Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gentlemanly Pastimes

A gentleman always knows the rules of proper behavior. His appearance is flawless, refined, and never eccentric. His manners exceed expectations, and his moral code is chivalric. He is perfectly bred. From the 1850s on, the etiquette market was inundated with books, pamphlets and manuals defining how to measure up socially as a gentile lady or refined gentleman. After training in manners, morals and decorum, the Victorian gentleman was also encouraged to take up hobby. Not only for entertainment, a gentleman’s pastime developed character, civility, and confidence. 

The Rules of Etiquette and Home Culture 1886 read"It is the duty of a gentleman to know how to ride, to shoot, to fence, to box, to swim, to row and to dance."
With the population of Telluride near 5,000 at the height of the gold rush in the 1890s, the men of Telluride undoubtedly had a vast choice of character building hobbies. Seemingly, the most popular was a civil game of poker at one of the many saloons or parlor houses, but the Victorian era was also when baseball first saw developments towards the All American game we know today.
Catcher's Mitt, THM Collection
The first set of rules were laid down in 1845 by Alexander Cartwright, founder of New York City’s Knickerbockers club - one of the first organized baseball teams to play under a set of rules. Marked by the spirit of gentlemanly sportsmanship, baseball soon became known as the "gentleman's game." The strategy of the era was base hits, stolen bases, and hit and run plays. The home run? That was considered so boring it was worthy of rotten tomatoes being pitched at the hitter. It wasn’t until Babe Ruth made the home run a famous achievement of strength in baseball that a "hit out of the park" was celebrated.
Telluride Team, Western Slope Champions 1913

Telluride has a long standing tradition of baseball. In 1913, the Telluride Baseball Team became the Western Slope Champions and in 1964 the team won state. During baseball season town park fills with teams cheering, yelling, heckling, winning and losing. Baseball camaraderie gives a sense of community and sportsmanship. The gentleman's game has now also become a ladies game, and the sidelined fans patiently await the home runs.

~ Cameo
Exhibits Curator
Telluride Historical Museum

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fair Audrie of Telluride

"Audrie" by Jim Shane
On loan from Kim Sheek

The story of this iconic portrait begins with a wayward drifter, James Shane. Struck by gold fever, he stumbled into Telluride in the 1890s looking to secure a ‘grubstake’ (prospecting supplies or a money advance in return for a promised share of profits). Not a soul would lend to him though, for they had already judged his character by his well-groomed hands. Jim turned to the piano instead, playing in the red light district at parlor houses and saloons for small wages and a warm bed.

Audrie Shane c. 1900
Courtesy of Robert Wilson
Jim sometimes spent weeks at a house. The ladies cared for him, fed him, and were entertained by his music. After a fortnight of entertaining at the Pacific Avenue house in Popcorn Alley, word spread that he was also an artist. One lady of the night in particular, Audrie Fort, took special interest in his artistic ability and proposed an attractive business deal: if Mr. Shane would paint a portrait of her, he could sell it to a local establishment, giving him enough money for prospecting. In return, the portrait would serve as advertisement for Audrie hanging in a proper establishment about town.

During the course of completing the painting, Audrie Fort and Jim Shane fell in love. He sold the painting, went prospecting, struck gold, and married Audrie. With a successful business of buying and selling profitable claims, they built a respectable life together in Telluride until 1936. It was a true love story.

Jim, Audrie and daughter Nina, at their Telluride home, 1896
Photo courtesy of Robert Wilson
The painting was displayed in about every saloon in Telluride including the Diamond, the Roma, the Beer Garden and eventually in a private gambling room above Frank Wilson's drugstore, the Busy Corner Pharmacy. Audrie had been around town, but when the Colorado attorney general cracked down on private gambling, the club closed and she was left abandoned. 

Over the next 20 years, Audrie endured the filth and grime of time. She was headed for the dumpster when Robert Wilson saved her. He cleaned her up and hung her downstairs in the Busy Corner Pharmacy. There Audrie hung until the business closed in 1968. The portrait was then loaned to the Sheridan where, after some unfortunate damage, she required professional conservation. Robert had gifted the portrait to his daughter, Kim Sheek, who gave the portrait new life at the Rocky Mountain Conservation Center in Denver.

We continue to learn more about the story behind this iconic portrait. Audrie's name, for example, was long known in Telluride to be spelled "Audrey Ford." After meeting with two of Audrie's grandchildren, Robert Wilson learned the correct spelling was in fact "Audrie Fort."

Audrie can be seen up close and personal at the Telluride Historical Museum in all her colorful, lady of the night glory.

