Who would hang old boots, hats and (gasp) even guns on a Christmas tree? Ronald Reagan that’s who or at least his Presidential Library, and since I’m lucky enough to live but a few miles from it I decided to share a few of the twenty-four Christmas trees on display–one for each decade beginning in the 1700s . Each tree celebrates the defining moments of America’s road to greatness and but I’m including only the trees that cover the Old West.
“Remember the Alamo” was the rallying cry for Texans fighting for independence from Mexico. The Indian Removal Act passed with strong support from President Jackson and the Cherokees were forced from Georgia to Oklahoma along the “Trail of Tears.”
That’s not all that made this decade memorable; Cyrus McCormick invented the mechanical reaper and Samuel Colt patented his revolver. But the thing that touched perhaps the most lives was the kindergarten movement that swept the country.
The last rendevous in Green River ends the mountain trapping era. The Mexican-American War was fought, bringing undisputed control over Texas and allowing the U.S. to annex portions of Arizona, California and New Mexico. Gold was discovered in California and the mad dash west began (Something for which we western historical writers will be forever grateful!)
Oil was drilled successfully for the first time and cotton was king. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War, and Levi Strauss manufactured heavyweight trousers for miners. Gold is discovered in Colorado and it’s “Pikes Peak or Bust.” Perhaps the greatest boon at the time to the American housewife was the invention of the Singer sewing machine.
The pony express made its inaugural run, carrying mail from St. Louis to Sacramento in only eleven days (which is about the time it takes now).
The Homestead Act of 1862, designed to promote westward expansion, changed America’s political, economical and demographics forever.
Abraham Lincoln became president, eleven states seceded the union and 650,000 soldiers died in the Civil War, including one-fifth of the south’s white male population. The country mourned the assassination of a president, but the decade brought the abolishment of slavery, the Reconstruction Act of 1867 and new hope for the future.
The end of the Civil War started the Railroad Boom and 56,000 miles of new track was laid.
It was a decade of change and some handy inventions including the cash register, typewriter and electric light bulb made life a whole lot easier.
Charles Goodnight blazed the first cattle trail, driving 2000 longhorns from Texas to New Mexico and it was Custer’s Last Stand. The Red Cross was founded and Jesse James began his outlaw career. Yellowstone became the first national park and football and tennis were all the rage.
The cattle industry was still going strong but the last cattle drive ended at Dodge City. Railroads and local packing houses made cattle drives a thing of the past.
With railroads came the need for standard time and more than a hundred times zones were compiled into four.
Jesse James was assassinated (as was President Garfield), Billy the Kid was brought to justice, Chief Sitting Bull surrendered and a showdown at the O.K. Corral was about to become a western legend.
A resurgence of leisure time sweeps the nation and the Gay Nineties was in full swing. Bicycles were the pre-ferred mode of travel and the Chicago World’s Fair introduced the public to the ferris wheel and Crackerjack. And of course no birthday celebration was complete without a rousing rendition of Mildred Mills new song,”Happy Birthday.”
What family or American history can be found on your tree?
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