The Republic of Rough and Ready

Rough & Ready

Rough & Ready Front Postcard Wedding Little Chapel Follow The Postcard
Rough & Ready back Postcard Wedding Little Chapel Follow The Postcard
Rough & Ready Front Postcard Wedding Little Chapel Follow The Postcard Rough & Ready back Postcard Wedding Little Chapel Follow The Postcard

July 6th, 1967

Hi, you should be here and see this. It is really a great town 4 miles east of Grass Valley. I am here with my neighbor for the day it is a lovely country here in the hills.

Love aunt Margaret
Am looking for you folks

A Succession

Rough and Ready California is a former boomtown in Northern California about an hour away from the state capital of Sacramento. It was founded by Absalom Austin Townsend, who struck it rich in 1849 at the peak of the California Gold Rush. Townsend named his new company and mining claim after his former General, and then president, “Old Rough and Ready” Zachary Taylor. During his first four months, A.A. Townsend reportedly pulled somewhere between $15,000 and $40,000 (about $460k – $1.24mm in today’s dollars) of gold from snow-fed streams before returning to his home in Wisconsin. But Rough and Ready is not known for its gold, it’s known for its attempt to become a sovereign nation.

Aunt Margaret mentions in her message that it’s “lovely country here in the hills” which ties in perfectly with the town’s lore. Loads of articles on the internet document the story of Rough and Ready California as the first town to “secede from the nation” when, as the city website tells it, a tax on all mining claims pushed the town to declare its independence.

That’s right, on April 7th, 1850, a full 11 years before the southern United States attempted to secede from the nation, a small mining community in Northern California, was the first to attempt to part ways with the U.S. The newly elected “president” penned a letter to President Zarachy Taylor saying in part, “We…deem it necessary and prudent to withdraw from said Territory (of California) and from the United States of America to form, peacefully if we can, forcibly if we must, the Great Republic of Rough and Ready.”

But legend has it the new republic didn’t last long, and a mere three months later, after finding the saloons in Grass Valley wouldn’t sell liquor to “foreigners,” The Republic of Rough and Ready unceremoniously voted to rejoin the union.

Today, the city of Rough and Ready celebrates an annual Secession Day Chilli Cook-off on the last Sunday of June while enjoying a musical melodrama titled “The Saga of Rough and Ready”.

The story is almost too good to be true, and sadly, it looks as if may just be. When reading the Statutes of the First Legislature of the 1850 California State Assembly we find no taxes on mining claims. In fact, there’s no mention of mining until April 13, 1850, when the infamously cruel and racist Foreign Minors Tax was passed into law. Moreover, when searching California newspaper archives in 1850, one of the only time Rough and Ready comes up is on April 15th in a small article about a gang of Rough and Ready citizens who massacred 25 indigenous Americans over a cattle dispute.

It’s also been reported that due to some missed paperwork the one-time independent republic wasn’t formally readmitted to the U.S. until the United States Postal Service added it back to the postal map in 1948. The truth is that Rough and Ready did see its post office reopen in 1948, but only after arguing that its population size warranted one. In fact, an article in a Sacramento announced the first post office within the town borders of Rough and Ready in December 1850, just months after its supposed independence and readmittance.

While the myth isn’t based in fact, it’s still a fun story. If you’re interested in visiting Rough and Ready California you can be sure to still find a historical mining town filled with mining attractions. While never in history was it a nation-state, it’s still an interesting part of California State history.

That’s all I have for you this week! Send your family a postcard!


Special thanks to Megumi and Nettie for copy editing!

Postmark + Cancellation :
Rough and Ready CA AM Jul 6th, 1967 95975
Cover Art:
The Little Wedding Chapel
In the Historic town of Rough & Ready, CA
Published by:
Eastman’s Studio, Susanville, Calif.
S-811 510209
Henry Mcgrew printing K.C. Mo
E.H. Rickhoff & Family
631 Euclid Ave. 
Pueblo, Co
Scott 1282 1965 4c Prominent Americans: Abraham Lincoln

Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash.

Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash. Past Postcard Facebook

Totem Pole and Pioneer Square

Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash. Past Postcard Front
Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash. Past Postcard Back
Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash. Past Postcard Front Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash. Past Postcard Back

I like Seattle, it reminds me of S. F. as it was before the fire

Everett Wash. July 11-07

Dear Uncle and Aunt

How are you all?  Hope you are just as well and enjoying yourselves as much as we are.  We are having fine weather and seeing lots of nice places. This is a fine little city on Puget Sound.  We were in Bellingham yesterday and tomorrow go back to Seattle where we will stay a week. This is a fine state and I am having a lovely time.

S. Kelly

Stolen from Tongass

The first thing you see when you look at this card is the large prominent totem pole reach from the ground to the top of the image, framed between buildings and in the center of the square. This Totem Pole was hoisted into place on October 18, 1899, and since then totem poles have become a symbol of the city. In fact, a 2011 article written by the Seattle Times proudly begins “Seattle is a city of totem poles: Carved figures glower, stand watch, warn, scold, honor and mourn on poles raised in parks, city squares, museums and shop fronts all over town.” Even Seattle’s Football team, the Seahawks sells “Team Totems” on their official store. 

Dedication of the Pole 1889 University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division

But there’s a problem. Totem poles have little to do with Seattle, and the totem pole that started it all, the Chief-of-All-Women pole in Pioneer Square, was actually stolen by a group of wealthy Seattle businessmen who had recently traveled to Alaska. During their expedition, they stopped off at the Tlingit village of Tongass, and the way they tell it, the village was abandoned by all but one man who didn’t object to them taking any pole of their choosing. In their minds, nothing would be a better gift to the city of Seattle than this stolen piece of culture. But the people of Seattle did not know this pole was stolen, and in 1889 groups gathered and celebrated the 49 feet 8-inch tall totem pole as it was erected in pioneer square.

The Tlingit people tried to retrieve their totem pole but the local Seattle government refused to surrender it to them. The Tignit people then sued for $20,000 but only received an “out-of-court settlement of $500 to benefit an Indian school near Ketchikan”. None of the criminals who stole the totem pole faced any repercussions for their crime. 

So since 1889, it’s remained in Seattle’s pioneer square. Well, sort of, an arsonist burnt the original in 1938, and the Tlingit people carved a replica that now stands in its place. In 1977 the National Park Service placed the Chief-of-All-Women pole on the register of National Historic Places commenting that the pole “now stands as a symbol of the complicated relationship between American Indians and European Americans.”

Today you can still find Totem poles around the city of Seattle, but that may be changing. The Coast Salish, the indigenous people of Seattle, did not create totem poles and their art is not prominently featured in the city. However, that may change soon as a couple of city council members have started a review of the city’s numerous totem poles in consideration of cultural concerns.

But, for now, you can still find hundreds of Seattle Postcards featuring the Chief of All Woman pole in Pioneer Square on Ebay. And many of them are waiting to be sent by you to a friend. 

That’s all I have for you today,


P.S. Send your Grandpa a postcard!

Cover Art:
Totem Pole and Pioneer Square Seattle, Wash. 

Lithograph on card stock

Published by:
5660 Published by The Puget Sound News Company, Seattle (Wash.) Leipzig, Dresden.  Polo Chrome Trademark ANC N Y Germany

Mr and Mrs J. Smith
2536 Folsom Street
San Francisco,  Cal

Postmark + Cancellation
Everette Washington July 11th 1907 6pm
American Flag Cancellation

1902 Franklin Blue Green 1 Cent Stamp 

Further Reading:
Arsonist damages Seattle’s Pioneer Square totem pole on October 22, 1938
Digital Collection of Tlingit people and Totem Poles 
Part 2 Coast Salish Art and Carving

Special Thank You to Paul for helping to transcribe the card and Valerie for copyediting.

Hozu River, Kyoto and Arthur the Oilman

Kyoto, Japan Arthur Eaton Geologist

Hodu River, Kyoto

Hodu River, Kyoto Past Postcards Front
Hodu River, Kyoto Past Postcards Back
Hodu River, Kyoto Past Postcards Front Hodu River, Kyoto Past Postcards Back

Kyoto 1/14/14

Dear Emily, you will be as surprised as I was to find Japan so mountainous with fields clear up to the sides. 

Having a fine trip ok here now

Arthur the Oilman

Something that distinguishes an old postcard from an old letter is that you don’t have much information on the sender of the card. Think about it, unlike a letter, there’s no return address with a first and last name. While usually signed, it’s often just a first name, and that’s not enough to start a search. But that doesn’t stop us from looking into who the postcard was sent to.

Miss Emily R Churchill of Berkeley California, was a student at Cal when this letter was sent in 1914. She was also a member of the Delta Gamma fraternity and the California Library Association. Not long after graduating, she got married, as folks do, to a young man named Arthur Eaton, and started her family in 1918 with her first of two children. Sadly, her trail runs dark after that— but we pick up the story with her husband, Arthur.

Arthur and Emily likely met while studying at Cal as Arthur rowed crew and was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma Fraternity while he studied Geology at U.C Berkley. He was a go-getter from the start and spent 1914 traveling through 1916 China & the Philipines as a member of the George Louderback Geological Party, sent by the Standard Oil Company to determine whether oil resources existed under the foreign soil.

At the end of his travels in 1916, he and his family moved to Denver, Colorado, where he opened Harrison and Eaton, Consulting Petroleum Geologists. There’s not much to find on the organization until 1920 when he and his partner complied a report titled Investigation of Gas possibilities of Western Oregon. Henry Parks, the then director of the Oregon Bureau of Mines and Geology, wrote that Harrison and Eaton were selected “after a careful inquiry into the experience records of many prominent oil geologists of the country. The inquiry showed that the members of this firm are men of unquestioned integrity who are held in high regard by those prominent in their own profession, as well as by leading oil producing companies of the country. The Bureau was fortunate in securing the services of men who have proved themselves so eminently successful as oil geologists in the commercial industry.”

Whatever the pressure was to find oil in Oregon, on February 6th, 1920 Arthur Eaton filed the report with a final passage that said all his data “leads to but one conclusion:-that hopes of productive oil fields in western Oregon are not founded on any satisfactory evidence that can be found by a careful study of the geology.” 

And as of 2008, there are still zero oil wells in Oregon. A report from Oregon Public Broadcasting shows that the Bureau of Land Management canceled sales on leases of over 16 million acres of land due to low interest. It’s important to know that BLM is in charge of land rights above and below the ground. BLM commonly generates revenue off of public lands by leasing their mineral right, but 88 years later, geologists and oil companies agree, there is no oil under the soil of Oregon.

But that’s the end of his meteoric rise as things took a dark turn for our favorite oilman, and in 1923 at Lake Merrit hospital in Oakland, at only 37 years old, Arthur perished after surgery. While we can’t know for sure what caused his death, we do know that Penicillin wasn’t used to treat infections until 1942, and infections and septicemia caused many deaths before its use.

The New York Public Libary has a postcard on file that’s identical to this card. However, with some overlayed color flourishes. A keen eye will notice, however, that the card says Hozu vs. Hodu on the card I’ve collected— it’s the same river, the English spelling just changed over time.

The Hozu River was used for years as a way to transport goods on rafts built of timber cut from nearby forests, but in 1895 a rail line was introduced that moved good more efficiently. However, riding rapids was a lot of fun, so in 1895 a tourist-centric white water ride was introduced to the region and gained widespread popularity. A local blogger wrote a comprehensive history of the Hozu river, and it’s worth a read if you are, as I was, initially interested in the subject of card art. 

If you haven’t guessed or noticed by now, the sender of this postcard to the then Miss Emily Churchill was, in fact, Arthur. It looks as though sometime during his travels in China and the Philippines, he stopped off in Kyoto, Japan. This card opened the door to a sender from 1914. 

That’s all I have for you this week; I hope you check in next week.


P.S. Send your friend a postcard. 

Card Details

Cover Art:  Many men traveling down the river in a wooden boat, some with oars, others as passengers

To: Miss Emily R. Churchill #1641 Euclid Ave Berkeley Cal. U.S.A

Stamp: 1913 Tazawa series 4 sen scarlet released 1913.10.31

A special thank you to:

Paul Young & Nettie Fuentes for finding this card at a yard sale

Megumi Tsutsui for copyediting the post.

Oleanders on the Desert & Cancellation Stamps

Cancellation Stamps & Oleanders on the Desert Postcard from Past Postcards

Dear Ones All;

We’re sure chilly down here too down to 30° last nite isn’t nearly so pretty as usual. The desert in a green carpet everywhere but not blooming. We’re at the same place as Pallockp. We both have the same cabins we had last year. Not doing much

Myrtle + John

Cancellation Stamps

When you look at the back of a postcard, there’s the obvious things, a message, an address and a stamp, but there are a couple of other parts that matter only to post offices but can be fascinating in their own right. Take for instance the “Pray for Peace” cancellation stamp on the back of this postcard. 

Every bit of mail that passes through the United States Postal Service requires postage because it functions as the payment for your mail. However, it’s only good once and It’s not difficult to separate a stamp from a letter so USPS needs a way to ensure that your postage won’t live on to mail many more packages.

After the mail is picked it up it heads to a sorting facility and at that facility, a machine would both mark the parcel’s place of origin and cancel the stamp- it’s a receipt that stamp has been used and it’s value redeemed.

The cancellation stamps/marks of today are pretty boring, they’re just lines across the stamp, but they weren’t always mundane, hundreds of “Machine Slogans” were used as cancellation stamps and nearly all of them were introduced through legislation— and, interestingly enough, “Pray for Peace” was a relic of the cold war asking Americans to ask God to save us from a nuclear holocaust.

In the 1950s the U.S. started to take big leaps towards making Christianity the de jure religion of the state. At the time, state atheism was pushed by the communist party in the U.S.S.R and the American cure to the communist front, therefore, became a complete and total embrace of Christianity. Christ was shoehorned into day to day events and objects via the pledge of allegiance, on our currency, in the form of “In God We Trust” and even on the US Mail via cancellation stamps. 

Louis C Rabuat (D-MI) was at the forefront, a member of the House of Representatives & champion for Christ, he’s most often credited in adding “Under God” to the pledge of allegiance but his influence didn’t stop there. In 1955 he introduced a bill for a cancellation die for sent mail, bearing the words “Pray for Peace,” in House Bill 9120 and it was sent to the Senate where the bill died. However, the following year, god-fearing anti-communist that he was, Rep. Rabuat reintroduced HB 9120 as HB 692 and Congress passed the bill on June 20, 1955 and sent it to the Senate. The Senate approved the bill, and Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law on June 20, 1956.

Reading in Congressional Record it seems like his peers were falling over themselves to sing the praises of Rep Rabuat’s lastest law.  My favorite quote I found while researching this cancellation stamp came from Postmaster General Summerfield “This motto, ‘Pray for Peace,” epitomizes the highest aspirations of the American people,” Mr. Summerfield added. “I believe that by repeating this message on millions of letters and other mailed matter passing through the cancellation machines, we will reaffirm our faith in prayer to achieve the Nation’s most cherished hope—everlasting world peace.” 

At an estimated cost of $250,000, the U.S. issued 10,000 cancelation dies for each first and second class post office. Adjusted for inflation, the cost would have been equivalent to $2,377,555.15 a small price to pay to “reaffirm our faith in prayer to achieve the Nation’s most cherished hope—everlasting world peace”.

I can’t help but wonder if The Occupants of 2825 High St. in Pueblo prayed for everlasting world peace because of this postmark, or if anyone did?

In any event, it’s interesting to find out that such small bits of history and a house bill from the 94th Congress live on the back of the postcard I picked up from a junk shop.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s bit of history, and I hope you send someone a postcard today or tomorrow.


Card Details

To: The Occupants 2825 High St. Pueblo

Published by: Petley Studios, 4051 E. Van Burren Phoenix Arizona S-1615-7 

Inventory: K-507 Color Photo by Bob Van Luchene 

Postmark + Cancellation Chandler Feb 28 2pm 1962 ARZ  Pray for Peace 
Stamp: #1035 – 1954 Liberty Series – 3¢ Statue of Liberty

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