Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 204 – Thomas G. Moses’ sketching Trip in 1885, Piedmont, West Virginia

Part 204: Thomas G. Moses’ sketching Trip in 1885, Piedmont, West Virginia 

Tom Moses’ Trips – West Virginia, 1885 (page 3, column 3 of the Palette & Chisel newsletter)

“We awoke and dressed early next morning; we were still in Ohio. The landscape was becoming quite rolling, which meant that we were fast approaching the Blue Ridge Mountain. The weather was cool and bracing and a little misty, which softened the brilliant autumn tints. After leaving Wheeling the grade became quite sharp and the road was very crooked. My breakfast did not settle well, which worried me a bit; Tryon declared I was car-sick; I have traveled too much to be affected that way. The track was not well ballasted.

We went through a number of tunnels and one, which was over a mile in length, was at a town called Tunneltown. We were now in West Virginia, on the Cheat River. The color was wonderful; the extreme blue of the distant mountains gave the whole landscape a most brilliant opalescent effect. Tryon was simply wild with joy, jumping from one side of the car to the other and calling me “There look a that: isn’t it wonderful! Aren’t you glad that you came? Did you ever see such color”? We both felt like jumping off; at every turn we could see a picture. As we neared Piedmont, West Virginia, the scenery became wilder and more colorful.

Image of Piedmont from the West Virginia and Regional History Center. Here is the link: https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/
Image of Piedmont from the West Virginia and Regional History Center. Here is the link: https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/
Image of Piedmont from the West Virginia and Regional History Center. Here is the link: https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/

We arrived there at 11:00 A. M. and found something of a hotel with the Post Office and General Store in front of it, which seemed to be the general loafing-place for the whole town. We made several pencil sketches and two watercolors. As it was Sunday we found plenty of inquisitive people. Everything looked good to us – very wild, lots of granite boulders and all kinds of trees, full of color.

At this time, Tryon was very much in love with a schoolteacher in Haverhill, Massachusetts, whose name was Hattie. He promised to write her every day and she had promised to reciprocate. So we spent the evening writing letters to our dear ones.

Early in the morning, before we reached Piedmont, I noticed a large and very distinguished-looking gentleman pass through our car several times. He seemed to be very interested in our traps, easels, sketching umbrellas and stools which we had to carry. He inquired of the Pullman conductor who we were, and was informed that we were artists looking for some wild country to paint. He told the conductor to advise us to go up to Davis, on the West Maryland road, which he did. The gentleman was Stephen B. Elkins, U. S. Senator. His father-in-law was H. G. Davis, who lived at Deer Park, where they left the train.

H. G. Davis and his mother Louisa Warfield Brown in 1845.
Image of the the Piedmont, West Virginia, railroad station where bank founder H.G. Davis was once station master, c. 1860. Photo from the Piedmont Historic Preservation Foundation.

We were also instructed to see Mr. Harrison, Superintendent of the West Maryland road, in Piedmont, for transportation. This we did on Monday morning, and we furnished passes to Davis.

The train did not leave until 2:00 P. M. We were agreeably surprised to see Mr. Elkins, Mr. Davis and two boys get on the train, having come down from Deer Park on an early train. Mr Elkins soon introduced himself and the other members of his party. They were not only interested in the road but in the vast coalmines all along the road. As we started to climb the mountains, the Blue Ridge, every half mile revealed to us new beauties of this wonderful mountain country; here was indeed a virgin forest.

We arrived in Davis about five o’clock. The first thing we saw at the depot to remind us that we were in a wild country were six good-sized deer, dressed for shipment. They were piled on a truck and a number of eastern hunters, with dozens of deer-hounds, were strolling about, enjoying the wild life. The log hotel was certainly very picturesque and nicely situated on the banks of the Blackwater River, a branch of the Cheat River. It was pretty well filled, but Mr. Elkins requested the landlord to take good care of us, which he did.

While we were waiting for our dinner, and were all seated on the big porch, Tryon was seized with stomach cramps. Mr. Elkins noticed Tryon’s groaning and said, “Mr. Tryon, if you will go up to Room 3 you will find a black grip; open it and right on top you will find a cure for stomach trouble.” Tryon did this and came down feeling better, thanked Mr. Elkins, and within fifteen minutes had another cramp. Mr. Elkins said, “Go after it again, Tryon,” and he did. This time he must have taken a good long one, for it seemed to settle him.

We certainly did full justice to our dinner. We had plenty of fresh venison steak, thanks to our hunters, and after dinner we gathered in the big living-room, or smoking-room as it was soon made by the dozen or more cigars and pipes. As the hunters were for the most part from New York, one can readily imagine the big yarns that were told, but we enjoyed them.”

To be continued…

Historical note: The town of Piedmont started as a handful of frame houses, but H. G. Davis saw an opportunity in the area’s coal and timber resources. In the early 1850s, Davis took a promotion as station agent for the new Piedmont station on the B&O line and lived in a boxcar for his first year until he built a house and sent for his wife. Davis partnered with his brother Thomas B. Davis in a general store that would perform full-scale merchandising, shipping and supplying the B&O with coal, oil and lumber.

Lumber became huge business; demand soared for wooden railroad ties to complement iron and steel rails across the country. H.G. Davis & Co. grew quickly, so much that Davis was able to leave the railroad and devote himself fully to the new family enterprise. Information from: http://www.huntington150years.com/the-story-of-huntingtons-roots/

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 203 – The Perpetual Student

Part 203: The Perpetual Student

Thomas G. Moses wrote about his sketching trip to West Virginia in 1885. He published a series of articles for the Palette & Chisel newsletter where Moses described his journey and traveling companions, especially the “eccentric” Henry C. Tryon. In one section, he described how Tryon became the student of Thomas Moran (1837-1926).

Moses wrote, “I certainly enjoyed talking on any subject with Tryon. He was very strong on politics, which did not particularly interest me. He was very interesting when it came to anything on art. He had been a pupil of Thomas Moran. Tryon told this story: He had bothered Moran for some time trying to induce Moran to take him on as a pupil. Moran was too much of a gentleman to throw Tryon out of his studio, so he finally took an old canvas, slapped on a lot of color with a palette knife, handed it to Tryon and said: “Take home that, make a picture out of the accidentals and bring it back in a week.” Moran felt that Tryon would throw the canvas away and not come back. The week-end found Tryon back and Moran was so well pleased with the result that he took Tryon in as a pupil, which was very beneficial to Tryon who followed Moran’s style of work even into his scenic painting, as well as his oil. He enjoyed telling this story; he surely must have made a good picture of Moran’s accidentals.

Thomas Moran.

