Archive for November, 2009

From the Archive: Traffic jam

by Lesley Drayton, Curator of the Fort Collins Local History Archive

Take a peek at one of my favorite photographs of historic Fort Collins. Legend has it that this image, taken by local photographer H.C. Bradley circa 1908, shows every automobile in Fort Collins at the time. That’s right folks–about a century ago, every single car in Fort Collins fit into the intersection of Oak Street and College Avenue.

Apparently it is also one of the earliest shots of the then brand-new municipal railway system in Fort Collins. Can you find the streetcar in the picture?


National Game and Puzzle Week

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

This year’s National Game and Puzzle Week is November 22-28. While celebrating, why not try your hand at some historic games like Tiddly Winks, Pick Up Sticks, Dominos and Marbles. Or, if a science spin is more your style, try out a 3-D Mirascope, Jacob’s Ladder, Newton’s Cradle, a Gyroscope and some Space Origami. While the celebration is technically only one week long, these games are fun all year, make great holiday presents (is it too soon to mention the holidays? I figure once Macy’s does it’s fair game), and are all available in the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center gift shop! I’m off to practice my Rubik’s Cube.

From the Archive: Turkey Time!

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Local History Archive

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the folks at the Akin farm in Fort Collins, Colorado were giving thanks for turkey … but not for the reason you may think. Rather than sitting down to a delicious Thanksgiving meal featuring the bird as an entrée, the Akins were turning to turkeys as a means to control a grasshopper scourge that was devastating their crops. The Akin family donated a scrapbook to the Local History Archive that features several photos of the turkeys doing their job as they gobbled (ha!) up the grasshoppers. The turkey roosts had to be moved often to reach the places where grasshopper control was most needed.

Turkeys on the Akin farm

On to more turkeys! Here’s a photo from 1975 of John Dunlap with his prize-winning turkey “Burk the Turk,” grown as part of the Cowpunchers 4-H club in Laporte, Colorado.

Burk the Turk

Here’s another turkey, this one of the frozen variety, being weighed at a Fort Collins grocery store on November 18, 1966.

Weighing a turkey at a Fort Collins grocery store, 1966

Finally, check out these Thanksgiving postcards, circa 1909, from a postcard album created by Will Bentledge of Windsor, Colorado.

Thanksgiving postcard, circa 1909, created by Will Bentledge

Thanksgiving postcard, circa 1909, created by Will Bentledge

Water on the Moon

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

LCROSS, image courtesy of NASA

Earlier this month, NASA announced that it had discovered water on the moon – “about a dozen, two-gallon bucketsful” according to project scientist Anthony Colaprety. The news comes from preliminary data collected when the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) intentionally crashed into the shadowed region of the Cabeus crater near the moon’s south pole. After the crash, a rocket flew through the debris cloud measuring water and collecting data. According to NASA, “the discovery opens a new chapter in our understanding of the moon.”

Just an interesting note — “water from the moon” is a traditional Indonesian saying that denotes something impossible.

For more information on the discovery, see the article on the NASA website.

The Kingdom of Colorado?

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Today is Start Your Own Country Day. I wish I’d known this sooner,  I would have gotten a head start on my apartment annexation plans – all hail Katelandia. In honor of this exciting and highly unsuccessful celebration, here’s a little history on the holiday and Colorado’s own brushes with secession. While Colorado never tried to become its own country, several attempts were made to change the state.

Start Your Own Country Day was created during the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. The motivation behind the holiday was to honor “those free spirited souls who dared to hope and believe in a better world where they too could declare any land their own.”


Since Colorado is a state full of free spirited souls, it’s not surprising that over the years a few of them have felt the urge to branch out. According to Wikipedia, in the 1950s the San Luis Valley region of Colorado proposed leaving the state and joining with New Mexico. Costilla County is also cited as having wanted to “break loose” in 1973. In the mid-1930s, the Walsenburg World-Independent proposed that Huerfano County secede. The suggestion was the project of Sam T. Taylor, sports editor at the paper. Taylor went on to be a senator, but only ever of Colorado as his suggestion of secession failed to catch on.

Colorado may have only a few secession initiatives compared to other states (hi, Texas!), but if some other suggestions had succeeded, Colorado might have been located someplace else entirely.

