Tuesday, 17 August 2010 09:08

75 Years Ago Late Late Winter/Early Spring 1931

Written by  Maurice Telleen
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From the Breeder's Gazettes of January, February and March, 1931, general news sources, and maybe even a photo or two of some 1930 winners. (With bits and pieces–all true–about National Anthems interwoven throughout this entire "Days Before" section.)

So how would you describe in ten words or less that stretch of time, overall? I don't need that many words, one will do. BLEAK. Overall, it was bleak and going to get bleaker and bleaker.

That is not to say that nobody was happy anywhere. Take, for instance, the football warriors from the University of Alabama who trounced the boys from Washington State 24 to zip in the Rose Bowl that ushered in the New Year. And, I suppose I was a reasonably happy coming 3-year-old kid. But overall, early 1931 was a real loser.

Unemployment was setting new records in both the United States and Europe. While the global economy wasn't nearly as interconnected as it is now–it still resembled a row of dominoes that once set in motion had far reaching effects.

On the very last day of 1930 a beleaguered President Hoover asked Congress for $150 million for public works (post offices, bridges, etc.) to create jobs. The immediate result was a hopper full of "jobless" bills in both the house and senate. The most ambitious of the lot asked for $500 million. It was obvious that this was no garden variety recession, but a full scale depression. One that was going to hang around for quite a while.

Bill Green, president of the AFL (American Federation of Labor) estimated that we had about 4.8 million out of work. Hoover's estimate was about half that. My bet is that Green's estimate was much closer to the mark and Hoover's contained a lot of wishful thinking.

Communism had emerged from Russia's Civil War as the victor. It was getting its chance to show its stuff, and it was failing. Failing even worse in agriculture than in the manufacturing sector. People were literally starving. One reason they were starving is that those independent, bullheaded farmers–the "kulaks," the prosperous and sometimes wealthy peasant farmers of 19th century Russia, had been exiled or otherwise eliminated. They had been replaced by state-owned collective farms–some as big as the state of Rhode Island. The tunnel vision, totalitarian system had virtually destroyed Russian agriculture. In this case, bigger clearly wasn't better–but a good deal worse. Isn't that something!

In India, Mahatma Gandhi continued to give the Brits fits (little unintended rhyme there). He had been held in a jailhouse for several months in a place called Yerovda. In late January of 1931, they took him out of the hoosegow and put him on a midnight train to Bombay. They hoped that his release would bring an end to the civil disobedience–but it didn't. The one problem he presented his tormentors with was that it was very hard to look brave and heroic while kicking unarmed civilians around. On February 16, 1931, the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, received Gandhi as a sort of equal for the first time. A couple of weeks later the two of them signed a pact giving the Indians a right to make salt providing the civil disobedience disappeared. (See page 90, 75 Years Ago, The Draft Horse Journal, Spring 2005.) Never underestimate salt.

How about those terrible twins–Hitler and Mussolini, clear on the other side of the globe? You can be sure that this deepening mess everywhere suited their purposes. Benito Mussolini was already the Italian Premier–but had never met the Pope–yet. Anyhow, here were Benito (the Premier of Italy), the American dignitary Cornelius Vanderbilt (a certifiable American millionaire-billionaire, whatever) and a celebrated U.S. Marine officer, General Smedley D. Butler going for a little spin in an automobile. Benito was driving. What this threesome was doing out joyriding wasn't too clear. The automobile struck and killed a small child–Benito refused to stop. General Butler called him, at the very least, a hit-and-run child killer. Seems quite reasonable. But it wasn't considered so by our U.S. State Department who apologized to the Italian government. They even considered court-martialing Butler, but finally accepted a letter of regret from Butler and issued him a public reprimand. Some folks claim that it was an Italian official who talked us into dropping the court-martial business because they figured the truth might come out of a court-martial and their premier would look like the pig that he was and prove embarrassing to the Italian government.

This was not one of our finest hours–nor the Italians. But you can only digest so much of that stuff. Everything wasn't terrible, it just sounds that way.

For instance–there are national anthems. So let's consider them for a column or two. On March 3, 1931, we finally got an official national anthem. President Hoover signed a bill making the "Star Spangled Banner" our official national anthem. I don't know what we did before that. Maybe when you were in Wisconsin, you sang "On Wisconsin" and down here in Iowa, it was "Iowa, That's Where The Tall Corn Grows." How would I know? I wasn't paying attention to that stuff when Hoover made it official.

Anyhow, for the last 75 years we have had one–and it is not a particularly easy one to sing. Personally, I'd prefer "America, The Beautiful" but done is done. One can't bellyache about everything.

But I'll bet what you didn't know was that the words are sung to the tune of an old English drinking song. So I suppose one could say that the melody of our national anthem was born in an English pub. The midwives to the tune of that "Star Spangled Banner" were a bunch of English farmhands relaxing with a pint or two. Sort of ironic, isn't it?

While on the subject of national anthems I want to take you back a few years, to another national anthem story. This one has Doc Neumann's signature on it, rather than Herbert Hoover's.

In the spring of 1988, Doc and Mary Neumann, Jeannine and I and the late Ralph House went to Bogota, Colombia, on a working draft horse excursion. We are using a stripped down version of the account we ran of that trip 18 years ago as our last installment of "Days Before" in the print version of this issue. I think for all five of us, it was one of the best weeks of our lives.

As a result of that trip in the Spring of 1988, a group of about fifteen Colombians visited our country that same year. This trip was in direct response to their request on the eve of our departure from Bogota that we show them (1) a great Belgian and Percheron show, (2) as much horse farming as possible, and (3) a pulling contest. We told them we could do that and show them more than a thousand Belgian and Percheron horses in the process. And we did.

And that is how Doc and Mary, Jeannine and I, and a really good guy named Gary Lutz from Global Livestock Ltd. in Ames, Iowa, met about fifteen Colombians at the airport in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During the next two weeks they would get all they came for and more.

In brief, we kept them mighty busy, starting out in eastern Ohio Amish country, thence to the state fair in Columbus, thence to Indiana for more of the same and as one of the last stops on the agenda, a day and night at the Indiana Sate Fair. But I digress, this is about national anthems–right?

Before we ever left home we knew this group would be guests of the Indiana State Fair hitch show on a certain evening. In laying out the schedule with Doc and Mary, I mentioned that at Waterloo (where I was once employed) we played both the Canadian and American national anthems when we had Canadian Holsteins in the big night parade. I recall the first time this came up and I asked our horse show organist if she would oblige us with the Canadian anthem as well as our own. She said, "Sure–except I don't know theirs–get me some sheet music." Well, I didn't keep sheet music laying around, but I did know most of the herdsmen. I didn't know which ones sang and which ones didn't but I inquired around and in a short time I had a young Canadian herdsman singing like a lark for my horse show organist. He was with Romandale Holsteins and, more importantly (to me), he knew the words and melody. I don't recall his name, but he was a good sport and I hope he is healthy, rich and retired.

So, when we were planning our trip east I related this tale to Doc and said, in effect, it would sure be a nice touch to have the horse show organist at Indianapolis surprise them with their own national anthem. Much to my amazement, Doc said, "I think that can be done." "How's that, Doc, you going to ask Lee Eller, the horse superintendent, to let you play the organ?" "No, just leave it to me. I will have sheet music for the Colombian national anthem." He seemed so confident. But then, he always does.

Anyhow, Doc did have some pretty good connections because when the hitch show night arrived the sheet music had been delivered. Lee Eller had provided the whole Colombian contingent with their own box seat. When the lights were dimmed and the playing of our national anthem was followed by the Colombian National Anthem and the announcer introduced our Latin American guests to the crowd, there wasn't a dry eye to be found in our neighborhood.

That wasn't anywhere near 75 years ago, but if you think old horse vets and old editors and their wives are hard boiled and unsentimental–well, you have just got it all wrong.

So much for national anthems. It is time to move on to the Breeder's Gazettes of those times. But before we do, and while we are still in a mellow frame of mind–let us tip our collective hats to the memory of the great football coach of Notre Dame, the immortal Knute Rockne. He died on a farm in Kansas in a plane crash. He was on his way to Los Angeles where he was to make a movie.

