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Metal Detectors and Mouse Traps - Interesting #Gadgets from the #WildWest #History

History Channel - Wild West Tech - Gadgets
A&E Television Networks - Released July 17, 2008 - 50 minutes

They could be violent...wicked...or downright absurd. Whether they helped to take down outlaws, save a life, or just plain amuse, these techno gizmos revolutionized the unruly frontier. This episode looks at contraptions practical--and not--devised to tame the frontier. Objects include Wild West mouse traps, lie detectors, a metal detector (to locate bullets), an Elgin Cutlass Pistol (a Bowie/Revolver in one), kerosene headlamp, electrified brass rails, a self-containing breathing device, stream heat, a syringe, rubber condoms, a donkey engine and much more of the good, the bad and the technologically ugly.


1882 - "Wild West Mouse Trap" - 6 shooter and a metal rod configured to trigger (could be rigged to a door, so the gun would fire when it opened)
Palm Pistol - hideout gun that fits in palm of hand, 32 caliber bullet, 7 shots, "squeezer" (squeeze palm to fire), good for close range
Blakeslee Quick Loader - Spencer Rifle - .56 caliber, 7 shot, spring-loaded magazine, excellerated reloading
1883 - Bridgeport Rig - a plate riveted to gun belt where you attach gun and can swivel to fire; U.S. Army orders 500 of these for men in Southwest but leaves guns exposed to elements (as opposed to being stored in a holster) so the project is abandoned
1889 - Jukeboxes - San Francisco Palace Royale, box with headphones that plays one song

Check your local library for a copy or you can find one here:

True Grit - A Story of Revenge - Learn What Was Fact and Fiction #TheRealStory from the #OldWest

Smithsonian - The Real Story - True Grit

In "True Grit," the line between good and evil was blurred. But what about the line between fact and fiction? Runtime: 49 minutes Original air date: August 5, 2012


"True Grit" was a story about 14 year old Maddie Ross who hires a man to avenge her father's death. It was written by Charles Portis in 1969.
1851 - Colt invented revolving cylinder (cap and ball) revolver. The handle was shaped like a plow handle. It took about 3 minutes to reload (powder in front end, ball, packed down, oil and grease), but it was accurate almost 50 feet.
1873 - Winchester Rifle - lever-action, 14 rounds per load, accurate about 400 yards
Deputies did not have salaries but worked on commission and had to cover all their own expenses. They often made money with side-gigs and with bringing someone/criminal in for justice.
Fort Smith, Arkansas - "Hanging" Judge Isaac Parker, Hanging Day was a big town event and thousands of people and hawkers came to witness a hanging. By 1870s the jail was overcrowded.
1870s - James-Younger Gang, 10 year crime spree.
Dalton Gang - 3 started as deputy marshals but learned that crime made more money; first gang to attempt to rob 2 banks at same time on October 5, 1892 (but the townspeople were ready for them and retaliated).

Check your local library for a copy or you can stream it here:

Video Review - History Channel - Cowboys and Outlaws - The Real Wyatt Earp

History Channel - Cowboys and Outlaws - The Real Wyatt Earp

They were the quintessential American heroes: the embodiment of rugged individualism and independence. For a century and half, cowboys ruled the frontier, settling the American West and carving their way into American mythology forever.
A powder keg of history, the American Frontier was a period of conquest, war and money. In this short era, men and women endured the Buffalo Hunters Wars, range wars, Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War. For most, it was a time of incredible stress and hardship. But for a few extraordinary men, it was a time of unbelievable opportunity. Cowboys brought six million steers from the southernmost tip of Texas along cattle trails to railroad heads, and settled the West, solidifying their stature as heroes whose strength and individuality made them the ultimate icons of their time.
Discover the legendary qualities of these amazing men in this visually stunning series from HISTORYTM. Using recovered letters, journals and books, as well as archaeological and forensic evidence, COWBOYS & OUTLAWS focuses on the true tales and heroes of the American West.


1836 - a six shooter gun is invented with a revolving cylinder; becomes popular gun of choice in the west.
Buffaloing is to pistol whip someone with the butt of a gun. Wyatt becomes adept at this method.
1874 - Wyatt Earp (26 years old), Virgil Earp, and James Earp arrived in Wichita, Kansas. Wyatt is hired as a part-time deputy for $60/month. His brothers work in saloons and bordellos.
Bodge City - Wyatt is hired as assistant marshal to police saloons. The merchants help pay his salary.
The Earps head to Tombstone, Arizona where money is pouring out of the silver mines (about $30 million have been mined so far). Wyatt works as a card dealer in the saloon. The Clantons and McLaurys are irked by the newcomers. Virgil Earp becomes the deputy marshal.
1881, October 26 - Shootout at OK Corral (actually a vacant lot behind the OK Corral) which lasted about 30 seconds. Ike Clanton fled. Wyatt was the only man left standing. His brothers are injured.
Morgan Younger is shot during a late night game of pool. Earp guns down their enemies. The people of Tombstone want Earp arrested, but he escapes.
1920's - Wyatt tries to sell his story to Hollywood. Reporter Stuart Lake writes a book, "Wyatt Earp Frontier Marshal"
The shootout at OK Corral lasted about 30 seconds.

Check your local library for a copy, search on YouTube, or you can find the DVD set here:

Book Review - Frontier Living by Edwin Tunis

Frontier Living by Edwin Tunis - ISBN#978-0690010640
Hardcover, 165 pages, Publisher: HarperCollins; 1St Edition edition (January 21, 1976)

Describes the daily lives of American pioneers who explored and settled the territories west of the Appalachians.


1710 - the first shipload of Palatine Germans reached Philadelphia (known incorrectly as "Pennsylvania Dutch")
1727 - Newly designed rifle became known as the "Kentucky Rifle" - it was a little under 5ft long with an octagonal outer barrel and was browned with acid. The stock was maple wood and darkened with soot and polished. The butt of the stock was protected with a brass plate. On the right side, there was a hollowed out area that was filled with a brass cover for patch box (for bullets and grease).
After 1827, most emigrants heading to California used Independence, Missouri as a starting point (and a place to purchase all they needed for the journey).
1836 - Colt's Patent Repeating Pistol - used percussion caps, single barrel and five muzzle-loading chambers bored into a revolving drum.
1849 - Pioneer Stage Line ran through much of California with imported Concord coaches and eventually ran over the Sierra to Genoa, Nevada. The roads were graded enough to make them passable at 6 mph.
Before 1844, only pack trains cross the Sierras (about 50 mules in a train to carry food, dry goods, mining supplies, mail, etc.). It took 16 days to reach Carson City from Sacramento.
Overland Mail: U.S. President James Buchanan gave the $600,000/year award to his friend, John Butterfield (a known man in the eastern freight business who'd never operated stage coaches). John built 165 change stations with wells, corrals, and blacksmith shops for 100 vehicles pulled by 1200 horses and/or 600 mules. He hired 750 men. September 15, 1858 the first coaches began to go out twice a week. They changed horses every 8 miles or so in rough country or 25 miles in good country and rode at about 5.5 mph. At larger "home stations" the coach drivers changed out. It was a 21 day trip from St Louis to San Francisco (over 2800 miles)!

Check your local library for a copy or you can find one here:

Video Review - History Channel - 51 Amazing Facts about America

History Channel - 51 Amazing Facts about America

Amazing people, amazing places and amazing things! This special zips across the US looking for the facts.
Runtime: 41 minutes
Original air date: October 11, 2014


Maine is closer to African than Florida
Maine is the only state that borders one other state.
In 1824 there was oyster-flavored ice cream
The U.S. has no official language
The Library of Congress records all tweets from twitter
Highway 550 through Colorado is the "Million Dollar Mile" because it contains gold - please don't try to dig it up either
President Hayes had the first telephone and the first typewriter installed in the White House
Florida has some 8,000 year old bones which date 2,000 years before the Pyramids in Egypt
Alaska - more people walk to work than anywhere else
1 in 8 Americans have worked at a McDonalds restaurant
There is a desert in Maine (due to farm erosion). The largest desert in the world is Antarctica.
Grover Cleveland was a deputy sheriff and executioner. He is the only President to marry in the White House.
Alaska is the most-Eastern, most-Western and most-Northern state.
Alaska also has the longest coast line.
Hawaii keeps growing (thanks for volcanic activity)
President Harrison was the oldest President elected, his inaugral speech was the longest, and he died after 1 month in service from a cold.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826 (the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence)
Einstein's brain was sliced up and portioned into jars and sent to different labs for research

Check your local library for a copy, youtube, your cable provider, or you can find view it through Amazon here:

Book Review - Pioneer Women: The Lives of Women on the Frontier by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith

Pioneer Women: The Lives of Women on the Frontier (Oklahoma Paperbacks Edition) Paperback – April 15, 1998 by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith - ISBN#0-8061-3054-7

Pioneer Women provides a rare look at frontier life through the eyes of the pioneer women who settled the American West. Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith vividly describe the hardships such women endured journeying west and making homes and communities on the frontier. Their hopes and fears and, most of all, their courage in the face of adversity are revealed in excerpts from journals, letters, and oral histories. Illustrated with a fascinating collection of seldom-seen photographs, Pioneer Women reveals the faces as well as the voices of women who lived on the frontier.

The authors portray a wide variety of women, from those who found liberty and confidence in undertaking "men’s work" to those who felt burdened by the wind, the weather, and the struggle of frontier life.
Paperback, 144 pages, Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press; Oklahoma Paperbacks Ed edition (April 15, 1998)


1834 - The Great Migration
1842 - Preemption Act
1880's - The Transcontinental Railroad had "emigrant cars" for those moving cross country. This car could hold household goods, family members, about 6 head of cattle, grain and hay.
1889 - Indian Territory became the Oklahoma Territory
Guidebooks were created for emigrants, such as "The Emigrant's Guide to Oregon and California" in 1845.
Prairie Schooners (wagons of the 1860's): 10ft long x 4 ft wide x 2 ft deep; canvas top (waterproof) stretched over bows with pockets sewn inside; there was a narrow aisle in the wagon to walk through; strapped to outside were buckets of grease, tools for farming, water barrels, etc; when fully loaded the wagon weighed up to 2000 lbs; 4-6 oxen pulled the wagon
1851 - Women's bloomers became popular
Making soap was actually a lengthy and dirty process: First, made lye by leaching water through ashes, then add it to grease. Boil this mix until soap can be skimmed off and poured into a tin bucket. This was then poured into wooden boxes lined with cloth, left to harden, and then cut into bars.
Typical jobs for women included servant, laundress, dressmaker, midwife, cook, seamstress, cook.

Check your local library for a copy or you can find one here:

Book Review - Ray Miller's Texas Forts

Texas Forts - Ray Miller - ISBN#0-89123-036-X

Ray Miller's Texas Forts captures the flavor and the history of the Texas frontier, concentrating on the federal forts in the years between 1845 and 1855.
Paperback, 223 pages, Publisher: Gulf Publishing Co (December 31, 1998)


