Feb 29, 2012

The Sot Weed Factor or A Voyage To Maryland

(openlibrary.org) The sot-weed factor: or, A voyage to Maryland. A satyr. In which is describ'd the laws, government, courts and constitutions of the country, and also the buildings, feasts, frolicks, entertainments and drunken humours of the inhabitants of that part of America. In burlesque verse. By Eben. Cook, gent. London, Printed and sold by D. Bragg, 1708. Continued

Leap Day

(Wikipedia) February 29, known as a leap day in the Gregorian calendar, is a date that occurs in most years that are evenly divisible by 4, such as 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. Years that are evenly divisible by 100 do not contain a leap day, with the exception of years that are evenly divisible by 400, which do contain a leap day; thus 1900 did not contain a leap day while 2000 did.
Years containing a leap day are called leap years. February 29 is the 60th day of the Gregorian calendar in such a year, with 306 days remaining until the end of that year.
... There is a popular tradition that a woman may propose marriage to a man on February 29. Continued

Feb 28, 2012

The B & O Railroad

(LoC) On February 28, 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad became the first U.S. railway chartered for the commercial transportation of freight and passengers. Investors hoped that 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, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, laid the first stone.
The initial line of track, a thirteen-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 26, 2012

Southern Maryland tobacco barns, farming featured in new book

(Frederick News-Post) ... "My objective from the start was barns and how quickly they are disappearing," Sharp said. He focused on tobacco barns (there are no dairy barns in the book) and the difficulties of tobacco farming.
"Tobacco barns are quite specific in design than any other barn," he said. "They are built to permit air to flow through openings between the wall boards. They also have tiers of poles and posts used to support the tobacco's hanging weight" and that takes up most of the interior space. ... "The Barns of Southern Maryland" ($24.95, self-published) is available from CreateSpace Publishing at www.createspace.com/3538476 Continued

Feb 25, 2012

Mission to Mason Neck

(NYTimes) Though there was little organized fighting along the Union defenses around Washington, they were continuously harassed by Southern skirmishers through the latter half of 1861 and into 1862.
The situation was particularly troublesome in southern Fairfax County, Va., not far from Mount Vernon and Alexandria. Rebels repeatedly challenged the Union pickets and effectively blockaded the Potomac River, which enabled them to smuggle mail and other materials across the river from Maryland. Continued

Photo: Maryland shore above Matawoman [sic] and Mouth of Occoquan, Battery of Virginia Shore, Field guns, Indian head, c1862 (Alfred Waud/Library of Congress).

Feb 23, 2012

Martha Washington & Mount Vernon

American History TV takes a behind-the-scene look inside Mount Vernon's Conservation Lab to hear from conservationists who study and perserve the belongings of George and Martha Washington.

Maryland Historical Society wants to identify subjects of Civil Rights era photos

(Baltimore Sun) Images of nearly 6,000 Baltimoreans are the life's work of a photographer who documented racial segregation and early civil rights protests, and also captured candid moments of now-anonymous brides, classmates, football players and black residents of the city. But while Paul S. Henderson left what Maryland Historical Society curator Jennifer Ferretti calls an "unparalleled visual record of civil rights in Baltimore," he didn't leave behind captions.
The names of his subjects aren't known, as Henderson didn't keep written files — or they didn't survive. Ferretti says it is time, a half-century later, to put names to the unidentified faces in the photographic negatives taken by Henderson, a black Baltimore commercial and news photographer active from about 1929 to 1960. And she's enlisting the public's help. Continued

Hike along Gunpowder Falls and see ruins of mills

(North County News) Gunpowder Falls State Park ranger Robert Bailey will lead a Mill Hike on Feb. 25 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Winter is the best time of year to see the ruins of mills that once operated along the Gunpowder Falls. The hike begins at the Paper Mill Road parking lot of the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail. Participants will visit the site of Ashland Furnace, an anthracite-fired furnace active in the mid-19th century, as well as other buildings from that same time period. Continued

Feb 22, 2012

Eller Captures Re-enactments for Re-posterity

Local photographer Joshua Eller has been busy documenting the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Will he be this go-round's John Coffer? Time'll tell.

Cloverland Milk Jingle

Here's one that you probably haven't heard in 30 years, but if you grew up in Baltimore in the 60s you'll probably know all the words! "If you don't own a cow, call Cloverland now!"

Feb 21, 2012

Yesterday’s Moonshiner, Today’s Microdistiller

PARROTTSVILLE, Tenn. — This is a story about a man named Marvin Sutton and how he proved that the road from criminality to commodity is sometimes shorter than it looks. Until his death in 2009 at the age of 62, Mr. Sutton, known as Popcorn, was a moonshiner. He was not quite the last, as he often claimed, but he was probably the most famous ever to work out of Cocke County, which long had a claim as the nation’s moonshining capital.
It may yet again. As of last Thursday, microdistilleries are legal in Cocke County for the first time. Continued

Feb 20, 2012

Hays House Museum series to start

(Aegis) Visit the Hays House Museum on Sunday, March 11, at 1 p.m. for a rare opportunity to closely examine the timeless furniture at home in Bel Air's oldest house. The inaugural event of the Preserving our Past series at the Hays House features local furniture restoration expert Arthur Benser, who will engage visitors in a discussion about the historic construction and provenance of the major pieces in each room.
The presentation also includes ways to determine the age of a piece of furniture through design and types of construction. Continued

Joe Jefferson

(LoC) Comic actor Joseph Jefferson, one of the best-known American stage personalities of the nineteenth century, died in Palm Beach in 1905. Born into a family of actors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 20, 1829, Jefferson achieved one of his first major successes in 1858 in Tom Taylor's Our American Cousin.
He is best remembered for his portrayal of Rip Van Winkle in an Americanized version of a German folk tale popularized by Washington Irving in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent (1819-20). Jefferson took this play on the road for years after he originated the role, and became known throughout the United States for his portrayal. Continued

Feb 19, 2012

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, 2012

A New History of the Philippine-American War

(NYTBR) What is striking about “Honor in the Dust,” Gregg Jones’s fascinating new book about the Philippine-American War, is not how much war has changed in more than a century, but how little. On nearly every page, there is a scene that feels as if it could have taken place during the Bush and Obama administrations rather than those of McKinley and Roosevelt. American troops are greeted on foreign soil as saviors and then quickly despised as occupiers. The United States triumphantly declares a victorious end to the war, even as bitter fighting continues. Allegations of torture fill the newspapers, horrifying and transfixing the country. Continued

Feb 15, 2012

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

Feb 14, 2012

Valentine’s Day

(LoC) On February 14, Americans celebrate love and friendship by exchanging cards, flowers, and candy. Although the origins of Valentine's Day are murky, ancient Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia, a spring festival, on the fifteenth of February. Like so many holidays, a Christian gloss was added to the pagan fete when the holiday moved to the fourteenth of February—the saint day associated with several early Christian martyrs named Valentine.
The romance we associate with Valentine's Day may spring from the medieval belief that birds select their mates on February 14. During the Middle Ages, lovers recited verse or prose to one another in honor of the day.
Handmade valentines, probably the first greeting cards, appeared in the sixteenth century. Mass production of cards began as early as 1800. Initially hand-tinted by factory workers, by the early twentieth century even fancy lace and ribbon-strewn cards were created by machine. Continued

Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Cecil County, Maryland.

Feb 12, 2012

July 1919: "Big Dirigible, C-8, Explodes, Injuring 80, After Landing at Camp Holabird, Baltimore"

(NYTimes) BALTIMORE, July 1 - The big navy dirigible [blimp] C-8, which made a landing here on the way from Cape May, N. J., to Washington, exploded with terrific force in an open field just outside Camp Holabird today. A great crowd ... Continued

Feb 11, 2012

Mrs. Lincoln, I Presume?

