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By Laura Moncur in Frank McDonough Jr.'s Odometer

Denver Art Museum by LauraMoncur from FlickrIn the Denver Art Museum, on the Historic Western American Art floor, there is a hands-on display where you can play with actual antiques, maps and books. There is a comfy leather couch and a few desks. You can even play with authentic stereoscopes and view original Ansel Adams stereograms. It’s an area of the art museum meant for children, but most of the time, it is empty and quiet. Even though the relics are lying out in the open, you wonder, “Can I touch this? Am I allowed to play with that?”

Tucked into a glass cabinet in the corner of this area of the museum is Frank McDonough Jr.’s Odometer.

Frank McDonough Jr.'s Odometer by LauraMoncur from Flickr

Frank McDonough Jr. was no famous man. He didn’t accompany Lewis and Clark on their surveying expedition of the Louisiana Purchase. He wasn’t present when Jim Bridger yelled into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in the evening and woke up to the sound of his own voice in the morning. He didn’t document the homesteads of the land rush in Oklahoma. Instead, Frank McDonough Jr. was one of hundreds of surveyors for the Kansas Pacific Railway, unknown to the history books. Unknown, even, to his current descendants.

He worked for the railway for merely three short years, but his story is one of mystery and imagination. If the Denver Art Museum knew of the strange and elusive power of Frank McDonough Jr.’s Odometer, it wouldn’t be tucked away behind a glass case in a neglected section of the museum. It would be locked and bound in a strong box where no one could see or touch it for fear of its wrath.

The recent discovery of Frank McDonough Jr.’s personal journal has revealed the true nature of his surveyor tools. Over the next six weeks, the amazing story of his fearful odometer will be revealed for your reading enjoyment.