Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tom Horn

Howdy ya’ll!

The rodeo was recently in town in Estes Park, and we celebrated here at the Baldpate Inn with flannel shirts and cowboy boots. I went to see the rodeo for the first time in my life and it was pretty incredible. I saw some very impressive cowboying and even got a little dirt kicked up in my face by an angry horse who made me feel like part of the action. It was a lot of fun, and keeping with the rodeo theme, I’m going to talk about a piece in our collection that came straight out of the Wild Wild West not too far from Estes Park.

It’s the story of a western lawman and outlaw named Tom Horn whose life ended in Cheyenne, Wyoming where he was convicted of killing the young son of a sheepherder. His life story seems like it was tailor made for a Western flick and he does appear in a few including a 1980 movie called Tom Horn starring Steve McQueen. The real Tom Horn was born in 1860 on a rural 600-acre farm in Scotland County, Missouri; the fifth of 12 children. When he was 16 he left home for the Southwest and started working for the U.S. Cavalry as a civilian scout. He soon became involved in the Apache Wars and assisted in the capture of the Apache warrior Geronimo. His skills as a gunman and a tracker earned Horn a reputation throughout the West. After spending time as a scout he spent a brief period as a deputy sheriff in Arizona and later caught the attention of the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Denver where he worked as a detective tracking down criminals throughout Colorado and Wyoming.

Charlie Siringo, one of Tom Horn’s fellow Pinkerton agents at the time, once wrote about Horn that he was a very talented tracker and agent but had a wicked side to him that could not be tamed. This became evident as Horn turned from a law enforcer to an outlaw himself. He was eventually dismissed from the Pinkerton Agency for crimes he had committed while under their employ and was thereafter hired out as a Range Detective for wealthy ranchers in Colorado and Wyoming. As a Range Detective he functioned basically as an assassin. He killed a number of thieves and robbers in the area including Fred Powell, a rancher often charged for stealing horses. Horn’s work as a Range Detective was seasonal and in his down time he made a name for himself as a cowboy and horse breaker. The letter accompanying his “key” identifies his as “the man who broke Muggins, the horse belonging to Charles Camp,” and Charles Camp said of Horn that, “his great strength and size and panther-like agility made all broncos look like playthings to him.”

Horn maintained his position as Range Detective and cowboy until October 1902 when he was convicted for the murder of 14-year old Willie Nickell; the son of a sheepherding rancher in Wyoming. The case against him was based off shaky and circumstantial evidence and many modern historians believe that Tom Horn was innocent of this particular crime. Nevertheless, his murderous reputation made him an easy scapegoat for the crime and he received a guilty verdict on October 24, 1902. He was executed November 20, 1903 after his appeal to the Supreme Court for a re-trial was rejected and was buried in the Colombia Cemetery in Boulder, Colorado.

The “key” we have here from Tom Horn is actually a piece out of the rope that was used to hang him in Cheyenne. It was donated to us by a former chief of police of Greeley, Colorado and now holds a prominent position in our collection as a symbol of the old West.

So I hope you’ve all enjoyed this trip back to the cowboy days and maybe get a chance to see all of the Western keys we have here.

Until next time,

Key Room Museum Curator

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gherla Prison

Hello, everybody!

I feel like it has been a while since I’ve blogged, and I’m excited to be back! I’m sure you are wondering what I could possibly have in store for today. Well, I actually have a couple of great keys that I would love to talk about today. We have received quite a few key donations in the past couple of weeks, and I’m going to talk about two of the most notable donations in my next two blogs. The first key is to the Gherla Prison in Romania, and the second key comes from the Chicago World’s Fair. These keys are both very interesting, but today I’m going to focus on the key from the Gherla Prison.