Moran was born on February 12, 1837 in Bolton, Lancashire. His parents were handloom weavers, but the industrialization of the weaving process threatened their livelihood. This necessitated the family to seek out new opportunities in America during 1844. The Morans settled near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Peter, Edward and Thomas, would become interested in art. By the age of sixteen, Thomas began working as an apprentice for the Philadelphia engraving firm of Scattergood and Telfer. At this time, he also began to concentrate on refining his own artistic techniques and studied with James Hamilton (1819-1878).

Hamilton was also an immigrant who had moved to Philadelphia from Ireland with his family in 1834. He enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, studying painting, engraving, and etching. It was Hamilton who introduced Moran to the paintings of J.M.W would remain a major influence on him throughout his career. By 1875, Hamilton sold enough paintings to finance a trip around the world.

James Hamilton. I located mages of maritime artworks, including those of James Hamilton, at Vallejo Gallery. Here is the link: https://www.vallejogallery.com
Detail of painting from image above found online at Vallejo Gallery. Here is the link: https://www.vallejogallery.com

Moran also traveled extensively to hone his own artistic skills and ventured to Lake Superior. There he sketched images of the Great Lakes, brought them back to Philadelphia and created lithographs. By the mid-1860s, Moran was exhibiting some very sophisticated paintings.

He married the landscape artist and etcher Mary Nimmo. The couple moved to New York where Moran was hired as an illustrator for Scribner’s Monthly. He was soon promoted to their chief illustrator, Moran was well on his way to achieving the status of a nationally-recognized landscape artist and illustrator.

Thomas Moran. “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone” from the Smithsonian collection.

In 1871, he went on a geological survey of the west, studying now what is now as Yellowstone Park. For 40 days, the group traveled to thirty different sites in the region. The artist was invited by Dr. Ferdinand Hayden, director of the United States Geological Survey and funded by American financier Jay Cooke and Scribner’s Monthly. He was hired along with the photographer William Henry Jackson to document the natural landscape. Moran and Jackson would travel west on another expedition lead by Maj. John Wesley Powel a few years later. Their collective work of canyons, creels, geysers, and hot springs would prove instrumental in the area’s preservation. Congress would decide to elevate and preserve the Yellowstone expanse as a national park in 1872.

1908 Thomas Moran print from the Twin City Scenic Company collection used by scenic artists as sources for theatre scenery. University of MN Performing Arts Archives. PA43 Supplemental Box 3) MSSC3010.
Thomas Moran, 1883.

Moran also entered into a successful business relationship with the Santa Fe Railroad. The Railroad commissioned him to produce paintings of the west as a marketing device. They were turned into color lithographs to introduce the public to the beautiful western region. Throughout his life, Moran would continue to have a lifelong passion for the Yellowstone National Park. His signature monogram, a linked T & M, even created a “Y” to signify Yellowstone.

Signature of Thomas Moran with T and M forming a Y.

Throughout the remainder of his life, Moran continued to travel. Even after the death of his wife in 1900, he would return to Yellowstone with his daughter Ruth almost every year for the next two decades. He would sometimes barter his paintings for travel and lodging. Even in his seventies, he braved the bumpy trails to capture the beauty of the Rockies and was quoted as saying, “I have painted them all my life and shall continue to paint them as long as I can hold a brush.”

Thomas Moran.
Thomas Moran by Howard Russell Butler, 1922
Thomas Moran palette and brushes in the East Hampton Library collection.

Moran eventually settled in Santa Barbara, California until his passing in 1926. He would travel to the Acoma and Laguna pueblos to paint the landscape and native peoples. This was the same locations where Thomas G. Moses also travelled to sketch during that time.

1906 Thomas Moran print “Sunset in Old Mexico” in the Twin City Scenic Company Collection, University of Minnesota Performing Arts Archives. (PA43 supplemental box 3) MSSC3000. Handwritten note on back says, “Reverse and use right half of picture only. No figures. For West.”

James Hamilton was Thomas Moran’s art instructor in the 1860s. Moran was Henry C. Tryon’s art instructor by the 1870s. In 1885, Tryon was referring to Thomas G. Moses and John H. Young as his own students during their sketching trip to West Virginia.

Scenic artists, such as Tryon and Moses, would study the works of their predecessors. Scenic studios would replicate popular compositions such as those displayed in fine art galleries. Everything was painted to delight the audience, whether they were in the salon or the theatre. One example of a scenic artist who took Moran’s “Sunset in Old Mexico” and replicated the composition on a front curtain for a theatre while working at the Twin City Scenic Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota was John Z. Wood (1846-1919). Wood was a contemporary of Tryon and only a year older (previous installments about Wood can be found in #130 and 147-151).

John Z. Wood front curtain in the Twin City Scenic Company Collection based on Thomas Moran print “Sunset in Old Mexico.” University of Minnesota Performing Arts Archives. MSSC1024.

It all comes full circle as the scenic artist was a perpetual art student, studying and replicating the works of those they considered artistic masters.

To be continued…

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 202 – Thomas G. Moses’ Sketching Trip to West Virginia with Henry C. Tryon in 1885

Part 202: Thomas G. Moses’ Sketching Trip to West Virginia with Henry C. Tryon in 1885 

In the spring of 1885, Thomas wrote that he and Ella “got the house fever” and subsequently spent some time looking for a new place to live. They finally settled on 721 West Harrison Street and a well-built white stone house that was well built with eight rooms. They bought it and moved in that June, even though they were still responsible for the rent on the Centre Avenue House for another year. In the new home, Moses had a studio with North light. He wrote, “We enjoyed our new home very much. I had the front room nicely decorated by Mitchell and Halbach and I more than enjoyed the little studio. With the extra work from the outside, it paid me to keep the room for a studio. The children, Pitt and Mamie were a mischievous pair, getting into all kinds of trouble and kept Ella on the watch every minute”

In 1931, Moses reflected on his 1885 diary entries. He wrote, “My old diary shows a very discontented mind. I was so anxious to get out of doors to sketch and I could never find the time. I contributed to as much road work as usual, but the big cars being used by all the roads enabled us to ship larger stuff which cut down on travelling for Me.” In October of that year, however, Moses did find the time to go on another sketching trip – this time with John H. Young and Henry C. Tryon. The three journeyed to West Virginia and Moses mentioned their adventures in his 1931 typed manuscript, “I have written this up in detail – elsewhere.”

I never knew where else the story might be until last fall when I paged through the John R. Rothgeb papers. There were photocopies of his article for the 1885 Palette & Chisel newsletter, just like his 1884 trip to Breckenridge. I am going to post the article because it is hilarious. It also provides some good insight into the artistic temperament of Henry C. Tryon. Remember that Tryon was nine years older than Moses at this time (38 years compared to Moses’ 29 years). I also really enjoyed reading about this “eccentric” individual as he was certainly not an ideal traveling companion.

Here is the first snippet of Moses’ first installment about his 1885 trip to West Virginia published in the Palette and Chisel newsletter.

