Nov 27, 2008

Sarah Vowell talking about The Wordy Shipmates

100 Notable Books of 2008

(NYTBR) - The Book Review has selected this list from books reviewed since Dec. 2, 2007, when we published our previous Notables list.

Give Thanks? Science Supersized Your Turkey Dinner

(Wired) - Your corn is sweeter, your potatoes are starchier and your turkey is much, much bigger than the foods that sat on your grandparents' Thanksgiving dinner table.
Most everything on your plate has undergone tremendous genetic change under the intense selective pressures of industrial farming. Pilgrims and American Indians ate foods called corn and turkey, but the actual organisms they consumed didn't look or taste much at all like our modern variants do. Continued

Photo: USDA/Wired

Nov 26, 2008

Echoes of Yesteryear Not Far From Baltimore

(NYTimes) - ... For many years, in fact, Frederick was the frontier. The town grew up as a trading post along America’s first trade arteries, and in the early days of the roads Frederick was as far west as you could go without worrying about highwaymen and battles between colonials and Native Americans. Continued

Photo: Thisisbossi/Wikipedia

Nov 25, 2008

1940: First flight of the Martin B-26 Marauder.

(Wikipedia) - The Martin B-26 Marauder was a World War II twin-engine medium bomber built by the Glenn L. Martin Company.
The first US medium bomber used in the Pacific Theater in early 1942, it was also used in the Mediterranean Theater and in Western Europe. The plane distinguished itself as "the chief bombardment weapon on the Western Front" according to an United States Army Air Forces dispatch from 1946, and later variants maintained the lowest loss record of any combat aircraft during World War II. Its late-war loss record stands in sharp contrast to its unofficial nickname "The Widowmaker" — earned due to early models' high rate of accidents during takeoff.
A total of 5,288 were produced between February 1941 and March 1945; 522 of these were flown by the Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force. Continued

Nov 24, 2008

Tom Waits sings "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

I've been singing this one to my mom a lot lately.

In 2007, pundits scoffing accurate predictions about the economy

Via boingboing

Looking at Lincoln Through a Prism of War

SHILOH, Tenn. (NYTimes) - James M. McPherson probably knows more about the Civil War than anyone who was actually there. He talks about people like Leonidas Polk, the Episcopal bishop turned not very effective Confederate general, as if they were old acquaintances. This is partly because Mr. McPherson, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for “Battle Cry of Freedom,” his one-volume history of the war, has spent most of his career studying that conflict, and partly because, as he remarked recently at the site of the famous battle here in southern Tennessee, strategies on both sides tended to break down, and battles quickly took on a logic, or illogic, of their own, with most units unaware of what was going on elsewhere. Moving armies at Shiloh was a little like herding cats, he said. Continued

Florence Nightingale's Fever: Diagnose this driven nurse at your own risk

(Slate) ... But Nightingale should also be seen as one of us moderns. Nothing is more striking than her contempt for the weight of tradition and authority, her demand that we modernize our lives and transform the social world at its roots. To be serious about nursing is to consider all the circumstances that keep us from flourishing, to preserve the health of families and cities, as well as the health of the body. The goal of nursing is to heal the world. Continued

Nov. 24, 1903: Starting Your Car Gets a Bit Easier

1903 (Wired): Clyde J. Coleman is issued a patent for an electric automobile starter.
Coleman originally applied for the patent in 1899, but his early designs proved impractical. The need for this kind of starter for an internal combustion engine was obvious. Automobiles were getting larger, and hand-cranking — the method used to get the pistons moving in order to make ignition possible — was not only cumbersome, but physically demanding and potentially injurious. Continued

Photo: Ben Shahn FSA/OWI/LoC

Nov 23, 2008


The town of Steelton, Pennsylvania features the first mill in the U.S. devoted solely to the purpose of making steel. Started around the time of the Civil War, it's still making steel today. I had the opportunity to amble around the place the other night and found it to be an interesting place. You can see more pictures of Steelton over at our other site, Nightening.

