Dec 31, 2008

The Night the Bed Fell by James Thurber

I suppose that the high-water mark of my youth in Columbus, Ohio, was the night the bed fell on my father. It makes a better recitation (unless, as some friends of mine have said, one has heard it five or six times) than it does a piece of writing, for it is almost necessary to throw furniture around, shake doors, and bark like a dog, to lend the proper atmosphere and verisimilitude to what is admittedly a somewhat incredible tale. Still, it did take place. Continued

Jerry Turner

(Wikipedia) - Jerry Turner (August 6, 1929 - December 31, 1987), was an American television news anchorman at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, Maryland. He was from Meridian, Mississippi and started working at the Baltimore television station in 1962, starting the 6PM Newscast With Al Sanders in 1977. Continued

Dec 30, 2008


(Wikipedia) - Ling-Ling (1969 - December 30th, 1992) and Hsing-Hsing (1970 - 99) were two Giant Pandas given to the United States as gifts by the government of China following President Richard Nixon's visit in 1972. In return, the U.S. government sent China a pair of musk oxen.
They arrived at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., on April 16, 1972, at a ceremony attended by First Lady Pat Nixon. While at the zoo, they attracted millions of visitors each year. Continued

Photo: Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, Smithsonian.

Dec 28, 2008

Maritime expansion: Museum plans upgrades to contain new exhibits

(Baltimore Sun) - The Havre de Grace Maritime Museum was started in 1988 to help preserve the maritime traditions and history of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay area. After more than a decade of sharing space with another organization, the museum moved in 2001 to its own building in Havre de Grace. Now, to accommodate the growing number of people who use the museum and its programs, improvements and additions are being made to that building. Continued

Historical Society's focus turns to preserving itself

(Baltimore Sun) - For more than 120 years, the Historical Society of Harford County has served as a repository for documents, books, artifacts and photographs. For much of that time, the society's collection was split up and housed at various locations.
The headquarters was a building on Courtland Street in Bel Air, the archives were stored at Southampton Middle School, and the court records were kept at the old Aberdeen High building.
In 1994, the society - recognized as the oldest county historical society in the state - found a home when the county turned over the old post office building on Main Street. Continued

Dec 27, 2008

MA&PA Railroad History: Taylor's Trestle

( - Taylor's Trestle, named after the owner of the adjacent property, is located on the Ma & Pa (Maryland and Pennsylvania) railroad line. It is located between the towns of Red Lion and Yoe, Pennsylvania, and is a very short distance south of the take-off of the Dallastown spur. It is close to Springwood Road, near the northern boundary of the Red Lion borough, and is adjacent to the site of the old Red Lion incinerator.
The trestle is exactly 68.9 miles north of Ma & Pa's station at North Ave. in Baltimore, which was the southern terminus of the railroad. Because it is 68.9 miles from the Baltimore station, it is known as trestle #689. The entire trestle is 261 feet 6 inches long, and 28 feet high at its tallest point. The trestle rests on the surface of the ground of the underlying ravine; the trestle's supports are not actually drilled into the ground.
The trestle is historically significant because it is a rare example of a still-standing wooden railroad trestle from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is especially unique because it is a curved, rather than straight, trestle.
Taylor's Trestle is believed to have been built about 1895. Continued

Radio City Music Hall

(LoC) - Radio City Music Hall opened to the public on December 27, 1932. Located in New York City's Rockefeller Center, this fabulous Art Deco theater is home to the The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a New York Christmas tradition since 1933, and to the women's precision dance team known as the "Rockettes." Designed by Donald Desky, the interior of the theater incorporates glass, aluminum, chrome, and geometric ornamentation. Desky rejected the Rococo embellishment generally used for theaters at that time in favor of a contemporary Art Deco style. Continued

Photo: Samuel H. Gottscho, Library of Congress

Dec 26, 2008

Eartha Kitt: Santa Baby

Eartha Mae Kitt (January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008)

