Category Archives: Dark Snow

Blizzards of 1888

This book will be available February 1 from Amazon, in either print or e-book
This book will be available February 1 from Amazon, in either print or e-book


Two massive and killing blizzards struck the US in 1888, the first in January.

Blizzard Jan 1888 3

The first of the two blizzards is often called the Children’s Blizzard because it struck Nebraska after sunrise January 12. The children went to school in 50° weather, so they wore lightweight winter clothes. The storm struck with a combination of below zero temps (as low as -40, a 90° drop) and winds over sixty miles an hour. Hundreds of people froze and hundreds more suffered frostbite.

Conditions were even worse in the Dakotas. When the front crossed out of Canada it was moving at 100 miles per hour; not wind speed, but front speed. They were spared the worst because it blew through at night and most were able to survive. Not so in Nebraska.

Charcoal and pencil drawing titled "Minnie Leading the Children" by Omaha artist Watie White for the original oratorio "Blizzard Voices" to be performed with Ted Kooser at the Holland Performing Arts Center in 2008. The oratorio includes poems from 12 finalists about the 1888 blizzard and other notable weather events. 12_Blizzard1888
Charcoal and pencil drawing titled “Minnie Leading the Children” by Omaha artist Watie White for the original oratorio “Blizzard Voices”

Blizzard Jan 1888 2


Blizzard Jan 1888 clearing the tracks     Trains were halted as far south as Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

Blizzard Jan 1888 4

Blizzard Jan 1888

The storm killed most of the remaining cattle in the northern plains, many having already died in the 1886 blizzard and the 1887 drought. The Blizzard of ’88 finally put an end to the open range system everywhere but Texas, as cattlemen put up fences and mowed hay to store for winter feeding. Modern cowboys spend their time mending fences and putting up hay.

The 1888 Blizzard Club "In All It's Fury" Members of the Blizzard of 1888 pose at a historical marker in Valley County in 1967. From left, State Sen. H.C. Crandall of Curtis, Horace M. Davis of Lincoln, Oliver Bell (of Minnie Freeman's school), H. Greeley, Besse Davis, Ora Clement and Leslie Markel. 12_Blizzard1888
The 1888 Blizzard Club
“In All It’s Fury”
Members of the Blizzard of 1888 pose at a historical marker in Valley County in 1967. From left, State Sen. H.C. Crandall of Curtis, Horace M. Davis of Lincoln, Oliver Bell (of Minnie Freeman’s school), H. Greeley, Besse Davis, Ora Clement and Leslie Markel.


The other 1888 blizzard struck the Northeast March 11-14, hitting NYC the hardest with drifts as high as fifty feet. As a result of the storm, the city decided to move electrical power and the train system underground.

New York Blizzard 1888 2 New York Blizzard 1888

Statue of Liberty

This book will be available February 1 from Amazon, in either print or e-book
This book will be available February 1 from Amazon, in either print or e-book


The statue was designed by Frederic Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel who began work on the Eiffel Tower the following year. In 1886 Liberty was the largest statue in the world. The dedication was October 28, 1886.

Statue of Liberty Paris workshop     Bartholdi began work in Paris by making plaster casts of each part of the design, and forming the copper around the casts. Eiffel’s job was to then design the iron construction to support each piece.


Statue of Liberty first assembled in Paris 1884

The entire statue was assembled outside the workshop in Pairs to make sure everything fit properly and that Eiffel’s iron would hold the tonnage. The arm had already been sent to Philadelphia for the 1876 Centennial.


Statue of Liberty Bedloe Island fort Civil War     This picture was taken during the Civil War of the fort on Bedloe’s Island. Once the island was selected for the statue, the next phase was to decide what kind of base to build. Congress was upset that they were being forced to pay for a base and at first offered the star fort alone. It took several years, but private money was raised to build a taller base using the star fort as a starter.


Statue of Liberty base 2       Statue of Liberty base


Statue of Liberty driving first rivet     The venerable magazine, first published in 1845, published a detailed drawing of driving the first rivet for the iron tower.


Statue of Liberty face uncrated 1885

A photo of the uncrated face on Bedloe’s.



Statue of Liberty steel framework     Statue of Liberty under construction 2     The iron frame.



Statue of Liberty under construction

The framework is close to finished in this photo.



A view of the dedication from NYC.

Statue of Liberty dedication 2     A photo of the boats around the island.