Canon EOS 50D & EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens

Father of the ‘Follies’

(NYTBR) - A century is a mere blink in the history of mankind, but it’s a long time in the history of show business. Just about a hundred years ago, a Chicago-born talent manager started a franchise called the “Follies” that set New York on its ear. He apotheosized the showgirl and changed the entertainment rulebook by making the revue an ethnic stew. He later went on to produce “Show Boat,” the first great American musical. But who knows much about Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. today? Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

Nov 22, 2008

Summit showcases state’s African-American tourism attractions

(Examiner) - Baltimore and Maryland are home to many tours and museums that celebrate African-American culture and history, but that’s news to many Marylanders.
“Most people in the state haven’t been to all these places,” said Lou Fields, president of the African American Tourism Council of Maryland. “I’m still giving out addresses to all of these places.”
The AATC, a 10-year-old nonprofit, will host the Mid-Atlantic African American Tourism Summit this weekend in Baltimore to promote the region’s African-American tourism attractions. Continued

Photo: Library of Congress


(Wikipedia) - Edward Teach (c. 1680 – November 22, 1718), better known as Blackbeard, was a notorious English pirate in the Caribbean Sea and western Atlantic during the early 18th century, a period referred to as the Golden Age of Piracy. His best known vessel was the Queen Anne's Revenge, which is believed to have run aground near Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina in 1718.
Blackbeard often fought, or simply showed himself, wearing a big feathered tricorn, and having multiple swords, knives, and pistols at his disposal. It was reported in A General Historie of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates that he had hemp and lit matches woven into his enormous black beard during battle to intimidate his enemies. Blackbeard is often regarded as the archetypal image of the seafaring pirate. Continued

Nov 21, 2008

Henrietta Vinton Davis

(Wikipedia) - Henrietta Vinton Davis (August 15, 1860 - November 23, 1941) was an American elocutionist, dramatist, and impersonator.
Lady Davis was proclaimed by Marcus Garvey to be the "greatest woman of the (African) race today". She has come to be considered the physical, intellectual, and spiritual link between the Abolitionist movement of Frederick Douglass and the African Redemption Movement of the UNIA-ACL and Marcus Garvey.
Henrietta Vinton Davis was born in Baltimore to musician Mansfield Vinton and Mary Ann (Johnson) Davis. Shortly after her birth her father died. Within six months her mother was remarried to influential Baltimorean George A. Hackett. Hackett was a member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and worked to defeat the 1859 Jacobs bill which intended to enslave the children of free Africans and deport their parents from the state of Maryland. Continued

Nov 20, 2008

Fawn Township's magnificent Centre Presbyterian Church worthy of a looksee

(YTS) - Local architectural expert Scott Butcher knew for some time about the wonderful style of Centre Presbyterian Church, within a literal stone throw from the Maryland Line in New Park.
So he made the long trip from York to see the Dempwolf-designed, 1880s-era rural church building and received a treat... Continued

Photo by Kim Choate, Canon EOS 20D

Star-Spangled Banner is star attraction at renovated American History museum

WASHINGTON D.C. (Baltimore Sun) - The Star-Spangled Banner has a snazzy new home - and it's already the talk of the town.
When the National Museum of American History reopens tomorrow after a two-year, $85 million renovation, visitors will finally get a glimpse at what museum officials are calling a "dramatic transformation" of the 44-year-old building.
The most stunning evidence of this is a five-story-high, skylit atrium that greets museumgoers as they enter from the National Mall. Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

Book Prizes Awarded With Nod to History

(NYTimes) - Annette Gordon-Reed won the National Book Award for nonfiction on Wednesday night for “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” a sweeping, prodigiously researched biography of three generations of a slave family owned by Thomas Jefferson.
... In the fiction category, Peter Matthiessen won for “Shadow Country,” a one-volume compilation of three previously released but revised and condensed novels based on the life of Edgar J. Watson, a 19th century ruthless cane farmer in Florida who was said to be a serial killer. Continued

Clark Griffith

(Wikipedia) - Clark Calvin Griffith (November 20, 1869–October 27, 1955), nicknamed "the Old Fox", was a Major League Baseball pitcher, manager and team owner.
... In 1912, again at Johnson's suggestion, he returned to the American League as manager of the Washington Senators. At the time, the franchise had little going for it other than star pitcher Walter Johnson. In the American League's first 12 years, the Senators had never had a winning record or finished higher than sixth. Griffith engineered one of the biggest turnarounds in major league history, leading the Senators to second place. In nine years, his Washington teams only finished below fifth twice. Continued

Nov 19, 2008

LIFE photo archive hosted by Google

"Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google." Link

Photo: Fort Peck Dam, in the Missouri River: image used on first LIFE Magazine cover, November 23, 1936. Margaret Bourke-White photographer.

Benjamin Chew

(U of P) - Benjamin Chew was born in Maryland, but his Quaker father soon moved the family to Philadelphia. After receiving a classical education and then studying law with Andrew Hamilton in Philadelphia, young Chew travelled to London to continue his legal studies at the Middle Temple. While abroad he made many important connections that advanced his career down the road; most important among his new ties were those to the proprietary Penn family.
When he returned to America in 1744, Benjamin Chew settled in Delaware, where he established a successful law practice. Additionally he was elected Kent County representative to the Assembly of the Lower Counties, serving as speaker of that body from 1753 to 1757.
In 1754 Chew moved to Philadelphia and again established a thriving law practice. During this period, Chew represented the interests of the Penn family, and like them, left his Quaker faith to join the Church of England. Continued

Image: University of Pennsylvania

Nov 18, 2008

Hunter S. Thompson Comes Alive on Gonzo Tapes

(Wired) - From his early military career to his invention of gonzo journalism and rebellious suicide, Hunter S. Thompson lived an iconoclastic life. He obsessively documented his adventures, recording rants and thoughts on cassettes and reel-to-reels, and collecting everything from notes on napkins to angry letters to his editors.
The Gonzo Tapes, a five-CD box set released last month by Shout Factory with the blessing of Thompson's widow, offers revealing peeks into the writer's mad, brilliant brain. Continued

Lincoln and the myth of 'Team of Rivals'

(LATimes) - People love Doris Kearns Goodwin's book on the Lincoln presidency, "Team of Rivals." More important, for this moment in American history, Barack Obama loves it. The book is certainly fun to read, but its claim that Abraham Lincoln revealed his "political genius" through the management of his wartime Cabinet deserves a harder look, especially now that it seems to be offering a template for the new administration. Continued

Illustration: Library of Congress


(LoC) - On November 18, 1883, four standard time zones for the continental U.S.A. were introduced at the instigation of the railroads. At noon on this day the U.S. Naval Observatory changed its telegraphic signals to correspond to the change. Until the invention of the railway, it took such a long time to get from one place to another that local "sun time" could be used. When traveling to the east or to the west, a person would have to change his or her watch by one minute every twelve miles.
When people began traveling by train, sometimes hundreds of miles in a day, the calculation of time became a serious problem. Operators of the new railroad lines realized that a new time plan was needed in order to offer a uniform train schedule for departures and arrivals. Continued

Photo: MDRails

Nov 17, 2008

Park Service prepares Wills exhibits: The house where Lincoln stayed will open as a museum in February

(YDR) - Abraham Lincoln is not the only person to have slept on this particular bed. He is, however, by far the most famous.
And so, when the 16th president stayed at the home of Gettysburg resident David Wills the night before he delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863, he forever secured the significance of the furniture, knickknacks and documents associated with the famous event. Continued

Image: Library of Congress

The Bullet Machine: Mr. Gatling’s Terrible Marvel

(NYTBR) - ... He invented it, he said in the gymnastic logic of gun makers, to save lives: its unparalleled firepower would enable one man to replace hundreds on the battlefield and thus “supersede the necessity of large armies.” And though the Gatling gun saw very limited action in the Civil War, afterward it proved extremely effective against Indians in the West, striking laborers in the East and anti-imperialist rebels all across the world. Continued

Photo: Gatling Gun, U.S. Army Ordnance Museum Aberdeen, Maryland. Canon EOS 5D

Titian Peale

(Wikipedia) - Titian Ramsay Peale (November 2, 1799 – March 13, 1885) was a noted American artist, naturalist, entomologist and photographer. He was the sixteenth and youngest son of noted American naturalist Charles Willson Peale.
Peale was first exposed to the study of natural history while assisting his father on his many excursions in search of specimens for the Peale Museum. The family moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, where he began collecting and drawing insects and butterflies. Like his older brothers, Peale helped his father in the preservation of the museum's specimens for display, which included contributions from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Continued

Nov 16, 2008

Der Belsnickel of the Pennsylvania Dutch: 'He looked scary and carried a sack of presents'

(York Town Square) - ... "He looked scary and carried a sack of presents, mostly nuts and hard candy, and a stick or a cane. He came when it was dark, before the children went to bed, and would rap on the window or the door with his stick," Reigart said. "He would ask to see the children, and ask them if they had been good. He tossed nuts and candy on the floor, and when the children scrambled to get them he would switch them a little with his stick, admonishing them to be good." Continued


The Presidency That Roared

(NYTBR) - Early in “Moby-Dick,” Melville announces his intention to celebrate the “democratic dignity” of ordinary men. To them he shall “ascribe high qualities, though dark.” For support in this endeavor, Melville appeals to the “great democratic God!” the deity “who didst pick up Andrew Jackson from the pebbles; who didst hurl him upon a war-horse; who didst thunder him higher than a throne!” Continued

Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer

(Wikipedia) - Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer (1723 – 16 November 1790) was a politician and a Founding Father of the United States. Born long before conflicts with Great Britain emerged, he was a leader for many years in Maryland's colonial government. However, when conflict arose with Great Britain, he embraced the Patriot cause, willingly abandoning the ordered society of colonial Maryland for the uncertainty of revolution. Continued

Nov 15, 2008

Buoy that tells current news, history is back on duty

(Baltimore Sun) - Shot up and left for dead three months ago, the bright yellow buoy took just a few minutes yesterday to get its bearings and begin transmitting from the mouth of the Patapsco River. The $120,000 "smart buoy," part of the John Smith National Historic Water Trail, was badly damaged July 26, when vandals armed with a .22-caliber rifle blasted holes in the solar panels, the navigational light and electronic gear - more than 20 shots in all. The buoy, a year old, was hauled from the water for repairs in early August. Continued

Bats versus bicyclists: Old W. Md. rail tunnel attracts both, but coexistence in doubt

(Baltimore Sun) - ... The 4,350-foot Indigo Tunnel southwest of Hancock hosts an estimated 1,400 bats during their winter hibernation, some of them rare and endangered species. But the bats' fondness for the place could derail plans to extend a popular bike trail through the cavernous tunnel - a route that supporters hope will help lure thousands more tourists to this hard-pressed region. Continued

Lincoln living historian to speak at Hanover Junction Nov. 18

(Cannonba!!) - The Hanover Area Historical Society will host a special free event for the public at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 18, in Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania. Entitled "Lincoln visits Hanover Junction", the event will commemorate the date of President Abraham Lincoln's journey by train to consecrate the cemetery grounds in Gettysburg. The program will feature Civil War accounts of the role the Hanover Junction rail depot played in troop movements, telegraph dispatch, and American history.
President Lincoln, portrayed by James Hayney, will speak to the crowd promptly at 5 p.m. Continued

Photo: MDRails

Nov 14, 2008

Robert Fulton

(Wikipedia) - Robert Fulton was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1765. He had become interested in steamboats in 1777 when (at the age of 12) he visited William Henry of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Henry had found out about Watt's steam engine on a visit to England. He had then made his own engine and in 1763 – two years before Fulton was born – tried putting his engine in a boat, which sank. Continued

Nov 13, 2008

Nostalgia for the Scholastic Book Club

I read a ton of these when I was a kid.

John Dickinson: President of Pennsylvania and Delaware

(Wikipedia) - John Dickinson (November 8, 1732 – February 14, 1808) was an American lawyer and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware. He was a militia officer during the American Revolution, a Continental Congressman from Pennsylvania and Delaware, a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, President of Delaware, President of Pennsylvania and served from 1782 to 1785 as an ex officio member and president of the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.
Among the wealthiest men in the British American colonies, he is known as the Penman of the Revolution, for his Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, where he eloquently argued the cause of American liberty. Although refusing to vote in favor of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he supported the establishment of the new government during the American Revolution and afterward in many official capacities. Continued

Nov 12, 2008

Group traces Stewartstown Railroad tracks

(YDR) - The Stewartstown Railroad Co. this winter will try to add its rails to the National Register of Historic Places, board member Eric Bickleman said Sunday.
The move would preserve only the tracks because the station was added years ago.
Bickleman said the process could be "fairly time consuming" as railroad officials trace the boundaries of the 7.4-mile railroad and pore over right-of-way records that date back to at least 1885. Continued

Photo: Stewartstown Coaches, MDRails

Nov 10, 2008

Old tank ready for Veterans Day spin

(Baltimore Sun) - With any luck, the engine will fire up and a driver will take a 3-ton World War I tank for a short spin to mark Veterans Day at Aberdeen Proving Ground on Tuesday.
One of only two surviving U.S. tanks of its era, the Model 1918 Ford more closely resembles an armored tractor. Continued

