Tag Archives: artifacts

HIWAY AMERICA -RENO NEVADA- about, and THE ELEPHANT FOOT TRASH CANS

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 TO SET THE MOOD-A SONG ABOUT RENO BY DOUimages (3)SUPERNAW

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History of Reno

In 1859, Charles Fuller built a log bridge across the Truckee River and charged a fee to those who passed over it on their way to Virginia City and the gold recently discovered there.  Fuller also provided gold-seekers with a place to rest, purchase a meal, and exchange information with other prospectors.  In 1861, Myron Lake purchased Fuller’s bridge, and with the money from the tolls, bought more land, and constructed a gristmill, livery stable, and kiln. When the Central Pacific Railroad reached Nevada from Sacramento in 1868, Lake made sure that his crossing was included in its path by deeding a portion of his land to Charles Crocker (an organizer of the Central Pacific Railroad Company), who promised to build a depot at Lake’s Crossing.  On May 9, 1868, the town site of Reno (named after Civil War General Jesse Reno) was officially established.  Lake’s remaining land was divided into lots and auctioned off to businessmen and homebuilders.

The Lake Mansion is one of Reno’s oldest surviving homes.  Built in 1877 by William Marsh and purchased by Lake in 1879, the Lake Mansion originally stood at the corner of California and Virginia Streets.  In 1971, it was moved to save it from demolition and today the Lake Mansion serves as a small museum on the corner of Arlington Avenue and Court Street.

At the turn of the century, Nevada Senator Francis Newlands played a prominent role in the passage of the Reclamation Act of 1902.  The Newlands Reclamation Project diverted Truckee River water to farmland east of Reno, prompting the growth of the town of Fallon.

The residence of Francis Newlands, built in 1889, is one five National Historic Landmarks in Nevada.

Because Nevada’s economy was tied to the mining industry and its inevitable ups and downs, the state had to find other means of economic support during the down times.  Reno earned the title “Sin City” because it hosted several legal brothels, was the scene of illegal underground gambling, and offered quick and easy divorces.

Nystrom House, built in 1875 for Washoe County Clerk John Shoemaker, is also significant for its role as a boardinghouse during Reno’s divorce trade in the 1920s.  The Riverside Hotel, designed by Frederic DeLongchamps, was built in 1927 specifically for divorce-seekers and boasted an international reputation.

In 1927, in celebration of the completion of the Lincoln Highway (Highway 50) and the Victory Highway (Highway 40), the state of California built the California Building as a gift for the Transcontinental Exposition, held at Idlewild Park.

The Mapes Hotel was built in 1947 and opened for business on December 17th of that year.  It was the first high-rise built to combine a hotel and casino, providing the prototype for modern hotel/casinos. The building went vacant on December 17, 1982, 35 years to the day after it opened.  The Reno Redevelopment Agency acquired the property in 1996, and sought a developer to revitalize the building.  After four years of failed attempts to find a cost-effective way to save the structure, the Mapes was demolished on January 30, 2000.

This brief history of Reno highlights only a few of the many treasures that make up the unique history of “The Biggest Little City in the World.”  To own an historic property is to own a piece of a shared history.  Because the craftsmanship and fabrication processes that created them are no longer available, historic structures are nonrenewable resources and rely upon the efforts of their owners to ensure they survive into the future.

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Museum with Elephant Foot Trash Cans

Field review by the editors.

Reno, Nevada

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Wilbur May was born rich. He was the youngest son of the owner of the world’s largest department store chain. Dad wanted him to manage his stores, and Wilbur tried to, occasionally. But then he’d vanish for months, off on pleasure trips to China or South America.

That’s what he really liked to do.

When dad died, Wilbur left on a year-long safari and had the dumb luck to cash in all of his company stock for government bonds. The stock market crashed while Wilbur was away, and when he returned he was able to buy 20 times more stock than he’d had when he’d left.

Reconstructed living room with big game trophies.