While still the largest statue in the US, it no longer makes the top ten list in the world. The copper statue is 151 feet tall, the stone base is 305 feet, but the base does not count as part of the statue.

Considerable reconstruction has been done over the years. Today, Liberty holds a new torch, the old one considered too corroded to refurbish. The flame of the torch is covered in pure gold. Portions of the copper skin have been replaced where holes appeared, especially where bolts held the skin to the iron frame creating a galvanic chemical reaction. Most if not all the iron frame has been replaced with stainless steel and two elevators have been added.

Because Bedloe’s Island belonged to the War Department, they were given control over the statue until 1933 when the military no longer had a use for the island. Bedloe’s was renamed Liberty Island in 1956.

Here is a video about the statue and it’s construction from the History Channel:


Parade Magazine gives us 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Statue of Liberty. 




1886 World Championship

This book will be available February 1 from Amazon, in either print or e-book
This book will be available February 1 from Amazon, in either print or e-book


The current Major League is made up of the National League (the Senior League) and the American League (the Junior League) and dates to 1901. However, the National League began in 1871. Many other leagues attempted formation, but the American Association in 1882 was the only one to pose much of a match for the National League. Because most, if not all the American teams were sponsored by beer and whisky companies, they were often called the Beer and Whisky League.

Each year beginning in 1884, the American Association winning team approached the National League’s Champions with a proposal for a play-off between them. Nothing formal was ever in place and the rules changed each time. In 1884 the Providence Grays of the National League played the New York Metropolitans of the American Association. Each team put up $1,000 with the winner to take the $2,000 by winning 2 out of 3 games. The Grays won the first two games.

In 1885 The National League was represented by the Chicago Whitestockings (nicknamed The Chicagos) and the American Association by the Saint Louis Browns. They played 7 games for the $2,000 prize, and because of a disagreement in game 2, they split the prize and not declare a winner.

In 1886 the two teams met again, this time for the winner to take the entire gate receipts, after expenses. The Browns won in six games. It was the only time the Americans won in the 7 times the series was played. The American Association folded in 1891.

St. Louis Browns major sponsor:

Bush beer plant and train     Bush beer plant around 1900.


Bush beer workers     Bush beer work crew late 19th century.


Chicago World Serise 1886 flyer


Chicago White Stokings

Chicago White Stokings 2

The top photo of the White Stockings, aka, the Chicagos, is from 1886 and the bottom is the 1888 team. Teams normally played with 9 to 12 members, with the manager being one of the players. Pitchers often played other positions on the days they did not pitch. Sometimes a team played with fewer than nine. They were paid to play, but only when they played and not enough to get through the year; every player had to find winter work. Not until after WWII did lesser players begin to earn enough not to have to have a second job.



Comiskey managed the St. Louis Browns and played first base. He went on to buy a minor league team in Sioux City, move it to Chicago, rename it the Chicago White Sox (eventually) and became one of the major forces in the creation of the American League and of Major League Baseball.


St. Louis Browns 2     The Browns

St Louis Browns 3     After the big win.

St, Louis Browns railraod car to Chicago     Thee Browns rail car for the series.

St. Louis Sportsman's Park Browns stadium    Home of the Browns, and of the Wild West in 1886.



Charleston Earthquake

This book will be available February 1 from Amazon, in either print or e-book
This book will be available February 1 from Amazon, in either print or e-book


Remmy was feeding livestock about 9:30 in the evening when he felt the ground moving. This is why:

August 31, 1886, Charleston, South Carolina suffered the worst recorded quake in the southeastern US, perhaps all of the east. While seismographs existed at the time, there were none in the US to record the event. The best estimate today is around 7 on the Richter Scale.

It was what is technically known as an intraplate earthquake, meaning that it was not the result of two earth mantel plates rubbing against each other as is the case in most major quakes, especially along the Pacific coast on both sides of the ocean.

Charleston sets well away from the nearest plate interaction, so the quake was caused by some unknown disturbance  under the city. Intraplate quakes are being studied, but we still know little about them. We do know the Charleston quake was an up and down motion. That type of movement can cause huge tsunamis, but Charleston was lucky to miss that.

Nonetheless, over 90% of the buildings were damaged, and 60 people were killed. The total population then was about 50,000. The city continues to be in a high risk zone for a future quake of about the same magnitude.


Charleston 3

This solid brick building was no match for the quake. The recent 7.0 quake in Haiti left damage much like this.

Charleston 4     A locomotive was thrown onto its side.


