The Civil War Era Woman’s Relief Corps

Did you know that after the civil war there was a northern women’s organization, the W.R.C, who put cast iron markers on the graves of some veterans. The markers, like this one in the Midtown Mercantile Mall in Tucson, Arizona, are highly desired by collectors of Civil War memorabilia. This lovely example can be found in space #229 for only $75.

Civil War Grave Marker in Space #229

The Woman’s Relief Corps (W.R.C.) is the official women’s auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic. (The G.A.R. was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the union army.)  

Woman’s relief corps 1907

The W.R.C. is one of the many women’s organizations that were founded after the American Civil War. It began in 1879 when a group of Massachusetts women started this “secret” organization. The members were to be women who were loyal to the North during the Civil War. They were officially recognized in 1883.

While it might be easy to assume that this organization was only for white women, there were many posts across the country that had African-American women as members as well.

Collecting items like this brings history right into your home. Just imagine the story behind it! Come on in and check it out. 

W.R.C. Antique Postcard

Carol Fenn 2-2017

Hurricane Lamps ~ A Little History

Don’t you just love hurricane lamps like this one in space #333 (priced at only $39) … It’s at the Midtown Mercantile Merchants antique mall here in Tucson.

In space #333

There is something about these lamps that is just, frankly, romantic. For example, just the thought of a hurricane lamp could give me the first lines of a novel I might write one day … “Reading his letters by the shimmering light of a hurricane lamp she felt alone and desperate. Would he ever come back to her?” 🙂

Bradley & Hubbard circa 1905

A hurricane lamp is a special lamp designed to work in high winds because it has a tall glass chimney that protects the flame from being blown out. It was invented in 1780 by Francois-Pierre Aime Argand, the son of a Swiss watchmaker. This style of lamp can be a candle lamp, an oil lamp, or today, electric in the decorative style of a hurricane lamp. (Like the one in space #333.) Often used on ships they are also known as a storm lantern. The oil based model usually has an adjustable knob to raise and lower the wick in order to adjust the light. 

Note the adjustable knob on the side

One style of hurricane lamp is the “Gone With The Wind Lamp”, named after the Academy Award winning movie. This lamp will usually have a fancy top and bottom, which is often hand painted.  

Scene from Gone With The Wind

Some people collect hurricane lamps which can be quite interesting as they have varied in style over the years. If this interests you come on in the mall as we usually have a few that our merchants have gleaned from estate sales, etc.

A collection

Carol Fenn 2-2017

Cowboy Boots ~ Keepin’ You Safe

It’s rodeo season in Tucson! Here in the Midtown Mercantile Mall you’ll usually find a couple pairs of cowboy boots but recently our merchant in space #777 filled his space with them! It got me to thinking about why cowboy boots look the way they do. Most of the anatomy of the boot is about safety.

Cowboy boots, etc. in space #777. Come in and check them out!

When mounting and dismounting, the slick, treadless leather sole of the boot allows easy insertion and removal of the foot into the stirrup of the Western saddle. 

The WRONG way to wear your boots. Only a “dude” tucks ’em in!

While in the saddle, the tall heel minimizes the risk of the foot sliding forward through the stirrup, which could be life-threatening if it happened and the rider were to be unseated. If a rider falls from a horse but has a boot caught in the stirrup, there is a risk that the horse could panic and run off, dragging the cowboy, causing severe injury and possibly death.

He’s wearin’ them right.

The tall leather shaft of the boot helps to hold the boot in place in the absence of lacing. The tall loose fitting shaft and lack of lacing all are additional features that help prevent a cowboy from being dragged since his body weight would pull his foot out of the boot if he fell off while the boot remained stuck in the stirrup. While mounted, the shaft also protects the lower leg and ankle from rubbing on the stirrup leathers. While dismounted, the shaft helps protect the leg and foot from rocks, brush, thorns, and rattlesnakes. 

A vintage boot collection

So if you need cowboy boots come in and get ’em! And now you know that they’ll keep you safe as well! Safe on a horse that is … probably not in Tucson traffic LOL

A beautiful old, well worn, working pair.

Carol Fenn 2-2017

The Surprising History of Trail Dust Town

I’m always surprised when I meet people who live in Tucson and they don’t know about Trail Dust Town, that charming little western town near the corner of Grant and East Tanque Verde Road. You know, the one with the covered wagon out front? It’s a fun place to take your kids, have a steak dinner, visit a museum or watch a Wild West stunt show!

I’m not surprised though when I learn that most people don’t know about it’s history.

I’ve lived here for over 25 years but I didn’t know until recently that this charming little oasis was built from the abandoned western movie set of an unfinished 1951 Glenn Ford movie.

Glenn Ford – “Not sure why we never finished that little movie in Tucson.”


In 1960, with the backing of a small group of businessmen, W. Howard Hamm developed the three acres. He turned it into a late 1800’s style western town with dining establishments, little stores and site appropriate entertainment … including staged shootouts between “feuding” cowboys.

Original photo from 1960 AZ Daily Star


Soon after opening though, the battles turned all too real! In 1963 and 1964 Trail Dust Town was at the center of a mini war over vending machine concessions. (!) The town was the fifth establishment within eight months to be targeted by bombers in what local police called an escalating “power struggle” between local mob families. Thank goodness the bombings were just mostly threatening. The fuse would be lit and the dynamite was tossed onto the roof of a business.  

Stunt show


After surviving the bombings of the 1960’s this little Tucson treasure has amassed a number of historical artifacts, including an Allan Herschell merry-go-round which was manufactured in 1954. It still has its original horses and benches.

Historic carousel

Trail Dust Town is also home to a non-profit history museum; Museum of the Horse Soldier. The museum chronicles the history of U.S. mounted military service. It is notable for having one of the nation’s largest public displays of artifacts from the era of the military horse, including original period saddles, uniforms, weapons, firearms, and ephemera. Some of the museum’s highlights include the only Civil War collection available to the public in the state of AZ and rare U.S. military saddles from the 1830s to present day. 

Going thru the mine can be scary! … but fun!


Opening in 1962, the Trail Dust Town steakhouse, Pinnacle Peak, became famous for good food and good fun. In 1971 it burned to the ground but it came back better than ever. 

 Their “No Ties Allowed” policy has always been a part of the Pinnacle Peak fun. If you wear a tie, they will cut it off and display it on their wall for all to see! If you aren’t wearing a tie and want to go through the fun of having it sliced off you can pop into the General Store and they’ll sell you one that’s ripe for cutting! 

If you decide to visit Trail Dust Town it’s best to go in the evening. The lights are twinkling and this is when the Wild West shows occur. Have fun when you go!

Trail Dust town train

Carol Fenn 2-2017