Via boingboing

Dec 25, 2008

The Cedar Hill School in Cecil County remains a mystery

(roadtocompromise) - About five miles outside Elkton, is the small African American community of Cedar Hill. There is a fallen down building in this community that once served as the schoolhouse. As a volunteer at the Historical Society of Cecil County, I’ve had the opportunity to look through the vast sea of our information of old schools in the county, and there is very little about it. What is known is that the school was open until after WWII probably closing in the mid-1950’s. Continued

Photo: Kyle Dixon

The Sweet Heaven Kings

( - The Sweet Heaven Kings is the premier brass band at the United House of Prayer in Anacostia. The gospel brass band tradition is unique to this denomination. It was introduced into services by charismatic church founder Bishop Charles M. “Sweet Daddy” Grace. Grace established his first congregation in 1919 in West Wareham, Massachusetts, with an emphasis on the direct, physical experience of the Spirit. From the 1920s onward, as the church spread rapidly throughout the South, Grace began using brass instruments as the centerpiece of his all-day, all-night services. Continued

Dec 24, 2008

And to all a good night

A Visit from Saint Nicholas in the Ernest Hemingway Manner by James Thurber

It was the night before Christmas. The house was very quiet. No creatures were stirring in the house. There weren't even any mice stirring. The stockings had been hung carefully by the chimney. The children hoped that Saint Nicholas would come and fill them.
The children were in their beds. Their beds were in the room next to ours. Mamma and I were in our beds. Mamma wore a kerchief. I had my cap on. I could hear the children moving. We didn't move. We wanted the children to think we were asleep.
"Father," the children said.
There was no answer. He's there, all right, they thought.
"Father," they said, and banged on their beds.
"What do you want?" I asked.
"We have visions of sugarplums," the children said.
"Go to sleep," said mamma.
"We can't sleep," said the children. They stopped talking, but I could hear them moving. They made sounds.
"Can you sleep?" asked the children.
"No," I said.
"You ought to sleep."
"I know. I ought to sleep."
"Can we have some sugarplums?"
"You can't have any sugarplums," said mamma.
"We just asked you."
There was a long silence. I could hear the children moving again.
"Is Saint Nicholas asleep?" asked the children.
"No," mamma said. "Be quiet."
"What the hell would he be asleep tonight for?" I asked.
"He might be," the children said.
"He isn't," I said.
"Let's try to sleep," said mamma.
The house became quiet once more. I could hear the rustling noises the children made when they moved in their beds.
Out on the lawn a clatter arose. I got out of bed and went to the window. I opened the shutters; then I threw up the sash. The moon shone on the snow. The moon gave the lustre of mid-day to objects in the snow. There was a miniature sleigh in the snow, and eight tiny reindeer. A little man was driving them. He was lively and quick. He whistled and shouted at the reindeer and called them by their names. Their names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen.
He told them to dash away to the top of the porch, and then he told them to dash away to the top of the wall. They did. The sleigh was full of toys.
"Who is it?" mamma asked.
"Some guy," I said. "A little guy."
I pulled my head in out of the window and listened. I heard the reindeer on the roof. I could hear their hoofs pawing and prancing on the roof.
"Shut the window," said mamma.
I stood still and listened.
"What do you hear?"
"Reindeer," I said. I shut the window and walked about. It was cold. Mamma sat up in the bed and looked at me.
"How would they get on the roof?" mamma asked.
"They fly."
"Get into bed. You'll catch cold."
Mamma lay down in bed. I didn't get into bed. I kept walking around.
"What do you mean, they fly?" asked mamma.
"Just fly is all."
Mamma turned away toward the wall. She didn't say anything.
I went out into the room where the chimney was. The little man came down the chimney and stepped into the room. He was dressed all in fur. His clothes were covered with ashes and soot from the chimney. On his back was a pack like a peddler's pack. There were toys in it. His cheeks and nose were red and he had dimples. His eyes twinkled. His mouth was little, like a bow, and his beard was very white. Between his teeth was a stumpy pipe. The smoke from the pipe encircled his head in a wreath. He laughed and his belly shook. It shook like a bowl of red jelly. I laughed. He winked his eye, then he gave a twist to his head. He didn't say anything.
He turned to the chimney and filled the stockings and turned away from the chimney. Laying his finger aside his nose, he gave a nod. Then he went up the chimney. I went to the chimney and looked up. I saw him get into his sleigh. He whistled at his team and the team flew away. The team flew as lightly as thistledown. The driver called out, "Merry Christmas and good night." I went back to bed.
"What was it?" asked mamma. "Saint Nicholas?" She smiled.
"Yeah," I said.
She sighed and turned in the bed.
"I saw him," I said.
"I did see him."
"Sure you saw him." She turned farther toward the wall.
"Father," said the children.
"There you go," mamma said. "You and your flying reindeer."
"Go to sleep," I said.
"Can we see Saint Nicholas when he comes?" the children asked.
"You got to be asleep," I said. "You got to be asleep when he comes. You can't see him unless you're unconscious."
"Father knows," mamma said.
I pulled the covers over my mouth. It was warm under the covers. As I went to sleep I wondered if mamma was right.

