The Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It can be beautiful -it can be deadly.
Three men of the John Wesley Powell Colorado River Exploration party had enough! They would go no further!
It was August 28, 1869 and behind them was nearly 3 months of hardship, struggle, poor food and near death. Now, they were faced with what they considered certain death, as described by John Wesley Powell in his incredible book “The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons.”
Drawing from Powell’s book.
Ahead of them, falling boulders had created a dam over the river, beyond which was a treacherous, high waterfall. Beyond that, deadly river rapids boiled down river. To continue their exploration forward meant they would have to push their boats over the dam, ride down the falls and survive the rapids. If they survived, they would have only 5 days of food left to finish the journey.
The Howland brothers: Seneca on left, Oramel on right.
Oramel Howland, his brother Seneca and William Dunn decided that continuing down the river would be certain death. They determined to leave the river and Powell. They would climb up, out of the Colorado River canyon to the desert lands above them. But they couldn’t know that fate had another awful scenario planned for them.
It was a sad moment for the adventurers, as John Wesley Powell wrote:
August 28—After breakfast I ask the three men if they still think it best to leave us. The elder Howland thinks it is, and Dunn agrees with him.
A long way to the top.
After the rapids, smoother water through the Grand Canyon.
The departing three men waited on shore for Powell and the remaining men to attempt the falls and rapids in two boats. A third boat had been left behind in case the Howland brothers and Dunn change their minds.
We are scarcely a minute in running it, and find that, although it looked bad from above, we have passed many places that were worse . . . We land at the first practicable point below and fire our guns, as a signal to the men above that we have come over in safety.
The Howland brothers and Dunn ignored the rifle shot and began their climb to the top of what is now called “Separation Crayon” and the supposed safety of the land above.
After riding the boiling rapids, Powell and the rest of his party reached safety and the end of their adventure in only two days. It turned out that Powell was right in his calculations of the danger.
But while Powell’s group floated to safety, fate played an awful trick on the Howlands and Dunn.
Three other white men had insulted Native American women of the Shivwits tribe.
An angry war party of the tribe set out to find the men and mistook the Howland brothers and Dunn for the white intruders. They slaughtered the three men.
A year later, re-exploring the Colorado, Powell met an old Native American Chief who told him the following devastating story through a Mormon interpreter:
“Last year we killed three white men.
Bad men said they were our enemies. They told us great lies. We thought they were true. We were mad. It made us big fools. We are very sorry. Do not think of them. It is done. Let us be friends.
When white men kill our people, we kill them. Then they kill more of us. It is not good. We will be friends.”
There was nothing Powell could do. It was long past. Any violence on his part would result in continued violence on both sides. Despite his feelings about the deaths of his companions, the old Chief was right. Let it lie. Being friends was better for both sides. Powell could plan and control his famous exploration of the Colorado River, but he couldn’t control fate.
“This thrilling work demonstrates recorded spoken word at its best.” – Audiofile Magazine
I produced and narrated John Wesley Powell’s “The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons” as a Listen2read audiobook. It is an astonishing adventure that was partly responsible for the opening of the United States Southwest. You can download it at the address below:
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“The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons” by John Wesley Powell
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At 7:30 on a cold and rainy morning, April 15, 1865, Dr. Charles Augustus Leale sadly pronounced dead Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.
Then, Leale walked across 10th Street in Washington, D.C. from the Peterson Boarding House, where Lincoln’s lifeless body lay, back to Ford’s Theatre, where the assassination had taken place the evening before and where he had attempted to save the life of President Lincoln.
As Dr. Leale walked, he looked down at his shirt cuffs – they were spotted with blood. The blood of President Lincoln.
Entering Ford’s Theater, he looked up to the patriotically festooned box seat where President Lincoln had been assassinated. Then, he found his way to his seat in the Dress Circle, about 40 feet from where the President was shot.
And there, where it had fallen when he jumped up to save the life of President Lincoln, he found his hat.
Leale was 23, a young medical officer in the Union Army. Because he was the first doctor to arrive at the slain President’s side, he was appointed the official medical doctor to attend the President by the other doctors, who later joined him.
It was Dr. Leale, who insisted that the wounded President be moved to the Boarding House across the street from Ford’s Theatre instead of to the more distant White House.
Leaving the empty theatre that cold morning, Dr. Leale next did what was expected of him. He wrote a report to his Superior Officers. It was a long, personal, moment by moment narrative from the instant he arrived at Lincoln’s side to the moment he pronounced the President dead. It was an intimate, first person account by the only person who could write it.
