Argo Gold Mine and Mill

Argo Gold Mine and Mill

Argo Gold Mine and Mill

They said, “there’s gold in them thar ‘ills” and they say 80% of it is still there!  Go get it if you want, but it’s not just lying around on the surface.  Gold was discovered in 1859 in what is now Idaho Springs, Colorado, beginning a gold rush into the Rocky Mountains, and also beginning many of the Colorado towns now more famous for snow, the “white gold” of the ski industry.

In the Idaho Springs area at first there was plenty of gold (if there is such a thing as “plenty” of gold) near the surface, but as miners dug deeper, it was harder and harder to get the gold out of the pits, and there were more and more problems with water flooding the mines.  The solution was the Argo Tunnel.  The tunnel was to drain water out of the major gold mines in the area, including the Glory Hole mine workings which were dug into the “richest square mile on earth”.  The tunnel would also create a generally horizontal direction for bringing gold ore out, much easier than lifting the ore thousands of feet vertically.

Begun in 1893 and finished in 1910, the tunnel ran from 1300 feet below the corner of Central City through the hills and down about 700 more feet to the canyon side beside Idaho Springs.  From Idaho Springs the gold could be taken into Denver to be smelted.  Over 4 miles long, the tunnel was the longest in the world at the time.

To handle the ore coming out of this tunnel and reduce the cost of sending raw ore to Denver, the Argo Gold Mine and Mill was built at the mouth of the tunnel.  The mill started the process of gold extraction, and over the years it sent $200,000,000 of rich ore to Denver, saving $100,000,000 that would otherwise have been spent in shipping unprocessed ore.

The mill shut down after an accident with water in the tunnel in 1943; it wasn’t worth starting up again after the accident due to the lack of men and money in the middle of World War II.  After the war, the price of gold was no longer worth the cost of getting it out of the depths of the mountains.  The Argo Gold Mine and Mill is now a museum and also a major landmark along I-70 going up into the mountains.

A modified version of this design is available as a wall print on History on a Shirt’s Etsy shop; contact History on a Shirt about getting this design on a t-shirt.

Posted in Ewan Tallentire art, Historyonashirt, Old West | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Remember the Lusitania

Sinking of the Lusitania

Sinking of the Lusitania

The Lusitania was crucial to America’s entry into WWI even though it was sunk two years beforehand.  The issue was Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare; going after any ship, military or civilian, which it considered a military target.

The Lusitania was a ship of the Cunard line which German agents in New York claimed was being loaded with munitions for England. Germany posted a full page ad in New York newspapers warning passengers not to sail on her because she was carrying munitions and was fair game for U-boats (short for Unterseeboot, or submarine).  The passenger manifest was mainly Americans, and Germany felt that carrying arms for Britain on a ship of Americans was not how a neutral country like America was supposed to act.

The Lusitania was one of the fastest transatlantic liners at the time and could easily outrun a 1915 U-boat, because at that time submarines had to slow down and surface to fire.  The Lusitania did make it across the Atlantic, but on May 7, 1915, coming around the southern tip of Ireland heading for Liverpool, the captain was trying to save fuel by running on only three of the four boilers.  The German U-boat U-20 spotted the Lusitania, was able to catch up, and fired at 2:15 in the afternoon. The massive explosion that resulted was more than a torpedo should cause, and there is controversy over whether the explosion was from munitions or from coal dust in the ship’s empty bunkers. The Lusitania sank quickly, with the loss of 1200 passengers and crew, of which several hundred were Americans.

The US protested, and Germany agreed to stop unrestricted submarine warfare, and did for a time.  So when in 1917 Germany started the unrestricted submarine warfare again, the cry in America was “Remember the Lusitania”, swaying popular opinion toward entering the war on the side of Britain and France in April 1917.

This t-shirt shows smoke coming out of only three of the smokestacks as the U-20 surfaces.  As the artist likes to point out, there is one historical detail wrong: the lighting. For the time of day and the direction the ship was going, the light should be coming from the other direction – but consider it artistic license to dramatize the educational point!  The shirt was developed for the National World War I Museum and can be found in the gift shop there.

Posted in Ewan Tallentire art, Historyonashirt, WWI | Comments Off

In memory of Iwo Jima veteran Bill Hudson

Iwo Jima 70th Anniversary t-shirt

Iwo Jima 70th Anniversary t-shirt

On the date of the previous post, a WWII veteran passed away.  Actually, probably a lot of them did; that is what happens when you are 90 or so.  But when you are only 20, you don’t usually hear every few days about another friend who has died – unless you are a soldier on the front lines of battle.  This particular WWII veteran, Bill Hudson, was exactly that in the spring of 70 years ago – he was a Marine on Iwo Jima, and his first day of combat, February 19th, 1945, happened to be the worst day of the toughest battle in the history of the United States Marine Corps.  He lived through that day and many more days until he was wounded on March 15th.  When their division finished the battle the following day, only two out of Hudson’s whole platoon who had landed with him were still with the platoon and unwounded.