1820's - Stephen F Austin established the Texas Rangers to cope with the Comanches
1839 - Sam Colt's revolver reached the frontier (and became popular)
1845 - There were 8,349 officers and men in the U.S. Army
May 8, 1846 - The first real battle of the Mexican War at the Rio Grande River. 2000 Americans led by Zachary Taylor versus 4,000 Mexicans. The Americans won.
Fort Marcy was the first military establishment in Texas to display the U.S. flag. The first units arrived July 27, 1845.
During the Mexican War, the Army grew to over 47,000. After 1848, President Polk reduced the forces down to 10,000.
There were 3 mounted units during this war: 1st and 2nd Dragoons and the Mounted Rifles
Volunteer Texas Rangers did most of the scouting for the army.
1848 - A wagon road (for settlers) was started from Austin to El Paso. 4,000 immigrants with 1,200 wagons waited at El Paso for guides to help them get to California. El Paso was not yet a town, but the immigrant traffic through there helped boost its start and hasten the development of a federal fort system.
1876 - A Federal fort was established in San Antonio
Rough Riders were trained and outfitted at Fort Sam Houston

Check your local library for a copy or you can find one here:

Book Review - The Irish Texans by John Brendan Flannery

The Irish Texans by John Brendan Flannery - ISBN#0-933164-33-5

An essential reference book concerning the history of Irish immigrants into Texas and how they settled and created the towns/cities we know and love today. Contains lots of interesting anecdotes and the evolution of Irish names and customs as they adapted Mexican or American culture.
Flannery, John Brendan. The Irish Texans. San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1980, 173p, bib, index, illus.


Places of heavy concentrations of Irish of early Texas: Staggers Point, San Antonio, Refugio, Corpus Christi, Houston
Between 1717 and the Revolutionary War, around 250,000 Irish immigrated to the American Colonies
After the English Act of Union of 1800 (which created one nation of Scotland, Ireland and England), many Irish escaped to America
1835 - the population of Irish in Texas was about 30,000
1836 - Battle of San Jacinto - 100 Irish-born volunteers participated in the battle
Interestingly, many Irish became Mexican citizens to obtain large tracts of land
1835-1840 - School teachers in Austin were Irishmen
Dallas was founded by John N Bryan who came in 1841 and built a cabin on the east bank of the Trinity River (which was part of Peters Colony)
San Patricio (named after St Patrick) established October 1831 on the east bank of the Nueces River. By 1836 there were 500 people living there. The railroad bypassed the town (1886) and many moved out. 1919 a hurricane destroyed much of the town and the old St Patrick's church.
1840's - a large influx of Irish to San Antonio; one area was known as the "Irish Flats" (1842)
Henry L Kinney founded Corpus Christi. There were 27 blocks of "Irishtown". The area had its own firefighting unit, the Shamrock Hose Company. In 1875 there was a hurricane in Corpus Christi.

Check your local library for a copy or you can find one here:

Book Review - America's Westward Expansion Series - Pioneer Life in the American West by Christy Steele

America's Westward Expansion Series - Pioneer Life in the American West by Christy Steele - ISBN#0-8368-5790-9

Learn how the U.S. government once gave away millions of acres of free land under the Homestead Act. In many cases, the "free" land wound up costing many pioneers much more than they had bargained for, causing some financial ruin and even death. This volume explains the hazardous challenges of daily pioneer life, such as finding food, water and fuel that people needed to survive.


1820 - The Land Law of 1820 offered public lands for sale in 80-acre lots at $1.25 per acre (or $100 per parcel). Land speculators bought up lots and re-sold them at higher prices or split them into smaller units and sold them for a profit.
1830 - President Andrew Jackson enforces a Native American removal policy to obtain their land (in today's Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Montana, and the Dakotas) to eventually give to settlers. This land was known as the "Great American Desert".
1840's - Settlers bypassed the "sea of grass" to settle in California and the Pacific Northwest.
1841 - Pre-Emption Act of 1841 helped squatters to buy legal title to the land they occupied.
1862 - Homestead Act gave title of 160 acres to settlers after improving the land within 5 years (building a house, farming, etc).
The government gave acres of free land grants to the railroad companies who then sold choice land tracks to settlers to finance the railroad construction. They often lured European immigrants to purchase the land (since Americans could get free land already). The railroad even offered transportation to the land for them to buy.
1890 - Open-range ranching was over due to the invention of barbed wire (in 1873).
Sod houses: the homesteader would stack slabs of sod (grass-side down) to form the walls, formed a roof with cottonwood branches and covered that with more sod (grass-side up). This settled for several weeks, then they coated the inside walls with plaster or whitewash paste. The dirt floor had to be raked often to keep it even. Withstood fire and wind well, but insects, snakes, and mice lived within the walls. If it rained too much, the roof (and probably the walls) collapsed. Eventually, successful homesteaders imported timber to build wood-framed homes.
1837 - John Deere invented the steel plot
1845 - Texas becomes a state
1848 - James Marshall finds gold at Sutter's Mill
1850 - California becomes a state
1860 - The Pony Express starts delivering mail
1864 - Nevada becomes a state
1869 - The Transcontinental Railroad is completed
1900 - Hawaii becomes a state
1907 - Oklahoma becomes a state
1912 - New Mexico and Arizona become states