Charlston earthquake 3

Some fifty miles of track had to be rebuilt.


Charleston 5

Notice the two buildings in the center of the picture are in the street.


Charlston earthquake 2

Charlston earthquake


Remember that just 21 years earlier Charleston looked like this:

Charleston 1865

Civil War damage.

Annie Oakley

This book will be available February 1 from Amazon, in either print or e-book
This book will be available February 1 from Amazon, in either print or e-book


Phoebe Ann Moses was born in 1860. Her family called her Annie as a child. She was next to youngest of seven children. Her father died in 1866 and three years later, her mother sent her to the poor farm, called the County Infirmary, because she could not feed everyone.

After a year there, she went to live with a family that treated her as a slave for two years until she ran away. Back at home, she found that she was now the sixth of eight children, her mother having remarried. However, the second husband died before Annie returned, so she began to use her father’s war musket from 1812 to hunt game on their farm. She became so good at it that she began to sell game to restaurants in town.

At the age of 15, the local hotel owner set up a shooting match with Frank Butler who was touring the country with his own shooting exhibition. Annie bested him in shooting and did not reject his attention afterwards. They maintained a long distance relationship until their marriage in 1876. However, their only existing marriage license is from Windsor, Canada dated 1882. It is generally believed that Frank had a difficult time getting a divorce and they chose to be married in spirit. Annie never spoke of it.

She chose the stage name of Annie Oakley, possibly after an aunt, and toured with Frank, and then they joined the Sells Circus, and then Wild West a year later. She was so popular with crowds that Frank became her manager as well as co-star, though Annie did most of the show. They were with Cody for sixteen seasons. When Cody brought in Lillian Smith in 1886 and gave her equal billing to Annie, trouble began. They both went to London in 1887, but the rift became so serious that Annie and Frank left the show and only returned when Lillian was gone in 1889.


Annie Oakley and Frank

An early photo of Annie and Frank before they joined the Wild West. They always had a dog to use in the show and may have had hunting dogs as well. They both enjoyed bird hunting.


Annie Oakley behind back shot Annie Oakley closeup 2 Annie Oakley closeup

The three photos above give us a good look at the attractive and young Annie Oakley. She always wore her hair down when performing to emphasis her youth, even as she aged. She also wore short dresses (for the period) in the shows, only conforming to society outside the show. As a part of that, she insisted on being called Mrs. Butler when not performing. She stood five feet tall, weighed 115 pounds (most of her life) and had, as you can see above, a 16 inch waist.


Annie Oakley with medels

She was clearly one of the top ten best shooters in competitions, as this partial collection of medals would suggest.


Annie Oakley good pic    Annie Oakley on bicycle

Annie appeared in Wild West posters nearly as often as Buffalo Bill. Cody knew she brought in more money for the show, but he also had great personal respect for both Annie and Frank. Like many people who grew up poor, Annie was always willing to lend her name to products for a fee.


Annie oakley poster

This poster did not have to elaborate on her abilities. She was a great athlete. Not only could she high jump, in a dress, she could carry an 8 pound shotgun while tramping through the woods all day.


Annie Oakley shoot apple

One of her most popular features was shooting an apple from the head of their faithful, and trusting, dog. This picture was taken after the Butlers left the show and did their own exhibition shooting.


Annie Oakley on Star Street

Anytime the show stopped at one site for a few days, tents were set up for the stars. They were placed in line and the show called it the Street of Stars. Annie and Frank also had their own rail car when they traveled and lived in it even on long stays. The stars did not sleep in tents. You will notice only a lounging chair inside. The stars did spend most of the day in and around the tents because they did two shows a day and there were customers in the grounds for most of 10 hours.

In 1901, the Wild West traveled in three trains. The Butler’s car was part of the second train. Due to a switching error, their train met another train head on. Because their car was one of the last on the train, neither sustained lift threatening injuries, but it was enough for them to quit the show. They visited a warm spring spa shortly after that and Annie was left much too long in the old metal steam box. She was unconscious when removed and her hair turned white as a result. In 1922, she was in a car wreck and fractured her hip and an ankle. Annie had to wear a metal brace, but did not stop hunting.


Annie Oakley Frank and Dave in later years

The Butlers around 1920.


Annie Oakley marker near Greenville Ohio

Annie Oakley marker near Dayton

When Annie died, Frank stopped eating and died 18 days later.



The family grave markers in Greenville, Ohio.