In 1854, the California State Assembly passed a plan to divide the state into thirds, with the southern counties becoming the State of Colorado. Sadly, it never happened.  In 1859, the Pico Act was introduced into the California legislative session to divide the state in two. While possibly not entirely legal, the proposal was embraced and the plan was to create a Territory of Colorado out of the six counties below the thirty-sixth parallel. The bill passed, the state senate approved it, and the governor signed off on it. However, Congress still had to approve and, as the southern states were already threatening their own secession, Congress had little patience for California’s request. When Civil War broke out a year after the Pico Act was introduced, California’s request for separation was forgotten.

Finally, if George Etzel Pearcy had his druthers, most of the state of Colorado would have been known as San Luis. In 1973, Pearcy, a California State University geography professor, proposed re-surveying state lines to create 38 states. The new configuration would redistribute the number of big cities per state so that fewer cities would compete for the same state’s tax revenue, leaving more money for each state’s constituents. To avoid arguments over what state names would be kept and which dropped, Pearcy suggested new state names based on geographic and cultural features common to each region. In the interest of fairness even Hawaii, which would stay just as it was, would get a new name.

Pearcy Map

Pearcy had some support for his plan, but the proposed 38 States was ultimately rejected in Washington D.C.

It seems that, for now, Colorado will remain unified (with the exception of The People’s Republic of Boulder). That may anger some people, but just remember this: as long as no counties leave, we’re still one of the easiest states to draw.

Colorado, 1872

And always remember, if you want to start your own country, you’re going to need a flag.

Images: Associated Content, Strange Maps, Mappery

What’s in a name?

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

If you’re keeping up with our blog, you now know that we’ve selected the design/build team which will create the physical home for our new museum. We’ve been working for over a year with our exhibit design firm, Gyroscope, to create the experiences that will reside inside that building. A tremendous amount of work has already gone into the process of creating a brand-new museum from the ground up, and we’ve still got a lot of challenging and exciting work ahead of us.

But creating a new museum isn’t about us — it’s about you. You may live in Fort Collins or the surrounding area and plan to visit us often; you may be an out-of-town guest who will come see us infrequently; or you may be someone who visits our website or blog but never steps foot inside the new building. Regardless, this museum is for you.

So we want to ask you to help us do some of the work to make this new museum a reality. Specifically, we’d like your thoughts on what we should call ourselves.

Let me back up for a moment and give you a refresher: the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center, as we are known now, came from the partnership of two leading Fort Collins institutions: Discovery Science Center, and the Fort Collins Museum. We entered into a public/private partnership to build a new museum, one that would combine hands-on science and the culture and history of our region.

Here are a couple of other tidbits to help you think of the perfect name for our new museum: our mission is to “create meaningful opportunities for people of all ages to learn, reflect and have fun through hands-on and collections based explorations in science and culture.” Our vision is “to inspire inquisitive thinkers and encourage responsible stewardship of the past, present, and future.”

Most of all, we want our new Museum to be a place where people not only come away with understanding, but are inspired to action.

That’s who we want to be. Now, can you help us figure out what to call ourselves? Just leave a comment to this post with your ideas, and read other people’s ideas too. And stay tuned — developments with the new Museum are really going to take off in 2010. It’s going to be a great journey.

New Museum update: Design/build team chosen

by Beth Higgins, Public Relations/Development Coordinator

The Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center is pleased to announce the selection of Hensel Phelps Construction Company with OZ Architecture as the Design/Build Team for the new Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center facility.  Plans for the new facility, located on the corner of Cherry and Mason Streets, include a Digital Dome for presentations, a Learning Lounge, a seamless experience combining science and culture, and plenty of outdoor spaces to take advantage of the prime location along the Poudre River and the bike trail. The project is scheduled to break ground in late 2010.

The selection of the architect has been a long-anticipated milestone in the development of our new facility. In 2002, the Museum and Science Center began conversations about how to better serve the Fort Collins and Northern Colorado community. The Partnership was formed, and in 2005 voters approved Ballot Issue 2A, Building on Basics, providing $6 million in tax revenue to partially fund construction and seven years of operations and maintenance of the new facility. This past summer, the Discovery Science Center relocated to the current Museum building, and science and history exhibits were combined as we began developing content and themes for the new facility. The new Museum will focus on the mission to create meaningful opportunities for people of all ages to learn, reflect and have fun through hands-on and collections-based explorations in science and culture. Visitors to the new Museum will experience hands-on science and culture exhibits; artifact exhibits; narrative experiences; play and discovery opportunities; learning lounge, workshops, and archive experiences; guided nature, cultural, and integrated site tours; Science + Culture Cafes, lectures, workshops; archive & collections training; and visitor-contributed exhibits.

