Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Coincidence

Unidentified photographs at the Lucille Hall Museum
This week's post on clues for identifying unlabeled old photographs is proving to be quite popular.  By coincidence, we visited the Lucille Hall Museum in St. John, KS yesterday and saw a perfect example of why labeling old photographs is so important.
 
Apparently, at the time of her death several years ago, Lucille Hall had a box of old photographs labeled 'unknown photographs,' and the museum was hoping someone in the community might be able to identify the subjects of the photographs.  I did my best, but failed to be of any help.
 
Just some of the unknown subjects
I thought I would enter this mid-week post to share this example of why we need to attend to the task of labeling photographs while those with memories of the subjects are still able to provide the information!  Have a special Memorial Weekend remembering veterans and ancestors, and enjoying family and friends!
 
Consider bringing out that box of your own old photographs (or new ones) and making labeling them part of your holiday together!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Identifying Old Photographs

Clarissa Stone
I continue to wish for an old photograph of Isaac Werner.  I know he had his picture taken at least twice by  professional photographers-- in Pratt, KS on Nov. 1, 1890 at Logan's Gallery and once in St. John, probably at Miss Shira's studio.  In addition, his neighbor named Blake took many photographs at his farm; however, Blake did not develop his own glass plates, so those photographs would probably have the cardboard backings of the studios where they were developed, both in Pratt and St. John at Miss Shira's studio.  I mention this repeatedly because I know that families living near Isaac came to his farm to pose for photographs, often posing in the 'promenade' he created in his tree grove or near the 'big tree.'  I still hope that someone who follows this blog will recognize one of those photographs among their ancestor's pictures.

However, I promised to suggest clues for identifying old photographs in your own family collection in this week's blog, and I will use my own experience to offer some ideas.  The photographs are children of Horatio Gates Stone, the subject of "Clue to Stone Family Mystery," 5-5-2016 in the Blog Archives.

Reverse of image above
When my mother-in-law passed away we found a box of photographs from the late 1800s that she had found among her own mother's belongings.  Fortunately, most of the photographs were mounted on the photographer's studio card backings, so the first clue was the location of the studio.  We knew that the Stone family had settled in Iowa, and none of our other ancestral lines were connected with that state, so that was an important clue.

On the back of one of the images was written "Aunt Clarissa died Jan 1906," and we recognized the handwriting as belonging to my husband's maternal grandmother.  Her mother's maiden name was Stone, so one of her mother's siblings would have been her aunt.  We could be confident now that the woman pictured was probably a member of the Stone family in Iowa and was of the same generation as my husband's great grandmother.  (If you look closely under the handwritten notation, you can see that this studio card also indicated the year the photo was taken, 1874.)

Clarissa Stone at different ages
The two photo cards at right are both images of Clarissa when she was younger.  They provide a good example of paying attention to hair styles, clothing, and jewelry as a way to recognize the same individual at different ages or pictures taken at different times.  Notice particularly that while Clarissa has a different charm or locket on her necklace, the band or collar is the same.  The dress is very similar, and may have been the same dress, modified with new trim, a collar, and a different bow for the picture that appears to have been taken slightly later.  Dresses were expensive and were often modified to continue wearing without obviously appearing to be the same dress.

 Looking at a photo card from the same studio, we identified Clarissa as one of the four people in a group photograph.  On the back of the photo card was written "Aunt Clarissa, Aunt Effie, Uncle Fred, Uncle Perry," but no effort had been made to arrange the names in such a way as to identify the individuals.  However, with the clear identification of Clarissa, we could be confident that the other woman was Effie.

Stone siblings
Notice particularly Clarissa's clothing, jewelry, and hair style.  It was easy to identify which woman was Clarissa, even if her facial likeness had not been so obvious, because the clothing, jewelry and hair style were the same as in her individual picture.  This single portrait and the group picture were probably taken the same day, but often women wore the same jewelry or continued the same hair style which may help identify them in other photographs.

Perry Stone
You might assume that this group of four siblings would identify all the grown children in that family, but given that there were a total of eleven children, there were still other pictures that we could not relate to this group.  In searching among the other photographs we found a small image labeled Uncle Perry which allowed us to distinguish that Perry was the seated man in the group photo.  In addition, from those two likenesses we identified the seated man in a photograph of a young couple.  The photo card was from a different studio but was also a Davenport, IA location.

Perry parted his hair on the same side and combed it flat to his head, as well as continuing to style his moustache in the same way, which helped make him recognizable from one photograph to another. 

Perry & Kate Stone
I have used the plural pronoun "we" in reference to the search to identify the people in these photographs.  In fact, I was alone in the search, for my husband had decided that there was no longer anyone living who could identify the images and he was ready to burn the box of photographs.  Now, of course, he is delighted to know who these distant ancestors are, and we have traveled to Iowa to visit the graves of many of the people pictured in the photographs contained in that box.

The best part of the story is that when I posted the photographs on my ancestry.com pages for the Stone family, a descendant of Perry Stone saw them and contacted me.  A house fire had destroyed all of their Stone family photographs, and because I had not agreed to discard the box of photographs, generations of Perry Stone's descendants now have pictures of their ancestors.  

Remember:  You can enlarge the images by clicking on them.

 In summary, here are some clues for identifying photographs:  1.  Begin by looking at the back for names, and remember when you mark your own photographs to include both given and surnames, as well as nicknames that might be important; 2.  Look for clues to identify the location where the picture was taken, as I noted the bridge in the Macksville City Park in last week's blog; 3.  Pay particular attention to hairstyles, jewelry, and clothing that might help you identify a person you recognize from another marked photograph; 4.  If vehicles appear in the photograph, notice not only the make and model of the vehicle but also the license plate to identify the year and location; 5.  Sometimes a pet can help you identify a child; 6.  Look for school uniforms and mascots;   7.  Observe furniture, wallpaper, framed pictures on the wall, things that can be seen through the windows to identify the location and the era, which may help identify the person or family in the picture; 8.  In a group picture, notice the ages of people, especially a family group, in order to identify those you don't recognize by comparing their ages with others that you do recognize; 9.  While studios today do not mount photographs on cardboard backing with the information I used to identify these old photographs, they do often stamp the back of the photograph with their studio name; 10. Local libraries and museums often have old yearbooks that you might consult to identify a class picture.  11.  Occasionally you know that a relative visited a specific destination and a picture posed there can identify the person, as I can identify my great grandparents posed on donkeys in front of the Balanced Rock at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, and sometimes souvenir photographs state the date and location in the photographer's background setting.

To the woman who commented on an earlier blog, "More please," I hope this helps you and others who have old photographs they cannot identify.  Don't give up!  Perhaps it will also inspire some of you to sit down with those photographs you have been meaning to label and begin.  If you dig out that box of old photographs you inherited, you might even discover one of those photographs from Isaac Werner's neighborhood that I have been hoping to find!

(During Sept. and Oct. of 1890 neighbors came to Isaac's farm nearly every Sunday to pose for photographs. Specifically, on Sept. 28 Isaac and Blake went to Bonsels and photographed a group of "some twenty relatives" before returning to Isaac's farm to photograph Graff, Penrose, Carr's team and wagon, and Henns.  On October 5 they photographed the McHenry team and several "young people" including Miss Anna Carr and Miss Balser.)


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Documenting What You Save

     Last week's blog urged saving old photographs, even if the identities of the people in the picture are unknown.  This week I will focus on documenting pictures that you save.  Just because you know the people in the photographs, do not assume that future generations will.  When I found the photograph at left of two children clowning with their fingers in their mouths (for unknown reasons), I only had to flip the picture to the reverse side to discover the names of my father and his younger sister.
     Without my grandmother having taken the time to write their names on the back of the photograph, I might not have been able to identify the children.  With Merle dressed in overalls with her cropped hair style, I might have been confused about whether she was a girl or a boy.
     When the subjects of the photograph are lined up in a tidy row, like the sisters in this picture, it is easy to write their names in the same order as the subjects are standing, as someone who identified these four young women did.
     In both of these cases, it would have been better to have included the last name as well.  As old family photographs are handed down from one generation to the next, first names may be inadequate to identify the subjects of the photographs.
     With a photograph of a group of people, it may be necessary to do more than simply put the names on the back of the photograph.  Since many people now have home copy machines, a simple way to document those in the picture is to lay the photograph on a blank sheet to make a copy, and then you can use arrows to link each person to the names.  In this example both the maiden names and the married names are given, since future generations may not know both.  It would have also been helpful to have provided the location of the photograph, which in this case was the Macksville, KS city park.  The copy with the names can be stored with the original photograph for future identifications.  Some people write names directly on the photograph, which is a clear identification, but it also spoils the photograph.
     Today, many photographs are saved on cell phones, computers, and zip drives.  If some effort is not taken to document those pictures, they will be lost to future generations.  You may think that a graduation photograph or wedding pictures will always be recognized by your descendants, but that is simply not true.  Try showing your own high school graduation picture to a grandchild and you may be surprised that they will not realize that it is you!
     That is even more true of candid shots.  I have inherited boxes and albums of photographs that I cannot identify--and I have done more family research than most anyone else in the family.  If it is important to you that family pictures you treasure be passed to your descendants to be treasured by them, take the time to identify them!
     I continue to hope for a photograph of Isaac B. Werner, as well as photographs of others taken at his farm.  If names and locations were not identified on these old images, it might be impossible to recognize who and where they are more than a century later.  However, there are clues that can help identify unlabeled photographs, and next week's blog will share some of those clues.










Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What to Save?

You are down-sizing, moving from your family home of decades into a small apartment.  You can't take everything with you, and you come upon a box of old photographs of high school classmates who are also down-sizing and don't need anymore things to store.
Of, you have lost a parent and you are going through old magazines, postcards, photographs, and other things you cannot even associate with your parent.  What do you do with these things that your parents saved but that mean nothing to you?
Don't discard them!
Older friends in our home town mentioned to my husband that they had some old funeral cards, and among them was the card of my grandfather.  Would I like to see what they had? they asked him.  Of course the answer was yes, and I went through the small stack of cards and scanned them onto my computer.  The card pictured above was from the funeral of the father of a dear friend of mine.  He died in service when she was very young, and the framed picture of her handsome father hung in my friend's bedroom.  I remember seeing it there and asking her who it was.  She too has passed, but she has children who are descendants of Gaylord Thompson.  How sad it would be if this funeral card were to be destroyed when my older friends are no longer able to preserve it.
Those of you who follow my blog may remember seeing the photograph to the left.  When I mentioned the Tousley family in the blog, a family member shared this image with me, a treasured part of my research about Isaac Werner.  I was delighted with the photograph, and she was pleased with the research I had done about her family, and it was this old photograph that brought us together.
When my mother-in-law passed away, there was a box of photographs that she had inherited at the time of her own mother's death, who in turn had inherited them from among her mother's things.  We recognized none of them, and my husband was ready to give up and discard them.  I insisted that they be saved, and painstakingly I began using my genealogy research to unravel the mystery of their identities.  Eventually I identified all but three of the people pictured in this box of photographs.  In a future blog I will offer suggestions for identifying unmarked photographs.
I have the post cards pictured at right because a thoughtful family going through their elderly aunt's things donated them to a museum.  Sadly, it was not a museum primarily utilized by researchers.  The museum used the antique post cards as party favors at a fund raiser--a clever table decoration at the Victorian tea which was a favorite annual event for many years because of the lovely table decorations, clever and tasty refreshments, and special entertainment.  However, gifting the post cards to a museum that serves researchers could have provided a wealth of information about the family and the historic period through the correspondence on the reverse side of the post cards.  When you donate things to a museum, consider the ways in which that museum will be able to preserve and utilize what you donate.
A museum that does save photographs and documents is the perfect place to donate correspondence, old photographs and albums.  My mother-in-law had a full box of obituaries she had clipped from newspapers over the years, and when I offered them to Michael Hathaway at the Stafford County Historical and Genealogical Museum he was delighted.  Pause before you discard things that researchers might appreciate.
I was doing research for Isaac at the Pratt County Historical Museum when Marcia Brown was the director, and I mentioned some of Isaac's neighbors when I was going through old photographs in the museum's collection in hopes of finding a photograph of Isaac.  Marcia has a memory like a Pratt County walking archive, and months later someone brought in a box of old photographs to donate to the museum.  In going through the box she spotted a picture of Dr. Dix, and she remembered my having mentioned him.  I was thrilled!  She e-mailed the image to me, and now I have a picture of one of Isaac Werner's best friends--thanks to the person who brought the box of unidentified photographs to the museum rather than discarding them, and thanks to Marcia Brown's amazing memory and her thoughtfulness in contacting me.  I also have one of Issac's own books because Marcia spotted it at the library deacquisition sale and bought it for me.
I am still hopeful that someone will discover a picture of a group of men standing in a potato patch and remember my story about the photograph of the cooperative potato growing experiment in Stafford County.  Or some one whose ancestors were early Stafford County settlers shown in a photograph in which the background is a house or a well or a big tree or a promenade in a tree grove that they can't recognize from other family pictures, and they may remember my blog about neighbors who came to Isaac's farm to pose for pictures in a more prosperous setting at a time when their own homesteads were rather primitive.
A wealth of irreplaceable information is destroyed each time a box of old letters or old photographs goes into the trash, and when the people whose memories are preserved in those documents are gone, that information cannot be replicated.  Consider before you discard such things whether they should be preserved and where you might deliver them to insure their preservation.  History is more than just  books about famous people and events!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Clues to the Stone Family Mystery

Left:  Horatio Stone, sculptor; Right:  Horatio Gates Stone




Last week's blog, "The Wandering Paths of History," posted 4-28-2016, introduced American sculptor Horatio Stone and raised the question of whether this famous sculptor was related to my husband's ancestor, Horatio Gates Stone.  I posted their pictures side-by-side on face book and asked people to comment on whether they perceived any family resemblance.  Thank you to everyone who joined in the fun of studying their images and offering your opinions.

Here are some of the replies:  JJM:  "Sure look like the same person to me."  AML:  "They both have the similar pose, posture and piercing eyes."  DGS:  "Nose, brow, and hairline are certainly similar."  VB:  "The eyes, mouth and nose."  VA and LDF simply replied:  "Yes."  CSW spotted the same things I noticed:  "Oh my goodness, yes!  Don't you think so?  Their nose and eyes look very similar as does the shape of their faces."

In past blogs I have written about the responsibility of a writer to establish limits to separate history, narrative history, and historical fiction.  It has been my challenge to determine whether I want to tell Isaac Werner's story to satisfy scholars or general readers, and my attempt to do both was not a complete success.  Using this family mystery just for fun, join me in deciding which standard my research about these two look-alikes sharing the same name would meet, if I were to write a story about them.

Jackson, Washington, NY
I started with the information I had.  Dr. Horatio Stone, the sculptor, was born in 1808 in Jackson, Washington County, NY and Horatio Gates Stone, my husband's ancestor, was born in 1812 in Moriah, Essex County, NY, so I was curious to learn how close their birth locations were.  As it turned out, they were born in adjacent counties.  Their ages and the close proximity of their births make it seem more likely that they shared a family relationship.  Both counties are on the eastern border of New York State, with both adjacent to Vermont. (See images.)

Moriah, Essex, NY
I assumed that because of his well-known reputation as a sculptor  information about Dr. Horatio Stone would be easy to find, but that was not the case.  I did learn that in a Memorial to Dr. Stone written soon after his death that "his first large work in sculpture was a monument to his mother."  The images on the monument were specifically described as being "four figures--the angel and the three women at the sepulchre."  I found a picture of the stone of Nancy Fairchild, wife of Reuben Stone which has been identified as the sculpture by Dr. Stone.  From Nancy Fairchild's monument and research on Ancestry.com I identified Dr. Stone's parents as Nancy Fairchild and Reuben Stone.  My own family genealogy records confirm that Horatio Gates Stone was the son of Abraham (or Abram) Stone and Eunice Haskins, so I hoped to use the two fathers to find a common ancestor.  
 
Reuben was born in about 1771 in Massachusetts, but Abraham was born that same year in Elmira, Cheming County, NY.  Their fathers were certainly of the same generation, but with a common birth year and birth places in different states, it seemed unlikely that they were brothers.    If you know your geography, Massachusetts also abuts the eastern boundary of NY State, just below Vermont, so the possibility of a family relationship of some kind remained reasonable.

I tried to go back another generation, but I could not establish with certainty who Reuben's father was.  However, I did notice that Abraham's father Peleg Stone died in 1779 in Arlington, Bennington, Vermont, and two of Abraham's siblings died in that place on the same day in 1799.  The key in this observation was that Nancy Fairchild was born there in 1788, as was Nancy's brother in 1785 and her sister in 1790.  Although I had not placed Dr. Stone's family in the same community as my husband's ancestors, I had discovered a common location of Dr. Stone's mother and my husband's ancestors.

In short, I have certainly discovered several interesting clues but not enough information to validate a definite family connection.  If I lived close enough to wander through the old cemeteries in Moriah, Jackson, and Arlington, I suspect I might find more clues to solve this riddle.  All that I can say is that I found nothing to discourage the possibility of a family connection!
 
Searching family records has been a significant part of my research about Isaac B. Werner and his neighbors.  Because I live in the same community, it has been possible for me to examine gravestone inscriptions, search courthouse records, and even interview descendants of Isaac's acquaintances. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Wandering Paths of History


Sculptor Belle Kinney's "Confederate Women"
In searching pictures for last week's blog about the $10 and $20 bills, I came across pictures of statues for both Alexander Hamilton and Andrew Jackson, both full length and both in the Capitol.  Like so many adventures on which the research for Isaac B. Werner's manuscript have taken me, the statues of Hamilton and Jackson took me down an unexpected path!

