Monday, March 31, 2014

LCHS Celebrates Women's History Month: Donna Bray

Today's post come from a very special guest contributor, Keith Petersen.  Not only is Keith Idaho's State Historian and Associate Director of the Idaho State Historical Society, he is also a former Director of LCHS and long-time friend and adviser to the organization.  

This blog’s tribute to Women’s History Month began with an appreciation of Lillian Woodworth Otness.  It is sad—but also most fitting—that it should end with notice of the death of Donna Bray, for, in the late 1970s, Lillian and Donna were mainstays in the transformation of the Latah County Historical Society into a professional organization.

LCHS Staff in 1979: L to R, Dick Waldbauer, Karen Broenneke, Donna Bray, J. D. Britton; seated, Keith Petersen. (Photo Courtesy of Keith Petersen)

Donna died on March 18, 2014, having lived in California her last 29 years.  Her brief obituary in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News made no mention of her contributions to LCHS.  That is regrettable, for they were many.

Donna innocently became associated with the Society in 1976, as a newly elected member of the County Commission.  She was asked to sit in at a meeting for the commissioner who then served on the board of trustees.  It turned into a lasting relationship.  In 1977, Donna was elected the Society’s president. 

A year prior to Donna becoming a trustee, a three-member committee—Lillian Otness, Leora Stillinger, and Ray Berry—had recommended that the Society make a dramatic shift toward professionalism by hiring its first full-time director.  It was a controversial move, and the Society lost some members because of it.  Prior to then, from its establishment in 1965 as the Latah County Pioneer Historical Museum Association, the organization had been dedicated primarily to social activities and honoring pioneers.  But Donna totally embraced the concept of professionalism, and over the next few years, working closely with Lillian, dramatically changed the organization.

Donna, a lifelong Democrat, was well connected politically in Idaho.  At the time she became Society president, state statutes limited the amount of funding county commissioners could provide to museums and historical societies to $9,000 annually.  Donna thought such a restriction absurd.  In 1977, she became a charter member of the Idaho Association of Museums (IAM), agreed to move its “headquarters” to Moscow, and helped host the organization’s first annual conference.  Eventually she would become IAM’s president.  Working with Moscow legislator Robert Hosack and marshalling political allies and IAM members throughout the state, Donna carefully crafted and guided through the legislature a new law that enabled commissioners to decide for themselves how much they might choose to invest in preserving history.  Today, LCHS and museums/historical societies throughout the state are beneficiaries of Donna’s legislation. 

At the time Donna became president, the organization’s name was the Latah County Museum Society.  Donna and Lillian both advocated a new name that would “reflect our diverse and numerous activities,” as Donna stated, and in 1978 we became the Latah County Historical Society.

All areas of Society activities flourished under Donna’s leadership.  The Society not only had the largest oral history project in the Northwest, but also one of the most successful publication programs of any local historical organization in the region.  The Society’s research library, now perhaps the finest local history research library in the state, began.  The Society aggressively applied for grants that funded everything from collecting historic photos in Latah County towns, to purchasing AV equipment for public programs, to buying a security system, allowing the live-in director to move out, and opening up much-needed space in the McConnell Mansion for staff work areas.

The vast majority of museums and local historical societies never make it beyond the antique-store level of development:  dusty places that gather old stuff for no apparent reason other than that someone thinks it should be saved.  A vital historical society is a living part of its community, a place of education, inspiration, and entertainment.  It takes dynamic leadership to convert an organization from a pioneer social club to a professional educational institution.  LCHS was fortunate to have experienced the confluence of two progressive women leaders in the late 1970s at the most critical juncture in its transformation. 

Donna stepped down as president in 1979; fittingly, Lillian, then vice president, filled her place.  Donna then became a LCHS staff member on a grant-funded project to record historic structures in downtown Moscow, an important step in the preservation of the downtown core.  Donna left Moscow in the 1980s to care for a brother in San Clemente.  The LCHS she left behind little resembled the one she first became acquainted with in 1976.  As LCHS approaches its 50th anniversary in 2015, it is fitting, particularly during Women’s History Month, to pay respect to the influential leadership of Donna Bray and Lillian Otness—friends, collaborators, sometimes even schemers—and their remarkable accomplishments on behalf of the Latah County Historical Society. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Gamla och nya Hemlandet

One of the great things about being the museum curator is that you never know what is going to come through the door.  The other day I received a stack of yellowed, brittle newspapers.  This newspaper was unique, it was in Swedish.  To add to the excitement the newspaper was printed in 1913 in Chicago, Illinois.  These newspapers came to me since they were found inside the walls of a house here in Moscow, Idaho.  At the time the newspapers were printed it was fairly common to use newspapers and whatever else you could get your hands on to insulate your house.  These newspapers served that purpose for more than 100 years and are now being examined for the first time since. 

