Mar 31, 2009

Whose Father Was He?

(Errol Morris) - The soldier’s body was found near the center of Gettysburg with no identification — no regimental numbers on his cap, no corps badge on his jacket, no letters, no diary. Nothing save for an ambrotype (an early type of photograph popular in the late 1850s and 1860s) of three small children clutched in his hand. Within a few days the ambrotype came into the possession of Benjamin Schriver, a tavern keeper in the small town of Graeffenburg, about 13 miles west of Gettysburg. The details of how Schriver came into possession of the ambrotype have been lost to history. But the rest of the story survives, a story in which this photograph of three small children was used for both good and wicked purposes. First, the good. Continued

Photos: Wikipedia

Mar 30, 2009

Publishers of Cecil Soil Receive Earnest A. Howard Award

(HSoCC) - The Historical Society of Cecil County presented the Ernest A. Howard Award to the publisher of Cecil Soil Magazine, Ed and Carol Belote, at its spring meeting on Saturday, March 28. This prestigious recognition honors individuals who have made a significant contribution to the preservation of the county's historic resources, while facing huge challenges in trying to protect the built environment, save scarce relics, or record folkways. Continued

Photo: St. Mark's, Perryville (Aiken), Maryland. Canon EOS 30D & EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens

In the Noir Belt: American Rust

(NYTBR) - ... Much of the story takes place as springtime arrives in Buell, Pa., a jobless steel town short on prospects but long on bucolic vistas, where the dismantled mill is surrounded by thick forest and, Meyer writes, “little houses terraced up and down the hillsides.” Isaac English, a brainy kid who has forgone college to care for his paraplegic father, has finally summoned the courage (and stolen enough money) to skip town. He invites his friend Billy Poe, also two years out of high school, but Poe decides to stay home. He has the transmission in his Camaro to worry about, and a beer-soaked dream of playing college football. He’s also on probation for assault. Continued

Photos: Nightening

John Astin

(Wikipedia) - John Allen Astin (born March 30, 1930) is an American actor who has appeared in numerous films and television shows, but is best known for the role of Gomez Addams on The Addams Family and similarly eccentric comedic characters.
Astin was born in Baltimore, Maryland to Margaret Linnie Mackenzie and Dr. Allen Varley Astin, who was the director of the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology). He graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1952, after transferring from Washington & Jefferson College. Continued

Photo: Edgar Allan Poe: Once Upon a Midnight

Mar 29, 2009

Lumber siding

Lineboro, Maryland
Canon EOS 50D & EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS lens

Catching Some Z’s in Days of Yore

(NYTimes) - In one of the displays at the Folger Shakespeare Library a 17th-century manuscript interrupts its historical chronicle of bloodthirsty battles, hewn carcasses and sundered heads with a recipe for “a dormant drink”: a knockout potion. Perhaps the tale’s morbidity had been affecting the anonymous author, or maybe this potion, guaranteed to instill sleep for “2-daies,” just came to his mind as a perfect weapon against future enemies: you just slip ’em a Mickey. Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

Mar 28, 2009

30 Years Ago Today: Three Mile Island

(Wikipedia) - The Three Mile Island accident was the most significant accident in the history of the American commercial nuclear power generating industry.... The accident began on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, and ultimately resulted in a partial core meltdown in Unit 2 of the nuclear power plant (a pressurized water reactor manufactured by Babcock & Wilcox) of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania near Harrisburg. Continued

Mar 27, 2009

Cromwell Valley Park has skunk cabbage and the Easter Bunny

(Northeast Reporter) - While some people are still rubbing the winter hibernation from their eyes, Cromwell Valley Park is gearing up for its biggest event of the spring season -- the April 11 Easter Egg Hunt.
Hundreds of people are expected to turn out for a day that includes Easter Egg hunts for different age groups, a jelly bean counting contest, family games, a 4-H Rabbit Club presentation and, of course, a visit from the Easter Bunny.
"I think we had close to 700 people last year," said park manager Leo Rebetsky. Continued

Photo: Lime kilns at Cromwell Valley Park, Canon EOS 5D

1976: Washington Metro

(Wikipedia) - ... WMATA approved plans for a 98-mile (158 km) regional system in 1968, and construction on the metro began in 1969, with groundbreaking on December 9. The system opened March 27, 1976, with 4.6 miles (7 kilometers) available on the Red Line with five stations from Rhode Island Avenue to Farragut North, all in the District of Columbia. Arlington County, Virginia was linked to the system on July 1, 1976; Montgomery County, Maryland on February 6, 1978; Prince George's County, Maryland on November 20, 1978; and Fairfax County, Virginia and Alexandria, Virginia on December 17, 1983. Continued

