Monday, October 26, 2009

Globeville: the Melting Pot

The arrival of so many immigrants to Globeville was the product of perfect timing. The rapid growth of industry in Colorado during the 1870s and 80s motivated employers to recruit people who would work for less than American-born workers even as economic, religious and political unrest in eastern Europe and Russia led hundreds of thousands to emigrate. Agents from the railroads and the Gilpin County Cheap Labor Bureau distributed fliers that promised lucrative jobs on the railroads and in the mines; smelters welcomed those who would endure the gritty, dangerous work near furnaces. These factors led to an explosion in the number of immigrants arriving during the 1880s, and by the mid 1890s, one in four people in Denver was foreign-born.* Then the bottom fell out.
The nation’s economy collapsed in 1893, which hit Colorado’s mining-based economy particularly hard. Late arrivals found themselves competing with American-born workers, as well as with earlier groups, for fewer jobs. The newcomers were resented because they would work for lower wages, had large families, and didn't speak English. Settling near their countrymen, they created ethnic enclaves within a larger neighborhood, and did not assimilate as easily as the earlier immigrants had done. Although Globeville was called a “melting pot,” the term is not an accurate description since each group tried to maintain its own language, religion and cultural traditions. These groups include:
  • The German-speaking group, who came not from Germany, but from a region of Russia along the Volga River.
  • The Poles, who began to migrate to the United States following partitions of Poland among Russia, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary that began in 1772. More political unrest in the 1870s and 1880s brought large numbers to Globeville.
  • Southern Slavs, including Slovenians, Croatians, Macedonians, and Serbs, who came from an area that had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  • There were also Russian, Slovak, Czech and “Carpatho-Russian” families, whose countries had been annexed by Austria-Hungary or Russia.
  • Hispanic settlers, some who can trace their family's presence in America to the 16th century, began to settle in Globeville after World War II.
*Leonard, Stephen J. “Denver’s Foreign Born Immigrants, 1859-1900,” Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Claremont Graduate School, 1971
A printed advertisement from the turn of the century announces, “The Slovenian Singing Club will sing Slovenian folk songs in the City’s Fourth of July program.” The women are left, Carrie Grugan, and right, Mollie Zalar. Photo courtesy of Betty Zalar Paprocki

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shorty Maynard, Circus Clown, 1882 - 1950

He was born to strict Catholic parents in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1882 and, at thirteen years of age, was expected to work in a shoe factory for 10 cents a day. At that point, Rudolf E. Pigeon did what most young people only dream of doing: he ran away and joined the circus.
Pigeon began performing with the Menard troupe of acrobats, traveling the East Coast with the Hagenbeck Wallace Circus. In 1906, he moved out West and joined the Sells-Floto Circus, owned by Frederick Bonfils and Harry H. Tammen, co-owners of the Denver Post. Known professionally as Shorty Maynard, Pigeon developed routines that drew on his acrobatic ability and love of animals. The mule hurdle had him riding atop the animal’s head, then hanging on to its tail to be dragged around the sawdust ring several times. Pigeon created an audience favorite with Bill, the Trained Goose, and the duo performed tricks for a dozen seasons.
During the off-season, performers found other jobs and pursued other interests. For
Pigeon, that interest was Ada Morgan, and they were married on December 28, 1912. By the time Pigeon joined the Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Baily Circus in 1916, he and Ada had started a family.
After years of
circus life and travel, an exhausted Pigeon retired in 1920. He operated John’s Pool Hall in Sterling, which became a casualty of the farm recession after World War I. Pigeon then moved his family to Globeville and sought out his old friend Harry Tammen, who arranged a a job for him with Swift and Company. He worked there for more than twenty years.
Daughter Carol Christensen recalls, “I remember my dad walking across that bridge at 46th Avenue every morning at 5 am to go to work in the packinghouse. He didn’t make much money, but we always paid our bills on time.”
Pigeon lived quietly with his wife Ada, daughters Florence and Carol, and son Charles in  Globeville, where he died on August 14, 1950 of heart failure.
The man who had
dedicated his life to making people laugh would be pleased to know that he is still entertaining crowds. His gravestone, Block 13, Lot 9, at Denver's Riverside Cemetery is engraved with his image as a clown, and is a popular destination on tours.

Photo courtesy of Carol Christensen 
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan