Friday, May 27, 2011

Memories of the Prairie Lecture Series, 2011 Lineup

Memories of the Prairie is an annual lecture series held every Saturday at 7:00pm at the Dickinson County Heritage Center in Abilene, Kansas.  If you are in the area, be sure to come to these fantastic programs.

June 4 – *Kansas Women in the Civil War-Diane Eickhoff
June 11 – *The Plains Indians – Erin Pouppitt
June 18 – *The Kansas Cattle Towns – Jim Gray
June 25 – William Bent and the Santa Fe Trail – John Atkinson
July 2 – The True Meaning of the 4th of July – Jeff Sheets
July 9 – Censorship in Kansas Cinemas – Matt Eaton
July 16 – Bleeding Kansas – Jeff Sheets
July 23 – The National Day of the American Cowboy Celebration at Old Abilene Town
July 30 – Annual Ice Cream Social
*Programs sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council

"Our Community, Our Stories," A New Exhibit at the Jeffcoat Museum for Summer 2011

The Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum is featuring a new portrait photography exhibit, "Our Community, Our Stories: Through the Eyes of the Jeffcoat Studio," featuring several different stories about some of our area’s residents.  This exhibit will be available to view through September 3rd, 2011 at the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum.

In 1921, Paul H. Jeffcoat opened a small photography studio in Abilene and began taking portraits for many different individuals.  In 1925, Jeffcoat constructed a new studio in Abilene, which is home to the museum today.  His son, Bill, took up the trade as well, and together, the Jeffcoat family worked in photography for the greater part of the twentieth century.  

This exhibit features over fifty photographs of many different residents of the Dickinson County area.  Accompanying each photograph is a brief caption, many of which were written by Bill Jeffcoat himself.  The people featured in this exhibit were/are businessmen and women, homemakers, farmers, store clerks, plus many others.  Separate, they are simple stories; but together, they form a community.

Admission is free of charge, and the museum is open every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 9:00am-4:00pm after Memorial Day.  If you would like to schedule another time to visit the museum, arrangements can easily be made.  The Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum is located at 321 N. Broadway, Abilene.  For more information or to schedule a private viewing, please contact the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum at (785) 263-9882, or call the Dickinson County Historical Society at (785) 263-2681.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

8 Wonders of Kansas Guidebook, Kansas Tourism

The Kansas Sampler Foundation began the 8 Wonders of Kansas project in 2007.  For those of you who know nothing about this program, the public were encouraged to vote for their favorite attractions in Kansas.  For the first contest, the public chose from twenty-four finalists, these eight wonders:

Big Well, Greensburg
Castle Rock and Monument Rocks, Gove County
Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, Barton and Stafford Counties
Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Abilene
Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, Hutchinson
Kansas Underground Salt Museum, Hutchinson
St. Fidelis Church (also known as the Cathedral of the Plains), Victoria
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Chase County

Over the next few years, the Kansas Sampler Foundation compiled many more votes and formed eight additional lists focusing on Kansas architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, and people.  Including all of the finalists and those picked for the original 8 Wonders list, this creates 216 different places to visit in Kansas.

The Eisenhower Presidential Library has been displaying an exhibit focused on these many attractions throughout this year, and will continue to do so until September 5, 2011.  Recently, the Kansas Sampler Festival also released a guidebook focusing on the many wonders of Kansas.  More information on this book can be found here.  This is a fantastic book that not only features a plethora of information on some interesting things to do and see in Kansas, but also features some amazing photographs of each and every place included on the list. 

It always baffles me when I hear people say that there is nothing to do in Kansas, or that Kansas is a boring place to live.  If you truly believe this, you are not trying hard enough to find activities for yourself.  Do you like museums?  Kansas has several.  Do you like the outdoors?  Well Kansas has many scenic places to visit (Monument Rocks and the Flint Hills are just two examples).  Many Kansas communities have art shows, incredible music festivals, live theatre, and sporting events.  This list could go on and on.  The point is, there are plenty of things to do in Kansas, if you just get out and do them.

This summer, I am going to try to visit a number of the attractions featured in the Kansas Sampler Foundation's 8 Wonders of Kansas Guidebook.  As I visit these, I plan to take some photographs and write a blog post about each of these places I visit (a few places will be pretty easy since I live in Abilene, and our community has a number of attractions featured in the book).

I have lived in Kansas my entire life.  I love learning new things about Kansas history, and I consider myself at least somewhat knowledgeable about the history of my state.  However, there are many places in Kansas that I have never been to, and many things I know nothing about.  I plan to change that.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The National Jukebox

The Library of Congress just recently debuted a new feature on their website, the National Jukebox.  With this feature, visitors to the Library of Congress website can listen to over ten thousand historic audio recordings.  Many of these are classical instrumental and vocal pieces and spoken recordings.  A few examples of what you can listen to are: recordings of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, many early jazz and folk music recordings, and the first recording of "Rhapsody in Blue" play by George Gershwin.

NPR has an interesting piece on the National Jukebox, which you can listen to and read about here.