This key was donated by one of our employees, Clara, who came here to The Baldpate Inn all the way from Romania. She actually came to work with Claudia, a friend who is also from Romania. Claudia has worked at The Baldpate Inn for three seasons now. After her first experience working here, she knew that she wanted to donate a key to the collection. Amazingly, she was able to acquire the key to a secret passage in Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle, in Transylvania. Like Claudia, Clara decided that she wanted to donate a key to our collection. She contacted the Gherla Prison and explained that she would like a key to take to America to represent Romania in the world’s largest public key collection. The staff at Gherla was surprisingly willing to help Clara out and agreed to donate a key. They were initially going to charge Clara for the key but ended up simply giving it to her. The best part, though, is that they did not just send her a key. The prison sent her a key that was screwed into a piece of wood with a certificate of authenticity attached. The attached certificate guarantees that the key was used in the maximum security section of the Gherla Prison. The certificate is sealed to the wood with the official governmental seal, which is a very big deal.
Clara wrote the following on the tag for the key: “Gherla Prison in Romania – A landmark of Romanian communism under N. Ceausescu, where enemies of the state were tortured.” Nicolae Ceausescu was born on January 26, 1918, into a very large and poor family. The struggles that he experienced growing up probably led him to support Communism, which promised a better future. He became a rising leader in the Union of Communist Youth and was arrested after joining the underground Communist Party. He served time at Doftana Prison, where he was cruelly treated and left with a permanent stutter from physical abuse. While he was in prison, he met Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, who introduced him to Communist party elders and educated him in Marxist-Lenin theories. Ceausescu managed to escape from prison and gained more and more power as Romania fell under Communist rule. Gheorghiu-Dej became the top ruler in the country and made Ceausescu his successor when he died. Ceausescu had big plans for the country but only ended hurting it more than helping it. He started his rule by putting Romania in severe debt. Then, he was able to cut the deficit in half at the cost of drastically lowering the country’s standard of living. He forced the export of most of the country’s agricultural products, causing food shortages across Romania. In December of 1989, Ceausescu was removed from power and put on trial. He and his wife were charged with genocide among other crimes, and they were executed by a firing squad.
                While Ceausescu was in power, he kept a close watch on the people of Romania and violently punished anyone who did not support his rule. He locked a lot of people away in the Gherla Prison, including many Anti-Communist opposition figures, who spent jail time or disappeared forever in this prison. The prison has a large underground area, and it has been reported that 15,000 inmates were housed in this area during the 1960s. The basic structure for the Gherla Prison came from the fortress of Gherla, which was built around 1540 by George Martinuzzi. The fortress became a prison in 1785 through the Imperial Decree of Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor. Today, Gherla Prison is still used as a maximum security penitentiary.
I am extremely excited about Clara’s key donation, and I hope you enjoyed reading about the history of this interesting key from the Gherla Prison in Romania. I can’t wait to write my next blog on the key from the Chicago World’s Fair. I’m sure that you can hardly wait, either, but you’ll just have to be patient.

Have a great day!

Key Room Museum Curator

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

George Washington at the Battle of Trenton

Hello and Happy Tuesday,

If you think back a few days to this past July 4th weekend, then today’s key will be quite relevant, and exciting if you’re interested in American history. It was used by our country’s founding father and first president, but it pre-dates the United States by about 20 years. The key belongs to the Hessian Barracks which were built in Trenton, New Jersey by the Colonial Legislature of New Jersey during the French and Indian War. The Barracks are also known as “Ye Old Barracks” and still stand as a museum today, but when first built they were used to house war troops that had previously been put up in private homes. As our Bill of Rights suggests, that practice was not appreciated by Trenton’s townspeople. Until 1776 the Barracks housed mainly British and Irish soldiers and were a modest housing unit of little importance, but they gained their historic value when they became the location of the Battle of Trenton, a valiant effort by General George Washington and his men to reclaim the city and the Barracks themselves during the Revolutionary War.