The Grand Central Station in Chicago where Thomas G. Moses and Henry C. Tryon would have departed on the B & O RR in 1885. Image from Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, August 30, 1856.
1885 Railroad map of West Virginia.

Tom Moses’ Trips

West Virginia, 1885 (page 3, column 3)

Henry Tryon and I started for West Virginia on a sketching trip. I had more bother and worry with Tryon than a hen with a brood of chickens; he was simply impossible. A very clever painter but he was not balanced – very temperamental. While he was more than ten years my senior I had to lead him to everything that we had to do for the trip. I went to the B. & O. R. R. Co. and endeavored to secure free transportation. I tried to show them the great benefit our trip would be to the advertising department, as Mr. Tryon expected to write an account for the Chicago Tribune. They had plenty of this advertising, but encouraged us by giving us half fare both ways. We were highly pleased to get this with the understanding that John Young was to follow at the same rate within the week.

I had a struggle to get Tryon down to the depot at 5 P.M. – the train left at 5:10. While we were rushing for the sleeper, Tryon stopped – he must get into his trunk which I had checked early in the day. I informed him that we had no time – the baggage was being put on the train. He insisted, so I went with him at 5:05 to the baggage-car. He asked the baggage master to pull the trunk off the truck so he could open it. After much grumbling it was lowered to the platform. Tryon untied the rope, unlocked it and from the top tray took out a fifteen-cent package of Durham smoking tobacco; replacing the rope he informed the baggage-man he was through with it. The baggage-man had been watching him and when he saw what was taken out he made some remarks that would not look well in print. Tryon never lost his temper, so the remarks did not affect him. We had less than two minutes to get to our sleeper, the trunk was thrown on and away we went. I never mentioned the incident again and Tryon forgot it immediately.

B&O No. 10 Baggage Car from 1875.
B&O No. 10 Baggage Car from 1875. It featured large sliding doors that made loading and unloading easy for the baggae handler and usually had an office area for the baggage master. These cars did not feature end platforms. This was to discourage thieves and robbers from jumping into the car. Here is the link to the museum and this image: http://www.borail.org/BO-No10-Baggage-Car.aspx

To be continued…

Historical note: Moses and Tryon probably departed from Chicago’s Great Central Depot in 1885. This was the statin that served the B&O RR in Chicago. This structure opened on June 21, 1856 at an expense of $250,000. For a brief period, it was the largest building in downtown Chicago. The train shed was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 but still remained in operation, even after a second fire damaged the head house in 1874. The station eventually proved inadequate to handle growing traffic and was closed on April 17, 1893. The Grand Central Station on Harrison Street and Fifth Avenue, replaced it and began serving the Chicago & Northern Pacific, the Chicago Great Western, and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroads.

A view of Chicago’s Grand Central station by Louis Kurtz and published by Jevne & Almini. Thomas G. Moses worked for P. M. Almini when he first arrived in Chicago as a young man.
Grand Central Depot that opened and replaced Grand Central Station in Chicago during 1893. This illustration was done by another scenic artist, Charles Graham (the same person who inspired Thomas G. Moses to start a career in scenic art). Image was posted in Harper’s Weekly.

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 201 – Henry C. Tryon at the Pork House

Part 201: Henry C. Tryon at the Pork House

The converted “Pork House” for the Indianapolis Scottish Rite. 

A description of the Indianapolis Scottish Rite building was published in the Salt Lake City Herald on August 17, 1883 (page 1). The scenery, stage machinery and effects were traced back to Scottish Rite member. Henry C. Tryon. Consistories from neighboring states attended the dedication ceremony to examine his skills. These grand opening events were great exposure for degree productions, drawing members from across the country and providing glimpses into the potential of Scottish Rite degree work.

Excitement continued to spread for Masonic theaters. These Masonic events caused word to spread fast among Scottish Rite Valleys in the United States. Elaborate stage mechanisms and ornate auditoriums were described in detail. Scottish Rite Valleys sought the best theatrical manufacturers available and went far beyond local options. What I find fascinating is that many articles highlight the scenic artist or studio and not always the architects.

The public’s praise of Tryon was a selling feature for the entire endeavor. He was noted as “a man of unquestioned artistic genius, and endowed with all that is necessary to success in the highest art walks.” Tryon’s popularity would truly be an asset at the Sosman & Landis Studio. No wonder why the hired him by 1884!

Here is one of the articles about the Indiana Consistory that I discovered a few weeks ago. I was thrilled with the amount of detail provided about the stage and auditorium spaces.

Indiana Consistory, Thirty-second Degree, S.P.R.S.

“We have been favored with a detailed description of the new home of the Scottish Rite bodies in Indiana, which will soon be dedicated to its Masonic uses, upon which occasion all consistories from adjoining States will participate. This will probably be the largest and grandest gathering of Thirty-second degree Masons ever convened in the United States. Of the members of Raper Commandery [York Rite] now on their tour to the triennial conclave at San Francisco all but four are Thirty-second Degree Masons and members of Indiana Consistory, S.P.R.S., and consequently are filled with enthusiasm at the approaching important Masonic event.

Event discussed in the newspaper article about the Indianapolis Scottish Rite. Image from the photo galleries of St. Bernard Commandery No. 35. Here is the link to their website as it full of fun images and very well done: http://www.chicagoyorkrite.org/commandery/CommanderyPhotoGalleries1870.html
Event discussed in the newspaper article about the Indianapolis Scottish Rite. Image from the photo galleries of St. Bernard Commandery No. 35. Here is the link to their website as it full of fun images and very well done: http://www.chicagoyorkrite.org/commandery/CommanderyPhotoGalleries1870.html

The building measures 66×80 feet and each of its six stories is built especially for, and will be used exclusively by Indiana Consistory. The main audience room is built like a theatre, with this exception, that the stage is elevated but two or three feet from the floor with steps leading to it. The floor and the stage will be used simultaneously for the working of the degrees while the visiting members occupy the circles or galleries above. The auditorium measures 66×69 feet with a height of 35 feet. The proscenium opening is 23 feet by 22 feet and the height from stage to “rigging loft” is sufficient to carry the drops entirely out of sight. As these “drops” are 26 feet high, it can readily be seen that the height is as great as is needed in even the largest theatres. Besides the principle room just spoken of, is another of less dimensions and with a smaller stage. The banquet and reception rooms are arranged with folding doors, in such a manner that all can be removed so that the entire width and depth of the building in this story can be made one grand room. The balance of the building and every possible out of the way corner is filled with mechanical contrivances necessary.

Each of the two stages is equipped with scenery, the subjects being the grandest and the most charming and beautiful possible. It is all purely artwork. Mr. Henry C. Tryon, the scenic artist of the Salt Lake Theatre, who is a member of this consistory, has been engaged to paint the scenery and to direct the construction and arrangement of the theatrical appliances. The members of Raper Commandery were therefore naturally eager to meet Mr. Tryon, who has not been in Indianapolis since he did similar work for their present building several years ago – and a genuine “love feast” was the result of the meeting.

From the foregoing brief description one can also readily understand the magnitude, grandeur and expense of the undertaking, and can also readily understand the satisfaction which the members of the consistory feel at having secured the services of so capable an artist as Mr. Henry C. Tryon. We cannot resist the temptation of “hitting” Mr. Tryon another blow. Of course, his reputation is as enviable in Indianapolis as it is here; but here we have the benefit of the artist’s greater experience, longer study and maturely developed talent, and naturally has given evidence of that more matured artistic feeling. Here he is recognized as being a man of unquestioned artistic genius, and endowed with all that is necessary to success in the highest art walks. He is also a man of a great deal more than average intelligence, is well read and is possessed of that peculiar temperament and tact, which, turned in any direction, would ensure him marked for success. But he possesses the artist’s soul, and in painting subjects of such human interest as those to be dealt with at the fitting up of this consistory, his highest sentiment must have the fullest play and produce the most delightful results. The subject is equal to the man; the man adequate to every demand of the subject. The consistory and Mr. Tryon may shake and exchange mutual congratulations.”

To be continued…


Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 200 – Welcome to the New Age

Part 200: Welcome to the New Age
“I’m waking up,
I feel it in my bones
(enough) to make my systems blow
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Welcome to the new age, to the new age”
My mind keeps playing “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons every time I think of when Scottish Rite degree work was first staged. It established a new expectation and standard for the Fraternity during the mid-nineteenth century. I also think of the Merriam-Webster definition of Radioactive – “having or producing a powerful and dangerous form of energy (called radiation).” Albert Pike probably viewed the theatrical staging of degree works in the Northern Jurisdiction as radioactive.
By 1904, the Scottish Rite would even publish “New Age Magazine,” a publication that would later morph into Scottish Rite Journal. However, today’s publication is a far cry from the original “The New Age Magazine.” The excitement and vibrancy of the Scottish Rite early-nineteenth-century membership was apparent throughout the articles. Topics included the history of freemasonry, interpretations of early fraternal documents, the opening of new Masonic buildings, notable individuals, poetry and other artistic, historical or interesting topics and events. The first year included an in-depth examination of the Albert Pike Consistory in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was written by Charles Rosenbaum and signaled a rallying cry for degree productions in the Southern Jurisdiction.
Remember that at this time degree work had been theatrically interpreted in one form or another for quite a while in the Northern Jurisdiction – at least 40 years. Scottish Rite Bodies in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction had renovated many spaces to include elaborate theater stages. The purchase of regalia, scenery and other properties necessitated the organization to seek extensive funding from an anticipated and an ever-increasing membership base.
In 1863, seven Masons met in Indianapolis, elected another sixteen petitioners to receive the degrees, and established an initiation fee of $50. They met in a rented space for $300 a year where Killian Van Rensselaer attended some of the meetings. By 1864, 45 men had received their 14th degree in the Adoniram Lodge of Perfection. In 1867, the Lodge appointed a committee to secure “larger and more suitable” rooms for their meetings and degree work.
Rental space for the Scottish Rite Bodies in Indianapolis before their purchase of the old pork house.
There were more than 400 members by 1881. Their second rental space included a 40×36 feet main hall with a height of 29 feet. A gallery was constructed on all three sides of this and a subscription campaign was initiated to raise $2000 to cover the expenses. Placing a gallery on three sides would certainly accommodate more members and provide a space for the audience during other performances conducted by the Scottish Rite Dramatic Association (founded in 1878). In 1882, a new venue for the Scottish Rite was sought and an existing building selected. The Indianapolis Scottish Rite “Special Committee on Buildings” favored the Townsley and Wiggins “Pork House.” Yes, a slaughterhouse and processing plant for pork.
The converted pork house for the Indianapolis Scottish Rite.
Photo of the charred remains. Indianapolis Scottish Rite – converted pork house.
To be continued…

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 199 – Henry C. Tryon and the Indiana Consistory

Part 199: Henry C. Tryon and the Indiana Consistory

While looking for other Salt Lake City newspaper articles about Henry C. Tryon I uncovered one about the Indiana Consistory. Tryon was not only a Scottish Rite member in Indianapolis, but also responsible for some of their earliest scenery. I could barely hold my excitement as I read through the article in its entirety. This was the proverbial smoking gun, a particular bit of evidence that I had been searching for since the mid-1990s.

Article that I discovered, linkingHenry C. Tryon with the Indianapolis Scottish Rite, 1883.
Exterior of the Indianapolis Scottish Rite described in the article and pictured in my dissertation.

For years, I sought to establish any concrete connection between the initial construction of scenery produced for degree productions in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Chicago. You see, there was a wave of “new and improved” Scottish Rite theaters that appeared during the early 1880s and here was the final puzzle piece – Indianapolis (Henry C. Tryon), Cincinnati (E.T. Harvey) and Chicago (David A. Strong with Sosman & Landis). I finally was able to make the connection between Tryon as the scenic artist for the Indianapolis Scottish Rite just before he began at Sosman & Landis Scenic Studio. The connection was that Tryon would begin working for Sosman & Landis in Chicago during 1884 after finishing the scenery for Indianapolis. For me, this was especially significant as Tryon, Sosman and Strong were all Scottish Rite Masons.

In my doctoral dissertation “Scenic Shifts Upon the Scottish Rite Stage: Designing for Masonic Theatre, 1859-1929,” I included a partial history concerning some early Scottish Rite theaters. I argued that the renovated Pork House in Indianapolis marked a significant moment in the evolution of degree productions as Scottish Rite Bodies (Lodge, Council, Chapter and Consistory). In 1883 the Indianapolis Scottish Rite purchased an existing building and converted it to include TWO theaters. While researching and writing my dissertation, I had longed for a detailed description of who designed and painted the scenery for Indianapolis. Now I had it –Tryon!

For those unfamiliar with the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in Indianapolis, here is a brief recap and remember that the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction is always full of change and surprise. The Indiana Consistory was organized in March 1865 and chartered on May 19, 1865.   The four Scottish Rite Bodies in Indianapolis were the Adoniram Lodge of Perfection Saraiah Council of Princes of Jerusalem, Indianapolis Chapter of Rose Croix, and the Indiana Consistory S.P.R.S. In May of 1863, Masons in Indianapolis sought to bring the Ineffable Degrees (Lodge of Perfection, 4th – 14th) to Indianapolis. They petitioned the Boston Supreme Council for dispensation to organize a Lodge of Perfection and Council of Princes of Jerusalem. Now remember that there are rival Supreme Councils (governing body) for the Scottish Rite in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. I will not go into the basis of the differences at this time, but it is important to understand that if you belonged to one Scottish Rite, you were booted out of the other.

