Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 192 – Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, first part

Part 192: Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, first part

In 1884, Thomas G. Moses accepted quite a bit of “night work” that subsequently funded a sketching trip to Colorado. At the time he was twenty-eight years old and had never seen the mountains. His traveling companions were John H. Young (26 yrs.), Edward A. Morange (19 yrs.), and Hardy C. Maratta (20 yrs.). The four artists travelled to Breckenridge and Moses recalled, “On our return trip we looked like a bunch of tramps, happy and ready for our old work.”

Fortunately for us, Moses recorded this adventure in a series of articles submitted to the Palette & Chisel Club Newsletter when he was seventy-one years old. Beginning in February, 1928, his series “Tom Moses’ Trips: Breckenridge, Col.” began and continued for five consecutive installments until June of that same year. I am going to share this delightful tale as it gives great insight into the each of the four artists. These remarkable individuals would later all have a lasting affect on both the performing arts and fine art world. Here is his first installment:

The Palette & Chisel, Vol. V, No. 2, February 1928. Tom Moses’ Trips, Breckenridge, Col.

Thomas G. Moses’ work as scenic artist has taken him to many strange places. Sometimes he has gone to gather material and at other times to execute commissions. As he is a careful observer of men, customs and local scenes, this series of accounts of his sketching trips contains much of unusual interest.

John H. Young, Edward Morange, Hardesty Maratta and myself talked and planned for over a year regarding a trip to the mountains of Colorado. In our every day work of Scenic Painting we were called upon to paint all kinds of mountain scenes, and, as we had never seen a real mountain, we had to rely upon photographs or magazine cuts for our ideas. So we were, naturally, anxious to see the wonderful piles of rock and earth.

We started on the 15th of June, 1884, at one o’clock P. M. We also started out to be very economical. Instead of a Pullman we tried the chair car on the Wabash Railroad, and after a very sleepless night we arrived in Kansas City at 9 A. M. and found a very dirty and wild looking city. To an artist’s eye it was picturesque, with its many hills and smoking factories. An awful mob of people were at the depot, going and coming, hurrying like a lot of ants.

It appeared to me as if Kansas City were the melting pot of America. Quite a number of invalids were being hustled on their way to Arizona or California, as the last resort to regain their health, or they were returning home to die, after fruitless search for health, in the West, and having waited too long before taking the trip.

Our experience with the chair car was not satisfactory, so we secured four lower berths from Kansas City to Denver.

We stopped at noon at Ellis, where there was a good station dining-room. The passengers were given ample time to eat, and everyone enjoyed the meal. The train carried two buffet sleepers, but could not furnish a full meal.

We had dressed ourselves for a rough trip, and had on old clothes and flannel shirts. We certainly looked like tramps, excepting that our clothes were clean. We didn’t want to be loaded down with a lot of clothing, for we had enough to look after in our sketching outfit, a big tent, complete, cooking utensils, and a big sailor’s bag, loaded down with canned gods, sausages and a boiled ham. The passengers were very much interested in us. They made up their minds that we were going to Colorado to prospect for gold.

I was made treasurer, all of the money was turned to me, and knowing we would have some expenses that we hadn’t figured on, I made up my mind that we would go a little slow until we had reached our camping place.

We had quite a day traveling through the eastern part of Kansas. It was rather desolate, very few trees, and only a few real farm houses scattered along the road between the small stations. A jack-rabbit looked as large as a small deer. It did not seem as though we would ever reach any high ground, and, as I had never seen so much prairie before, it was interesting, in a way, for we felt it was being worked up to a big climax for the next day.

About six o’clock the boys were all hungry. As our car was a buffet affair, I ordered tea and toast. The porter had a fine linen tablecloth, and when he brought in the tea and toast there were three very disgusted boys. Young said nothing but left the car and was gone about ten minutes, and then returned with a can of corn and a large link of Summer Sausage. It was fully two feet long. He flourished it over his head and said, loud enough for the whole car to hear, “Live and let live, that’s our motto.” Of course, the passengers were amused, but the porter and cook was not. He rushed out for some paper, which he spread over his damask tablecloth to save it from the sausage grease. He warmed up our corn, so we finally got a meal. Our bag of canned goods was in the baggage car, so there was no chance of our suffering from hunger so long as Young stood in with the baggage man.

Pike’s Peak and the Rocky Mountain range in the distance.

Early next morning, as soon as the sun was up, I had my berth made up, and the same old prairie, a little more rolling, met my anxious gaze. I fully expected to be in the foothills by this time. We were all up and dressed before six o’clock. We discovered a bright golden and pink object on the horizon away to the northwest. The porter informed us with a hearty laugh at our ignorance, that that was the snowcapped Pike’s Peak, one hundred and twenty-five miles away. We thought he was joking; it was simply wonderful and resembled a dish of strawberry ice-cream.

Pike’s Peak.

The day was bright and hot, but we kept our eyes on that ice-cream. In the meantime, we introduced the porter to set the table for our breakfast, the canned goods were added to what the porter could furnish, and we feasted again. The passengers had learned by this time we were a quartet of temperamental artists. We only lacked the accepted gaunt and hungry features of the comic paper versions.

As we drew nearer to the foothills the outlook became more interesting; the ice-cream cone was becoming more blue, and the richer blues and purples were creeping in between the great opalescent distance and the golden brown of our foreground, framing a picture that was far beyond our wildest dreams of what was in store for us. We sat as the window or stood on the platform every moment we could, afraid that we would miss some of it.

Pike’s Peak, painting by Thomas Moses. Image discovered online at www.media.mutualart.com.

To be continued

(The “To be continued” was at the end of each installment – not me this time!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *