Feb 28, 2013

Fatal Cruise of the USS Princeton


(Navy History) On a late February day in 1844, a long line of black carriages drew up to the wharf at the Washington Navy Yard and dropped off the city's social elite, nearly 400 ladies and gentlemen in elegant attire and ready to celebrate. Captain Robert F. Stockton of Princeton, New Jersey, had assembled the very cream of the capital, including President John Tyler, for a demonstration cruise on board the pride of the United States Navy, the steam frigate USS Princeton . The festive voyage, however, did not go as planned. Continued

Feb 27, 2013

Raymond Berry

(Wikipedia) - Raymond Emmett Berry (born February 27, 1933 in Corpus Christi, Texas) was an American football wide receiver. He played for the Baltimore Colts during their two NFL championship wins. He later had a career in coaching, highlighted by his trip to Super Bowl XX as head coach of the New England Patriots. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Continued

Feb 26, 2013

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, 2013

Barney Ewell

(Wikipedia) Harold Norwood "Barney" Ewell (February 25, 1918 – April 4, 1996) was an American athlete, winner of one gold and two silver medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics.
Born into poverty in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Barney Ewell was one of the world's leading sprinters of the 1940s. Mr. Ewell attended John Piersol McCaskey High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Continued

Feb 24, 2013

Harford begins flying War of 1812 flag at county buildings

(Aegis) A 15-star, 15-stripe War of 1812 commemorative American flag was raised in front of the Harford County administrative building in Bel Air Thursday afternoon, one of five that will fly over county government buildings for the next 22 months.
Executive Order 13-3, issued by Harford County Executive David Craig, directs that the commemorative War of 1812 flag also will be flown at the Harford County Council building in Bel Air, the Harford County Courthouse, the McFaul Activity Center in Bel Air and the Havre de Grace Activity Center.
In recognition of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and Harford County's involvement in the conflict, Craig's order states the War of 1812 Commemorative flag will continue to flown at those locations through Dec. 24, 2014, the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent that ended the war. Continued

Feb 23, 2013

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, 2013

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, 2013

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, 2013

Frederick Douglass

(Wikipedia) - Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, February 14, 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American abolitionist, women's suffragist, editor, orator, author, statesman and reformer. Called "The Sage of Anacostia" and "The Lion of Anacostia", Douglass is one of the most prominent figures in African-American and United States history. In 1872, Douglass became the first African American nominated as a Vice Presidential candidate in the U.S., running on the Equal Rights Party ticket with Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President of the United States.
He was a firm believer in the equality of all people, whether black, female, Native American, or recent immigrant. He was fond of saying, "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong." Continued 

Feb 19, 2013

1859: First Temporary Insanity Defense in U.S.

(Wikipedia) ... Sickles's career was replete with personal scandals. He was censured by the New York State Assembly for escorting a known prostitute, Fanny White, into its chambers. He also reportedly took her to England, leaving his pregnant wife at home, and presented White to Queen Victoria, using as her alias the surname of a New York political opponent. In 1859, in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House, Sickles shot and killed the district attorney of the District of Columbia Philip Barton Key II, son of Francis Scott Key, who Sickles had discovered was having an affair with his young wife.  Continued

Feb 18, 2013

Ollie the Flying Cow

(Wikipedia) Elm Farm Ollie (known as "Nellie Jay" and post-flight as "Sky Queen") was the first cow to fly in an airplane, doing so on 18 February 1930, as part of the International Air Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. On the same trip, which covered 72 miles from Bismarck, Missouri, to St. Louis, she also became the first cow milked in flight. This was done ostensibly to allow scientists to observe midair effects on animals, as well as for publicity purposes. A St. Louis newspaper trumpeted her mission as being "to blaze a trail for the transportation of livestock by air." Continued 

Feb 17, 2013

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, 2013

First Barbary War

(Wikipedia) The First Barbary War (1801–1805), also known as the Barbary Coast War or the Tripolitan War, was the first of two wars fought between the United States of America and the North African Muslim states known collectively as the Barbary States. These were the independent Sultanate of Morocco and Tripoli, which was a quasi-independent entity nominally belonging to the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Continued

Feb 15, 2013

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, 2013

Ma & Pa Railroad artifacts, photos, documents sought by preservation group


(Aegis) A new effort is under way to preserve the history of the iconic Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad that ran through the heart of Harford County more than 50 years ago.
A group responsible for the annual Maryland & Pennsylvania Month celebration in Delta, Pa., has begun a drive to locate, acquire, authenticate, preserve and display material relating to the Ma & Pa Railroad and its predecessors.
"So much material relating to the railroad's history has already been lost that steps must be taken to prevent further losses," Jerome Murphy, a Fork resident who is a member of the group and a collector of Ma & Pa photographs and documents, said. Continued

Feb 13, 2013

Lucille Clifton

(Wikipedia) Lucille Clifton (June 27, 1936 Depew, New York – February 13, 2010 Baltimore, Maryland) was an American writer and educator from Buffalo, New York. ... In 1967, they moved to Baltimore, Maryland. Her first poetry collection Good Times was published in 1969, and listed by The New York Times as one of the year's 10 best books. From 1971 to 1974, Lucille Clifton was poet-in-residence at Coppin State College in Baltimore. From 1979 to 1985, she was Poet Laureate of the state of Maryland. Continued

Feb 12, 2013

The Birth of the NAACP

(Wikipedia) The Race Riot of 1908 in Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Illinois had highlighted the urgent need for an effective civil rights organization in the U.S. This event is often cited as the catalyst for the formation of the NAACP. Mary White Ovington, journalist William English Walling and Henry Moscowitz met in New York City in January 1909 and the NAACP was born. Solicitations for support went out to more than 60 prominent Americans, and a meeting date was set for February 12, 1909. This was intended to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln, who emancipated enslaved African Americans. While the meeting did not take place until three months later, this date is often cited as the founding date of the organization. Continued 

Feb 11, 2013

William Fox Talbot

(Wikipedia) William Henry Fox Talbot was a British inventor and a pioneer of photography, born on February 11, 1800 and died on September 17, 1877. He was the inventor of calotype process, the precursor to most photographic processes of the 19th and 20th centuries. He was also a noted photographer who made major contributions to the development of photography as an artistic medium. His work in the 1840s on photo-mechanical reproduction led to the creation of the photoglyphic engraving process, the precursor to photogravure. Talbot is also remembered as the holder of a patent which, some say, affected the early development of commercial photography in Britain. Additionally, he made some important early photographs of Oxford, Paris, and York. Continued

Feb 10, 2013

Treaty of Paris (1763)


(Wikipedia) The Treaty of Paris, often called the Peace of Paris, or the Treaty of 1763, was signed on 10 February 1763, by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement. It ended the French and Indian War/Seven Years' War. The treaty marked the beginning of an extensive period of British dominance outside Europe. Continued

Engineers of Victory

(NYTBR) The historian Daniel Boorstin once complained to me about the Smithsonian Institution’s decision in 1980 to delete the final two words from the name of its Museum of History and Technology. Boorstin had a point. Scholars of other fields do often tend to underestimate the influence of technology. Although most of us know that World War II brought us radar, the literature of that titanic conflict is by no means exempt from this phenomenon. For instance, the biographer Joseph P. Lash subtitled his 1976 wartime account of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill “The Partnership That Saved the West,” in response to which I once heard a British scholar carp, “If Lash is right, then why did all those scientists and intelligence officers and factory workers bother working so hard?” Continued

Feb 9, 2013

Aged grist mill awaits scarce federal funds

(Baltimore Sun) PERRYVILLE, Maryland — A 250-year-old grist mill near the mouth of the Susquehanna River has sat mostly vacant since the end of the Civil War, its thick stone walls serving no purpose but the protection of a few old tools.
Though the building is historic — it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places decades ago — it is uncelebrated and receives few visitors. While many old mills are being restored, plans to develop the Cecil County property have stalled.
The lack of interest in the old mill is partly due to its owner: the federal government. Continued

The Meteor procession of February 9, 1913

(Wikipedia) The meteor procession of February 9, 1913, was a unique meteoric phenomenon reported from locations across Canada, the north-eastern United States, Bermuda and from several ships at sea, including one off Brazil, giving a total recorded track of some 5659 miles (9105 km). The meteors were particularly unusual in that there was no apparent radiant, that is to say, no apparent point in the sky from which the meteors appeared to originate. The observations were analysed in detail, later the same year, by the astronomer Clarence Chant, leading him to conclude that as all accounts were positioned along a great circle arc, the source had been a small, short-lived natural satellite of the Earth. Continued

Pictured: "Meteoric Display of February 9, 1913, as seen near High Park. Drawn by Gustave (sic) Hahn" (Toronto Star)

Feb 8, 2013

Noted local historian, Charles H. Glatfelter, dies at 88

(YDR) Charles H. Glatfelter probably knew more about Glen Rock history than any other human being forgot.
"I would ask him about some event in Glen Rock history, and he would know the date that an article about it was in the Glen Rock Item," said Lila Fourhman-Shaull, director of the library and archives at the York County Heritage Trust. "He'd say, 'Look up that article, and that should answer your questions.'
"He had an amazing memory."
That's an understatement. The Glen Rock Item hasn't published since the 1940s.
And it wasn't just Glen Rock history. He was an expert on Adams County history, genealogy, American history and the history of the local Lutheran church. He taught for years at Gettysburg College, a history professor who held a doctorate in philosophy. Continued

Feb 7, 2013

The Great Baltimore Fire

"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 6, 2013

Rare 1865 Baseball Card to Be Auctioned in Maine


BIDDEFORD, Maine (AP) Six-figure bids are expected when a rare 148-year-old baseball card discovered at a rural Maine yard sale is auctioned.
Saco River Auction Co. in Biddeford is holding an auction Wednesday that includes a card depicting the Brooklyn Atlantics amateur baseball club. Continued

Feb 5, 2013

The Whacking Day Blizzard

1772: York County, Pennsylvania

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."

(From "Never to be Forgotten" by James McClure, A year-by-year look at York County's past published in celebration of York County's 250th year.)

Feb 4, 2013

So, how'd all this raven stuff get started anyway?

Many Marylanders associate the Baltimore Ravens name with Edgar Allen Poe, but that's not the real story, or at least, not the whole story.
It all started back in the 19th century when the colorful Gilmor (no "e") family made a fortune in the Baltimore shipping industry. Like all good antebellum Southerners, Robert Gilmor was a Sir Walter Scott fan; so much so, that he built his house to look just like "Abbotsford," Scott's estate across the Atlantic. Having a Scottish house he decided to give it a Scottish name: Glen Ellen. (Ellen after his wife, and Glen being Scottish for, uh, glen.) Many years later the family donated their estate to build a reservoir which they named, in Scottish fashion, "Loch Raven," after a portion of the estate called Ravensrock. Then came Loch Raven Boulevard, Glen Arm, Waverley, etc., and the rest is history.
Of course the fact that Poe died in Baltimore, while on one of the great all time benders in literary history, only added to Baltimore's association with the doleful crow.
Are there any actual ravens in Maryland? I've never seen one, but according to the Maryland DNR, you can find them in the western portions of the state.

Feb 3, 2013

Dr. Langley to Discuss War of 1812 Maritime Archaeology at Society on April 13

(WoCCP) Star-Spangled Archaeology: Commemorating the War of 1812 Through Maritime Archaeology, a recently added lecture, will wrap up the inaugural year of the Society’s Winter Speakers Series. Taking place on Saturday, April 13th at 2:00, the speaker, State Underwater Archaeologist Susan Langley, is sponsored by the Maryland Humanities Council and the Maryland War of 1812 Commission.
The waters of the Chesapeake conceal many hidden treasures, and Dr. Langley will help us dive into the subject of those submerged cultural resources. Continued

Joseph E. Johnston

(Wikipedia) Joseph Eggleston Johnston (February 3, 1807 – March 21, 1891) was a career U.S. Army officer, serving with distinction in the Mexican-American War and Seminole Wars, and was also one of the most senior general officers in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.
Johnston was trained as a civil engineer at the U.S. Military Academy. He served in Florida, Texas, and Kansas, and fought with distinction in the Mexican-American War and by 1860 achieved the rank of brigadier general as Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army. When his native state of Virginia seceded from the Union, Johnston resigned his commission, the highest-ranking officer to join the Confederacy. Continued

Top Photo: Johnston's grave at Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore (Find A Grave/Russ Dodge).

Feb 2, 2013

Historical origins of 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, 2013

F. Scott Fitzgerald's Baltimore house up for sale

(Baltimore Sun) Calling all literati and English majors with decent paychecks: You have a chance to own a home once graced by F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
The Bolton Hill home where Fitzgerald lived during a stint during the 1930s and wrote "Tender Is the Night," just went on the market in an estate sale.
The handsome rowhouse at 1307 Park Ave. has four bedrooms, four baths and 3,600 square feet of pure conversation starter. Continued