Once again, it has been awhile since I put out one of these, but I try to have some news to announce and while I have been very busy, there hasn't been a specific event to put out there. Now, with an exhibit at the Baldwin Photographic Gallery on the campus of the Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, it's time. In the exhibit are a selection of 27 railroad and 26 grain elevator images. The show is already up and will run through Dec 8, 2005.
Closed Thanksgiving Nov 24-26
I will be in Murfreesboro Nov 12-14 and there will be a reception and I will give a talk at 7:30 pm on the 14th in the Bragg Mass Comm Room 104. The University is paying my expenses to attend and will purchase three of my prints. If you are in the area, I hope that you can attend.
For more information call Tom Jimison, curator, (615) 898-2085
Since my last newsletter in late March, I spent about four months working more than full time on a landscape architecture project and since then have been caught up with a number of items that I had to keep putting off. Most importantly, I've resumed my work on the book about the Nevada Northern, now tentatively titled "Where Steam Moved Mountains." The book is now well along, well past the half way point, but it is hard to put a real percentage complete on it yet. I keep finding new things to include.
I've just returned from my third trip to Ely this year. The first was for the Winter Photo Shoot in February, the second for the Museum's Long Steel Rails Festival in June, but this last trip was for no special event, but I did do a lot of photography. This time I concentrated on the company offices upstairs in the depot and the restroom/locker room in the engine house. These may seem like odd subjects, but the offices are a capsule of office practices of the first half of the twentieth century and the railroad, being a well funded operation, had all the most up to date office equipment. In this day of the PC, it has both a familiar and a strange look about it. While quite different, the same comments can be made about the restroom and the restroom is the one part of the engine house that is slated for renovation.
I also spent a day driving up to Cobre at the north end of the Nevada Northern. On the way I did some photography of the McGill depot, a couple of shots of downtown McGill and a number of shots at Cherry Creek. The sky had beautiful clouds until a little past three in the afternoon when it became completely overcast. I checked out Currie in the late afternoon without doing any photography and it was already getting dark when I finally got to Cobre. Fortunately I already have a couple of photos of Currie and am going to be able make my own prints from some vintage negatives of Cobre. One of these negatives shows pretty much the whole town of Cobre with the "Steptoe Flyer" about to depart. As none of the buildings in the photo are standing today, this will be a much more interesting photo than any that I could do.
When I started this project, I had no intention of being an historian and even thought about trying to get someone else to write the history portion of the book while I concentrated on the photography. But as I got into it, that began to change. At first I was able to draw on some existing books and take advantage of some work done by two others interested in the railroad, Keith Albrandt and Steve Swanson. But I have become interested in the life story of Mark L. Requa, the man who built the railroad and was the central figure in the initial development of the mines. To learn more about him I have had to develop new sources. My plan is to have a sidebar biographical article about Requa.
As I began to dig into his story I found that he was a much more remarkable individual than anyone in Ely seems to understand. I still don't have a complete picture of his life, but it is starting to become clear. He was born in Virginia City, Nevada on Christmas day 1866 and grew up in the Chollar Mansion there and later in The Highlands mansion in Piedmont. After that, I have little knowledge of him until his father put him in charge of the failing Eureka and Palisade Railroad in 1897. He ran that railroad until 1910 when it was severely damaged from flooding and forced into recievership. He was the leading player in the development of the copper mines around Ely from 1902 until he was squeezed out by the Guggenheims in 1906. That story is much too involved to tell here, you'll just have to wait for my book. Sometime between 1907 and 1912 Requa seems to have shifted from copper mining to oil and there is a paper where he is listed as a vice-president of Sinclair Oil in 1920.
I have no details of what he did from 1907 until 1916, but during that time he seems to have become acquainted with a man who is known as the greatest mining engineer of all time, Herbert Hoover. The two men seem to have been business associates, political allies and close friends. Requa worked on Hoover's food relief program 1916-18 and then was chief administrator for the Petroleum Division of the Fuels Administration during the U.S. involvement in WWI. Requa apparently continued his career as a businessman and mining engineer, but also came to prominence in California Republican politics, although he never ran for public office.
Requa was in the conservative wing of the Republican Party in California, as opposed to the Progressive wing under Hiram Johnson. This is perhaps not too surprising as Requa's father Issac was the last President of the Central Pacific. Requa encouraged Hoover to run for president in 1920 and thought that he could deliver him the California delegation at the Republican convention that year. In 1924, Requa lead the effort that defeated the favorite son candidacy of Johnson, helping Calvin Coolidge to secure the Republican nomination. Hoover didn't run in 1920, but when he did decide to run in 1928, Requa did in fact deliver the California delegation and this was what clinched Hoover's nomination. Big stuff, huh. In 1932 Requa represented California on the Republican National Committee, but that was a bad year for Republicans and Requa appears to have dropped out of politics after that.
During the Hoover administration, Requa was an important advisor. Hoover was into doing big projects, one of which was the San Franciso-Oakland Bay Bridge. For this Hoover appointed Requa chairman of the Bay Bridge commission. In the twenties Requa lived in Piedmont, California, had an office in San Francisco and was on the social registrar there. Sometime around 1930 he moved to Santa Barbara.
Requa leaves us some writing. In 1925 he wrote "The Relation of Government to Industry" which shows a remarkable grasp of world history and reads like it was written by an economics professor. After he retired, he wrote a novel called "Grubstake, A Story of Early Mining Days in Nevada, Time-1874," and also at least two unpublished manuscripts about his own time in Nevada mining. One of these is about his growing up in Virginia City and can be read at the California Historical Society in San Francisco. The second is about his evolvement with Nevada Consolidated Copper Co in Ely, but I have yet to see a copy of that.
Mark Requa died March 6, 1937 and was buried in the family plot at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland/Piedmont, California. For those of you in the design world this is the cemetery designed by Frederic Law Olmsted in the 1860's and was a pioneering work of Landscape Architecture.