In May 1912, Bainbridge Island logger George Beck convinced his younger brother Charles “Slim” Beck, their brother-in-law Jay Ransome, Jay’s co-worker Raymond “Fat” Rayne, and a dog named “Nip” to accompany him on a road trip to every state capital in the continental United States, taking a photograph with each governor. The 20,352-mile journey, beginning in Washington and ending in California, took three years to complete and set a world record for the longest horseback ride in history.
Along the way, the group encountered townspeople whose reactions ranged from interested, to indifferent, to suspicious (yet friendly). Lodging included barn floors, haystacks, and abandoned buildings. The road itself was not always forgiving either – traveling through steep, mountainous terrain, over swampland, and across rivers each had their own perils. George Beck kept detailed records of the journey in several notebooks, two of which survive in BIHM’s archives.
Winner of a 2014 Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History, “The Overland Westerners” features all 48 photographs of the men at each state capital, including information on the date the picture was taken, the state’s governor, and the capital’s population at the time. Quotes from the Overland Westerners themselves tell amusing first-hand accounts of the delightful trouble that four guys, a pack of horses, and a feisty dog can get themselves into on a 3-year, cross-country road trip. The exhibit was recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau on Instagram.