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I've bumped up a related thread, but it occurs to me that it might be worth discussing or looking at the general use of horses between WWI and WWII.
This is the reason why.
I suspect that in general the average student of history, to include even the professional students of it, being familiar with the world in which they now live, have little idea of how recent that world is.
It is quite true that the 1920s and 1930s are part of the auto age. But they really weren't out of the horse age yet either. That's explored below in the thread on the Industrial Revolution, somewhat.
But it strikes me as perhaps significant to realize how much the horse and mule were still used in the 30s. In farming, delivery, and even in industry they were still in widespread use.
Conversely, many of the military motorized things we now view as archetypical Army were not yet. The Jeep, for example, was such a new thing at the start of the American involvement in WWII that it had not yet made it to the Philippines by the time the Japanese invaded it. When you are watching a movie showing Jeeps in use in the Philippines in 1941 and 1942, or in use at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, you are watching an error in the movie.
The 6x6 truck, the real mechanical marvel of WWII, was also pretty know. The Artillery branch, which went into trucks early, had been experimenting with them for over a decade, but they were still new. It's no wonder that GMC, Studebaker, International, and Mack all made different variants of the 6x6 in WWII. The 4x4 trucks made by Dodge were really almost a brand new marvel, that would revolutionize rural life, when the Army started purchasing them just before WWII.
I guess that brings up the question of why this matters. I guess that reason would be this. Americans in 1940 were not a backwoods people, nor were Canadians. And the English of 1939 were not living in Shakespeare's time. But the armies we see of today didn't exist yet either. In order to understand how those armies really worked, and what those men regarded as routine, a person might have to know what the world was like in 1920 and 1930, and of course 1940. That world was a motor world, in Western Society, but it wasn't our motor world of today. That is, it wasn't to the same extent, or perhaps remnant of the pre motor age were still quite large.
I can recall the use of horses even into the 1940s. My grandparents lived on a standard 1/4 section farm about 30 miles southwest of Topeka. They bought their first tractor, a Farmall, in the late 1930s, but my grandfather continued to use his horses for many things. I can recall shucking corn with a shucking peg which was a steel hook on a leather pad that attached to the palm of your hand. You would cut down the side of the husk, break out the ear and throw it against the bang board on the opposite side of the wagon. The ear rebounded from the board into the wagon pulled, of course, by two horses. After the wheat was cut and bundled by a tractor-pulled binder, it was shocked and left in the field until the threshing machine or separator was available. Then the horse-drawn hay wagon would go around the field and the bundles were thrown on to the wagon and taken to the separator. I can remember attempting to plow the garden with a moldboard plow pulled by a team. That was a really difficult job for a 10 year old to guide the team and keep the point of the plow in the ground in the right place. In Topeka, even into the mid-1940s, our milk was delivered by a milkman with a enclosed wagon pulled by a single horse. One of the ice cream companies also had horse-drawn enclosed delivery wagons which made regular routes on hot summer days. So I would agree with Pat that horses were used much later than most people today would realize.
A couple of similiar recollections here. Around here, of course, horses are still used for raising livestock, so they haven't disappeared. But before the war in the bigger cities there was still some urban use going on. My late father once told me about visiting his grandmother's house in Denver. This must have been in the late 30s, or perhaps early 40s. She still had an ice box, and still received a delivery of ice. The ice was delivered by wagon. Denver was a substatial city already at that time.
My mother has a simliar memory of that occuring in St. Lambert QE where she grew up. More specifically she recalls here cousins dog barking routinely at the horses when they came by on the delivery. The cousin lived next door.
I have a photo she took in St. Lambert of men plowing snow with a horse drawn team. This would be in the early 40s. It is near a set of railroad tracks, and she doesn't recall why she took it, so I'm unsure if it depicts a street being cleared or some work by railroad workers, but they're definately doing it with a horse drawn snowplow.
A good friend of mine's father was an agricultural professor, now retired. He has a photo up in his house of himself, as a young man, plowing a field with mules. When I asked him about it he told me the photo was taken just before he left to go into the Army for the Korean War. The mules had been sold the following year. I'm not sure what year he entered the service for the Korean War, but that would place the photo no earlier than 1950.
A lot of farm and ranches around here have derlict implements laying around. I generally find that they date from the 20s and 30s. A lot of them seem to be Depression era homesteads. Prior to 1932 the land was still open for entry, and quite a few desperate people tried to homestead the remaining open ground. Some tried to farm it. Based on the junk laying around, quite a few tried to use horses to farm it. This would only be a decade prior to WWII for some of these, meaning that a lot of the kids exposed to that would have been of the same generation that fought WWII.
I well recall horse-drawn mowers in use for pasture improvement and weed control(not haymaking), as late as the mid-1960s.
I'm sure horses were used in the logging industry to some extent well into the 20th century.
Don't attract gunfire. It irritates the people around you.
Indeed, they still are in some places. Horse farming continues also, but where they do horse logging, it seems to be driven by economies of scale and environmental concerns, as primary concerns.
Having said that, nobody horse logs around here, so I have no first hand information on it.
Here in central Pennsylvania the work horse is live and well. There is a fairly substantial Amish community with horses and mules. They generally use standardbreds for pulling buggies. Belgians are popular draft animals. There is some non Amish horse logging. They are prefered for small lots and areas where they will do less damage pulling out logs. Interestingly, they often are equiped with horse diapers, especially in watershed areas. We are also a center (perhaps THE center) of Percheron draft horse interest. A highlite of our local summer Grange Fair is a competition of six horse hitches.
I remember the milkman walking briskly from door to door as his white horse brought the wagon up the street at a slow walk. This was the late 50's early 60's but we lived in a small town. As kids, we'd play on the milk wagon by the creamery after they had switched to Vans.
Across the back alley from our house was the blacksmith shop. Actually he was a welder/fabricator but he did farrier work too. In the summer there were always horses tied to our back fence waiting their turn. I think that is where my addiction to horses began.
I was in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia in 1972/73. This was a city of some 30,000 people or so. They called it a one horse town because there was one old fellow who still delivered to the busnesses in town with a flat deck wagon pulled by a sulky. It was great to be in the park when they would trot up the street, then stop and BACK up this long alley to a loading dock at the end.
Actually the town I live in now they tell me that the hitching rails in front of the Mainstreet hotels weren't taken out until the street was paved in the 70's. After the Shell plant came in.
Still, with all these viniets(sp?), how can we get into the minds of those from the twenties and thiries where horse transport was being viewed as old time while the motor vehicle was the way of the future![hno]
"ACER ET CELER"
We lived in Chicago for a time whan I was a boy in the early '60s. At that time there were still horsedrawn wagons pulling some vendors. They were rare, but they were there.
Indeed, horse for livestock work are the norm here, so the use goes on. Horse farming, on the other hand, has completely disappeared. here. Some places use horses for feeding hay, but I've never seen it done, and it is not terribly common.
Ranches prior to WWII, and therefore before the common 4x4 truck, employed more people than they do now. As I've mentioned in other threads, the real effect of the truck was to reduce the number of cowboys needed. Farms were smaller back then to, so a higher percentage of the population were from rural areas, which is not to say that they all were by any means. Still, it's part of the picture.
In reading this it occurs to me that just around the corner from where I work, there's a ring in the sidewalk for hitching a horse. Or, perhaps I should say, that there might be. They're rebuiding the sidewalk and took most of it out, I'll bet it's now gone.
I wish I'd thought of that before they took it out, if they did. I think I'd have asked for it.
My Grandfather on my Mother's side was the last of a long line of commercial horse hirers in London. The family are Gypsy and had always been involved in horse flesh.
I can remember, as late as the 1960's that he had over 60 horses for hire. stabled under railway arches in central London. These horses were hired out to all sorts, from Greengrocers to Rag and Bone men. He was a very tall man who wore cherry red coloured boots, a brown overal and a dark brown beaver hat.
One of the memories I have is standing holding this big mans hand ( I was about 6) and one o his hostlers saying to him 'can I get another days work out of this one Ben?' and him saying, 'trot him up and lets see'.
Now that has all gone and the arches under the railway lines are now garages or empty.
Pat... here in the Northwest horse logging is done in the back-country wilderness areas where the government forbids any kind of motor vehicle. Large jobs are done with helicopter, but small jobs on trails, moving logs to landings for helicopter pickup, etc. are done with teams.
That reminds me of when I was living in British Columbia. There were several "Horse Logging" operators in the Nelson area. The folk at the north end of Kootenay Lake were very concernec about the forests and the environment one of the residence needed some trees removed from around their property, they naturally hired one of these "Horse Logging" firms.
The short and the long of it was that the property owners were pleased as punch when the trailer arrived with the big Belgians and all their harness. When the fallers started up their chainsaws, the property owners threw a fit!! For some reason they thought that horse logging also ment axes or hand saws. Once the loggers stopped laughing they got on with the job.
As was pointed out, horses are most suitable for sensitive or areas where the large equipment cannot go. These loggers were using the best <i>modern</i> resorce for their type of opperation. They were not turning back the clock.
"ACER ET CELER"
You've touched on an aspect of this that is widely misunderstood.
Merely because something has been with us for a long time does not make it obsolete, nor quaint. Conversely, merely because something has been recently invented does not make it universally superior to the things that came before it.
This is the case with horses, as much as anything else. Even in today's' world the horse remains the best tool for the job in certain circumstances. It's use doesn't equate with a romantic refusal to leave the past. Nor does it mean that those who use them in this fashion have refused to employ modern tools where they work better. This gives a good example. Using horses to skid logs makes sense in some instance. Avoiding the chain saw, on the other hand, would be demonstrative of something else.
Avoiding the chain saw.. gadzooks! What a thought! I have bucked firewood with an old time two-man loggers crosscut saw. It was real work. Felling trees would be even harder work. To do much of that by choice in today's world would be indicitave of loonacy (because even doing it with chainsaws is hard work, too).
In New Brunswick, horse logging is not unusual on small woodlots and hilly terrain. There are some families about who have been breeding their own draft horses since the nineteen-oughts at least.
<i>Stories that begin with "Last seen in a bar" generally don't end well!</i>
For those who wonder about the use of the horse within the US Army prior to and in the early days of WWII, one must remember that horse cavalry and horse logistics were standard features in all armies in 1939. The Polish cavalry fought bravely, if not well, even against panzers, in 1939 and the Russians used horse cavalry throught the war. The German Army was horse based throught the war, outside of the Panzer divisions, and the 1944 organization still retained a horse mount for the infantry company commander, as well as horse logistics in the company. It is also worth noting that the US Army used pack horses throught the Italian campaign in 1943. As was noted in another forum, the US Army SOCOM used horses as mounts quite effectively in the Afghan campaign.
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