Borax Twenty Mule Team Visits Portville, N.Y.
1916-1917
The Portville Historical and Preservation Society
17 Maple Avenue
Portville, NY 14770

www.portvillehistory.org
Our June 1999 newsletter showed several photos of the 1916-17 Twenty Mule Team on their stop in
Portville.  Little information was known about the tour at that time.  Since then, Ted Faye, the History
Consultant to U.S. Borax, has sent us information about the tour.  We responded with copies of the
three photos of them in Portville from our P.H.P.S. Collection for the Twenty Mule Team Museum in
Boron, CA.

The team began its cross-nation trip in Los Angeles, CA, in January, 1917, and visited many cities in
California.  They headed for Arizona and Utah where they toured cities there.  They were then loaded
on railroad cars and shipped to the Midwest where they toured and headed east.  They drove down
Broadway in New York City and proceeded to all the principal cities in New England.  Lectures were
given and samples of Borax handed out at each stop.  In the summer, the team was driven through
cities and towns in the north.  In the winter, it was shipped south and paraded through southern
towns.  It was probably in the summer of 1917 that the team drove through Portville.

Included in the information sent by Ted Faye are many humorous stories about the mules, their
teamsters and swampers. The tour was not without its problems for the men and animals.  When the
tour was over the animals were sold in the east and the wagons and harness shipped back to Ludlow.

(from the Homespun Collage, October 2000)  


Borax Twenty Mule Team To Go East

From the Redland, CA Daily Facts, October 5, 1916, Needles Nugget:

“The Pacific Borax Company is preparing a treat for the east.  The 20-mule team and desert wagons
which have served for years in bringing the product of the borax mines in Death Valley to civilization
and modern transportation facilities, is to be taken east as an advertising stunt, and as an exhibit of
how things were done in the great west in advance of steam and electricity.  The 20-mule team has
been heard of all over the world, but in no section of the country has such a working aggregation of
animals been in operation, except in California….The Pacific Borax company is now assembling the
team at Ludlow, San Bernardino County.  The mules which will make up this team will all weigh 1500
pound and better, and are the finest specimen of the asinine family. They were all secured at highest
market prices in the Sacramento valley and transported to Ludlow by rail.  They are now being broken
at the desert town by a most competent trainer, who personally found and purchased the animals.

“The team will comprise 18 mules and two horses as leaders.  Within a month or so the team will
leave Ludlow for Salt Lake City, drawing two of the old borax wagons and the water wagon which
was always a part of the desert equipment.  Between Ludlow and Salt Lake City it is the intention of
the driver to break the team into doing every possible kind of a stunt in the evolutions and
manipulations of a team of this number.  Each Mule is to wear a crescent of bells, which will be of the
very finest tones.

“From Salt Lake City the outfit will be carried east by railroad and taken directly to the city of
Washington where they will be a part of the next inaugural parade.  After this engagement the team
and equipment will be exhibited in every city of the east, consuming two years from the date of
starting to the return.  Parties who have seen the mules and two horses state that finer animals could
not be assembled for any purpose which with the old wagons that have seen much of desert travel will
certainly be an exhibition of western ways of doing things that cannot help but prove of great interest
to all who may be fortunate enough to obtain a sight of the rare turnout.”
Portville, New York
Original Stereograph was donated by Arthur T. Gronet of Palm Desert, CA (1999)