Forty-four years later, in a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, Dr. Leale was asked to speak about that terrible evening. He found his copy of his report to the Surgeon General and used it as the basis for his extraordinary narrative.
Listen2Read audiobooks has recorded Dr. Leale’s personal narrative, “Lincoln’s Last Hours,” movingly read by Andre Devin.
There have been many books and articles written about the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, but nothing, in my opinion, as extraordinary as this young doctor’s account: https://listen2read.com/lincolns-last-hours/
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“Lincoln’s Last Hours” by Dr. Charles Augustus Leale
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On June 18, 1928, women throughout the world watched a new female role model unleash new potential for women. Her name was Amelia Earhart and on that June day, she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean from America to Europe.
“The Friendship” takes off and carries Amelia Earhart and the crew across the Atlantic Ocean.
Earhart was an instant heroine–named by the public “Lady Lindy,” the female equivalent of Charles Lindbergh, the first person who had flown solo across the Atlantic the year before. Even though she was an experienced pilot, she did not fly the plane, but was part of the crew, keeping a log of the flight. It didn’t make any difference in the public mind – a woman had done what a woman had never done before – showing that women could do anything!
President Herbert Hoover gives Amelia Earhart the
National Geographic Society Gold Medal at the White House.
After the successful flight, Earhart, together with co-pilots Wilmer Stutz and Louis Gordon, was given a ticker tape parade in New York and was welcomed to the White House. The event made newspaper headlines all over the world.
So, considering the importance of the flight, whatever happened to the plane that had carried Earhart to world prominence? What happened to “The Friendship?” I tried to find out.
“The Friendship” prepares for take off.
“The Friendship “ was a tri-motor airliner used in many countries. It could carry up to twelve passengers plus a 2-person crew. This version was outfitted with pontoons instead of wheels, so it could take off and land on the water. The plane also had extra fuel tanks, which allowed for a longer flight, but which weighted it down and made the flight more risky.
I discovered that Admiral Richard Byrd had purchased the plane for a South Pole expedition, but had changed his mind when he realized part of his funding came from the Ford Motor Company, which would furnish their own plane.
Amelia Earhart in her flight coat.
So, Admiral Byrd sold “The Friendship” for $62,000 to Donald Woodward, a wealthy aviation enthusiast, and son of the founder of what is today the Jell-O Corporation. The price in today’s dollars would be around $949,000.00.
Mrs. Amy Guess, a wealthy socialite, visualized herself as the first woman to fly across the Atlantic and decided to lease the plane from Woodward. After Mrs. Guess’ family argued her out of taking the risky flight herself, Mrs. Guess chose Amelia Earhart, an experienced pilot and well-known aviation enthusiast, to fly in her place.
Amelia Earhart and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
With the outstanding success of the flight, “The Friendship,” became world famous. It was still owned by Donald Woodward and, considering its fame and his enthusiasm for aviation, I would have thought he might have wanted to preserve the plane or give it special treatment.
So where is it today? What aviation museum proudly displays this historic plane?
For some reason, unfortunately, Donald Woodward ignored the plane’s significance. He sold “The Friendship.” The purchaser was not even from the United States. It was Jose Roger Balet of Argentina, who renamed it “12 de October,” after a national Argentinian holiday honoring Columbus, but which has recently changed to a celebration of cultural diversity.
On June 21, 1931, after making an “emergency landing,” the plane was “acquired” by General Enrique Bravo for the Fuerz Aerea Nacional, the Columbian National Air Force.
The few records I could find show the plane was removed from service in 1932 and was destroyed by accident or fire in 1934. “The Friendship” is no more. It is only a memory. Happily, we have many pictures and films to document its importance.
Amelia Earhart prepares for a fight.
But the woman, who flew on that historic 1928 flight, Amelia Earhart, remains to this day a symbol of female independence and bravery. She spent a large portion of her life supporting women’s rights. She was the first President of the Ninety-Nines, an organization founded to support women in aviation.
Amelia Earhart wrote a book about her flight, “20Hrs. 40Mins.,” in which she quotes from the flight log. She describes how she learned to fly and opportunities for women, expressing her hopes and dreams for women in aviation.
I published an audiobook of Amelia Earhart’s book, read by Leslie Walden, so you can hear for yourself her vivid description of her adventure. “20Hrs. 40Mins.” is available wherever audiobooks are downloaded or sold.
