Sunday, December 13, 2009

Periodical Research (Inyo Independent & Inyo Register)

Salt Tram history is rapidly disappearing, and we are striving to rediscover the efforts of our forefathers in order to give proper recognition to their hopes, dreams and abundant sweat from an era that is rapidly fading from our memories. We are actively seeking out information about the mining of Salt in Saline Valley between 1903 and the 1950's, including: documents, photos, articles, stories, artifacts, etc. If you can help us out, please email us at the address above - Thank-you! --Tim and Brian Waag, the Waag brothers (aka E. Clampus Waagus).
Caution (PLEASE READ): Climbing around on the tramway is dangerous because its really old and defnitely unsafe, so don't even think about it. Shoot, just getting to it requires some perilous hiking, and if you don't believe me, just take a look at the Zig Zag Access Trail (or what's left of it). Plus, climbing on it weakens it and endangers your life. Also, the Saline Valley Salt Tram is on the National Register of Historic Places and should be treated with the respect that it deserves. What little remains is of great historic value, and should not be disturbed in any way. Heck, its probably against the law to move parts of the tram around, and certainly a crime to take home some of the few bits of it that remain (though you'd have to ask your friendly local BLM agent for details). So please treat it with the respect it deserves, so that future generations can enjoy whats left, without you messing it up. Really. Please. You can see its listing on the National Register of Historic Places at these web links:
National Register of Historic Places 1          National Register of Historic Places 2

On our November 2009 research trip, we began reviewing periodicals at the time of the Salt Tram era. We have had great success, discovering data that we had never seen or heard before. Though we have about 100 or more different sources for information about the Salt Tram (primarily books, magazine articles, and government publications), it is clear that they get most or all of their information from a single source: The May 17, 1917 American Society for Civil Engineering article on the Salt Tram. This has been quite disappointing, since every time we discover a new source of Salt Tram information, it turns out to be the same old data.

With our review of the Inyo Register (Bishop)and Inyo Independent (Independence) on the November 2009 trip, that has changed. Unfortunately, what has NOT changed is how long it takes to go over these weekly publications with a fine tooth comb. Basically, in 15 hours total sitting in front of a microfilm reader, we were able to review 1 year of the Inyo Register (1910) and 3 years of the Inyo Independent (1910 - 1912). We should have spent more time with the Register, as it was clearly the more substantive paper, with similar articles on the Salt Tram, but with noticeably greater depth of reporting, investigation and subsequently, article length. We plan on reviewing many more years of these publications in order to cover the entire Salt Tram era, which spans a great number of years, especially if you include the salt companies that preceded the Saline Valley Salt Company.

Anyways, I am pleased to share a few tidbits of information from these newspapers. The first is an ad the was run in a series of 3 ads, starting with this one on November 11, 1910, followed by 2 more in succession on November 18 and November 25, 1910. Identical ads ran in both the Independent and the Register. The first ad was labeled "First Notice", the 2nd ad "Second Notice", and the 3rd ad "Final Notice". Clearly there was a bit of salesmanship going on (more about this in another blog post), but the idea that they didn't sell shares in the Saline Valley Salt Company on the East Coast because they wanted to save some for the locals is, frankly, preposterous, but definitely typical of the times. Mining interests sold as many shares as they could, to anybody who could pay for them. If they supposedly "sold out" shares to the "East Coast Investors", they could (and would) print more shares and sell them too! Even better, assuming this causes an increase in the share price, sell their own shares, and perhaps buy them back later when the stock price plummeted on the nearly always inevitable bad news!

The second ad is for legal attorney services of none other than the principal of the entire Salt Tram operation, White Smith, Esq. Take a careful look at the ad, and you will appreciate all the local pies that Mr. Smith has his finger in, locally, and it becomes obvious why he is treated like a local Owens Valley celebrity. As we reviewed more and more of the paper, Mr. Smith's status as a local dignitary became clear.



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