Thursday, March 27, 2008

Idaho Historical Marker Program / Statewide Film Recognition proposal

Letter of concern sent to Dr. James Loewen:

I have some news from Idaho that I thought you would find interesting.

Last year, after reading your book, Lies across America, with historical signage on the brain, I came up with a suggestion for the Idaho Department of Transportation to recognize the filming of Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider with a sign north of Ketchum, near the Boulder Mountains.

The open-minded administrators of the Highway Dept. immediately liked the idea. In the past, I have had other good experiences with employees there, regarding suggestions and have usually been impressed by their progressive thinking, and engaging responses. This time, they even asked for my input, concerning the legend for the sign. So, I roughly drafted the following:

Pale Rider Legend

“In autumn of 1984 Clint Eastwood’s well crafted Western, Pale Rider was filmed in above quaking aspens, with these Boulder Mountains used a backdrop. With a theme as timeless as these mountains, a nameless preacher protects a poor prospecting town from a gang of ruffians sent by a greedy mining corporation, to intrude on their claim. Many local Idahoans starred as ‘extras’ in the stunning film, which was a predecessor to Clint’s 1992 Academy award-winning Unforgiven.”

The Highway Department works in conjunction with the Idaho Historical Society to approve deny or edit these sign legends. After submitting this, I didn’t hear anything back for a few months, until one day I received this:


Please let me know when you get this email so I can make sure it went through. I'm not sure the sign changes are exactly what you had in mind, but this is what the State Historical Society has come up with.

Hope this helps,



From: Steve Holland
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 2:52 PM
To: 'Suzi Neitzel'; Brett J Purvis; Mike Mcguire
Cc: Carl Horn; Larry Bolton; Bruce Christensen
Subject: FW: Two more signs


Ok we will put the two in the works.

Steve C. Holland

Transportation Staff Eng. Asst.

Office of Highway Operations and Safety

P.O. Box 7129

Boise, ID 83707-1129

208-334-8565 (Phone)
208-334-4440 (Fax)


From: Suzi Neitzel []
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 1:34 PM
To: Steve Holland
Subject: Two more signs


I revised the Wood River Mines sign to include a sentence about Pale Rider. I also had Ken Reid, our state archaeologist, revise the Prehistoric Man sign. We want to rename that one “Prehistoric Hunter.” Please see attached and let me know what you think.

We are still going to wait to revise the Bison Jump sign outside of Challis. They are going to be doing more archaeology up there and some interp at the site that we should be compatible with.



5:25 AM

Current & proposed signage said...


Wood River Mines



Rich strikes in 1879 led to a rush to the lead and silver mines of this valley Eventually, the famous Minnie Moore Mine alone produced a total of $8.4 million worth of ore.

Mining quickly brought a railroad and prosperity, and for a time this was the leading region of Idaho. Hailey had Idaho’s earliest phone service (1883) and three daily newspapers. A Ketchum smelter pioneered electric lighting in Idaho. But times changed: lodes ran out, mining declined, and now these hills attract more skiers than miners.

Sign #154



Rich strikes in 1879 led to a rush in the lead and silver mines of this valley. The famous Minnie Moore Mine alone produced a total of $8.4 million worth of ore.

Mining quickly brought a railroad and prosperity. A Ketchum smelter pioneered electric lighting. Hailey soon had Idaho’s earliest phone service and three daily newspapers. But lodes ran out and mining declined. Now these hills attract more skiers and actors than miners. In 1984, Clint Eastwood filmed his movie Pale Rider near here.

Bruce was right. This wasn’t quite what we had hoped for, but at least they did amend a mining sign to include reference to the movie. Besides the cost of installing and maintaining a new sign, I suspected that the reference to the ‘greedy mining corporation’ had something to do with their decision to decline a full new sign; particularly when considering the many things you pointed out about “licking the corporate hand that feeds you,” in your entry about the National Mining Hall of Fame and museum in Leadville, Colorado.

Meanwhile, I passed on the Pale Rider suggestion to Professor Tom Trusky, director of the Idaho Film Archive. He, too, liked the idea and expanded it with a “Statewide Movie Recognition Proposal.” Just this week, The Idaho Legislature passed a bill to create a fund to offer incentives to films and TV shows made in Idaho. Therefore, I thought the time ripe to asked Idaho leaders to revisit Tom’s proposal, submitted letters about it for publication in several local newspapers, and since then have received some interesting feedback:

Part of the feedback in the comments section of the above link, mentions an interest from an individual with powerful movie-industry connections. He said that he would like to see such a program for every state and would be willing to donate posters, etc. to the cause.

However, as keyed up as I am about this new highway prospect, I’ve also become suddenly concerned that if this seed idea for recognizing films in conjunction with state historical marker programs, does develop into a project of greater magnitude, perhaps we’ve opened a whole new can of worms. Because after all, once we start commemorating movies that distort history – as so many do - then perhaps we will be further distorting history.

I wondered what your thoughts are about this.

Thank you and best regards,


P.S. A few years ago, I passed on your entry about the massacre that never happened in Almo, Idaho to one of our local newspaper columnists. He often goes hiking and climbing down there in the City of Rocks and I expected him to have some reaction. However, he never gave much response. I can’t say if he is in shock, or just didn’t want to upset his City of Rocks store-keep friends.

1 comment:

J.L. said...

Fun email.
Yes, it is a can of worms. Especially since how many states will put
up, e.g., "Here were filmed the plantation scenes in GONE WITH THE WIND,
the best-selling movie ever made. Counterfactually, slaves were
portrayed as happy, and Reconstruction as a time of terror, so the movie
set back race relations."
Fun nonetheless. Best wishes --

James W. Loewen, best email address: