(To listen to the audio of this blog post, use the purple play button.)
1893 Chicago World’s Fair
It’s Thursday, September 21, 1893, at the Bon Ton Bakery, 15 North Main, Hutchinson, Kansas. Julia “Maria” Bacon Patten, 38, and John Quincy Patten, 38, are celebrating their one-month-old’s birthday, Hiram Burnham Patten. He’s taking a nap while they prepare to order treats.
“It sure is convenient having Bon Ton Bakery and Confectionery so close to Mr. McInturff’s Photography Studio,” said Maria as she smelled the fresh bread, admired the carpets, and sat down on a handsome chair. She placed Hiram, asleep in his baby basket, on a chair next to her. “I’m hungry,” she declared.
“Me too,” said John. “I’m going to have something before the ice cream, maybe cake.
“I wanted to see the photographs McInturff took of the Cherokee Strip at Cameron,” continued John. “Plus, a dozen cabinet photographs for $1.50 is a reasonable price, although we are in a financial depression.”
Spending money on baby pictures is nothing, thought John. Photographs of Hiram are worth sharing with the family. He’s a gift from God.
John was grateful to have Hiram as his son and Maria as his wife. He and Maria knew first-hand the risks of childbirth. Nearly every family had a sad story of the loss of an infant dying as a baby, or the death of a mother. A year earlier, after 12 years of marriage, Maria and John’s first child, a girl, was stillborn.
“McInturff’s smart to advertise the scenes of the Strip in his show cabinets,” said Maria. “They were very clear and distinct. I liked the one titled ‘The Start,’ and the one with the group of spectators.”
“I didn’t know that Harry Leonard, the Mexican Barb Wire Liniment Man, had gone to Cameron until we saw him and his outfit in one of the photographs,” said John. “The settlers will need his healing remedy for barbed wire cuts to their horses or to themselves.”
Click to read Mexican Barb Wire Liniment Advertisement
“Mrs. Tucker of Arlington is home after suffering a serious injury from being thrown from a wagon,” said Maria.
“I heard that J. C. ‘Mellis’ Potter returned from the Strip,” said John. “He and his brother, Elmer, made the run of 25 miles in two hours from Cameron. They staked their claims and think the land will make fine farms. On the Run, Mellis rode a young saddle mare, Elmer a young mule. Now, the brothers have returned for their father, Adam, and the covered wagon.”
“It sounds like a lot of people are returning home,” said Maria, “not all of them with a claim. Those with a claim make it sound like paradise; those without, are dragging their feet, disappointed.”
“During the drought, not taking a claim may be a smart decision,” said John. “Also, it’s too late in the year for a crop, so the Boomers will have a long wait and a difficult winter before they’ll have a harvest.”
“Mr. McInturff said the lawyers will be busy for years sorting out who has a good title to claims,” said Maria. “He said it was common for more than one person to claim the same acreage or town lot and that the Sooners cheated in the scramble for land, entering the strip on Friday night rather than waiting for noon Saturday.”
“Here come Frankie Burrell and Mary Bussell, along with Mary’s youngest,” said Maria. “They’ve just returned from Chicago and the World’s Fair. Let’s invite them over.”
“Frankie, Mary, will you join us?” asked Maria.
“We’d love to, thank you,” replied Frankie, 35, whose given name was Francis, and Mary, 37.
“We haven’t met your newborn yet,” said Frankie. “She’s beautiful,” added Mary as she viewed the sleeping infant.
“Thank you,” replied Maria, “he’s a boy, Hiram, one-month-old today. John and I each have a brother named Hiram, so both families are honored.”
Frankie, Mary, and Robert, a four-year-old, sat down.
“How are you feeling since delivering?” asked Mary.
“Doing well, thanks,” Maria answered. “Last year, we had a baby girl for a day, but she died at birth. Hiram’s health is a blessing.”
“John and I lost our first child at birth, too,” said Mary, “but since then we’ve had four healthy children.”
Maria remembered Frank, William, and Mary, three of her siblings who had died of cholera infantum before they reached the age of four, when her family lived in Indiana. The disease, also called summer diarrhea, took the lives of children and infants.
John and Maria had secrets they only shared with one another. When John considered Mary suffering the pains of childbirth, he had purchased a bottle of “Mother’s Friend” as a precaution. It made all kinds of promises, from alleviating pain to preventing morning sickness.
When Maria read how “Mother’s Friend” would allow for an easy and quick delivery, she understood why the product was popular, but she also knew it was promising more than it could deliver.
Actually, Maria bought another product as part of her back-up plan, just in case she was unable to produce sufficient breast milk. It was a preparation of lactated food that was said to be nourishing, strengthening, and digestible. It advertised that it could prevent diarrhea and cholera infantum. It might not work, but if needed, it could save Hiram’s life.
Click the following link to see an advertisement for a remedy called “Mother’s Friend” Mothers Friend Advertisement
“Were you glad to have school start this week?” John asked Mary.
