Jan 31, 2013

Tallulah Bankhead

(Wikipedia) Tallulah Brockman Bankhead (January 31, 1902 – December 12, 1968) was an American actress, talk-show host, and bon vivant. ... Tallulah Bankhead died in St. Luke's Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia arising from influenza, complicated by emphysema, on December 12, 1968, aged 66, and is buried in Saint Paul's Churchyard, Chestertown, Maryland. Her last coherent words reportedly were "Codeine... bourbon." Continued

Jan 30, 2013

Jefferson's Library

(LoC) After capturing Washington, D.C. in 1814, the British burned the U.S. Capitol, destroying the Library of Congress and its 3,000-volume collection. Thomas Jefferson, in retirement at Monticello, offered to sell his personal library to the Library Committee of Congress in order to rebuild the collection of the Congressional Library.
Jefferson's library not only included over twice the number of volumes as had been destroyed, it expanded the scope of the library beyond its previous topics—law, economics, and history—to include a wide variety of subjects in several languages. Continued

Jan 29, 2013

Died this day in 1956: H. L. Mencken

"Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time."

Jan 28, 2013

Dollar Princesses: The American heiresses who inspired Downton Abbey


(thedailybeast) ... Yet these American girls paid a price for their strawberry leaves and coronets. Most had grown up in modern homes with every modern convenience: electric light, indoor plumbing, and central heating. After marriage, they found themselves chatelaines of houses where taking a bath involved a housemaid making five trips from the kitchen in the basement, carrying jugs of hot water to fill a hip bath. The stately homes of England were all too often dark, dingy, and terribly cold. Cornelia Martin, who married the Earl of 
Craven, complained to her mother, “The house is so cold that the only time I take my furs off is when I go to bed.” 
Mildred Sherman from Ohio, who became Lady Camoys, gave up going to dinner at country houses in the winter because she couldn’t face the cold in evening dress. Continued

Jan 27, 2013

The Knickerbocker Blizzard


(Wikipedia) The Knickerbocker Storm was a blizzard that occurred on January 27–28, 1922 in the upper South and middle Atlantic United States. The storm took its name from the resulting collapse of the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington, D.C. shortly after 9 p.m. on January 28 which killed 98 people and injured 133. Continued

Jan 25, 2013

The Johnston Gang

(Wikipedia) Bruce Alfred Johnston Sr (March 27, 1939 – August 8, 2002) was the leader of one of the most notorious gangs in the history of Pennsylvania, USA. The gang started in the 1960s and was rounded up in 1978 after his son, Bruce Jr, testified against him.
The gang and its wide network stole primarily in Chester County, according to a 1980 Pennsylvania Crime Commission report, but they made their way into Lancaster County on several occasions. They also crossed the state lines to Maryland and Delaware. Continued

Jan 24, 2013

Harry Gilmor

(Wikipedia) Harry W. Gilmor (January 24, 1838 – March 4, 1883) served as Baltimore City Police Commissioner in the 1870s, but he was most noted as a Confederate cavalry officer during the American Civil War. Gilmor's daring raids, such as The Magnolia Station Raid gained his partisans fame as "Gilmor's Raiders."
During the American Civil War, as a member of Captain Charles Ridgely's Baltimore County Horse Guards, Gilmor was arrested and imprisoned in Fort McHenry following the occupation of Baltimore by Federal troops. Upon his release, he traveled South and eventually rejoined the fighting serving, for a while, under General Turner Ashby. He was again captured during the Maryland Campaign and spent five months in prison. During the Gettysburg Campaign, Major Gilmor was assigned command of the First Maryland Cavalry and Second Maryland Cavalry, supporting Brig. Gen. George Steuart's infantry brigade. Gilmor was the provost marshal of the town of Gettysburg while it was occupied by the Confederates July 1–4. Continued

Images: Library of Congress

Jan 23, 2013

The Greenbrier Ghost

(Wikipedia) The Greenbrier Ghost is the name popularly given to the alleged ghost of a young woman in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, United States, who was murdered in 1897. The events surrounding the haunting have led to it becoming a very late instance in American legal history in which the testimony of a "ghost" was accepted at a murder trial. Continued 

Jan 22, 2013

Columbia Records


(Wikipedia) The Columbia Phonograph Company was originally the local company run by Edward Easton, distributing and selling Edison phonographs and phonograph cylinders in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Delaware, and derives its name from the District of Columbia, which was its headquarters. As was the custom of some of the regional phonograph companies, Columbia produced many commercial cylinder recordings of its own, and its catalogue of musical records in 1891 was 10 pages long. Columbia's ties to Edison and the North American Phonograph Company were severed in 1894 with the North American Phonograph Company's breakup, and thereafter sold only records and phonographs of its own manufacture. Continued

Jan 21, 2013

Stonewall Jackson


(LoC) Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, one of Robert E. Lee's most outstanding generals in the Army of Northern Virginia, was born in Clarksburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), on January 21, 1824.
Orphaned at a young age, Jackson spent much of his childhood moving between the homes of various family members. In 1842, he was awarded an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. A commissioned officer during the Mexican War, he served as a second lieutenant of artillery, was promoted to first lieutenant, and later won brevets to captain and major. Continued

I don't mean any disrespect to anybody - but am a little like the old "grayback" who, after the surrender, went to the Provost Marshal, at Charlottesville, to be paroled. After taking all the oaths required of him, he asked the Provost if he wasn't all right. "Yes, " said the Captain, "you are." "Good a Union man as anybody, ain't I." "Yes," replied the Captain, "you are in the Union now as a loyal citizen, and can go ahead all right." "Well, then," said the old sinner; "didn't 'Stonewall' use to give us h--l in the Valley." You see he was one of "Stonewall's foot cavalry," and couldn't help being proud of it. - How a One-Legged Rebel Lives by John S. Robson

Pictured: Prayer in "Stonewall" Jackson's camp by Adalbert Volck.

Jan 20, 2013

Poe Museum could reopen in fall

(Baltimore Sun) The one-time home of Edgar Allan Poe could reopen for visitors as soon as this autumn, according to one of the people in charge of running the tourist attraction.
"Though we're still in the early stages, things are picking up steam," said Mark Redfield, vice president of the board of directors for Poe Baltimore, the nonprofit organization created to run the Poe House and Museum. "At this point, we don't have a specific date to reopen. But we're hoping it will happen sometime this fall." Continued

York's Civil War-era train closer to completion

(YDR) A sign hangs on a former feed store along the Northern Central Railway tracks in New Freedom, announcing the home of "Steam Into History." Renovations have been under way in the building at 2 W. Main St. as the nonprofit gears up to start a train excursion in June that will take travelers back in time to the Civil War era. The opening is scheduled to be in time for the 150th anniversary of the Confederate invasion of York in late June and the Battle of Gettysburg in early July. Continued

Earl Weaver R.I.P.

BALTIMORE (AP) - Earl Weaver always was up for an argument, especially with an umpire. At the slightest provocation, the Earl of Baltimore would spin his hat back, point his finger squarely at an ump's chest and then fire away. The Hall of Fame manager would even tangle with his own players, if necessary.
All this from a 5-foot-6 pepperpot who hated to be doubted. Although reviled by some, Weaver was beloved in Baltimore and remained an Oriole to the end. Continued

The Mud March

(Wikipedia) The Mud March was an abortive attempt at a winter offensive in January 1863 by Union Army Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside in the American Civil War. ... The offensive movement began on January 20, 1863, in unseasonably mild weather. That evening a steady rain began, and it persisted for two days, saturating the unpaved roads, leaving them knee-deep in mud. After struggling for two days to move troops, wagons, and artillery pieces, Burnside yielded to complaints from his subordinates and reluctantly ordered his army back to camp near Fredericksburg. Continued

Jan 19, 2013

Explorer's rare Scotch returned to Antarctic stash

(AP) SCOTTBASE, Antarctica - Talk about whisky on ice: Three bottles of rare, 19th century Scotch found beneath the floor boards of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackelton's [sic] abandoned expedition base were returned to the polar continent Saturday after a distiller flew them to Scotland to recreate the long-lost recipe.
But not even New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who personally returned the stash, got a taste of the contents of the bottles of Mackinlay's whisky, which were rediscovered 102 years after the explorer was forced to leave them behind. Continued

Poe Toaster Remains A Mystery

(WBAL) From the tombstone of Edgar Allan Poe, one can reach the street by taking a narrow dirt path between two tall stone mausoleums and crouching for a few steps underneath a portion of Westminster Hall.
This was a favorite getaway route for the Poe Toaster, the mysterious man in black who for decades left three roses and an unfinished bottle of Martell cognac at Poe’s grave on the birthday of the father of macabre fiction.
The tradition ended four years ago, just as mysteriously, when the visitor failed to appear.
Ahead of Poe’s 204th birthday on Saturday, the person who has overseen an annual cemetery vigil since the 1970s talked in detail about the story behind it. Continued

Jan 18, 2013

Daniel Hale Williams

(Wikipedia) Daniel Hale Williams (January 18, 1856 – August 4, 1931) was an American surgeon. He was the first African-American cardiologist, and is attributed with performing the first successful surgery on the heart. He also founded Provident Hospital, the first non-segregated hospital in the United States. Continued

Jan 16, 2013

Live in a lighthouse on Chesapeake Bay

(NBC) Wanted: A homeowner with a dedication to history and lighthouses, willing to do a little renovation and, of course, live in a home set three miles offshore.
Unlike other lighthouses, the Wolf Trap Light Station is not firmly anchored to a rocky shore, but set out in Chesapeake Bay. Built in 1894, the Mathews lighthouse is a "caisson-style" lighthouse, which means it was constructed to withstand ice flows and whatever else the Atlantic Ocean throws that way. Continued

Alexander J. Dallas

(Wikipedia) Alexander James Dallas (June 21, 1759 – January 16, 1817) was an American statesman who served as the U.S. Treasury Secretary under President James Madison.
Dallas was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to Dr. Robert Charles Dallas (1710 – 1769) and Sarah Elizabeth (Cormack) Hewitt. When he was five his family moved to Edinburgh (his father was a Scotsman) and then to London. There he studied under James Elphinston. He planned to study law, but was unable to afford it. He married Arabella Maria Smith of Pennsylvania, the daughter of Maj. George Smith of the British Army and Arabella Barlow (in turn the daughter of the Rev. William Barlow and Arabella Trevanion, the daughter of Sir Nicholas Trevanion), in 1780 and the next year they moved to Jamaica. There he was admitted to the bar through his father's connections. Maria's health suffered in Jamaica and they moved to Philadelphia in 1783. Continued 

Jan 15, 2013

Mathew Brady


(Wikipedia) Mathew B. Brady (1822 – January 15, 1896) was one of the most celebrated 19th century American photographers, best known for his portraits of celebrities and the documentation of the American Civil War. He is credited with being the father of photojournalism. Continued

Photos: Library of Congress

Jan 14, 2013

The French Revolution for Dummies (and ‘Les Misérables’ Watchers)


Les Misérables has finally arrived in theaters!
Boy, the music is beautiful, but what the heck is going on?
The Daily Beast explains the history behind the story.

Jan 12, 2013

Super Bowl III

(Wikipedia) Super Bowl III was the third AFL-NFL Championship Game in professional American football, but the first to officially bear the name "Super Bowl" (The two previous AFL-NFL Championship Games came to be known, retroactively, as "Super Bowls"). The game, played on January 12, 1969, at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, is regarded as one of the greatest upsets in American sports history. The heavy underdog American Football League (AFL) champion New York Jets defeated the National Football League (NFL) champion Baltimore Colts by a score of 16–7. This was the first Super Bowl victory for the AFL. Continued

Jan 11, 2013

Bayard Taylor

(Wikipedia) Bayard Taylor (James) (January 11, 1825 – December 19, 1878) was an American poet, literary critic, translator, and travel author. Taylor was born on January 11, 1825, in Kennett Square in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Continued 

Jan 8, 2013

The Simple Time in American History

John Oliver searches for the simple time in American history. "One day you will be crying like a little girl on television because of the America that you have lost."

Project Diana

(Wikipedia) Project Diana, named for the Roman moon goddess Diana — goddess of the hunt, wild animals and the moon — was a project of the US Army Signal Corps to bounce radio signals off the moon and receive the reflected signals. Today called EME (Earth-Moon-Earth), this was the first attempt to "touch" another celestial body.
From a laboratory at Camp Evans (part of Fort Monmouth), near Wall Township, New Jersey, a large transmitter, receiver and antenna array were constructed for this purpose. The transmitter, a highly modified SCR-271 radar set from World War II, provided 3,000 watts at 111.5 MHz in 1/4 second pulses, and the antenna (a "bedspring" dipole array) provided 24 dB of gain. Reflected signals were received about 2.5 seconds later, with the receiver compensating for Doppler modulation of the reflected signal. Continued 