The two opposing parties at the time were the Van Rensselaer Council of Boston and the Raymond Council of New York. Keep in mind that two years after the Indianapolis Consistory is approved as part of the Boston group, the two merge in the Union Council.  By 1867, the two councils ended their separate existences and merged their memberships in a Grand Union on May 17, 1867.

In my dissertation I connected much of the early propagation of Scottish Rite degree productions with Killian Van Rensselaer.

Killian Van Rensselaer (1800-1881).

He reminded me of the proverbial “Johnny Appleseed,” sowing the seeds of Scottish Rite Freemasonry throughout the Northern Jurisdiction. In an Appendix, I listed the Scottish Rite Bodies chartered by Van Rensselaer from 1848 to 1863. They included New Haven, Connecticut (Lodge and Council, 1848), New York City (Lodge, Council, Chapter, 1848), New Port Rhode Island (Lodge and Council 1850), Columbus, Ohio (Lodge and Council, 1851), Pittsburg, Pennsylvania (Lodge and Council, 1852), Cincinnati, Ohio (Lodge, Council, Chapter and Consistory, 1953), Cambridge, Ohio (Lodge and Council, 1856), Chicago, Illinois (Lodge, Council, Chapter and Consistory, 1856), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Lodge, Council, Chapter and Consistory, 1856-1857), Cleveland, Ohio (Lodge, Council and Chapter, 1859), Detroit, Michigan (Lodge, Council, Chapter, and Consistory, 1861-1862), and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Lodge, Council, Chapter, and Consistory, 1863).

Van Rensselaer’s support of degree productions was quite brilliant and promoted the theatrical interpretation of degrees. He marketed staged degree work as a superior ceremonial experiences – and an incentive to join the Boston group over the Raymond group. Van Rensselaer was instrumental in not only establishing Scottish Rite Bodies and promoting degree productions, but also checking back in on the progress of “his” Scottish Rite Valleys.

It is important to understand his influence on late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century degree productions too. Van Rensselaer brought an overtly Christian interpretation to the 18th degree that would later weed its way into some of the Southern Jurisdiction degree productions. This was the degree that discussed a spiritual redeemer in various religions. Van Rensselaer used Jesus’ life as an example. His Valley’s staged the crucifixion and ascension, initially appearing as scenic tableaux in the east end lodge rooms. Often in roll drop form, they were situated in small recessed areas behind the Master’s chair. It was an inspirational scenic illusion in the degree – if you were Christian. For more information about the staging of this particular degree, I covered it in my dissertation

To be continued…

Historical note: Killian Henry Van Rensselaer (1800-1881) Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council AASR (NJ), 1862-67, was born on Sept. 9, 1800 in Greenbush (now known as Rensselaer), New York. He was a member of the Knickerbocker family. Van Rensselaer was made a Master Mason in Mount Moriah Lodge No. 245, Otisco, New York on April 4, 1822. He was active in the York Rite and Scottish Rite in several states. He became an Active Member of the Supreme Council in the Northern Jurisdiction (Boston) on June 17, 1845. He resigned as Grand Commander when the “Union” took place in 1867. He attended all but the first meeting of present Supreme Council, New Jersey until his death. He was a member of Cambridge Lodge No. 66, Cambridge, Ohio, serving as Master twice. He died on Jan. 29, 1881.

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 198 – Thomas G. Moses and Henry C. Tryon

Part 198: Thomas G. Moses and Henry C. Tryon


In 1884, the same year as his sketching trip to Breckinridge, Thomas G. Moses decided to stay at Sosman & Landis Studio for another year. He also moved to a new home, writing, “Mr. Landis prevailed on us to move to Centre Avenue, next flat to theirs. We did so, and it cost us considerable to furnish the flat, including a piano. We thought we deserved it; as the old one that was given to us as a wedding present had become impossible. We had saved considerable money.” The stability provided by a steady income at the studio allowed the young couple to financially thrive for the first time in their marriage. Moses could now attend art school. As a freelance artist, the financial commitment for training had very been cost prohibitive.

Chicago was working well for Moses and his small family. The previous year his father had left Sterling and moved to Chicago. Moses recorded, “Father attempted to carry on the harness and collar business, but didn’t have the capital, and had to give it up. He opened a little cheap grocery store on Randolf Street. We bought our groceries from him, and he was very attentive to Ella’s orders.” By 1884, Moses wrote, “Father was almost a daily visitor to our new home. He was highly pleased when he heard of the progress I had made and took pleasure in telling friends and others what his “son Tom” had done. He enjoyed taking the children for a short ride in his old Concord wagon that was now doing duty as a grocery delivery wagon.”

While Moses was working at Sosman & Landis that year another artist was brought on to the staff -Henry C. Tryon. He was Lem Graham replacement after Graham left for Kansas City to start his own studio. Moses wrote: “[Tryon] enthused Young and I more than anyone ever had. He was a pupil of Thos. Moran and James and William Hart and was very clever, but awfully eccentric.”

Henry C. Tryon, Utah Canyon Landscape, 1880s. Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Museum of Church History and Art, Salt Lake City, Utah. Oil on canvas, 22×16.
Thomas Moran, 1897, The Teton Range.
William Hart, 1869. Landscape, Troy, New York.

Tryon was nine years older than Moses, born in Chicago during 1847.  At the age of seventeen, he enlisted in the army in a regiment attached to the Second Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, serving until the close of the Civil War. He later became a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Design and intended to become a landscape painter, studying with both Thomas Moran (1837-1926) and William M. Hart (1823-1894). Tryon also worked with Louis Malmsha (1863-1882) at Wood’s Theatre in Cincinnati and later with him at McVicker’s Theatre in Chicago. In 1882, Tryon had published a tribute to Malmsha heralding him as “the greatest scenic painter in the world.”

In the early 1880s. Tryon had moved to Salt Lake City where he became active as a scenic artist, well known for his drop curtain at the Salt Lake Theatre entitled, “The Return of a Victorius Fleet.” Sadly, this prized drop curtain disintegrated from use.

Photograph of a painted detail from Henry C. Tryon’s drop curtain for the Salt Lake City Theatre.
Photograph of a painted detail from Henry C. Tryon’s drop curtain for the Salt Lake City Theatre.
Photograph of a painted detail from Henry C. Tryon’s drop curtain for the Salt Lake City Theatre.

He also produced 25 sets of scenery for the Salt Lake Theatre. Harry Miner’s American Dramatic Directory notes that the theatre had a seating capacity of 1,850 with a stage measuring 65’ x 70’ and a proscenium opening of 28’ x 32.’ The height from the stage to the grooves was 18’ with the height from the stage to the rigging loft measuring 52.’

The “Salt Lake Daily” on July 22, 1883 (Vol. XIV, No. 41) published, “The improvements which have been in progress at the Salt Lake Theatre during the past nine or ten months, under the direction of Henry C. Tryon, the noted scenic artist, have attracted a great deal of attention from theatrical men generally. Especially is this true of those professionals who had been here prior to the changes (referred to in detail from time to time in these columns) as they have progressed. It is needless to say surprise is universal when the marked change that has taken place is noticed, and the expression invariably is that one would never have believed such important improvements could have been effected in so brief a period.” The “old” theatre was renovated and the article noted that “the changes which have been effected in that building would strike the attention with greater force than that of a casual observer, or even a theatrical man whose opportunities noticing the difference have been less favorable.”

The well-known theatrical manager, Marcus R. Mayer, commented on the work that had been done under the direction of Tryon and the “metropolitan advantages.” Mayer said, “I can imagine the surprise and delight with which the Kiralfys will look about them when they first set foot on the stage. We will be able to present our scenery here with its full effect, and that is something and that will be something we will be able to do in very few places after leaving here. Tryon is evidently a man who knows much about stage requirement as any person since, as I am informed, the extensive changes have been made by his direction and mainly under his supervision.”

The author of the article then asked Mayer, “By the way, what do you think of Tryon as an artist?” Mayer’s response, “Tryon? We he has a national reputation. The fact that he is engaged to paint the scenes is a guaranty that the scenes outfit will be on par with any theatre in the United States. He is none of your fellows who depend on village theatre for a livelihood; his services are in demand all the time and the only thing that beats my penetration is that so expensive an artist could be obtained to come to Salt Lake. The scenes already painted are the equal of anything in stock in the country.” Mayer would finish the article with saying, “The management of the Salt Lake Theatre foresaw just what I’ve told you, and knowing the companies now coming could not endure the old arrangements, they determined to fit the stage up first-class modern style, and Tryon was just the man for the conspiracy.”

I believe that Tryon was not only hired at Sosman & Landis studio in 1884 for his painting abilities, but also for his knowledge of stage machinery. I was looking at Tryon’s theatrical contributions during 1882 and 1883 in the Salt Lake area when his work for Scottish Rite theaters and degree productions popped up. What a small world.

To be continued…

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center.  Part 197 – Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, fourth part

Part 197: Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, fourth part

The Palette & Chisel, Vol. V, No. 6, June 1928. Tom Moses’ Trips, Breckenridge, Col.    Concluded

“I went down the road to make a sketch of a real old-timey stage coach, which was rapidly falling to decay. As I sat there sketching, and fighting insects, the awful silence was very oppressive, occasionally broken by the cooing of the wood-dove, the buzzing of a bumble bee or the distant cluck of a hen. The dazzling heat waves from the sandy street reach to the top of the tarred roofs of the buildings, then drift away to the cooler waves from the mountain peaks.

Remains of a stage coach near Leadville, Colorado.

Concealed somewhere in those peaks are tons of gold, and some day these two men will find it as I hope they to. I hope long before this they have gotten some part of the many tons, have left poor Frisco to the past, returned to their old homes and dear friends, and look back on their days in the gold fields as something to relate in after life; an experience that most of us usually get, if we have enough red blood in our veins to attempt it.

We bade the trio good-bye, and late in the day we started back to Dillon, after a very warm and dusty walk. A good, cold wash-up made us fit for dinner, and I am pleased to mention the fact that we had another helping of trout. After dinner some of the boarders entertained Young and me by telling of the wonderful country back of Dillon. The mountains across the valley east of Dillon looked about four or five miles away. The natives said “Ha! Ha!” and informed us they were about forty miles away. It was hard to believe.

We encouraged the story-telling, and usually wound up with one of the hair-raising stories of the wonders of Chicago. They seemed to enjoy our yarns. The mosquitos were something awful; we were thankful to have screens in our windows so we were able to get a good night’s sleep, which put us in good shape for the next day’s work.

We started early and made several sketches. After a light luncheon, which we carried with us, Young proposed we cross a ravine in a dry water flume. I was game, as I could reach a high point without a lot of hard climbing. We walked across the ravine, steadily going higher. The cross braces in the flume made it very hard, as we soon got tired of stepping over them.

Flume at Big Evans Reservoir, near Leadville, Colorado.

The bottom of the flume was thick with alkali, and our eyes burned and our tongues swelled up badly. We could hardly talk. We thought we were going to die of thirst, so we scrambled back to where we started as quickly as possible. There was a railroad water tank not far away and we made for it in double quick time. We couldn’t reach the rope to pull the spout down, but got relief from the small pool, formed by the dripping water. As it was all clean sand and gravel, we were soon in normal condition. I can easily imagine what one must suffer in the desert from thirst. No more dry flumes for us.

Cabin near Leadville, Colorado.

In going throughout the woods we struck a deserted cabin, and, nailed to the gable was a magnificent pair of antlers. Young wanted to get them and ship them to Chicago. We tried to get them down, but found them too heavy, so we had to leave them. They would have made a fine hall or studio decoration. It was here we saw our first flying squirrels. It was fun to watch them; it seemed no effort for them to sail through the air fifty feet, or more.

The town of Dillon is very nicely situated in the valley of the Blue River, surrounded on all sides by high mountain ranges. Mr. Hamilton took us for a long ride, and we saw a great deal of the valley. Looking from Dillon across the river to the farms and pasture land beyond, is some of the best farm land in the state and it all reminds one of some of the Swiss pictures of the Alps.

View of Dillon, Colorado before it became Dillon Reservoir.
Dillon Reservoir and the surrounding towns. Photograph by Aaron Raufman.
Sapphire Point overlooking Dillon Lake.

On returning to Breckenridge we had a good visit with our short-tie acquaintances, made a few more sketches, packed up and started for Denver. We had a much trouble with a “wheezy” engine and to cars going back as we had coming in. Had a late luncheon at Como, and, without anything happening worth while, we reached Denver in time for a good dinner, which we both enjoyed. Went to the Tabor Grand Opera House for the evening.

We were up bright and early the next morning, visited several friends, and strolled about the city. And there is plenty to be seen, public buildings and fine private homes. Took and evening train for Chicago, by the way of Kansas City.

As we were rather shy on cash, we went to the smoker, and ahead of this was a tourist sleeper. Young made up his mind that he was going to use the tourist sleeper, and he did. I remained in the smoker, expecting to get a good night’s rest. After mid-night, notwithstanding the awful thick atmosphere, the passengers were pretty rough. Among the bunch were five tough cow-boys, going back to Texas. One was a negro. He espied my sketching outfit and insisted upon knowing all about it. I did not want to start anything, so I answered his questions as civilly as possible, to impress the passengers as they were the real article.