These newspapers add to the documentation of the rich Swedish heritage in Latah County.  Large amounts of Swedish immigrants were attracted to this area by the availability of land and jobs in the agricultural and logging industries.  The Swedish presence was so large that in 1906 a Swedish Lutheran Church was constructed.  The fact that some of these immigrants sought out this newspaper tells us how important it was for these immigrants to connect with their country and their heritage through the written word.

The name of the newspaper is Gamla och nya Hemlandet, which translates to The Old and New Homeland (or Country).  This newspaper began in 1855, originally published in Galesburg, Illinois as the Hemlandet det gamla och det nya or Home Country of the Old and New.  In 1870 the newspaper changed its name, editor and publication location as it became the newspaper in my office the Gamla och nya Hemlandet. 
The newspaper is immensely interesting, even for those who do not speak Swedish.  The newspaper contains photos and advertisements including one for a cruise on the Cunard Cruise Line ship, the Lusitania.   The Lusitania was famously sunk by German U-Boats on May 1st, 1915 during World War 1.  These newspapers are a great resource of documentary history. 

So that everyone can get to look at these wonderful newspapers I have attached a photo of only one page but if you use the link below you will be able to access all of the pages at their full resolution.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mystery Solved

Thank you to everyone who participated in our collections mystery challenge.  The object was correctly identified by one of our volunteers as a whale ear bone.  Whale ears are quite fascinating, located in the jaw bone whale ears are insulated by air to create directional hearing underwater.  Now why we have this fascinating whale ear bone in our collection at the Latah County Historical Society is beyond me, if anybody has any theories on how this got to be here at LCHS I would be all ears.

A photo of a Humpback whale, courtesy of Wikipedia.

A photo of killer whales or Orcas courtesy of Wikipedia.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Museum Mystery

Here at the Latah County Historical Society I have been re-organizing the objects collection and cataloging it into our museum management software, Past Perfect.  This project has been a very rewarding project, and I have had fun working on it.  I have a bit of an update and a mystery item today that I found in our collection.  The update is that the toy collection has been organized and cataloged into Past Perfect.  I have attached a photo of this work below.

As I move out of the toy room I found an object that I couldn't figure out.  As the days have passed I finally did figure it out, but I thought that I'd post it here for everyone to see.  I welcome any ideas or guesses into the comments section below.  I will post the answer to this riddle on tomorrow's post.

The piece on the right of the main object has broken from the center of the piece.

The object weighs roughly 1 pound.

Good luck to you all, I look forward to reading your responses and updating you tomorrow.

 - Zach Wnek
Museum Curator
Latah County Historical Society

Friday, March 21, 2014

LCHS Celebrates Women's History Month: League of Women Voters

On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself in awe of the remarkable passion that Latah County women bring to the causes they champion.  Over the last several months the personal relationships I have cultivated with individual members have provided me with countless examples of sincere devotion to the improvement of our shared community.  One of our Trustees volunteers with TaxAid, assisting folks with tax preparation at no cost.  Another has a weekly commitment at the local food bank.  A third not only serves our organization, but also the Juliaetta-Kendrick Heritage Foundation.  I suppose it is little wonder that the women who donate countless hours to LCHS would also do the same for other worthy groups, but that fact makes their generosity no less inspiring.  

The list of charitable organizations in Latah County is long, and women contribute significant time and energy to every cause, be it childhood education, environmental stewardship, or human rights.  Indeed the LCHS archive is filled with records from non-profit organizations that bear witness to that fact.  While nearly any charitable group could be used to demonstrate my point, given that it is Women's History Month I could think of none more appropriate than Moscow’s League of Women Voters.   

The League of Women Voters was established as a national organization in 1920 by suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt.  From its beginning, the League was meant to serve as a support structure for grassroots mobilization.  With a commitment to the ideal that progress often begins at the local level, League members were (and continue to be) encouraged to engage in city and county politics and planning.  The League also avows nonpartisan dialogue, welcoming members of all political persuasions to contribute positively to a more democratic society.  

Published by state group, League of Women Voters of Idaho.  Large Collection: League of Women Voters
Example of the LWV commitment to fostering civic engagement.  From "What You Should Know About Writing to Your State Legislator"
Moscow’s chapter of the LWV was organized in 1951, and immediately took up several projects that would set a precedent for the work the group continues to this day.  As the article below notes, the group (still designated as “provisional” in May of 1951) surveyed the resources available to Moscow residents and compiled a “Know Your Town” report.  