Mary exhaled and smiled. “The teachers should be paid better,” she answered. “Nellie, Addie, and John are excited to be with their friends at the schoolhouse. Robert misses his siblings, but he’s also happy for my attention.”
“How was the Columbian Exposition?” asked John, before taking a bite of cake.
Frankie and Mary looked at each other, trying to decide who would start. “It was more than we ever expected,” said Frankie. “The Great Chicago Fire in 1871 destroyed the city, but it’s back from the ashes, bigger and better.”
“You’ve heard about the Ferris wheel,” said Mary. “What an invention! It holds over 2,000 people at a time. I must say, the price of 50 cents for a ticket was worth it.”
Mary shook her head in agreement. “It’s been a wheel of fortune for the Fair. We could see the White City with its gleaming buildings from 264 feet in the air. Electricity doesn’t just run the Ferris wheel. It’s used to decorate the buildings with incandescent lights, illuminate fountains, and power three huge spotlights.”
“The world’s quickly changing,” said John. “On one hand we have residents making a land run, who are willing to live on the prairie and sleep in dugouts, while Chicago uses electricity to rotate a Ferris wheel for 2,000 people at a time. That power could light up and run an entire town.”
“We also visited a travellator exhibit that moved people around whether they were sitting or walking,” said Mary. “Can you imagine being moved around town without riding a horse or buggy?”
“Did you visit the “Street in Cairo” on the Midway?” asked John.
“Yes, at the Cairo Village we rode the camels,” answered Mary. “It was quite a feat to mount and dismount while keeping our balance because the camels kneel down for the ride.”
“We watched the popular entertainer known as ‘Little Egypt’,” said Frankie. “She was an exotic dancer in the Egyptian theater.”
“We also attended a lecture on the Science of Animal Locomotion,” said Mary. “A zoopraxiscope was used to show moving pictures.”
“At the Agricultural building we were treated to samples of soup, oat meal and cream, pickles, and warm biscuits,” said Frankie. “After that, it wasn’t necessary to purchase a lunch.”
“The demonstration on electricity in cooking was astounding,” continued Frankie. “It will lighten our labor in the kitchen. We watched a steak cooked and it was done in short order.
“With electric utensils, pancakes were cooked and a ham was baked.
“In the future, hot-irons will be be replaced by simply hooking on a cord and switching the heat-producing current.”
“We wanted to see the Tiffany exhibit of diamonds,” said Mary, “but the room wasn’t open when we were in that part of the neighborhood.”
“Buffalo Bill wasn’t invited to be a part of the Fair,” said Frankie, “so he set up his Wild West Show next door and it was packed every day.”
Changing the subject, Frankie asked John, “Are you closer to being our next Reno County sheriff?”
“We won’t know until November,” replied John, “but I’d sure appreciate your support.”
“He rightly deserved the Republican nomination,” volunteered Maria. “He’s been supportive of Sheriff John Jones for the last four years, now it’s our John’s turn.”
“If we had women’s suffrage beyond municipal elections, you’d get my vote,” offered Frankie. “When you get elected, you can start planning on enjoying the conveniences of living in town at the sheriff’s residence, with a nearby bakery that offers sweets.”
As the friends finished their ice cream, Hiram started crying. It was a sign that their conversation was over.
“Before we go,” said Maria to John, “would you get me some chocolate candy to take home? For some reason, I’ve been craving it lately.”
Until next time, happy writing and reading.
Wonderful news letter and travelogue of the time!
Jim Potter says
Natalee Ganyon says
I too would vote for TR…. He is probably my favorite President.
Great Blob here. He was one tough / spiritual man. He once said he would not have become president had he not had that time in the Dakotas. I believe the passing of his wife and mother was right around valentine’s day as well. His sister took the baby, if I remember correctly. He was amazing surviving SO many perils from wars to jungles. Thanks for this article Jim. (btw, I’m about done writing the 2nd of 4 folk tales, Here’s How That Happened:) Are you meeting in person yet?
Jim Potter says
Congrats on your literary progress. Writing & publishing is not for sissies!
You’re correct, TR had a sister raise Alice for her first 3 years. Later in his career, TR also survived a near death experience in the Amazon, probably yellow fever. And remember, he was also shot in an attempted assassination.
August 28 is when D6 will begin offering a face-to-face meeting AND we will continue to use Zoom. It will be a “hybrid” experience. You can participate in person or virtually.
We’ll begin by meeting at Bookends (bookstore) at 123 N. Main Street, Hutchinson, as an experiment. We’ll see how many members & guests show up & figure out if there is enough space to hold future meetings there. Bookends is very agreeable to the idea.
Marilyn Bolton says
Very interesting, Jim. Have you read The Devil and the White City?
Jim Potter says
I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t read it. You? I’m currently reading the book, The Man on the Train. It’s about a serial murderer during the early 1900s. Fascinating. Alex can’t believe I’m reading the book just before going to sleep!