Found at

Hanover man was a victim of both armies during the Gettysburg Campaign

(Cannonba!!) - More than 700 York County residents suffered losses to the passing armies during the Gettysburg Campaign. In a few cases, they were victimized more than once, and at times to both the Union and Confederate forces. One such multiple unfortunate was wealthy Hanover merchant and land owner Josiah W. Gitt, whose properties were in the wrong places at the wrong times. Continued

Photo: "Battle Monument, Hanover, PA" Scott Mingus/Wikipedia

Johns Hopkins: His death and his philanthropy

(Wikipedia) - ... Johns Hopkins died without heirs on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1873. He left $7 million, mostly in Baltimore & Ohio Railroad stock, to establish his namesake institutions. This sum was the single largest philanthropic donation ever made to educational institutions up until that time.
The bequest was used to found posthumously the Johns Hopkins Colored Children Orphan Asylum first as he requested, in 1875, the Johns Hopkins University in 1876, the Johns Hopkins Press, the longest continuously operating academic press in America, in 1878, the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in 1889, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1893. Continued

'Twas the Night Before Christmas…

(LoC) - 'Tis December 24, the day before Christmas, and all through the land, families will send excited children to bed with a reading of Clement Moore's classic poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas."
Moore is thought to have composed the tale, now popularly known as "The Night Before Christmas," on December 24, 1822, while traveling home from Greenwich Village, where he had bought a turkey for his family's Christmas dinner. Continued

Photo: Theodor Horydczak/Library of Congress

Dec 23, 2008


(Newsweek) - ... As depositors clamor to get their money back, Stewart tells them, "You're thinking of this place all wrong, as if I had the money back in the safe. The money's not here. Your money's in Joe's house, that's right next to yours. And in the Kennedy house and Mrs. Macklin's house and a hundred others."
... So in the presence of a run, in our remake, Brad Pitt might say this: "Why, don't ask for your money back right now when the housing market is in decline. You know that money isn't in the safe; it's invested in GSAMP 2006-S5 A2 and WAMU 2007-HY6 2B1 and the like." Continued

Obama chooses Lincoln's Bible for inauguration

WASHINGTON (AP) - President-elect Barack Obama will use the same Bible at his inauguration that Abraham Lincoln used for his swearing in.
Obama will be the first president since Lincoln to use that Bible, part of the collection of the Library of Congress.
... It will be on display at the Library of Congress February 12 to May 9 as part of an exhibition titled "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition." Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

Home for the Holidays

(LoC) - George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783, in the senate chamber of the Maryland State House in Annapolis, where the Continental Congress was then meeting.
Although the British had recognized American independence with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, British troops did not evacuate New York until December 4. After the last British ships left the harbor, Washington bid an emotional farewell to his officers and set out for Annapolis. On the journey south he was met with throngs of well-wishers paying him tribute for his role in the nation's military victory over Great Britain.
Washington left Annapolis at dawn on December 24 and set out for Mount Vernon, his plantation on the Potomac River in Virginia. He arrived home before nightfall on Christmas Eve, a private citizen for the first time in almost nine years. Continued

Dec 22, 2008

Dec. 22, 1882: Looking at Christmas in a New Light

1882 (Wired): An inventive New Yorker finds a brilliant application for electric lights and becomes the first person to use them as Christmas tree decorations.
Edward H. Johnson, who toiled for Thomas Edison’s Illumination Company and later became a company vice president, used 80 small red, white and blue electric bulbs, strung together along a single power cord, to light the Christmas tree in his New York home. Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

