Thursday, May 30, 2013

"An Untimely Death"

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

On May 18, 1904 the Newton Evening Kansan Republican reported the sad news of the "untimely demise" of a local businessman's pet alligator.  The seventeen year old alligator was six feet long and "had just begun to waken from his winter lethargy", when he suddenly became ill, rolling "around in a very turbulent fashion". He died later that evening.

Seventeen years before, Anson B. Conrad jokingly asked Alex Lupfer, a friend who was leaving for Florida, to send him an alligator.  Soon, a package arrived in the mail with two alligators.  One measured twelve inches and the other thirteen.  The larger reptile died a week later, but with careful nursing and frequent baths of hot water, Conrad was able to keep the smaller one alive. The alligator flourished in Newton. During the winter months Conrad kept the alligator in the basement of his home at 209 W Broadway, Newton. He fashioned a pen in his yard for for the summer months.  The reptile also spent time in the window of Conrad's Main Street Store.
Conrad's Drugs & Jewelry, 1901
501 Main, Newton
Western Journal of Commerce, p. 11
HCHM Photo Archives
Hundred of Newtonians have seen the 'gator in the show windows of the Conrad store, where it was placed every summer until it got so large and powerful it could not be trusted outside of its pen."
Interior Conrad's Drugs & Jewelry, 1901
501 Main, Newton
Western Journal of Commerce, p. 11
HCHM Photo Archives
The newspaper article concluded by noting; 
"Mr. Conrad is not grieving very deeply over the death of his pet, for it was becoming quite a burden.  During the summer he feeds it a mess of kidneys every day."
Anson Conrad was a successful jeweler and watch inspector for the Santa Fe Railroad.  He arrived in Newton with his father, Dr. J.D. Conrad and two brothers, Elmer E. and Weir C.* in 1882.  Anson apprenticed with jeweler Charles Mum for three years.  Beginning in 1885, he worked as a jeweler in   his brother's store, Conrad Bros & Dutcher located at 505 Main, Newton.  By 1905, two of the  Conrad brothers, Anson and Elmer E., had moved to their own establishment, Conrad's Drug's & Jewelry, at 515 Main, Newton.

500 Main Block, Newton, 1917
West Side
515 Conrad's Drug's & Jewelry
HCHM Photo Archives
On November 20, 1920, Conrad sold the jewelry business to N.R. Daugherty.  Anson B. Conrad, "a highly respected citizen of Newton"  died January 6, 1926 at the age of 58 years.

*Weir C. Conrad  owned Conrad Bros & Dutcher Dry Goods & Millinery and served as Newton mayor.

  • Newton Evening Kansan Republican, "Death of Mr. Alligator", 18 May 1904, p. 1
  • Newton Evening Kansan Republican, "A.B. Conrad", 6 January 1926, p. 5
  • "Western Journal of Commerce", Newton, Kansas 1901
  • "Newton, Kansas, Past and Present, Progress and Prosperity", 1911
  • "Newton Kansan 50th Anniversary Edition", 22 August 1922
  • Newton City Directories, 1885-1919
  • HCHM Photo Archives

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