KanColl: The Kansas Historical Quarterlies

The Kinsey Boom of the Late Eighties.
Part 1

by James C. Malin

February, 1935 (Vol. 4, No. 1), pages 23 to 49
Transcribed by lhn; digitized with permission of
the Kansas State Historical Society.

NEAR the western bend of the Arkansas river, with Larned as the nearest important rival twenty miles to the northeast and Dodge City forty miles to the westward, Kinsley occupied a favorable location in the western Arkansas valley. The site was selected when the Santa Fe railroad was built, in August, 1872. Three years later Edwards county, of which Kinsley was the county seat, claimed 234 inhabitants, and another five years gave it 2,409. The city of Kinsley in 1880 had 457 people, but drought and adversity reduced the little city to 382 persons by 1884. During these early years the volume of trade with the small farmer was slight and probably not very profitable, but the location of the town made it an important supply point for cattle ranches. There was no railroad in the southwest corner of the state-that part lying south and west of the Arkansas river. Wichita penetrated this great range-cattle area from the eastward, and towns along the Santa Fe railroad, Hutchinson, Great Bend, Larned, Kinsley and Dodge City, from the northward. In addition, some of these towns served the Oklahoma country farther south. Similarly, no railroad entered the territory lying northward between the Arkansas and the Smoky Hill rivers, and the same towns along the main line of the Santa Fe railroad competed with the Kansas Pacific railroad towns for the supply trade of that region. Kinsley appears to have secured its share of this trade, although it did not become a very important point for the shipment of cattle.

The Kansas boom of the late eighties slowly began to gather momentum during 1884, reaching its climax during 1887. Partly the process was a return of settlers who had deserted western Kansas during the drought of the early eighties, but mostly it was a migration of new people. Government land was available in large quantities under the preemption, homestead, or timber-claim acts, and railroad land was being forced into the market by all the land-grant companies as rapidly as possible either to farmers or to speculators. On January 9, 1885, the Kinsley Graphic reported that "a continued stream of wagons rolls southward each day, regardless of wind or weather," and the Mercury, March 28, counted nearly 150 passengers from one train, and remarked that "the various stage lines have



all they can do to carry them off." One Kinsley firm had received its third carload of breaking plows before the end of April. By the close of the immigration season of 1886, the small farmer had occupied practically all available land south to the breaks of the Medicine river, and northward to the hills along the Smoky. Although many large ranches remained, the flood of homesteaders left them as scattered islands in a sea of small-farm country. With the sudden passing of the range-cattle trade, the character of Kinsley's business changed quickly. Gone was the large-scale cattle-supply trade with its big profits, and in its place was left only the petty trade of the impecunious homesteader-that is, unless it was possible to conjure into existence some new and highly profitable form of big business as a substitute. Perchance much of the significance of the great boom which followed lies in the allurement of such magic. The Mercury boasted, March 14, 1885, that "Kinsley is the boomingest booming town in the Southwest," and that it had almost doubled its population since September. Near the end of the year the same paper was promoting a board of trade to advertise the town.

Along with the small-farmer boom had come the railroad boom, each more or less interacting on the other, as the farmer was dependent upon rails for his market, and the new railroads upon the farmers for their traffic. And then, like measles on a child, townsites broke out all over this young country. Each new town hoped, by fair means or foul, to become the county seat and get one or more railroads. Small farmers, townsites, county-seat wars and railroad prospects, however, were only the preliminaries. The big boomers gambled for larger stakes. The story of Kinsley is more or less typical, allowing for suitable variation of details, of the excesses of the boom in almost any town of the western part of the state. While many did not go to such extremes, all were dangerously infected with boomitis, and many were more fantastic in the excesses of their autointoxication.

Kinsley had been built on the main line of the Santa Fe railroad, and in 18851886 a subsidiary of that system, The Arkansas Valley and Western Railroad Company, built what became the Hutchinson-Kinsley cut-off. It was completed in August, 1886. In boom parlance it was Kinsley's second railroad. Incidentally, it placed rail facilities for the first time in the country south of the Arkansas river, although only in the northern edge. From the eastern edge of the same area, a railroad was built from Wichita, reaching Kingman in 1885 and Medicine Lodge early in 1886. Many other lines were


planned. The trade territory of Larned, Kinsley and Dodge City was reduced substantially by every mile of road built. Dodge City organized a telephone company to reach into its southern territory, and the Kinsley Mercury, March 13, 1886, urged its own business men to build to Coldwater if their Comanche county business was to be retained. Within two weeks a company was chartered, which was to connect the towns of four counties, Edwards, Kiowa, Comanche, and Clark, but it was not an exclusively Kinsley enterprise.

The crop season of 1886 was not favorable in Edwards county, and farmers plowed up part of their wheat early in June in order to replant to sorghum and millet. The Kinsley GRaphic, June 11, warned them not to be premature as rains might bring much of it out. The next few days did bring rain, and hail as well, and then the same paper recommended, June 25, that there was still time to replant. The rising boom was not to be seriously checked by short crops, because, as the Graphic said, July 2, "Kansas is railroad crazy." Many lines were being projected by irresponsible parties into the trade territory of those already built, and primarily for the subsidies voted by counties, townships, and towns, or to sell out to stronger roads. The established systems, the Santa Fe, Union Pacific, Rock Island and Missouri Pacific, felt that they had to locate branch lines in order to protect themselves from these racketeers, even when the business secured did not in itself warrant construction.

Early in 1887 the railroad phase of the boom reached its peak in the Kinsley area. In January the Omaha, Kansas and El Paso Railroad Company was chartered, with some Kinsley men as officers, and with Kinsley mentioned as possible headquarters. Among the arguments for the line, it was urged that Kansas needed north-and-south roads, that it would provide an outlet to Chicago by way of Omaha, and that the competition with Kansas City and St. Louis roads would benefit Kinsley.[1] On April 9 the Mercury stated that bond propositions would be submitted to Kinsley and Trenton townships at once. The road to the south line was to be completed within a year. Another railroad proposition which was considered as a certainty was the extension by the Santa Fe of the Chicago, Kansas and Western Railway (formerly Arkansas Valley and Western) from Kinsley northwest to Denver.[2] In its issue of April 9, the Mercury stated that construction would begin in a few days.


The railroad proposition which excited the largest interest in the press was the line to Wichita. During 1885 the Wichita and Colorado road was projected under Missouri Pacific sponsorship, and all the towns from Hutchinson to Kinsley competed for the point of intersection with the Santa Fe [3] Under the name of Arkansas Valley, Iuka and Northwestern, however, another Missouri Pacific line became more tangible as a link in the Denver, Memphis and Atlantic. On February 5 the Mercury declared "this will give us railroad facilities second to no other town in western Kansas," and not least among the arguments for it was that it would provide a southern outlet to the ocean. An election for the authorization of subsidy bonds was called for March 29. In urging favorable action the Mercury argued in the issue of March 5 as follows:

It is needless for us to tell the people that the present unprecedented activity in railway building cannot go on forever. Just as sure as the days continue to come and go, so sure will the money bags of Wall Street suddenly close up some time. Capital is timid and one of these fine mornings it will wake up "half scared to death" at the magnitude to which railroad building in the west, and especially in Kansas, has attained. People may not realize it, because they do not stop to think, yet so slender is the thread upon which our prosperity hangs that were one-bare one-leading banking institution of Wall Street to suspend payment it would precipitate a crisis that would result in stopping short every line of railway in process of construction in the West; and so closely is our general prosperity connected with and dependent upon railway building that to shut down operations now would be to cripple, if not absolutely ruin half the industries in the state of Kansas. Immigration would cease, eastern money, which is flowing into this country in an unbroken and constantly increasing stream, would be turned into other channels or be locked up, the building boom would collapse and farmers who are growing wealthy from the fast increasing value of their lands would suddenly find themselves possessors of estates that would not sell for as much as they borrow on them. Indeed many farmers with mortgages on their land would be unable to renew them, if necessary to do so, and would lose their homes. Stagnation would take the place of prosperity and it would be years before the country would recover from the effects of the blow. The localities that were provided with competing lines of road before the panic came upon them would be most fortunate, but how would it be with the people of Kinsley and Edwards county

Not wishing to weary our readers we will leave the question with them until our next issue, when we shall take up the matter and discuss it from a purely business standpoint. In the meantime, we hope that every voter in Edwards county will give that consideration to the probability or improbability of a crash in the financial world which the importance of the question to him, personally, would seem to warrant.

In the following issue, the business argument estimated that forty


miles of road at $8,000 per mile would be valued at $320,000 and would pay $13,000 per year in taxes. The interest on the bonds, county and township, which would buy $110,000 in railroad stock would be $6,600. The balance in favor of the county each year would be $6,400, and besides, the people would enjoy the use of the road. On a thirty-year basis the editor figured that even if the stock became worthless, the balance in favor of the county would be $82,000. In the same issue he assured his readers that the road would reach Kinsley by July. The next week's issue pointed out that the road would bring Kinsley nearer to the coal fields than the Santa Fe, and that the towns reached by the D. M. & A. enjoyed coal prices two to three dollars lower than formerly. Also, the road was closer to the pine lumber of Arkansas and Tennessee, and Wichita was getting lumber ten dollars per thousand cheaper than formerly. It would open southern markets, and counties on the road realized five to ten cents per bushel more for corn than before there was competition. To clinch these price arguments the writer again held out the warning of March 5:

The unprecedented activity in railroad building will come to a short stop some of these days . . . . When it does stop it will be so sudden as to take one's breath away. Everybody knows that it is coming, and the county or city in Kansas not provided with competing lines when the crash comes will be many years in getting additional road. It is the part of wisdom to strike while the iron is hot.

The bonds carried in every township but one. The Mercury printed an extra, and a jollification meeting was held. Conflicting plans of the Santa Fe and the Missouri Pacific were adjusted during the following weeks, and in the Mercury, May 21, announcement was made that the Missouri Pacific had abandoned to the former road the building of the line from Larned west, while the Santa Fe reciprocated on their proposed line from Kinsley northwest. While this seemed to deprive the town of one railroad, the interpretation placed upon it was that it made the building of the D. M. & A. more certain, and that it would reach Scott City yet that season. On June 18 the Mercury announced the completion of the survey from Iuka to Kinsley, and predicted that trains would be running in ninety days; a two-story depot 58 by 130 feet was to be built and division offices established. A syndicate of Missouri Pacific officials was to build a large hotel.

The Rock Island was sure to come, the Mercury announced on April 9, although the route was not indicated. Frisco prospects were treated in more detail, and it was stated that company repre-


4sentatives were in the city and asked for thirty acres on which to build depots, shops, and divisional facilities which would be located at Kinsley. When announcement had been made of the Santa Fe-Missouri Pacific compromise, the Mercury declared that it was an intervention of divine providence that the Frisco was in a position to take over the bonds already voted to aid the Santa Fe for the northwest extension. "Verily the Lord seems to be on our side!"[4]

Kinsley's railroad prospects aroused the Mercury editor's enthusiasm to the point of imitative rhapsody in the display headlines of the "Boom column" in the issue of April 30:

Oh hear the boom, the rumbling boom!l What a shower of golden wheels to dissipate the gloom. Children of the eastern land where your farms are spoiled; leave the barren sand where your fathers toiled. Leave the rivers and the rills, leave your spades and hoes; leave your rough and rocky hills where no harvest grows. Hither come and upward grow. Here your dimes invest, and you'll never want to go from the Golden West. Here you may in very truth, in a country roam where your breast will swell with healthy breath, and "Ring a Chestnut Bell" on the form of Death.[5]

These headlines served as an introduction to a long article whose theme was Kinsley as a railroad and commercial center, and which was accompanied by a sketch map showing the town as the point of intersection of five through railroads and a branch line. In other words, eleven lines of railroad radiated from this "young Chicago of the Plains." The essential points of the argument were that Kinsley's remoteness from other cities of any size was in its favor; that Hutchinson, Newton, Winfield and Wellington could never shine save by the reflected light of Wichita; that Kinsley occupied the best position to make her the next important city west of Wichita; "What Wichita is to Kansas City to-day, Kinsley will be to Wichita one year from this time . . . . There is no question, there can be no question, that Kinsley is the coming city of the Arkansas valley . . . ."

All things have an end, including even railroad booms, and during the midsummer the railroads succeeded in concluding an agreement not to build more roads in 1887. This is what the Mercury had predicted, and on August 4 congratulated Kinsley and Edwards county that the contracts were let for the building of the D. M. & A. before the compromise.

But what about the remainder of the Mercury's prognostications


of March 5? Would the cessation of railroad building bring the economic collapse to Kansas the editor painted in in that word picture?

To anticipate a little, the most fantastic phase of the boom was yet to come, as well as the collapse, and both were to center around the industrial and commercial development of the city itself, build ing of course on the foundations already laid in the railroad boom.

The peopling of the county had resulted in an increase from a population of 1,876 in the year 1884 to 3,519, 4,388 and 4,717 in the next three years, respectively. From a village of 382 persons in 1884, Kinsley population rose to 623 the next year, 1,102 in 1886, and 1,206 in 1887. Three weekly newspapers were published in the town, the Graphic (Democratic), the Banner (Democratic), a new comer, and the Mercury (Republican). The last named came into the hands of W. S. Hebron, of Sedgwick county, who published his first issue February 5, 1887. Unknown to the inhabitants, it was a memorable occasion, because the new editor set the pace for the boom. The Graphic and the Mercury had met all ordinary requirements of promotion in the regularly approved fashion, but the new Mercury editor had a manner all his own. Every issue of the paper contained a "boom column" with display headlines, and often there were several boom articles, in all of which he rang the changes on the merits of Kinsley in a vivid style and with unabashed exuberance of imagination. His favorite metaphor was drawn from the race track, and most of the boom articles were headed "The Dark Horse."

A correspondent of the Atchison Champion described Kinsley in glowing terms as it appeared about the opening of the year:

Kinsley has a proud consciousness of having waded to dry land through deeper tribulations than any of the Arkansas valley towns. For a long time it was the westernmost town that really aimed to get a respectable living. Dodge was further on, but Dodge, in those days, lived on the government and its own wickedness. Kinsley was started by nice folks, and a hard time they had of it. The drought came and stayed; the fires, one after another, licked up the houses. It is a pleasure to see the luck of the people of Kinsley who have held on. The fire has driven builders to using brick, and there are now brick blocks all along the main streets, and a brick courthouse which breaks up the commonly accepted belief that a courthouse must needs look like a brick kiln; and there is an opera house, a finer hall than any city in Kansas had for many years after its foundation; and there are stores reaching entirely through the block, and filled with merchandise. And the bulletin boards announce all the musical and dramatic novelties. There are two railroads, and others, of course, contemplated. The richest man in town is the man who had faith to stand by the town and country when everybody


was of the opinion that the soil had "too much sand." The result proved that he had just enough.[6]

Editor Hebron set off his first "boom" in the first issue of the Mercury after he took possession. Commenting on the railroad facilities of Kinsley, he declared that "There is not another city in the great Arkansas valley, always excepting Wichita, where investments are surer to yield greater returns than Kinsley." He reported that new additions to the city had been platted by Wichita and by Hutchinson groups, and a Wellington group was in process of organization.

Other towns had their booms further under way, as well as their jealousies. Each ridiculed the other, as is illustrated by a story in the Mercury, February 26, that a Wichita man refused to wash his face because he did not wish to waste so much valuable real estate, and that a storekeeper of the same city had become rich hoarding the sweepings from his storeroom, and selling them to eastern capitalists for corner lots.

Such incidental levities were not the main issue, however, and the Mercury, February 26, struck the keynote of the boom again in the headlines: "Railroads, roundhouses, repair shops and manufactories. Pretty, plucky, persevering and proud, she's boss of the situation and sure to get there with both feet. Now is the time to invest." Kinsley was to get, in addition to railroads and division headquarters of the Santa Fe, a roundhouse, canning factory, foundry, carriage and wagon factory, and other enterprises not yet ready to announce. Wichita men were named who had bought, during the week, 384 lots south of the city and expected to commence an extensive building program. The GRaphic headed its boom article March 4, "Solid Facts"; "We deal not in fairy stories, but in plain, unvarnished tales of Kinsley, the magic city of the Great Southwest." It admitted March 18, of course, that "We had a Kansas zephyr last Saturday. Several signs were blown down and sand filled the air, but what do we care, we are going to have a boom."

Week by week during the spring both papers published lists of real-estate transfers. The report of March 5 totaled $140,000, and each transaction was listed by name, description of tract, and price. A few tracts of inferior government land sold for $200 per quarter. Private land was selling mostly for $500 to $1,000 per quarter during the spring months. A few unusually high prices were recorded of $1,200 to $2,600 per quarter. The high price for city lots in the Mer-


wry, March 5, was three for $11,500. The Santa Fe railroad was reported to have bought eighty acres for the roundhouse, shops, etc., and a syndicate of officers of the line had invested $28,000 in real estate. The Wichita, Colorado and Western was a reported purchaser, and the D. M. & A. had telegraphed an offer for property. A week later the news was: "The Dark Horse wins the first heat.

`Wild, Wooly and Hard to Curry' the Great Unknown sweeps majestically to the front . . . . Kinsley, the gateway to Western Kansas, No Man's Land, Colorado, and New Mexico, sends greetings to her sister cities of the valley." The average daily total of real-estate transfers for the week was $30,000. The close of the month of March suggested a summary of accomplishments which appeared in the Mercury for March 26, headlined:

Bright, beautiful, brilliant and booming, Kinsley surges to the head of the procession with a record of transfers amounting to more than $600,000 for the month of March, with four more days for business. Kinsley property advancing in value every day and hour, as the facts concerning our great prosperity become understood. The whyness of the wherefore.

The article that followed this introduction said in part:

There is no inflation in the boom which we are enjoying. The great growth of our city is a necessity forced upon it by the importance which the building of new railroads and the establishment here of division headquarters has given it. It has been known for the past dozen years that somewhere in the Western Arkansas valley a great city would spring up, and land speculators have been on the qui vive for pointers as to its exact location. Several attempts have been made at different times to boom certain cities in the valley into such prominence as would result in making them the favored spot, but all to no purpose. The contour of the country surrounding Kinsley as well as her geographical location is such that, by natural selection, she has been chosen as the point of crossing and branching of the great trunk lines of railway in Kansas, and, by force of circumstances, the great metropolis of the Western Arkansas valley. Nowhere in the valley is there a greater demand for vacant property, and nowhere is there a greater, or so great, assurances of a steady and constantly increasing growth for years to come. That this fact is appreciated is shown by the volume of the real-estate business transacted.

Within a few days one town lot (lot 11, block 24) was reported to have sold for $5,000. A $35,000 hotel and $150,000 worth of other buildings were to be erected within ninety days. Every real-estate office was crowded, and ran two to four teams showing stuff to customers, and sometimes two or three dealers were making out sale papers for the same piece of property. Every hotel, restaurant and boarding house was jammed. The sale of the Schnatterly place of ten acres near the city for $650 per acre was recorded in the Mercury for April 9. It was later subdivided and resold for town lots.


The Graphic announced, April 22, that Kinsley was "Still Booming," and that it presented, "Not what the wild waves are saying, but bold glaring facts." [7] The next day's Mercury reported acres of brick blocks going up, representing more than a quarter of a million dollars, including the $60,000 Santa Fe depot, and asserted that the D. M. & A. had invested $28,000 in a tract of land for depots, roundhouses, etc.:

The transfers of real estate [were] unprecedented. Fortunes made in a day; no chance for loss, and everybody happy.

Waterworks, electric lights and telephone exchange among the possibilities in the next sixty days.

We may not want to print each day but, by jingo if we do, we've got the press, we've got the type, and we've got the franchise, too.

If anyone, at all conversant with facts in the case, ever had a lingering doubt about the future of this city it certainly is dispelled by this time. We state but facts when we say there is not another city in the Arkansas valley with brighter prospects than Kinsley. The boom this city is enjoying is of the solid, substantial variety that marks the laying of the cornerstones of a great city. The Mercury has rung all the changes on our railroads, present and prospective . . . .

Whether or not we can fill the bill remains to be determined, but the fact exists that a daily newspaper is a necessity here. The weekly newspaper is a relic of the past and belongs to the days of spinning wheels, looms and stage coaches.[8]

Hebron announced that he had bought a Potter power press and a steam engine and would publish a nine column daily, and about the first of May would get out a 25,000 copy edition of the Mercury for circulation in the East and in Europe. The Daily Mercury did appear in June, reinforcing the Weekly Mercury, the Graphic, and the Banner, and now that the Dark Horse was nicely warmed in the trial heats, the big race was called. The election to vote $40,000 in bonds for city waterworks carried June 30 by a vote of 143 to 33. The bond election for a $16,000 issue to build two schoolhouses carried July 8. In four or five years Kinsley was to be a city of 15,000 to 20,000. So said the Mercury. So said the Graphic.

The boom campaign of the summer and fall of 1887 focused on Kinsley, the industrial city. Occasional mentions of manufacturing had occurred all along, but they did not become the chief and almost. sole objective until the late summer months. On May 21 announcement was made of the Cooperative Cracker factory, which was re-


ported to have purchased 31 lots and the next week would commence the erection of eighteen to twenty cottages for its employees. The problems of fuel and power were obviously formidable obstacles to industrialization. The Graphic, June 24, admitted that there was no coal in paying quantities in Edwards county, but urged the importance of boring for natural gas because, "from the geographical formation about Kinsley, we feel justified in predicting its discovery at very little expense and labor . . . Our future would be an assured fact."

The Fourth of July was celebrated with a town-lot auction and an excursion from Kansas City. The Graphic reported it: "Kinsley, Kansas, keenly keeps knowingly knocking. Fair fame forging forward finely. Excursionists elegantly entertained." Lots were sold in the Schnatterly, the Wichita railroad, the Kinsley Town and Land Company, and the Wichita additions for a total of $40,000 for the day. The Mercury rhymster delivered himself of the following:

Oh, kickers all,
Both great and small,
No longer stand aloof,
If you can't join the throng,
And help boom things along
You'd better "come off" the roof.

By midsummer Kinsley had four banks, three of which were established since the boom began in 1886. When the First National Bank was announced in the Mercury, July 16, the city was assured that it was not organized to boom Kinsley, but to fill an actual need. Other financial institutions were the Kinsley Investment Company, the Edwards County Land and Loan Company, and the Kinsley Building and Loan Association.

Already Kinsley had a small brick plant, a sorghum mill, a mattress factory, and a bottling works. During the late summer and fall at least eighteen other manufacturing enterprises were projected, with a grand total of estimated capital investment placed at over two million dollars; twine, meat packing, leather, glue, oleomargarine, canning, tin cans, printing of labels, paper and paper boxes, gloves, strawboard, tobacco, crackers, sugar, sashes, doors and blinds, churns and washing machines, harrows, and papier maché. It would require too much space to relate the story of each, but the most highly publicized enterprises were the packing house, the paper and paper-box factory, and the papier maché plant.

The Mercury outdid itself on August 18 in printing a highly imaginative article in the form of an account of a twenty-four-hour


tour of the city, picturing Kinsley as it would appear in thirteen years. All the above-named industries were included, and in addition a barb wire factory, a foundry, steel mills, rolling mills, linseed oil works, plow works, and not least, a college, a public library, and the great publishing houses of the Daily Evening Mercury and the Daily Morning Graphic.

The story of the packing plant began definitely with the issue of the Mercury, August 11:

Cattle are looking exceedingly well over this part of the state, but the "exceedingly" low prices offered make our stockmen very tired. Before snow flies the matter will be remedied, to a certain extent, by the large packing house to be built here.

In addition to the packing house a manila twine plant was among the projects which visiting capitalists were considering, but the former shared the main headlines of the issue of August 25 with the paper mill and paperbox factory, in which manila twine was a branch of the business:

Yesterday was a red-letter day in the history of Kinsley, and, taken in connection with the work accomplished during the week, marks an epoch in our history. The packing house and the paper mills and box factory which have located here takes the future of our city entirely out of the realm of speculation.

These would add 2,000 to 3,000 population to the city, it was claimed, and create a demand for smaller and dependent industries: glue, oleomargarine, canneries for meats, vegetables and fruits, can manufacturing, and the printing of labels. The pay roll of the plants now located were estimated at $7,000 to $10,000 per week, and the capital expenditure at $200,000. Furthermore, Kinsley had prospects for a college.

Another article, reprinted in both the Graphic and the Mercury from the Topeka Commonwealth of August 19, added the glove factory and the tobacco house. The question was asked what induced these firms to locate in Kinsley, and the answer was threefold: central location, railroad facilities, and water power. The last item calls for some explanation.

After the drought of 1879-1880 an irrigation project was partially developed. Little Coon creek, which runs through Kinsley, or more accurately, whose channel does, had become a public nuisance, because people used it as a dumping ground for all kinds of refuse and there was not sufficient water, except during occasional floods, to clean the channel. The Arkansas river makes a bend to the northeast from its eastward course just above Kinsley. The head


of the Big and Little Coon creek watershed lies near the river above this bend, and someone conceived the idea of cutting a ditch across from the river to the creek, thereby, with the aid of a dam on the river, diverting water into Coon creek. In shortening the distance the water flowed the relative fall was greatly increased. The value of the project, however satisfactory from a sanitary point of view, was not so great but that it was abandoned with the return of the cycle of years of more favorable rainfall during the mid-eighties. The new enterprise of 1887 was a revival of the old irrigation ditch, but this time for power purposes. The engineers of the packing house interests were reported to have found that the fall was over twenty-six feet. "They wanted power. This we had and to spare . . . and as these industries would not utilize near all the power produced," the surplus, according to the promoters, would be sublet to other users. Later estimates placed the power capacity of Coon creek at 3,500 horsepower.[9] "Kinsley is destined to become the Queen City of the west, and in eighteen months to have a population of 20,000 people."[10]

Kinsley! The Cynosure of all eyes. The coming great metropolis. A $250,000 packing house and a paper and paper-box factory employing 1,000 operatives to be established here at once. The contracts all signed, sealed and delivered, and but a few days will elapse before hundreds of men will be at work here upon the buildings.

Such were the headlines of the Daily Mercury, September 1. The paper company was reported to have purchased 800 acres of land and 750 city lots, and construction work would start by September 20 and would be ready to operate by March or April, 1888, with 1,000 workmen. The packing house would start with 250 workers and a capacity of 1,000 beeves per day. The National Packing Association, chartered in Maine and capitalized at $1,000,000, was an overhead organization controlling separate companies located at selected places as operating units. Kinsley was one of these points.

The strident voice of the Mercury aroused at least some opposition, enough so that Hebron felt called upon to make a defense of the boom:

"Boom" is the best word in our vocabulary and the only word for the place in which it is always used, that conveys the proper idea of what is intended. In this connection it gives us great pleasure to state that Kinsley is on a regular, old-fashioned boom. We have a real-estate boom, a building boom, manufacturing boom, a public-improvement boom, a religious boom, a


temperance boom, an educational boom, and the Daily Mercury, the best paper published in the Arkansas valley, conspires to swell the boom.

By mid-September arrangements were said to be about completed for several smaller industries, sash, door and blind factory, churn and washing-machine factory, and a harrow factory, and the Kinsley Street Railway Company was making arrangements to buy three miles of track.[11] Again, apparently in defense of its burning zeal in the promotion of Kinsley's greatness, the Daily Mercury, September 17, explained soberly and with an obvious effort at candor, that it "has never attempted to manufacture more enterprises for Kinsley than the circumstances seemed to warrant. We would not publish a syllable that would have a tendency to deceive. . . . We have, of course, said many things in favor of Kinsley, but have always stated only what we knew or believed to be facts." The headlines of September 28 continued in the approved manner: "Kinsley the beauty, Kinsley the great, Kinsley the boss, booming town of the state." Capitalists were in the city from Chicago, Cincinnati, St.. Louis, Kansas City and Wichita, who were merely waiting, they said, for work to commence on the packing house before making investments. The Daily Mercury, October 4, said, "Let her go gallagher. She booms herself. Two thousand town lots and two thousand acres of land. All in or adjoining Kinsley, purchased by eastern capitalists. A settled fact. The largest manufacturing plants and the largest wholesale establishments west of St. Louis to be established in Kinsley." "The Dark Horse" in the Daily Mercury, October 13, was described as "bright, beautiful, brilliant and booming. Kinsley is Our future is assured, investors confident and everybody happy." And October 17, "Kansas still booms." Three days later a telegram of October 13 was published reporting the issuance of the charter to the Interstate Packing and Provision Company with a capital stock of $250,000. This was the company establishing the plant in Kinsley. Although there had been many delays, organization was now completed and $250,000 was in the bank to commence operations. During the next few days important. articles succeeded each other in rapid succession in the Daily Mercury, and six of them were reprinted in a single issue of the Weekly Mercury October 27. "Our Prospects," from the issue of October 20, expounded the axiom that "Great industries demand something more than wind as a basis." "Our Packing House" the


next day raised the question of a tannery. It pointed out that the leather industry ranked in dollars next only to agriculture. The Mercury urged investigation and argued that formerly a tannery in a treeless region would have been impossible, but new tanning methods had overcome that difficulty. The most important of the aeries "Manufactories," October 22, is quoted here at some length for reasons that will appear in the argument:

Manufactories are the salvation of any community; farm land tributary to an industrial center, be the latter ever so small, is always more valuable and is greater demand than that not so fortunately situated.

For years the great state of Kansas, particularly the central and western portions, seemed in a measure, at least, destined to a hopeless bondage of poverty, because so remote from market and the utter absence of any aggregation of non-producers.

What makes a little strip of our country between New York and Philadelphia called New Jersey-so valuable and its farms so difficult to obtain, but the fact that on either hand, within a short distance, are two great manufacturing centers, containing the largest aggregation of non-producers on the continent.

But already, so far as Kansas is concerned, there is a rift in the cloud . . . its vast number of people, purely agricultural in their pursuits, from the very nature of their isolation are demanding the establishment of manufactories to convert the immense surplus of certain products into marketable articles.

Kinsley's new industries were then summarized with the comment that the sugar industry was based on the ability of the country to raise sorghum, the packing industry on the cattle and hog interests, and that "it is folly to longer ship the animals hundreds of miles to be slaughtered." Three hundred men employed would mean 1,000 people as a market and also would bring other industry to the city. The article of October 22 dealt with strawboard, an artificial lumber, the manufacture of which was to be established in Kinsley. The product was claimed to be waterproof, fireproof, lighter, and seventy-five per cent cheaper than lumber:

One of the greatest hindrances to the settler on the prairies of Kansas has been the excessive cost of lumber, necessitating the unhealthful sod house and dug-out which in some localities obtain to the almost utter exclusion of anything else, but the successful manufacture of strawboard on the plains, will soon relegate this primitive architecture to oblivion or at least make it as great a curiosity as the buffalo.

In a few weeks a building of this new material was to be erected. In the article of October 25 entitled "Sure" an estimate was made of the importance to Kinsley of the packing plants, the operatives and families, the carpenters required to build cottages, as well as


the construction of the plant itself. The conclusion reached was that the capacity of Kinsley as a market would be doubled. A short editorial in the Weekly Mercury of October 27 brought this series to a conclusion by emphasizing the relation of manufactures to the farmers:

To no other class in our community than the farmers of Edwards county are the coming of manufactories in Kinsley of such vital importance. It means a wonderfully increased demand for the minor products of their land and a certain market for all their surplus stock, at very nearly Kansas City prices right at our own doors, and something for their straw stocks which have heretofore, except in extraordinary cases, been a nuisance rather than a source of profit. It means an enhancement in their farm's value, because there will be a demand for land contiguous to a manufacturing center. No class of our citizens should be more joyful over the consummation of the industrial negotiations pending so long, than Edwards county farmers.

The whole line of argument, but with important elaborations, was recapitulated in the Daily Mercury of October 28. It took the ground that while on first consideration the location of the packing house might seem anomalous, a careful examination of industrial tendencies in the United States pointed clearly to the soundness of the proposition. First, the "wonderful railroad system of the United States has annihilated distance." Secondly, "Kansas is the acknowledged live-stock state of the Union." The saving in shrinkage alone would pay dividends on the investment in the home packing plant. Thirdly, the tendency toward decentralization of industry was a phenomenon which the editor seemed to feel required fuller exposition than the first two:

But there is still another cause for great industries seeking apparently isolated localities-always, of course, near the production of raw material and that is the continual disturbance of strikes on the manufacturing interests of the country, and ever recurring where labor is concentrated in industrial centers, which can, in a measure be avoided by relatively widely separated manufactories, geographically.

To this complexion, must it seems to us, come the status of manufacturing interests of the country in the very near future, for our capitalists are already moving in the direction indicated.

There will soon be an abandonment of the vast establishments now concentrated in localities, and towns which never dreamed of such a possibility, will find themselves in possession of some institution devoted to the conversion of the raw material, abundant to their vicinity, into the manufactured articles.

We do not intend to convey the impression that distinct and separate industries will not seek the same locality, for that would be absurd, as there is an interdependence between those of different character; one using the refuse material of another for the manufacture of an entirely different article; but


that all the hogs, all the beeves, all the iron, and so on to the end of the list, must not be converted to their ends, in one place as is now the case.

Nor must it be inferred, that because Kinsley, on account of its special local advantages was selected, after a careful investigation, as the point to establish a series of interdependent industries, that any other town within s radius of a hundred miles may expect the same character of manufactures; for it is the determination of the principles interested, under the coming regime, to scatter labor, but to concentrate capital; to widely separate plants geographically, and by this method of "trusts" so-called financially, benefit labor materially, and inaugurate a radical change in the advancement of the mutual interests of labor and capital.

Employees will have homes of their own, the land to be donated and the residence built by the company, to be paid for by a certain retained percentage of wages. Such, at least, is the plan to be adopted by the establishments to be located here, as we comprehend the idea, and certainly if such a revolution is to be brought about, it will do more to correct differences heretofore existing between capital and labor than anything else, because there is nothing so potent as the influence of the possession of a home.

The general line of argument was not peculiar to the Mercury. The editor had taken his cue from the widespread discussion of the time, and he reprinted articles in the same vein along with his own handiwork.[12]

Kinsley and its packing house received an extended description in the Topeka Commonwealth, which was reproduced in the Weekly Mercury, November 3. The National Packing Association was credited with two plants in Kansas, at Argentine and at Kinsley. The plant of the latter was located just outside of the city limits to the east, along the Chicago, Kansas and Western Railroad, and the fourteen acres of sheds and stock pens fronted on the Arkansas river. The main building would be 150 by 350 feet, and the second building 100 by 300 feet, both three stories high. The packing and cooling building would be 150 by 450 feet and two stories high. Arrangements were to be made for 200 tenements for employees, who would number 500, with a monthly pay roll of $20,000. Kinsley was to have a cracker factory, also, and like the packing plant, it would build houses for its employees. The city waterworks, electric-light system, and the street railway were making progress.

Once more, November 17, the Mercury returned to the theme of decentralization of industry and industrial relocation:

As we urged, in our article on thin subject the other day, manufacturers are leaving great labor centers, and isolating their establishments from cities; they are moving to the region of raw material, and the day of con-


centration is passed away forever, at least it seems so, as one watches the development of the manufacturing interests in their movement.

We do not mean in our argument, that no concentration will be made in the new field, but that it will be limited to establishments of one character, in one place; our beef and pork packing house, will naturally, as is already in fact, draw the other industries dependent upon it, but the idea we mean to convey is, that beef and pork packing will not be done in a few places as is now the case. Kansas will have many such plants established, but at convenient intervals from each other.

Kinsley had no rivals, he maintained, in Wichita, Hutchinson or Dodge City, as industrial centers in the East were spaced about a uniform distance apart. Kinsley was well located with respect to the others, and all would grow together. [13]

Late November brought the railroad back into the picture, and Kinsley, the new headquarters railroad town, was the great beneficiary of the new departure as seen by the Mercury. The principal railroad lines had recently issued new time schedules to speed up traffic, and in order to compete, the Santa Fe was following suit. It was cutting the arcs out of its line to shorten distance, as well as increasing speed. The Hutchinson-Kinsley cut-off (the C. K. & W.) cut sixteen miles or thirty minutes between those points. The old main line through Sterling, Great Bend and Larned would become a branch, and these towns would shrink accordingly. In the east part of the state similar changes were reported, so that all together it was maintained that two hours would be cut from the schedule between Kansas City and Kinsley.[14]

In the same issue of the Mercury the headlines to another article announced that "The Dark Horse strikes the home stretch in advance of all competitors. The brightest star in the galaxy of Kansas cities shines with royal hangings and resplendent gold. The eyes of the world are upon her, and hither the steps of the eager, anxious multitude are bent. The coming manufacturing center of the West." This new outburst was inspired, not by the new railroad developments, but by the location of a new industry, the papier maché factory, to convert paper into car wheels, lumber, etc. The arrange


ments would be completed within six to nine months. The packing plant and the papier maché factory would increase the population by 5,000. Land would double and quadruple in price. In eighteen months Kinsley would be "second to no other city in Kansas, save the possible exception of Wichita."

The packing house seemed to be more tangible in mid-December, when bids were advertised for the foundation, and December 20 the contract was awarded to V. D. Billings, a local man, over competitors from Great Bend, Larned, Jetmore and Dodge City. The Banner-Graphic, December 16, broke out into display headlines: "The Dark Eyed Goddess dons her purple robe and joins the march of progress. Oh, Ye Gods and little fishes, read, read and reflect. Business barometer booming-Buildings being builded. Fair fame forging forward finely."

The unfavorable crops of 1886 have already been noted, and in 1887, June and July was a period of serious drought. This fact did not find admittance to the boom columns of either paper at the time, but late in the season indirect references appeared. A letter from a Kinsley man, printed in the Elgin, Ill., Courier, reported that crops were light, that corn would make about two bushels per acre, and that a steam thresher on his neighbor's place was able to turn out in a day's work only 42 bushels of oats and 44 bushels of wheat. This drew from the Mercury, August 30, a spirited reply and a statement from the editor that he knew some farmers who had fifteen to twenty bushel wheat and twenty-five to sixty bushel corn in spite of the fact that this was the poorest crop season in six or seven years. Furthermore, he pointed out, every state had poor crops occasionally.

Again, on October 17, an exchange was printed making oblique admission that all was not well with Edwards county, but the headline asserted "Kansas Still Booms."

The people who predict that Kansas would go to the eternal bow-wows because of a little drouth in the months of June and July are beginning to find out that they missed their bearings. The boom of Kansas is founded on an enduring basis and will grow in volume as the years roll on . . . . The fertile prairies were never made for an empire of solitude . . . . The fame of those western plains is spread abroad over the land, and emigrants will pour in until every acre is made subject to the plow.

The woes of the West come not singly, but in wild herds, and November 3 the Republican Mercury recognized the rumor that certain disgruntled individuals had met or were to meet to nominate a so-called Peoples' ticket for county offices-a Democratic subterfuge to draw votes from the Republicans. "Mugwump," writing to


the Graphic (Democratic), protested the nomination of Williams, relatively a newcomer, for treasurer, and Hebron hit hard in reply:

[Mugwump] attempts to show that unless a man ran wild with the buffalo years ago, he is not eligible to office. Great Cæsar! what asses some men can make of themselves and live . . . . the individual who attempts by such logic as his vaporing . . . to influence voters at the election next week, has just about brains enough to keep his pipe from going out, and to propagate his species, like any other ass.

A correspondent joined the fray by remarking pointedly that if Williams was a tenderfoot, then three-fourths of the voters were, also.

It was in the face of cumulative disaster that the boomers and their organs, the newspapers, had kept up appearances with much the same brand of optimism as Mark Twain's "Colonel Sellers," who set before his unexpected guests the only thing he had in the house, raw turnips and water, with the tattered rationalization which he knew deceived no one, that he served such food because it was so healthful. Even at the time the Daily Mercury published the advertisement for the packing house contract, it served its "raw turnips" December 15 under the headline "The Boom Busted," yet in the article itself the editor boastfully explained how eight months before, with the encouragement of business men he had set out to boom Kinsley:

We knew as well as they that there was not much to be made by what is termed "blowing," but with no particular prospects in view for the city there was nothing for the Mercury to do but to make the most of what we had, whether what it chose to say was "blowing" or not.

In the meantime, however, with a few citizens we were at work on a scheme to secure for Kinsley something in the shape of manufactures that would give us a solid and substantial growth, but kept up, the while, the boom racket, as much to keep our own people encouraged as to attract the attention of outsiders. Just so long as there was nothing tangible in sight, just so long had we made up our mind to continue in the way we had started out.

In our best judgment the "boom" days are over in Kansas. That is to say, the real-estate craze that has run riot for something over two years, has ceased to draw ....

As a matter of sober fact Kinsley never had a "boom" in the common acceptation of the term. She is the county seat of as good a county as is to be found in the state of Kansas, and is as well, or better, located than most towns in the valley.

The intention of this article is to serve notice to the readers of the Mercury that the days of displayed heading boom articles in this paper are over. Kinsley is as certain to make, not one of, but THE leading manufacturing, beef packing, wholesaling and banking city of the Arkansas valley, as that


two times two make four. Regardless of what the Wichita papers or the Hutchinson papers may say to the contrary, the packing house now going in here will be, when completed, the largest this side of St. Louis, and one of the finest on this continent and is backed by as much capital . . . .

Then, too, the arrangements are all completed and the company formed with a million dollars capital for putting in here the largest papier-maché plant in the world . . . . If we did not know it to be so we would not make this positive statement now.

In this connection it gives us great pleasure to inform the outside world that to prevent the price of property here getting beyond such figures as will yield good returns on investments, a large and wealthy corporation has been formed which has now got possession of alternate lots and acre property, and will see to it that no "craze" shall force any fictitious values upon it. The future of the city is assured and it is the intention of the company holding the property referred to, to keep it for sale at reasonable figures . . . . The various enterprises going in here now, will give steady employment to from twelve hundred to two thousand operatives, and these institutions will attract others.

It is to prevent the catastrophe to investors in Kinsley property (which occurred in Wichita and Hutchinson) that this alternate lot pool has been made.

The renunciation of December 15 was followed two days later by a restatement under the caption "No Boom for Kinsley":

A few people in this city were inclined to be skeptical in regard to the Mercury's statement, made a few days since, that under no circumstances would this paper indulge in any more "boom" literature. In all seriousness we desire for their benefit to reiterate the statement. The fact is there is no further need or demand for "boom" articles in the Mercury. That the displayed heading "boom" articles that formed such a conspicuous part of every day's Mercury for the last six months was of great benefit to the city of Kinsley there is in our mind not the least doubt. In truth there has not been a day nor an hour in that time, that personally, we had less faith in the prospects of Kinsley than we now have, but inasmuch as we had nothing tangible to point to it was absolutely necessary to state everything in the superlative degree in order to attract any notice from outsiders whatever. Then again with the towns all around us, whose prospects were not one-tenth so good as ours, making so much noise about their alleged "boom" the Mercury had to keep Kinsley in the procession, and there was no way in which it could have been done, except to talk long and loud, concerning our "boom." Of course in a strict construction of language, Kinsley never had a "boom," yet in comparison with other towns which have made more pretentions, our "boom" has really been unprecedented. The time has come, however, of which our "boom" articles were the prophecy. The things of which we "spake" are coming to pass.

He could not restrain himself longer. He could not resist a sober, modest description of the packing house with attendant industries, "the finest packing house in the United States" and of


the papier-maché factory, "the largest in the world." And further, in defense of the Mercury's record for moderation, good judgment and truth he declared that "everything that it ever prophesied for Kinsley is being fulfilled . . . . No one possessing the merest rudiments of good sense can doubt that Kinsley will have a population in another year of from five thousand to eight thousand people and that Kinsley will continue to grow and spread out and develop in all directions until she leads every town in the valley."

Attacked on all sides, both at home and abroad, both for booming and for desisting, Hebron's "sensitive nature" (he frankly admitted the sensitiveness) was driven December 27, into an attitude of boastful defiance:

Since the Mercury's announcement a week or two since, that it had gone out of the boom business, nearly every paper in the state has taken a turn at moralizing over the situation. Some go so far as to intimate that the Mercury did the entire valley more harm than good by its course in the past, and some of them are greatly worried for fear that the Mercury's present course will injury Kinsley. There is one thing we "rather guess" they are agreed upon and that is the Mercury has kept folks on the outside talking about Kinsley for the past eight months. It is better, "you know" to be spoken illy of, than not to be talked about at all. The Mercury is willing to assume the responsibility for all the injury it has in the past or may in the future do to Kinsley . . . . Great is Kinsley and the Mercury is her prophet.

An unfailing earmark of a boom is an abiding faith in the impossible; for instance, that cash is unnecessary and credit a cardinal virtue. And equally, the same implicit faith in the impossible marks a depression; a cash basis is a necessity and credit a sin. Both conditions are alike in that there is little or no cash in either, and they are different only in the matter of credit and the factors upon which it rests. On October 14 one leading Kinsley firm inserted an advertisement in the Mercury notifying its customers that "Until the roses bloom again we sell goods for cash only at such prices as will astonish the nations." This advertisement ran without change until May 25, 1888. Another firm advertised October 25, "We sell goods on closer margins than any house in the West. Therefore be it resolved that IT DON'T SCARE Us! Everybody else may complain, but HARD TIMES DON'T TROUBLE Us, and they will not trouble you if you trade with us." Nineteen-thirty-three was all there, except the "Three Little Pigs" and the "Big Bad Wolf." And price cutting as well. With the new year, advertisements and locals called attention to bankruptcy and mortgage foreclosure sales of stocks of merchandise. These sales "at any price"


drew much of the cash there was in the community and tied it up, besides taking cash business from the few remaining solvent merchants and driving them to cut-throat price wars. The editor congratulated the city government in the same issue on its drastic action to protect the taxpayers. This issue of the Mercury, January 5, seemed to be an occasion for announcement of a general reorientation for the new year. Two business cards decreed the spreading of the new dispensation. The first, "Cash for Coal." It stated that a bill would be sent with the driver and if the coal was not paid for it would be returned to the yard. This card was signed by the two leading coal dealers. Similarly the other card read, "Bed rock at last." Flour, feed, hay and grain would be sold for cash only. "We are forced to do business this way in order to do business at all." This card was signed by the three leading dealers. Hebron discussed the matter at length and with a brave attempt at humor. He and other "leading citizens" went to the merchants in question and protested the cash-basis plan, but the editor ruefully admitted that these merchants presented the self-appointed delegation with their unpaid bills for the past summer-a knockout argument. But Hebron was not to be outdone in that fashion and these people would receive no further free publicity, but must meet a schedule of "cash in advance" prices. For example, if one of them was to be mentioned in the Mercury as a "leading citizen" the price would be $1, if as a "Christian gentleman," $2.50, and if a citizen was to be branded as a thief, the price was $7, and proving it with an affidavit was $1 extra.

Kinsley had enjoyed its boom-and enjoyed it hugely-but who was to pay the piper? The board of trade had employed J. B. Arthur to promote the interest of the city. He had put in six to eight months and had made trips to Kansas City, Chicago and other places in its interest, and had been instrumental in bringing industries to the town, including the packing plant. Dame rumor was circulating a story that Arthur had made the threat to take the packing house elsewhere unless he was paid. Hebron branded the story as false, but insisted that Arthur should nevertheless be paid his expenses incurred in good faith in advancing the interests of Kinsley.

Misery loves company, and busted boomers seemed to have enjoyed an immense inward satisfaction from indulging in derisive jeers at each others delusions and excesses. Wendell was a quarter section of sand (but not so big a quarter as some, where the sand


had to be stacked to get it all on) located in what had been the center of the county, but two tiers of townships had been cut off from Edwards county on the south and combined with a similar strip from Comanche county and made into the new county of Kiowa. This left Wendell very much off-center, and killed any possibility of its taking the county seat from Kinsley. The collapse of the boom had then finished whatever lingering hopes Wendell might have retained of continuing even as a town, and if that was not humiliation enough for one little village the Daily Mercury, December 17, 1887, from the midst of its own ruins thumbed its nose contemptuously at its discomfited rival:

Wendell is now in the throes of a religious boom. . . . The position of Wendell is analogous to that of a condemned murderer. With its custom mill passed to the pale realms of shade, its railroads and water tank lost in the sand on the east banks of the Rattlesnake, its mail reduced to a tri-weekly drawn by only two plug horses in place of the four noble steeds that used to delight the hearts of the ever-tired citizens, and many of its imposing buildings gone to do service on the sand hill claims, with large and artistic mortgages on them; what wonder is it that the ex-geographical center should give up all hopes of worldly things and fall back on the consolation which two churches will afford? . . . Christianity is not so filling as patent roller flour, especially when the blizzards are raging through a pair of last summer's linen pants.

The real estate agents who flourished here last summer are now in winter quarters outside the city limits, and the places that knew them here well know them no more until next spring, when the snowball is no longer edible. Doctor Cullison, the junior member of the "Farmer's Friend Land and Loan Company," is wintering at his suburban villa, and says the prairie hay in his vicinity makes a superior article of soup. He expects to pass a very comfortable winter if the hay holds out.

J. W. Carpenter, the rotund senior member of the same benevolent firm, is holding down his claim north of the city. By judicious feeding of his horses he is enabled to dispense with a clothsline this winter, the bony protuberances on the animals proving excellent receptacles for articles from the wash. With the money which he will save this winter in a single article of clothslines, Mr. Carpenter expects to start a farmers' safe deposit bank next spring. Since he retired to his claim the citizens have been agitating the question of boring for natural gas to supply the deficiency.

The Mercury did not ridicule the little ones only, but met all comers. When the Larned Chronoscope derided Kinsley's boom and the Mercury's renunciation of boom literature, the latter jeered that "Larned never had anything but a `real-estate' boom and the fine blocks built there and which stand tenantless to-day are simply monuments to the stupidity of men who could not discern the difference between a `craze' and a genuine bona fide 'boom,'" and the


Chronoscope should give the Mercury credit for not attempting to boom Kinsley "on the strength of an alleged coal mine sixty miles away." And in an exchange a Chronoscope comment was quoted in which Kinsley's moral status was challenged because its citizens had stolen coal from trains during the recent coal famine, especially coal that was billed to Larned. The Mercury administered a crushing rebuke to such self-righteousness:

In a rushing, growing metropolis, like this, there are sure to be some "toughs." That is one of the things that can't be helped. Of course, it is altogether different with Larned. Toughs, like rats, always desert a sinking ship.

No matter how black the outlook there is always a glimmer of hope-on the frontier. The issue of the Mercury, January 5, commented in one local that collections were easier this month than many supposed they would be. Such a comparative statement is not necessarily very enlightening. Another local reported that "Business in this city is gradually getting down to a cash basis. This it is thought will bridge over the temporary stringency in the money market, and put people on their feet in good shape for spring business." The next issue recorded that there was not a vacant house in town. More tangible, if true, was the item of the Banner-Graphic, pointing out that newspapers all over the state reported taxes being paid more promptly than ever. From time to time the same paper reported favorably on progress being made on the city waterworks, and the two school buildings, and that the packing house movement was progressing finely, and no doubt need be entertained concerning it. The town was entitled to all the consolation it could get from such tarnished silver linings, but it did not have the opportunity to forget its troubles in listening to light operas such as the "Mikado" or "The Chimes of Normandy" as during the previous winter.

A substantial part of Kansas did what Wendell was accused of doing during that bitterly cold and depressing winter of 1887-1888, or at least it shut one eye for the time being to "all hopes of worldly things," and fell back on the consolation of religion-even Kinsley resorted to religion. On February 11 the Mercury headlines announced boldly "The efforts of the Mercury ably seconded by Bro. Coats. The good work will continue another week." The article thus introduced contained the following:

A little more than a year ago we took charge of the Mercury, since which time we have labored in season and out, early and late, and, withal earnestly, to lead the people of this city and county to forsake their sins . . . . Yet


such is the perversity of human nature that many refused to believe. We have not been persecuted, but we have been scoffed at and reviled, many going so far as to denounce some of our mildest statements as falsehoods. We have borne up bravely against all this, and though our sensitive nature has been frequently shocked by hearing ourself referred to as the "Mercury liar," yet have we continued in the good work buoyed up by the hope that in the "better days to come" we would have our reward. We feel encouraged to keep on in the good work; and now that the efforts of the Mercury are so ably seconded by Bro. Coats, the evangelist, we have no doubt we shall be able to get up a terrible awakening here and that many of our people will see themselves, as it were, suspended by a hair over a fearful precipice.

These meetings will be held nightly the coming week fat the M. E. church] and the Mercury hopes they may grow in interest until every sinner in Kinsley is brought to repentence.

The success of Bro. Coats' work among Kinsley sinners is reflected indirectly in a local February 15:

We trust that Bro. Coats will continue in the good work here until every sinner in Kinsley is converted. We desire, however, to caution him against feeling discouraged because our people do not come forward in droves as they do in many places. The fact is we have not, comparatively speaking, many sinners here-that is to say our people are all reasonably good right now. The Mercury goes into nearly every family in the county and through its influence much good has already been done. There are a few, of course, of the more hardened cases that we have been unable to reach, but taken as a whole the people have responded nobly to our efforts. Let the good work go on.

In the same issue appeared another short item:

Interest still centers in the revival meetings at the Methodist church, and while the number of conversions is not so large as is reported from some of our neighboring and more ungodly towns such as Larned, Stafford, Dodge City and others, there is still much good being done. So far, there has been six accessions to the church.

Such a junior partnership of the Methodist church with the Republican Mercury could not pass without some recognition by its Democratic contemporary in the next issue, February 17:

The Banner-Graphic then "rises to remark" that if Bro. Coats can succeed in bringing Bro. Hebron to repentence and can make any arrangements with him to give up his journalistic labors and enter the Evangelistic field as a co-worker with him, the twain could start out with the assurance that if Bro. Hebron were as successful in instilling the spirit of religion into the hearts of the benighted people of this world, as he has the spirit of business enterprise . . . the millenial dawn would be looked for a thousand years earlier than the time allotted by the most sanguine prophet of modern times.

Brother Hebron was too much filled with the spirit of the occasion to take offense, but expounded with friendly and disarming candor


his theological system: "Religion consists in the good we do," was his initial thesis, and some sing psalms, others relieve distress or comfort the disheartened, some proclaim Christ, some persecute the flesh by denying themselves pleasures. "They expect to wear a nightgown and wings and to sing long-meter tunes in heaven," but,

Our religion consists of making the most of the opportunities this life affords. He who can cause the value of a town lot to double is certainly entitled to share the glory of Him who causes two spears of grass to grow where but one grew before .... After all, who can say that we shall not be entitled to a reserved seat at the symphony concert in the "sweet bye and bye."

The Banner-Graphic did not reciprocate with its confession of faith, but persisted in being unpleasantly personal:

While we differ widely in politics (or rather in our opinions as to who the rascals are) and while we may differ in our views as to the best methods of giving life to our town, we have as yet found nothing to quarrel with him about, and know him to be a man of keen perceptibility, a forceable reasoner and a liberal joker, but we can't vouch for his logic.

It remained for the Kansas City Star, with its eyes fixed on the material rather than spiritual rewards, once and for all, to dispose of this Kansas boom by inquiring cynically to what degree the sales of padlocks had fallen off since the religious revival had swept over Kansas.

(To be Concluded in the May Quarterly.)


1. Kinsley Mercury, January 22, 29, 1887.
2. Ibid., March 19, 1887.
3. Ibid., February 6, March 13, 1886, and June 22, 1887.
4. Ibid., May 21, 1887.
5. The first two sentences of these headlines were in imitation of the first lines of each stanza of Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Bells." The next sentences changed to a different model, following closely verses popular on the frontier.
6. Reprinted in the Mercury, January 8, 1887.
7. The phrase "what the wild waves are saying" is taken from a song popular on the frontier and among pioneers. Many of the boom headlines were borrowed and adapted in this fashion.
8. The third paragraph in this quotation is a paraphrase of the famous English music-hall jingle of 1878, which gave rise to the word "jingoism": "we don't want to fight, but by jingo if we do, we've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money, too."
9. Daily Mercury, February 14, 1888.
10. The Commonwealth article said 2,000 people, but the Mercury and Graphic reprints made it 20,000.
11. Mercury, September 15, 22, 1887.
12. Wichita Eagle comment on a quotation from Iron Age in the Weekly Mercury, November 10, 1887; quotation from Kansas Farmer on wool, copied in Weekly Mercury, November 17, 1887.
13. Since 1933 there has been a revival of the idea in modified form in the Tennessee Valley Authority and the subsistence homestead plan-decentralization of industry and population and the more effective interdependence of manufacturing and agriculture. The historian is well aware that much of what is new to the living generation is only a periodic recurrence of thought, emotion and action of earlier generations, but no one knows why the cycles exist and the reasons advanced never really explain. The schemes of the eighteen eighties were widely discussed, and only incidentally did the idea crop out in the Kinsley boom propaganda. The plans in both periods involve a high degree of paternalism, but in the earlier period the principle of government supervision of business had not been fully accepted, and the plan necessarily appeared as capitalistic paternalism, while at the latter time it becomes governmental paternalism, with all the resources and authority of the government at its command. Otherwise the parallel is remarkably close.
14. Weekly Mercury, November 24, 1887.

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