Tuesday, 17 August 2010 08:37

75 Years Ago Late Summer/Early Autumn 1931

Written by  Maurice Telleen
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(From the July, August & September Breeder's Gazettes and general news sources of the period)

On July 6th of that year, TWA made its first air shipment of livestock-from St. Louis to Newark, New Jersey. You wonder what the livestock was? So do I. Somehow I doubt that it involved horses-more likely chickens or ducks. On the other hand, are chickens livestock? They sure enough aren't mammals. But do you have to be a mammal to be livestock? I am willing to leave that with the county board of supervisors or the Iowa Supreme Court to decide.

About 32 or 33 years later, give or take, I was the secretary-manager of the National Dairy Cattle Congress in Waterloo. Adohr Farms from southern California flew one Guernsey cow to the show. She was, as I recall, grand champion female at their national show. She was definitely both a mammal and livestock-and the only animal I can recall that came via air.

Back to 1931. Of much more importance than shipping either chickens or cows by air was the global monetary crisis, especially in Europe and North America. Paul Von Hindenberg, the president of Germany, who had also been supreme commander of the German armies in WW I, decided to repudiate Germany's responsibility for WW I. In other words, no more reparations. To make matters even more worrisome, he was having meetings with Adolf Hitler. Germany was flat broke. So was Great Britain. So were we-as well as the farmer next door. It was so scary that even France, Germany's ancient foe, was finally willing to cut Germany a little slack.

But I suspect it was just too late to affect the course of events. The world was on such a slippery slope that there may have been no way to change direction. Britain got a 50 million pound loan from France and the U.S. to cover the next month's rent. Where we found the money, I don't know.

Jimmy Walker, the playboy mayor of New York, was on the hot seat-as usual-for inefficiency, incompetency, etc., etc. But he was one of the few public figures with a "solution." His solution was to go to Czechoslovakia for a long rest. That was Walker's standard solution to any problem-run away from home.

The young governor of New York state, Franklin Roosevelt, was from the same privileged class as Walker, but he had an entirely different mind-set. He chose to call for a 50% income tax hike to aid the unemployed. I do believe that Governor Roosevelt had replacing President Hoover in mind. I suppose it was suggestions such as this that led some of his own kind to label him as a "traitor to his class."

Another unconventional millionaire was Henry Ford, the man who put this nation into automobiles. His money was of a very different kind than Walker's or Roosevelt's. He had made it-not inherited it. There was a directness about Ford that was, in its own way, kind of a relief. For instance, in 1931, he ordered his employees to either grow some of their own vegetables or give up their jobs. The man who put this country on rubber tires ordered his employees to either get down on their knees and do some home gardening or look for other work. He probably needed to shed a few employees anyhow and the garden test might do it.

And with that backdrop, it is time to head for the old Breeder's Gazettes from the long hot summer of 1931 for the balance of this section.

The Breeder's Gazette of that era was a magazine of writers-serious writers. And they were not all marching to the same drummer. It was a buffet of ideas, attitudes, styles and reached all generations. There was nothing gaudy about it. Color print was in its infancy and confined to the covers. There was lots of type and not much hype. I think that was typical of the farm papers of that time.


In that July 1931 issue a milestone was reached. Here is what Sam Guard, the owner and editor, had to say in that issue. "Breeder's Gazette is my life, and has been since as a college boy 21 years ago, I started to write show reports for Wm. R. Goodwin, its great managing editor." I do believe that was the literal truth-I don't think the paper was just a property or asset to Guard. It was more like a beloved family member and a cause. Anyhow, by July of 1931, Sam owned not only the paper, but a modern plant in which to print it-along with whatever additional printing they could cabbage onto. The old Gazette had, through the decades and two generations never owned their own printing facility. (Neither have we.)

To backtrack a bit, the 1920s had not been very kind to farmers. The early '30s proved to be worse. And the Gazette was losing ground. In 1927, two young men, Sam Guard and C.L. Burlingham, bought the venerable old paper from the Sanders family. Burlingham was a very young secretary of the Ayrshire Cattle Association in Vermont. The circulation had dwindled to 40,000 subscribers according to Sam.

Within a couple years those young men tripled the circulation. In due time, Burlingham moved on to another opportunity. Sam bought him out and eventually that modern printing plant in downstate Indiana, too. Old Alvin Sanders, son of the founder, stayed on with Sam as "Editor Emeritus" for years providing wonderful continuity-kind of like a beloved grandfather. Maybe he died at the typewriter, I don't know.

In the late 1930s and early '40s, my own father was a subscriber. I was an avid reader, because I was sort of "livestock crazy" too. So at about 10 or 12 years of age, I just up and wrote Mr. Sam Guard a letter, asking him if he might send me one of those old pre-World War I Holiday Issues that he kept raving about.

He did! Along with a nice letter of encouragement. I kept the letter for years, along with that old 1915 Holiday Issue. How many busy men would have responded to a kid in that fashion-or, at all? Add another 25 years or so and I'm in to the International Meeting of Fairs and I finally met the man himself. The fair managers always met in Chicago during the International Livestock Show down at the yards. How convenient. Now they meet in Las Vegas. Neither Sam Guard nor I attend ... nor want to.

And finally, when Jeannine and I launched that first Draft Horse Journal back in 1964, one of the first responders was from (by then) an "old" Sam Guard wishing us all the best. He even sent us some copy! It was called "Belgians in the Burley."

And that is why I love those old Gazettes. There has never been another paper like it. Nor an editor quite like Sam Guard. Nor will there be. So let's take a look at what that combination was putting into print 75 years ago.

Take a look at this Schedule of Rewards that young boys and girls were being enticed with in 1931. All you had to do to get a purebred ewe, or gilt or heifer calf was to go out and sell subscriptions to the Breeder's Gazette. A 3-year subscription was $1.00-it only took 40 sales to get that bred ewe, 50 on the bred gilt, or 100 on the heifer calf. What a deal! They were using Uncle Davie Fyffe, the old Scot in charge of livestock at Ohio State as their "poster boy."

The Breeder's Gazette was nothing short of evangelical where purebred livestock was concerned. And Sam Guard had just enough of the preacher in him to thoroughly enjoy "spreading the gospel."

He also enjoyed the company of wealthy patrons of the various breeds, such as Thomas E. Wilson, president of the Wilson & Company Packers. Wilson's Edellyn Farms, near Chicago, was the home of choice Clydesdale horses and one of the great herds of Scottish-type Shorthorns in America. Sam went out and got the June 1931 cover picture with Wilson on the lead shank of a young herd bull at Edellyn. Then the president of Wilson Pack preached a little sermon called "Profit & Pleasure in Purebreds." He cited a prominent criminal lawyer in Chicago, and owner of a purebred herd. On being asked his reason for being in this business, he responded, "When I have spent the day in court listening to men lie, it is a treat to go to my farm at eventide and look an undeceiving Shorthorn squarely in the face."

Wilson's own farm was treated as a business and was profitable. Many of them were. They were an important part of the whole purebred structure. As a boy at home, through my parents, I knew a few hobby owners of Brown Swiss cattle. They made an important contribution. They were fine people. It was not a case of the Lord of the Manor and the peasants. Not at all. It was a great mix-good for both and for the breeds.

The prolonged depression was getting to Dewitt Wing, long-time columnist in the Gazette. After being a "townie" for thirty years, he had recently returned to his own farm called "Oatlands." He had been back home for five months and they had revived and increased his faith in the farm as the seat of the people's life, real wealth, security, power and primary culture. He then went on to pronounce judgement on our urban society as "brutal, hideous, swinish and decadent. It will die of its own lust," and on and on.

Now if Wing's bitterness wasn't your cup of tea, you could turn to J.M. Dowell's column. He was the farm manager type and he started his little sermon with "Deflation Precedes Prosperity." He was convinced the trough of the depression was either here or maybe even already past and it was time to get bullish-whether you had anything to get bullish with or not.

Then there was old Alvin Sanders' column who never missed an opportunity to say a good word for Dairy Shorthorns. Or as we referred to them, Milking Shorthorns. He sang out "The Durham of our Daddies is clearly on her way back into her own! She is due-in fact very much overdue. American farmers need her just now more than ever before." Add a few more voices to the chorus and then wind it up on the last page with Samuel Guard's "The Editor's Round-Up" and you had your periodic "fix to get through the next three months."

In fact the last sentence in Sam's column went like this: "As Mr. Coolidge (Hoover's predecessor) said in closing his editorial desk and going off on vacation: 'At times we can be thankful for what is behind us.'" Spoken like a stockman. We fly on, with our heart shot out!

I'll pluck out a few photographs and/or ads from those 1931 issues to give us a better feel for what that grand old paper was like. It served our fathers and grandfathers very well ... with tall, skinny old Sam Guard as the captain of the crew.

Barnett as pictured in the July 1931 Gazette. Here is the story behind the picture. The horse was sold by J.G. Hanmer, farm superintendent for Iowa State College at Ames, to the University of Alberta at Edmonton. Hanmer first saw him in February 1931 at the farm of Theo Nordstrom at Aurelia, Iowa. He was a coming 4-year-old, unkempt and in very ordinary condition, but he weighed 2,050 lbs. Hanmer bought the stallion, recorded him and put him under good care. In one month's time, he weighed 2,200 lbs. and looked like a real show prospect.

When Professor J.P. Sackville, head of the husbandry department at the University of Alberta saw him, he purchased him within twenty minutes. Mr. Hanmer, an experienced horseman said, "This stallion will easily carry 200 pounds more in three or four months. He is a draft stallion in every particular and has the best feet and pasterns I have seen under a stallion since I came to Iowa."

I'll give the Oliver Company credit that no other tractor manufacturer ever earned. The rest of them seemed to be determined to exterminate the equine species. Oliver is the only one to recognize that different strokes for different folks makes sense.

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