In 1910 you could become a fully trained Cowboy and obtain work on the great Rincon Ranch in San Antonio, Texas – all it would cost you would be $2.00.
That’s what the printed letter said, at least.
It well may have been on of the first mail-order schemes in the history of the U.S. Mail. Carl Smith sent these letters in many large cities in the North and East. The young men receiving these letters would often be filled with excitement – to be a real-life cowboy with a job in the West would be a dream come true! Mr. Smith promised that the Rincon ranch was in need of energetic, strong young men to be cowboys. All of the advantages and pleasures of the open range would be theirs, along with good wages and comfortable quarters. There was no downside to the offer. To make it even better, the Rincon ranch would pay your train fare to San Antonio! All he wanted was a note confirming your desire, along with $2.00 as “an evidence of good faith on your part.” Upon receipt, he promised to send the train ticket, valued at up to $30.00. Still, $2.00 in 1910 would be equivalent to about $50 today, so this was no small investment.
Imagine the disappointment of many young men when the train ticket never arrived. The official report stated, “From the way in which his letters met with $2.00 responses, it is evident there are many youths whose ambition is to ride the range and punch cattle.” However, in 1910 the cowboy had practically disappeared as a vocational choice.
Carl Smith took in a great deal of money but was himself rounded up and taken to the jail in Bexar County, Texas, charged with fraud. While in the jail, he said he got the idea after hearing of all the “maidens from the north” writing Texans to ask for names of cowboys who were interested in becoming husbands. “Scores” of such letters were received by Texas Governor Thomas Campbell every day. “Cowboys were relegated to the pages of fiction or history,” as a general rule by this time, and both the aspiring woman and the aspiring young man were destined for disappointment by the responses they received to their hopeful inquiries. ❦DMc.
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