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Bannack, MT, late 1800s

The first part of the new series about mining towns in the Rocky Mountains will begin with Bannack, Montana. Nothing, but a ghost town now, Bannack was the site of a major gold discovery in 1862. The town was founded the same year as a result of the discovery and is named after the local Bannock Indians. The town officially received its name with the establishment of the post office on November 21, 1863, however, when the name was submitted to Washington DC, the final ‘o’ was mistaken for an ‘a’ and therefore it is Bannack instead of Bannock.

Gold was first discovered on July 28, 1862 by John White and other members of the “Pikes Peakers” from Colorado in the creek where the town currently stands. What followed was one of the largest gold mining rushes to happen in the west since the California gold rush of 1848. By October of the same year, over 400 miners populated the new mining camp that was to become Bannack.

Henry Plummer - Sheriff of Bannack

Many people came to Bannack with gold fever, but most did not strike it rich in mining. In fact, many people who came to Bannack, like many other mining towns, ended up profiting from other sources and other miners. One such example was a physician by the name of Dr. Erasmus Darwin Leavitt. Among one of the town’s founders, he gave up his medical practice in New Hampshire in 1862 to prospect for gold in Bannack. He quickly found it was more profitable to give up his mining dreams and practice his trade in Bannack taking care of the residents there. His story is typical of many who came west looking for fortune.

The town was not without its drama. The sheriff, Henry Plummer, was accused by some of leading a gang which were responsible for over a hundred murders and robberies around the west. The town was divided as to whether or not Plummer was guilty. Despite this, he was hung by a group of vigilantes from the very gallows which he himself had built on January 10, 1864.

At its peak, there were about three thousand residents who lived in Bannack, although sources vary as to the exact number. The town mostly comprised wooden buildings built out of logs, however, many of them, as is typical of many nineteenth century western towns, had false fronts. In the town, there were three hotels, three bakeries, three blacksmith shops, two stables, two meat markets, a grocery store, a restaurant, a brewery, a billiard hall, and four saloons.

By May, 1864, the town had grown large enough to become capital of Montana Territory. It lost its title as capital, however, only two years later in 1866 to Virginia City.

Bannack, Montana

The early twentieth century saw the end of the once bustling mining town. Most people had abandoned Bannack by the 1930s and, by the 1940s, the town had essentially become a ghost town. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks saved the town, however, by turning it into a state park on August 15, 1954.

The last residents finally left the town as late as 1970. All that remains now is a wooden shell of its former glory. The town has been made into a state park and is visitable as a tourist attraction today. Take a look at Bannack’s website for more details on visiting.

To see some modern photos of Bannack, MT, please visit GhostTownGallery.com.

This post is part of a multi-part series about mining towns in the Rocky Mountains. See the rest of the series either on the Rocky Mountain Mining Town project page or in the category of the same name.

Sources

Bannack State Park – FAQ’s, http://www.bannack.org/faq’s.htm (accessed March 4, 2010).

Legends of America, “Bannack — Gold to Ghosts,” http://www.legendsofamerica.com/MT-Bannack.html (accessed March 4, 2010).

Wikipedia, “Bannack, Montana,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bannack,_Montana (accessed March 4, 2010).

Temporary Outage (Spambots)

I apologize for the temporary outage. I’ve been getting hit pretty hard with spambots and my hosting service shut down service to my account. I think I’ve got it taken care of after doing some careful research about redirecting traffic coming from spambots so that they don’t hit the server anywhere near as hard. If you have any difficulties with the site, please let me know as soon as possible by sending me an email.

Update: The site was down again for a while because apparently the actions I took against the spambots weren’t quite enough. I researched again some more and am trying something else now. Again, don’t hesitate to contact me if you have issues. Also, if you have suggestions for fighting off spambots, please let me know by either sending me an e-mail or leaving a comment here!

Thank you for your patience!

– Alex

Treaty of Versailles

I read something really interesting in the news today that I thought I would share here. According to the British newspaper, Telegraph, the First World War is finally coming to an end today. This past weekend, Germany made it’s final payment for the war and thereby finally cleared the debt given to Germany by the Treaty of Versailles.

Here is the article from the Telegraph:

The final payment of £59.5 million, writes off the crippling debt that was the price for one world war and laid the foundations for another.

Germany was forced to pay the reparations at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 as compensation to the war-ravaged nations of Belgium and France and to pay the Allies some of the costs of waging what was then the bloodiest conflict in history, leaving nearly ten million soldiers dead.