From scrapbook found in Large Collection: League of Women Voters
In the 1950s and ‘60s the League would publish several of these studies, both for Moscow and  Latah County.  As explained in the county guide, the League hoped that “this small pamphlet can help to create the informed electorate necessary to initiate and implement long over-due modernization of the county government and its relation to city and state.”  By providing basic information, such as the names and numbers of County Commissioners and the yearly budget of the county government, League members believed that citizens would be better prepared to consider important issues regarding the financial and social wellbeing of the area.  A list of ongoing challenges faced by Latah County was also included.

Large Collection: League of Women Voters
Excerpt from "This is Latah County Idaho," published by the League of Women Voters, Moscow, Idaho 1957
By its own definition, “the League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization open to all women who are interested in educating themselves and others for effective ‘participation in government as a public trust’.”  As is the case today, most of the names of early League rosters can be found on the rolls of other area civic and philanthropic organizations.  Mrs. Jeannette Talbott, for example, served on the League’s Board for several years and has long been a friend and supporter of our historical society.  Another former League Board member, Coralee Borning, was also a charter member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse.  

Large Collection: League of Women Voters (Moscow Publications Folder)
The Moscow chapter of the LWV remains active and engaged in nonpartisan pursuits.  Among their many good works, the group sponsors candidate forums for most local elections, presents weekly educational presentations over the noon-hour on Wednesdays in the 1912 Center, and produces valuable surveys on topics such as affordable housing in Moscow.

As I noted earlier, the League of Women Voters is just one of many organizations devoted to improving the lives of some or all in Latah County.  During this month of recognition, LCHS extends its gratitude to all the women who make this county such a wonderful place to live, work, and play. 

-- Dulce Kersting
    Executive Director

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The First National Bank of Moscow

Today we are taking a break from women's history month to discuss the First National Bank of Moscow.  This blog post comes from the President of the Board of Directors at Latah County Historical Society (LCHS), Earl Bennett.

Just a few weeks after I talked about the history of the First National Bank of Moscow at our annual meeting in January, Zach Wnek (LCHS Museum Curator) noticed a note (Figures 1 & 2) from the bank while checking over old accession lists of our collections. The National Banking Act was enacted in 1863 during the Civil War to try and bring some order to our currency system as well as raise money for the North’s war effort.  Each National Bank had a unique charter number and the name of the bank was printed on each banknote that the bank released.  Zach’s find is what we call a Type 2 small note first issued in 1929 and along with Type 1 notes replaced three issues of large “horse blanket” notes issued from 1863 to 1929. The Type 2 notes differ from the Type 1s as the charter number of the bank was printed twice on the Type 2s. This made it a lot easier to sort the notes in other banks and federal clearing houses.

Figure 1. First National Bank of Moscow Type 2 $10 bill, front.  Courtesy of LCHS SC 1988-64.

Figure 2. First National Bank of Moscow Type 2 $10 bill, back.  Courtesy of LCHS SC 1988-64.

The FNB of Moscow was formed in 1886 when Dorsey Syng Baker and Dr. Herbert Clark chartered their earlier Baker-Clark Bank (1883-1886) as a National Bank (#3408). The original bank was built on a lot first occupied by Moscow pioneer, Almon Asbury Liewellen, who was also Moscow’s first banker. A new bank building was built on this lot located on the southwest corner of First and Main streets. The bank was sold in 1890 to Asa N. Bush who built a new home for his bank on the southwest corner of Third and Main in 1891 (Figures 3, 4 & 5). This bank would survive until the National banking system ended in 1935. It then became a branch of the Idaho First National Bank in Boise and would be a branch of several successor banks until the building was torn down in 1965 and replaced with the current structure currently the home of US Bank (Figure 6).

Figure 3.  The First National Bank of Moscow on the Southwest corner of 3rd St. and Main St.  Image courtesy of LCHS 01-03-057.

Figure 4. A photograph of the First National Bank of Moscow in 1921. Image Courtesy of LCHS 01-03-176.

Figure 5. A photograph of the First National Bank of Moscow in the 1940.  Image courtesy of LCHS 01-03-173.

Figure 6. A photograph of the Idaho 1st National Bank after 1965 when the old bank had been torn down and the new one was constructed.  Image courtesy of LCHS 01-03-493.

All of the National bank notes were supposed to be removed after 1935 and replaced with Federal Reserve notes like we use today.  However, a number of the older notes escaped destruction and are very collectible and valuable. Of some $17 billion issued by over 14,000 National banks less that $50 million is outstanding today. All of these notes are relatively rare, but the ones from our bank are especially so as there are only 4 large notes, 20 small Type 1s and until Zach’s discovery only a single Type 2 known. The bank issued $495,000 of National currency including a paltry $750 worth of Type 2 notes. What is really rare are notes issued by our bank while Idaho was a territory.  Moscow was one of only eight Idaho banks that issued such notes and none have been found from our bank; at least not yet.