Unfortunately, I did not find an image of Jackson's sculpture free to post, but I did learn about the sculptors, and the picture at top-right of this blog is by one of them.  Jackson was sculpted by Belle Kinney (1890) and Leopold F. Scholz (1877-1946).  The two sculptors were wife and husband, and in her private life Belle went by Belle Kinney Scholz.  However, professionally she retained her maiden name.  She won her first prize for a sculpture when she was 7 years old for a bust of her father.  At 15 she entered the Art Institute of Chicago, and at 17 she received her first commission to sculpt Jere Baxter, the organizer of the Tennessee Central Railroad.  She met her husband Leopold at the Art Institute, and they married in 1921. Leopold, 13 years older than Belle, was born in Austria.  With two exceptions, all of his known sculptures were done with his wife.  Belle is known not only for their joint achievements but also for her individual work, such as her best known sculpture, "Confederate Women."


As interesting to me as the information about Jackson's sculptors was, it was what I discovered about Alexander Hamilton's sculptor that intrigued me most, and although I have wandered a long way to learn more about Dr. Horatio Stone, the sculptor of Hamilton pictured at left, I have not been able to satisfy my search.

Horatio Stone was born in 1808 to Reuben and Nancy Stone in New York State.  He practiced medicine until devoting himself full-time to sculpture in the 1840s.  He moved to Washington, D.C. and helped establish the Washington Art Association, for which he served as President.  During his career he maintained studios in both Washington, D.C. and Carrara, Italy.  He died of "Roman Fever" in 1875 and is interred in Italy.  A close study of details, such as of Hamilton's hands, shows the significance of his medical training to the sculptures he created.

None of that, however, was what so intrigued me.  My husband's second great Grandfather is named Horatio Gates Stone and was born in New York State in 1812.  In doing extensive genealogy research  I have learned that the Stone family repeated names from generation to generation, and one of the names so often repeated was Horatio.  Horatio Stone the sculptor had no descendants, but is it possible that Horatio Gates Stone and Horatio Stone might have common ancestors?  At this point, my "wandering path of history" has not taken me far enough to answer that question.  What I can share is that the repetition of Horatio among my husband's Stone ancestors is so common and confusing that years ago I posted on ancestry.com an attempt to clarify all the repeated uses of the name Horatio, which I titled "Too Many Horatioes!"

In Isaac B. Werner's family, names were also repeated from one generation to another.  Isaac shared the same middle name with his twin brother Henry, their middle name "Beckley" having been their mother's maiden name. As for the name Henry, it was not only Isaac's brother's given name but also the name of his cousin, Henry Werner, with whom he left Wernersville to seek their fortunes in the West, but also the name of his favorite Uncle Henry Werner and other relatives.  Repeated given names in the Werner family have been a challenge to my research.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fresh Off the Presses!

$10 Bill with Hamilton
It must have occurred to many of you as well that the popularity of the Broadway Musical "Hamilton" might have an impact on Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew's decision to replace the image of Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with the image of a woman.  We weren't the only ones to regard that was a possibility, and a headline in the April 15, 2016 New York Times read:  "Success of 'Hamilton' May Have Saved Hamilton on the $10 Bill."  The article by Jackie Calmes referred to the careful avoidance by Lew during an interview with Charlie Rose on PBS about whether "...a woman's portrait would be at the center of the $10 bill."

Secretary Lew had set December of 2015 as the deadline for selecting the image for the bill, and the fact that the deadline had come and gone indicated Lew might be having second thoughts.  Lew and his wife attended a performance of "Hamilton" and spoke with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who tweeted afterward that Lew had hinted that "Hamilton" fans would be happy with the ultimate decision.  That might leave some outspoken groups advocating the image of a woman for the $10 bill very unhappy.  See "You Can't Please Everybody," 7-9-2015 in the Blog Archives to read what was behind the initial decision to change the image.

