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Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 30

1868  Fort Fred Steele established where the Union Pacific Railroad crossed the North Platte River.  Attribution:  On This Day.

Ft. Fred Steele, Carbon County Wyoming

In the past, I haven't tended to post fort entries here, but for net related technical reasons, I'm going to, even though these arguably belong on one of my other blogs.  I'll probably cross link this thread in.

These are photographs of Ft. Fred Steele, a location that I've sometimes thought is the bleakest historical site in Wyoming.

One of the few remaining structures at Ft. Steele, the powder magazine.  It no doubt is still there as it is a stone structure.

The reason that the post was built, the Union Pacific, is still there.

Ft. Steele is what I'd regard as fitting into the Fourth Generation of Wyoming frontier forts, although I've never seen it described that way, or anyone other than me use that term.   By my way of defining them, the First Generation are those very early, pre Civil War, frontier post that very much predated the railroads, such as Ft. Laramie.  The Second Generation would be those established during the Civil War in an effort to protect the trail and telegraph system during that period during which the Regular Army was largely withdrawn from the Frontier and state units took over. The Third Generation would be those posts like Ft. Phil Kearney that were built immediately after the Civil War for the same purpose.  Contemporaneously with those were posts like Ft. Steele that were built to protect the Union Pacific Railroad.  As they were in rail contact with the rest of the United States they can't really be compared to posts like Ft. Phil Kearney, Ft. C. F. Smith or Ft. Caspar, as they were built for a different purpose and much less remote by their nature.

What the post was like, when it was active.

A number of well known Wyoming figures spent time at Ft. Saunders.

Ft. Sanders, after it was abandoned, remained a significant railhead and therefore the area became the center of a huge sheep industry. Quite a few markers at the post commemorate the ranching history of the area, rather than the military history.

One of the current denizens of the post.

Suttlers store, from a distance.

Union Pacific Bridge Tenders House at the post.

Current Union Pacific bridge.

Some structure from the post, but I don't know what it is.

The main part of the post's grounds.

Soldiers from this post are most famously associated with an action against the Utes in Utah, rather than an action in Wyoming.  This shows the high mobility of the Frontier Army as Utah is quite a distance away, although not so much by rail.

This 1914 vintage highway marker was on the old Lincoln Highway, which apparently ran north of the tracks rather than considerably south of them, like the current Interstate Highway does today.

About 88 people or so were buried at this post, however only 60 some graves were later relocated when the Army undertook to remove and consolidate frontier graves.  Logic would dictate, therefore, that some graves likely remain.

Unusual civilian headstone noting that this individual had served with a provisional Confederate unit at some point that had been raised in California.  I'm not aware of any such unit, although it must have existed.  The marker must be quite recent.

1876  7th Cavalry wounded reach the Far West on the Yellowstone.

1894  It was reported that 40,000 trout were shipped to Casper to be distributed to area streams.  Attribution:  Wyoming State Historical Society.

1903   A deadly mine explosion in Hanna killed 169 miners.

1919  Monday, June 30, 1919. The last day of legal drinking in Wyoming. . .
and for that matter, much of the rest of the United States as wartime prohibition came into effect on June 30, just as Wyoming's state prohibition act also did.

New York City bar on the last day of legal drinking, June 30, 1919.  Note the hot dogs or sausages on the small grill.

The fact that a lot of places went "dry" on this day, prior to the passage of the Volstead Act, shows that the arrival of prohibition was more complicated than many might remember and accordingly the headlines are confusing.

What occurred was this.

Casper was reported as being in a "Hilarious Mood" on the eve of Prohibition.  It's probable that not everybody was approaching the deadline of midnight with hilarity, including most particularly tavern owners.

The movement to ban alcohol had been growing strength for years prior to World War One, inspired in no small part by the fact that the "Saloon Trade" was unregulated.  Widespread unregulated drinking was a huge social problem that had reached the point of disgusting a lot of people. There's only so many drunk seven year olds, basically, that you can take.

In addition to that, however, the Temperance Movement was boosted by the fact that it was a Progressive movement, and one of many.  Often missed in the story of any one movement is that movements tend to travel in packs, and indeed the limit of their success usually is the enactment of a bad idea into law that was travelling along with other movements that were good or better ideas. Then the reaction sets in.

The Laramie newspaper addressed the national law but, oddly, not the local one.

In this case, Prohibition oddly has a fairly straight line back to the mid 19th Century when the movement to abolish slavery reached full steam and ultimately success, albeit due to the Civil War.  Abolitionist typically had that as their focus, but some were generally fairly "progressive" in the modern context on other issues as well.  Quite a few of those individuals went right from the Abolitionist movement to the the issue of full franchise for women which, as we've seen, also just achieved success in 1919.

With those movements came also Temperance, which was thought of by many as being a generally a progressive platform.  As the country entered World War One it received a big boost for an interesting mix of reasons.

In contrast to nearby Laramie, Cheyenne's headlines featured Wyoming going dry.

One reason was that it consumed a lot of grain, and there was a genuine desire to conserve grains during the stretched wartime years.  That lead to the law that came into effect today, which brought distilling. . . and maybe brewing and vinting, illegal during the war.  Ironically the date that law came into effect was June 30, 1919.  I.e., the last legal day for hard alcohol nationwide, and maybe beer and wine, was this day.  July 1 was sort of dry.

Maybe.  As can be seen, the Federal government was having a hard time figuring out what the law actually applied to.

Sheridan, which like Cheyenne, had a military post claimed that Cheyenne had already depleted its stores of alcohol.

In addition to that, there was a visceral reaction to all things German, which beer was conceived of being, during the war and Prohibitionist took advantage of that to boost their cause.  As we've seen here earlier, there were a lot of accusations against brewers, some backed by Prohibitionist, claiming they were funded by or in league with the Germans.  The whole thing seems silly now, but it was front page news then. 

Indeed the war had the effect of actually effectively destroying German culture in the United States as many German institutions came to an abrupt end.  For many urban German Americans there had been a long tradition (as indeed their had been in England prior to the Reformation) of gathering after church for fellowship of one kind or another.  In rural areas that included such things as summertime shooting events of a special type, called a Sch├╝tzenfest.  These events would feature shooting from special precision rifles, but also a fair amount of beer drinking.

Whimsical road sign in contemporary Germany put up for a From Wikipedia Creative Commons, with a special sign for a Sch├╝tzenfest.  MalteFilmFan  Use restricted in accordance with license.

While the tradition was just as strong, it might be noted, in the Irish American culture, the war did not impact the Irish culturally the same way. As part of the United Kingdom they were, of course, on the winning side of the war and, more importantly, on the same side as the United States, and they were also used to being a struggling minority.  It'd take economic success to really put a dent in Irish culture.

Compounding the story, quite a few Americans, and the United States was a more rural nation at the time with many more small communities that were more stable and less mobile than they are now, were horrified by the thought of their young men going over to booze drenched France, where they'd be confronted, they supposed, with gallons of wine and French women of questionable virtue.  That seems extreme, of course, and I'm putting it in that fashion clearly, but you can find examples of statements to just that effect.  One Wyoming legislator, for example, stated that he'd rather is boy die in France having never tasted alcohol than live on imbibing. 

World War One postcard that was part of a series on American soldiers in France.  This soldier is giving a ride on his horse to a French girl as two French villagers observe.  This is just what quite a few Americans feared was going to be going on while their sons were overseas. For what it's worth, the saddle on the horse is a M1917 packer's saddle, so this soldier is likely in the Quartermasters Corp, although not necessarily so.  Of note, he's wearing a watch.

Which takes us to the fact that this particular era was one of Evangelical Protestant revival.

Christianity has no prohibition on alcohol at all, and many of those ordering a draft at East Coast taverns on Sunday afternoons had no doubt been to Mass than morning, in the case of German and Irish Americans.  The concept that Christianity is antithetical to alcohol is a false one, although it very clear is opposed to drunkenness.  At any rate, some Evangelical Christians in the English speaking world saw alcohol as a prohibited substance and they accordingly were very much against it. As they were in the rise at the time, that contributed to the movement.

Another French postcard, one that most soldiers would have been ill advised to send home.  The French translation does not match the English, with the French one stating "We quickly get to know each other.".  By 1919, Americans had somewhat overcome their concern about French women, who were now entering the United States as war brides in large numbers.  Newspaper articles had gone from soldiers' reports about how they still looked back at the girl back home more favorably, to ones in which they were impressed with the French lasses, to reports of a lot of them coming home as the spouses of the troops.  Those women, of course, were coming from a culture in which wine made up a substantial portion of the average person's daily caloric intake to another which was now officially dry.

For this reason, even without the wartime act, alcohol was on its way out in the United States.  Many states had already banned it, and Wyoming was one of them.  This adds to the confusion of the headlines, however, as the local papers were following the national news on the wartime ban, and the local news on the arrival of state Prohibition.

And added to that was the passage of the Volstead Act, which we've just read about.  That act was to bring about the enforcement of the 20th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was not self enacting.  It was only introduced in June of 1919, so the full Federal law on permanent Prohibition hadn't arrived.  Indeed, a person has to speculate on the extent to which the decision to enforce "wartime" Prohibition in 1919 was due to that fact. The wartime measure could have been viewed as a stopgap until the full law arrived.

At any rate, if you were in far off Wyoming, this was your last day to get a drink.

1945  It was reported that 23,611 men and 515 women from Wyoming were in the armed forces.  Attribution: Wyoming State Historical Society.

1945  The USS Wyoming departed Norfolk for the Brooklyn Navy Yard for alterations. Attribution:  On This Day.

1975  A magnitude 6.4 earthquake occurred in the Yellowstone National Park region.  Attribution:  On This Day.

2009 In a move that was controversial amongst alumni of the University of Wyoming's geology department, the Geological Museum was closed due to state budget cuts.Attribution:  On This Day.

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