Hands on prehistory

(Baltimore Sun) - ... "Harford County has a plethora of museums," he said. "It's time to establish a center for Native American culture, whether it is attached to a current museum or a new building. Either way, it's important to preserve the early Native American history of this area." Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

Dec 21, 2008

Cecil County’s Civil War General

(Milt Diggins, HSoCC) - The push of events demanded a decision. A defiant Confederate flag now waved over Fort Sumter, blood-stained Baltimore streets evidenced a clash between a mob and Union soldiers, previously wavering states declared allegiance to the Confederacy, and martial law anchored Maryland to the Union. While opposing armies massed for war, U. S. Army officers sympathetic to the South could no longer delay their decision. On July 3rd, 1861, William Mackall reported to the war department, rejected a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and resigned. The highest ranking Civil War officer from Cecil County would wear Confederate gray. Continued

Photo: Caption reads: "Maj. Gen'l. Wm. W. Mackall, in command and captured at Island No. 10." Courtesy of William Emerson Strong Photograph Album, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University.

This holiday season, check out some tiny towns

(Examiner) - What is it about a train garden that mesmerizes in such bygone fashion? Why are we spellbound by a miniature train circling a snow-covered village that exists today only in books or in our own holiday memories?
"For me, it goes back to when I was a child," said Rob Williams, assistant director of The Fire Museum of Maryland. "A train garden is life in miniature. It's like being in an airplane and looking down."
What better way to "look down" than to drive around this season checking out the many volunteer fire departments and museums that display train gardens? Continued

Photo: MDRails, Canon EOS 20D

Merrie Melodies - Hobo Gadget Band

Via Hobotopia

Dec 20, 2008

Big Bill Haywood

I was browsing through the Bain News Service archive at the Library of Congress and found this picture of Big Bill Haywood. It's one I'd never seen before, so I thought I'd put it on the blog. (He's the large man in the center, wearing a Stetson hat.) Haywood* was the leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from 1905 until the early '20's.
I don't have a local connection for this picture, except maybe for the following anecdote:
When I was a little kid, I remember seeing an old revival preacher who told great stories. Not only great stories, but ones I'd never heard before. Many evangelists back then, in 1970's Harford County, got their most sensational stuff from reruns of Dragnet, but this guy had new material, or so I thought. It was a decade later, when reading up on my labor history, that I realized that the old preacher had been telling stories from the Red Scare of 1917. (Did I mention this guy was really old?) His stories were all thinly veiled (and highly embroidered), accounts of Emma Goldman, Joe Hill, Carlo Tresca, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and the like. He hadn't updated his sermon for more than half a century. I was sitting through a historical reenactment and didn't even know it.
The story I remember relating to Haywood was about a union leader who was an unbeliever, but had a devout wife who argued religion with him every day for 20 years. I can't remember the moral of the story, whether the man got converted, or whether it was more along the lines of the devil being able to quote scripture better than anyone, but there is a grain of truth to it. Haywood's wife was devout, a devout Christian Scientist, and she did argue with him incessantly about religion, but he never converted, nor did he quote the scriptures very often. What he did, was move out of the house, which, when you think about it, is a pretty good moral too.

*For more info on this topic, pick up a copy of "Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood." It's a good read.

Dec 19, 2008


(NYTimes) - “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation. Continued

Sketching the Earliest Views of the New World

(Smithsonian) - John White wasn't the most exacting painter that 16th-century England had to offer, or so his watercolors of the New World suggest. His diamondback terrapin has six toes instead of five; one of his native women, the wife of a powerful chief, has two right feet; his study of a scorpion looks cramped and rushed. In historical context, though, these quibbles seem unimportant: no Englishman had ever painted America before. White was burdened with unveiling a whole new realm. Continued

Dec. 19, 1974: Build Your Own Computer at Home!

1974 (Wired): The Altair 8800 microcomputer goes on sale. It doesn't offer much, but it's the small start of a big trend toward small things.
A small New Mexico company — with the big name of Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems and the small name of MITS — manufactured the Altair as a do-it-yourself kit. At its heart was the Intel 8080 microprocessor, with the remarkable capacity of 8 bits, or 1 byte. Continued

Photo: Michael Holley/Wikipedia

Dec 18, 2008

Making history personal

(Baltimore Sun) - Bob Velke spent several years searching for live people during the day and dead people at night. Eventually, he quit his job as a researcher for a private investigator tracking down white-collar criminals, but he never stopped digging up information on the deceased.
The former criminologist now runs a genealogical software company from offices on Red Branch Road in Columbia. For more than 15 years, Velke has helped others unearth their roots, though, ironcially, it has left him little time to work on his own. "Every family's got a genealogist," the Columbia resident said. Continued

Photo: Genealogy Sheets, Lyntha Scott Eiler

Dallas Theatre perking along, but Stewartstown's Ramsay Theatre: 'It is really in bad shape'

(York Town Square) - Dallastown's Dallas Theatre is one of the few functioning movie houses out of several that once dotted York County's small towns. The Glen Theatre in Glen Rock is another.
John Fishburne noticed another of those old small-town theaters in Stewartstown that is deteriorating.
"It is really in bad shape," he wrote... . Continued

Photo: Theatre, Stewartstown, PA. Canon EOS 30D.

Dec 17, 2008

New York Public Library's flickr photostream

The New York Public Library has started posting photographs from its collection to flickr. Along with the photo above (which, despite appearances, is not from a Margaret Dumont lookalike contest), they have posted photos from the Civil War, the FSA, Cyanotypes of British Algae, Ellis Island, etc. You can see them here.

Antietam Bridge on the Boonsboro and Sharpsburg Turnpike

The Wild, Wild Doctoring in the Wild, Wild West

(NYTimes) - Bear attacks. Syphilis. Bullet wounds. Malaria. Scalpings. Cholera. Arrows shot into the skull. Scurvy. Rabies. Ax mishaps. Crushings by moving wagon wheels. Outsize tumors. Snake bites.
There were many ways to die in frontier America, plenty of them gruesome. In his new book, “Frontier Medicine,” the historian David Dary relates the story of westward expansion while examining these misfortunes, and many others, from the point of view of men and women who tried to heal the often ruinously injured. Continued

Photo: Dr. Jones and his female patients stand outside of his office, a wood frame building with tin roof, in the Black community of Dearfield, Colorado, in Weld County. The doctor wears a broad-brimmed hat, a vest, trousers, and a shirt. The group stands under the "Doctor W.A. Jones" sign. (Library of Congress)

Dec 16, 2008

Obama not the first Pres.-elect to take train through Baltimore

(Sun) - Barack Obama has never been one to shy away from Lincoln symbolism in his presidential run (for example, making his campaign announcement on the steps of the old state house in Springfield, where the 16th president served). Like Lincoln, Obama plans to arrive in Washington by train. (Lincoln rode the rails all the way from Illinois; Obama's just picking up a train out of Philly.) But he's looking for a somewhat more triumphant stop in Baltimore than Lincoln got in 1861. Continued

Photo: Passage through Baltimore, Adalbert Volck (Library of Congress)

Dec 15, 2008

Monumental Upkeep Gives History a Helping Hand

(Wired) - Intrepid tourists travel thousands of miles and spend thousands of dollars just to experience historic marvels with their own eyes. The irony is that much of what they're seeing is the work of ongoing upkeep, the replication of what it probably used to look like.
To mark the 2001 reopening of the Leaning Tower of Pisa after a fix that kept it from falling over, we take a look at the preservation efforts of other epic monuments. Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

The Bill of Rights

(LoC) - On December 15, 1791, the new United States of America ratified the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, confirming the fundamental rights of its citizens. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, speech, and the press, and the rights of peaceful assembly and petition. Other amendments guarantee the rights of the people to form a "well-regulated militia," to keep and bear arms, the rights to private property, fair treatment for accused criminals, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom from self-incrimination, a speedy and impartial jury trial, and representation by counsel. Continued

Dec 13, 2008

White House Week: Seven Nights Inside America's Most Famous Home

(C-Span) - Just a reminder to join C-SPAN for White House Week! This 7-day television event kicks off THIS SUNDAY EVENING with the premiere of a 105-minute feature documentary, The White House: Inside America's Most Famous Home -- a C-SPAN original production. White House Week takes you beyond the velvet ropes to the private residence, sharing exclusive interviews with the First Family, the White House staff, and renowned presidential historians. Find the full schedule here.

