Tuesday, 17 August 2010 08:16

75 Years Ago Late Winter/Early Spring 1932

Written by  Maurice Telleen
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(Basically from the January, February and March 1932 Breeder's Gazettes, the general news of the period and a kid's recollection of the 1930s.)

The year 1932 got off to a bad start and got worse as it went along. Our immediate ancestors were trying to cope with what came to be known as "the Great Depression." Grain, livestock and land prices were all bumping along at rock bottom out in the farming countryside. In the cities, soup kitchens and shanty towns sprang up as unemployment spread like a plague.

Of the two, I think the farm families with their home butchering and canning skills, along with their big gardens and wood burning stoves, were much better off than their city cousins. There was a lot more in the way of survival skills than one finds today. I think the rural population actually increased as some of the unemployed returned to their kinfolks.

Internationally, a lot of old orders were falling apart as well. Japan and China were busily engaged in killing one another's young men over real estate, like Manchuria. Shanghai was getting so badly beat up that President Hoover dispatched units of the 31st Infantry to that city to protect American citizens caught in the crossfire.

Just down the globe a short ways from China was India. Mahatma Gandhi had been driving the British crazy for years. So, they chose to outlaw Gandhi's Congress Party. That will fix him! Gandhi said, in effect, "Us outlaws will boycott all things British, we will strike in your plants and we will defy all your orders calculated to crush the national spirit." Or words and actions somewhat to that effect. No call to arms, just a notification of what they intended to do and not to do. And he continued to drive the British crazy.

On a happier note, that pretty little Norwegian girl, Sonja Henie, won her second gold medal in figure skating at the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York. She had won her first one in 1928 and would win her third Olympic Gold Medal in 1936 with Adolf Hitler as the host in Germany. Some host! Too bad he didn't fall through the ice–where the water was deep and the current was swift. Eventually, she started hanging around in Hollywood and made some movies. I don't remember any of them but I suspect she had skated in most of them. She was pretty cute–and a better skater than an actress.

Let's go back to our then president, Herbert Hoover. I suspect he was doing a lot of things that he wasn't 100% comfortable with–such as dispatching an infantry unit to Shanghai, China, to protect Americans and American interests. He was also urging passage and signing into law a bill to establish the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to prop-up industry and create jobs. It was the first of many "print the money and prime the pump" type of legislation. It was designed to stop deflation in agriculture and provide billions in new paper money to create new jobs. It won quick approval and was followed by others of a similar ilk. These so-called "alphabet agencies" were not part of the usual Republican creed but these certainly were not usual times.

On March 2, the infant son of Colonel and Mrs. Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped, snatched from his crib on the second floor in the family home near Princeton, New Jersey, while his parents were at dinner. The ransom note called for $50,000 and shocked the nation. If the country had a national hero at that time, it had to be Lindbergh. The decomposed remains of the child were found some two months later in a wood patch within five miles of the Lindbergh home. President Hoover had even put the federal law enforcement agencies in the search to find the Lindbergh baby. Bruno Hauptmann was convicted of the murder and executed on February 13, 1935. For more on the Lindbergh story, see the Autumn 2005 DHJ, starting on page 77.

And finally, before we switch gears into the Breeder's Gazettes of that time, I want to mention the death of John Philip Sousa from a heart attack on March 5, 1931. Of the people from the early dirty '30s mentioned so far, this one probably rings fewer bells than the others. If that name meant absolutely nothing to you, it is because you didn't play an instrument in your high school band.

Sousa's father was a member of the Marine Corps band–that is what he did for a living. It was his career. His son, John Philip, literally grew up to "lead" that band. He became its leader at the age of 25 and served under and performed, on state occasions, for five presidents. The Marine band was, and still is so far as I know, regarded as the "president's own"–the best of the best. John Philip is also remembered as the composer of two of our most famous marches–"Semper Fidelis" and "Stars and Stripes Forever."

The cover of the January 1932 Breeder's Gazette and Dairy Tribune.

And if you lived and attended school in or close to Fort Dodge, Iowa, you had another reason for knowing about this kind of thing. For that area had its own "March King" and his name was Karl King. His summer concerts in the park in Fort Dodge were locally famous–and so was he. I think King composed some of his own music as well. As you may have guessed–I'm fond of march music.