The initial sum agreed upon for war damages in 1919 was 226 billion Reichsmarks, a sum later reduced to 132 billion, £22 billion at the time.

The bill would have been settled much earlier had Adolf Hitler not reneged on reparations during his reign.
Hatred of the settlement agreed at Versailles, which crippled Germany as it tried to shape itself into a democracy following armistice, was of significant importance in propelling the Nazis to power.

“On Sunday the last bill is due and the First World War finally, financially at least, terminates for Germany,” said Bild, the country’s biggest selling newspaper.

Most of the money goes to private individuals, pension funds and corporations holding debenture bonds as agreed under the Treaty of Versailles, where Germany was made to sign the ‘war guilt’ clause, accepting blame for the war.

France, which had been ravaged by the war, pushed hardest for the steepest possible fiscal punishment for Germany.

The principal representative of the British Treasury at the Paris Peace Conference, John Maynard Keynes, resigned in June 1919 in protest at the scale of the demands.

“Germany will not be able to formulate correct policy if it cannot finance itself,’ he warned.

When the Wall Street Crash came in 1929, the Weimar Republic spiralled into debt. Four years later, Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany.

City of Gold

This is a very interesting video about a mining town called Dawson City. The film itself is historic as it was created in the 1950s it appears.

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/KGxHHAX1nOY?fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0x3a3a3a&color2=0×999999

I found the video through a post on Soapy Smith’s Soap Box.

The announcement by Philipp Scheidemann that the Kaiser has abdicated

Germany in the nineteenth century was a place of unimaginable political unrest. The collapse of the Holy Roman Empire at the beginning of the century set the precedent for how the political scene of most of the rest of the century would play out. It would be chaotic, unnavigable and yet somehow the German people and their country survived. The goal throughout most of this time period was the reestablishment of the Holy Roman Empire. Attempted revolutions would be repeated with the underlaying themes of German unification and basic civil rights.

Otto von Bismarck was eventually able to accomplish what had been tried and failed many times in nineteenth century German: reunification of most German-speaking states under one ruler. The establishment of the German Empire in the middle of the century would create the impetus for two world wars in the twentieth century. Although Adolf Hitler later claimed to have restored the Empire under the Third Reich, it was not truly an empire in the same sense that the Second Reich under the Kaisers was. The fact that the Germany of today is a country itself is largely a product of the nineteenth century.

This entry is the end of a multi-part series. You can find all of the entries either on the Nineteenth Century German History project page or in the category of the same name.

Flag of the German Empire (1871-1918)
A fresco created by Philipp Veit to represent German unification.

By midcentury a fairly clear picture was beginning to emerge that unification of the German states was going to be inevitable in one form or another. One of the largest and more pressing hurdles yet to overcome, however, was which state was going to dominate and lead this unified Germany. The key players in this situation were German-speaking Austria and Prussia. Eventually this pressure led to war between the two countries, out of which emerged a political figure whose influence on the soon to be united Germany was almost greater than the Kaiser’s. This man was Otto von Bismarck.

Born of noble birth in Prussia and destined for politics, Bismarck began his political career in relative obscurity, but rose through the ranks at a rapid pace. During the Revolution of 1848, he founded a conservative political party called the Kreuzzeitungspartei which he used as a springboard to launch his political ambitions. Only three years later, in 1851, he was made the Prussian ambassador to the German Bundestag in Frankfurt. He served this position until 1859 when he was made ambassador to Russia at St. Petersburg and, for a short time in 1862, ambassador to France.40 1862 proved to be a pivotal year for both Bismarck’s career and for Germany itself.

Otto von Bismarck as Prime Minister.

In the midst of a crisis41 which the Prussian king, Wilhelm I, had gotten himself into with the Prussian parliament (Abgeordnetenhaus) during an attempted army reform, Bismarck was recalled by the king to help him resolve it. To most effectively fulfill this new duty, he was appointed Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in September, 1862.42 His first act as Prime Minister was to “[concoct] a modified military reform programme that would enlarge the army and secure government control in key areas while meeting the liberal demand for two-year service” and thereby resolve the King’s crisis.43 The primary issue that was a stake in the crisis was which power had the right to control the government’s finances. The parliament claimed the right to be able to finance the King’s reform which the King views as an attack on the traditional powers of the Crown.44 Bismarck openly sided with the King by defying the parliament in order to assure the King he was dedicated to the crown and to assure his office. He therefore passed the army reform through while collecting taxes without the consent of parliament.45 If Bismarck’s position was not already secure enough, his military victories would ensure that he remained in a powerful position in the Prussian government.

