Humor through the bad times

Published 8:56 am Saturday, December 2, 2017

136 years ago, George Hormel wrote a letter to his parents on this day, Dec. 2, 1881. It was two days before his 21st birthday, he was in Chicago, and he was seemingly down and out. Even with few job prospects and low spirits, he maintained a bit of humor which I am sure was expressed more for his parent’s sake than his reality.

Editing note: due to the difficulty in reading the handwriting, we have used our best judgement to transcribe the text.

The signature of George A. Hormel. Photo provided

“Dear Parents,

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I have been in St. Louis & there seen Martin Sibberer, who was very glad to see me. Evans & Co. do not want a man at present. I seen another firm there by the name of Hartmann & Co. & told him I understood hides, wools, etc. thoroughly, and he wants a man toward Spring, and wants me to let him know what I am doing and where I am. I gave him your card and should he want me he will write to you… I refused the job of $50.00 a month of J. W. Geale and am going to work for Oberne, Hosick & Co in the house; probably $9.00 per week will be my wages, but I can stand that until Spring, by that time I can learn everything in the line of hides. They handle buffalo hides, furs and everything in that line, & is the largest firm in Chicago or St. Louis. I am dead broke. If steamboats were selling for a penny a piece I couldn’t buy the first board on the gang plank.  Hoping that you are well and prospering. The same as I am not.

I remain your son

GA Hormel

Please write soon in care of my new firm. You mustn’t be surprised if in one of these days you hear from me from down in Mexico, Las Vegas or some other God Forsaken Country.

GA Hormel”

George had been in the working world for eight years at the time of this letter. He had seen and experienced much, but it would be seven more years before he would settle in Austin. In “The Open Road George wrote,”

“While I was both hard-working and ambitious, I had yet to learn that the only man who never fails is the man who never quits trying, and that success is the result of the last not the first try.”

It would have been understandable if George had turned sour and given up his quest for success during the difficult times. However, it was not in his nature to quit and let’s be glad he didn’t.


Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Walk in tours to see the decorated Hormel Historic Home

Free for HHH members and children, $5 for non-members

A Handmade Christmas, indie craft market

Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8-9

Information available at

History Happy Hour: What’s Wrong With My Nativity by Helen Holder

5:30 p.m. social, 6 p.m. presentation Monday, Dec. 11

Special music by Sue Radloff. Free for members of the Mower County Historical, Friends of the Library, and the HHH, $5 for non-members.