Skip to content

By Laura Moncur in Frank McDonough Jr.'s Odometer

Frank McDonough Jr.’s Odometer was born in the Denver Museum of Art. Last September, Mike, Stacey, Dan and I all visited Denver. While the three of them attended the iPhone Developers Conference, I toured the museums of Denver. I took in the exhibits alone, which is a surprising treat that I’m not accustomed to. I was able to stay as long or as little as I wanted at each showing. If they had been with me, I would have been rushed past the small odometer hiding in the back display cabinet and this story would have never been written.

What Is Truth?

Perambulator by LauraMoncur from FlickrFrank McDonough Jr.’s odometer really IS at the Denver Art Museum, but there is no history or even a plaque explaining the gadget. Odometers typically attached to perambulators like this photo shows, but Mr. McDonough’s odometer is still in its case. I DRASTICALLY fictionalized what this particular odometer could do, but Frank McDonough Jr. is a historical cipher as far as the Denver Art Museum is concerned with no explanation given to his artifact. You can read more about odometers, perambulators and surveyors wheels here: Surveyor’s wheel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Golden Spike Ceremony and the fact that it wasn’t the “real” completion of the first transcontinental railroad is true. That missing bridge across the Missouri River was a technicality that history has forgotten. The Kansas Pacific Railway was the true completion of the first transcontinental railway, but no museums celebrate its accomplishment. That bounty goes to Utah. I was unaware of all of this before I wrote this story and I felt a little guilty when I learned that we Utahans stole Denver’s thunder. You can read more about this moment in history here: Golden spike – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Colorado Stereograph by LauraMoncur from FlickrThis photograph is half of a stereograph of the Colorado plains. Stereographs are photos taken with two cameras at once. Using a stereoscope, the two photos merge together to create a 3D image. If you’re really good, you can cross your eyes and see the 3D effect as well. This technology has been around for YEARS and predated your toy ViewMaster by at least a century. You can see the full stereograph here: Colorado Sterogram on Flickr You can read more about sterographs and stereoscopes here: Stereoscopy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

What Is Fiction?

Poor Frank McDonough Jr. was a real person, but I have been unable to find out what he surveyed with his odometer. I have no proof that he worked for any railroad. He was a real person, but the character in this story was entirely fiction. I sure hope his ghost doesn’t come back to haunt me.

Fig Andrews by LauraMoncur from FlickrFig Andrews is also purely fiction. I found this photograph somewhere online. I have NO idea who it is a picture of, but the image was saved with the name: andrews_fig01b.jpg. I think “fig” refers to the word “figure,” but the name Fig Andrews sounded so good to me that I used the name. I needed a villian and this photo jumped out at me while I was searching on Google. Sure hope the man in this photo doesn’t come back to haunt me either.

Frank McDonough Jr.'s Odometer by LauraMoncur from FlickrThe second I saw this odometer in the museum, I wanted to write a steampunk story about it. It just screamed out to me, begging to have a fantastical narrative written in its honor. What I described in the story would be more aptly named a magical pedometer since Frank wears the gadget on his belt and it measures distance based on his gait. The power of speed and revenge were also completely fictitious, but I really wanted to tell the story of a beloved gadget that takes that love too far in defense of its owner.