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Ron & Donna Miller - Publishers

Popular Cap Pistol Likely To Have Been Used

Animated cap pistols were a cast-iron toy made by the J.E. Stevens Company of Connecticut in the 1880s. A simple pull of the trigger both fired a paper cap and set the subject matter into motion, in much the same way that the cast-iron mechanical banks of the same era worked

They were made in the shapes of a variety of characters and animals. Any found today will likely show signs of heavy use, because they were a popular plaything.

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Gold Leaf Layer Enhanced Glass

Zwischengoldglas was glass that contained gold leaf sandwiched, or cased, between two layers of glass. (Zwischen is the German word for between.) The two layers were fused together and then the entire piece was decorated.

The fused edge was gilded. The usual decoration was a scene or design painted in enamels.

The most common shape was a straight-sided beaker. Scenes ranged from commemoratives to hunting activities to domestic pictures.

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Hardy Mailman Crossed Mountains

In 1858, four years before the beginning of the Pony Express, a Norwegian rancher from the Sacramento Valley, John A. Thompson, read about the struggles to get mail across the icy rocks and through the gigantic snowdrifts of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Remembering his childhood, he made a pair of skis that were ten feet long and four inches wide. After some practice runs, he applied for a job as mail carrier from Placerville, California, to Carson City, Nevada. There was no competition and he became the sole mail link between California and the rest of the United States.

Going east took three days, due to the large climbs on the Placerville side. Coming back, he cut the travel time to two days as he whizzed down the slopes. Storms never stopped him and blizzards did not keep him from his schedule. For 20 winters, this hardy mailman crossed the Sierra Nevada mountains and always came through with his load.

Thompson did his job with a sense of pride, but Congress made no appropriations for his services for the first two years. The people who received the mail promised to pay him if the government didn’t.

His tombstone in Genoa, Colorado, has the simple legend, “Snowshoe Thompson,” and a pair of skis was carved as part of the epitaph.

His route was followed by pack trains, the Pony Express, stagecoach, railways and, eventually, the airplane.

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