Photo: Library of Congress

Norfolk Southern Offers $1 Million Challenge Grant to Assist Virginia Museum of Transportation

ROANOKE, VA. (NS) - Norfolk Southern Corporation has offered a challenge grant of $1 million to the Virginia Museum of Transportation (VMT) for capital and operating expenses over a three-year period to help the museum implement certain recommendations from Museum Management Consultants. The challenge grant is contingent on equal commitments of support by both the governments of the Roanoke Region and by other private donors to meet the estimated $3 million required for the museum's long-term needs.
Norfolk Southern also will assist museum staff in drawing up a three-year business plan and establishing measurable objectives to restore the museum's vitality. In addition, other local rail-related organizations including the Norfolk and Western Historical Society (NWHS), the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS), and the O. Winston Link Museum have offered their support for the effort. Continued

Photo: Canon EOS 20D & EF 70-200 mm f/2.8 IS lens

Dec 12, 2008

The Depression in York County: It caused great suffering here

(YDR) - ... Some accounts of the 1930s suggest the county deflected the devastating effects of those terrible economic times.
For example, one observer has commented that the Depression "pinched, but it didn't hurt." That is, frugal York countians weathered those tough times without a trace of blood. It is true that the Depression smacked industry and banking less squarely in the county than most other areas of Pennsylvania.
But that's where the myth makers often stop.
Dig just a little deeper, and it's obvious the Depression caused widespread suffering in York County. Continued

Photo: Bonus veterans. Kid from York, Pennsylvania. Theodor Horydczak Collection (Library of Congress)

Colonial Re-Enactors

A Signal Day in Radio History

(Wired) - Dec. 12: Inventor Guglielmo Marconi amazes a London assemblage in 1896 with a demonstration of wireless communication across a room. Five years later to the date, Marconi sends the first signal across an ocean.
Marconi was the son of an Italian country gentleman and Irish whiskey heiress Anne Jameson. He took an early interest in physics, especially electricity. His neighbor in Bologna, physics professor Augusto Righi, encouraged Marconi to study the work of Heinrich Hertz. Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

Pennsylvania Ratifies the Constitution

(Library of Congress) - On December 12, 1787, delegates to the Pennsylvania ratifying convention meeting at the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall) voted to ratify the Constitution of 1787. Five days earlier, Delaware had become the first state to adopt the work of the Constitutional Convention.
Pennsylvania's early approval of the proposed document helped create momentum for ratification in the rest of the thirteen states. In Pennsylvania, however, opponents of the Constitution bitterly opposed the legislature's hasty action. "The Address and Reasons of Dissent of the Minority of the Convention…," signed by twenty-one of the twenty-three members of the state legislature who voted against ratification, outlines the grievances of the anti-Federalists. Continued

Dec 11, 2008

Annie Jump Cannon

(Wikipedia) - Annie Jump Cannon (December 11, 1863 – April 13, 1941) was an American astronomer whose cataloging work was instrumental in the development of contemporary stellar classification. With Edward C. Pickering, she is credited with the creation of the Harvard Classification Scheme, which was the first serious attempt to organize and classify stars based on their temperatures.
The daughter of shipbuilder and state senator Wilson Lee Cannon and his second wife, Mary Elizabeth Jump, Annie grew up in Dover, Delaware. Mary gave birth to two more daughters after Annie, in addition to the four stepchildren she inherited in the marriage. Annie's mother had a childhood interest in star-gazing, and she passed that interest along to her daughter. Continued

Dec 10, 2008

A History of Warner Brothers: "The Working Class Studio"

