Feb 29, 2008

Roadside shrine

Harford County, Maryland

Canon EOS 30D & EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens

Feb 28, 2008

On this day in 1827 ...

... the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was incorporated.

Photo courtesy of MDRails

Feb 27, 2008

My Dutiful Balloon: Precarious reconnaissance in The Great War

While wandering through a churchyard the other day we found an odd line on a gravestone: 28 BALLOON CO. That was a new one. We were a stone's throw from the border of Aberdeen Proving Ground and it got me to wondering if APG was home to a balloon company, and even stranger, what if the guy landed here and was buried on the spot? Well, he didn't land there, dead in a graveyard, but the base was home to the 28th Balloon Company, also a balloon school, and a unit of the 18th Airship, whatever that was.
The balloonists were hoisted in the air in baskets, hanging from little blimps, which were tethered to the ground, in order to see what the enemy was up to. The enemy didn't care for it and would shoot at the balloons. The balloonists were well protected with covering fire to discourage attack, but this didn't deter enemy aircraft from targeting them anyway; there was a whole class of aces known as "balloon busters." The balloonists were equipped with parachutes which they seemed to use use rather often. But it must have been an effective way to gather information as there were a lot of balloon outfits on both sides. According to Stars And Stripes, there were 35 American balloon companies in France during World War One. 23 of the companies were active at the front, making 1,642 ascensions.

I imagine the balloonists were a breed apart. Who would take such hazardous duty? One story from Stars and Stripes relates how a French soldier, forced to parachute from his burning craft (Did I mention the balloons were filled with flammable hydrogen?), found himself being strafed by a German plane, the balloonist calmly pulled a pistol from his holster and started blasting away at the pilot.
The paper also noted that the members of the balloon corps were usually near the top of the list when it came to generosity, donating liberal amounts of their pay to various charity drives.
By 1923 it was all over; lighter than air technology was on its way out and the army was through with the balloon corps. Nearly a hundred years later, it is just another forgotten aspect of an unpopular time.

Feb 26, 2008

Country Churches: Cranberry UMC

"Cranberry church was founded in 1862 by a small group of believers from the Perryman, Maryland area. They met in a one-room schoolhouse, 30 X 24 feet, hauled by 10 yoke of oxen from Sod Run (about two miles below town) to a site just south of the present location.
The Methodist Church divided in 1865 into two groups, Methodist Episcopal Church South and Methodist Episcopal Church North, due to the feelings over the Civil War. Cranberry Methodist Episcopal Church South was organized on June 13, 1866 with five Trustees John M. Taylor, Daniel Martin, James Numbers, Joseph Everist Taylor and Joseph Wells. A tract called "James Park", originally "Cranberry Plantation", was deeded from Edward Griffith for $1.00 as a gift to the above Trustees. The deed read, "81 perches of land, more or less, measured by a stone in the middle of the road leading from Spesutia church to Bush River Neck." Continued

Canon EOS 30D & EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens

Feb 24, 2008

Panoramic Baltimore

It has not been good weather for exploring the region lately, but it does give me more opportunity to root around The Library of Congress. Today I've found some nice panoramic scenes of Baltimore from the turn of the 20th century. If you want to see them in a larger format, you can download the TIFF files (between 6 and 14 megabytes), at the library's site here.


(440 International) - It was an historic day in radio broadcasting, as the Voice of America (VOA) signed on for the first time on this day in 1942. The worldwide, shortwave radio service, a department of the United States Government, continues to beam a variety of programming around the globe under the auspices of the United States Information Agency (USIA).
The VOA transmits from modern studios in Washington, DC and beams much of its programming via satellite to transmitters worldwide. Continued

Feb 21, 2008

Book recounts service of black Guard unit

Members of the 726th Transportation Truck Company, assigned to the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion, also an African American Guard unit from Baltimore, unload wounded onto a helicopter for evacuation in Korea in February 1951. The 231st was a headquarters unit, with several truck companies, such as the 726th, assigned as needed for certain missions. National Archives and Records Administration

(Linda Strowbridge, The Jeffersonian) - ... The inspection, held 16 years after the end of the Civil War, made history. It created the first all-black company of the Maryland National Guard.
But few Marylanders have ever heard of the company, which operated partly in Pikesville, or of how its members served in four wars before segregation ended in the military in the 1950s, said Louis Diggs, a historian, author and Korean War veteran. So Diggs, an Owings Mills resident, is working to promote that history through his book "Forgotten Road Warriors," published in 2005, and a series of Black History Month presentations. Continued

