A Clean Sweep at Silkville

Before you read on, look close at the photograph. Anything strange?

Silkville Kanas
Silkville Kansas

No, not the two boys or men sitting on top of the porch roof. Instead, look at the two young ladies in front holding brooms. What is your guess as to why?

Silkville was a commune on 3500 acres in Franklin county, Kansas. The site is 3 miles south of tiny Williamsburg, and 20 miles southwest of Ottawa, Kansas, the county seat.

Silkville was the brain child of a wealthy Frenchman from Bordeaux, Earnest Valeton de Boissiere and Charles Sears, president of the Fourierist North American Phalanx, a group promoting the idea of communal living. The project began in 1869 and ended in 1886, for economic reasons.

The year 1876 was the highlight for De Boissiere when his silk ribbons were awarded first prize over world-wide competition at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Centennial Exposition Hall 1876
Philadelphia Centennial Exposition Hall 1876

Back in Silkville, Kansas, de Boissiere and Sears built a three story, 60 room stone manor house two years earlier in 1874. Communal families shared meals in the dining room but lived in separate apartments. The house contained a library of 2,500 books, then the largest in Kansas. Curious locals from Ottawa, Kansas called the house the “Chateau” but de Boissiere preferred “phalanstery” a reference to the idea that his workers moved in close formation to achieve a common goal. Silkville benefited by being a flag stop on the Kansas City, Burlington and Santa Fe Railroad.

What about the brooms?

To make ends meet, Silkville diversified into the production of wine and cheese, as well as raising cattle. Making brooms became a cottage industry. The straw comes from broomcorn, a sorghum in the grass family. It grew exceptionally well in the Kansas. Thus, growing broomcorn and making brooms for local use and export was common.

That is Charles Sears, front left, next to the two young girls proudly showing their brooms.

brrom making at Silkville
broom making at Silkville

History of Silkville by Janelle Richardson, Great, Great Granddaughter of Claude Clair, silk ribbon maker of Saint Etienne, France and Silkville.


Vanishing Point

Vanishing point – “the point at which something that has been growing smaller or increasingly faint disappears altogether.” In art, “that point toward which receding parallel lines appear to converge.”

vanishing point

These images were taken on a fall day on the way to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in south central Kansas near Stafford. The vanishing point is easily observed by following the road to a point slightly above the horizon. Note that the tree lines also converge to this point, though less distinctly.


The principle is apparent every time we drive down a long highway. On summer days, the heat of the road seemingly makes the road disappear before reaching the end. Railroad tracks are another spot to observe parallel lines converge to a point. Why are we fascinated by vanishing points? Does it lie in the question of whether life fades away, or converges to a point, beyond which we can only wonder?



vanishing point

In 1435, Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), wrote down the theory of linear perspective, in his book, On Painting. First, an artist creates a “floor” (a stage on which objects will be placed) and draws a receding grid, a guide to the relative scale of all elements of the picture. The squares of the grid recede in size until disappearing.


Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) in his painting The Last Supper (circa 1495), used Alberti’s grid to create a vanishing point at the head of Christ. Just follow the lines in the wooden beams of the ceiling to the vanishing point. Image Wikipedia.



If Trees Could Talk

Cottonwood Tree
Old man Cottonwood

Ozzie spent this Sunday in Oz with Sammy and Toby and the Cottonwood trees.

Sammy is Ozzie’s skittish German Shepherd. Toby belongs to Hannah, Ozzie’s daughter. Toby is half Jack Russell Terrier half Mountain Cur.

Sammy is the alpha dog, but she prefers to stay by Ozzie’s side when they walk, only occasionally wandering off. If we are lucky, we spot a white-tailed deer and Sammy is off on the chase, but evolution has given the deer the advantage and Sammy always comes back without her prey. Toby is the curious one, ranging far and wide. Whenever they travel together, Toby is always first out of the car, always first into the lakes and streams, always last to want to go home.

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