Feb 28, 2010

B & O Railroad

(LoC) On February 28, 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad became the first U.S. railway chartered for commercial transportation of freight and passengers. Investors hoped a railroad would allow Baltimore, the second largest U.S. city at that time, to successfully compete with New York for western trade. New Yorkers were profiting from easy access to the Midwest via the Erie Canal.
Construction began at Baltimore harbor on July 4, 1828. Local dignitary Charles Carroll, last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, laid the first stone.
The initial line of track, a 13-mile stretch to Ellicott's Mills (now Ellicott City), Maryland, opened in 1830. The Tom Thumb, a steam engine designed by Peter Cooper, negotiated the route well enough to convince skeptics that steam traction worked along steep, winding grades. Continued

Photo: MDRails

Feb 27, 2010

The Curious Case of Peter De Vries

(Moffly Media) In a moment we shall deal with the curious case of Peter De Vries, once deemed the funniest novelist in America, now all but forgotten.
... Great comic novels often arise out of a real-life sadness. Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five is basically about the firebombing of Dresden, in which masses of innocents were cremated while they slept. It’s hilarious. The power of such books lies in their consideration of darkness as well as light, embracing both a howl of existential doom (for we are all doomed in the end) and the laughter that is its only sane response. Somehow you end up laughing much harder, reading these books, than you do reading books where nothing really bad happens.This is because we relate more profoundly to that which is like life. As Mr. De Vries once told an interviewer, it is “false to life” to write books that are only serious or only funny. “You can’t talk about the serious and the comic separately and still be talking about life,” he said, “any more than you can independently discuss hydrogen and oxygen and still be talking about water.” Continued

Image: Fantastic Fiction

Feb 26, 2010

Buffalo Creek Flood

(Wikipedia) The Buffalo Creek Flood was an incident that occurred on February 26, 1972, when the Pittston Coal Company's coal slurry impoundment dam #3, located on a hillside in Logan County, West Virginia, USA, burst four days after having been declared 'satisfactory' by a federal mine inspector.
The resulting flood unleashed approximately 132 million gallons (500,000,000 L) of black waste water, cresting over 30ft high, upon the residents of 16 coal mining hamlets in Buffalo Creek Hollow. Out of a population of 5,000 people, 125 were killed, 1,121 were injured, and over 4,000 were left homeless. 507 houses were destroyed, in addition to forty-four mobile homes and 30 businesses. The disaster also destroyed or damaged homes in Lundale, Saunders, Amherstdale, Crites, Latrobe and Larado. In its legal filings, Pittston Coal referred to the accident as "an Act of God." Continued

Feb 25, 2010

Historic Preservation Element Plan Updated

(Dagger) The Department of Planning and Zoning has updated the Historic Preservation Element Plan and will host a public meeting/poster session to obtain public input on the draft plan. ... The draft plan may be viewed at http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/planningzoning/. Continued

Image: Library of Congress

Renegade German war hero who saved French port dies

(Reuters) A renegade former member of Germany's World War Two navy, who thwarted plans to wreck the French port of Bordeaux by retreating Nazi forces, has died at the age of 91, officials said.
Heinz Stahlschmidt was serving as a petty officer in the Kriegsmarine when he was ordered to help prepare the destruction of the southwestern city's port facilities as the Germans pulled out ahead of advancing allied troops. Continued

John McGraw

(Wikipedia) John Joseph McGraw (April 7, 1873–February 25, 1934), nicknamed "Little Napoleon" and "Muggsy", was a Major League Baseball player and manager. Much-lauded as a player, McGraw was one of the standard-bearers of dead-ball era major league baseball. Known for having fists as quick as his temper, McGraw used every advantage he could get as both a player and manager. He took full advantage of baseball's initial structure that only provided for one umpire, becoming notorious for tripping, blocking, and impeding a baserunner in any way he could while the umpire was distracted by the flight of the ball. His profligacy in employing such tactics may have led to additional umpires being assigned to monitor the basepaths. Continued

Image: Library of Congress

Feb 24, 2010

Art of Mourning

(artofmourning) Welcome to Art of Mourning, a dedication to mourning, memorial and sentimental jewellery, funeralia and art.
Each area is constantly updated with knowledge and information.
Because mourning, sentimental jewellery and art is relevant for the history of both cultures and societies, its documentation and distribution of knowledge is essential for people ranging from social historians to jewellery historians. Continued

Md., Balto. Co. decide against farm: Boat ramp, saving house are possibilities

(Baltimore Sun) State and local officials have backed away from buying a waterfront farm in eastern Baltimore County from a developer, saying they lack funding to acquire the entire 160-acre tract. Instead, officials say they still hope to buy two small pieces of the farm, one for a public boat ramp on Back River and the other to save a deteriorating historic house that witnessed the Battle of North Point in the War of 1812. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Baltimore County had been talking with developer Mark C. Sapperstein about buying Bauer Farm, a partly wooded waterfront tract on which Sapperstein had been planning to build 144 townhouses. Continued

Photo: Baltimore County Historical Trust

Feb 23, 2010

1778: Baron von Steuben arrives at Valley Forge to help train the Continental Army

(Wikipedia) ... On September 26, 1777, the Baron, his Italian greyhound, Azor (which he took with him everywhere), his young aide de camp Louis de Pontiere, his military secretary Pierre Etienne Duponceau, and two other companions, reached Portsmouth, New Hampshire and by December 1, was extravagantly entertained in Boston. Congress was in York, Pennsylvania, after being ousted from Philadelphia by the British advance. By February 5, 1778, Steuben had offered to volunteer without pay (for the time), and by the 23rd, Steuben reported for duty to Washington at Valley Forge. Steuben spoke little English and he often yelled to his translator, "Here! Come swear for me!" Colonel Alexander Hamilton and General Nathanael Greene were of great help in assisting Steuben in drafting a training program for the Army, which found approval with Washington. Continued

Print: Frederick Girsch. "General Washington standing with Johann De Kalb, Baron von Steuben, Kazimierz Pulaski, Tadeusz Kościuszko, Lafayette, John Muhlenberg, and other officers during the Revolutionary War." (Library of Congress)

Feb 22, 2010

Folk Photography: The American Real-Photo Postcard 1905-1930

(lasvegasweekly) ... Luc Sante’s new book, Folk Photography: The American Real-Photo Postcard 1905-1930 (Verse Chorus Press, $25), ... is a corner-of-the-mouth critique of all that’s phoney in contemporary art. That the “aesthetic arbiters of the time” (code word: Stieglitz) dismissed the real-photo postcard as inept amateurism, beneath notice, only reaffirms Sante’s belief in the importance of the genre, which he positions as the missing link between the “foursquare plain style” of the Civil War photographers and the rawboned aesthetic of Walker Evans. Locating the real-photo postcard in the “tradition of non-academic art in America, from the itinerant portrait painters of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to the graffiti muralists of more recent times,” Sante celebrates folk photography’s “distinctly American” aesthetic, with its “emphasis on inclusion and directness,” an aesthetic whose attractions sometimes amount to little more than “a kind of absence—an apparent refusal or inability to do anything more than state facts, which we in turn perceive as beautiful because they are so distant or so bare.” There are echoes, here, of Whitman’s bear-hug embrace of the common man at his best, and of Chandler’s eye for the poetry of the mundane. In the world before the deluge of images that now inundates our mental lives, the real-postcard photographers preserved “electrifyingly real glimpses of scenes that are halfway familiar and halfway impossibly remote, all the more vivid because they weren’t meant for us." And yet they were. Continued

Postcard by: My Grandmother c1914.

George Washington

(LoC) George Washington, the first president of the United States, was born on February 22, 1732. Americans celebrate his birthday along with Abraham Lincoln's on "Washington's Birthday" — the Monday before Washington's and after Lincoln's birthday. How do we really know when George Washington was born? Tobias Lear, Washington's secretary and close friend, gave the world a clue.
Lear lived with George and Martha Washington at Mt. Vernon, and he helped the Revolutionary War general organize his papers. On February 14, 1790, Lear wrote that the President's "birth day" was on the 11th of February Old Style, referring to the Julian Calendar. Washington was born 20 years prior to the 1752 introduction of the Gregorian Calendar (intended to more accurately reflect a solar year). When the Julian Calendar was "corrected" to the Gregorian Calendar, February 11th became February 22nd. Continued

Painting: Parson Weems' Fable by Grant Wood

Feb 21, 2010

For Love of Liberty PBS Documentary Sneak Peek

"TV Guide takes a sneak peek at the new PBS documentary FOR LOVE OF LIBERTY. Hosted by Halle Berry & featuring Morgan Freeman, Susan Sarandon & Ossie Davis, the film chronicles African-American soldiers' role in defending our country."

Carolina Parakeet

(Wikipedia) The Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States. It was found from the Ohio Valley to the Gulf of Mexico, and lived in old forests along rivers. It was the only species at the time classified in the genus Conuropsis. It was called puzzi la née ("head of yellow") or pot pot chee by the Seminole and kelinky in Chikasha (Snyder & Russell, 2002).
The last wild specimen was killed in Okeechobee County, Florida in 1904, and the last captive bird died at the Cincinnati Zoo on 21 February 1918. Continued

Feb 20, 2010

Tours tell story of Monticello through voices of its slaves

(Baltimore Sun) Burwell Colbert was the only person who could understand Thomas Jefferson when the former president was on his deathbed. James Hemings and his sister, Sally, could have sued for their freedom in France when they accompanied Jefferson to Paris in the 1780s, but instead returned with the statesman. And Peter Fossett later said he didn't realize he was a slave until the day, at age 12, when he was put on the auction block. Continued

Photo: "Servant quarters of Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson" (Library of Congress)

Feb 19, 2010

Foes rally against Gettysburg area casino plan

(YDR) Violet Clark remembers her most profound visit to the Gettysburg battlefield -- a foggy day one July when she came close to seeing what the battlefield would look like filled with cannon smoke.
The Tennessee native remembered her ancestors who fought on both sides, and although she had visited the same place 20 times before, she wept like it was her first experience there.
It's that kind of authentic experience that would be diminished by the lights and sounds and traffic from a proposed casino resort less than a mile from the Gettysburg National Military Park, Clark told a crowd of about 150 Thursday night at a meeting organized by No Casino Gettysburg. Continued

Image: Gettysburg Battlefield, 1918 (Library of Congress)

1859: First Temporary Insanity Defense in U.S.

(Wikipedia) Daniel Edgar Sickles (October 20, 1819 – May 3, 1914) was a colorful and controversial American politician, Union General in the American Civil War, and diplomat.
As an antebellum New York politician, Sickles was involved in a number of public scandals, most notably the killing of his wife's lover, Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key. He was acquitted with the first use of temporary insanity as a legal defense in U.S. history. He became one of the most prominent political generals of the Civil War. At the Battle of Gettysburg, he insubordinately moved his III Corps to a position in which it was virtually destroyed, an action that continues to generate controversy. His combat career ended at Gettysburg when his leg was struck by cannon fire. Continued

Feb 18, 2010

Searching For Tallulah: What’s Hollywood’s original bad girl doing buried in a peaceful Kent County cemetery?

(Chesapeake Life) Tucked away on a winding country road midway between Chestertown and Rock Hall on Maryland’s Eastern Shore lies St. Paul’s Episcopal Parish, more than 300 years old, with its picture-perfect, cozy brick church and surrounding 19-acre graveyard. One late afternoon when I visited, the serenity of the place was broken only by the chorus of ducks and geese enjoying the adjacent millpond. I was wandering the graveyard and having trouble finding a particular tombstone—the final resting spot of the turbulent, talented, and scandalous Tallulah Bankhead, star of stage, film, radio, and television from the 1920s until her death in 1968. Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

Johnny Appleseed

(Wikipedia) Johnny Appleseed (September 26, 1774 – February 18, 1845), born John Chapman, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. He became an American legend while still alive, largely because of his kind and generous ways, his great leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples.
He was also a missionary for the Church of the New Jerusalem, or Swedenborgian Church, so named because it teaches the theological doctrines contained in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Continued

Feb 17, 2010

Bill would protect an additional 7,200 acres of Civil War battlefield

(webb.senate.gov) A longtime advocate for Civil War battlefield preservation, U.S. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) introduced Tuesday the “Petersburg National Boundary Modification Act,” to protect an additional 7,200 acres of historic battlefields. The expansion would make the Petersburg National Battlefield the largest military park in the United States.
The legislation would give the National Park Service (NPS) authority to acquire 12 battlefields, totaling 7,200 acres, surrounding Petersburg National Battlefield. This expansion of the park was recommended in the National Park Service’s Final General Management Plan in 2005. Much of this historic land is currently susceptible to industrial and residential development. Continued

Photo: "Petersburg, Va. View from center of Fort Sedgwick looking south" (Library of Congress).

Rum’s revival is about more than daiquiris

(AP) ... There's a rum revival going on across the country as devotees spread the word that rum is about a lot more than the cheap stuff you might have got trashed on in college. "Rum is the most diverse spirit in the world," says Cate. "There's rich, smoky rums. There's drier, medium-bodied rums. Some have longer finishes and some short, drier finishes. There's a rum for every palate." Continued

Photo by Garitzko

Raphaelle Peale

(Wikipedia) Raphaelle Peale (sometimes spelled Raphael Peale) (February 17, 1774 – March 25, 1825) is considered the first professional American painter of still-life.
Peale was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the fifth child, though eldest surviving, of the painter Charles Willson Peale and his first wife Rachel Brewer. Continued

Feb 16, 2010

On Crete, New Evidence of Very Ancient Mariners

(NYTimes) Early humans, possibly even prehuman ancestors, appear to have been going to sea much longer than anyone had ever suspected.
That is the startling implication of discoveries made the last two summers on the Greek island of Crete. Stone tools found there, archaeologists say, are at least 130,000 years old, which is considered strong evidence for the earliest known seafaring in the Mediterranean and cause for rethinking the maritime capabilities of prehuman cultures. Continued

Photo: An ancient mariner

Fun fastnacht facts (including: What is a fastnacht?)

(YDR) Tuesday is Fastnacht Day, as people prepare for Lent.
Fail to eat a fastnacht on Shrove Tuesday, and you'll get boils.
And your chickens won't lay eggs, and your flax crop will fail.
That's the ultimate prediction if people don't indulge in this doughnut-like treat. Continued

Feb 15, 2010

Lew Wallace

(Wikipedia) Lewis "Lew" Wallace (April 10, 1827 – February 15, 1905) was a lawyer, governor, Union general in the American Civil War, American statesman, and author, best remembered for his historical novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.
... Wallace's most notable service came in July 1864, at the Battle of Monocacy, part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864. Although the some 5,800-man force under his command (mostly hundred-days' men amalgamated from the VIII Corps) and the division of James B. Ricketts from VI Corps was defeated by Confederate General Jubal A. Early, who had some 15,000 troops, Wallace was able to delay Early's advance for an entire day toward Washington, D.C., to the point that the city defenses had time to organize and repel Early, who arrived at Fort Stevens in Washington at around noon on July 11, two days after defeating Wallace at Monocacy, the northernmost Confederate victory of the war. Continued

Images: Monocacy Railroad Bridge by Alfred Waud, Lew Wallace by Brady & Co. (Library of Congress)

Feb 14, 2010

Tech Presidents Day: George, Tom and Abe

Wired.com marks Presidents Day weekend with brief vignettes of three of our techiest presidents: Washington steered national policy toward an embrace of science, Jefferson made a significant contribution to paleontology, and Lincoln devised and patented a gimmick for lifting stranded boats. Continued

Photo: Gutzon Borglum's model of Mt. Rushmore memorial -Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt & Lincoln (Library of Congress).

Feb 13, 2010

Towson preservationists call it quits: Group was formed in 1977 to save historic buildings

(Baltimore Sun) Thirty-three years ago, a group of volunteers gathered at a 19th-century stone church not far from Baltimore's expanding suburban shopping hub, in the shadow of new office buildings, to form an organization they called Historic Towson Inc. It represented an earnest effort to spare the seat of Baltimore County government a future as Any Suburb, U.S.A. After decades of running largely on faith, advocating historical preservation while angering many property owners, group members now plan to call it quits. Continued

Image: 431-433 E. Pennsylvania Avenue is an example of a ca. 1930s two-story duplex. Although it postdates most of the houses within the East Towson Historic District, its siting, shingled exterior, front porch, and plain trim are typical of vernacular form and materials of the older residences within this African-American community. The simplified cornice with dentils is an unusual stylistic survival given the building's mid-20th century construction date. (Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Library of Congress)

Feb 12, 2010

Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus

(NYTBR) ... The real question for the opposing camps was not whether Dreyfus was guilty or innocent, but whether France itself was to be modern or traditional, cosmopolitan or nationalist, Catholic or secular, a republic or a monarchy. The struggle, as Frederick Brown puts it in “For the Soul of France,” his briskly paced and highly readable book, was between “champions and foes of the Enlightenment.” Continued

Photo: "Eiffel Tower machinery with man beside wheel that raises elevator(?), during Paris Exposition," c1889 (Library of Congress).

Presenting Mr. Lincoln

Thomas Moran

(Wikipedia) Thomas Moran (February 12, 1837 - August 25, 1926) from Bolton, England was an American painter and printmaker of the Hudson River School whose work often featured the Rocky Mountains. Thomas Moran along with Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill, and William Keith are sometimes referred to as belonging to the Rocky Mountain School of landscape painters because of all of the Western landscapes made by this group.
Moran's family emigrated from England in 1844 and settled in Pennsylvania. He began his artistic career as a teenage apprentice to the Philadelphia wood-engraving firm Scattergood & Telfer. Continued

Image: "The Golden Hour" by Thomas Moran, 1910 (Library of Congress).

Feb 11, 2010

Whisky Toothpaste!

"Genuine 6 proof stuff! Scotch! Bourbon! Why fight oral hygiene - enjoy it! Here's real he-man toothpaste, best argument yet for brushing 3 times a day. 3 1/2 oz. tubes flavored with the real thing - Scotch or Bourbon. Night-before feeling on the morning after. Rinse with soda if you prefer." Yummy. (Via boingboing).

Sweets: A History of Candy

(NYTimes) The 19th-century cooks who came up with the chocolate-caramel recipe used molasses not for its subtlety but for its price. Tim Richardson writes in “Sweets: A History of Candy” that after the Sugar Act of 1760 imposed taxes on imported sugar, Americans were forced to supplement sugar with molasses until about a hundred years ago, when sugar production became cheaper. Molasses is the foundation of rum and birch beer, and during this heyday it came to define such dishes as gingersnaps, shoofly pie, baked beans, Indian pudding and Cracker Jack. Continued

Image: Library of Congress

Save the Newspaper!

Via boingboing

Faulkner Link to Plantation Diary Discovered

(NYTimes) The climactic moment in William Faulkner’s 1942 novel “Go Down, Moses” comes when Isaac McCaslin finally decides to open his grandfather’s leather farm ledgers with their “scarred and cracked backs” and “yellowed pages scrawled in fading ink” — proof of his family’s slave-owning past. Now, what appears to be the document on which Faulkner modeled that ledger as well as the source for myriad names, incidents and details that populate his fictionalized Yoknapatawpha County has been discovered. Continued

Photo: Carl Van Vechten photograph collection (Library of Congress).

A History of Maryland Winters: Snow, Wind, Ice, & Cold

(NOAA) Maryland's greatest winter storms are the "Nor'easters" or what some have called the "White Hurricane". It takes a certain set of ingredients to get heavy snow and wind across Maryland. First, an arctic air mass should be in place. High pressure builds over New England. Cold, arctic air flows south from the high. The dense cold air is unable to move west over the Appalachian Mountains and so it funnels south down the valleys and along the Coastal Plain. This is called "cold air damming". To the east of the cold air is the warm water of the Gulf Stream. The contrast of the cold air sliding south into the Carolinas and the warm air sitting over the Gulf Stream creates a breeding ground for storms. With the right meteorological conditions such as the position of the jet stream, storm development off the Carolinas may become "explosive" (sudden, rapid intensification with a dramatic drop in the central pressure of the storm). Continued

Image: Snow fence. Montgomery County, Maryland 1940 Jan. (Arthur Rothstein/FSA)

Harnessing history after snow melts

(Baltimore Sun) So you lived through the great snow of 2010. But will you remember it by anything other than a blinding snapshot of white?" All of this will be ephemera and will disappear unless there's some effort to collect it and institutionalize it," said Maryland archivist Edward C. Papenfuse, who's pushing for an electronic archive. "It's very important from the standpoint of understanding community history." Not to mention personal history. Continued

Photo: Port Deposit ice gorge, 1910.

Roof collapses at Smithsonian warehouse

(Baltimore Sun) A section of the roof and a wall at part of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum Support Center in Maryland has collapsed, though no artifacts are thought to be damaged. The collapse was discovered early Wednesday at the Garber Facility in Suitland, which houses artifacts from the National Air and Space Museum. Continued

Tough Times for Historic Preservation

(YDR) The past few months have not been kind to historic preservation. When the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania finally adopted the Fiscal Year 2009-2010 budget, much was made of the impact that funding cuts would have on the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission (PHMC), which saw a cut of 37%. The publicity surrounding these cuts largely centered on the impact it would have to the State Museum of Pennsylvania and state historic sites around the commonwealth - including the total elimination of all funds for maintenance and upkeep of the 23 state-owned historic sites and museums. What was lost in many of the news reports was the redirection of the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Funding to the General Fund. Continued

Photo: Hanover Junction Railroad Station (MDRails)

Feb 10, 2010

Draw! The neuroscience behind Hollywood shoot-outs

(NewScientist) Niels Bohr once had a theory on why the good guy always won shoot-outs in Hollywood westerns. It was simple: the bad guy always drew first. That left the good guy to react unthinkingly – and therefore faster. When Bohr tested his hypothesis with toy pistols and colleagues who drew first, he always won.
Andrew Welchman of the University of Birmingham, UK, has now taken this a step further. Bohr may have won a Nobel prize for his work on quantum mechanics, but it turns out the answer to this puzzle is more complicated than he thought. Continued

Image: "The sharp crack of the two revolvers rang out as one sound." W. T. Smedley. Published in: "A Whirlwind Wooing" by Cyrus Townsend Brady, Harper's magazine, 1901. (Library of Congress)

Ira Remsen: The Chemistry Was Right

(JHU Gazette) Ira Remsen was born Feb. 10, 1846, in New York City, of Dutch and Huguenot ancestry. Following education in the public schools, he attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons, from which he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1867. Although briefly a practicing physician, he had studied medicine only to please his parents. After satisfying this family obligation, Remsen left for Munich to pursue his real interest: chemistry. Continued

Feb 9, 2010

Best Snow Story Ever: To Build A Fire by Jack London

(jacklondons.net) DAY HAD BROKEN cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray, when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little-travelled trail led eastward through the fat spruce timberland. It was a steep bank, and he paused for breath at the top, excusing the act to himself by looking at his watch. It was nine o'clock. There was no sun nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was due to the absence of sun. This fact did not worry the man. He was used to the lack of sun. It had been days since he had seen the sun, and he knew that a few more days must pass before that cheerful orb, due south, would just peep above the sky-line and dip immediately from view.
The man flung a look back along the way he had come. The Yukon lay a mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice. On top of this ice were as many feet of snow. It was all pure white, rolling in gentle undulations where the ice-jams of the freeze-up had formed. North and south, as far as his eye could see, it was unbroken white, save for a dark hair-line that curved and twisted from around the spruce-covered island to the south, and that curved and twisted away into the north, where it disappeared behind another spruce-covered island. This dark hair-line was the trail—the main trail—that led south five hundred miles to the Chilcoot Pass, Dyea, and salt water; and that led north seventy miles to Dawson, and still on to the north a thousand miles to Nulato, and finally to St. Michael on Bering Sea, a thousand miles and half a thousand more. Continued

50th anniversary this week of deadly HdG fireworks blast

(Ægis) Fifty years ago, the Havre de Grace Fireworks Company on Chapel Road exploded, killing two people and injuring five. The plant was destroyed.
Covering more than 10 acres, at the time it was the largest fire in Havre de Grace history. The Susquehanna Hose Company was the first on the scene. Continued

Feb 7, 2010

History of Boredom

(NYTBR) ... Boredom, like the modern novel, was born in the 18th century, and came into full flower in the 19th. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first recorded use of “to bore” dates to a 1768 letter by the Earl of Carlisle, mentioning his “Newmarket friends, who are to be bored by these Frenchmen.” “Bores,” meaning boring things, arrived soon after, followed by human bores. By the time of the O.E.D.’s first citation of the noun “boredom” in 1852, in Dickens’s “Bleak House” (where it occurs six times by my count), everyone, or at least everyone in the novel-reading middle classes, seemed to be bored, or worried about becoming bored.
Boredom, scholars argue, was something new, different from the dullness, lassitude and tedium people had no doubt been experiencing for centuries. Continued

Image: "I once drew Ibsen looking bored across a deep Norwegian fjord ...," Oliver Herford, c1912 (Library of Congress).

Feb 6, 2010

The Schoolhouse Blizzard

(Wikipedia) The Schoolhouse Blizzard, also known as the Schoolchildren's Blizzard or the Children's Blizzard, hit the U.S. plains states on January 12, 1888. The blizzard came unexpectedly on a relatively warm day, and many people were caught unaware, including children in one-room schoolhouses.

The stories:

  • Plainview, Nebraska: Lois Royce found herself trapped with three of her students in her schoolhouse. By 3 p.m., they had run out of heating fuel. Her boarding house was only 82 yards (75 m) away, so she attempted to lead the children there. However, visibility was so poor that they became lost and all the children froze to death. The teacher survived, but her feet were frostbitten and had to be amputated.
  • Holt County, Nebraska: Etta Shattuck got lost on her way home, and sought shelter in a haystack. She remained trapped there until her rescue three days later. She soon died due to complications from surgery to remove her frostbitten limbs.
  • In Great Plains, South Dakota, the children were rescued. Two men tied a rope to the closest house, and headed for the school. There, they tied off the other end of the rope, and led the children to safety.
  • Mira Valley, Nebraska: Minnie Freeman safely led thirteen children from her schoolhouse to her home, one half mile (800 m) away.[1][2] The rumor she used a rope to keep the children together during the blinding storm is widely circulated, but one of the children claims that is not true. She took them to the boarding house she lived at about a mile away and all of her pupils survived. Many children in similar conditions around the Great Plains were not so lucky, as 235 people were killed, most of them children who couldn't get home from school. That year, "Song of the Great Blizzard: Thirteen Were Saved" or "Nebraska's Fearless Maid", was written and recorded in her honor by W.M. Vincent and published by Lyon & Healy.
  • Ted Kooser, Nebraska poet, has recorded many of the stories of the Schoolhouse Blizzard in his book of poetry, "The Blizzard Voices".
  • In 1967 a haunting mosaic mural by Jeanne Reynal was created for the west wall of the north bay in the Nebraska State Capitol building in Lincoln, Nebraska. It captures much of the mood and drama of the storm. The mural, executed in a semi-abstract style, portrays an incident that occurred in which a school teacher, Minnie Freeman, is supposed to have tied her children together with a clothes line and led them through the terrifying tempest to safety. Continued

Photo: Trout School, Felton, PA. (Falmanac).

1772: The Whacking Day Blizzard

From the AP - The biggest snowfall for the Washington-Baltimore area is believed to have occurred in 1772, before official records were kept, when as much as 3 feet fell in the Washington-Baltimore area, an epic event George Washington and Thomas Jefferson mentioned in their diaries. Link

From the York Daily Record - 1772: Three and one-half feet of snow falls in the county followed by a freezing rain. A thick crust forms, a condition that leads to the near extinction of deer and shortages in the deer herd for years. "Nearly every man and boy in the county now turned out to chase deer," a historian wrote, "for while the hunter could run fleetly on the crust, the poor animals struck through, and from the wounds received on their legs, were unable to proceed far." Link

Photo: "Seven and one hanging - team in the woods for more," Keystone View Company, manufacturers and publishers, c1903 (Library of Congress).

Feb 5, 2010

The Knickerbocker Storm

(Wikipedia) - The Knickerbocker Storm was a blizzard that occurred on January 27–28, 1922 in the upper South and middle Atlantic United States. It was named this due to the resulting collapse of the Knickerbocker Theater in Washington, D.C. shortly after 9 p.m. on January 28 which killed 98 people and injured 133. An estimated 22,400 square miles (58,000 km) of the northeast United States were affected by 20 in (51 cm) of snow from this cyclone, which was over one-fifth of the total area that received over 4 in (10 cm) of snow. Snowfall was quite heavy in Maryland and Virginia. Richmond, Virginia recorded 19 inches. Baltimore, Maryland was paralyzed as it received the most snowfall within 24 hours since 1872. Continued

Photos: Library of Congress

Historic Stewartstown Railroad preparing payment plan

(YDR) The Stewartstown Railroad Company hopes to have a repayment plan in place by next week that would appease its creditors and save the historic line from liquidation.
Company board members met Wednesday with representatives of the estate of George M. Hart -- to which the railroad owes more than $350,000 -- and the Bucks County Historical Society, which will eventually receive that money.
The estate and the society were open to the idea of the railroad paying back the debt over time, board member Ken Bitten said. Continued

A peek into Baltimore's burlesque scene

(Midnight Sun) ... If you haven't been to a show before, picture a room packed to the rafters with fold-up chairs (if there are chairs), a forest of Natty-Bos and plastic wine glasses perched precariously by everyone's feet, probably more women than men (all of which have the best lingerie drawers in the city), and a woman or man up on stage doing the smartest, funniest, striptease shimmy you’ll ever see.
There's a danger in over-analyzing it, cause you'll sound like an ass, but burlesque is for folks who want some banter with their sexy. Continued

Photo: Library of Congress

History uncovered in time capsule at Codo 28 site in York

Masonry crews have uncovered a bit of history behind the cornerstone of the Codo 28 apartment building, under construction in York.
A metal box containing newspapers dating from 1890 to 1909, photos, an empty bottle of 1898 Bordeaux from France, a one-cent stamp and other items was hidden behind the cornerstone. Continued

Feb 4, 2010

Are you ready for the snow?

No, I don't mean salt & shovels - I'm talking snacks. Potato chips, nachos, snausages, ice cream, pizza, and don't forget to rent some movies! The snow is coming and it's time to stay home for a few days - God willing. Marylanders are infamous snow wimps, but it wasn't always that way. When I was a kid, people made heroic efforts to get to work and would never let a little snow stop them. Now, after 27 years of wage cuts, reduced benefits, union busting, & ever increasing job dissatisfaction, people stay home when the weather gets bad. Employers think this is a coincidence.

Public Works Museum Closes

(Baltimore Sun) ... "It was a great way to present to the public all the challenges we take for granted," said Mari Ross, its director, who is one of five museum employees to lose their jobs. "It is the only public works museum in the world." ... The closure follows the closing over the years of other city museums, including the Civil War Museum, American Dime Museum, Light Bulb Museum, Baltimore City Life Museums, Columbus Center and the H.L. Mencken house. Continued

Video: Giant Panda Tai Shan Heads to China

(National Zoo) Tai Shan officially began his journey to China early this morning, leaving the Zoo at 9:04 a.m. The four-and-a-half-year-old panda is on his way to Dulles International Airport, where he will board a FedEx 777 plane bound for Chengdu. The non-stop flight will take about 14 hours. Over the years, Tai Shan has become a celebrity in Washington, and will now take on a new role in China as part of a panda breeding program at Wolong’s Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya’an, Sichuan.
Since his birth July 9, 2005, Tai Shan, whose name means “peaceful mountain,” has attracted millions of visitors worldwide to the National Zoo and to the Zoo’s panda cams. The Zoo successfully negotiated two extensions with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, which allowed the Zoo to keep Tai Shan for two and a half years beyond the original two-year contract. Continued

Photo: National Zoo

Tadeusz Kościuszko

(Wikipedia) Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko (February 4, 1746 – October 15, 1817) was a Polish-Lithuanian general and military leader during the Kościuszko Uprising. He is a national hero in Poland, Lithuania, the United States and Belarus. He led the 1794 Kościuszko Uprising against Imperial Russia and Kingdom of Prussia as Supreme Commander of the National Armed Force (Najwyższy Naczelnik Siły Zbrojnej Narodowej).
Before commanding the 1794 Uprising, he had fought in the American Revolutionary War as a colonel in the Continental Army. In 1783, in recognition of his dedicated service, he had been brevetted by the Continental Congress to the rank of brigadier general and had become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Continued

Feb 3, 2010

Fort Pitt Museum to reopen in Pittsburgh April 17

(YDR) The Fort Pitt Museum in Pittsburgh will reopen April 17 after being closed since mid-August due to state budget cuts.
The museum is still owned by the state, but it will have a new director, some updated exhibits and will be administered by a different "parent"—the Senator John Heinz History Center. The Heinz history center specializes in western Pennsylvania history. Continued

Image: Fort Pitt Blockhouse (Library of Congress).

The Marshalsea

(Wikipedia) The Marshalsea was a prison on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark, now part of London. From at least 1329 until it closed in 1842, it housed men under court martial for crimes at sea, including those who had committed "unnatural crimes"; political figures and intellectuals accused of sedition or other inappropriate behaviour; and—most famously—London's debtors, the length of their stay determined largely by the whim of their creditors.
Run privately for profit, as were all prisons in England until the 19th century, the Marshalsea looked like an Oxbridge college and functioned largely as an extortion racket. For prisoners who could afford the fees, it came with access to a bar, shop, and restaurant, and the crucial privilege of being allowed to leave the prison during the day, which meant debtors could earn money to pay off their creditors. Everyone else was crammed into one of nine small rooms with dozens of others, possibly for decades for the most modest of debts, which increased as unpaid prison fees accumulated. A parliamentary committee reported in 1729 that 300 inmates had starved to death within a three-month period, and that eight to ten prisoners were dying every 24 hours in the warmer weather.
The prison became known around the world during the 19th century through the writings of the English novelist Charles Dickens, whose father was sent there in 1824 for a debt of £40 and 10 shillings. Forced to leave school at the age of 12 for a job in a factory, Dickens based several of his fictional characters on this experience, most notably Little Dorrit, whose father, like his own, was a Marshalsea debtor.
Much of the prison was demolished in the 1870s, though some of its buildings were used into the 20th century, housing an ironmonger's, a butter shop, and later a printing house for the Marshalsea Press. All that is left of it now is a long brick wall separating a spartan public garden from a local history library, the existence of what Dickens called "the crowding ghosts of many miserable years" marked only by a plaque from the local council. "It is gone now," he wrote, "and the world is none the worse without it." Continued