Feb 20, 2008

Purnell Legion

"THE Purnell Legion Maryland, Volunteers, consisting of nine companies of infantry, two companies of cavalry, and two batteries of light artillery were recruited under the auspices of the Hon. William H. Purnell, Postmaster at Baltimore, Md., at Pikesville Arsenal, near Baltimore, between October 31, 1861, and December 31, 1861. The Legion was raised, under special authority of the Secretary of War, to serve three years. Upon the resignation of Colonel William H. Purnell, in February, 1862, the Legion organization was discontinued and the different arms of the service, infantry, cavalry, and artillery, were made independent of each other." Continued

The Historical Society of Cecil County has a gallery of photographs depicting members of the legion on its website. Most of the pictures (including the one here), are of members of Company E, who were mostly from Cecil, but there are some from other Union units as well. Link

The Water Cure: Debating torture and counterinsurgency - a century ago

(Paul Kramer, The New Yorker) - Many Americans were puzzled by the news, in 1902, that United States soldiers were torturing Filipinos with water.
The United States, throughout its emergence as a world power, had spoken the language of liberation, rescue, and freedom. This was the language that, when coupled with expanding military and commercial ambitions, had helped launch two very different wars. Continued

Cartoon: Wikipedia

Some say Bell invented the telephone; others say he swiped it

(Washington Post) - On May 22, 1886, The Washington Post published a shocking front-page scoop: Zenas F. Wilber, a former Washington patent examiner, swore in an affidavit that he'd been bribed by an attorney for Alexander Graham Bell to award Bell the patent for the telephone over a rival inventor, Elisha Gray, who'd filed a patent document on the same day as Bell in 1876.
Furthermore, Wilber asserted, he'd illegally shown Gray's application to Bell, who responded by slipping him a $100 bill. Immediately, Bell swore out an affidavit of his own, denying that he'd bribed Wilber. Link

Feb 19, 2008

Lincoln's Cottage: Sanctuary amid the turmoil of the Civil War

(International Herald Tribune) - If you look out the windows of President Lincoln's Cottage at the Soldiers' Home — the idiosyncratic and intriguing museum that is opening to the public on Tuesday after a ceremonial event on Monday — you have to imagine what Abraham Lincoln might have seen during those summer evenings when he stood here.
The cottage is on a hilltop, the third highest in the area. And when Lincoln first came here, seeking a respite from the summer heat, the swampy air and the incessant bustle of the White House, he could have looked out over the expanding city below him, with the unfinished Washington Monument and incomplete Capitol dome rising in the distance. Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

Brew Ginger Beer

(Wired) - Who said fermentation was just for booze? Yeast can make virgin drinks, too. In four steps, you can employ these microorganisms to brew some serious soda. Continued

Illustration: Jason Lee

Feb 18, 2008

Country Churches: St. Francis de Sales

"On July 9, 1866, shortly after the Civil War, ground was broken to begin construction of the first Catholic church in Abingdon. Local stone that had been dug up from the corn and bean fields was transported to the church site by horse and wagon. There the stone was cut, fitted, and set by the men of the parish under the supervision of George Lochary. Lochary, who was a parishioner of St. Ignatius, also donated a sizable sum of $600 towards construction costs." Link

Abingdon, Maryland

Canon EOS 30D & EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens

Gatsby’s Green Light Beckons a New Set of Strivers

'Jinzhao Wang, 14, who immigrated two years ago from China, has never seen anything like the huge mansions that loomed over Long Island Sound in glamorous 1920s New York. But F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, “The Great Gatsby,” with its themes of possibility and aspiration, speaks to her.' Continued

Feb 17, 2008

Zouave and Sophisticated: Why do monkeys dress that way?

This morning I was rolling cigarettes and because I was rolling Zig-Zag tobacco, I put on a fez. Kim came in and said, "you're wearing a fez because of the man on the can." (Long ago, she stopped wondering why I own such odd things to begin with, and in fact, bought me the aforementioned hat.) "That's right," I said, because of the Zouave." This is the second time the subject of Zouaves has come up in the past week.
The first time was when I read that it was Zuoaves who first popularized absinthe in France. And it got me to wondering if Zouaves had any other impact on us besides for licorice liquor, and inventing the cigarette.