(NYTimes) For 32 years, a portrait of a serene Mary Todd Lincoln hung in the governor’s mansion in Springfield, Ill., signed by Francis Bicknell Carpenter, a celebrated painter who lived at the White House for six months in 1864.
The story behind the picture was compelling: Mrs. Lincoln had Mr. Carpenter secretly paint her portrait as a surprise for the president, but he was assassinated before she had a chance to present it to him.
Now it turns out that both the portrait and the touching tale accompanying it are false. Continued

Emma Goldman

(LoC) Emma Goldman, American anarchist and feminist, compelling advocate of free speech, the eight-hour work day, and birth control, was arrested in New York City on February 11, 1916, just prior to giving another public lecture on family planning. She was charged with violating the Comstock Act, an 1873 statute banning transportation of "obscene" matter through the mails or across state lines. At the time, federal courts interpreted the statute as prohibiting distribution of contraception information.
Goldman was born on June 27, 1869, in Kovno, a Russian city now part of Lithuania.Like most poor Russian Jews, Goldman's family suffered under the political oppression and anti-Semitism of imperial Russia. She fled Russia with her sister Helena in 1885, settled in Rochester, New York, and was briefly married to a fellow Russian immigrant. Goldman worked in a garment factory, and disillusioned with working conditions there, she joined the labor movement. Continued

Feb 10, 2012

Robert Hecht, Antiquities Dealer, Dies at 92

(NYTimes) Robert E. Hecht, an American expatriate antiquities dealer who skipped in and out of trouble for much of his career, weathering accusations that he trafficked in illicit artifacts, including a 2,500-year-old Greek vase that he sold for more than $1 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, died on Wednesday at his home in Paris.
... Robert Emanuel Hecht Jr. (his wife was unsure whether his middle name was spelled with one m or two) was born in Baltimore on June 3, 1919, into the family that owned the Hecht chain of department stores. He graduated from Haverford College and served in the Navy during World War II. Fluent in German, he worked after the war as a civilian translator for the United States Army. Continued

Feb 9, 2012

Century-old family cemetery is unlikely tenant for Towson Circle III

(Towson Times) As progress has plowed through downtown Towson over the years, family members buried in the 19th century at the Catharine Schmuck Cemetery off Virginia Avenue have had little opportunity to rest in peace.
In fact, right now might be the quietest time for the small Shealey and Schmuck family grave site, surrounded by largely empty parking lots.
That peace will soon be broken with excavation set to begin on an 862-car underground parking garage beneath a 16-screen movie theater — the centerpiece of the Towson Circle III development.
Still, developers of the project say they'll make sure that, at the very least, those buried at the site will continue to rest in the same place. Continued

Images of America: Perryville, Maryland

(The Record) Perryville's rich history is the focus of a new "Images of America" book, thanks to town commissioner Alan Fox.
The book filled with historical photos and the stories behind them was released Jan. 16 after nearly a year of planning and work.
Fox, a longtime Perryville resident, was interested in pursuing the project when Arcadia Publishing, the company responsible for the book series, contacted the town to find a prospective writer. Continued

Feb 8, 2012

'World's last' WWI veteran Florence Green dies aged 110

(BBC) A woman thought to be the world's last known surviving service member of World War I has died aged 110.
Florence Green, from King's Lynn, Norfolk, served as a mess steward at RAF bases in Marham and Narborough.
She died in her sleep on Saturday night at Briar House care home, King's Lynn. Mrs Green had been due to celebrate her 111th birthday on 19 February. Continued

Piece of Martha Washington's dress on sale in Pa.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) A piece of one of Martha Washington's dresses is for sale.
The Raab Collection, a Philadelphia historic documents dealer, said Wednesday that it's selling the 5-inch-by-9-inch piece of silk brocade for $40,000. Other pieces of the same dress are at George Washington's home, Mount Vernon. Continued

History Research: It’s a New Ball Game as Free Websites Provide Digital Copies of Wills, Maps, Newspapers, and Photos

(WoCCP) In this rapidly expanding world of online information, lots of helpful data is often just a few keystrokes away. The amount is exploding exponentially as a number of for-profit digital publishers, such as Ancestry and GenealogyBank, have taken the lead in making vast amounts of material available instantly. Beyond these excellent data aggregators, there are some free, open source repositories which are helpful too. Since they’re not as well-known, we thought we’d mention a few here in case you’re struggling with fee-based research overload. Continued

Photo: Photograph documenting WPA Project Number 272. Typed text on label on back of photograph reads: Works Progress Administration of Maryland, Division of Operations. Havre de Grace, Harford County. Resurfacing city streets - showing section of Washington St. completed, curb, gutter, and surfacing. (Pratt Library)

Feb 7, 2012

Happy 200th Birthday, Charles Dickens

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery." - Wilkins Micawber (Charles Dickens)

The Great Baltimore Fire of 1904

"Sunday morning, February 7th, about half-past 10 o'clock, while half of Baltimore was on its way to church, fire broke out in the large wholesale dry goods house of John E. Hurst & Co., at the corner of Liberty and German streets. From this point it raged until 5:45 o'clock Monday afternoon, when the exhausted firemen finally succeeded in bringing its destructive course to a halt among the lumber yards on Union dock, at the foot of Falls avenue, more than a mile from where it had started.
Its path, which today resembles nothing so much as a huge crescent, embraces eighty blocks in the heart of the business section; more than 2,500 buildings are in ashes, including the Chamber of Commerce, Merchants and Manufacturers' Association's headquarters; the Stock Exchange; more than half the banks and financial houses in the city, and practically the whole of the dry goods district, and the retail clothing district along Baltimore street, from Liberty street to the Baltimore street bridge over Jones' Falls, over a mile in length." Continued

Photos and text: Library of Congress

Feb 4, 2012

The Union’s ‘Newfangled Gimcracks’

(NYTimes) In late December 1861 Abraham Lincoln issued a directive that, had it been vigorously pursued, might have brought the Civil War to a rapid end: An order, via Gen. James Ripley, the Army’s ordnance chief, for 10,000 Spencer repeating rifles.
Because Ripley resisted the order for months and did nothing to help put the rifles into volume production, initial deliveries didn’t start until about a year and a half after Lincoln first tested the rifle.
Consequently, Union soldiers had to fight with less efficient weapons, handicapping them and greatly lengthening the bloody conflict. Continued

Photo: 1860 Civil War Henry Rifle No. 4771 by Hmaag, some rights reserved.

Feb 2, 2012

Reconsidering the Genius of Gertrude Stein

(NYTBR) Approaching Gertrude Stein’s writing critically is tricky. Because she strove to reshape literary conventions — syntax, language usage, narrative order and the sense of making sense — any comment on her choices may already be rebuffed in her poetics and practice. Stein is a trickster. This may be why, as I read “Ida” and “Stanzas in Meditation,” both reissued in corrected, authoritative editions from Yale University Press, I remembered a Jonathan Richman lyric I’ll paraphrase as “Pablo Picasso never got called a jackass.” Continued

Save Greendale (with the cast of Community)

Great Bel Air Fire remembered 40 years later

(Aegis) Thursday is the 40th anniversary of an event that has reverberated up and down Main Street in Bel Air to this day.
What some in town still refer to as the Great Bel Air Fire raged for more than four hours on Wednesday morning, Feb. 2, 1972 – Groundhog Day.
The fire resulted in the loss of six businesses and more than $2 million in damage. Continued

Groundhog Day

(Wikipedia) - An early American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 4, 1841, of Berks County, Pennsylvania storekeeper James Morris:

Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."

In the United States the tradition may also derive from a Scottish poem:

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and snow
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop

This tradition also stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and Groundhog Day. Candlemas, also known as the Purification of the Virgin or the Presentation, coincides with the earlier pagan observance Imbolc. Continued

Photo: Marumari/Wikipedia, some rights reserved.

Feb 1, 2012

Harley-Davidson expands tours at York plant

(YDR) You've strutted between the yellow lines, looking sharp in your plastic safety goggles and electronic ear piece.
They know your name at the Harley tour center. Your free pin collection spans the consecutive years you've visited the Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer's Springettsbury Township operations.
You think you've seen all there is to see at the birthplace of the company's Trike, Tour and Softail lines.
But it's only the beginning.
Next month, a new Harley-Davidson attraction -- the "Steel Toe Tour" -- will raise the bar, offering each guest an inside look at what goes on behind closed doors at the manufacturing plant. Continued

Photo: American Red Cross in Great Britain. One unit of the famous "Flying Squadron" priding themselves on being able to get under way within three minutes of the time a call is received. American Red Cross., ca. 1918 (National Archives)