1890 Letters

February 23, 1890 letter to Ethan Keith from Henry Keith

February 23, 1890

To: Ethan Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Henry Keith, Stockton, CA

Writes about an idea he has for a gravity railroad that he thinks children would love and that “would gather in lots of dimes” for the two of them.

Scan of 1890-02-23 Henry Keith to Ethan Keith

Stockton Feb 23d [1]

Dear Brother[2]

Your letter to me a long time ago was received and aught to have been answered long ago. Well my life is like many others up hill and down but more up than down so far as hard times. Well it is a long road that never turns they say and I think mine has been a dead level for a while back. We are having a very dull year here so far and the out-look is not very bright. I owe Lois[3] a letter and will write here I hope before long. I have just written a letter to Hiram[4] at Tacoma.[5] I would go there in a minuet if I could get a situation. It is vey dull here no business to speak of and no prospect. I have an idea in my head and I would like to be where you are to work it up and try it. I will give you my scheme as best I can and you look at it and let me know what you think of it. My plan is to build a gravity Rail Road constructed something like this.[6]  The road to be on this plan[7] not round or circular but going we will say a distance of 400 feet turning and returning to point of starting descending from the station (which is elevated 5 feet from ground) to 1 foot “ “ [from ground] assending agan to same height of starting. Example – say we run down 200 feet rise agan 200 feet make our turn decend agan and rise agan to point of starting (or station). Now put upon this track a locomotive ie an engine having in all appearance a real machine built large enough for boy to get into. Say for instance, the boiler made of sheet iron cylinders steam down sand ___ smoke stack &c a good strong frame with wheels representing drivers and tracks with pistons and cranks running board and a nice Cab with head light and pilot with a tender to have attached a car or cars in which can be seated 12 or 16 persons in a car using electric power. I think I can or rather there could be a device of this kind gotton up and made to pay have the track made portable so it could be moved from place to place the same as they run these merry go rounds that you see at fairs. Charge 5 or 10 cts for so many rounds. You know there is nothing that will appeal to the wants of a child and that will make them jubilant like an engine and cars. Also have a schooner or ship rigged up on wheels if you like. I think a scheme like this would gather in lots of dimes. Give me your ideas and what you think offering suggestions as to track ie best way of constructing a track. If you like this idea and I could in any way get money to put it in operation I think we both might derive good from it. Please write soon.

Your Bro


P.S. Please tell Edwin he owes me a letter. Ask him if he got a photograph about Christmas time.


[1] While the year was not written, and the postmark on the envelope is smudged, it appears to have been written in 1890 as he wrote a letter on January 21st while he was living in Stockton and then on November 30, 1890, he wrote a letter from Oakland, California

[2] Henry and Ethan were half-brothers

[3] His sister, Lois (Keith) Clark Skinner

[4] His step-uncle, Hiram Crawford Jr.

[5] Hiram was probably visiting his daughter, Blanche (Crawford) Hessey, who lived in Washington State

[6] See letter scan

[7] See letter scan


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