To date, the project has secured over $19 million through grants, donations, community support and corporate support. “We still have a way to go in fund raising,” adds Steve VanderMeer, Board President of the partnership’s Non-Profit Corporation. “Our goal is about $24 million, which we hope to secure by the time we break ground.”  Grants awarded by the Gates Family Foundation, the Downtown Development Authority, and the Boettcher Foundation have made a significant difference in funding and will help the partners reach this goal. “But we are still looking to the community to help us reach the full amount,” notes Mr. VanderMeer. “The support we have received so far is astounding; it is evident how important this project is to the Northern Colorado community.”

We hope to break ground in the second half of 2010, with construction completed in late 2011. The Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center plans to hold several public charrettes to collect input about the new facility. For more information about the project or how you can help, please call Annette Geiselman or Cheryl Donaldson at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center, (970) 221-6738.

The Leonid meteor shower

by Jeff Bowell, guest blogger

Weather and other circumstances permitting, people living in the Front Range might see a remarkable sight in the night sky this week.


Leonid Meteor Shower

The Leonid (“LAY-oh-nid”) meteor shower happens each year at about this time in November, but it’s always a toss-up as to how many meteors, or “shooting stars,” will be visible.  Weather, of course, is a factor – if it’s overcast, we’re out of luck.  However, the forecast for Tuesday night, the best time to see the Leonids, is looking good.

Some meteor showers happen at what most people would consider convenient viewing hours.  The Persied shower, for example, can be seen around August 10th – 12th, and provided you’ve wearing mosquito repellant and have a comfortable chair to sit in while viewing the northeast sky, the show – while always unpredictable – can be quite enjoyable…plus, you don’t have to stay up too late if you don’t want to.

The Leonids, on the other hand, aren’t known for convenience.  The shower occurs when the earth passes through the remnants (left-over debris) of the Comet Tempel – Tuttle.  The comet orbits the sun (as the earth does), but with a much differently shaped orbit.  The earth’s orbit around the sun is almost completely circular, while a comet’s orbit usually looks like a very s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d oval.

Leonid 10

Orbit of Comet Tempel-Tuttle

Comets, a.k.a. “Dirty snowballs”, as astronomer Fred Whipple once described them, leave a trail of cometary debris in their wake along their orbit, and the earth passes through this debris trail twice yearly.  There’s a part of the sky where the meteors appear to emerge from – astronomers call this the radiant.  For the Leonids, the radiant is within the constellation Leo, the Lion, an easily recognized constellation, once you get to know it.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that if you want to see the Leonids at their best, you’ve got to be up during the “wee small hours” of the night.  I’ll get back to that later.

For now, it’d be a good idea for potential meteor shower viewers to get familiar with the constellation Leo.  Many people know the Big Dipper, of course, and some recognize Orion in the winter skies over Colorado.  Both are distinctive constellations.  Leo might well be new to most people, but it, too, has properties that make it easily recognized.


Constellation Leo


Constellation Leo

If you do a search online along the lines of “Constellation Leo”, you’ll find several examples (as I just did) of how the constellation appears in the night sky.  The most distinctive part of it is that portion representing the Lion’s head.  This “asterism” (not a constellation in itself) is to the right (west) of the constellation and resembles a “backwards question-mark” or “sickle.”  It’s easy to spot.  Other online sources (check for “Leonid meteor shower”) will give suggestions as for times you can see the shower, but no matter what happens, if you want to see it you’re either going to have to get up early  or stay up late.

As a long-time stargazer, I’ve got myself up in the middle of the night to see the Leonids.  Only once was it a spectacular display.  However, there have been some amazing displays recorded.  One Leonid shower in the early 1800s that was seen from New York State, was described by a viewer this way:

“…The stars fell like snowflakes in a blizzard.”


Leonid Meteor Shower

That’s probably not what’s going to happen this time, but astronomers believe that this year’s Leonids may be better than past ones.  North America isn’t the best location to see the meteors at their anticipated peak performance this year, but if you’re both patient and lucky, you might see some falling stars and the occasional “fireball” every few minutes.

No worries about these meteors destroying the earth, though.  The dusty debris left in Temple-Tuttle’s trail is tiny, fluffy stuff; usually no bigger than a grain of sand.  However, if one of these grains gets pulled into the earth’s atmosphere, its brilliant destruction is what we call a “falling” star or a “shooting” star.  They travel around 45 miles per second (or 60+ kilometres per second, if you prefer), slam into the earth’s atmosphere, and burn up many miles above the earth’s surface.  Some hunks of space rock do reach the earth, usually splashing into the oceans and being lost forever, but the Leonids aren’t robust enough to do this.

If you’re interested in seeing what you can see of this year’s Leonids, here’s what to do.

1.)  Try, if possible, to find a place with dark skies.  If you’re looking at Leo from in or around Ft. Collins, you’ll be looking high up in the southern sky…and that means that the lights from Denver south of town will wash out much of the darkness.  Even so, Leo is easy to spot from Ft. Collins.

2.)  Dress warmly.  Stargazing is the coldest pastime going, even colder than ice fishing.

3.)  Bring a chair, preferably one that reclines.  You won’t need equipment like telescopes, binoculars, or anything of that sort for meteor watching, though equipment like a thermos bottle of coffee or cocoa might be welcome.

4.)  Find Leo, position your chair (as time passes, you might want sometimes to shift your chair’s position as the earth rotates), get comfortable, and pick out a region of the sky just slightly to the back (east) of the aforementioned “Sickle.”

5.)  Enjoy – I hope!

Images: Isle of Sky Astronomy, Night Sky Hunter, European Space Agency, Armagh Observatory, Lowell Observatory

From the Archive: The Big Snow

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Fort Collins Local History Archive

The “big snow” of December 1913 certainly packed a wallop for the residents of Fort Collins. Newspaper articles described how the 13.5 inches of snow that fell on Monday, December 8, affected the city: “the heaviest snowfall in 15 years” interrupted train service between Cheyenne and Fort Collins for days, required excavation of the streetcars, and created havoc for farmers trying to feed their livestock. Cemetery burials in Denver were even postponed for 10 days due to the snow.

It wasn’t all dire, however. One article from the December 19, 1913 Fort Collins Weekly Courier mentioned how the snow furnished local children with “rare sport” when they had to ride bobsleds to school. And the December 12, 1913 Weekly Courier reported a gala of sorts when residents were finally able to leave their homes “like prisoners just released from long confinement” and enjoy the winter wonderland.

College and Oak 1913

College and Oak, 1913

Children on Olive Street 1913

Children on Olive Street, 1913

Looking South down 100 Block of South College 1913

Looking south down 100 block of South College, 1913

College and Mountain after the Big Snow of 1913

College and Mountain after the big snow of 1913

Friday the 13th

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Number13Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Friday the 13th!…

That is, of course, unless you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia (derived from the Greek words paraskevi [Friday], dekatris [thirteen] and phobia [fear]), which is the fear of Friday the 13ths. If so, take heart, less than 24 hours to go.

Did you know…

  • Any month that begins on a Sunday will have a Friday the 13th. 2009 has three of these months: February, March, and November. In the Gregorian Calendar (which we observe in the United States), every year will have at least one Friday the 13th, but never more than three.
  • While there’s a recognized fear of the number thirteen (Triskaidekaphobia), there’s no recognized fear of Fridays.
  • Traditionally, both Greeks and Spanish-speakers, the 13th of the month is considered unlucky if it falls on Tuesday, instead of Friday.
  • Many hotels and hospitals will have no room or floor #13
  • In France, socialites called quatorziens (fourteeners) make themselves available as 14th guests to keep a dinner party from an unlucky fate.

Why is Friday the 13th considered unlucky? Here are some suggestions:

  • In numerology, 12 is considered the number of completeness, making the number 13, then, an irregular transgressor.
  • Historically, Fridays have been associated with everything from stock market crashes to Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • It’s also said that the superstition is derived from a Norse myth in which it was believed that a coven of thirteen witches met each Friday to plot dastardly deeds for the following week.

November 2009

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