Samuel Morse and the electric telegraph

“Greetings and thanks to the Telegraph fraternity throughout the world. Glory to God in the highest, on Earth Peace, Goodwill to Men.” And with these words Samuel Morse, the man whose name is inextricably linked with the invention of the electric telegraph, signed off his final message to the American people. A battery of carefully… Read More

Good old mules

Gilbert and Sullivan’s template for the ‘very model of a modern major-general’ in the Pirates of Penzance was the British Field Marshall Sir Garnet Wolseley. He published The Soldier’s Pocket-Book of Field Service in 1874, which formed the basis of field service regulations in armies around the world. In this book lies a rather dry-looking… Read More

Vets and animal welfare in the West

In May 1932, T. Swann Harding published The Metamorphosis of the Horse Doctor. In it he vividly described the life of a veterinary surgeon in rural Virginia before the 1870s. Carrying a bag of rudimentary instruments that included a knife, a needle and a ball of twine, these animal practitioners charged round their parish in… Read More

Camels in the Old West

In 1891 two thirsty gold prospectors, Shep Searcy and Charlie Fisher, were drinking from a muddy puddle on the western fringes of Death Valley, California. A sixth sense alerted the pair to the fact that they had company. Glancing up, they were transfixed by a sight neither would ever forget. There, silhouetted against the night… Read More

Will wolves return to Texas?

There used to be several subspecies of the grey wolf in Texas and now, to all intents and purposes, there are no wolves at all. They were driven out over the course of the twentieth century, the Mexican wolf practically becoming extinct and the red wolf often being reduced to interbreeding with coyotes. Their systematic… Read More

Pocket gophers

Unlike a pocket watch or a pocket dictionary, pocket gophers are so-named because of their large cheek pouches which, starting at the side of the mouth and going right back onto the shoulders, are lined with fur, open from the outside rather than into the mouth, and can be turned inside out for cleaning. There… Read More

Sheep herding and the Sheep Wars

The rearing of sheep was not an important enterprise in Texas at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The sheep themselves were mostly of a breed called ‘chaurros’, a lean, gaunt kind of sheep that looked almost like a goat. They were acceptable for mutton, but their wool was coarse and sparse and had limited… Read More