As far as we know, those other two from the platoon who made it through the whole battle are still living; it seems if Iwo Jima didn’t kill you, not much else would!

Close to 7000 Americans died on the 8.5 square miles of Iwo Jima, and about three times that many Japanese.  The Marines had brought an overwhelming force with them; about four times as many as the Japanese, with more and better equipment, and thought the bombed-out island would only take a couple days to occupy.  However, the Japanese had months to prepare defenses, a brilliant general in charge of preparing them, and they were ready to die rather than surrender, so it took the Marines more than 36 days.

It is very difficult to fight an enemy who is prepared to die, especially if you haven’t made up your mind your cause is worth dying, or killing, for.  General George Patton, in a famous speech, made the point that war is not actually about dying for your country, it is about making your enemy die for his country.  And usually war doesn’t involve nearly as much of that as Iwo Jima did.  But if the Marines had not been willing both to kill and die for a few square miles of sulfur-scented rock in the middle of the Pacific, most Pacific countries, including Australia,might be speaking Japanese now.

Iwo Jima inspired this level of sacrifice not because of its beauty, size, large population, or fertile fields, but because the island being in American rather than Japanese hands made it possible for bombers to reach Japan, including two bombers carrying atomic bombs.  Facing starvation, advancing American forces, burned-out cities, and the Soviet Union as a fresh new enemy had convinced many Japanese they were going to die, but had not convinced them they should surrender.  Better death than dishonoring their emperor, ancestors, and soldiers.  The atomic bombs, however, were something new, something terribly powerful, and all in all, a good enough excuse to call it quits.  Nobody has invaded Japan since Kublai Khan failed to, and America didn’t either – but didn’t have to.  On Iwo Jima over 90% of the Japanese died in battle.  On Japan itself, most Japanese lived.

The shirt pictured illustrates why the Marines were a target all the way across Iwo Jima and some of their worst fighting was at the end.  It illustrates the unbeatable spirit of the Japanese against the unbeatable force of the Marines.  And to those of us who knew him, it honors Bill Hudson, a Marine who survived Iwo Jima and went on to become a Living Treasure of the town of Los Alamos.

You can learn more at the Iwo Jima Memorial Museum in Texas, or read Bill Hudson’s story in “Fighting the Unbeatable Foe: Iwo Jima and Los Alamos“.

Posted in Ewan Tallentire art, Historyonashirt, Uncategorized, WWII | Comments Off

A greater information revolution than the Internet

Exciting assignment for an artist with 20 years experience in the print industry and a love of history – Ewan is working on a design about the Gutenberg Press for The Printing Museum.  Stay tuned for details.

Posted in Ewan Tallentire art, Historyonashirt | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Class the Stars Fell On

2015 Repeating History? The Class the Stars Fell On

West Point Class of 2015 - will history repeat?

The West Point class of 2015 that graduated a few weeks ago has a lot of tradition to live up to.  Besides having attended one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the US, they are the centennial class to the Class the Stars Fell On.  Will history repeat itself?

West Point’s Class of 1915 graduated as Europe was in the middle of World War I, and the US would soon enter the war.  As new officers of a very small peacetime army, the class of 1915 led the core of army professionals who knew how the military worked when men flooded into the army in 1917 and 1918.  The Class of 1915 was a step ahead of the rest of the newly recruited Army in getting to the front lines and knowing what to do when they got there.  The timing gave the class just about enough time to figure out what they were doing as junior officers before leading the US in a charge across Europe that brought WWI to its end.

Of course, victory always looks good on a military resume, but senior officers after WWI didn’t do so well, as there was a general feeling that the war had been badly run at the highest levels.  20 years later as WWII approached, there was a push to promote competent new officers over more senior officers if they appeared less competent.  The junior officers who had made a name for themselves in the war and were still around 20 years later were promoted in large numbers, none more than the Class of 1915.

A general’s rank insignia is the star, from 1 to 5 stars.  The one-star general, a brigadier general, might command 1000 men, but a five-star general is the General of the Army, the highest possible Army rank.  Over one third of the Class of 1915 ended up as generals, the most famous being Omar Bradley and Dwight Eisenhower.

Eisenhower, of course, went on to achieve the rank of President.  But while the President can tell generals what to do, he is himself answerable to yet another rank – the average American voter – and eventually Eisenhower achieved that rank too.

Here are the names of the class of 2015; let’s see what they end up doing in 2045 or so. Meanwhile, the t-shirts are available through the West Point Museum, the oldest federal museum, with a collection going back to George Washington.

