Oct 31, 2011

The Light in a Dark Harbor

(NYTimes) The mid-autumn dusk cloaked Boston’s island-studded harbor as the revolving beacon atop Boston Light began to glow. The beams radiating from the lighthouse’s bold white pillar sparkled in the enfeebled eyes of the men huddled aboard the steamer the State of Maine, making its way slowly toward the military prison at Fort Warren, an island garrison near the harbor’s outer edge.
... The War Department had instructed Dimick, who had only taken command of Fort Warren days before, to prepare for the transfer of some 100 political prisoners — including former Kentucky governor Charles Morehead, Baltimore Mayor George Brown, and George Kane, marshal of Baltimore police during the Pratt Street Riot — from Fort Lafayette in New York Harbor. As the steamer crept closer to the island, however, he realized his charge was in fact much larger: in addition to the political prisoners, more than 600 Confederate soldiers captured at Hatteras Inlet, N.C., and previously held at Fort Columbus, on Governor’s Island near Fort Lafayette, were suddenly dumped upon the ill-prepared garrison, which was still under construction and barely provisioned for its Union volunteers. Continued

Photo: Arrest of Marshal Kane, at his house in Baltimore, at three o'clock A.M. on Thursday, June 27, by order of Major-General Banks on a charge of treason / from a sketch by our special artist accompanying General Banks' command. (Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper)

Witchcraft trials a part of Maryland’s past

(Washington Times) Witchcraft trials and executions were facts of life in colonial Maryland.
From Southern Maryland to the Eastern Shore and as far north as Anne Arundel County, historians have documented at least 12 cases of persons prosecuted or persecuted in the 1600s and early 1700s because of accusations that they practiced witchcraft.
There wasn’t the same sort of hysteria in Maryland that there was in Massachusetts, where 19 men and women were executed and many imprisoned for witchcraft in 1692.
But Maryland and neighboring Pennsylvania and Virginia all had witchcraft trials, according to Hagerstown-based historian John Nelson. Continued

Oct 30, 2011

Researchers unable to unearth mass grave at Duffy's Cut

MALVERN, Pa. (AP) The Irish immigrants building a stretch of railroad near Philadelphia in 1832 had been in the U.S. only a few weeks when they died — ostensibly of cholera — and were unceremoniously dumped in a mass grave. Their families never knew what happened to them.
Nearly 180 years later, local researchers say they have a clearer picture of the men's fate. Continued

Dame Schools

(Wikipedia) A Dame School was an early form of a private elementary school in English-speaking countries. They were usually taught by women and were often located in the home of the teacher. ... In North America, "dame school" is a broad term for a private school with a female teacher during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The education provided by these schools ranged from basic to exceptional. The basic type of dame school was more common in New England, where basic literacy was expected of all classes, than in the southern colonies, where there were fewer educated women willing to be teachers. Continued

Oct 29, 2011

Finding layers of 'Secrets' below the obvious

(Baltimore Sun) The ugliest exhibit in town just now is at the Walters Art Museum. Let me explain. "Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes" is a fascinating show capping 12 years of scholarly research into a rare book that contains texts by that ancient Greek mathematician.
It's the book itself that is a wreck.
What's nearly miraculous is that the book survived at all. The story of how it survived is as striking as the texts it contains. Continued

Photo: Archimedes Thoughtful by Fetti (1620)

Oct 28, 2011

Bowie Kuhn

(Wikipedia) - Bowie Kent Kuhn (October 28, 1926 – March 15, 2007) was an American lawyer and sports administrator who served as the 5th commissioner of Major League Baseball from February 4, 1969 to September 30, 1984. He served as legal counsel for Major League Baseball owners for almost 20 years prior to his election as commissioner.
Kuhn was born in Takoma Park, Maryland, grew up in Washington, D.C. and graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School. Continued

Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor and The National Geographic Society

(LoC) October 28 marks the birth date of Gilbert H. Grosvenor, the editor credited with transforming National Geographic Magazine from a small scholarly journal into a dynamic world-renowned monthly. Born in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1875, Grosvenor’s family immigrated to the United States when he was fifteen, where he became an honor student, eventually studying at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Grosvenor joined the magazine in 1899 as an assistant editor.
... The National Geographic Society was founded in Washington, D.C., in 1888 to support "the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge." The society's founders, an eclectic group of well-traveled men, considered a magazine one means of accomplishing this mission. They published the first National Geographic nine months after forming the organization. Continued

Oct 27, 2011

The Federalist Papers

(LoC) The first in a series of eighty-five essays by "Publius," the pen name of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, appeared in the Independent Journal, a New York newspaper, on October 27, 1787. Publius urged New Yorkers to support ratification of the Constitution approved by the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787.
Proponents of the new Constitution believed that centralized government was essential for successful commercial and geographic expansion. Only a strong national government, they argued, could effectively negotiate with foreign countries, ensure free trade between states, and create a stable currency.
Known as the Federalist Papers or The Federalist, these eighty-five essays addressed widespread concern that a national government, distanced from the people, would soon grow despotic. The essays eloquently and comprehensively argue that distributing power across the various branches of government provides checks and balances to the concentrated sovereignty of the federal government. Continued

Oct 25, 2011

Was the Union disaster at the Battle of Ball's Bluff caused by a simple lack of maps?

(NYTimes) The Battle of Ball’s Bluff does not loom large in our memory of the Civil War. Yet it was the second-largest battle in the eastern theater in 1861 and a complete rout of Union forces. James Morgan, an expert on the engagement, has described it as an “accidental battle” that resulted from erroneous intelligence. But it also reveals something about the wartime role of maps. Continued

Photo: Death of Col Edward D. Baker: At the Battle of Balls Bluff near Leesburg Va. Oct. 21st 1861, (Currier & Ives/Library of Congress)

Oct 23, 2011

A Century of Chevy, From Cheap Date to America’s Sweetheart

(NYTimes) Its Impalas dropped us off at school. Its pickup trucks hauled our produce on the farm. Its Corvette sustained our sports car fantasies through the boredom of high school algebra class. Earlier than almost any other automotive brand, Chevy created a palette of vehicles that ranged from the small and thrifty to the sleek and sporty to the large and smartly trimmed. Continued

Oct 21, 2011

The Battle of Ball’s Bluff

(NYTimes) The first months of the Civil War had been a series of humiliating lessons for the citizens and soldiers of the Union, highlighted by dramatic defeats at Bull Run and Wilson’s Creek. The war, it was becoming clear, would be neither easy nor quick. But it was also clear that, especially among the Union Army officer corps, those lessons had not yet fully sunk in — a fact made all too clear by the Oct. 21 disaster at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. Continued

Photo: Discovering the bodies of the slain in the Potomac river, Battle of Balls Bluff (Va.) fought 21 October, 1861 by Alfred Waud (Library of Congress).

Oct 20, 2011

Ma & Pa Trail group plans rally to promote trail connection

(Aegis) The nonprofit Ma & Pa Heritage Trail, Inc., is planning a rally Saturday to raise awareness about the effort to connect the Bel Air and Forest Hill sections of the trail, but Harford County remains at an impasse with one key landowner over the right-of-way.
The group announced a rally from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, at Williams and Ellendale streets in Bel Air that includes walking the trail.
Rod Bourn, president of the group, and Phil Hosmer, vice-president, said they hope the event, which will feature local musician Kurt Sudbrink and free refreshments, can get the word out about plans to connect the Ma & Pa. Continued

Photo: MA&PA Railroad in Forest Hill, Maryland, many years ago.

HARB gives Historic York one week to find fix for Trinity United Methodist Church

(YDR) Historic York has one week to produce a viable plan to save the historic Trinity United Methodist Church at 241 E. King St.
The reprieve was negotiated by Historic Architectural Review Board during its Wednesday night meeting. HARB continued the meeting until Oct. 26.
In the meantime, Historic York will work on a plan to shore up the building to eliminate the immediate danger of collapse, said Mike Johnson, president of the organization's board of directors. Continued

Girl Computers

(American Heritage) ... Both the bombardier and the artillery sergeant depended on the accuracy of the figures they fed into their weapon systems. If the sergeants had known where those numbers had originated, they probably would have been astonished. The data were the work of a group of remarkable women with a flair for mathematics who were employed by the Army: the Philadelphia Computing Section (PCS) at the University of Pennsylvania. Known as "computers" in an age when that term referred not to machines but to human beings, some of the women went on to help create the first electronic computer, ENIAC.
Like the legendary Rosie the Riveters, who toiled in factories and war plants, they were also vital to the war effort, but these computing Rosies worked in secrecy and anonymity, their contributions still largely unknown and unrecognized today. Continued

Oct 19, 2011

Surrender at Yorktown

(LoC) On October 19, 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered his army of some 8,000 men to General George Washington at Yorktown, giving up any chance of winning the Revolutionary War. Cornwallis had marched his army into the Virginia port town earlier that summer expecting to meet British ships sent from New York. The ships never arrived.
In early October, approximately 17,000 American and French troops led by Generals George Washington and Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, respectively, surrounded British-occupied Yorktown. Off the coast, French Admiral Fran├žois de Grasse strategically positioned his naval fleet to control access to the town via the Chesapeake Bay and the York River. Continued

Oct 18, 2011

Bobby Troup

Robert William "Bobby" Troup Jr. (October 18, 1918 - February 7, 1999) was an American actor, jazz pianist and songwriter. He is best known for writing the popular standard "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66", and for his role as Dr. Joe Early in the 1970s US TV series Emergency!. Bobby Troup was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Continued

Oct 17, 2011

Howard Rollins

Howard Ellsworth Rollins, Jr. (October 17, 1950 – December 8, 1996) was an American television, film, and stage actor. He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in the film Ragtime, and for his portrayal of Virgil Tibbs in the NBC/CBS television series In the Heat of the Night. The youngest of four children, Rollins was born in Baltimore, Maryland where he studied theater at Towson State College nearby. Continued

Oct 16, 2011

Historical Society planning two-day Veterans Day celebration

(Aegis) Instead of one day, Harford's veterans will have two, thanks to the Harford County Historical Society's Veterans Day celebration Nov. 10 and 11 in Downtown Bel Air.
The Historical Society's two-day event will honor Harford's strong connection to the U.S. military, as well as the men and women who serve, dating as far back as the French and Indian War. This will be the town's first Veterans Day parade in more than 50 years, the Historical Society said. Continued

Oct 15, 2011


"In 1917 Harford's decades of sunny, prosperous, and seemingly unending tranquility were abruptly interrupted by America's entry into World War I. Many Countians volunteered for and saw service in Europe during the conflict, it seems arguable that the greatest affect the Great War had on Harford came in October 1917, when the federal government condemned the entire Gunpowder and Bush river necks -35,211 acres of land and 34,000 acres covered by water or about 60 square miles in all. Heretofore, as historian Keir Stirling has written, these stretches of southern Harford County "were locally known as the 'Garden of Eden,' where an excellent grade of shoe peg corn had been grown for many years. Many area farmers were able to produce 125 bushels of corn to the acre. The Baker family and others engaged in the profitable canning industry were producing about 300,000 cases of shoe peg corn and tomatoes worth approximately $1.5 million annually by 1917 .... The famous Poole's Island peaches were ... were canned locally and considered to be of high quality. Local fishing was another industry worth $700,000 a year."
Overnight all this changed as everyone living on those bay-front lands had to move to make way for the poison-gas testing facilities Washington felt the war demanded. The former landowners - the Cadwaladers, Bakers, Mitchells, and others - received some payment from the government for their lost acres and many of them then purchased other farms and resumed their lives. The workers, generally black tenant farmers, received nothing and were forced to move from the source of their livelihoods. Many such displaced families, including the Dembys and Gilberts, settled in a stretch of land near Magnolia; the houses, church, and school they built created the community now called Dembytown (HA-1603, HA-1604)." From the 1998 Historical Preservation Element.