He is the coach who brought the "Fighting Irish" from a small school into national prominence, leaving a great legacy for the school and the game of football. He also taught chemistry. He literally worked his way through college. His most famous backfield was dubbed "The Four Horsemen." He was one outstanding guy–imagine it, born in Norway, baptized in a Lutheran church there, leading the "Fighting Irish" of Notre Dame to football immortality. Is this a great country or is this a great country?

Personally, I think Rockne would have made a first class draft horseman. And now on to those Breeder's Gazettes from early 1931.

Rockwood Granite, the 3-year-old Percheron stallion named grand champion at Chicago in 1930. Earlier in the season he had won his class at the Illinois and Iowa State Fairs and was reserve grand at the latter show. He was owned by the Holbert Horse Importing Company. But Holberts didn't find this one in France. They found him about 150 miles from home, down at Dean C.F. Curtis' farm where he had been foaled and where he had worked in harness every day that spring helping to put in the crops. Curtis sold him to Holberts in May of that year. He was sired by Maple Grove Eclipse–a Singmaster bred horse owned by the college and out of a daughter of Jalap–also owned by Iowa State.
Brique, the grand champion Percheron mare at Chicago in 1930 was French born. A first prize winner at the 1929 Paris Show, she was imported in the spring of 1930 by E.A. Nicodemus of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, for his fellow Pennsylvanian, Frank B. Foster of Phoenixville, who exhibited her at Chicago. So, one of the Percheron champions spoke French and the other one spoke Iowanese.


Our third champion from Chicago 1930 was this bright bay 5-year-old Shire stallion named Laddie II. He was bred by Elmer Shaffenacker, Kenney, Illinois, and exhibited by Truman's Stud Farm, Bushnell, Illinois. He was the only Shire stallion exhibited by Trumans that year. They had purchased him from the breeder in August of 1926.

For about the first time in about a half century, the Breeder's Gazette was being printed someplace other than Chicago–city of the big shoulders and, more importantly, of the Union Stock Yards.

Sam Guard had moved the magazine, lock, stock and barrel to a new home at Spencer, Indiana. It was a very upbeat issue. I have to believe that Sam felt that this move to the country was going to work. His new Mid-land Press was printing seven other publications in addition to his own Gazette. His old staff was pretty much intact and his connections with the ag colleges as cozy as ever.

This photo from the Truman ad in the 1930 Percheron News is a pretty good indication of where their main activity and interest was by then. The family was engaged in the Percheron trade in England, as well as here. Their main thrust was with the blacks and greys, and with the sorrel and roan Belgians in second place. Their Shire entry in Chicago that was grand champion in 1930 was more of a commentary on what Truman's HAD BEEN. Early in that century they carried a big part of the load in popularizing the Shire breed. But, like most dealers, they went where the action was.


This Jamesway ad from the February 1931 Breeder's Gazette suggests that there was more to outbuildings on farms than grain storage and machine sheds.

Sam was always a cheerleader, but that January issue sounded neither forced nor foolish–I think he figured that the worst was behind him and his magazine. And the country.

He was especially interested in expanding his purebred livestock advertising. The Gazette had already absorbed the Berkshire News and he was working on the other breeds in bundling their ads together. He was very successful doing this with the Belgian and Percheron horses and all three of the beef breeds. Not the dairy breeds, but then he was basically a "son of the feedlot and stock yards"–not the co-op creamery down the road. And besides, there was a fellow named Hoard up in Wisconsin who had staked a much better claim to the dairy breed advertising than the Gazette.

The next two issues were more of the same–ideas galore, interesting and well-written articles. Better, yes quite a lot better, than the Gazettes turned out in Chicago during those troubled times just before the move. Never mind that the economy continued to sink like a rock–that bunch down in Spencer, Indiana, was not about to show discouragement. Nor shrink from giving advice freely to government, bankers, politicians, breed associations and farmers. Sam had an idea about every fifteen minutes and was willing to share them with any and all comers. He reminds me of an expression used at the 1928 National Democratic Convention when a young fellow named Franklin Roosevelt nominated his fellow New Yorker, Governor Al Smith. He called Smith "The Happy Warrior." That is also what Sam Guard was–a happy warrior.

The only advertisement from those three issues I'm going to reproduce is the one of the Jamesway Manufacturing Company. It says a lot about the farmers of 1931 … and of 2006.

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