Posted in Ewan Tallentire art, Historyonashirt, WWI | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express

Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express t-shirt design

Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express t-shirt design

Was Buffalo Bill in the Pony Express, or wasn’t he?  We found in visiting the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave in Golden, Colorado that this is a matter of controversy.  Museum director Steve Friesen points out in his book about Buffalo Bill that it’s sort of a moot point.  After all, what can certainly be said is that without Buffalo Bill, nobody now would probably have heard of the Pony Express.

The Pony Express, the express mail service carried by relays of riders on horseback across the West, only existed from 1860 to 1861; it was quickly overtaken by the new technology of the Iron Horse.  Some say Buffalo Bill would have been too young to ride in it, and while few mothers today would want their 14-year-olds employed in something like the Pony Express, Buffalo Bill lived in a different age – he had already left home to work, herding cattle and driving a wagon train, at the age of 11.

Buffalo Bill was later an Army scout and got his name hunting buffalo.  He popularized the Pony Express in his Wild West show of the late 1800s.  The show was intended to be both educational and entertaining (sort of like most museums….) With this show, East Coast (and eventually English) audiences were introduced to cowboys and Indians as well as rodeo-type events, all presented by real cowboys, real Indians, real animals, and Annie Oakley.

(Historical side note: for less-than-accurate details but a memorable show about the Wild West show, watch the musical Annie Get Your Gun, the title of which sounds a bit odd unless you realize it refers to the opening line of the WWI “Over There” song, “Johnny, get your gun”, and the songs were by Irving Berlin, who was in the US Army in WWI and composed his own famous WWI song Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning).

Buffalo Bill is actually buried at the site of the museum, on Lookout Mountain west of Denver, a steep foothill of the Rockies that gives a great view of Denver and the beginning of the Great Plains.

The t-shirt design avoids the controversy by showing Buffalo Bill presenting the Pony Express, with a rider starting in Missouri and leaping the Rocky Mountains to get to the end of the trail in California.  The t-shirts are available at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave in Colorado, the Pony Express National Museum in Missouri, and (if you’re not near either museum) Historyonashirt on Etsy.

Posted in Ewan Tallentire art, Historyonashirt, Old West, WWI | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

1917 Harleys

Over There Harleys 1917Did you know a Harley motorcycle was the first vehicle into Germany across the lines after the Armistice in World War I?

Motorcycles were around before WWI, but few motorcycle companies survived the war and the Depression.  Harley-Davidson got a good start in that era from Army contracts; about half of the Harley motorcycles produced while the US was involved in WWI went to the military.

Though motorcycle technology was far from what it is today, these new vehicles were still better than a horse at least in not getting tired.  But in order to have motorcycles somebody had to know how to fix them.  The Army developed a school for its quartermasters on motorcycle maintenance which was the origin of today’s Harley-Davidson University.

You can learn more about the 1917 Harley and its uses in WWI at the National WWI Museum.

Posted in Historyonashirt, WWI | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

More WWI aviation articles

About Ernst Udet and the Red Baron.

Posted in Red Baron, WWI | Comments Off

Update on WWI Museum

Andy Parks, director of the VAFM museum, who personally met many WWI pilots and has a great collection of their souvenirs, is excited about the War Horse movie.  Now that we have no more WWI veterans – we just went through the first Veteran’s Day (formerly Armistice Day) for which there were no WWI veterans alive – Andy is hoping for the 100th anniversaries of WWI events to reawaken interest in the history of the First World War.

One interesting comment from Andy about movies of WWI aircraft is that all of them since “The Blue Max” have had aerial sequences that looked like video games.  The reality is that flight is much more fluid and graceful, and no recent movie has captured that.

And the SPAD has colors on it now, honoring James Norman Hall.

Posted in Vintage Aero Flying Museum, WWI | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Taking a break, to write about Iwo Jima

Okay, I decided there needed to be a children’s book about Bill Hudson, the Iwo Jima veteran I know, whom I talked to Memorial Day weekend.  So now I’m working on writing one.  I’ve gotten many encouraging comments on the idea of writing the book, but also several comments along the line of “How can you write a book for children about all that blood and gore?”

Well, despite what Hollywood thinks, you don’t have to specifically show blood and gore to be horrifying.  And you don’t have to be horrifying to convince the reader that something was an unpleasant experience.  If anything, it’s counterproductive even with adults because most adults, especially if they’ve watched a few violent movies, have learned ways to talk and think about horrible, disgusting things while blocking the horror of it out of their minds.

Anyway, there are some people who understand that while children don’t need to know the details, they do need to know history, from people who were there.  Especially since a 17-year-old counts as a child, but an 18-year-old could end up in a place like Iwo Jima.

It sounds like there is someone already interested in publishing this book if I can write it well enough.  So this is turning into a big project, and I’m going to take a vacation from this blog to concentrate on it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off