes River. An earlier suspension bridge crossed the river (1868-1885). Ottawa Herald, 1961. History of Bridges of Ottawa.

The Postcard

I also thought it interesting to read the postcard. It  was written January 19, 1910, by an unidentified Ina to Miss Winnie Clemmons in Floris, Oklahoma. Ina lived on a farm, took in boarders to help support the family (two more boarders "that makes us ten"), and was going to town, probably by horse and carriage, to get something for supper.

The postcard came from the Model 10Cent Store at 117 E. 2nd.

Parks Annals

This postcard was mailed in January 1910.

Later, the summer of the same year, Teddy Roosevelt and Williams Jennings Bryan would appear in Ottawa at Forest Park, but at separate times. In September, a "talkie", a moving picture with sound came to the Crystal Theater. (As the Jazz Singer did not come out until 1926, I am not exactly sure what this means.) In October, the fighting Ottawa University football team held the University of Kansas to a low score of 10 to 0. Parks Annals.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Downtown Ottawa 1900

Ottawa, Kansas circa 1900

What if you could magically be transported back to Ottawa, Kansas 1900.

Sat Evening Post 1904
The numerous electric poles on the east side of the street in the image below demonstrate that Edison's light bulb has arrived. But while the sidewalks are paved, the street is not. Nor, is there an automobile to be seen.

Gentleman, as the image of Ottawa demonstrates, wore hats and long sleeve shirts with stiff collars. Women wore dresses down to the ankles with high button collars. The dresses were tailored and the bustle was diminishing in size. Soon, it would disappear entirely from fashionable women's stores. If ladies appeared in public, usually there was a walking stick or parasol to shade their delicate features from the sun.

The image below is from the Franklin County Historical Archives. It has been digitally reworked. It is a view of the 200 block of Main Street, looking north. Boston Department Store clearly in the right foreground.

Downtown Ottawa, Kansas circa 1900
Parks Annals

In 1988, Doris Parks Elder contributed to the Ottawa Library annals drawn from Ottawa newspapers (early newspapers included the Ottawa Daily Republican, the Ottawa Gazette, and the weekly Ottawa Herald). See KSHS. The annals were compiled by her father, Hobart Parks, for the years 1864-1920. These became known as Park's Annals. I have interspersed my own comments with Parks Annals to recreate Ottawa history for 1900.

1900 Ottawa

Ottawa's mayor was Dr. F. O. Hetrick. He would serve two terms.President McKinley was completing his first term as U.S. President and campaigning for a second term.

January in Ottawa, work commenced on the Paola to Ottawa telephone line. The line was completed a month later and citizens were allowed to use it free of charge for the first two days. The telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell was patented in 1876. By the mid-1890's the patents were running out, spurring small independent companies to create their own lines.

That spring, Ottawa University (founded 1865) had an enrollment of 120 students. Architect George P. Washburn (designer of the Ottawa Courthouse) went to Pleasant Hill to begin construction of an opera house.

In May, the city hired a traction engine at $10 a day to grade streets, seven blocks were graded in three hours at a cost of $2.70 formerly required one and a half days at a cost of $11.70. The high school senior class graduated 25 students at a ceremony at Rohrbaugh Theater.

In June, the city began discussions to pave Main Street. Note the dirt street in the photograph.

In July, the Assembly held in Forest Park featured H. S. Roberts lecturing on the "Empire of the Czars". Meanwhile, on the national stage, the Democrats are holding their political convention in Kansas City, Missouri. They would nominate William Jennings Bryan.

The Ottawa newspaper advertized a rubber-tired surrey for $127. Wheat was selling for $1.27 a bushel. Not bad since wheat was exporting for about half that amount at 71 cents a bushel. Bulletin No. 1-37, USDA. Division of Foreign Markets, Frank Harris Hitchcock. Wheat prices in the years to come would spike at $2.45 a bushel at the end of World War I and plummet to $0.47 a bushel at the depth of the depression in 1932. USHistory.

Fall 1900

In September, a hurricane struck Galveston, Texas causing great loss of life.

In October, the entire student body of Ottawa University turned out to greet the football team, returning from a victory at Warrensburg, Mo.. The score was 20 to 0.

In November, Republican William McKinley would be re-elected president. He would serve for less than a year and be replaced by Theodore Roosevelt.

Late in the year, Marshall Danic warned firing blanks on Main Street must stop. Commissioner Fetter complained that horse hooves were damaging the curbs.

More Buggies
A wagon load of extra large Buffalo fish (also known as the gourd head, redmouth buffalo, big-mouth buffalo fish, bernard buffalo, roundhead, or brown buffalo) was taken from the river, and put on sale on Ottawa's Main Street. The slow moving fish are often speared, but it is likely that this batch was taken by the use of a skein. At Mathias' grocery store, beef in bulk sold at 8 cents a pound, coffee at 15 cents a pound.

In December, the telephone line to  Williamsburg was completed.

Horse and Buggy

Montgomery Ward
In 1900, the horse and buggy was the most common means of transportation in America. Buggies cost as little as $25, and could easily be hitched and driven by women or children. But that didn't mean buggy travel was without risk.

Only three years earlier, Ruleff Hood, a prominent citizen and deacon of the Ottawa Baptist Church died as the result of a horse and buggy accident. His horse startled and ran wildly through the streets pulling his buggy behind it. Ruleff was thrown from the buggy and died as a result of his injuries. Hood Family Ancestry.

Change is on the Way

The new century meant change was on the way. The first mass production of automobiles was begun by Karl Benz in Germany in 1888, and two years later in the United States and France. Three years later, in 1903, Henry Ford formed the Ford Motor company. The discovery of oil in great quantities made fuel cheap. By 1910, a half million automobiles on the road would surpass the number of buggies. Ford was making over 30,000 Model T cars a year.

The term "horse and buggy" today means to cling to old-fashionedness or out-of-date, but it could just as easily suggest a nostalgia for a slower pace of life in a smaller place where everyone knew your name.