Saturday, August 30, 2014

Idaho Cattle Baron and Nevada Governor John Sparks [otd 8/30]

Idaho-Nevada cattleman and later Nevada Governor John Sparks was born August 30, 1843 in Winston County, Mississippi, 60-80 miles northeast of Jackson. The Sparks family became moderately wealthy by developing raw land into successful farm-ranch operations, selling at a good profit, and then moving on to a new location. In the late 1850s, they established a ranch in Texas. John thus grew to manhood in the early Texas ranch/cowboy culture.
Early cattle drive. Library of Congress.

He reportedly served as a Texas Ranger on patrols against Comanche Indians during the Civil War. After the war, Sparks worked cattle on several big drives. In 1872, he served as trail boss on a drive that delivered a herd to where the Utah-Nevada border meets southern Idaho.

John and his brothers then moved a large herd into Wyoming. A develop-sell-move strategy worked well for awhile, but played out toward the end of the decade as the amount of undeveloped land in Wyoming dwindled. Thus, in 1881, John and his brother Tom brought another herd from Texas into Idaho to stock range near American Falls.

Tom stayed on to run a ranch there for around forty years while John formed a partnership with established cattleman John Tinnin. They put together a spread that straddled the Idaho-Nevada border. By 1886, Sparks-Tinnin range stretched from the Snake River, centered around today’s Twin Falls, south into the mountains of northern Nevada. On perhaps 3,000 square miles of land, they, according to the Albion Times, ran “in the neighborhood of 100,000 head of cattle.”

During the warmer months of the year, most of the stock grazed in Idaho. Then cowboys pushed them south for the cold months of winter. Thus, Sparks lived at one of his Idaho ranch headquarters for the good weather, but built a family home in Nevada, near the main railroad line.

Governor Sparks.
Nevada Historical Society.
Over the next few years, Sparks expanded his acreage and also invested in other holdings. These saved his business when the severe winter of 1889-1890 devastated the company’s herds. In a reorganization that followed, Sparks bought out his original partner – saving Tinnin from having to declare bankruptcy. He then acquired a new partner, long-time cattleman Jasper Harrell. Thereafter, the ranch operated as the Sparks-Harrell company

During the 1890s, the range became more and more crowded. This heightened friction between neighboring outfits, whether cattle or sheep. Then, in 1896, a cowboy shot two sheepherders who had encroached onto what Sparks-Harrell considered its range [blog, February 4 and others].

Although Sparks soon learned who had done the shooting, he remained silent to protect against retaliation by sheepmen. He also paid liberally for the defense of “Diamondfield” Jack Davis, the man falsely accused of the killings. Eventually, Davis was freed, while the actual shooter made a successful self-defense plea (also financed by Sparks-Harrell).

In 1902, Sparks was elected Governor of Nevada. He was re-elected in 1906, but did not complete the second term, passing away in 1908.
                                                                                                                                     
References: Byron DeLos Lusk, Golden Cattle Kingdoms of Idaho, Master’s thesis, Utah State University, Logan (1978).
J. Orin Oliphant, On the Cattle Ranges of the Oregon Country, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1968).
“John Sparks,” Sunset Magazine, 1903.
Alexander Toponce, Reminiscences of Alexander Toponce, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman (1971).
James A. Young, B. Abbott Sparks, Cattle in the Cold Desert, University of Nevada Press, Reno (2002).

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Uncle" John Hailey: Miner, Stage Line Pioneer, Stockman, Public Servant, and Historian [otd 8/29]

John Hailey. Library of Congress.
John Hailey – Idaho stockman, miner, stage line operator, politician, and historian – was born August 29, 1835 in Smith County, Tennessee, 30-40 miles east of Nashville. The family moved to Missouri in 1848, and John set out on his own from there in 1853. He joined a wagon train to Oregon, where he tried his hand at many tasks and slowly built up a stake.

After distinguished duty in the Rogue River Indian War of 1855-1856, he took up ranching, raising sheep and horses. Then the Idaho gold discoveries offered a better opportunity. In 1862, Hailey sold his sheep to finance his part of a venture packing supplies from Oregon into the Boise Basin.

He and his partner, William Ish, also ran “saddle trains” into Idaho. A saddle train rented riding horses to people who didn’t want to invest in an animal themselves. They soon became one of the most successful operators in that line of work, and initiated stagecoach service from Umatilla into the Basin in 1864.

He made a considerable success of that enterprise, augmented by a lucrative mail subcontract from Ben Holladay [blog, August 11]. In 1870, Hailey sold the stage line at an impressive profit and started a substantial livestock and meat market business in the Boise City area. However, in the late 1870s, he encountered some financial reverses – these included having to make good on several co-signed obligations.

He recouped much of the loss by returning to the stagecoach business in 1878, but saw that too decline as the railroad marched across Idaho. While the stage line still prospered, in 1879, Hailey claimed land that shortly became a fast-growing mining town. John called the village “Marshall,” but the townspeople soon changed that to honor the founder.

In time, John would own interests in several productive Wood River mining properties. He also returned to the ranching business, raising top-grade cattle and horses.
Wood River Area. [Illust-State]

Hailey had a long-standing interest in politics and public service, but had to be persuaded to accept election as Territorial Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1872. (Delegates have no vote on the floor, but can serve on committees and vote on issues at that level.) Both political parties wanted him to fill the position for the next term but Hailey declined.

In 1880, John served a term on the Territorial Council – equivalent to a state Senate – and was elected president of that body. Four years later, he again served as Idaho Delegate to Congress. In 1899, the governor appointed "Uncle John" to be Warden of the Idaho State Penitentiary.

In 1907, upon the founding of the Idaho State Historical Society, Hailey was made its first Secretary and Librarian [blog, March 12]. At the request of the Legislature, he wrote a history of the state. John did it, he said, to correct “the many misstatements published about Idaho in early days, and particularly concerning the character and conduct of the good people of those days … ”

“Uncle John” Hailey passed away in April 1921.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Illust-State]
“John Hailey (1835-1921),” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
John Hailey, History of Idaho, Syms-York Company, Boise, Idaho (1910).
“John Hailey: August 29, 1835-April 10, 1921,” Reference Series No. 543, Idaho State Historical Society (1971).
John H. Hawley, Eighth Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society of Idaho, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise Idaho (1922).

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Car Customizer Boyd Coddington ... "King of the Hot Rods" [otd 8/28]

Boyd Coddington. Sons of Boyd web site.
Boyd Leon Coddington, the famous car customizer known as the “King of the Hot Rods,” was born August 28, 1944 in Rupert, Idaho. Like many boys in the Fifties, Boyd was mad about cars. Back then, kids who grew up on a farm – Boyd’s father ran a dairy  – learned to do for themselves, not look for a store-bought solution when stuff broke.

Boyd’s first car was a Chevy pickup. He told an interviewer (Los Angeles Times, December 2, 1996) that he traded a shotgun for the vehicle when he was thirteen years old. But he had to trade back because he’d done the deal without his dad’s permission. He later scrounged up some money to get it back. Boyd said, “That truck kind of started everything.”

Trade school study at Idaho State University and in Salt Lake reinforced that early imprinting. Experience made him an auto mechanic, training honed his machinist skills, but natural aptitude turned him into an artist in car customization.

In 1968, Coddington moved to California and landed a machinist’s job at Disneyland. At night, however, he built hot rods. Soon, word-of-mouth spread through the Southern California hot rod subculture: A Boyd Coddington custom job was special, in ways that might be difficult to capture in words, but were instantly recognizable.

A Coddington rod glowed with a clean, polished look, where every factor contributed to the overall effect. Nor was this beauty just “skin deep.” Open the hood, slide underneath, whatever … you found the same near-obsessive attention to detail. A master machinist, Boyd made sure every component fit perfectly. He became famous for a “billet” approach to parts: take a hunk of metal and “carve” it with lathe and milling machine until you had what you needed.

Boyd finally opened his own shop and went full time in the late Seventies. Instantly recognizable with his bushy beard and favorite Hawaiian shirts, he attracted aficionados whenever he appeared at any car-related event.

Eventually, celebrities and wealthy “car nuts” began paying fabulous sums – once over a half million dollars – to have Boyd turn out rods designed specifically for them. Yet Boyd and his crews earned every penny of those large sums – with endless hours of work and rework, striving for automotive and artistic perfection. A number of fine customizers learned the business in Boyd’s shop, and then went on to build their own successful careers.

Boyd and his creations earned an incredible range of awards: “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” (7 times – an unprecedented feat, and he once won it back-to-back), the Daimler-Chrysler Design Excellence Award (twice), voted “Man of the Year” by Hot Rod Magazine in 1988, inducted into the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame, and on and on.
Coddington-modified car. Sons of Boyd.

Starting in 2004, Boyd received yet another peculiarly modern stamp of approval – he hosted the reality show American Hot Rod. During the program, the shop crew built custom cars within certain specified parameters and time limits. The pressure on the set – the actual shop – was real, and intense. Coddington routinely pushed his people into working long, exhausting days, and nights, to meet his standards of artistic perfection.

A long-time diabetic, Boyd died in February 2008 from complications after surgery.                                                                                                                                      
References: The Boyd Coddington Story, Boyd Coddington web site.
Dennis Hevesi, “Boyd Coddington, 63, King of Hot Rods, Dies,” The New York Times (March 1, 2008).
Dan Lienert, “The Hot Rod King,” Forbes Magazine (June 1, 2004).
“Our Father: Boyd Coddington,” Sons of Bob.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Helpmate, Education Advocate, and Philanthropist Kathryn Albertson [otd 8/27]

Kathryn (McCurry) Albertson was born August 27, 1908 in Boise, Idaho. After high school, she matriculated at the College of Idaho, a private, liberal arts institution in Caldwell. Kathryn never said publicly why she chose the small, struggling college, but being close to home probably had a lot to do with it. (At the time, southwest Idaho had no public four-year college.)

In any case, she did choose tiny College of Idaho. There, in chemistry class, Kathryn met a hard-working young man named Joseph A. Albertson [blog, Oct 17]. Joe had a job as a clerk at a Safeway store. At the time, students called the College “Dr. Boone’s marriage mill,” affectionately referring to the school’s founder and first President, William Judson Boone [blog, Nov 5].

Joe and Kathryn only added to the legacy. On New Years Day 1930, the Reverend Boone wrote in his diary, “Marry Katheryn [sic] McCurry to Joseph A. Albertson. 52 present, very fine and very pretty.”

While Kathryn ran their home, Joe’s hard work and knack for the business brought steady advancement at Safeway stores. Eventually, he supervised over a dozen outlets. But, as with all innovators, Albertson had his own ideas on how to run a better store. By 1939, Joe and Kathryn were ready to pursue his dream.

In July, Joe and two business partners opened the first Albertson’s Store on Boise’s State Street. The company had opened three stores by the end of 1940.

Known as a very private person, Kathryn nonetheless involved herself enough with the stores to earn the affectionate nickname “Mrs. A” from employees. The grocery store, and then supermarket, and then “super-store” company grew steadily. They took the company public in 1959 – investors and mutual funds soon made the stock a favorite in their portfolios.

The couple showed their philanthropic bent early, enthusiastically promoting war bonds and scrap drives during World War II. Contributions large and small flowed to a wide variety of civic projects and institutions, including the College of Idaho. In 1966, they created the J.A. & Kathryn Albertson Foundation to manage their extensive charitable activities.

In 1991, the College of Idaho officially changed its name to Albertson College of Idaho to honor years of generous donations from Joe and Kathryn. College administrator also wanted to emphasize for other potential donors that they are not part of the state’s public school system. Joe passed away two years later.
Water feature, Kathryn Albertson Park. City of Boise photo.

Kathryn, if anything, increased the foundation’s good works after Joe’s death. She also carried on his vision for Albertson Corporation, and in 1998 company leaders recognized her as the first Director Emeritus, a lifetime position on the Board of Directors. She passed away in April 2002.

Their memories carry on through the Foundation, and Kathryn’s through Kathryn Albertson Park, in downtown Boise. In 2007, their alma mater returned to just The College of Idaho name. Since Joe and Kathryn had resisted the first change, one trusts that they would approve.
                                                                                                                                     
References: “Kathryn Albertson,” Quest magazine, College of Idaho (Summer 2002).
Louie W. Attebury, The College of Idaho, 1891-1991: A Centennial History, © College of Idaho, Caldwell (1991).
Biography: Kathryn Albertson, J. A. & Kathryn Albertson Foundation
Merle Wells, Arthur A. Hart, Idaho: Gem of the Mountains, Windsor Publications, Inc., Northridge, California (1985).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hotel Owner/Operator and "Hospitality" Industry Pioneer Frank Blackinger [otd 8/26]

Hotel owner and operator Frank J. Blackinger was born August 26, 1855 in Buffalo, New York. His father Valentine had come to America from Bavaria in 1839. Around ten years later, he traveled to “the old country” and married, then immediately returned to New York. The family emigrated to Oregon in 1862. Two years later, his father opened a butcher shop in the settlement that became Silver City. He also opened a grocery stored and, in 1864, brought his family to Idaho.

War Eagle Hotel. Directory of Owyhee County.
Five years after that, Valentine purchased the War Eagle Hotel. Frank worked in the hotel and the butcher shop for a number of years, and then found a job as a cowboy. The Owyhee Avalanche newspaper reported (October 18, 1873): “V. Blackinger, of the War Eagle Hotel, has returned from Oregon, having succeeded in purchasing some 400 head of cattle in Powder River and Grande Ronde valleys. He left his son Frank behind to bring up the drove which they will winter at Rabbit Creek.”

Frank’s father sold the hotel in 1878, worked in Boise City for three years, and then moved to Bellevue and opened a meat market.  Frank was already working in that area as a stockman and continued there for several years. The only son who survived to adulthood, Frank began to advance in the world as his attractive sisters married “coming” pioneers.

Thus, in 1872, sister Mary Ann married Hosea Eastman, a wealthy mine owner. Three years later, Eastman and another well-off mining investor, Timothy Regan [blog, Nov 14], became co-owners of the Idaho Hotel in Silver City. Regan bought full ownership in 1877 and, the following year, married Frank’s sister Rose. Frank returned to Silver City in the mid-1880s and began working at the hotel. When the Regans moved to Boise City in 1889, Frank became hotel manager.

Blackinger wedding picture.
Blackinger family archives.
In 1899, Blackinger married a popular Silver City schoolteacher and shortly thereafter the couple moved to Boise City. There, he and his brother-in-law opened the firm of Regan and Blackinger, which ran the Capitol Hotel. Regan engaged in a wide range of investments, while Frank specialized in the hotel, bar, and restaurant business.

In 1907, the firm sold the Capitol to the Idaho Brewing Company and Frank chose not to remain on to manage the operation for the new owners. He did, however, consult with his successor every so often and put in appearances “for old times sake.” (Apparently, the aging Capitol was a favorite of “old-timers” who had known Frank and his father in Silver City.)

A year after he left the Capitol Hotel, Blackinger purchased the buffet restaurant at the Overland Building and ran that for about eight years. When that closed down, Frank leased the restaurant at the Idanha Hotel and renovated it. Then, in 1917, Frank bought “the lease, furnishings and business of the Grand Hotel.” (Idaho Statesman, March 1, 1917). He did not own the property itself.

Blackinger was still identified as the proprietor of the Hotel Grand in 1925. He would have been 70 years old at that time. While that might seem odd, it is not at all impossible – Frank lived until March 1943.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley]
Nancy DeHamer, “Hosea Eastman, Timothy Regan, and Frank Blackinger,” Reference Series No. 728, Idaho State Historical Society (1971).
Dick D’Easum, The Idanha: Guests and Ghosts of an Historic Idaho Inn, Caxton Printers, Ltd. (1984).
A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press (January 1898).

Monday, August 25, 2014

Screenwriter Talbot Jennings: From Mutiny on the Bounty to the The Sons of Katie Elder [otd 8/25]

Talbot Jennings, ca 1935
Screenwriter Talbot Lanham Jennings was born August 25, 1894 in Shoshone, Idaho. The family moved first to Caldwell and then Nampa. He graduated from Nampa High School and started at the University of Idaho (UI). However, he left to join the Army, where he fought in five major World War I battles as part of the field artillery.

After the war Jennings married, worked a couple years, and then returned to the University. In 1924, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in English. He went on to earn an M.A. from Harvard and then studied at the Yale School of Drama.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
In 1934, Jennings moved to Hollywood and almost immediately landed a plum assignment: to help salvage the screenplay for the grand MGM epic, The Mutiny on the Bounty. Talbot worked with two experienced writers and the three shared the Oscar nomination for the resulting script. The 1935 film, starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, won the Best Picture Oscar. That version is still – despite its historical inaccuracies – generally considered the best dramatic treatment of the story.

Talbot received another big job the next year: the film adaption of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. John Gallagher, who wrote the Jennings obituary for Variety magazine, asserted that the result was “certainly the best adaptation of Shakespeare in Hollywood history.” The film garnered four Oscar nominations, although the screenplay was not so honored.

The writer next created the screenplay for Pearl S. Buck’s classic novel, The Good Earth. Jennings missed another Oscar nomination, but the film received five nominations altogether, winning for Best Actress and Best Cinematography. From 1936 to about 1940, Jennings worked for both Paramount and MGM, writing scripts for a number of big-name productions, with major stars: John Barrymore, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Henry Fonda, Dorothy Lamour, George Raft, Spencer Tracy, and others.

After that, he worked as a freelance writer, and his skills remained in demand in Hollywood for twenty years. Stars and co-stars in the productions he wrote for read like a who’s who of Hollywood stardom: Lee J. Cobb, Ava Gardner, Stewart Granger, Jack Hawkins, Susan Hayward, Janet Leigh, Virginia Mayo, Joel McCrea, George Montgomery, Agnes Moorehead, Maureen O’Hara, Tyone Power, Basil Rathbone, Michael Rennie, Robert Ryan, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, Orson Welles, and on and on.