During times of war, Bismarck proved himself a very capable leader which had wonderful ramifications for Prussia. The second German-Danish War of 1864 allowed Bismarck to secure his position as a favorable politician to the King because he demonstrated capable leadership by controlling vast portions of the German affairs during the war.46 The Austro-Prussian War of 1866 was yet another example of his ability to lead in war.

North German Confederation

War between the two major powers in German-speaking Europe was almost unavoidable. Both Prussia and Austria wanted power over what was seen as the coming unification of Germany. Austria did not want Prussian dominance because they wanted power and the Germans were generally wary of having another Habsburg dynasty because of the failures of the first one which had ruled the Holy Roman Empire for centuries.47 On June 9, 1866, Prussia invaded Austria. The war only lasted seven weeks with the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph capitulating to the Prussians on July 22, 1866. On July 26, the Peace of Nikolsburg officially ended the war and a month later on August 23, the Treaty of Prague was signed.48 The repercussions of this treaty were significant. It allowed Austria to keep all of its territorial possessions except Venetia, but it did force Austria to recognize the annexation of Hanover, Nassua, Hesse-Kassel, Schleswig, Holstein, and Frankfurt by Prussia.49 Perhaps more importantly, however, was the establishment of the North German Confederation (Norddeutscher Bund) with Prussia as its head. This served as the foundation for what later became the new German Empire, however, there was yet another obstacle to overcome before the Empire could be established. This was France under the Emperor Napoleon III.

Before it was possible to establish a new German Empire under Prussian leadership, Bismarck needed to get rid of the threat which France would pose should Germany be unified.50 He believe Prussia could engage France in a war and win, however, this was not a very popular opinion and would put his political position at stake which he was no willing to do. Instead, he looked for a way to induce the French to attack Prussia. This lucky break came in 1870 when a relative of the King Wilhelm’s, Leopold, ascended the Spanish throne. Napoleon III felt surrounded and as such sent an ambassador to King Wilhelm to convince him to withdraw his support from the new Spanish king. Reluctantly, Wilhelm complied, but was not willing to comply to other demands made by the French.51 In a telegram, which would later be known as the EMS Telegram, the King explained to Bismarck what had taken place in the meeting between himself and the French ambassador. Bismarck saw his opportunity. He leaked a slightly edited version of the telegram to the German press and also conveniently leaked a French translation of it.52 His trap worked. Napoleon, enraged by this, mobilized troops to go to war and, on July 19, 1870, declared war on Prussia. The war resulted in a major defeat for France. On September 2, 1870, France surrendered and Napoleon III was taken into Prussian custody. France was plunged yet again into chaos and the French threat against German unification was eradicated.

Proclamation of the German Empire

Prussia was now free to establish its long sought after empire and did so with the utmost vigilance. On January 18, 1871, the new German Empire (Deutsches Kaiserreich) was officially proclaimed when Prussian king Wilhelm I was crowned Emperor (Kaiser) in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. The new empire was composed of the German territories of the North German Confederation, Bavaria, Baden, Hesse and Wurttemberg as well as the newly acquired French territories of Alsace and Lorraine.53 Bismarck was the first chancellor of the new empire and Wilhelm the first emperor. An imperial constitution (Reichsverfassung) was established on April 16, 1871 which did a number of important things. It delegated the power to set and raise taxes to the member states of the empire, it required that all member states concede equal rights to all citizens from other member states and it setup the Federal Council (Bundesrat) in Berlin with representatives from all member states.54 The constitution was, however, really only a formality. In reality, Prussia dominated everything because of its strong military stance which the other state could not match.55 Bismarck dominated the political scene while the Kaiser continued to be mostly inactive.

The German Empire

The weak position of the Kaiser did, however, change upon the death of Wilhelm I. In March 1888, Wilhelm I died, leaving a legacy that was mostly that of Bismarck’s work. His son, Friederich III, ascended the imperial throne, but was already dying of throat cancer.56 He ruled for a total of ninety-nine days before succumbing to his illness in June of the same year. Upon his death, his son, Wilhelm II, became German Kaiser and King of Prussia. Unlike his predecessors, Wilhlem II was interested in taking the leading role of his empire and was not just content to sit back and let someone else do the work for them. His goal was to establish a vast German empire with authoritarian rule.57 In order to do this, he wanted a ‘puppet’ chancellor who would act more as a figurehead than exercise any real power.58 Bismarck, who had been so active previously, was not the man for the job under the new emperor. In 1890, he handed his resignation to the Kaiser, leaving Wilhelm II with a free hand to do as he pleased. One of Wilhelm’s primary focuses was building the German military and ‘playing catch-up’ with the other European powers. He wanted to establish a great military with a strong navy which would challenge Britain’s dominance in the waters. Colonies were also necessary in his option as France and Britain both had several overseas colonies in Asia and Africa while Germany still had none.59 This idea of an expansion of militarism and imperialism in the German imperial state was to have drastic consequences in the beginning of the twentieth century.

Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1905

Wilhelm’s ambitious goals of establishing a large and powerful German empire through the use of a strong military was arguably one of the key factors which led to the First World War and ultimately to the destruction of the German Empire. When Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Serbia in June 1914, the Kaiser viewed this as an opportunity to expand his empire through ‘legitimate’ war.60 War broke out a month later and finally came to an end with an armistice on November 11, 1918. Calls for the Kaiser to abdicate by the German people began when it was apparent that Germany would be defeated. On November 9, 1918, Wilhelm decided to abdicate the imperial throne, but not the Prussian throne. This idea, however, was knocked down when his chancellor, Max von Baden, announced to the public that the Kaiser had already abdicated both thrones. The public’s jubilant reaction forced Wilhelm to sign a statement of abdication of both thrones on November 28, 1918.61 Germany being too dangerous now for the Emperor to stay, he took his family and entourage and fled to the Netherlands where he lived the remainder of his life never to set foot in Germany again.

Wilhelm’s abdication was ultimately the fall of the German Empire which had lasted only forty-seven years. Under the reign of his grandfather, Wilhelm I, Prussia became the dominate power in the German-speaking world and a major power in European politics. The original goal was to reestablish the Holy Roman Empire which had collapsed earlier in the nineteenth century, however, Wilhelm II’s recklessness in the First World War defeated that dream.

The last part of the series is the conclusion.

This entry is part of a multi-part series. You can find all of the entries either on the Nineteenth Century German History project page or in the category of the same name.


40 Müller, 175.
41 The Preußischer Verfassungskonflikt. See Nipperdey, 749.
42 Müller, 174.
43 Christopher Clark, The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2006), 522.
44 Müller, 174.
45 Clark, 522.
46 Clark, 528-529.
47 Criswell, 592.
48 Criswell, 592.
49 Criswell, 592.
50 Criswell, 593.
51 Clark, 549.
52 Clark, 549.
53 Criswell, 594.
54 Clark, 557.
55 Clark, 558.
56 Clark, 585.
57 Criswell, 594.
58 Criswell, 594.
59 Clark, 594-595.
60 Criswell, 595.
61 Clark, 613.

Germania by Philipp Veit

By the end of the fifth decade of the nineteenth century, the prevailing atmosphere in Germany was that of extreme change. The people were tired of oppression, censorship and of the ruling class thinking of themselves as immune to these issues. Hans Joachim Hahn sums it up nicely when he writes that “a general feeling of imminent war was in the air.”23 Political unrest in other parts of Europe, such as France, as well as elements such as famine furthered this revolutionary feeling which finally burst in 1848. The results of the revolutions of 1848 and 1849 were to have a major impact on the political structure of the German government and ultimately lead to a truly unified German for the very first time.

Among the causes for the revolutions of 1848 and 1849 is the famine and hunger crisis which occurred in 1847. Failed harvests in 1846 and 1847 led to immense food shortages and ultimately led to a sharp raise in food prices. This had a “profound social impact”24 which led to massive emigration from Europe, specifically to North America, and to the hunger revolts of 1847. To obtain a better understanding of the crisis, in 1835 a German worker worked a full day for two five-pound loaves of bread, but by 1847, a full day‘s work only earned the worker a single five-pound loaf of bread.25 The hunger crisis peaked in 1847, but by then it had already done its job throughout Europe. In February 1848, a second revolution called the February Revolution broke out in Paris, France.

The February Revolution played an important role in the German revolutions of 1848 and 1849 in that it was the spark which set them off. As Wolfram Siemann writes, “only a single trigger was required to provide revolutionary thrust…[and the February Revolution] provided the German situation with the impetus which had been lacking”26 In Paris, the French king was disposed and a republic setup for the second time. Fear of war with France was once again came to the fore on every German’s mind which some parties even welcomed because they thought it might bring a republic to Germany.27 Although the revolution in France only lasted three days from February 22nd until the 25th, it spread the revolutionary mindset like wildfire across the border to the east.