The Battle of Trenton, as it turns out, was a lot more than just another one of the many battles of the Revolution. The American victory was overwhelming, cost very few American lives, and came at a time when Revolutionary forces needed a morale boost more than ever. Had Washington’s army not succeeded in capturing the garrisoned Hessian army, it may have meant the end of the Revolutionary war effort. Leading up to the battle, the Americans had suffered several losses in New York and had been pushed out of New Jersey into Pennsylvania. At that point, Washington devised a plan to take the British by surprise which began with his famous crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas day 1776. After bravely facing the icy river and making it across with just 2,400 men, he ambushed the Hessian Barracks the morning of December 26th and captured almost two-thirds of the 1,500 Hessian soldiers lodged there who were unaware and unprepared for the attack. Numerically the victory wasn’t the most impressive, but it rejuvenated the discouraged and dwindling American forces. News of the battle inspired reenlistment and new recruits from all over the colonies as well as increased confidence in General Washington’s leadership.

Personally I think it’s fascinating that we have keys all the way from the Revolutionary War era here in the Key Room. If you’re a fan of the theatrical, you might call this one of the “keys to American Independence,” and at the very least it’s an important piece of history to have preserved. I hope you come see it for yourself sometime soon.

Happy Independence Day from the Baldpate!

Key Room Museum Curator

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I Wake Up Screaming

How are you, Key Room friends?

I have another exciting key to show you today and this one’s for all the ladies out there. It comes from a woman who made her name soaring through the sky at high speeds. In the world of female fliers, we all know Amelia Earhart and her solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, but there’s another pioneering female pilot who deserves some recognition and we have her key right here in our collection.

Her name is Mary H. Dickey and in 1947 she earned her Airline Transport Pilot License which made her the first woman in America to hold that title since Laura H. Ingalls held it in 1935, and the only one to have it at the time she donated her key to the Baldpate Inn. The key operates her airplane, a Twin-Engine Cessna N.C. 75210, which Mary affectionately called “I Wake Up Screaming” and is accompanied by a framed picture of her standing with the plane looking giddy and professional. Obtaining an Airline Transport License is no small feat as it’s the highest level aircraft pilot license a person can hold and requires that they have at least 1500 hours of flying experience and pass the Federal Aviation Administration’s ATP practical test. Mary obtained her license after graduating from a commercial pilot school that she started for herself at New Orleans Airport.

Her story demonstrates both her talent and dedication to her craft. She first flew 8 years prior in 1941 when her sister’s boyfriend gave her the controls to his plane on a flight from San Antonio to Houston. At that moment she fell in love with flying and began taking lessons, and within 2 weeks was taking off and landing with ease. After that she was professionally trained at a pilot school in San Antonio, started working for an airline, and later joined the army and navy air forces as a civilian instructor for aspiring navy pilots. After many years working as a flight instructor, she moved to New Orleans to inaugurate the commercial pilot school from which she graduated. In 1947 when she achieved her Airline Transport Pilot License she had over 2300 hours of flight experience and had trained around 200 army and navy pilots.

Mary H. Dickey’s story would be an impressive one coming from anyone, but is even more inspiring considering how female pilots in the 1940s were often underestimated and clearly under represented. It’s a real honor that we’re able to preserve her legacy and her key here in the Key Room where she can continue to inspire all of us to live out our dreams.

So that’s all I have for today. In the mean time I, and the rest of the Baldpate team, look forward to your next visit,

Key Room Museum Curator

Friday, July 4, 2014

Houses of Parliament

Hello, everybody!

Happy Fourth of July! I hope you all are enjoying your holiday, celebrating our fantastic country. I am personally having a great day, and I am excited to watch Estes Park's fireworks show tonight from the Baldpate Inn's front porch. The Fourth of July is always a fun holiday for me, and this year I get to share it with the family here at the Baldpate.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I probably should have chosen a truly American key to talk about today in this blog. I chose, though, a key that comes from England. Isn't it ironic that I would choose a key from the country from which we were declaring independence on this day in 1776? Anyway, the key that I am going to talk about is the key to the main gate for the Houses of Parliament in London. This is one of the keys that I'll be talking about in my presentation on July 30 for our Summer Enchanted Evenings. My presentation is all about Hollywood, and you'll have to come see it if you want to know how an English key relates to Hollywood. This key from the Houses of Parliament seems to be missing a tag, so we don't know when it was donated or by whom it was donated. It is interestingly shaped and is quite a unique key. Let me tell you a little bit about the Houses of Parliament in England.