The only other thing I could come up with is monkeys. Monkeys, especially of the organ grinder variety, are often dressed as Zouaves. Why is this? (When I was a kid I thought they were dressed like bellhops.) Did a regiment have a monkey as a mascot? Were Zouaves slurred as monkeys? I don't know and I couldn't find anything on the subject at all. If you know, please drop me a line in the comments section. And if you can think of any other Zouave references in popular culture, please comment on that too.

During that seeking for lions which he never found, the dreadful Tartarin roamed from douar to douar on the immense plain of the Shelliff, through the odd but formidable French Algeria, where the old Oriental perfumes are complicated by a strong blend of absinthe and the barracks, Abraham and "the Zouzou" mingled, something fairy-tale-like and simply burlesque, like a page of the Old Testament related by Tommy Atkins. - Alphonse Daudet (1872)

Monkey picture filched from Geek Chic

Feb 15, 2008

'Heroes Among Us' exhibit pays tribute to black soldiers

(Baltimore Examiner) - The images of Cathay Williams, the first female Buffalo Soldier, proudly dressed as a man in a military uniform, or the rush of the Harlem Hellfighters, offer a glimpse of the struggles and pride of America’s black pioneers.

... The traveling exhibit, Heroes Among Us, honors black soldiers and pioneers for Black History Month. In Baltimore City, the event runs during the Black Engineer of the Year Awards conference, which includes industry seminars and a career fair. Continued

Feb 14, 2008

Kübling away the green hour: Absinthe Part 3

It's been a month or so since I last wrote about absinthe; since then the "Green Fairy" has been busy, you can now find absinthe in many liquor stores in the Maryland area. And in that same time, I have made my peace with Lucid. I drink it several times a week now. It remains an interesting experience and I find it goes well with cogitation. It goes well with pork rinds too (but don't tell the connoisseurs I said so).
The other day, I found a bottle of Kübler Absinthe Superieure at Midway Liquors (another great Route 40 institution; if you can't find it at Midway, you won't find it anywhere else 'round here.) Kübler is manufactured in Switzerland by a company that made it way back before Absinthe was banned, in one of the first great episodes of drug hysteria of the 20th century. It is a blanche absinthe meaning that, according to the Wikipedia, it "is bottled directly following distillation and is unaltered. It is a clear liquid which contains the distilled oils of the herbs used in its production." (Lucid is a verte absinthe meaning that, according to the Wikipedia, it "begins as a blanche. The distillate is altered by the 'coloring step' whereby a new mixture of herbs remain in contact with the clear distillate. This process greatly alters the color and flavor, imparting an emerald green hue and a heavier, more intense flavor.")
My first glass of Kübler was mixed in my usual 1:3.5 ratio of absinthe to water, even though the bottle recommends 1:5. "I could drink this all day," was my first thought. It was my second thought too. My third thought was that while Lucid invokes the dark mysteries of the Belle Époque, Kübler evokes a more pleasant occasion. One can easily picture a happy group whiling away a sunny afternoon drinking Kübler.
After all, Belle Époque translates as "the beautiful era," not the murderous rampage era; equating that time with Jean Lanfray is like thinking the 60's was all about Charles Manson. By 1913 France was consuming 60 liters of absinthe per inhabitant a year, it wasn't 'til after the ban that we all started slaughtering one another - the era we call World War One, not to mention the rest of that psychotic century. (Perhaps our own Beautiful Era has already come and gone, that short breather between the Cold War and the War On Terror? Hope you had fun - I did.)
My second glass was prepared in the recommended 1:5 ratio and was surprisingly good. I say surprising because Lucid, to me, tastes best at a 1:3.5 ratio, no more and no less; it is an exacting substance. The Kübler has a bit more of an anise flavor than Lucid, but much less than the Absente brand. Kübler also seems to lack the peppery aftertaste of both, which is unfortunate, but not unexpected as it is not a verte. Is Kübler my new favorite? I'm not sure. While Lucid is by far the most interesting drink of the three, I don't always want my drinks to be interesting. Nor do I want all my drinks to be unrelentingly pleasant. Absente, probably best classified as a pastis (but who really cares?), still beckons me with its rich licorice flavor. I think I will keep all three on hand to fit my mood - at least for now.

Illustrations courtesy of The Virtual Absinthe Museum and Wikipedia.

Feb 13, 2008

Society to take stock of stores

"North County once was dotted with small country stores that offered much more than merchandise. The stores, many located along the Northern Central Railroad tracks between Baltimore and York, Pa., provided folks a place to catch up on local gossip, get their mail and buy the few things they didn't grow or make themselves.
As cars and trucks made the railroad obsolete, many stores closed. Some were converted into houses; others were torn down. On Feb. 20, a series of speakers will bring those stores back to life." Continued

Canon dRebel or 10D, I can't remember which, but it looks like the Rebel's white balance.

Feb 12, 2008

Born this day in 1791: Peter Cooper

... In about 1828, he started a successful glue and isinglass factory in New York, before building the Canton Iron Works near Baltimore in 1830. There he manufactured the first steam powered railroad locomotive made in America, which was called Tom Thumb. The engine ran successfully on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on August 28, 1830. - Wikipedia

He also invented Jell-O.

Top picture: MDRails. Bottom picture: Radio Dismuke.

Feb 11, 2008

1916: The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

"The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra presented its first concert. The symphony was the first by a municipal orchestra to be supported by taxes."

Photo: Peabody Institute Text: 440 International

Vigilant Fire Company, Baltimore Maryland

"Vigilant Fire Company, Baltimore, firefighter, half-length portrait, facing front, wearing parade hat and holding speaker trumpet." - Library of Congress {Circa 1850}

Feb 10, 2008

Shaping the Values of Youth: Sunday School Books in 19th Century America

"This collection presents 163 Sunday school books published in America between 1815 and 1865, drawn from the collections of Michigan State University Libraries and the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University Libraries. They document the culture of religious instruction of youth in America during the Antebellum era. They also illustrate a number of thematic divisions that preoccupied nineteenth-century America, including sacred and secular, natural and divine, civilized and savage, rural and industrial, adult and child. Among the topics featured are history, holidays, slavery, African Americans, Native Americans, travel and missionary accounts, death and dying, poverty, temperance, immigrants, and advice." Link

Feb 9, 2008

Born this day in 1748: Luther Martin

"Luther Martin (February 9, 1748–July 8, 1826) was a politician and one of United States' Founding Fathers, but refused to sign the Constitution because he felt it violated states' rights.
Though born in Metuchen, New Jersey, in 1748, Martin moved to Maryland after receiving his degree and taught there for three years. He then began to study the law and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1771." Continued

Photo: National Archives

There will be corn

Hyde Station, Hydes Maryland
The Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad (MA&PA) passed through Hyde & Baldwin, Maryland, which are about a mile apart, and there is a station in each place. The reason for this is while Baldwin, a prosperous little crossroads, was the obvious choice for a station, Hyde (later called Hydes and as lonely then as it is now), featured a cannery. And also because the MA&PA was always hard up for revenue on the Maryland portion of the tracks; they'd stop for a barking dog, if there was the possibility of it buying a ticket.
The cannery sat across the street from the station and a portion of it sat there well into the 1980's until, for no apparent reason, it was torn down. I always liked that little ruin. The cannery itself was instrumental in getting the MA&PA, or one of its predecessors, up and running, as it was used to demonstrate to prospective investors that the line was financially viable. (Which it wasn't really; not at the time.) I read that the railroad took all those investors on an excursion one day, to eat corn. And that has always stuck with me, and it's why I am such an awful railfan. I didn't care much about the coaches they rode in, or the engine that pulled them, the thing that stuck in my mind was this: Why would those people give up a day to ride a train and eat corn? Were they just playing along, or did they really want to do such a thing?
I like to think that they enjoyed themselves. And not because the 19th century was that dull; it wasn't, not for prosperous Baltimoreans. I imagine it was for the same reasons that my own parents were, in my eyes, so very boring. They weren't dull for lack of wit, or lack of funds, or lack of imagination; they were dull because of history. Rather they were dull for having experienced what is often considered exciting history: The Great Depression and World War Two. After that they didn't want any more excitement. They and their friends were happy to cultivate their gardens; which they did in droves, in the great and new suburbs of America. And that's how I picture those men on that train, Civil War vets, probably most of them, and most of them having more than one sibling or spouse dead at an early age from cholera, or yellow fever, or diphtheria, or whooping cough, and most of them having survived all the "panics" that wiped out fortunes, large & small, every ten years or so back then, sitting on a plush seat contentedly eating a plate of corn and thinking, "this sure beats getting your ass shot off at Little Round Top."

Baldwin Station, Baldwin, Maryland

Canon EOS 30D & EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens

Feb 7, 2008

Country Churches: Providence Methodist

Providence Methodist Church, in Fallston, Maryland dates back to 1870. The church is now known as Harvest Community, and the cemetery is a satellite of Fallston United Methodist. The cemetery is indexed here.

Canon Eos 20D & 30D both with EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS lenses