Presenting at the Glucksman Ireland House in October

GIHFrontHouse

The Glucksman Ireland House

I learned yesterday that my most recent paper has been accepted for the Mid-Atlantic regional meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies. The conference is being held at the Glucksman Ireland House on the campus of New York University. NYU has an outstanding Irish Studies program and it is exciting to be on their campus for this conference. Below is a description of my paper:

The Butte Bulletin: Ireland’s Voice in the Western Labor Camps

The Butte Bulletin held the largest circulation and reach of any paper in Montana between 1918 and 1921 – a period rife with labor unrest and a time when entire communities were shackled by martial law. At the center of the conflict was the State’s rich deposits of copper and the corporations that mined, processed and transported the precious metals to munition companies arming America’s allies. The Butte Bulletin was labor’s organ during this tumultuous time, reaching mining and timber camps throughout the West – but it also held an equally radical pro-Irish agenda, a focus that has been given little attention by historians. Past research into the paper’s origins and operations has focused on ties to the IWW and Communist Party, and the intense focus of the Military Intelligence Division on the paper’s seditious editors. In this paper I look specifically at the Irish roots of the paper’s start-up. Two of the principal promoters of the paper were James A. Murray and his nephew, NYU alum James E. Murray. My recent article in Montana: The Magazine of Western History, titled “Rocky Mountain Radicals; Copper King James A. Murray and U.S Senator James E. Murray, and Seventy-Eight Years of Montana Politics, 1883-1961” provides a political biography of the pair, and reveals their role with the Butte Bulletin. Here, I delve further into other Irish connections to the paper, and consider the influence the paper had in promoting Ireland’s cause during the final push for freedom.

Murray’s 1908 restoration of the Carmel Mission

Monterey-Big-Sur-013-Edit-Edit-9.jpgEfforts to restore the badly deteriorated Carmel Mission started in the 1880’s with the construction of a new roof. Murray’s work was the next significant improvement to the mission and coincided with his dedication of a monument to mark the location of Father Serra’s first mass. Here is an article, published in Murray’s newspaper, detailing the scope of his contribution to the church:

Restoring of Church Floor

Carmel Mission Is Like When Indians Attended There

Monterey Daily Cypress, March 29, 1908

The work of restoring the floor of Carmel Mission, undertaken by James A. Murray of this city has been completed. As it is now the lower part of the church is almost the same as when thousands of Indians went there to attend services.

A cement floor has been laid all over the church, which is 49×125 feet. The floor is laid in diagonal blocks and is colored red to represent the old mission tiling. A new floor has also been placed in the chapel and sachristy (sic).

Inside the chancel the floor was laid with old tile which remained unbroken on a bed of cement.

The tombs of Junipero Serra and the several of his fellow priests were raised and the old stones that covered them replaced. Leading to the altar massive cement steps have been built.

The old stone stairway leading up to the little pulpit has been repaired with the identical stone that the builders of the Mission used. Stone for the purpose was quarried on the Gregg Ranch a couple miles away and brought to the the church and cut. It would take an expert to determine whether the steps had been repaired.

The stairway leading up to the old belfry tower, which was built of chalk rock, has been repaired with the same material.

For about four months this work of restoration has been going on under the direction of Charles W. Meader. Instructions from Mr. Murray were to replace the work as nearly as possible to the original, and this has been carefully done. Over 5000 square feet of cement work has benn (sic) laid.

The diagram below shows the likely location of the restoration work. Meader, the project manager, was the son of another well known Montana pioneer, Charles T. Meader. After Murray’s work, the next significant renovations were conducted by Harry Downie after 1920 – much of which replaced Murray’s work.  The stairwork completed to the small pulpit and the outside stair to the belfry are likely remains of Murray’s contribution at the mission. His monument marking the location of Serra’s first mass still stands in the Lower Presidio Historic Park.

Murrays Mission Renovations

 

Letters of heartbreak and hardship worth the visit

After two days researching documents in Monterey, I moved north and spent a day at the Bancroft Library on the U.C. Berkeley campus. There I reviewed the papers of famed sculptor Douglas Tilden. My subject, James A. Murray, commissioned two base reliefs from

Base Relief

Created by Tilden for Serra’s Cross

Tilden in 1904. Both adorn the monument Murray placed at the spot of Father Serra’s first mass in Monterey, California. One is a profile of Serra and the other a likeness of Mission Carmel. I quickly realized that I would not find anything of significance relating to Murray’s monument, but left with several hours of spare time on my hands, I started reading through random letters in the collection. I’m glad I did.

After reviewing several folders, I was struck by the heartbreak and hardship in Tilden’s life. Before Tilden garnered great success in his late thirties, his collection of papers includes terse correspondence from bill collectors, associates in desperate straits pleading for payment from Tilden, and even Alexander Graham Bell’s handwritten note expressing regret he could not afford to buy any of Tilden’s wares. I approximate that half of Tilden’s professional arc was a flat line of despair and agony. Adding to his hardship was a hearing impairment that rendered his world silent.

I wondered why Tilden held on to these reminders of suffering, and then it occurred to meDouglas-Tilden-WPA-by-Peter-Van-Valkenburgh I had seen this before. I’ve reviewed the papers of two other individuals at University archives and both of them, despite having a public perception of great success, also left a trail of papers documenting the darkest days of their careers. In the biographies that treat their lives you might read that they experienced early hardships, but in their papers – in their own hand and those of others – you feel excruciating pain. Willis Polk, who went on to become a noted architect, wrote Tilden a note on a small piece paper in the late 1890’s pleading for a payment of a few dollars. Family members had taken ill and he desperately needed payment to take care of their medical needs.  Tilden saved none of his responses, but three additional notes from Polk over six months, each escalating in desperation, indicate that Tilden could not make ends meet.  In the other papers I reviewed, those of Ed Fletcher and Frank Brown, I also read desperate pleas from men, all whom showed a strong public face, needing money to take care of their wives, children and parents.

So despite coming away empty in new facts, I did gain additional perspective on the wreckage caused by subject’s like mine, when they leverage desperation to meet their business goals. Perhaps this is the reason, in part or in whole, that my three left their papers for others to see.

If you have a historical figure of interest I strongly encourage you to see if they, or their partners, donated papers to archives. If they did, they left a trail for you to follow to gain additional perspective on their lives, and their interactions with others. Seeing for yourself, the steadiness of their hand, their choice of stationary, and most importantly their own words, will give you valuable insights that even the best biographer is want to capture.  It will be worth the trip.

Picture in banner: Tilden’s Mechanic sculpture amidst the ruins of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Tieing up the last loose end…

I’m travelling to Monterey this week to look through court records from the early 1900’s involving James A. Murray’s lawsuits against famed artist Charles Rollo Peters. It appears Murray held a substantial mortgage against Peter’s Gate, the artist’s popular retreat. Hopefully the court records and local newspaper accounts of the trial will review the nature of thier partnership. I’m hoping there is more to the story than Murray’s typical loan sharking practices. This is the last loose end in my research on Murray’s activities in Monterey.Murray v. Rollo.jpg

Rocky Mountain Radicals: Labor’s Rich & Powerful Allies

MHS ArticleNew in the Spring edition of Montana: The Magazine of Western History

The labor movement in the Gilded Age and New Deal era found an unlikely pair of allies in a wealthy miner and his nephew.

James A. Murray started his business empire with a few dollars in his pocket in 1863 prospecting in Rocky Mountain mining camps along Mullan Road. Over the next fifty-eight years he built a fortune that today would exceed $2.0 billion and stretched from Seattle to San Diego, and from San Francisco to Wyoming. Murray was a staunch advocate for labor and never stopped supporting their cause as anti-union corporations enveloped the American West. He funded a radical pro-labor newspaper affiliated with the Wobblies during the height of labor strife in World War I, and extended his radical legacy with a significant bequest to his equally radical nephew, future U.S. Senator James E. Murray.  The younger Murray rose to the top of Eamon de Valera’s support group in the U.S. and became the Senate’s strongest proponent of labor and progressive politics from  the New Deal Era until the dawn of the Civil Rights movement.

The story of the radical Murray family is told in depth for the first time in a beautifully illustrated twenty-page article in the Spring 2016 Edition of Montana: The Magazine of Western History. Copies of the Spring edition can be purchased individually from the Montana Historical Society.  The publication is also available in over 700 libraries across the globe. Find a copy near you on the World Catalog.

Coming next year: The biography of radical Copper King James A. Murray will be published by Montana Press Publishing Company in the Fall of 2017.

My Unorthodox Query Letter is Rejected. But I Wouldn’t Have Changed it.

My brother’s query on a unique travel destination between Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. Tonapah was a roaring mining camp back in late 1800’s and through the turn of the century. There is a nice hotel in town that has been restored recently. It makes a great pit stop.

thomas farley's blog

My query letter to National Geographic’s Traveler was just rejected. But I think I did the best I could. Here are the details. Perhaps you will be inspired to put your own off-the-wall query letter into the mail.

I proposed a travelogue to central Nevada, participatory tourism to discover turquoise at the Royal Royston claim outside of Tonopah. That was what my Rock&Gem (internal link) article was all about and I thought I might interest Nat Geo in a piece tailored toward their audience.

Since my article and query letter revolved around turquoise, I decided to confort the query letter editor with the real thing: real turquoise. I bundled up two samples, one rough, one finished, and sent them off. I included my magazine article and a photo of Kate Blanchett at the Academy Awards wearing a turquoise necklace. Just to show turquoise is in style. (See the image below.)