Canon 5D

Nov 9, 2008

Borough museum to open

(YDR) - New Freedom will soon have a museum to tell the story of the borough's past.
The New Freedom Heritage group recently cut the ribbon on the 1,200-square-foot building, which will now serve as a museum with photos, artifacts and memorabilia that paint a picture of the town and its history from the early days to the present.
The borough agreed to help the heritage group buy a 0.62-acre property that included a small building, which once served as an insurance office. The goal was to turn the site at East Main Street and Railroad Avenue into Freedom Green, a place for community events. Continued

Photo: New Freedom. Canon EOS 30D & EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens

Benjamin Banneker

(LoC) - Mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker was born on November 9, 1731, in Ellicott's Mills, Maryland. Largely self-taught, Banneker was one of the the first African Americans to gain distinction in science. His significant accomplishments and correspondence with prominent political figures profoundly influenced how African Americans were viewed during the Federal period. Continued

Nov 7, 2008

William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008

(NYTimes) - Thirty years ago photography was art if it was black and white. Color pictures were tacky and cheap, the stuff of cigarette ads and snapshot albums. So in 1976, when William Eggleston had a solo show of full-color snapshotlike photographs at the august Museum of Modern Art, critics squawked.
It didn’t help that Mr. Eggleston’s pictures, shot in the Mississippi Delta, where he lived, were of nothings and nobodies: a child’s tricycle, a dinner table set for a meal, an unnamed woman perched on a suburban curb, an old man chatting up the photographer from his bed. Continued

Nov. 7, 1932: Radio Enters the 25th Century

1932 (Wired): Space adventurer Buck Rogers debuts on CBS radio. The science fiction show, eventually called Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, will delight loyal fans over a span of 15 years and inspire aficionados for decades more.
Writer Phil Nowlan unveiled space swashbuckler Buck Rogers in a story called "Armageddon — 2419," which was published in Amazing Stories magazine in August 1928. Nowlan collaborated with John F. Dille and Dick Calkins on a newspaper comic strip that started Jan. 7, 1929. Continued

Nov 6, 2008

Be part of the book that celebrates Baltimore County's history

(North County News) - Founded in 1659, Baltimore County is coming up on its 350th anniversary next year, and Barry Lanman is inviting residents to add their memories of the county to a new book.
Lanman, a Catonsville resident who founded the Martha Ross Center for Oral History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County nine years ago, is working with the Historical Society of Baltimore County to compile a 300-page book giving a historical overview of Baltimore County.
Residents are invited to send in two- to three-sentence comments about their communities, memories or other specific, personal perspectives on the county. Continued

Photo: Long Green Valley. Canon EOS 5D & EF 70-200 mm f/2.8 IS lens

Walter Johnson: "The Big Train"

(Wikipedia) - Walter Perry Johnson (November 6, 1887 – December 10, 1946), nicknamed "The Big Train", was an American right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball between 1907 and 1927. One of the most celebrated players in baseball history, Johnson established several pitching records, some of which remained unbroken for more than a half-century.
... As a right-handed pitcher for the Washington Nationals/Senators, Walter Johnson won 417 games, the second most by any pitcher in history (after Cy Young, who won 511). He and Young are the only pitchers to have won 400 games. Continued

Walter Johnson and Calvin Coolidge ( Library of Congress - both photos)

Nov 5, 2008

Historians write 1st draft on Obama victory

(MSNBC) - It's historic, certainly, but what does it mean? asked American historians who have focused on civil rights issues to react to the victory of Sen. Barack Obama.
Below are their essays, a first draft of history. Continued

Photo: Canon 50D (crop from campaign poster)

Papa’s Gift to the Fire-in-the-Belly Crowd

(NYTimes) ... Robert Jordan is the hero of Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” an American fighting Franco’s Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. And despite his radical roots, he’s a literary sensation during this election season. Senator Barack Obama told Rolling Stone that Hemingway’s novel, published in 1940, is one of the three books that most inspired him. As for Senator John McCain, few men, real or fictional, have influenced him as much as Jordan. Continued

Photo: Wikipedia

Nov 4, 2008

History in the Making: Election 2008

Canon EOS 50D & EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens or EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens