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History on Saturday: Henry Wikenburg and the Vulture Mine


Henry_Wickenburg_(ca__1900)
Henry Wickenburg (November 21, 1819 – May 14, 1905)

Today’s History on Saturday is about a ghost town in Arizona called, Vulture City, or officially named Wickenburg. Located in the desert, this little town is full of intrigue. Henry Wickenburg, a Prussian immigrant, moved to Arizona in 1862 during the Gold rush and established a mining town. Managing a gold mine during that time was not an easy task as people came from all over to capitalize on an opportunity to get rich quickly. Rumors of this easy wealth came to folks on the East Coast who experienced unemployment and smog filled industrialized cities. The Gold in the west also attracted some not so nice folks who existed to take advantage of any good hearted person they could find. Mining gold was more about money, not about loyalty to friend or family. After dealing with some shady business investors and loosing money without any idea of how to recover from it, Henry committed suicide in 1905, penniless and a broken man.

Today, you can visit Henry’s dream by touring the Vulture City. I am curious why Henry failed at his mine operation and why at the age of 85, he felt the only option was to kill himself. It seems to be a sad story but one that leave more questions than answers.

For more information on the mine visit here: http://www.ci.wickenburg.az.us/

My Summer Reading 2012


History revisited-I indulged Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, a re-print from Dover Thrift Editions. It was coincidental for me because weeks earlier in one of my LinkedIn groups a fellow history enthusiast mentioned the latest trend of re-printing old history books. I had not of heard of this trend before and as I read the updated forward in the book, the re-printing confession caught my attention. The reason I wanted to read The Jungle was because it was mentioned in my reading of the,  The Family which also sparked my curiosity for two of my other blogs, The Black Buffers and the Washington DC riots of 1968.

 The Jungle, is what the newest introduction claimed that Sinclair’s subject matter came from Muckraking. A Muckraker was what a person was called when they exposed hidden atrocities through the use of media. It’s not the first time I have been exposed to muckraking. The industrial age in which this book was written, is full of media rhetoric that causes shock and awe. Just as I also found in researching of the Loray Mill Strike of 1929 in books that were penned after the strike ended to air truths not heard during the turmoil for fear of further retribution from social elite. It seems to me that the muckraking and media hype all fueled the socialism and red (communism) threat that would plague Americans for decades into the future. If you like drama and the darker periods in American history, I would definitely recommend reading this book and with a little sleuthing will bring much more, so much more where this book came from. Muckraking reached all Americans and was not partial to any particular ethnic group or race. Everyone felt it one way or another.

Today the economy is so bad after ten years of foreign war, outsourcing of business, loss of jobs, and wedges drawn heavily between wealth and poverty. In the early 1900’s America faced the same thing but with a less sympathetic ear from those in society able to help. I would bore those around myself to repeat the often too much said phrase of, “history repeats itself”, as similarities can be seen today. Rather, what is more fascinating to me is that in my studies and readings of history, topics seem to come back again and again. It is rewarding to see this as pictures become clearer and results in a greater understanding of the world in general. To me, this is the most important part.

The second book I read is Jesse Ventura’s, American ConspiraciesOriginally I had purchased the book as a gift for my husband who is intrigued by the stories. Soon after, being bored, I picked it up to read and see what it was all about. I am not into conspiracy theories so much but love the history they tell. Jesse mentions in his introduction of the topics of the book and how he was bored flying in planes going to speaking and other engagements. As a result of this he took up reading as a new hobby. His readings coincidentally brought him to a topic of interest: President Kennedy’s assassination. He was so intrigued by the first book that he continued to read anything he could get his hands on about the subject. As a result of his studies he formulated a question about the similarities of other prominent leaders’ assassination during the 1960’s. I do the same thing. As I read I encounter more interesting topics to learn about. Topics such as the Knights of the Golden Circle, a civil war spy group and Major General Smedley Butler, whom he mentions in passing conversations. I look forward to more readings from Jesse. I take the conspiracies with a grain of salt. Historians need factual evidence of things that happen to be valid and worth study or mention just as a scientist needs proof from their experiments to validate their research. In the future maybe Jesse’s ideas will be ones for the history books; proven and true.

My third and final book of summer reading (I am a slow reader) is Martha: The life of Martha Mitchell, by Winzola McLendon. This book is a used one and rough around the edges. I love used books! I was interested in Martha’s story after reading The Georgetown Ladies’ Social Club by C. David Heymann and doing further research on Katherine Graham for a paper in college. These two books are chalk full of history and what it was like to live and exist closely to the Watergate scandal in the early 1970’s. When I read books such as these, I can imagine life and how people were in a time when I was very little and my world revolved around play time and toys. The books bring to life many forgotten players both popular and long forgotten. From there other curiosities are perked and trails to explore come into focus.

Dancing around historic timelines can be daunting at times but it is important to be exposed to as much of it as can be. The past often is brought up again and again as people like to reference it, to understand the present and gauge the future. After a while being able to recall the information brings with it better understanding and can lead to interesting discussions with others.

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