Cowboys in Boulder, Colorado.
Nat Love a.k.a. “Deadwood Dick” (1854-1921) For more information about Love and other African American Cowboys, see http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/lesser-known-history-african-american-cowboys-180962144/
The cowboy Bill Picket (1871-1932). For more information about African American cowboys, see “The Lesser Known History of African American Cowboys” Here is the link: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/lesser-known-history-african-american-cowboys-180962144/

The cow-boys continued drinking, swearing and singing, and wound up one burst of wild yelling by doing a regular western act – shooting the lights out. There was only one shot out, because a single-handed brakeman came in and took the guns from the whole bunch. He threw on of the men down in a seat, and threatened to punch his head if he moved again. One of them wanted some fresh air, and he went out of the car. We traveled for at least an hour, and the fresh air man couldn’t be found. The conductor wouldn’t stop the train and go back, so one of the cow-boys got off the train at the first stop, intending to go back and look for his partner. We never heard any more about it. The remaining three soon went to sleep, as nearly everyone did. In the morning everything was quiet. Young had enjoyed a good night’s rest and had missed the fun. These cow-boys were the most typical of the race I have ever seen. Their burnt and leathery skin, from long exposure, was characteristic of the tribe, and their general make-up was picturesque. They felt hurt to think a lone brakeman had made monkeys of them before a lot of passengers that they wanted to impress with the idea that they were a hard lot.

We arrived in Kansas City late in the afternoon. Young and I found a chair car would fit our money better than a Pullman. We looked pretty rough, and even a porter was not anxious to have us. He seemed to think we wanted the smoker, but a half dollar in advance soon supplied us with a blanket and pillow and we enjoyed a night’s ride to Chicago.”

(The end of Moses’ article)

1884 Map of Colorado depicting many of the towns that Thomas G. Moses visited on his sketching trip that same year.


Historical note about the town of Dillon:

The original town of Dillon was built as a stagecoach stop and trading post on the Snake River. Named for a prospector Tom Dillon, the town was incorporated in 1883. It was soon relocated to the west bank of the Blue River when Denver and Rio Grand Railroad came to Blue River Valley, but bypassed Dillon. Dillon was relocated a second time in 1892 when the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad arrived from the northeast. In 1956, the Denver Water Board notified the remaining residents and business owners that they must sell and leave by September 15, 1961. Dam construction began in 1961 and was completed by 1963. The dam diverts water from the Blue River Basin through the 23.3 mile Harold D. Roberts Tunnel under the Continental Divide into the South Platte River Basin. Other than the surrounding mountains, the town of Dillon that Moses visited no longer exists, as it became the Dillon Reservoir.

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 196 – Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, fourth part

Part 196: Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, fourth part

The Palette & Chisel, Vol. V, No. 5, May 1928. Tom Moses’ Trips, Breckenridge, Col.    Continued

“[Ed] Morange and [Hardy] Maratta were getting tired of the hard bed and indifferent food, so after a week of it they packed up and started east. The same day, Young and I started for Dillon by rail. We shipped the camp outfit back to Chicago. This day there was a heavy rain down the valley. We were several hundred feet above it, and we found it interesting to watch the lightning and hear the thunder so far below us. The mountain peaks were jutting up through the storm clouds, not unlike so many small islands. The top of the clouds seemed to be perfectly level, like a great sea. We could see nothing of Breckenridge below us. The storm did not last long and it was soon clear, so we proceeded to get out outfit down to town.

View near Frsico, Colorado.

We were sorry to see Ed and Hardesty go, as we had planned at least two weeks in the tent. One night we had a terrific rainstorm that was not below us – it was on top, and very much so. We felt as though we would be washed down the mountainside into the town, but the tent ropes stood the strain. We got the full force of the lightning, and the shock was fierce. When the natives inquired next morning how it felt to be perched so high, and whether the storm had worried us, we had to get even with them saying: “We slept through it all; we were used to heavy storms in Chicago.”

When Young and I arrived in Dillon we went to the only good hotel, kept by a Mr. Hamilton. We discovered some trout streams not far from the hotel, and there was plenty of fine trout in the streams. We had a lot of fishing and tackle, and tried to get Mr. Hamilton to allow us to fish. As the regular fishing season did not start for over a month we thought that, as the streams belonged to the hotel, we certainly could have a lot of fun fishing and turn them in at the hotel. This pig, Hamilton, went out for himself and caught a big mess for the hotel.

Catch of Brook Trout.

When the waitress brought in a large platter of the same trout Young and I didn’t do a thing to that platter. The girl went back to the kitchen for more. We saw several female heads at the kitchen door, after the waitress told them of the to gluttons. Even Hamilton gave us a rap after dinner about it, but we had an answer for him. We also heard from some of the boarders. They made some harsh comments on the “conduct of parties from the far East.” We, at the same time, congratulated ourselves that we had plenty of fish for the first time in our gay young lives. A good night’s sleep, in a real bed, put us in good shape for the next day’s work.

Our first day of sketching at this place was a very busy one. The mountain streams all do the serpentine cut to the sea, compelling us to cross and re-cross many times. One crossing had to be done over a large log. This was no trouble for Young, while I had to creep across with the aid of my tripod sketching stool. I was doing a balancing act, but did not succeed. I slipped and went in and the water was ice cold. I managed to swim across. Young grabbed my hickory stool and pulled me out of the water. My sketching bag and contents got some water-color effects that I couldn’t do with brush or pencil. As the sun was awfully hot I removed my outer garments and laid them on the hot sand; my underclothing was soon dry, dried my sketchbook, and within an hour I was ready to travel.

We soon came to a little cemetery. One rough head-board had the following epitaph, printed with black letters: “Here lies the body of John Sands. A Frisco miner, an honest man and an old timer.” No dates nor age. Near by was the small town of Frisco, which at one time was a prosperous mining town of about three thousand inhabitants. The mines gave out, no one stayed, and homes and stores were left to the elements. As we struck the main street we looked about, but we couldn’t see a living thing, excepting a few chickens which convinced us, however, that someone must have stayed. The feeling we had among the deserted homes and stores was rater uncanny. The buildings had been hastily built; all very rough, and very few of them had been painted. The sign boards were a hot, badly spelled and very typical of a frontier mining town; a regular mushroom town – it grew over night.

Image of Frisco, Colorado during a boom time.
Tracks leading to Frisco, Colorado.
View when entering the town of Frisco, Colorado, by train.

Young was not satisfied with the indifference of the citizen as to our coming, and insisted upon some kind of welcome, so he gave a regular “war whoop.” As the echo died away in the mountains a door opened in the hotel at our right. The citizen came out and welcomed us to “his” city. We inquired if the town had gone on a picnic, but he replied that out of the three thousand of two years ago he and his wife and a saloon-keeper, were the only ones left. We were invited into the comfortable hotel parlor and met the wife. A glass of cold milk satisfied our thirst. We were also invited to luncheon, and it was fine. The saloon-keeper boarded there and opened his saloon only when the stage passed through town, once each day. The rest of the time he spent working the mine, by himself. The hotel-keeper was from Brooklyn; had kept a meat market before he got the gold fever. He had enough money to build and open his hotel, and during boom times, which lasted several years, he had made money, but had sunk all his profits into many holes in the ground. He and Young went for a walk after dinner. I wanted to make a sketch of the hotel porch. The wife came out and sat down for a visit. I said to her, “Your husband tells us that your health will not permit of your going back east,” which he did, when we asked him why he did not follow the crowd. She replied: “He tells that to everyone. Those holes up the side of Buffalo Mountain is what keeps us here. He hates to back without a fortune; we will never get it here.” All was so barren and desolate that I wondered how they kept from going insane.”

To be continued

Historical note about Frisco, Colorado:

Frisco is situated on the shores of Lake Dillon, seventy miles west of Denver. The town was founded by Henry Recen as a result of the mining boom in the 1870s. By 1882, the town boasted two railroads, many businesses, hotels, and saloons. Frisco was the center of mining activity because of the railroads and a stagecoach stop. Frisco served as the gateway to the towns and mines in the Ten Mile Canyon. The two narrow-gauge railroads, the Denver & Rio Grande and the Denver, South Park & Pacific, stopped at Frisco. Eventually, the railroads pulled up their tracks and Frisco became the sleepy little town that Moses encountered on his sketching trip in 1883.

Current image of Frisco, Colorado.

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 195 – Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, second half of third part

Part 195: Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, second half of third part

The Palette & Chisel, Vol. V, No. 4, April 1928, Tom Moses’ Trips, Breckenridge, Col.Continued

“Having nothing to do towards evening, we looked up the assayer, Mr. Whipple, to whom I had a letter of introduction. He took us over to the Penn-Breckenridge Gold Mine. Only a tunnel – we could see nothing. He then took us over to the “Hunter Carter” Museum, in a large building, built of rough timber and hemlock slabs.

Vintage view of the “Hunter Carter” museum that Thomas G. Moses visited in 1884.
Current image of the Edwin Carter Museum that Thomas G. Moses referred to as the “Hunter Carter” museum in 1884.

Carter was a very successful hunter and trapper, and, in his early life, started out with the ambition it collect a specimen of every bird, reptile, fish and egg that existed in Colorado, and I think he did it. The cases he had to hold these specimens he built himself. The manner in which the animals were grouped and mounted proved that Carter was not only an artist in composition but also the art of taxidermy. This whole collection was since bought by the state – $50,000.00 was the price paid and it is certainly worth twice the sum. It is now stored in the basement of the Capitol building.

Edwin Carter in his museum, photographed by E. D. Peabody in 1889. Image in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science Archives.
Interior view of the “Hunter Carter” Museum that Thomas G. Moses visited in 1884.

Mr. Whipple, in showing us about, was very considerate in our ability to climb in this very ratified air. He warned us that we should rest for a few moments every quarter of a mile. We all started together, and the artists from Chicago never stopped until we reached the top. Mr. Whipple had to rest three times. We “jollied” him good and hard, informing him that we had good muscular exercises twice a day. He had to acknowledge that we were good walkers, and he didn’t understand how we stood the high altitude. Especially when coming from Chicago. We were now up nearly 9000 feet above sea level.

We had considerable fun on our way to the mines, the best feature of which is that they are paying dividends, and good big ones.

The night life of a frontier town is rather interesting, especially when miners and cattle men are earning good wages. The town was strictly a mining town. While there was some gambling going on, t was not as wide open as I had seen it in some other towns. We visited one or two saloons, had a glass or two of beer, but then we did not get a good old Chicago glass full. We enjoyed watching a game of pool. The miners were very pleasant, and we were getting into their confidence, now that they really believed we were painters and not prospectors.

1880s view of a saloon in Breckenridge, Colorado.

The only protection we had against wild animals or hold-up men was a Colt’s revolver, a forty-five caliber, as big as a gun, and it made some noise when fired. Young was delegated to carry it. We got well acquainted at the big general store, including the Post office. At this store we bought our daily supplies. Several evenings were spent here, enjoying the stories spun by the miners, many of which were manufactured for our especial benefit. We came pretty near matching them with some of our stories direct from Chicago.

Among the miners was a Frenchman, who insisted upon being of some use to us. He wanted to haul our traps across the mountains to Dillon. At first he wanted fifteen dollars, ten, and finally he got down to five dollars. He looked too much like one of Howard Pyle’s villains that have graced the pages of Harper’s Magazine for the past few years. Not that we were afraid of him and his gang, but we simply preferred to go by rail, which we did a few days later. In the meantime, we were getting some good sketches, but found it very hard to work water color, the air being too dry. We were also worried by insects of all descriptions; and the penny-royal we could put on did no good.

We all went down to the Blue River to sketch. We saw a big rock formation called “Eagle Rock” and we were anxious to get to it. We had to climb some distance, possibly three hundred feet above the valley. After making the sketch, we started down the road. We ground a soft “wash-down”, great for sliding. Young, with his long legs, started ahead, and being the most daring and athletic of the bunch, we allowed him to set the pace! I can see the soft dirt flying, and the small stones that he started going. We followed, yelling like a band of Indians. It is a wonder we were not hurt. By the time we struck the road we were all in from excitement and lack of breath.

Just as we hit the road a miner was approaching. As soon as he saw us he turned around and started to run. We called to him and convinced him that we were not hold-up men. He then recognized us, having seen us at the store. We afterwards found out that, during a quarrel over the division of their earnings with his partner, he was compelled to shoot in self-defense and killed his man. He was exonerated, but had a fear that some of his partner’s friends were trying to “get him.” He was rather a congenial sort of fellow, unlike the majority of miners we had met.”


To be continued…


Historical note about the “Hunter Carter” Museum:

Edwin Carter came to Breckenridge in 1868 seeking gold and fortune, but his goals changes when he saw the devastating effect mining had on the environment and local wildlife. Carter became a taxidermist and collected thousands of Rocky Mountain animal specimens in his museum, which doubled as his home. Carter worked and lived in his museum for 25 years. When he passed away, Carter’s collection of almost 3,300 Colorado wildlife specimens formed the nucleus of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Today, the Edwin Carter Museum honors the life and legacy of Edwin Carter. For more information about the Edwin Carter Museum, call the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance at 1-970-453-9767. Here is the link to historic Breckenridge: http://www.grandlodgeonpeak7.com/breckenridge/the-town/history/ Early images of Carter’s Museum in Breckenridge are available at www.common-place.org Vol 12, No. 2, January 2012. Here is the link: http://www.common-place-archives.org/vol-12/no-02/cain/