The Overland Westerners exhibit marks the 100th anniversary of an epic journey on horseback by four men and a dog, who visited every state capital in the continental United States; beginning in Washington State in 1912 and ending in San Francisco in 1915 at the Panama Pacific International Exposition. It is the longest documented horseback ride on record, covering 20,352 miles and 1,127 days in the saddle.
George W. Beck, a Bainbridge Island resident, convinced his brother Charles, brother-in-law J.B. Ransome and long-time friend R.G. Rayne, to join him in riding to every state capital in the country. They hoped to pay for the trip by selling magazine subscriptions, calendars and postcards, and soliciting donations after street-show appearances along the way. The riders obtained photos of themselves, their horses, and “Nip” the dog, in front of each capitol building, with either the governor or his representative.
Their arrival at the World Fair to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal was less than gratifying as far as bringing them great fame and fortune. Efforts to sign book deals and promote their story proved fruitless. George Beck summed it up: “The Pot of gold we have been pursuing had moved out, way out into the Pacific Ocean!”
The exhibit is mounted on both sides of four panels. In addition, there are life-sized horse and dog sculptures created by an island driftwood artist. The horse is in the front yard of the museum with a life-sized historic photo of the four men and a sign inviting visitors to “Join us on our journey!” The dog sits in front of the panels inside the museum. The exhibit displays photos, details, maps and journals about this little known, but extraordinary expedition. The panel text also includes a comparison of the capital cities’ populations 100 years ago with 2010 census totals.
Overland Westerners helps to bring local history to life and provide a broad access to primary source documents. The story of four men from Bainbridge Island is presented through a series of primary source photos and documents that prompts audiences to recognize and continue along the path of their epic journey. The Overland Westerners narrative is an important piece of Bainbridge Island history allowing the viewer to explore the four men’s journey at an individual learning pace in the digital environment.