Wilbur took his new millions and moved to Nevada to escape California’s personal income tax. He bought a multi-thousand-acre ranch south of Reno. He kept traveling and killing things. When he died in 1982, the stuff that he’d collected and killed became the Wilbur D. May Museum.

Wilbur had a bottomless appetite for souvenirs. Cases in the museum are crammed with Navajo rugs, Eskimo scrimshaw, African spears, Japanese swords. “Many artifacts that he collected resulted from trades with native people,” reads one sign. “Often, payment was an object that he possessed which the natives coveted.” A quick glance at Wilbur’s booty — Egyptian scarabs, New Guinean masks, T’ang Dynasty pottery — shows who got the better end of those deals.

Shrunken human head.

Wilbur’s prize collectible has to be hishuman shrunken head, a specimen from Ecuador, impaled on a stick, and “used in elaborate cannibalistic rites” according to its sign. Wilbur called the head “Susie” and paid his ranch foreman an extra $5.00 a month to keep its long hair neatly brushed.

Several rooms from Wilbur’s home have been recreated in the museum. The trophy room displays a zoo’s worth of dead animals on its walls: tigers, hippos, rhinos, lions. Ashtrays are made of animal parts, trash cans from elephant’s feet, rifle racks from the upturned legs of gazelles. The furniture is upholstered in zebra, the lamps in giraffe, with bases made of elephant feet and shades probably made of something we’d rather not think about.

“Hunters on safari in Africa were welcomed,” a sign explains, “because the trophies that they collected provided food for hundreds of people.”

Wilbur the Sportsman.

The walls of Wilbur’s rebuilt living room showcase his attempts at oil painting, his honorary awards from the Boy Scouts, and a plaque from the staff at one of the May stores, telling Wilbur what a great boss he was. A video about his life loops continually.

On the baby grand piano’s music rack is Wilbur’s proudest creative achievement, the lyrics for “Pass a Piece of Pizza Please,” a 1948 novelty song. A recording of it by Jerry Colonna plays on the room’s old floor model radio:

I don’t want salami, or red meat pastrami
But please won’t you pass a piece of pizza…

Photos on the wall shows bug-eyed Jerry wearing a chef’s hat, hamming it up for the camera with Wilbur.

Wilbur D. May was married four times. Unlike his father, he had no sons to disappoint him. We’d guess, from his museum, that he died a happy man.

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the Woodie Guthrie Museum -New York

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the Woodie Guthrie Museum -New York

I REALLY DIG WOODIE GUTHRIE AND THIS POST WOULD BE NOTHING WITHOUT A WOODIE SONG-SO HERE GOES “RIDING IN THE CAR”

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Finding Guthrie in Manhattan

A small museum for a wandering minstrel.

By Kathleen Sampey
ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — Standing before a New York audience in 1963, Bob Dylan gave a rare, spoken tribute to his musical hero: “And where do you look for this hope that you’re seekin’?” he asked. “You’ll find Woody Guthrie in the Brooklyn State Hospital.”
Guthrie died four years later, but his memory lives on at the Woody Guthrie Archive.

In adjoining offices on West 57th Street not much bigger than two cubicles, the archive contains about 10,000 artifacts related to the folksinger, who gave a voice to the down-and-out in the 1930s and ’40s with songs praising labor unions, Jesus Christ, and “Pretty Boy” Floyd.

On every wall, Guthrie’s earnest yet puckish countenance stares down from posters and photos. True to his spirit, you don’t need any “do re mi” to visit — the archive is available by appointment for free. “A lot of young guys show up with their guitars,” archivist George Arevalo said. “They’re interested in mining the song lyrics for inspiration. “We get writers, researchers, journalists, and students doing dissertations. We had one young guy come up who was writing a book on famous dishwashers. And wouldn’t you know, Woody was once a dishwasher.”

Guthrie was plenty more: social crusader, essayist, painter, environmentalist, recording artist, and influence to a generation of folk-rock artists from Dylan to Bruce Springsteen and more.