Dresden Uprising in 1848

The foundations of the revolutions in Germany took place in March of 1848. Throughout the month, gatherings and demonstrations demanding simple freedoms such as freedoms of press, congregation, the right to have a people’s militia and the formation of a parliament with all of the German states arose all over Germany.28 In Vienna, students and workers demonstrated in the streets and major non-German ethnic groups within the Austrian Empire demanded their independence. On March 13th, the Austrian Chancellor Fürst Metternich finally ceded to the pressure by resigning and fleeing to the United Kingdom.29 Frederich Engels wrote that Metternich “had, with regard to [the lower classes], but one policy: to draw as much as possible out of them in the shape of taxation and at the same time to keep them quiet.”30 On the same day, the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I promised to grant a constitution. Five days later on March 18th, his counterpart in Prussia, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, surrendered to revolutionaries by verbally proclaiming that a constitution would be put into place. In Berlin a bloody confrontation involving the military occurred which resulted in 254 dead and many people from both sides wounded; on the 19th, the King ordered his troops back reassuring the public that a reorganization of the government would happen.31 Whether the King actually did anything to this end is debatable, although some sources claim that he ultimately helped form the Frankfurt National Assembly which was an important result of the revolutions.

Frankfurt National Assembly

Setup as a compromise between the two major factions of the revolutionary movement: the Democrats and the Liberals, the Frankfurt National Assembly turned out to be not much more than a concerted effort to establish a unified Germany under a semi-democratic central government. The Democrats and the Liberals, who were the result of a split in opinion of the revolutionaries, disagreed on which form of government should be setup. The Democrats wanted a republic based on the United States model and the Liberals wanted a constitutional monarchy based on the British model.32 The Frankfurt National Assembly was therefore setup as a temporary solution to this split opinion. Established on May 18, 1848, it was “to act as the highest legislative authority for the whole of the German Confederation.”33 It was composed of 585 elected members, but unfortunately while the intention may have been good, it was doomed to fail. The governments of the various German states paid no attention to it or to its goals of a unified Germany and it therefore “was the Parliament of an imaginary country.”34 One of its major failings was that it had no military power. In fact, Prussia went to war with Denmark in 1848 without paying any attention to the National Assembly whatsoever. It failed to bring political unity and a form of representational government to Germany in any way and “thus the pretended new central authority of Germany left everything as it had found it.”35

Although the Frankfurt National Assembly ultimately failed, it was a step which left important ramifications and helped Germany proceed to a unified empire in 1871. Its major legacy was the Paulskirchenverfassung, or the Constitution of St. Paul’s Church. The legislation which was to become the constitution was voted into law on March 28, 1848 and was meant to unify Germany under an emperor and an Imperial Constitution.36 For the position of emperor, the Prussian king, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, was chosen. He refused, however, to become emperor because he maintained that the National Assembly did not have the power or the authority to crown an emperor.37 Before it was disbanded on May 30, 1849, the National Assembly attempted to force the Prussian king to become emperor through a series of legislative acts.38 Although it, like most of the other projects undertaken by the National Assembly, ultimately failed, the Imperial Constitution was to later form the basis for the Weimar Constitution in 1919.39

The revolutions of 1848 and 1849 had significant consequences for future of the German-speaking states. It convinced the German people that eventually a unified Germany could be made possible if only done in the proper way. In the following years, a new empire under the king of Prussia would be brought to life by the same kind of idealism and attitude which prevailed in the revolutions of 1848 and 1849: unification, representation, civil rights and a constitution.

The next part of the series is The Rise and Fall of a New Empire (1850-1918).

This entry is part of a multi-part series. You can find all of the entries either on the Nineteenth Century German History project page or in the category of the same name.


23 Hans Joachim Hahn, The 1848 Revolutions in German-Speaking Europe (London: Pearson Education, 2001), 46.
24 Wolfram Siemann, The German Revolution of 1848-49, translated by Christiane Banerji (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 46.
25 Hahn, 52.
26 Siemann, 55.
27 Hahn, 46-50.
28 Mülller, 159.
29 Müller, 159-160.
30 Frederick Engels, Germany: Revolution & Counter-Revolution (New York: International Publishers, 1974), 35.
31 Müller, 159-160.
32 Hahn, 123.
33 Engels, 50.
34 Engels, 52.
35 Engels, 52.
36 Müller, 162.
37 Siemann, 198.
38 Siemann, 200-202.
39 Müller, 162.

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