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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Pair made a fortune,
thanks to steel

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
During the 1860s iron makers in England developed the Bessemer converter, which cut the cost of steel manufacturing drastically. American improvements on the process made steel products more economical and plentiful than ever before. The Industrial Age was on the horizon.

The 1890s introduced the process of galvanizing, which placed a coat of zinc over steel, thus preventing rust. This extended the life of the steel, made it easier to clean and gave birth to metal water storage tanks, underground pipe, better tinware and barbed wire. Each of these improvements made life in the rural areas much easier.

Another process, developed in the 1880s, was patented by the Niedringhaus brothers recently emigrated from Germany. Their invention allowed ordinary metal cookware to be coated with a granitelike enamel coating called porcelain. The coating sealed all porous areas of tin or cast-iron cookware allowing for easier cleaning, made it more attractive and provided healthier foods.

A tie to the Panhandle of Texas by the Niedringhaus brothers is interesting. Their process made them millionaires quickly, and as cattle and ranching was an attractive investment, they became one of the largest livestock concerns in the West.

They leased the White Deer Land and Cattle Company grasslands near Pampa for years running 25,000 to 30,000 head of cattle.

When the White Deer Land Co. began selling its choice farm land to settlers in 1892, the brothers moved the entire herd to Montana, requiring all summer and the work of more than 100 cowboys driving 10 herds of 2,500 head of cattle each. This was also one of the last large cattle drives from the Panhandle.

My favorite porcelain pan story comes from Onie Sims, formerly of Mobeetie. After receiving yo-yos for Christmas one year, Onie and his cousin decided to go on to bigger and better things by building a giant yo-yo. They could launch their monster from a treehouse located near the back door of their home.

After days of experimentation with various items they found nothing the right shape and weight for the sides of the yo-yo. At wit's end, they remembered the two, new, blue porcelain dish pans purchased by their mothers with hard-earned cream and egg money a few weeks before.

The pans were stolen, holes drilled in the center of the bottom, a bolt, washers and a pipe spacer added and the project completed by winding a small rope around the axis. They climbed to their tree house and with a little adjustment had the giant yo-yo performing beautifully.

By this time the demonstration had drawn a crowd consisting of papas and mamas who stood watching the performance of the yo-yo climbing up and down the rope.

When the yo-yo slowed down a bit the mothers realized the sides were made from their new dishpans, all heck broke loose.

Onie claims to this day, in spite of the lectures, hard spankings and general uproar resulting from the dish pan theft, it was worth it to see the giant yo-yo rolling up and down the rope.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" January 12, 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.
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