HistoryBuff.com October 2009 Newsletter
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The Bank That Went Postal

No, not that kind of postal - rather the original meaning of going postal.

In December 1903, the Bank of Vernal, Utah opened its doors for business, It was the first bank in that part of Utah and included luxury features like bullet-proof glass enclosed counters. The bank did a flourishing business and within thirteen years needed expansion to accommodate their growing customer base.

The bank president and others drew up plans for a new building to be located across the street from the original. This bank would be made of brick. Since there were no brick makers near Vernal, the closest brick kiln was in Salt Lake City, Utah, a distance of 150 miles. Having the bricks trucked in was cost-prohibitive so the building committee explored other possible methods of getting the bricks from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah. It was soon discovered that if they followed the postal regulations, the bricks could be sent by mail for one-quarter the price. The regulations stated that no package could be mailed if it weighed over 50 pounds and no more than 500 pounds addressed to the same person. The postage rate was only $1.05 per hundred pounds of bricks. Postal officials carefully scrutinized their regulations and could not find a valid reason why they should reject the shipments. To add irony to the matter, postal services could not send the packages by direct route. Instead, following postal protocol, the mail route was over a tortuous 427 miles from Salt Lake to Mack, Colorado by D & R G Railroad, then to Watson on the narrow gauge Uintah Railway, and finally the last 65 miles to Vernal by wagon freight. Trust the government to take the long route!

Soon, word of the bank that was sent by mail spread throughout the country. Farmers began shipping their crop harvests by mail, manufacturers started shipping their furniture, etc. by mail. The United States Post Office officials investigated the matter to see how they could prevent this from happening again. The result was a minor change in their regulations. As a result, regulations were changed to no more than 200 pounds could be sent from the same sender to the same addressee within a 30-day period.

The bank building is still there and being used today.

Camels Come to America

Discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in December 1848 set off a rush for California. Eager miners had to choose from three difficult and dangerous routes to get there.

The fastest, but expensive, was a sea journey to Panama, a portage to the Pacific and another trip by ship to San Francisco. A mid-continent route required arduous climbing through the Rocky Mountains. A southern route through desert country -- newly won as spoils in the Mexican War -- had to contend with lack of water and animal forage.

Jefferson Davis, a senator for Mississippi, later president of the Confederacy, suggested that camels be imported to carry supplies across the southwestern desert to the miners and gold on the return trip. His proposal was greeted with jeers and laughter in Congress.

In 1853, Davis was appointed Secretary of War and in a position to pursue his camel venture. Two years later, Congress appropriated $30,000 to buy camels for military purposes.

After Congress appropriated money for the camel project, Major Wayne and Lieutenant David D. Porter were sent to the eastern Mediterranean in a Navy ship, the Supply, to buy the first camels. An experienced horse trader, Wayne spent considerable time investigating camel lore and studying the offerings in the camel markets of Egypt. It was time well spent. All but one of the 33 animals he bought at an average of $250 apiece survived the tough, three-month ocean voyage to Indianola, Texas.

In February 1857, a second cargo, consisting of 41 camels, landed on the Texas coast. A permanent camel camp was established soon thereafter at Camp Verde near San Antonio, where various experiments were tried. Soon it was discovered that six camels could do the work of 12 horses and in 42 hours less time, and that they climbed trails that wagons could not manage.

The camels of Texas, purchased under a grant from the U. S. Government, were seized by the Confederates at the outbreak of the Civil War. Somewhat strangely, however, the Southern camel-kidnappers had little interest in the plan that their own President, Jefferson Davis, had sponsored in the Senate.

Private American companies were not, however, blind to the potential profits to be made in camel transport. Bactrian camels were imported from Manchuria to San Francisco in 1860 and put to work as pack animals in Nevada. More were imported in 1862; these were quickly reshipped at a profit to British Columbia to serve in pack trains.

In the U. S., in the early 1860s, many southwestern forts were abandoned as troops were needed for battles in the East, and the forts’ camels wandered away. Thirty of the creatures eventually turned up in Los Angeles. A special corral was built for them on Second Street, which is today in the heart of the City of Angels. Most other camels were simply let loose.

In 1863, a camel-express service was tried between New San Pedro and Tucson, Arizona, but with only limited success. Around that same time a group of Mexicans loaded up some camels on wagons with the intention of making beasts of burden out of them, but abused them so severely that most of the animals died.

In the middle 1860s, a company of Frenchmen in the Southwest obtained two of the camels that had survived the Mexican abuse. They nursed the animals back to health. By 1870 the pair had increased to a herd of 25, all doing labor for their masters. The animals were kept on a Nevada ranch, near the Carson River, from which they carried salt and hay to the Comstock gold and silver mines. Sometime later, these camels were sent to Arizona where they hauled ore from the Silver King mine to Yuma. They were finally turned loose in the desert near Maricopa Wells.

In 1885, a young boy of five whose father commanded the army garrison at Fort Selden, New Mexico, saw an extraordinary sight that he recollected much later in life. “One day a curious and frightening animal with a blobbish head, long and curving neck, and shambling legs, moseyed around the garrison . . . the animal was one of the old army camels.” The little boy would later become known to the world as General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.


Special Notice About This Newsletter

Some subscribers have sent an email informing me that they are only receiving their newsletter sporadically. I assure you that my newsletter has gone out without fail every month since its inception in 2004. With each issue I email out, I receive anywhere from 50 to 80 bounce backs due to the recipient's email box being too full to accept more email. Email domains with this problem are primarily aol, yahoo, hotmail and some earthlink. These email domains have a limit (quota) of how many emails that can be in the mailbox at a given time. I do not delete these subscribers from the newsletter list.

Here's a tip to ensure that you receive each and every monthly newsletter. I send out the notice that the new issue of my newsletter can be read online somewhere between 10 PM on the 9th of the month though 10 PM on the 10th. Thus, if you go into your email account a few days before the 9th of each month and delete a quantity of emails you have saved, it will clear room for the newsletter notice. Likely, most of these emails are SPAM, so deleting them will not cause any harm. Also, if people have sent you emails with photos as attachments, this will fill up your email quota very fast. One photo can take up the room of as many as 100 regular emails! If you save these photos to your hard drive as you receive them it will allow perhaps 100s of more emails to get through. (If you are not sure how to save them to your hard drive, email me for directions.)


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September Contest

CONTEST ONE QUESTION: John Phillips Sousa, known as the March King for all the marching tunes which he wrote while serving in what military branch that had a marching band?

ANSWER: U. S. Marines

CONTEST TWO QUESTION: What is the oldest military academy in the United States?

ANSWER: West Pointe

Seventy-eight people entered. Twenty-six people had errors in their entry. Most of the errors had either incorrect subject headings or failure to pick a prize if they won. One prize was not awarded.

I am continually running in to a problem with contest winners. For the past several contests, the original winner of a specific prize did not respond to my request for them to email me the address they wanted their prize mailed to. A week later, I notified a new winner for that prize that they had won and to please email me the address they wanted their prize mailed to. This past issue, even the second choice winner did not respond to my email request. If you don't want the prize, please do not enter the contest.

The September Contest Winners Were:
  • Ellen Losey - Illinois
  • JJ Zywicki Jr - Pennsylvania
  • Richard W. Wert - Nevada
  • Stuart Welter - Missouri
  • Harry Van Noy - Indiana
  • William W. Willett - Wyoming
  • Steven Baker - Missouri

This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question: The first printing of the Pledge of Allegiance appeared it what publication?

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: The first national park was established in 1872. Which one was it?

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Friday, October 16, 2009. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 48 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

  • To enter Contest One or Contest Two, email your answer to curator at historyreference.org

  • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest One question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest Two question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but only win one prize.

  • If entering both contests, entries must be sent in separate emails.

  • Each entry MUST select ONE prize from the appropriate prize list.

  • If answering the Contest One question, select your prize from the Contest One prize list.

  • If answering the Contest Two question, select your prize from the Contest Two prize list.

  • From subscribers entering the contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE contest prize they want to win, NINE will be selected to win ONE of the contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
October Contest One Prize

Hallmark Channel Double Feature DVD

Thicker Than Water
Staring Melissa Gilbert and Lindsay Wagner

Ordinary Miracles
Staring Jaclyn Smith and Corbin Bernsen

October Contest Two Prize Selection
(Only one of each offered)


Wonder Toons Volume 4
Classic Cartoons from the 1930s-1960s
Including Felix the Cat, Casper, Popeye, Little LuLu,
Snow White and more


You Bet Your Life
Classic game show with Groucho Marx

Original Historic Newspapers

Original Daily National Intellegencer (Washington, DC) historic newspaper from 1843

The Daily Atlas historic newspaper from 1867

Original Coldwater Republican historic newspaper from 1876
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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