Check your local library for a copy or you can find one here:

Book Review - The Sioux of the Great Northern Plains by Pete DiPrimio

The Sioux of the Great Northern Plains (We Were Here First: the Native Americans) - by Pete DiPrimio - ISBN#978-1624690754

Sitting Bull had a vision of a great Sioux victory, but would he live to see it? Crazy Horse had an almost mythical ability to avoid death, but would it last? These were two of the greatest chiefs of the Sioux Nation, a mighty Native American people who once ruled the plains and prairies between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes. The Sioux were great warriors and buffalo hunters. They were master horsemen who roamed the country living in teepees and keeping up with buffalo herds. They fought the U. S. government to keep their land and way of life. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse led a historic victory over General George Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn before they were eventually beaten and driven into reservations. The Massacre at Wounded Knee ended the SiouxĂ­s dream of returning to their old way of life, but not their desire to be free. This is their story.

Dream Catchers - a small round net with feathers attached. Native Americans believed the air was filled with good and bad dreams. The good dreams passed through the center hole to a sleeping person while the bad dreams get caught in the net and are destroyed by the riding sun.
The Sioux had ruled the Great Plains (North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana) until 1850 when the white settlers arrived.
1868 - A Treaty was signed which gave the Black Hills (South Dakota) area to the Sioux, but by 1874 gold was found and thousands of settlers came to take over the land.
Spanish introduced horses in the late 1500's.
The Sioux broke into several loosely connected tribes (confederacy) and spoke 3 dialects/styles of language (Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota).
The Sioux believe they are descended from a great spotted eagle (Wanblee Galeshka).
Only the bravest warrior could wear grizzly bear claw necklace
Sky spirits were called Thunderbirds
Each tribe had 1 medicine man who performed ceremonies. Each ceremony honored one spirit at a time.
The number four was symbolic: four sacred colors (white, yellow, red, black) which represented the four elements (air, water, fire, earth) and the four directions (north, south, east, west), 4 seasons, and 4 cycles of life (birth, life, death, afterlife).
Seven Fires Council - main Sioux government/7 tribe chiefs
Sitting Bull had 5 wives (Light Hair, Four Robes, Scarlet Woman, Snow-on-Her, and Seen-by-Her-Nation) and four children (Crow Foot, Many Horses, One Bull, and Walks Looking).
Boys started hunting buffalo at age 10.

Check your local library for a copy or see:

Book Review - The California Gold Rush by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk

"The California Gold Rush" by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk - ISBN#0531200329

Grade 5-7-- An advantage this book has over Rhoda Blumberg's excellent The Great American Gold Rush (Bradbury, 1989) is the lack of footnote style and a good many illustrations in some kind of color--if only a wash. There is not much that can be added to the story of the California gold rush, but Van Steenwyk tries. The discovery of gold at Sutter's mill is somewhat more dramatic and vivid than in other accounts. However, a statement that sea-traveling rushers were called Argonauts "after the gold seekers in Greek mythology" makes one wonder whether gold nuggets and the golden fleece can be equated. Mention, and a picture, of Lola Montez, a gold camp entertainer, is a plus. The story of foreign miners who came to California, particularly the Chinese, enlarges readers' knowledge. Two full-page, useful maps and a helpful glossary round out this attractive addition to literature on the topic. --George Gleason, Department of English, Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

1839 - John Augustus Sutter (originally from Switzerland) arrived in California. Sutter applied for Mexican citizenship in order to receive a land grant of 50,000 acres in the Sacramento Valley. He built an adobe fort near the south bank of the American River. He named this land New Helvetia (Helvetia was another name for Switzerland).
January 1848 - There were 300 people at Sutter's Fort.
January 14, 1848 - Marhsall found a gold pebble.
Second week of March, the news of this discovery finally reached San Francisco. By March 15th, it appeared in newsprint (on the last page of the San Francisco "Californian").
December 5, 1848 - President James K. Polk delivered news to Congress of gold discovery; the rush was finally on.
1949 - 50,000 people rushed to California ("forty-niners"), enduring illness, hard living conditions, bad weather and violent crime. They often moved camp to camp. 15,000 people traveled around Cape Horn or through the Strait of Magellan - they dealt with gales, storms, fires, food spoilage/shortages, seasickness, unsanitary conditions, and overcrowding.

Once the emigrants arrived, they needed transportation to the "diggings" as well as supplies and room & board. A small room rented for $50/month (whereas back East it would only cost $5/month). A pair of boots or a blanket were $100 each. A shovel was $50.
1850 - California became a state. 56,000 people were in San Francisco.
Gold dust became currency.
Preachers rode through to preach; most miners rested on Sundays. Holidays (like Fourth of July) was celebrated. Professional entertainers were paid with gold dust including singers, dancers and actors. Lola Montez was a famous Irish dancer of this time.
People came from all over the world. In 1850, there were 600 Chinese. By 1855, there were 25,000.
Women were still scarce. In 1853, women only accounted for 15% of the population.

Check your local library for a copy or you can find one here:

Book Review - The Trail of Tears by D. L. Birchfield

"The Trail of Tears" by D. L. Birchfield (ISBN#0-8368-5381-4)

Description: Part of the Landmark Events in American History series - This series explores the causes and significance of key events in the history of the United States and introduces readers to the people who influence those events. Each book uses primary sources, archival photographs and illustrations, maps, time lines, and focus boxes to bring these stories of the nation's past alive.

Highlights: I've been researching Native American's history and migrations (voluntary and involuntary) throughout North America and it's been incredibly eye-opening and, at times, very heart wrenching. I found this book at the library and it is full of great simplified history that makes it a good resource. Here are a few highlights I've found within the 48 pages...

By 1500 BC, corn was being grown in the American Southwest.

By 1000 BC, corn was being grown by tribes in the American Southeast.

500 BC, "Mound Builders" arose in the river valleys of the woodlands areas east of the Mississippi River. At first the mounds were for burials and then they evolved into temple mounds. (Reviewer's note: There are a ton of mounds you can visit in Northeastern Louisiana). By 1300 AD, over 100,000 mounds had been built in the Mississippi River Valley.

The largest city of mound builders was Cahokia (Illinois). The base of the largest mound is 6 square miles - larger than the base of Egypt's Great Pyramid. 30,000 people lived here between 1100-1300 AD but by 1680 AD only a small village remained.

European diseases (especially highly contagious diseases such as small pox and cholera ) killed about 90% of the natives throughout the 1500's and 1600's.

Native Americans participated in the North American military until the War of 1812.

There were numerous Indian Removal Acts passed by the government to force natives onto reserved areas (reservations) or into less desirable areas. A lot of natives starved because either the hunting on those lands was poor or they did not have the proper knowledge or tools for agriculture. Many of the treaties promised food and supplies but dishonest Indian agents did not provide them or provided spoiled products.

The Cherokee created an alphabet with 85 symbols ("talking leaves") which was adopted in 1821.