If you would like to see the actual “take off” over water of “The Friendship,” the newsreel footage is part of a promotional video I produced. I was able to locate and license the newsreel footage. You can see it here: https://listen2read.com/20-hrs-40-mins/
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“20Hrs. 40Mins.” by Amelia Earhart
and all 18 of our Listen 2 Read American Adventure Library audiobooks are available for download wherever you download audiobooks, including:
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Poster from 1852 Presidential campaign
The first Presidential Election in California was in 1852, pitting Democrat Franklin Pierce against the Whig Candidate, General Winfield Scott. California’s 4 electoral votes went to Pierce.
Los Angeles’ Aliso Street 1850’s. With a population of barely 5,000, there were not a lot of people crowding the streets.
According to Horace Bell in his book “Reminiscences of a Ranger,” political campaigns and elections in early Los Angeles, California were often wonders to behold.
Los Angeles had more voters than citizens in the 1850’s
“Los Angeles polled a very great vote in the happy times of pioneer elections. With her population of 5,000 it is the duty of this writer to explain the modus operandi of getting four or five votes from each sovereign voter,” wrote Bell.
Major Horace Bell – author of “Reminiscences of a Ranger.”
Voters would be rounded up and taken in wagons to the polling place where, once they voted, they were returned in the wagons, given a shave, a drink and a dollar and taken back to the polling place to vote another time.
“Voting in early times was a lucrative business and voters considered valuable according to the facility offered for disguising one’s self.”
In Horace Bell’s “Reminiscences of a Ranger,” which I have recorded as a Listen 2 Read audiobook, Bell tells Los Angeles and California history the way he experienced it. It was a lot tougher than depicted in most sophisticated histories of the time.
The Bella Union Hotel, center of Los Angeles politics, drinking and gambling.
How politicians made money
Local elections were hard won battles in Los Angeles, even though the salary of the mayor was $500.00 per year and the City Councilmen drew no pay at all.
Why would they want the job? Power – lots of power. Politicians hired city employees, supervised land deals and made a lot of money unofficially on the side.
The reputation of local politicians was so poor that when an outlaw was tried in public and sentenced to hang, he addressed the jury saying that his crime was not great enough to warrant his hanging. Now, he said, if he was the Mayor or Councilman in Los Angeles, that would be a crime that warranted hanging.
Happily, according to Bell, who wrote his book in 1881, the political system grew more honest as time went by and more people started paying attention.
Calle de los Negros, the bad side of town, where the bars and brothels were located. It was also the site of the terrible Chinese Massacre of 1871 that Bell describes.
“Reminiscences of a Ranger – Early days in Los Angeles and Southern California
is an eye-witness account of those perilous pioneer days. Major Horace Bell, the author, was a young adventurer, who found himself in dangerous mid-18th century Los Angeles – a city with no bank and no police force to stop violent crime.
The Los Angeles Rangers Are Formed
Bell arrived in Los Angeles at the age of 22, a strapping young man at 6 foot 2 inches tall. To his astonishment, he unexpectedly found himself in a wild, crime ridden pueblo, where in one year there were forty-four murders…the highest murder rate in the nation at that time.
Desperate to lower the crime rate, the Los Angeles Rangers were formed by the citizenry. The Rangers were the predecessor of the first Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and, Horace Bell was appointed a founding member.
Horace Bell Decides To Write His Memoir
Thirty years later, Bell decided that his experiences and this early history of Los Angeles ought to be recorded and so he wrote his memories in a book he titled “Reminiscences of a Ranger,” which he self-published in 1881. It is said to be the first book printed and bound in Los Angeles. Our audiobook of his wild times is available for immediate download here:
Horace Bell’s “Reminiscences of a Ranger” is the irreverent true story of how Los Angeles became Los Angeles.
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PS: Below is a very interesting picture for those interested in Los Angeles history:
Model of Los Angeles in 1850 looking Northeast. The white structure that stands out in the middle left is the old Plaza Church, facing the plaza dating from 1815, both of which still stand. Two wide streets run from the bottom of the picture to the Plaza, they are Main Street on the left and Alameda Street to the right. Continuing right are vineyards of Mission grapes all the way to the bottom of the hill where the Los Angeles river flows.
Water And Power Associates
We are pleased that our Listen to Read American Adventure Library of historic memoirs has been so widely accepted.
All 18 of our audiobooks are available for download wherever you download audiobooks, including Audible.com, I-Tunes, Apple Books, Google Play, NOOK Audiobooks, Scribed, Tune-in, Downpour, Audiobooks.com, Bibliotheca, Playstar, Folliett, and your local public library through the Overdrive system. CD versions are available at Amazon.com and at Listen2Read.com
There is something about a dog that affects me emotionally. Like most people, I anthropomorphize the actions of my dog as if he were literate, intuitive and highly philosophical. That’s why I love John Muir’s wonderful story about a stray dog who changed his life.
President Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir at Glacier Point during a camping trip to Yosemite.
John Muir was an early explorer of Yosemite and an advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. Through his efforts, along with Theodore Roosevelt, Yosemite was saved from mining and grazing and preserved as a National Park. Muir was the founder of the Sierra Club.
The dog that came into Muir’s life was named “Stickeen,” a name given him because he was adopted by the Stickeen tribe of Alaska. He was a special dog, smart, with eyes that made him seem very wise and knowing.
John Muir met Stickeen in Southeastern Alaska in 1869, where Muir was studying glaciers, those great slow moving rivers of ice. Muir theorized that ancient glaciers had formed part of Yosemite. He wanted to know about glaciers to see if his theory was true.
Stickeen was a kind of mascot of the exploring party, but he took to Muir….in fact he became so attached he followed Muir onto a dangerous crevasse covered glacier, where they became trapped!
Deadly crevasse where Muir and Stickeen were trapped.
John Muir wrote: “Of the many perils encountered in my years of wandering on mountains and glaciers none seemed so plain and stern and merciless as this. And it was presented when we were wet to the skin and hungry, the sky dark with quick driving snow, and the night near. But we were forced to face it. It was a tremendous necessity.”
John Muir in Yosemite
Muir recounted his near death experience with Stickeen at campfires in Yosemite, time after time, until he had perfected the tale in his mind and finally wrote it down. It became one of his most popular books.
I have always loved the story and recorded Stickeen as a Listen2Read audiobook.
Stickeen is available from most places you download audiobooks.
There is a single CD version of the audiobook I have given out to friends as a Holiday present. If you’d like to give it too, it’s available from here:
Best wishes for the Holiday Season, with the hope that next year this terrible pandemic will end and we will all be safe.
If you subscribe to an audiobook download library, “Stickeen” is available with your subscription to Audible.com, I-Tunes, Apple Books, Google Play, NOOK, Scribed.com, Tune-in.com, Downpour.com, Audiobooks.com, Bibliotheca, Playstar, Folliett, and your local public library through the Overdrive system.
Moonrise at Death Valley California
Now is not the time to explore Death Valley landscape. On Sunday August 16, 2020 Death Valley registered a temperature of 130 degrees, Fahrenheit making it the hottest place on earth. But it’s been hotter. In 1913 Death Valley registered a temperature of 134 degrees.
Manley point n Death Valley named after William Lewis Manly who saved the wagon train
William Lewis Manly
At times like these, I appreciate more and more William Lewis Manly and the act of heroism he performed under the murderous Death Valley sun, described in breathtaking detail in his book “Death Valley in ‘49.”
In 1849 Manly was a twenty nine years old, traveling with a wagon train of pioneer families, crossing the hot desert bound for California. They were on their way to the newly discovered
Small wagon train in a big land
California gold fields where they hoped to make their fortunes.
Taking a Short Cut
Taking a supposed shortcut, the wagon train took a wrong turn and became trapped in a valley with no escape and no water. They were doomed to die. It was Death Valley.
In an act of super heroism, Manly and a companion struggled out of Death Valley. Drop by drop they found enough water in the dry desert to survive, making it to civilization. Then, with fresh horses and supplies they returned to the doomed pioneers and led the nearly dead group to safety.
Endless sand dunes in Death Valley under merciless sun.
Manly Saves the Wagon Train
It’s a thrilling story of selflessness we don’t hear enough of these days. That’s why I recorded it as an audiobook for my Listen 2 Read American Adventure Library.
Eventually Manly made it to the gold fields and was one of the few who actually made money! Returning to his home in the Midwest, Manly carried gold he had mined, secretly wrapped around his body.
Manly crossed the dangerous disease infested jungles of Panama, near what is known today as the Darien Gap, through which many of today’s refugees die on a perilous path to the United States border.
If you have ever been curious about pioneer wagon trains, how it was to live and work in the California gold fields, and how dangerous the jungles of Panama were before the building the canal, you will enjoy Manly’s first person account on our Listen2Read audiobook. He was there and he takes you there with him.
Download it here:
From all of us at Listen 2 Read, we send our best wishes for the health and welfare of you and your family during these difficult times.
The second most famous whale in the world had no name.
We don’t know when it was born or when it died.
We just know what it did.
On the morning of November 20, 1820, in the Pacific Ocean 2000 miles west of South America, this sperm whale bull, around 85 feet long, attacked a wooden whale boat.
The angry whale rammed the boat, then dived under her. On board the ship were two crewmen, who witnessed the whale turning for a second attack:
“At a speed of about 24 knots, it appeared with
tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect.”
