Good Afternoon readers!
Perhaps some of you remember that a while ago I did a blog post about a chicken perched on the shoulder of D. R. Jones. Well, I am happy to bring you an update on that story!
Recently, I was looking through our Oral History Collection when I stumbled upon an interview with Dick Shoesmith. There were many interesting stories in his interview, especially about the Korean War. As I looked through, I found a story that wasn’t about the war, but was equally as interesting. That’s right readers, it was a story about the shoulder chicken. Dick was asked about his family and their arrival in Guthrie County, and the following story ensued:
Well my mother…she was…my other great grandfather came from Wales and she…her name was Jones, which is Welch and we still have people in Wales yet and also in England yet that we correspond with. In fact there in England there’s a homestead of the Shoesmiths’ that’s over four hundred years old and there’s still a clan of Shoesmiths live there. And I don’t know too much about my grandfather came from Wales but I know my great grandfather, he was an auctioneer and he lived down around Fontanelle and Orient down in there and he’s the one responsible for the Red Cross rooster, General Pershing. It was a black rooster that somebody bid on and they says oh just resell it again and it was for the war effort and every time he went to an auction you always had this black rooster that was perched on his shoulder and he always sold that…just kept sellin’ it you know and then raise money and his name was D.R. Jones. And he was a…with the DOT back when the white pole road started down around…went through Casey…which would be Highway 6 now or the Interstate 80 and he was the one responsible for getting the highway to run through the little town of Casey instead of bypassing Casey there. And his…well this rooster is on display down at the historical building yet. In fact they had it in…out at Guthrie County conservation on display. You can ask for it to…to go on loan there and we took some family over to Panora one year to see this. They’d never seen it before.
As you can see, the shoulder chicken was a Red Cross rooster and was apparently named General Pershing. It seems that he was to be sold at auction to raise money for the war, most likely World War I. However, from the sounds of it, the chicken was always given back to him so he could repeat the process! There is no indication of how much money was raised, but it feels great to finally know why this rooster was on D. R. Jones shoulder in the picture. In fact, it appears that the rooster was on display at the historical building in Casey. I cannot confirm this myself, but it is possible it is still there. Perhaps a trip down to Casey and Guthrie County is in order!
Maybe some of you thought this day would never come, but here it is: The Return of the Chicken! (Dramatic music plays in the background) Do you all remember when we discussed the Shoulder Chicken? Well, it seems that taking pictures with a chicken was more than just a fluke; it may be a trend. To illustrate, I have found two more pictures from around the time of the Shoulder Chicken, which is about 1918.
First is a picture of George Dickey (Brickey), taken in 1908, with what is technically a rooster, but a rooster still counts as a chicken. As you can see, somehow they have gotten not only George, a young child, to stand still for the camera, but also the rooster! In addition, George is either a small boy or that is a big rooster, since the rooster comes up almost to his chin. Correct me if I am wrong, but I did not think that rooster and chickens could get that big. Either way, the real question of this photo is why they are putting a rooster in it in the first place. Is it a prize-winning rooster? Does George just really like this rooster? We may never know, since system has no description of the picture aside from the title.
The next picture is a picture of a Knee Chicken, or at least, that is what I’m calling it. The title of the photo, which dates to around 1915, is “E. L. Towne with Rooster”, but again a rooster counts as a chicken, and Knee Chicken sounds much more interesting. As you can see, this photo is highly similar to the Shoulder Chicken, except the rooster is obviously on his knee. However, we know a little bit more about this rooster than about the others. There are a few words on the back of the picture: “Tru Type S.C. Red Ck'l Bred and Owned by E.L. Towne Jamaica, IA”. From what I can understand, this means that E. L. Towne was from Jamaica, and his rooster is a true type red cockle bred, but I have no idea what that means. Perhaps one of you readers could enlighten me?
Still, as you can see there is more than just one picture of someone posing with his or her rooster/chicken. It seems more and more likely that this was some kind of trend. Perhaps we should all start taking pictures with our chickens!
Hello again readers!
Welcome back to the Hometown Heritage blog. Here in the office we have tons of photos on the walls. Most of them are pictures of people and immigrants, in all kinds of different situations. Now I am sure that you all have heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Indeed, many family photos have stories attached to them, earning them their thousand words. However, what about photos whose stories have been lost? There are many pictures like that here at Hometown Heritage. For instance, on the wall next to my desk is a picture of a man with a chicken on his shoulder. By looking it up in our system, I can find out that it is a photo of a Welshman named D. R. Jones, who was the great-grandfather of Dick Shoesmith (the original donor of the item), but that is the only information about it in the system. Yet there is so much more that this photo could tell! Questions like the location of the photo and the exact date of the photo are unanswered. Even the biggest question, why does D. R. Jones have a chicken on his shoulder, is unanswered. Was it a pet chicken? Or was it a random chicken he found out in the wild and it happened to jump on his shoulder and stay there? Or maybe it is a stuffed chicken that he is posing with? Since there was little information recorded at the time of the picture’s donation, it is impossible to know for sure if any of those reasons are true. Because of this, it is important to record as much as possible for every photo. Without that information, the full story of a photo is lost.
Think about the pictures that you have in your house. Can you remember the story behind every photo? Or have some of these pictures lost their meaning, because no one is around to tell their stories, or not enough information has been recorded? I know that in my home, there are photos of people (purchased in an auction for the frames they were in) that we lovingly call great-grandma and grandpa, even though they are completely unrelated to us. In fact, we have absolutely no idea who these people are. They may not even be real for all we know! Still, their pictures may be worth a thousand words, but without a voice, their words and stories are lost. So remember to tell the stories of your photos to whoever will listen, as we will do here at Hometown Heritage. It is important that people do not forget the history behind photos like these, so that they do not end up like D. R. Jones and his shoulder chicken (seriously, why is it on his shoulder?). We will ask Dick if he can shed some light on this question.