(NYTimes) - ... “It’s perfectly obvious to everyone that in Hollywood’s classic age, the 1930s and 1940s, Warner Brothers was the working-class studio,” Richard Schickel writes in his introduction to “You Must Remember This.” “You can see that most obviously in its famously ‘tragic’ gangsters, machine-gunning their way to power only to be gunned down not so much for their depredations but for their hubris, for daring to challenge the respectable and the law-abiding.” Schickel goes on to explain that through the ’30s and ’40s and beyond, the studio provided a context (and a haven) for pictures with a degree of social consciousness, or at least for stories whose endings weren’t always happy. Continued

Tuskegee Airmen Invited to Obama Inauguration

(NYTimes) - When the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black force of elite pilots, emerged from combat in World War II, they faced as much discrimination as they had before the war. It was not until six decades later that their valor was recognized and they received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor Congress can give.
Now, the roughly 330 pilots and members of the ground crew who are left from about 16,000 who served are receiving another honor that has surpassed their dreams: They are being invited to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama as the country’s first black president. Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

Dec 9, 2008

Building a barn one old beam at a time

(North County News) - Tom Donohue sadly admits he is one of a dying breed of craftsmen. But he will continue to build timber frame structures the old fashioned way — putting together salvaged logs with wooden pegs — as long as he can find clients who value his skill.
He takes on one timber frame building project a year. The process is a slow one. First he tears down an old barn or other farm building. Then he trucks the beams to the site of the new building. After discarding those with rot or termite damage, he replaces them with new beams. He assembles the entire structure — walls and roof rafters — flat on the ground. Only then is he ready for “crane day,” when a large crane lifts up each section and holds it in place until he and friends climb up and hammer in wooden pegs to stabilize the whole thing.
“It’s just like Lincoln logs,” he said. Continued

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

You want a photograph of what?

Via The Online Photographer

Scrapbooks: An American History

(NYTimes) - Fascinated by the idea of “visualizing biography,” Jessica Helfand has been collecting scrapbooks for years, she tells us in the preface to SCRAPBOOKS: An American History (Yale University, $45). Helfand comes from a family of collectors, she says, but there may be an even more personal explanation for her curiosity.
One of the scrapbooks she describes here was started in 1918 by a pretty Philadelphia girl named Minnie Hazel Reed, who pasted dance cards, pressed flowers, ticket stubs, calling cards and photographs into her book. Minnie went on to raise a family and live to 101; one of the photographs reproduced here shows her son, a fair-haired toddler in a white lace collar — Jessica’s future father. “She went to parties? There were men who danced with her besides Grandpop?” Helfand marvels, looking at the record of her grandmother’s life. Continued

Photo: Mr. Oliver Coleman, drummer, in the living room of his apartment on Indiana Avenue with his five-month-old son, looking at a scrapbook which has many photographs of bands with which he has played. Chicago, Illinois.
Delano, Jack, photographer, FSA/OWI/LoC

Hard times spark interest in New Deal sites

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The election of an ambitious new president in hard times is evoking comparisons with President Franklin Roosevelt, and the 75th anniversary of FDR's New Deal is sparking renewed interest in how Americans survived the Great Depression.
Now historic preservationists and tourism officials are hoping for increased tourism in places associated with the New Deal, like the town of Arthurdale, W.Va., which was built in the 1930s as a planned community for the rural poor. Continued

Photo: Arthurdale Homestead. Reedsville, West Virginia. Rothstein, Arthur, 1915- photographer.

Dec 8, 2008

History Lesson: Questions for Annette Gordon-Reed

(NYTimes) - After a lifetime spent writing about Thomas Jefferson and the children he fathered with the slave Sally Hemings, you just won a National Book Award for your sprawling history of her family, “The Hemingses of Monticello.”

It was great to win it on my birthday.

How did you first get interested in Jefferson?

I first read about him in the third grade. He was into books, and I was into books, too. Continued

Photo: Monticello, Library of Congress

Pan Am Flight 214

(Wikipedia) - Pan Am Flight 214, a Boeing 707-121 registered as N709PA, was a domestic scheduled passenger flight from Baltimore to Philadelphia, which crashed on December 8, 1963 near Elkton, Maryland, after being hit by a lightning strike while in a holding pattern, killing all 81 persons on board. Continued

Photo: Historical Society of Cecil County (mislabeled as flight 714).

Dec 7, 2008

Willa Cather

(Wikipedia) - Willa Sibert Cather (December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947) was an American author who grew up in Nebraska. She is best known for her depictions of frontier life on the Great Plains in novels such as O Pioneers!, My √Āntonia, and The Song of the Lark.
Willa Cather was born in 1873 on a small farm in the Back Creek valley near Winchester, Virginia. Her father was Charles Fectigue Cather (d. 1928), whose family had lived on land in the valley for six generations. Her mother was born Mary Virginia Boak (d. 1931). Continued

Photo: Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress

Dec 6, 2008

Featured History Programs on Book TV

Ira Stoll, Samuel Adams: A Life (Saturday 10 AM,
Sunday 12 AM & 11 PM, Monday 5 AM ET)

Thomas Slaughter,
The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition
(Saturday 1:30 PM,
Sunday 1 & 9 AM ET)

Jon Meacham,
American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
(Saturday 4 & 8:45 PM, Monday 6 AM ET)


The Washington Monument

(LoC) - On December 6, 1884, workers placed the 3,300 pound marble capstone on the Washington Monument, and topped it with a nine-inch pyramid of cast aluminum, completing construction of the 555-foot Egyptian obelisk. Nearly fifty years earlier, the Washington National Monument Society choose Robert Mills's design to honor first American president and founding father George Washington. The privately-funded organization laid the monument's cornerstone on Independence Day, 1848, in Washington, D.C. Continued

Photo: Horydczak on top of Washington Monument by Theodor Horydczak/Library of Congress

Dec 5, 2008

Glenn L Martin

(Martin Museum) - Glenn Luther Martin (January 17, 1886 - December 5, 1955). At the time he taught himself to fly in 1909 and 1910, Glenn Luther Martin was a youthful businessman, the owner (at age 22) of Ford and Maxwell dealerships in Santa Ana, California. Although he had taken courses at Kansas Wesleyan Business College before his family moved west in 1905, Martin lacked a technical background. His first planes were built in collaboration with mechanics from his auto shop, working in a disused church building that Martin rented. In 1909 Martin made his first successful flight; by 1911 he numbered among the most famous of the "pioneer birdmen." Continued

Photo: Martin RB-57A Canberra. Canon EOS 30D & EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens

Dec 4, 2008

State plans to preserve 9,200 acres

(Sun) - In a move hailed by conservation leaders, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced plans yesterday to buy five large tracts of forest, farmland and waterfront for more than $71 million to preserve them from development and enhance public access to the Chesapeake Bay.
The governor disclosed the deals to acquire more than 9,200 acres in Cecil, Charles, St. Mary's and Worcester counties as he unveiled a new computerized map of Maryland's environmentally valuable lands, which he said would become the centerpiece of the state's conservation efforts. "GreenPrint," as the interactive map is called, will "help us make choices about our open space," he said. Continued

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

Yet another First Thanksgiving

(LoC) - On December 4, 1619, thirty-eight Englishmen left their ship, ventured into the Virginia wilderness, and observed a prayer of Thanksgiving for safe passage to the New World.
Soon, the party, including a sawyer, a cooper, a shoemaker, a gun maker, and a cook, set about constructing a storehouse and an assembly hall for the plantation known as the Berkeley Hundred. Thereafter, December 4 was a day of Thanksgiving at Berkeley, "yearly and perpetually kept holy" as the plantation charter directed.
Located on the James River thirty miles west of Jamestown, the 8,000-acre plantation drew ninety settlers before it was decimated by a massacre in 1622. Continued

Photo: The First Thanksgiving by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris

Dec 3, 2008

Historic York names new director

(YDR) - Alycia Reiten always referred people to Historic York if they needed resources or consulting for historic preservation.
Now, she's leading the organization.
Reiten, of Carlisle, took over as executive director of the nonprofit Tuesday.
She holds a bachelor's degree in architecture and a master's degree in historic preservation. Continued

Photo of York, Pennsylvania by Kim Choate, Canon EOS 20D