Oct 14, 2011

William Penn and His Holy Experiment

(LoC) William Penn, English religious and social reformer and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, was born on October 14, 1644, in London. After suffering persecution in England for his adopted Quaker faith, Penn would establish freedom of worship for all inhabitants of his North American colony. Pennsylvania, while predominantly Quaker, soon became a haven for minority religious sects from across Europe, as well as the most culturally diverse of the thirteen original colonies. Continued

Oct 13, 2011

Rube Waddell

(Wikipedia) George Edward Waddell (October 13, 1876 – April 1, 1914) was an American southpaw pitcher in Major League Baseball. In his thirteen-year career he played for the Louisville Colonels (1897, 1899), Pittsburgh Pirates (1900–01) and Chicago Orphans (1901) in the National League, and the Philadelphia Athletics (1902–07) and St. Louis Browns (1908–10) in the American League. Waddell earned the nickname "Rube" because he was a big, fresh kid. The term was commonly used to refer to hayseeds or farmboys. He was born in Bradford, Pennsylvania.
Waddell was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.
Waddell, a remarkably dominant strikeout pitcher in an era when batters mostly slapped at the ball to get singles, had an excellent fastball, a sharp-breaking curve, a screwball, and superb control (his strikeout-to-walk ratio was almost 3-to-1). He led the Major Leagues in strikeouts for six consecutive years.
... Waddell was odd and unpredictable, including a bad habit of leaving the dugout in the middle of games to follow passing fire trucks to fires, and performed as an alligator wrestler in the offseason. He was also easily distracted by opposing team fans who used to hold up puppies and shiny objects, which seemed to put Waddell in a trance on the mound. Continued

Oct 12, 2011

The Boys of War

(NYTimes) With hopes of adventure and glory, tens of thousands of boys under the age of 18 answered the call of the Civil War, many of them rushing to join Union and Confederate troops in the earliest days of battle. Both sides had recruitment rules that barred underage men from enlisting, but that didn’t stop those who wanted to be part of the action: some enlisted without their parents’ permission and lied about their ages or bargained with recruiters for a trial period, while others joined along with their older brothers and fathers whose partisan passions overwhelmed their parental senses. Most of the youngest boys became drummers, messengers and orderlies, but thousands of others fought alongside the men.
As each side scrambled to get troops into the field in the early days of the war, many of these boys went to battle with just a few weeks of training. It didn’t take long for them to understand what they’d gotten themselves into. Continued

Nine farms added to Harford County's agricultural preservation progam

(Aegis) Nine properties totaling 1,200 acres, including the prominent Grimmell Farm in Jarrettsville, officially entered Harford County's agricultural preservation program.
... The county would purchase 270 acres of Grimmell Farm in Jarrettsville for $1.5 million; 285 acres of the Vaughan property in White Hall for $2 million; 140 acres of Norfolk Farm in White Hall for $790,727; 30 acres of the Ludwig property in Churchville for $70,000; 65 acres of the Onufrak property in Darlington for $286,014; 115 acres of the Troyer property in White Hall for $574,149; 170 acres of the Rickey property in Whiteford for $1.2 million; 100 acres of the Wiley property in Pylesville for $535,372; and 150 acres of the Gambill property in Bel Air for $867,493.
Councilman Chad Shrodes said the new easements have been a long time coming. Continued

Photo: Using a harrow on a Maryland farm, 1936 (Library of Congress).

Oct 11, 2011

Tour of Lock 12 gives glimpse of York County life in late 1800s

(YDR) As families picnicked and hikers navigated the trails at the Holtwood Environmental Preserve in Lower Chanceford Township, about 10 nature lovers spent their sunny Sunday afternoon learning about an unusual historical site.
The Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area sponsored a nature walk in the Lock 12 historic area of the preserve as part of its new initiative to provide hands-on experiences for people interested in the history of the lower Susquehanna region, said Marie Cartwright, outreach coordinator.
Lock 12 was built in 1840 as part of the 28-part lift-lock system constructed along the Susquehanna River from Wrightsville to Havre de Grace, Md., according to Mark Arbogast, the walk's leader and a retired land manager for PPL, which owns the preserve's land. Continued

Oct 10, 2011

The C&O Canal completed

(LoC) On October 10, 1850, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal was completed and opened for business along its entire 184.5 mile length from Washington, DC to Cumberland, Maryland. Sections of the canal opened for navigation as they were completed; from Georgetown in Washington, DC to Seneca, Maryland in 1831; then to Harpers Ferry in 1833; to Hancock in 1839; and finally to Cumberland in 1850. Continued

Oct 9, 2011

Maryland Historical Society acquires rare photos

(stardem.com) Recently the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) acquired at auction an extremely rare daguerreotype of a Baltimore slave Martha Ann "Patty" Atavis (c.1819-1874) and a tintype of the same woman holding Alice Lee Whitridge, the daughter of Dr. John Whitridge of Baltimore. The items are from circa 1845-1860.
These photographs and the supporting documents acquired help illuminate the realities of urban slavery in Baltimore during the Civil War era. They will be on display in the MdHS library beginning Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Continued

United States Naval Institute Founded

(USNI) The U.S. Naval Institute has been a fixture at the U.S. Naval Academy since its founding in 1873 by a group of 15 naval officers who began meeting to discuss the serious implications of a smaller, post-Civil War Navy and other matters of professional interest. The Naval Institute's headquarters on the grounds of the Naval Academy have a commanding view of the Severn River and the cemetery, where lie some of the most prominent heroes in Navy and Marine Corps lore.
The founding vision was to create a forum for the exchange of ideas, to disseminate and advance the knowledge of sea power, and to preserve our naval and maritime heritage. Continued

Illustration: Library of Congress

Oct 8, 2011

Teaching War of 1812 to be subject of Saturday workshop in Havre de Grace

(exploreharford) Teachers from Harford and Cecil counties and Baltimore City and the general public will gather at the Havre de Grace High School auditorium Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon to immerse themselves in the new War of 1812 curriculum that has been developed to mark the conflict's bicentennial.
In the afternoon, teachers will be free to visit the five Havre de Grace history museums to explore field trip options. The city is also holding its annual Graw Days celebration Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Continued

Oct 7, 2011

Chesapeake Beach Railway Trail dedicated

(somdnews.com) Under mackerel skies on Friday afternoon, the Chesapeake Beach Railway Trail was dedicated amidst festive fanfare including colorful balloons and train-themed music.
About 300 people socialized and nibbled on food catered by Heavenly Chicken & Ribs and Rod ‘N’ Reel Restaurant at the head of the trail.
Federal, state and local politicians, hosted by Mayor Bruce Wahl, made a grand entrance arriving from the trail on a three-seat golf cart after touring the trail. Continued

Oct 3, 2011

Historic hotels try to compete in shaky economy

(AP) The signature green and white china is packed, the Adirondack chairs are stored away and the corridor lights are dimmed.
The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in the forests of northern New Hampshire — a remote destination nestled in a mountain pass for lovers of the great outdoors, fine dining and turn-of-the-century elegance — is closed for now. How long is anyone's guess. Continued

Oct 2, 2011

Shutterbugs Episode 1 - In an Instant

The Doctors Who Killed a President

(NYTBR) ... Garfield’s medical “care” is one of the most fascinating, if appalling, parts of Millard’s narrative. Joseph Lister had been demonstrating for years how his theories on the prevention of infection could save lives and limbs, but American doctors largely ignored his advice, not wanting to “go to all the trouble” of washing hands and instruments, Millard writes, enamored of the macho trappings of their profession, the pus and blood and what they referred to fondly as the “good old surgical stink” of the operating room.
Further undermining the president’s recovery was his sickroom in the White House — then a rotting, vermin-ridden structure with broken sewage pipes. Outside, Washington was a pestilential stink hole; besides the first lady, four White House servants and Guiteau himself had contracted malaria. Continued

Photo: President James A. Garfield & daughter (Library of Congress).

Oct 1, 2011

Prohibition: A fascinating Ken Burns series about the noble experiment

(Slate) What should a PBS viewer pour himself to enhance his enjoyment of Prohibition (PBS, Sunday through Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET)? In posing the question, I don't mean to suggest that this documentary, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, needs any help to go down easy. But it seems correct to celebrate the freedom to get one's buzz on.
The freedom is, of course, vastly more important than the buzz itself, as Prohibition notes in its closing words. Here, the writer Pete Hamill, one talking head among a distinguished roster, says that he has hasn't had a drink in three decades. But, hypothetically, he'd be proud to touch the stuff again in a public protest against any legislative attempt to deny his fellow citizens that right. Continued