Shine on Audrie! Shine on...

~ Cameo Hoyle
Exhibits Manager
Telluride Historical Museum

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Game of Faro

Faro Card Table c. 1910 - THM Collection
Favored because the odds of winning were greater than any other gambling game, Faro was played in almost every gambling hall in the Old West. Its easy to learn rules, fast action play and gainful odds against the house gave it popularity among the gambling masses. In 1882, a New York Police Gazette study estimated more money was wagered on Faro in the U.S. each year than on all other forms of gambling combined.

Surviving its forbidden play in France during the reign of Louis the XIV, the late 17th century French gambling card game came to the U.S. in the 19th century. It infiltrated the Old West saloons with vigor and this game of chance soon became a dangerous scam.

The game was played with one deck of 52 cards and as many players, "punters", that could fit around the Faro table. Unlike most games in the gambling hall, faro was not owned by the saloon proprietor but instead by the faro dealer. He owned the table, cards, all the faro equipment, and put his own investment down to cover the bets of the game. One of the most famous faro dealers to set up in the west was Wyatt Earp who dealt faro in Tombstone when he first arrived.

To play the game, gamblers placed bets on the thirteen card Faro table layout. Flat bets, split bets, copper bets, high card bets -- all betting on the winning card or the loser. The dealer then draws two cards from the "Faro Box." The first card drawn, the bankers card, was the loser and the second was declared the winning card. So, if you had placed your chip on the Ace, and the Ace was the winning card you received a matching payout.

Faro Case Keep c.1910
THM collection
The Faro Box and Case Keep were employed to ensure gamblers fair play. However, since the equipment was owned by an entrepreneur, it soon became a false sense of  security. The gaffing of a Faro Box was so prevalent that rigged boxes were openly sold by catalog companies.
The final bet, when there are only three cards left in the deck, is known as a “Calling Turn.” It was the most popular and exciting point in the game. Players bet on what card would be dealt as the loosing card, the winning card, and the “Hock,” the last card which is not used. If you hit this bet, it paid four to one.

If you want to take your chance and belly up to the Faro table, follow this link for an online version:


~ Cameo Hoyle
Telluride Historical Museum
Exhibits Manager

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quilting Decoded

Last week we celebrated the opening of our newest temporary exhibit, Harvest of Heritage. The touring exhibit created by the Museum of Western Colorado, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces Program and presented by Colorado Creative Industries, displays artists works linked to Colorado’s rich agricultural heritage. Artists chosen for inclusion in this exhibit have met the highest standards of the Colorado Creative Industries’ Cultural Heritage Program. Many have been awarded state grants and fellowships to help them preserve, present, pass on and celebrate their traditional art form. Two have received the National Endowment for the Arts’ highest honor for our nation’s tradition bearers. Many have served as master artists who have passed on skills and knowledge to a next generation of apprentices. Their stories bring our state’s history and geography to life.

The museum has contributed a few of its own artifacts to the exhibit while it is being housed there for six weeks. The artifacts celebrate Telluride's heritage through traditional art form, and just like the others displayed; they too have a story to tell.

The cotton gold and cream double hourglass patterned traditional quilt had been authenticated by the Colorado Quilting Council in 2005 as a historic quilt. The general knowledge of its construction and fabric content were noted. Beyond that however, the museum currently has no information on its origination. Admittedly I was interested in it mainly because it matched the yellow color theme of the exhibit, but also its intricate hand stitching and simple design has impact. It seemed special, magical. In honor of the Harvest of Heritage exhibit and having heard that every quilt pieces together a story, I felt compelled to research the story of our quilt's pattern.

Most quilting bees were social gatherings of women helping a friend or neighbor finish a quilt, and more often helping a bride-to-be finish her quilts before she married. Women could share family news, exchange recipes, and give child-rearing tips. Quilting was a social asset, and next to church, going to quilting bees was the primary contact for women.

It is speculated the hourglass quilt pattern was originally developed as “quilt code” by the Sealcott Indians to help fugitive slaves escape north to freedom. These coded quilts would have hung outside windows or on fences advising escaped slaves when and where it was safe to travel. The color of the hourglass indicated what time of day help would come: red for morning, yellow or green for afternoon and blue or black for evening.[1]

"Quilt code" is a highly debated subject, with many theories on the code's existence, or non existence. Myth or fact, the idea of quilt code empowers and adds mystery to the unknown story of our own traditional gold and cream double hourglass patterned quilt.
Cameo Hoyle
Exhbits Manager
Telluride Historical Museum

[1]  http://ugrrquilt.hartcottagequilts.com//