We've seen tintypes before, but this one tells a special story. This is Samuel Blythe, who was to become editor of the Hood River Glacier. It was taken in April 1866, shortly after he completed his Civil War service. The note on the reverse explains that this picture was taken at St. Jo, Mo. St. Joseph was a popular jumping off point for those heading west across the Great Plains.
Here's the account of Mr. Blythe's trip across the Plains to Bozeman, Montana, as told many years later in the Hood River Glacier:
No sooner was Mr. Blythe a private citizen again than he determined to take the advice of Horace Greely and strike for the west. He and a companion, Dan Ridenour, arrived at St. Joseph, Mo. Here the comrade became discouraged and turned back.
"We had no money for outfitting," says Mr. Blythe, "and we had planned on making our way across the plains by driving oxen. As soon as we saw the teams of animals and how they were managed, we knew we would never reach the Rocky Mountains in this manner. So Dan returned to Ohio and his sweetheart. I was determined to reach the Rockies before going back.
"I made immediately for a newspaper office, and was given work at the office of the St. Joseph Gazette, despite the fact that I was not a union man; for even then the labor unions were active.
"Just when I had saved up $75 four friends, among them Capt. William Lockwood, reached St. Joseph en route to the west. They persuaded me to put my $75 in the jackpot and join them. I had just two bits left after turning that money over to Capt. Lockwood. I spent the last cent of it -- it was one of those old shin plasters -- for a dozen eggs for our last feast the night before we started on the long trail."
Mr. Blythe says that he feels sure that no more inexperienced party ever left St. Joseph. "None of us knew anything about oxen," he says, "and of course we were bested in our bargains for teams. We crossed the Missouri river on May 20, and on the first night one of those severe thunder storms struck us. For fear that we could not put the yokes on again, we had left the oxen tied in pairs to trees. All five of us piled in our wagon for the night. I shall never forget the lightning, the thunder and that terrible downpour. The next day we made a farmhouse -- we had progressed just six miles. The farmer assisted us with our oxen the next morning and we started on. Fortunately for us we overtook a party with an overloaded wagon. Mired to the hubs the heavy schooner was stuck. However, the party had an experienced negro driver. The colored man hitched on our teams and soon had his wagon out of the mudholes. The owner of the outfit then made a bargain with us. He gave us a team of oxen and the negro driver, and put part of his freight aboard our wagon. And thus we reached the west. I don't believe we would ever have succeeded if we had not met with this outfit; for just about another day of the trials we were having would have disheartened all of our party."
The low contrast images created using tintype technology were dingy, so they were commonly hand colored to add a little blush to the cheek. Frequently there was also a splash of gold paint added to a piece of jewelry. Despite the technical shortcomings they were a hugely popular medium, as they were the first photographs inexpensive enough for common people to send to relatives. They were also very durable, as we can tell by this image that survived almost 150 years and a trip across the country in an ox cart.
Sam enlisted as a private in Co. E, 22nd Ohio on 6 September 1861. Apparently he enlisted for a 3 year term, filled that term and was mustered out on 18 November 1864 at Camp Dennison, Ohio. However, he elected to re-enlist on 1 December 1864 and served the rest of the war, mustering out on 24 February 1866.
charlott on 27th August 2013 @ 7:10am
Thanks for the history Arthur.
I am always amazed at the eyes in these old portraits. It is almost as if you can look into their soul.
I wonder how the "negro driver" fared, once they reached Oregon. Oregon had exclusion laws against the "colored" until quite late in its history.
l.e. on 27th August 2013 @ 7:25am
This journey ended in Montana. It took several more years before Mr. Blythe made it to Oregon.
Arthur on 27th August 2013 @ 8:36am
When the Museum opens again, you can see his saddle bag in the Pioneer Display.
Judy on 27th August 2013 @ 9:05am
Good story, albeit brief. Every generation seems to get its hardships to face and help determine who they are, and the older generations wonder if they will be up to the task. With the complexity of our world today, I wish the younger generation the best. Their hardships to face may be less physical than in the past, but in their own way just as difficult. And I wonder.
Buzz on 27th August 2013 @ 9:32am
.and I am complaining in anticipation of my coach seat to Spain next week....shame on me. Never thought much about rain/mud/wagon wheels...wow.
great story & picture. any idea Arthur when the museum will reopen??
Arlen Sheldrake on 27th August 2013 @ 9:52am
Arlen, they didn't have to worry about cramped legroom or lines to use the lavatory. Have a good trip.
Arthur on 27th August 2013 @ 10:38am