Orville Ewing’s Odyssey Begins

Orville Ewing called himself  an “artist from the Old West”. He crisscrossed the United States in his covered wagon/trailer with his menagerie for about 30 years, selling literally thousands upon thousands of different postcards of himself over the years and described in my previous post  “Orville Ewing’s Postcards”  A sample is shown below:

Orville Ewing in San Francisco 1938

Orville’s own words on many of his postcards state,

I was an artist until 1937 when too much paint got into my system and I was forced to give up this work. In 1938 I started out for the San Francisco World’s Fair, arriving in 1939. Soon after my arrival I shipped my outfit back to Colorado and then started for the New York World’s Fair. I arrived in New York in 1940 and was back again in Colorado in 1941.

This language is common on many of the postcards without much more being told.  Therefore, I am going to rewind a bit to 1938 to document a bit more of his story. On the same day that newspapers throughout the U.S. reported that Hitler’s Germany invaded Austria and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were Shattering Week -Day Attendance Records there was also a tiny article titled “Colorado Ox Starts Long Pull to S.F.”  on page 7 of the  March 11, 1938 edition of the The Fresno Bee The Republican (Fresno, California)reporting that Orville Ewing of Pritchett Colorado was starting a trip to San Francisco.

Traveling from Pritchett to San Francisco today by car would be a serious road trip even by current  standards.  Any route would be in the range of 1500 miles as shown in the Google Map below, however, imagine for a moment taking the trip via a wagon pulled by oxen.

Oxen may have been the the norm in the days of the Oregon Trail, but Orville began this adventure…no let’s call it an odyssey, in 1938.  This was not just any trip.  It was going to be an estimated 15 month trip, as described by Ewing, to deliver a letter of greeting from Pritchett mayor Earl Deeds to officials of the Golden Gate Exposition, which was a World’s Fair celebrating the opening of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge opened in 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937.  It was also the beginning a 30 year odyssey .

Odyssey definition orville

Source: Merriam Webster

The beginnings of this trip were described in the Fresno paper  “an ox drawn stagecoach equipped with a radio and a nanny goat which will provide his dairy en route to the 1938 Worlds fair”.  Little did the writer of this this article know that the 1500 mile journey was the beginning of a more than 30 year trek back and forth across America with this strange menagerie.

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