Oscar Wilde’s Pony Tale

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Today is April 14, but what has it to do with Oscar Wilde, St Joseph, and the Pony Express?

April 14 is noted in history for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln as well as the sinking of the Titanic, however, the Google Doodle for today celebrates the 155th anniversary of the first Pony Express rider, whose journey to the west coast originated in St. Joseph, MO.  Google must know best because its choice for the day means we can cue Oscar Wilde.

Pony_Express'60_West_bound_1860
Rare postmark of the short-lived Pony Express (1860-61)

This is because on his lecture tour of 1882, not only was Oscar Wilde in St. Joseph in this very month, he stayed at The World’s Hotel, which had originally been the building that served as the eastern terminus of the Pony Express.

The cannon which inaugurated the opening of the Express was fired in front of the building on April 3, 1860 when it was known as The Patee Hotel.

The building is still there today, as Patee House Museum, fittingly devoted to a history of communications and transportation. In the museum’s Blue Room the George Warfel Westerners on Wood art collection features more than 40 life-sized portraits of famous westerners including Jesse James, who was shot dead in St. Joseph two weeks before Wilde’s lecture.

Wilde wrote to Norman Forbes Robertson and an unidentified correspondent from The World’s Hotel on April 19, describing the aftermath of the Jesse James shooting (Complete Letters, 164).

patee-house-museum

Coincidentally, I, too, have just reached St. Joseph in my chronology of Wilde’s lecture tour, and found that it is only city so far recorded where Wilde’s lecture hall and hotel are both extant structures. You can see them here.

Published by

John Cooper

John Cooper is a researcher, author, blogger and documentary historian. As a long-standing member of the Oscar Wilde Society in London, a founding member of the Oscar Wilde Society of America, and a former manager of the Victorian Society In America, he has spent 30 years in the study of Oscar Wilde, having lectured on Wilde, and contributing to TV, film, and academic journals including The Wildean and Oscholars. Online he is the designer, author and editor of this noncommercial archive Oscar Wilde in America, blogger, and moderator of the Oscar Wilde Internet discussion groups at Yahoo and Google. For the last 14 years he has specialized in new and unique research into Oscar Wilde in New York, where he conducts guided walking tours based on the visits of Oscar Wilde. In 2012 John rediscovered Oscar Wilde's essay The Philosophy Of Dress that forms the centerpiece to his recent book Oscar Wilde On Dress (2013).

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