In 1946, he wrote the screenplay for the lush romantic drama, Anna and the King of Siam, starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison. Jennings received his second Oscar nomination for the scrip; the film garnered five nominations in all, winning two.
Paramount Pictures.

In 1959-1961, Talbot wrote four scripts for television episodes. He closed his career in 1965 with the story for the John Wayne movie, Sons of Katie Elder. Besides Wayne, he added Dean Martin, George Kennedy, and Dennis Hopper to his list of stars.

The Internet Movie Database lists 24 films or TV productions for which he wrote, plus five where he is shown as “uncredited.” He generally specialized in historical and western themes, for which his scripts were considered “more realistic than most.”

In 1960, Talbot also wrote a script for a film to commemorate the Idaho Territorial Centennial of 1963. It’s not clear if such a film was ever produced, however.

Jennings passed away in May, 1985.
                                                                                                                                     
References: Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
John A. Gallagher, “Obituary: Talbot Jennings,” Variety, New York (June 12, 1985).
“Talbot Jennings,” Internet Movie Database.
“Talbot Jennings Script Collection, 1926-1960,” Manuscript Group 186, University of Idaho archives (1960).

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Educator, Cultural Promoter, and Purple Heart Winner Sofia Adamson [otd 8/24]

Youthful Sofia Adamson.
LifeInLegacy.com
Educator and philanthropist Sofia (Demos) Adamson was born August 24, 1916 in Pocatello, Idaho. Her parents were Greek immigrants. The family later moved to Los Angeles, where Sofia’s mother reportedly “became the first Greek actress to perform in a Hollywood motion picture.”

After high school graduation, Sofia attended  the University of California at Los Angeles. She graduated from UCLA in 1937, with a B.A. in education. According to family tradition, she met her future husband on Saint Sofia’s Day, September 17, in 1938. She married George Athos Adamson the following year.

As it happened, George was then a professor at the Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry, located in Manilla, the Philippines. He was also Dean of the school’s College of Engineering. George’s cousin had founded the institution in 1932. Soon, they expanded the curriculum, and the school was granted university status – as Adamson University – in 1941.

After Sofia married George, the couple returned to the Philippines. She is credited with founding the school’s College of Education. In 1941, war clouds loom in the Far East – Japanese troops were heavily engaged in China and had occupied parts of Indochina. Sofia was recruited as a clerk-typist in General Douglas MacArthur headquarters (thereby freeing up a soldier to fight).  Her main job was to type up the General’s orders, including a mimeograph stencil master, for distribution to the units he commanded.

When the Japanese occupied the Philippines, Sofia was not interred with the other Americans because she was married to George, a Greek. When Allied troops liberated Manila, friendly fire inflicted wounds that would require years of successive surgeries to alleviate. (Over fifty years later, she received a Purple Heart in recognition of her former service.)

After the war, Sofia and George moved to Pasadena, California. There George conducted a very successful engineering business, while Sofia began a lifetime of enthusiastic and effective volunteer work. That included much service for Greek Orthodox churches in the Los Angeles area, as well as the International Christian Scholarship Foundation.

Pacific Asian Museum. Museum photo.
Sofia worked hard to promote the arts, being co-founder of the Pacific Asian Museum in Pasadena. She also founded, in 1971, the Philippine Arts Council at the Museum. She contributed time and money to numerous civic betterment programs in Pasadena and around Los Angeles.

Her autobiography, Gods, Angels, Pearls & Roses, was published in the U. S., Greece, and the Philippines. It “remains a steady seller in the [Pacific Asian] Museum Store.”

She received awards too numerous to list in full: a Gold Award for Excellence in Community Service from UCLA, an honorary Doctorate of Education from Adamson University, a Gold Crown Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pasadena Arts Council, a Boy Scouts Distinguished Citizen Award, and more.

George’s death in 2003 did not lessen Sofia’s commitment to philanthropy and volunteerism. Recalling her involvement with the Pacific Asian Museum, her obituary noted, “She remained a Founding Trustee for life and made her last contribution in person just 5 days before she passed away.”

Sofia died in May 2007.
                                                                                                                                     
References: About Adamson University, History and News, Adamson University, Manilla, The Philippines (2010).
Sofia Adamson, Gods, Angels, Pearls & Roses, American International Publishing, El Monte, California (1985).
“In Memoriam: Sofia Adamson,” Museum News Archive, Pacific Asian Museum, Pasadena, California (Summer 2007).
“Obituary: Sofia Adamson,” Pasadena Star-News, Pasadena, California (May 22, 2007).