Monthly Archives: August 2014

Bringing a photograph of death to life

If you love the lore of the Old West, you might been familiar with this iconic photograph of the Dalton Gang.

The Dalton gang, 1892

The Dalton gang, 1892
















Bob Dalton wanted to make sure his name would long be remembered, claiming that he could “beat anything Jesse James ever did–rob two banks at once, in broad daylight.” On October 5, 1892, the Dalton Gang attempted this feat when they set out to rob the C.M. Condon & Company’s Bank and the First National Bank in Coffeyville, Kansas. The robbery ended, however, with four of the five outlaws dead. Coffeyville became famous all over the country as the “town that stopped the Daltons.”

Now the city can’t seem to get enough of the outlaw gang. Using the photograph of their dead bodies, the local museum created mannequins and laid them out on the floor of an exhibit.

Dalton Defenders' Museum, Coffeyville, Kansas

Dalton Defenders’ Museum, Coffeyville, Kansas















And as an illustration of the impulse to step into the past, the town painted the image on the city sidewalks outside the bank. Yes, lie down on the sidewalk and have your picture taken with the dead Dalton Gang! It seems strange to commemorate death in such a manner, but we have an impulse to connect past events with real places — even step into it, or, in this case, lie in it. Add a photo opportunity and history is spread across modern media.

Interpreting Main Street

I will be participating roundtable discussion at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History in St. Paul. “Interpreting Main Street” will look at the ways that four communities interpret their historic commercial districts. Although I’ll be representing New Ulm, I’ve worked with the other three towns: Red Wing, Willmar, and Winona. The other panelists each bring a different perspective to the challenge of creating a museum without walls.

Come join us. Friday, September 19, 2014 from 2:00 to 3:15 p.m. The conference will be held at the Crowne Plaza St. Paul.