Jan 7, 2013

Ross Grimsley

(Wikipedia) Ross Albert Grimsley II (born January 7, 1950 in Topeka, Kansas) is a former left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Cincinnati Reds (1971-73), Baltimore Orioles (1974-77 and 1982), Montreal Expos (1978-80) and Cleveland Indians (1980). His father, Ross Sr., pitched for the 1951 Chicago White Sox.
Grimsley helped the Reds win the 1972 National League Pennant and the 1973 NL Western Division, and the Orioles win the 1974 American League Eastern Division. Continued
Photo courtesy of Baseball Almanac

Jan 6, 2013

Pirates, in Fallston?

(J. Alexis Shriver, Bel Air Times) Who wants to join me in the fascinating (even though it be futile) building up of a playing card house, about an old tradition concerning a pirate?
Every indication points to the contrary, and yet there must be some reason to explain the constant search for hidden treasure which has continued for a hundred years.
Let us take our playing cards and build our fragile house of romance at "Bon Air", the gem of a French mansion built in 1794 by Claudius Francis Frederick de La Porte near the Gunpowder Falls in Harford County, almost adjoining the old Quaker Meeting House at Fallston. Continued

Photo: Historic American Buildings Survey E. H. Pickering, Photographer October 1936 BUILT 1794 BY CAPTAIN DE LA PORTE OF ROCHAMBEAU ARMY - Bon Air, Laurel Brook Road, Fallston, Harford County, MD

Jan 5, 2013

Stephen Decatur

(Wikipedia) Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr. (5 January 1779 – 22 March 1820) was an American naval officer notable for his heroism in the Barbary Wars and in the War of 1812. He was the youngest man to reach the rank of captain in the history of the United States Navy, and the first American celebrated as a national military hero who had not played a role in the American Revolution. Decatur was born on January 5, 1779, in Berlin, Maryland, to Stephen Decatur, Sr. and his wife Ann (Pine) Decatur. Continued

Jan 4, 2013

Tragedy at Chase

(Wikipedia) The Maryland train collision occurred at 1:04 pm on January 4, 1987, on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor main line in the Chase community of Baltimore County, Maryland, United States, at Gunpow Interlocking, about 18 miles northeast of Baltimore. Amtrak Train 94, the Colonial, from Washington, D.C., to Boston, crashed into a set of Conrail locomotives running light which had fouled the mainline. Train 94's speed at the time of the collision was estimated at about 108 miles per hour. Fourteen passengers on the Amtrak train were killed, as well as the Amtrak engineer and lounge car attendant. Continued

Photo: Freight Train, Chase, Maryland (MDRails)

Jan 2, 2013

Parishioners say goodbye to St. George's Spesutia at final service

(Aegis) The parishioners at St. George's Spesutia Church were not celebrating Christmas on Sunday morning, the Rev. Bill Smith told them amid poinsettias and holiday decorations, but rather The Incarnation.
"We tell it over and over and over again for one reason: so we can become part of the story," he said about the tale of Christmas.
But for those gathered at the Perryman church, the oldest Episcopal parish in Maryland, Sunday's service was the end of one part of their story.
The Eucharist service is expected to be the last one to be held at St. George's, after The Right Rev. Eugene Sutton, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, ordered an end to the parish's services earlier this year. Continued

Jan 1, 2013

The Grove of Gladness

(NYTimes) As dawn broke across a cloudless New Year's Day sky over the South Carolina Sea Islands, Charlotte Forten, a black Pennsylvania missionary who had come south to teach local freed people, set out for Camp Saxton, a waterside settlement on Port Royal Island, near the town of Beaufort. After a short ride on an old carriage that was pulled by "a remarkably slow horse," Forten boarded a ship for the trip up the Beaufort River.
A band entertained the white and back passengers on the warm winter morning as they steamed toward the headquarters of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, a regiment made up of former slaves. By midday a crowd of thousands - comprising not only teachers like Forten but also Union soldiers, northern ministers and ex-slaves - had gathered in the largest live-oak grove Forten had ever seen. Located on a plantation a few miles outside of Beaufort, Camp Saxton was, according to Thomas D. Howard, another Northern missionary teaching in the Sea Islands, "ideal for the occasion."
Why had they come? It was the first day of 1863, yes, but more important, it was the day that Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was scheduled to take effect. Continued