Alas, my…

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Coming in Fall 2017

Cover16Signed on today with Mountain Press Publishing Co to publish the biography of James A. Murray, a radical Western millionaire.

Murray built his fortune alone and unaided. The Irish immigrant was a fervent supporter of labor and Irish Nationalism, and fought at every turn against corporate capitalism. He operated his business empire, stretching from Seattle to San Diego and east to Colorado, out of saloons and hotel lobbies.  He dined with hack drivers and prostitutes in Rocky Mountain mining camps, and Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell in New York City. During the Gilded Age he owned the most magnificent home on the California Coast and a five star resort at the edge of Yellowstone Park.

 

 

 

Our presidential contenders could all benefit from free college tuition when they were 18

Daily ClogLilia Vega of the Daily Clog takes baby boomers on a walk down memory lane with her piece that details the history of tuition and fees in the University of California system since 1868.

The UC system, one of two in California, and home to UC Berkeley and UCLA, started in 1868 with a goal of free tuition for all students. The system met that goal for over one hundred years. Here are the undergraduate tuition and fees that our presidential candidates would have paid if they entered the UC system when they were 18:

The above charges were fees for non-classroom expenses. Tuition was free. Adjusting these fees to today’s dollars, results in annual college costs for our candidates of $1,123, $1,348, $1,510, and $2,146.

And the cost for our next generation of leaders?

In 2015-16 our next generation is paying $5,006 per quarter ($15,000 per year) for the UC system. Of this amount, $3,740 per quarter is for tuition ($11,220 per year) and $1,266 is for fees ($3,800 per year). The new college catalogs address this with an entire section devoted to student loan programs, a feature missing in catalogs from the baby boom years.

Presenting this Weekend at the American Conference for Irish Studies Western Regional

CoverThe theme of the conference is Ireland: Memory and Monument. My presentation is about the potential meaning behind three monuments commissioned by James A. Murray, an Irish immigrant; a Celtic cross, a theater stage, and a pick and shovel.

Murray built a fortune in the American West with discipline, ruthless determination, deception, and colorful shenanigans that made him a favorite of the press. Murray’s accentuated personality included a remarkable radical streak unmatched by other Western millionaires. His radicalism first surfaced during the Irish Land League protests of 1883, and reached a zenith when Irish-American nationalism surged following the Easter Rising in 1916. Estranged nephew, NYU-trained lawyer, and future U.S. Senator James E. Murray served as elder Murray’s main political operative following The Rising. Elder’s money and younger’s ambition formed a powerful combination that rattled military agencies tasked with protecting wartime industries and filled coffers for Ireland’s revolution.

My paper explores the motivation behind Murray’s remarkable actions to support radical Irish organizations and labor unions, using three unusual monuments he commissioned over 100 years ago.

My Day, by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 5, 1953

FDR, Eleanor, and Senator Murray (University of Montana Mansfield Library Archives)

FDR, Eleanor, and Senator Murray (University of Montana Mansfield Library Archives)

Senator James E. Murray was a prolific writer and speaker on all progressive issues. Here, Eleanor Roosevelt reflects on a speech Senator Murray gave on the importance of food and clothing in creating peace in the world. Roosevelt’s column is available on-line through George Washington University.

I have been thinking a great deal of late about a speech made some time ago by Senator James E. Murray of Montana when a Senate Joint Resolution was introduced on a nonpartisan basis to “provide for an international food reserve.” Members of both parties joined in backing this resolution and Senator Murray gave very good reasons why it should be backed by every farmer in America and by every processor and distributor of farm commodities because, he explained, “it would encourage abundant production of food and fibres and provide a constructive method of preventing market surpluses.”

Then he remembered to consider the consumer, the general public, you and I, who are usually forgotten in the press of special interest groups, and he said it would protect against “shortages and the consumer price increases which accompany shortages.” Finally he said this resolution would be of interest to the other nations of the world which produce or import agricultural commodities. He pointed out that food and clothing are two of the most vital weapons in mankind’s struggle for a happier and more peaceful world and for all these reasons he felt we should create at once an international food reserve.

It was an unusual thing to have a resolution of this kind come from the Senate and not through negotiation on the part of the executive branch of the Government first with other nations but, as the Senator pointed out, sometimes these negotiations on the part of governments come to nothing because they are not inspired or participated in by the Congress which in the long run does have to put the machinery in operation to bring anything of this kind about.

The resolution is simple. The first section indicates why an international food reserve is needed. The second section explains the purposes that will be served by an international food reserve, and the third section authorizes and directs our mission members in the U.N. to enter promptly into international negotiations for the purpose of preparing a specific plan. The fourth simply asks that this plan and the information pertaining thereto come to the Congress for approval. No funds are provided but the mere fact that the information supporting this resolution was before the Congress must have started much thinking, not only in our own country, but in the world and I hope that it will go on until something really constructive comes of it.

Eleanor Roosevelt, September 5, 1953