When Zach showed me the note, I told him I thought it was worth about $500, however, before making such rash judgments one should always do a little research. Turns out that, as noted, there was only one other Type 2 note known from our bank so the value of the LCHS note is at least double my original guess and perhaps more than that.  Of course, the note will never be sold as it is part of our collection and will be in our files for researchers and the curious to study and enjoy for many years to come. Stop in the next time you are near the Annex and Zach can show you the real thing.

Earl H. Bennett

Friday, March 14, 2014

LCHS Celebrates Women's History Month: Women of Rural Latah County

This week’s celebration of Latah County women comes in the form of an excerpt from a Latah Legacy article published in 1982.  Co-authored by Mary Reed and Carol Young, “Rural Women of Latah County: Life and Work with the Harvest and Logging Crews” drew heavily on oral histories collected in the 1970s from long-time residents.  Women played integral roles in nearly every industry that drove the county’s development.  While this piece highlights just two of those economic pursuits, the contributions made by women are many and varied.  

“The tasks of creating a farm and home in the Palouse country in the late 1800s and early 1900s demanded continuous hard work from both men and women.  With the quantity of work to do and the narrow margin between profit and survival, everyone on the farm did what had to be done, working long hours in the house and fields.  Women, however, had the added duties of raising children and nursing sick members of the family.  The fashions of those days, long skirts and sleeves, high necklines, and numerous petticoats, restricted their movements and made farm chores even more difficult.  Unlike men, the farm women could not easily let down their hair – either figuratively or literally.  As they were supposed to be models of decorum, in the early years they could not travel unescorted or appear too prominently in public places.

“Perhaps the social prejudice gave rural women an advantage for they developed a supportive network of neighboring that eased the loneliness of farm life.  Tasks such as sewing, and picking and preserving fruits and vegetables were combined with visiting.  The social network was extremely important during critical times of childbirth and family sickness…

“At a time when money was scarce, farm women often worked outside the home either to supplement the family’s income or to make their own way.  Careers for women were usually limited to teaching, nursing, or home industries such as sewing or selling butter.  Many young women in Latah County worked as cooks and housekeepers for town women.  As most rural women could not afford to go to college or had the responsibility of their own families, part-time work provided the way for these women to make some money.  A common occupation was working for threshing crews during harvest or in logging camps.  The wages earned – small by today’s standards – were important additions to the family’s cash resources and, in addition, gave women a sense of independence and a chance to meet new people.     

Ida Olson and Ida Johnson in cookwagon, along with men working for a threshing crew.  LCHS 25-02-054
“The oral history collection of the Latah county Historical Society contains many examples of women working as cooks for threshing and logging crews.  These oral histories recount the demanding and difficult task of cooking, especially during the hot summer months when the hours were long and the facilities primitive.  Nonetheless, there was satisfaction with a job well done and some time for fun…

“Palma Hanson hove was the daughter of immigrants who first moved to their parent’s homestead in Troy, and then took over an uncle’s farm in Genesee Valley…When Palma was 17, she and her 19-year-old sister worked for her uncle’s threshing outfit.  ‘We cooked for the men in this cookwagon.  It had five tables that you could seat four men.  We could seat twenty men at that time.  And we got up at 3:30 in the morning, and we had to give them lunch in the forenoon, sandwiches and either cookies or cake and coffee.  And then we cooked dinner.  And at about three thirty or four in the afternoon, there was another lunch.  And then in the evening they never ate ‘til about seven thirty or eight in the evening.  And we baked all the bread and cooked, all the baking we did.  And we did that for probably six weeks…They’d move from one farm to the next, sometimes you’d move probably as far as ten miles.  So then you’d get there just before supper in the evening.  And boy, was that a scramble then to get supper ready for all these men.  But you had to plan ahead, you see, and have all this prepared so that it wouldn’t take too long…I don’t know how in the world we did it…We always had meals ready on time, believe you me.  We baked bread twice a day, eight loaves of bread, twice a day…we baked cookies, probably every day if not twice a day...

“’We usually averaged about maybe four and a half hours of sleep, sometimes five.  [We] slept right on the floor between the benches in the cookhouse.  So it wasn’t an extra good bed either, you know, but it worked pretty good…’”

Hilda Olson and Anna Frantzich on steps of cookwagon.  LCHS 25-02-057
If you would like to read more about the remarkable women profiled in this article, four women who cooked for farm crews and at logging camps, you can find the complete story on our website.

Excerpt from Mary E. Reed and Carol Young, “Rural Women of Latah County: Life and Work with the Harvest and Logging Crews,” Latah Legacy 11, no. 2, 21-27.