And with that we will switch over to the farming scene and I can think of nothing better to start with than a reproduction of the cover of that January 1932 issue which incorporated the recent purchase of the Dairy Tribune. So the dairy cows came under the same tent as the beef, swine, sheep, poultry, horses and mules.

Sam Guard served to remind us on the very first page of that 20-page January issue that 1932 was "Our Year of Jubilee!" for it also celebrated the completion of 50 years of continuous publication in the service of the livestock industry. "Breeder's Gazette will celebrate its Golden Jubilee with more than twice as many subscribers as it ever had before."

Sam had so many ideas that he almost exploded. He was also a clever fox. He made his newly acquired dairy subscribers feel right at home with an opening feature article by Frank Lowden, owner of Sinnissippi Farm in Ogle County, Illinois, where he had a great herd of Holsteins. Oh yes. Lowden was also the governor of the state of Illinois. You can never tell when a governor might come in handy.

His Golden Anniversary order blank for renewals (reproduced here) scares me to death, as a publisher. Read the fine print. I know the country was in the very depth of the depression but 36 issues over a three-year period delivered to your home for a buck and the same deal for your friends down the road. Looks like he was placing a heavy bet on advertisers and improved times.

They were almost giving away the store.


He was also hiring a lot of extra help–4,000 Associate Editors. That was another brain storm but the method to his madness in this case was self-evident. By the time the February issue came out those associates were providing him with a lot of copy that didn't cost much at all.

This was about the same time that another Guard showed up on the masthead. Sam, of course, had been there for some time, then he was joined by Lucy Ruth Guard, as Women's Editor, and in March of '32 by Lewis L. Guard, as livestock fieldman. Kind of sounds like "everybody works at our house, including my old man."

So how was the merger doing? Well, both the February and March issues went up to 28 pages, an increase of eight pages over January. They were attractive publications. There was not a huge influx of dairy advertising, but some. I think all five breeds had their own breed journals by that time which might have had something to do with that. And for reasons not clearly stated, it mentioned that the registration and transfer income in the dairy breeds had declined substantially since 1929. That, too, might have had an effect. I'll admit I liked the combined old Gazette and the Dairy Journal, but then, I came from a dairy family.

Now, here is a stray item that caught my attention from the February 1932 combined magazine: "From some recent tests it does not pay to top dress winter wheat with straw. But top-dressing alfalfa, pastures, corn ground or clover meadows with manure is entirely different." Now, in one of the photos in our J.C. Allen & Son two-page spread in this issue, we have a picture of a fellow at Purdue (I think) loading loose straw with which to top dress winter wheat. Poor guy. He was just wasting his time. He should have read his Gazette.

There were two new crops making a bit of noise. They were both from Asia. They were soybeans and lespedeza. The packers were blaming the soybean for a lot of soft pork. But Sleeter Bull (that was his name) from the University of Illinois argued the case for the soybean. He said with the oil expelled or extracted, the pork was of satisfactory firmness and besides, there weren't that many soybeans being grown. Southern hogs were always suspect and frequently guilty of soft pork. Maybe it was the peanuts.

The other newcomer crop was Korean Lespedeza which was taking hold down in Tennessee. This legume was used for forage, soil improvement and especially hay, and it went on to become an important plant in the South. I was in Korea but don't recall seeing any Lespedeza, but then maybe I just wasn't paying attention. Or in the wrong places.

But hard times (and they were!) or not, Sam Guard was not quite through pulling rabbits out of his hat. On the final page of the March issue he announced the recent purchase of a 305 acre farm. It was sort of like an afterthought. And, true to form, he was inviting readers to give this place a name.

Now, depression or no depression, we can't just leave it there. Life goes on and since this is a draft horse publication, there has to be something in this column that speaks to us about the draft horse trade in 1931-'32, as well as what Sam Guard was up to next.

In the spring of 1932 the Belgian Association came out with its fourth Belgian Review. Its predecessors were published in 1925, '27 and '29–each covering the major activities and shows for a two-year period. That 1932 Review covered the three-year stretch, as did its successor, the 1935 Review. From 1936 on, they have all been annuals.

His Excellency, Mr. Paul May, Belgian Ambassador to the government of the United States … from the 1932 Belgian Review. Judging from his commentary I'd say he attached a tremendous importance to his country's export trade in drafters. Whether he is the one who brought Ed Estel to his knees at the Waterloo Show, I can't say. I was only 3 or 4-years-old at the time.

Charles Wentz (See article in DHJ – Winter 2002-'03, p. 168) pictured at left, the recipient of the King Albert trophy at the International and J.D. Conner, American Belgian Association secretary.

Genese De Ergot, grand champion Belgian mare repeatedly at both Waterloo and Chicago from the mid-'20s to well into the 1930s. Bred by Charley Jones, Livermore, Iowa, and later sold to Earle Brown, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Note the clean limbs, beautiful pasterns, and style of this mare. She was a thoroughly modern Millie … and almost unbeatable.

That 1932 Review devoted two full pages to His Excellency, Mr. Paul May, the ambassador from Belgium to the government of the United States. The two countries had excellent relations, much of it based on this very lively trade of draft horses. As Mr. May stated in his message "I do not think there is a better horse in the world today for draft or farm purposes. I may [he better!] have some patriotic prejudice in the matter, but my opinion seems to be confirmed by the popularity of the Belgian breed in the United States and other countries. I have not seen the figures for last year, but in 1930, we exported 20,939 Belgian draft horses which seems a rather satisfactory showing in view of the general business depression which has prevailed throughout the world." There was no "meat trade" involved!

The Ambassador went on and on about this wonderful relationship between our two countries. King Albert thought so, too. So right there on page 7 of that 1932 Review is J.D. Conner, Jr., up to that time the ONLY secretary of the American Belgian Association, with his newest bauble–"Knight of the Order of the Crown," one of the highest that the king bestows. I'll tell you this–nobody else in Wabash, Indiana, had one. It had been only four years since the king had dispatched Prince Albert DeLigne, the Belgian ambassador at the time to hop out to Chicago during the International where he presented the "King Albert Trophy" to Charley Wentz, that Ohio farmer, breeder and stallioner in the show ring at Chicago.

It was pretty evident that the Belgian government regarded their draft horses as a national treasure and any ambassador to this country had some serious "knighting" to do.

I never saw, much less knew, either J.D. Conner or Charley Wentz, but I did personally know one of the Americans who was knighted and I think it is worth sharing. He was Ed Estel, long-time secretary/manager of the Dairy Cattle Congress and National Belgian Horse Show in Waterloo, Iowa. I did not know Ed for long as he died a year or so after I came on board at that show. To make a long story short, I eventually wound up in Ed Estel's old post. Ed's aged secretary, Adeline Hayes, was still hanging in there and was a storehouse of information and help to me. One day, just for fun I think, she told me that her old boss had once been knighted by the Ambassador from Belgium. (She also let me know that I would never make it into knighthood.)

This is the tale. The Cattle Congress (then home to the National Belgian Show) had hundreds of contracts out to manufacturers, seed corn companies and concessionaires. With the concessionaires, it was a two-part deal. They would pay half down when they signed the contract and pay the balance on the fifth day or so, after they had made a buck or two.

The dairy breeds and the Belgian horse breeders all had their special banquets during the show, sometimes downtown, but often at the ballroom which was on the grounds. The manager would generally try to make brief stops at each of the banquets, thank the exhibitors for coming and be on his way. There were also banquets for 4-H, FFA and collegiate judging teams. It was hard to run out of banquets.

That year the Belgian banquet was in the ballroom on the grounds–perfect for killing two birds with one stone. Ed could hit up a popcorn joint or two on the walkover, do the usual greeting to the Belgian horsemen, and thank them for their loyal support of the show and then go back into the night to hit up the rest of the popcorn joints and food stands.

What Ed didn't know was that there was an ambassador lurking around in there and he was not going to make his usual quick exit. Instead he found himself in a kneeling position while this official from Belgium anointed him a "Knight of the Order of the Crown, by King Albert of Belgium." Miss Hayes said, "Ed didn't know it was coming at all." Holy Smoke! Well, this wasn't the first surprise that ever happened to him so he gathered his wits, thanked the Belgian exhibitors and the government of Belgium, and then went back on collection duty. Such was the life of one fair manager on a very special night.

And Addie, Ed's old secretary, was right. I never did get knighted, but I did get to Brussells, and Ed didn't.

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