Thursday, January 24, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday: Grandpa John's 1939 Treasure Island World's Fair Rodeo Program

I've been looking for this for AGES!!! It's a program and day schedule for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition (aka World's Fair) World's Championship Rodeo at Treasure Island, San Francisco. But that's not all: the day schedule for Saturday night, May 13, 1939, lists my Grandpa John Bartram along with several of his friends!

I always knew that Grandpa and his brother, Dutch, rode in the World's Fair rodeo that year. He told us lots of stories about his rodeo adventures, and we have this photo of him riding in one of the World's Fair parades. But definitive and documented proof that he actually competed in any of the events had always eluded me.

Well, eBay to the rescue! Every now and then, I head over to eBay and search for books or other ephemera that might be related to my ancestors (you'd be surprised how many of my kin made it into various historical books). A couple of months ago, I got it into my head to search for "Treasure Island 1939 rodeo" and up popped both the rodeo program and the schedule for one of the days that Grandpa John and his friends competed. Of course, I snapped them up immediately!

In addition to listing Grandpa competing in the Brahma Bull riding competition, the day program also lists Uncle Dutch as one of the competitors for the whole event. There were several other exciting rodeo attractions on night of May 13, including the famous rodeo trick rider, actor and stuntman, Montie Montana, as well as rodeo clown and bullfighter, Homer Holcomb, and his Brahma Bull Chariot.

To add to my delight, my eBay seller lives in San Francisco, and has offered to keep an eye out for any other Treasure Island rodeo ephemera for me. I *wish* the program still cost only 25 cents, but I feel like I got a bargain just by finding this actual treasure!

Grandpa John, riding bronc in another rodeo
I was so excited to finally put this documentation with Grandpa's World's Fair parade photo. I was even more happy to show it to my mom and the rest of Grandpa's family.

Since coming across this amazing find, I've been digging even deeper for more information on Grandpa John's rodeo experience at Treasure Island. I subscribe to a couple of different online newspaper archives, including NewspaperArchive, and have now found further evidence of Grandpa competing in the rodeo, and being INJURED. Here's an article from the May 20, 1939, Oakland Tribune that mentions Grandpa John being gored behind the ear by the very bull he was riding, and being saved from further injury (or worse!) by the aforementioned rodeo clown, Homer Holcomb. Wow!

So, what's the lesson here? I think it's to not just rely on and Google searches and other more obvious places to find documentation about our ancestors' lives. Start searching in more unlikely places like eBay, or even your local antique store. You never know what you're going to find!


  1. I love hunting on ebay for family treasures. I do searches for some of the more "unique" city names they lived in and I've come across postcards and more. I've never been quite as lucky as you. What a find!

    1. I've included your post on my Friday Favorites:

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love this entry. Love, MOM

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