Photo: MDRails

Mar 26, 2009

John Hope Franklin, Scholar of African-American History, Is Dead at 94

(NYTimes) - John Hope Franklin, a prolific scholar of African-American history who profoundly influenced thinking about slavery and Reconstruction while helping to further the civil rights struggle, died Wednesday in Durham, N.C. He was 94. Continued

Rolls-Royce Armored Car: The Bulletproof Ghost

(HistoryNet) - "Our Rolls-Royce armored car is one of the top exhibits we have,” says David Willey, curator of the Tank Museum in Dorset, England. “It’s one of those vehicles that still has cachet. There’s an aura about it, and all of us here have a certain pride that it’s part of the collection.”
The car in question was constructed on the chassis of a 1920 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, regarded in contemporary motoring circles as “the best car in the world.” Built between 1906 and 1926, the elegant Ghost was certainly never intended for military service. Continued

Nancy Pelosi

(Wikipedia) - ... Pelosi was born in Baltimore, Maryland. The youngest of six children, she was involved with politics from an early age. Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., was a U.S. Congressman from Maryland and a Mayor of Baltimore. Her brother, Thomas D'Alesandro III, also a Democrat, was mayor of Baltimore from 1967 to 1971, when he declined to run for a second term. Pelosi graduated from Institute of Notre Dame, a Catholic all-girls high school in Baltimore, and from Trinity College (now Trinity Washington University) in Washington, D.C. in 1962. Pelosi interned for Senator Daniel Brewster (D-Maryland) alongside future House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Continued

Mar 25, 2009

The Culture Corner

(Dinosaur Gardens) - Here are some helpful instructions on how to perform everyday tasks in a cultured manner, courtesy comic book master Basil Wolverton. This feature ran in Whiz Comics from 1945 to 1952, and I believe they have never been reprinted. Continued

Via boingboing

Maryland Day

( - Maryland Day commemorates March 25, 1634. On that day, settlers disembarked from two small sailing ships - the Ark and the Dove - on to Maryland soil. At St. Clement's Island, they landed in what is now St. Mary's County, Maryland.
The Maryland settlement was authorized under the charter granted June 20, 1632, by Charles I of England to Cecilius Calvert, Baron of Baltimore. Traveling on the Ark to the new colony, Leonard Calvert, Lord Baltimore's brother, led the Maryland settlers. The purpose of their voyage was not to discover new lands but to settle them. Continued

Mar 24, 2009

Challenge to Landmark Law Worries Preservationists

CHICAGO (NYTimes) - Carol Mrowka considers her East Village neighborhood here attractive, comfortable — and ordinary. So when the city deemed the area an official landmark, Ms. Mrowka found it absurd and went to court.
“Sure, it’s a nice neighborhood,” said Ms. Mrowka, a real estate agent who moved 12 years ago to the neighborhood, north and west of the Loop, with its cottages and small, flat buildings that were home to immigrants in the late 1800s. “The basic style of the buildings is pretty, but this is not a landmark.” Continued

Photo: Chicago Ironwork (Library of Congress).

Quartering Act of 1765

(Wikipedia) - ... This first Quartering Act (citation 5 Geo. III c. 33) was given Royal Assent on March 24, 1765, and provided that Great Britain would house its soldiers in American barracks and public houses, as by the Mutiny Act of 1765, but if its soldiers outnumbered the housing available, would quarter them "in inns, livery stables, ale houses, victualing houses, and the houses of sellers of wine and houses of persons selling of rum, brandy, strong water, cider or metheglin", and if numbers required in "uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings"... "upon neglect or refusal of such governor and council in any province", required any inhabitants (or in their absence, public officials) to provide them with food and alcohol, and providing for "fire, candles, vinegar, salt, bedding, and utensils" for the soldiers "without paying any thing for the same". Continued

Mar 23, 2009

Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch Panics London Street

(Wired) - An East London street was evacuated over the weekend when engineers discovered what they thought was an explosive device under a fire hydrant.
After calling in bomb experts (and perhaps a squad of Trappist Monks), it was revealed the would-be booby trap was actually a prop replica of The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch from Monty Python and The Holy Grail (above). Continued

Electrons on Parade

Part Two

Via boingboing

John Bartram

Born in Darby Township to a Quaker family, John Bartram (1699-1777) became America's first great botanist, naturalist, and plant explorer.
Lacking a formal education, Bartram taught himself through observation, reading and correspondence with equally inquiring minds in the colonies and abroad. Continued

Photo: John Bartram by Howard Pyle

Mar 22, 2009

Jamestown Massacre

(Wikipedia) - The Indian massacre of 1622 (also known as the Jamestown Massacre) occurred in the Virginia Colony on Good Friday, March 22, 1622. As John Smith relates in his History of Virginia, the Indians “came unarmed into our houses with deer, turkeys, fish, fruits, and other provisions to sell us." Suddenly the Indians grabbed any tools or weapons that were available to them and killed any English settlers that were in sight, including men and women of all ages and children. When the Indians were through, 347 people, or a fourth of the English population of Jamestown, were killed by a coordinated series of surprise attacks of the Powhatan Confederacy under Chief Opechancanough. Continued

Mar 19, 2009

Amtrak's Newly Published Photo Guidelines

(NPPA) - Back in January the National Press Photographers Association, through its general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher, asked Amtrak in a letter to stop harassing photographers and to take immediate steps to remedy circumstances where law-abiding photographers working in public places were being confronted by the railroad's police and personnel.
In response, the general counsel for the Amtrak police invited NPPA to participate in a review and updating of their existing policies and suggested that NPPA might want to contribute potential guideline language and input on both the railroad's photography guidelines (for their employees and the public to follow) and on new photography policies for Amtrak police. Continued

Photo: MDRails

MUSKRAT: The other white meat in Md., Del.

CHESAPEAKE CITY, Md. (AP) — Is eating muskrat on your list of things to do before you die? It is for Carolyn Manning. An associate professor in the department of health, nutrition, and exercise sciences at the University of Delaware in Newark, Manning is no stranger to exotic food choices. Continued

Mar 18, 2009

Amateur historian researches Harford County's Booth family

(Baltimore Sun) - Growing up on a Kansas farm, Dinah Faber fell in love with history - specifically, the history of Western rogues such as Billy the Kid and Jesse James. So when Faber, a freelance writer and historian, moved with her husband to Maryland in 1995, it was only natural that she would fall for one of the most famous - and infamous - families Harford County has produced. Continued

Photo: Junius Brutus Booth (Library of Congress)

Mar 17, 2009

2,400 percent federal tax hike on roll-your-own tobacco has many smokers fuming

(YDR) - A 2,400 percent federal tax hike on roll-your-own tobacco has many smokers fuming.
But workers at a local tobacco store say their customers are trying to beat the clock, not the habit.
On Thursday, workers at Custom Blends in York Township talked of customers -- that shop in the store as well as order supplies from the store online -- that are buying as much tobacco as possible before the tax kicks in April 1. Continued

Photo: Tobacco Advertising (1872 - 1918), Library of Congress

Writing Women

(NYTBR) - It may be surprising that there’s been no comprehensive history of women’s writing in America. But Elaine Showalter has now undertaken this daunting venture with her vast democratic volume, “A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers From Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx,” in which she energetically describes the work of long-forgotten writers and poets along with that of their more well-known contemporaries. Continued

Photo: Willa Cather by Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress

The Hill of Slane

This is a video response to Call for films for Wyllie O Hagan St Patrick's Day Film Festival

Mar 15, 2009

Maryland Covered Bridges

( - Maryland Covered Bridges is dedicated to the promotion, preservaton and rehabilitation of all Covered Bridges.
Discover Maryland's Covered Bridges. Take a driving tour to visit the six remaining authentic bridges. Three bridges still exist in Frederick County, two in Cecil County and one is shared by Baltimore and Harford Counties. Continued

Photo: Jericho Covered bridge, Canon EOS 20D (Kim Choate). Story via Window on Cecil County’s Past

Mar 14, 2009

Doris Eaton Travis

(Wikipedia) - Doris Eaton Travis (also Doris Eaton) (born March 14, 1904) is a retired Broadway and film performer, dance instructor and author. She is also the last surviving Ziegfeld girl.
Eaton began attending dance lessons in Washington D.C., along with her sisters Mary and Pearl, at the age of four. In 1911, all three sisters were hired for a production of Maurice Maeterlinck's fantasy play The Blue Bird at the Shubert Belasco Theatre in Washington. While Eaton had a minor role in the show, as a sleeping child in the Palace of Night scene, it marked the beginning of her career in professional theatre. Continued