The attacking whale crushed the bow of the ship, driving it backward. Then it disengaged its head from the shattered timbers and swam off, disappearing, leaving a hole in the ship below the water line. The ship was doomed.
Owen Chase, First Mate of the whaleship Essex, in later years
The name of the ship was the “Essex” and the story of how the crew attempted to survive a chancy return to shore was told by the First Mate, Owen Chase, one of the few survivors.
You can hear Owen Chase’s story in our Listen2Read audiobook, “Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale Ship Essex.” It is a fascinating story of a struggle for survival.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Owen Chase had a son, William Henry Chase, who grew up to be a whaler, just like his father. Twenty-one years later, Chase’s son was on a whaleship, in the Pacific Ocean, close to where the Essex was destroyed. He showed a copy of the book his father wrote to another crewman, who was greatly impressed.
That crewman was Herman Melville. A few years later in 1851, inspired by the Essex disaster, Melville wrote a novel about a white whale named “Moby Dick.” That fictional whale went on to become the most famous whale in the world.
But it all started with Owen Chase’s book. You can hear the original first hand story wherever you download audiobooks, including here:
Thank you for being part of our Listen2Read audiobook community and listening to our expanding library of significant historical American adventures.
Please stay safe.
Slaves cutting sugar Cane in Cuba
Should the United State of America attempt to purchase Cuba from Spain and make Cuba another southern Slave State?
US Secretary of State William Marcy
The year was 1834 and this shocking question was the subject of a secret meeting in an obscure Belgian town.
The American Southern States were the northern tip of the wide practice of slavery, which stretched to Cuba, south throughout the islands of the Caribbean.
By acquiring Cuba and its sugar plantations, the United States could expand its power and expand its form of slavery far south.
Attending the secret Cuba meeting in Ostend, Belgium were politically connected Americans including United States Secretary of State William L. Marcy and American representative to Spain Pierre Soule who was from Louisiana and represented planters interests.
SECRET MEETING LEAKED TO THE PRESS
Pierre Soule of Louisiana
The meeting was kept a secret by everyone except Pierre Soule. He was so open and brazen about the idea that it was leaked to the press. Appalled, opponents in the United States House of Representatives published the agreement for everyone to see. Once made known to the public, the so called Ostend Manifesto was effectively killed. But the idea was kept alive.
ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO MAKE CUBA A SLAVE STATE
Master overseeing slaves in Cuba
Twenty five years later, in 1859, two years before the U.S. Civil War, a proposal to purchase Cuba from Spain for $30 million was introduced by Senator John Slidell of Louisiana.
Southern tempers were rising. Slidell also wanted to repeal the Missouri Compromise, admit Kansas as a slave state and totally upset the balance of power between the Northern States and slaves states of the South.
Richard Henry Dana, a Northern Abolitionist, was angered by the idea and wondered what slavery in Cuba was like in 1859. He had wide experience dealing with US slavery and escaped slaves. As a lawyer, he represented, free of charge, former slaves who had managed to escape from the South and were recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act.
RICHARD HENRY DANA GOES TO CUBA
Richard Henry Dana
Dana decided to travel to Cuba and see, first hand, how Spain handled slavery. He was on the high seas when Senator John Slidell proposed to acquire Cuba and during his trip the proposal was defeated. When Dana arrived in Cuba he saw how a sophisticated life in Havana was based on the profits from sugar plantation slavery.
Dana wrote a his findings in a book he titled “To Cuba and Back –a Vacation Voyage.” It is quite an adventure that reveals an alarming and complex form of slavery not known in the United States. I have narrated and published Dana’s dramatic and extraordinary experiences as a Listen2Read audiobook which is available wherever you download audiobooks.
You may remember Richard Henry Dana’s name because of a famous book he wrote in 1840 when he was a very young man, ”Two Years Before The Mast” in which Dana revealed to the public the harshness and cruelties of a sailor’s life. His book led to changes in the way sailors were treated under maritime law.
In “To Cuba and Back” Dana contrasts the lush, extravagant tropical city social life, which included Opera, to the harsh sugar plantation life under the humid Caribbean heat. There is a particularly searing chapter where Dana describes the wrenched life on a sugar plantation and why the Master of a plantation of slaves always carries a gun.
The complete 5 ½ hour Listen2Read “To Cuba and Back- a Vacation Voyage in 1859” is available for download wherever you download audiobooks. Here’s a link to one of our retailers:
Thank you for your continued interest in the historical adventure audiobooks of the Listen2Read “America Adventure Library. “
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