The Houses of Parliament is also known as the Palace of Westminster and is the seat of the two parliamnetary houses of the United Kingdom, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The building is located on the banks of the river Thames. When the parliament was created with two houses, the House of Lords met at the Palace of Westminster while the House of Commons did not have a permanent location. In 1530, King Henry VIII moved his court to Whitehall Palace, but the House of Lords continued to meet at the Palace of Westminster. In 1547, the House of Commons also moved to the Palace of Westminster.

The Old Palace was actually destroyed by a fire in 1834. The Jewel Tower, the crypt and cloister of St. Stephen, and Westminster Hall were the only parts of the building that were left intact. There were ninety-seven entries in the competition that was held to determine the design of the new building, and Sir Charles Barry alongside Augustus Pugin created the winning design. The design was for a large but balanced complex that was created in neo-Gothic style and incorporates the structures that survived the fire. The building contains 1,100 rooms that surround two courtyards. The construction lasted between 1840 and 1870. Interesting parts of the building include Big Ben, the Commons Chamber and Lords Chamber, and Westminster Hall.

The famous clock tower that was included in the design was originally called St. Stephen's Tower, but it was soon named after the tower's largest bell, the Big Ben. A light at the top of the tower is illuminated when Parliament is sitting at night.

The Commons Chamber and the Lords Chamber are where the House of Commons and the House of Lords meet respectively. The Commons Chamber was destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt
by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1950. The Lords Chamber is more lavishly decorated than the Commons Chamber. The balance of power has moved, though, over time from the House of Lords to the House of Commons.

Westminster Hall is the oldest hall in the Houses of Parliament, left standing after the fire that destroyed most of the building in 1834. Westminster Hall dates back to 1097. The large hammer beam roof was built in the fourteenth century and replaced the original roof that was supported by two rows of pillars. The following link will take you to an online tour of Westminster Hall:

I also want to include some interesting, strange facts about the Houses of Parliament. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament because it is a royal palace. People are also not allowed to wear armor in the building because it is supposed to be a peaceful place. In addition, the only Member of Parliament allowed to eat or drink in the Chamber is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who can have an alcoholic drink while delivering the budget.

I hope you enjoyed today's blog! Comment and tell me about your favorite Fourth of July tradition.

Have a great day!

Key Room Museum Curator

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Stolen from the Tombs

A long time ago, in a dynasty far, far away, there was Ibrahim Pasha. He was born in 1789, the son of the Egyptian ruler Mohamed Ala, and died in 1848 as king of Egypt. He spent most of his life since adolescence as a military leader in his father’s kingdom and eventually became the supreme political leader although he died just 4 months after succeeding the throne. He was made Regent of Egypt when his father Mohamed became senile in his old age, but Pasha at the time was unhealthy himself due to his long career as a soldier and in the end died before his father. As a military leader and ruler, Pasha was respected and admired by his people and is remembered as one of the greatest leaders of the Mohamed Ala Dynasty regardless of his short reign. He is even honored with a monument in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. Most of Pasha’s acclaim comes from his military victories over the Ottoman Empire, Syria, and other surrounding territories during his time spent as chief commander of the Egyptian Army.


 Here at the Baldpate we have the key to the crypt in which Ibrahim Pasha’s body is buried, and as can be expected with Egyptian tombs, the building is even more historic than the man. The crypt is located in the Tombs of the Califs which dates back to 600 A.D. and is the resting place of all the royal family of Egypt. The two photographs that share a frame with Pasha’s key depict the beautiful Tombs of the Califs as well as the monument that represents Ibrahim Pasha in Cairo.

This key was acquired, and probably stolen, by a man named Richard Spencer in 1937. Spencer was an exchange student from Stanford University studying in Canton, China, but when his University in China was shut down as a result of World War II, he took the scenic route back to the United States through Singapore, Port Said, Egypt, and Europe. While he was in Egypt, the accompanying letter says he took this key out of the lock on Pasha’s crypt and apparently made it through customs without any trouble. I imagine security was slightly more relaxed back in the day.

So there you have it, a historic key brought from an exciting adventure around the world. Any of you who may be planning an overseas trip, remember to keep your eyes pealed for unattended keys looking for a new home. Or just plan a trip to Baldpate to enjoy the spoils of others.

If you are in the Estes Park area, please consider paying us a visit tonight at 7pm to hear Richard Thompson speak about living with Grizzly bears and enjoy some fresh baked cookies. Also if you plan a trip for next Wednesday, you’ll hear Jake, one of our very own curators, speak about 10 of the most exciting keys in our collection. You won’t want to miss it.

Happy key hunting!

Key Room Museum Curator

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sailing the Seven Seas

Ahoy! While it never did catch on for Alexander Graham Bell on how to answer the telephone, it was a very typical greeting to sailors as well as for the start of this blog as we will be exploring the history of a ship that has sailed the seven seas. Now if the previous sentence had anyone excited about reading about pirates and the like, I am afraid I must disappoint and instead tell you about a ship that has a checkered history and significance to our key collections’ ship section.

In the year of 1887 a ship was built in the Port of Glasgow, Scotland and set sail from Liverpool, England and was called the Kenilworth by the owners. The J. Reid and Company ship was a four mast ship that spanned just over 300 feet long and able to carry a total of 2293 tons. This ship that started out with so much potential and promise, however, was doomed for difficult times.

Its maiden voyage was a success, traveling from San Francisco to Newcastle in 41 days. And even her second voyage was profitable as well, sailing from Liverpool to San Francisco in 128 days. Sadly, the perfection of her first two voyages was met with disaster in the harbor of San Francisco. In August of 1889, a warehouse near the docked Kenilworth caught fire and the fire spilled over onto the ship. While still remaining fairly well intact, the ship was considered a constructional loss and was sold to the A. Sewall and Co. from New York.

It cost them $45,000 to repair but very quickly she was back to her hauling of cargo all over the world under the command of Captain J. Baker. For almost 6 years the ship had little difficulty with the tasks she was given. Her crew however had other plans. In 1895, the crew mutinied against the captain, first mate, and second mate. They set fire to the ship and the captain and the first mate suffocated in their rooms. The second mate was kept alive since they were in the middle of the ocean and J. Generaux was the only man left that understood navigation. This mutiny did not last long for when they set to port in Valparaiso, Chile the mutineers were punished and the ship was then sent on under Captain Murphy to its original destination in New York.

More than a decade later with only minor difficulties, the Kenilworth was sold to the Alaska Packer’s Association and renamed the Star of Scotland in 1908. For twenty-two years the Star of Scotland carried canned salmon back and forth to Alaska. The ship withstood valiantly under the extreme weather conditions of the Northern Pacific and Bering Sea. It was after this time that the key to the captain’s quarters was sent here to the Baldpate Inn and where it has been on display ever since.

This was not the end for the ship. Once again renamed, this time Rex, in the 1930s by a gangster known as Tony Cornero. For several years it was used as a casino off of the coast of Santa Monica, California before being shut down in 1940 and commissioned as the Star of Scotland as a cargo ship until being sunk on November 13th, 1942 by the German submarine U-159. As the donator of the key to this mighty ship’s captain’s quarters wrote in the letter to us, “If this key could talk it could tell interesting tales of tempests, shipwreck, mutiny, and hardships. It could also tell tales of tasks well done, as this vessel sailed the seven seas, carrying cargoes to all parts of the world, and her life history has been quite unusual.” With so many wild tales of the seven seas, we here at the Baldpate Inn feel very blessed to have such a unique key in our collection.

A further reminder for those that will be in Estes Park, Summer Enchanted Evenings is tomorrow night at 7 pm with Dick Thompson speaking about Life with the Grizzly. Also I am nearly prepared to present ten of the most famous keys in the Key Room the following Wednesday, July 9th, at 7 pm. Both are expected to be very interesting evenings and I hope those in the area will turn out and be open to a unique educational experience.
Until next time,
Key Room Curator