Mar 13, 2009

Which Side Are You On? Explaining what happened to labor in America

(boingboing) - I've just finished Thomas Geoghegan's classic memoir of his life as a labor lawyer, "Which Side Are You On?: Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back," in its revised, 2004 edition (which includes a lengthy afterword on labor in the 2000s). This is one of the best books I've read about labor politics in America, striking a balance between the romance and heroism of the best labor struggles in US history -- the workers who risked everything to bring us vacation pay, a minimum wage, the weekend, overtime, an end to child labor, and fundamental free speech and free association rights -- and the venality, pettiness and criminality of the worst of labor, from the big unions' historic exclusion of the poor and non-whites to the corruption, violence and fraud that has dogged labor through its American history.
... It's hard to love imperfect things -- countries, movements, people -- but it's also fundamentally adult to acknowledge the imperfections in the things that matter to you, and to fight to improve them rather than writing them off. Continued

Mar 12, 2009

Historic weaving art on display

(YDR) - There was a day when York County boasted a large number of weavers, but now their handiwork is somewhat hard to come by.
From 1800 to 1860, more than 600 York County residents listed their occupation as weaver in tax documents, according to information gathered by the York County Heritage Trust.
Most couldn't make a living by weaving alone, so they were often listed as blacksmiths, butchers or other occupations as well, said Jennifer Hall, director of exhibits and collections at the York County Heritage Trust. Continued

Mar 11, 2009

Maryland's Assateague ponies won't be sold or moved

(Baltimore Sun) - National Park Service officials say they will not sell or move any of the ponies on Assateague Island National Seashore.The decision announced yesterday applies only to horses on the Maryland half of the island, which is run by the Park Service, The Washington Post reports. It settles a debate on how to deal with the horses, who have an appetite for rare and valuable plants. Continued

Photos: Wikipedia

Sinners' Holiday: An Ode to Pre-Code Hollywood

(Imogen Sara Smith) - Once upon a time, Hollywood movies showed us Spencer Tracy skinny-dipping with Loretta Young, Barbara Stanwyck ducking into the ladies' room with her boss in exchange for a promotion, and chorus girls singing a tribute to marijuana.
This, of course, was pre-Code: shorthand for the era of Hollywood movie-making between the advent of sound in 1929 and the ascendance of Hays Office censorship in 1934. The term is in fact a misnomer. The Production Code was written and officially adopted in 1930, but for the next four years, like Prohibition, it was flouted with near impunity. Continued

Mar 10, 2009

Zelda Fitzgerald

(Wikipedia) - Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald (July 24, 1900–March 10, 1948), born Zelda Sayre in Montgomery, Alabama, was a novelist and the wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. She was an icon of the 1920s—dubbed by her husband "the first American Flapper". After the success of his first novel This Side of Paradise, the Fitzgeralds became celebrities. The newspapers of New York saw them as embodiments of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties: young, rich, beautiful, and energetic. Continued

Photo: Zelda and Scott's grave in Rockville, Maryland (Wikipedia).

Mar 8, 2009

The Heroine of the New Deal

(The Daily Beast) - As Frances Perkins got ready to her leave her post as secretary of Labor in 1945, she looked back to the moment she entered the Cabinet 13 years before. “I had, as you know, a program in mind,” she remarked mildly to her friend Felix Frankfurter. The understatement was typical. What she aimed for when she took over Labor in 1932 was: unemployment insurance, protection against indigence in old age, work relief for the jobless, the abolition of child labor, the 40-hour week and the minimum wage. In the next few years, those would translate into: Social Security, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Fair Labor Standards Act. “Everything except health insurance, dear Felix,” she concluded. Oh well. Continued

Photo: Frances Perkins by Jean MacLane (U.S. Department of Labor)

McKinley, Nixon, Johnson, Obama family trees have York County roots

(YTC) - President William McKinley and Richard Nixon have family links to York County. That information has been out there for years.
But "Trust Talk," newsletter of the York County Heritage Trust, broke new ground in exploring local links to the family of Barack Obama - and former president Lyndon Johnson.
According to the newsletter, Both Obama and Johnson descend from Philip Ament, a York County native... .
Ament joined the Continental Army in 1775, and he and his wife, Maria Elisabeth Schmidt, daughter of Jacob Schmidt, later moved to Albemarle County, Va. Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

History is a Weird Place: The case of Johnson vs Parker

(Wikipedia) - ... Sustaining the claim of Anthony Johnson to the perpetual service of John Casor the court gave judicial sanction to the right of Negroes to own slaves of their own race. Indeed no earlier record, to our knowledge, has been found of judicial support given to slavery in Virginia except as a punishment for crime. The defendant, John Casor, thus became the first individual known to be declared a slave in what later became the United States.
In 1665 Anthony Johnson and his wife Mary, his son John and his wife Susanna, and their slave John Casor moved to Somerset County, Maryland. Casor remained Johnson's slave for the rest of his life. Continued

Mar 6, 2009

John Philip Sousa

(Wikipedia) - John Philip Sousa (November 6, 1854 – March 6, 1932) was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era known particularly for American military and patriotic marches. Because of his mastery of march composition and resultant prominence, he is known as "The March King". In public he was typically referenced by his full name.
Sousa was born in Washington, D.C., on November 6, 1854 to John António de Sousa and Maria Elisabeth Trinkhaus. Continued

Mar 5, 2009

Howard Pyle

(Wikipedia) - Howard Pyle (March 5, 1853 – November 9, 1911) was an American illustrator and writer, primarily of books for young audiences. A native of Wilmington, Delaware, he spent the last year of his life in Florence, Italy.
In 1894 he began teaching illustration at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry (now Drexel University), and after 1900 he founded his own school of art and illustration called the Howard Pyle School of Illustration Art. The term the Brandywine School was later applied to the illustration artists and Wyeth family artists of the Brandywine region by Pitz (later called the Brandywine School). Some of his more famous students were Olive Rush, N. C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Elenore Abbott, and Jessie Willcox Smith. Continued

Mar 4, 2009

Old Gettysburg visitor center in its last days

(Hanover Evening Sun) - In hallways where thousands of schoolchildren and tourists once crowded together, the exhaled breath of a lone visitor now hangs visible in the cold, empty air.
The heat was long ago turned off at Gettysburg National Military Park's former museum and visitor center, which, with a pending fate of demolition, is merely a shell of its former self.
Today, the place is an eerie mess, full of empty shelves, scattered papers and outdated brochures. Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

Inauguration Day

(LoC) - Until the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933, March 4 was the official day for presidential inaugurations. When the fourth fell on a Sunday, as it did in 1821, 1849, 1877, and 1917, the ceremonies were held on March 5.
Yet, the first president, George Washington, was not inaugurated until April 30. Although Congress scheduled the first inauguration for March 4, 1789, they were unable to count the electoral ballots as early as anticipated. Consequently, the first inauguration was postponed to allow the president-elect time to make the long trip from his home in Virginia to the nation's capital in New York City. Continued

Mar 3, 2009

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands

(Wikipedia) - The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (usually referred to as the Freedmen's Bureau) was a U.S. federal government agency that aided distressed refugees of the American Civil War.
The Freedmen's Bureau Bill, which created the Freedman's Bureau, was initiated by President Abraham Lincoln and intended to last for one year after the end of the war. Passed on March 3, 1865, by Congress to aid former slaves through education, health care, and employment, it became a key agency during Reconstruction, assisting freedmen (freed ex-slaves) in the South. The Bureau was part of the United States Department of War. Headed by Union Army General Oliver O. Howard, the Bureau was operational from June 1865 to December 1868. Continued

Photo: McComas Institute, a Freedmen's Bureau school built in 1867, Joppa, Maryland.

Mar 2, 2009

Guys, Dolls and Busted Dreams: A Damon Runyon Sampler

(NYTimes) - “What Feet Samuels does for a living is the best he can, which is the same thing many other guys in this town do for a living. He hustles some around the race tracks and crap games and prize fights, picking up a few bobs here and there as a runner for the bookmakers, or scalping bets, or steering suckers, but he is never really in the money in his whole life. He is always owing and always paying off, and I never see him but what he is troubled with the shorts as regards to dough.” Continued

Photo of Damon Runyon: Wikipedia

Mar 1, 2009

Recalling When Entertainment Joined Education: “Chautauqua!”

(NYTimes) - ... Chautauqua was one of the great American popular educational movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Starting modestly on a campsite in western New York State as an effort to train Sunday school teachers, it expanded into a national phenomenon. The movement brought lectures by the great speakers, preachers and thinkers of the day (William Jennings Bryan was one of the hottest tickets) to the expanding middle class, along with folk music, historical costume drama and dance, all under a circus tent. Continued

Gladys Noon Spellman

(Wikipedia) - Gladys Noon Spellman (March 1, 1918 – June 19, 1988), a Democrat, was a U.S. Congresswoman who represented the 5th congressional district of Maryland from January 3, 1975 to January 3, 1981.
Spellman was born Gladys Blossom Noon in New York City and attended Eastern and Roosevelt high schools in Washington, D.C.. She graduated from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and graduate school with the United States Department of Agriculture. Spellman became a teacher, and taught in Prince George's County, Maryland schools. A consummate politician, Spellman was part of the wave of young, new suburban dwellers who moved to Prince George's County from Washington and elsewhere in the years after World War II, and that group remained her constituency throughout her political career. Continued