The Acme Telephone Company

A little while ago, I wrote a blog post on the Volkmann family and their cabin, which is one of the buildings visitors can tour while at the Dickinson County Heritage Center.  For today’s post, I thought it would be nice to highlight another building at the Heritage Center, the Acme Telephone Company office.

The Acme Telephone Company was organized in 1905 so that the rural residents of the Acme community could have telephone service.  Acme was a small community located southwest of Abilene in Dickinson County, Kansas.  A man named Jack Musser was actually the person to start it all.  He started out by installing a switchboard in his kitchen so that his family could work as operators for their neighbors.  His daughter worked as an operator for quite some time until she married and moved out of the home.  In those days, telephone operators were rather interesting folks.  Since they spoke to everyone in the community, and presumably heard many conversations, they would know just about everything there was to know in their communities.

Two years after Musser began the company, in 1907, the office (which today stands at the Heritage Center) was built.  Inside the building, there are three rooms.  The first room served as an office and a place for the switchboard to stand.  The other two rooms in the building served as a bedroom and a kitchen.  These amenities were necessary to have for operators since many worked twenty-four shifts.  The company had great success, and by 1908, the business had 165 stockholders.

In the winter of 1937, a terrible ice storm struck Acme.  All but one of the Acme Telephone Company’s thirty lines was knocked down.  The repairmen (many of which were also farmers in the Acme area) cautiously worked in the cold weather and repaired the lines so that service could resume.  While they had fixed the lines to be in working order, it actually took close to a year for all of the broken telephone poles to be fixed or replaced.

The Acme Telephone Company served their area for sixty-four years.  In 1969, the company was sold to Tri-County Telephone.  Automatic exchange technology had reached the Acme community, and all of the customers received dial telephones.  Telephone exchange operators and small rural companies like the Acme Telephone Company were no longer needed.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Photography Certificate

Howdy folks!  I thought I would share a picture of this photography certificate belonging to Paul H. Jeffcoat.  It seemed interesting to me.

Ahoy! It’s the Story of Alexander Graham Bell!

Though he is mostly known for the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell was an inventor for most of his life.  Bell made his first invention at the age of twelve.  He created a device that would remove the stalk from wheat, quickening the process of cleaning and grinding the crop.  This proved to be a tell-tale sign that Bell would have a marvelous brain and an ability to make new discoveries.

As an adult, Bell became a teacher of the deaf.  He had an amazing technique to teach deaf children to speak (which at the time was seen as a hopeless endeavor by most).  Bell’s interest in the human voice and sound would later lead him in the pursuit of creating devices that could allow sound to travel great distances.

Bell began working on a device that would send multiple tones over a telegraph wire.  At the time, he was calling this idea the “harmonic telegraph.”  While Bell was working on the creation of this device, he brought on an assistant named Thomas Watson.  Over the years, Watson would build many prototypes for Bell.  The duo worked diligently on the harmonic telegraph while Bell continued his teaching duties as well.  At one point, Bell even experimented with an actual human ear, trying to track the movements that sounds make as they are recognized by the ear.

While working on the harmonic telegraph, Bell came to a realization in 1875 that it would be a better idea to abandon the project.  Instead, he began working on a device that would transmit a voice over a wire using electricity.  Later that year, Bell and Watson were able to transmit the sounds of a human voice with their telephone.  The words were unintelligible, but the two were making progress.

After more laborious work, the first message was sent over the telephone in March 1876.  Bell and Watson each sat in separate rooms ready to test their newly modified device.  As soon as Watson placed his ear to the receiver he distinctly heard Bell exclaim, “Mr. Watson!  Come here, I want you!”  Watson ran to Bell’s room, quickly telling him that he had heard every word.  Bell was jubilant.  As it were, Bell had spoken those famous words due to the fact he had split battery acid upon his trousers, and needed assistance from Watson.  However once Watson had told Bell the terrific news, he completely forgot about the acid.

Bell premiered his newly created telephone at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in June 1876.  The device made a large impression with the exposition judges.  However in the early days of the telephone there were some critics.  Some referred to the device as simply a toy, and that it would never become a necessity.  As time passed, this of course, was proven false.

Throughout the rest of the year, Bell and Watson continued to perform experiments with the telephone, testing the distance that a clear message could travel.  The telephone was here, and it was here to stay.

During the rest of his life, Bell worked on many other projects such as flying machines (many involving kites) and creating phonograph records made from wax.  None of these projects would have the lasting impact of the telephone.

In 1915, Bell and Watson took part in the ceremonies for the opening of a transcontinental telephone line.  Bell in New York spoke to Watson in San Francisco.  Bell stepped up to the telephone and exclaimed to his friend, “Mr. Watson!  Come here, I want you!”  Watson told Bell that of course he would come, but it would take about a week.

To learn more about Alexander Graham Bell and telephone technology, visit the Museum of Independent Telephony, which is housed in the Dickinson County Heritage Center in Abilene, Kansas.