Born in Okemah, Okla., in 1912, he traveled the country during the Depression, playing a guitar that had the slogan “This machine kills fascists” pasted onto it.

The songs he wrote and sang with his reedy tenor, including “Do Re Mi,” “Dust Bowl Blues” and “Union Maid,” were a testament to the suffering he witnessed among the poor and the powerless. Those and other recordings of Guthrie performing solo and with contemporaries such as Pete Seeger and the Weavers are part of the archive, and can be sampled.

Joe Klein, author of Woody Guthrie: A Life, called Guthrie the patron saint of teenage rebelliousness.

“There’s always someone who’s sick of the way things are in town who hops a train and heads west,” Klein said. “That is a very classically American image. He and Leadbelly [ Huddie Ledbetter ] together are the fathers of rock and roll and gangster rap.”

The bulk of the Guthrie archives came from the singer’s business manager, Harold Leventhal, who was given numerous boxes of Guthrie’s doodlings, musings and unpublished lyrics by the second of Guthrie’s three wives, Marjorie, in 1961. The boxes sat in Leventhal’s office, where the archive is now organized, until the early 1990s.

Starting with a $100,000 donation from recording artists and companies, Leventhal and Guthrie’s daughter Nora hired Arevalo. With their assistant, Amy Danelian, they began organizing and restoring the works. The archive opened in April.

Among the most requested items for viewing is a framed sheet of paper with the original handwritten lyrics to Guthrie’s most famous song, “This Land Is Your Land.” It shows the original title and chorus, “God Blessed America.” The title and some lyrics were crossed out and reworked, and the piece is signed “Woody G., Feb. 23, 1940.”

For Nora Guthrie, who was 17 when her father died, organizing the archives allowed her to get to know her father, who had been ill all her life.

“You know how you never think your parents are really interesting?” she asked with a laugh. “I knew he was famous, and people liked his songs. But my first impression when going through the archives was that this guy had something, especially in his thoughts about women. For a long time, he had mostly been a ‘guy’ thing.”

She was particularly touched by a poem, “I Say to You Woman and Man,” which her father wrote when the family lived in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn in the mid-1940s, before she was born.

“In it he basically tells the woman that she has a lot of power and a lot of juice and lot of beauty, and that she should go out there and go for it,” Nora Guthrie said. “He says go dance, your life, your politics, your music, your voice.”

The archive is rich with personal glimpses of her father. Some 600 of his artworks, done in marker and watercolor on everything from construction paper to paper towels, can also be viewed. They are so fragile that Arevalo wears white cotton gloves to handle them.

Several are serious studies of the human form; others are bawdy cartoons of the same. Still others are loving portraits, such as the pencil sketch of his oldest daughter drawn in the Guthrie home in Coney Island. “Cathy’s Got the Mumps” was dated 1946, the year the little girl died in a fire. The tragedy was one of many in Guthrie’s life. His sister also died in a fire; a son died in a car accident; his mother succumbed to Huntington’s disease, a genetic neurological disorder that took 15 years to kill Guthrie and, later, two of his eight children.

And in the 1950s, Guthrie was blacklisted, which prompted a typically glib response: “I ain’t a Communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life.”

Arevalo said that many private collectors and auction houses have approached Nora Guthrie, hoping to buy portions of the archive, but were rebuffed. The archive is a national treasure, and should be preserved as such, he said.

In conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution, the archivists are putting together a Guthrie traveling exhibit to open in Sacramento, Calif., in March. It’s part of a fund-raising effort to expand and preserve the archive.

Arevalo’s wish list includes transferring some of the 8mm home movies of Guthrie to video for use in the traveling exhibit. And he hopes to digitize the 700 photographs in the archive so visitors can call them up on a computer.

As for Guthrie’s social and musical legacy, his daughter wants people to recognize that “in his time he was more of a rolling stone. But that stone has stopped and turned into a foundation for other people to build on.”