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Westward Ho! The Great Migration Begins

The first wagon trains are heading west along the Oregon Trail, but in these days the roads west are not fit for wagons. The new settlers will have to build their own roads. The Mountain Men (Rocky Mountain trappers) are hired to lead the wagon trains through the wilderness. Their task is to find a route that won't break a wagon wheel or cause a wagon to slide off the trail into oblivion, dragging horses and people alike to their doom. They may not realize it yet, but the Mountain Men are also finding the best routes for laying railroad track. After all, railroad tracks are not much wider than two draft horses side-by-side. This year about 1,000 people will push through to Oregon and California, cutting trees to make a path and floating their wagons down the river. Whatever it takes. In 1848, gold will be found at Sutter's Mill in California. Entire towns will empty out as the wave of pioneers heading west will become a flood. Over land and over sea, 80,000 people will arrive in California in a single summer seeking their fortunes... and supplies. Instead of panning for gold, Sam Brannan will buy up all the supplies available and sell them at higher prices to newly-arrived fortune hunters. He is going to become the first Gold Rush millionaire. Then he is going to become a real estate speculator. And then he is going to become divorced and die penniless, but in the meantime, it is going to be a heck of a ride. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Adventurous as pioneering sounds, it was anything but easy for Sarah and Nancy Graves. They were 2 of the 48 survivors of the Donner Party. In 1846, they were two weeks behind the Hastings Party when an early snow trapped them in the Sierra Nevada mountains in what is now called Donner Pass. Running low on food they began eating their own dead. Sarah and Nancy were children. What must it have been like for the women and children on that trek across the wilderness? Gentlemen, when we fantasize about striking out into the woods in an apocalyptic recreation of Red Dawn, do we ever consider whether we packed the diaper bag properly? How about the various unmentionable feminine products that our wives will need? Has anyone mentioned that? The women of the pioneer days were tough... real tough, but their concerns were often different from their pioneer husbands'. Thankfully, we know (mostly) what the road will look like before we get there. We can plan this out. No sense in making it harder than it has to be. [4] [5]

The Greatest Ship Ever Overbuilt

The SS Great Britain is the first ship ever to be built of iron and boasting a screw propeller. There have been iron ships before and there have been screw propellers before, but not both together... and there may be a reason for that. The ship is big and expensive to run. Coupled with the cost overruns just to build her, the owners are running on the ragged edge of bankruptcy. Finally, she is launched, but in a few years the ship will run aground due to a navigational error. (That means someone made a business-breaking mistake.) The owners will lack the funds to save her and sell her for salvage. The new owners will repair the ship and eventually add sails to offset the expense of running the engines. The SS Great Britain will become so expensive to operate that she will be used as a warehouse and occasional coal carrier until a fire damages her beyond repair and she is scuttled. In 1970, with the help of some serious donations, the SS Great Britain will be raised from the bottom and returned to her port of origin in Bristol to become a museum. She is a beautiful ship. Perfect, but perfection costs a pretty penny. [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
There is an admirable builder's philosophy that goes something like this: "If I do it right the first time, I won't have to come back later to fix it." It is a good rule of thumb, but I get caught up in a cycle of "If I just add one more capability or gizmo, this project will be PERFECT." The perfect is often the enemy of the good. At some point, I must put down the hammer and call it done. It helps when I do a cost/benefit analysis. My time is valuable, but if I am busy making $10 here that means I am not available to make $20 elsewhere. It's not always about money, but it is about time. If I can make $20 doing one thing and pay someone else $10 to do the other, I end up with $10 net, but I get twice as much done at the same time. I want to do both projects and net $30, but it's about time. The time. Eventually, I run out of it.

A Christmas Carol and the First Christmas Card

"God bless Us, Every One!" declares Tiny Tim in the Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol. I hope I didn't give away the ending, but it is a Christmas ghost story. A fellow named Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Marley, who attempts to save Scrooge from spiritual ruin. Scrooge will be visited by three Spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Through nostalgia for a youth spent unwisely, a view of Christmas well-spent by those around him and the fear of what might be, Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas. [8] [9]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Unfortunately, exactly what Scrooge learned is rather vague. He promised to honor Christmas and attempt to keep it throughout the year. He also promised to live in the past, the present and the future... which seems to mean... live in the now, be kind to others and laugh a lot. Jesus is never mentioned. Thus, this novel transformed Christmas from a religious observance into a seasonal well-wishing along with the Christmas card. Remember the penny postage stamp? The same guy who pushed for cheap postage has printed 2,000 cards to be sold at a shilling a piece (almost $6 dollars in today's money) and sent through the mail. The card reads "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you." The illustration shows a woman offering clothing to the poor, a man bringing food to the hungry, and in the middle... a family in joyful celebration... DRINKING WINE... even the kids. That caused some controversy, but the talk brought attention to the cards and they sold well. No one seemed to notice that "the reason for the season" was missing.... not even a cross in sight. [10] [11]

In Other News

  • "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite..." This circus poster from 1843 will purchased by John Lennon in 1967, and become the inspiration for the Beatles song by the same name. ([Click Here.]) [12] [13]
  • Melville Bissell is born. Yep. The guy with the carpet sweeper. After his death, his wife, Anna, will run the company becoming the first female CEO. [14] [15]
  • Skiing becomes a sport. Frankly, mountain climbing hasn't been popular for very long either. The word "ski" is a Norwegian word meaning "you gotta be kidding me!" Sorry. It means "split wood." [16] [17] [15]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1843, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. The California Gold Rush of 1849. Coloma, California (2016). Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “Some 80,000 immigrants poured into California during 1849. They came overland on the California Trail and by ship around Cape Horn or through the Panama shortcut. The majority of them came in one immense wave during mid summer, as covered wagons reached the end of the California trail.”
  2. Sutter's Mill - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016. “On January 24, 1848, James Wilson Marshall, a carpenter originally from New Jersey, found flakes of gold in the American River at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Coloma, California. At the time, Marshall was working to build a water-powered sawmill owned by John Sutter. On February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in Mexico City which transferred the American Southwest to the United States.”
  3. Draft horse - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “By the 19th century, horses weighing more than 1,600 pounds (730 kg) that also moved at a quick pace were in demand. Tall stature, muscular backs, and powerful hindquarters made the draft horse a source of 'horsepower' for farming, hauling freight and moving passengers, particularly before railroads came on the scene. Even in the 20th century, draft horses were used for practical work, including over half a million used during World War I to support the military effort.”
  4. California Trail - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “In a few places the wagons had to be floated down the river in some narrow spots and the wagons had to be pried over large rocks in many places. Passing the future site of Ogden, Utah and Salt Lake City, Utah Hastings party proceeded south of the Great Salt Lake and then across about 80 miles (130 km) of water less Bonneville Salt Flats and around the Ruby Mountains in Nevada before getting to the Humboldt River Valley California trail. The severely water-challenged Hastings Cutoff trail across the Great Salt Lake's salt flats rejoined the California Trail about 7 miles (11 km) west of modern-day Elko, Nevada. The party led by Hastings were just two weeks ahead of the Donner Party but did successfully get to California before snow closed the passes and stranded the Donner Party in the Sierras.”
  5. Brown, Daniel James. Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride, The. HarperCollins e-books. ISBN 9780061877254. “Even well after the tragedy was over, Sarah Graves's little sister Nancy often burst into tears for no apparent reason. She mystified many of her schoolmates in the new American settlement at the Pueblo de San José One minute she would be fine, running, laughing, and playing on the dusty school ground like any other ten-or eleven-year-old, but then suddenly the next minute she would be sobbing. All of them knew that she had been part of what was then called the 'lamentable Donner Party' while coming overland to California in 1846.” 
  6. Isambard Kingdom Brunel - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  7. SS Great Britain - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “When launched in 1843, Great Britain was by far the largest vessel afloat. However, her protracted construction and high cost had left her owners in a difficult financial position, and they were forced out of business in 1846 having spent all their funds re-floating the ship after she was run aground at Dundrum Bay after a navigational error. In 1852 she was sold for salvage and repaired.”
  8. (1843) A Christmas Carol. Retrieved on 5 August 2016. 
  9. A Christmas Carol - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “The book was written at a time when the British were examining and exploring Christmas traditions from the past as well as new customs such as Christmas cards and Christmas trees. Carol singing took a new lease of life during this time.”
  10. "Christmas card sold for record price", BBC News, 27 November, 2001. Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “The 1843 print was expected to fetch up to £12,000 at the sale in Devizes, Wiltshire, on 24 November.” 
  11. Christmas card - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “The first Christmas cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in London on 1 May 1843. The central picture showed three generations of a family raising a toast to the card's recipient: on either side were scenes of charity, with food and clothing being given to the poor. Allegedly the image of the family drinking wine together proved controversial, but the idea was shrewd: Cole had helped introduce the Penny Post three years earlier. Two batches totaling 2,050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each.”
  12. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016. “The inspiration to write the song was a 19th-century circus poster for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal appearance at Rochdale, that Lennon purchased in an antique shop on 31 January 1967, while filming the promotional videos for 'Penny Lane' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever' in Sevenoaks, Kent. Lennon claimed years later to still have the poster in his home. 'Everything from the song is from that poster,' he explained, 'except the horse wasn't called Henry.' (The poster identifies the horse as 'Zanthus.')”
  13. For the Benefit of Mr. Kite. YouTube (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016.
  14. Melville Reuben Bissell - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016. “Following his death from pneumonia in 1889 (at the tragically young age of only 45) in Grand Rapids, his wife, Anna Bissell, took control of the company, becoming America's first female corporate Chief Executive Officer.”
  15. 15.0 15.1 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 410-411. 
  16. Horace-Bénédict de Saussure - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 April 2016. “Horace-Bénédict de Saussure (17 February 1740 – 22 January 1799) was a Swiss geologist, physicist and Alpine traveller, often considered the founder of alpinism, and considered to be the first person to build a successful solar oven.”
  17. Skiing - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016. “The word 'ski' is one of a handful of words Norway has exported to the international community.”

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