A $20 Bill with Jackson

A rumor started that Alexander Hamilton would remain on the $10 bill, and Andrew Jackson would be replaced on the $20 with the image of a woman.  As far back as June 18, 2015, Washington Post writer Steven Mufson had written an article headlined:  "Why the U.S. government needs to remove Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill."  After listing Hamilton's virtues, such as being a founding father, co-authoring the Federalist Papers, serving as a Revolutionary War staff aide to George Washington, serving as the first Treasury Secretary, establishing the first national bank, and advocating a national currency rather than the currencies of the various states, Mufson continued by describing all the reasons why Andrew Jackson should never have appeared on the $20 bill in the first place.  He included the enumeration of Jackson's "disastrous economic policies," including his dismantling of the second Bank of the United States, his restrictions on the use of paper money which contributed to the severe economic Panic of 1837, and his responsibility for appointing Treasury Secretary Roger B. Taney to the Supreme Court (from which position Taney wrote the majority opinion in the Dred Scott case that haunted American race relations for decades).  See "Earliest Currency," 7-3-2015 in the blog archives to read more about this early period.

Harriet Tubman
Many people assumed there was widespread support for a woman's image on our paper currency.  That did not seem to be true when I asked my blog followers to weigh in on the issue.  Perhaps it is because those who read this blog appreciate knowledge of and respect for history, or perhaps it is because most people are concerned about wasteful government spending, but the followers of this blog who responded were not among those eager to see a woman on the $10 bill!  See "Survey Results for $10 Bill Image," 7-16-2015 and "More Money Comments," 7-23-2015 in the blog archives to read some the those reactions.

As of April 20, 2016 we learned Secretary Lew's decision.  Hamilton is safe!  As rumored, Andrew Jackson is the one to be displaced by a woman, and the woman selected is Harriet Tubman.  The choice of Tubman seems particularly appropriate, as Jackson has received harsh criticism in more recent times for his brutal relocation of Native Americans and his support for slavery.

Fewer rumors about other changes had leaked.  In fact, while Lincoln and Hamilton remain on the $5 bill and the $10 bill respectively, the reverse of those bills will change.  The Lincoln Memorial on the reverse of the $5 bill will remain, but images of Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be added.  On the reverse side of the $10 bill the Treasury building will be replaced and a depiction of the 1913 March in Support of Women's Right to Vote will appear, with portraits of suffrage leaders Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth.

Don't expect to see these changes any time soon.  The redesigns are not scheduled for unveiling until 2020!  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rap and History

Used only to explain subject of blog.
Do not reproduce. 
May be subject to (c).



 
Before leaving the topic of teaching history to young people, I must mention Hamilton, the musical currently attracting sold-out crowds on Broadway.  Critics and ticket-buyers love it!
 
In an appearance on CBS Morning to introduce the new book about Hamilton, the musical, author Lin-Manuel Miranda described a program for young people that the musical is sponsoring, which challenges participants to produce works about Alexander Hamilton which cover events in Hamilton's life that are not included in the musical. 
 
Miranda has introduced a new way of sharing history with this Broadway production.  He read Ron Chernow's book, Alexander Hamilton, and it inspired him to envision the life of Hamilton as a musical.  In 1917 a play about Hamilton had appeared on Broadway, but Miranda had something different in mind.
 
He performed his idea at a workshop production in 2013, and the positive reaction encouraged him to continue working until he was ready to open off-Broadway at The Public Theater in early 2015, with such success there that Hamilton moved to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in August of 2015.
 
For two and a half hours audiences keep up with the rapid-fire lyrics sharing Hamilton's life.  Miranda has reached an audience that might never have otherwise heard of Alexander Hamilton!
 
The comment from one follower of my blog lamented that he did not believe his knowledge of history was adequate to qualify him as a teacher, (although I believe he is well qualified), yet Miranda admitted during the CBS interview that he had not been a good student of history, and reading Chernow's biography motivated him to do more research.  Surely many of those who saw the musical or heard the Grammy Award winning album were motivated to learn more about Hamilton and the history of that era because of Miranda's work.  It is impossible to know how many people one artist, regardless of his or her medium, may inspire.

G.L.W-T. complimented me for using popular song lyrics and the sports pages to introduce my students to poetry, and W.S. recalled his father's W.W. I letters as the source of his personal interest in that historic period.  Last week in "History & Young People," I described various 'triggers' that lead us to more and more information, and Miranda has used rap music to do exactly that.

There are many ways to make history come alive for young people, if we just open our minds to help us open theirs!

You might enjoy reading my earlier posts about Alexander Hamilton at "You Can't Please Everybody," 7-9-2015 and "Survey Results for $10 Bill Image, 7-16-2015 in the Blog Archives.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

History and Young People

Making history relevant
Last week's blog, "The Historian's Responsibility," (Blog Archives 3-3-2016) dealt with the challenges of competing for attention in a world filled with distractions.  That blog generated some interesting replies from followers.  E.R. from Kansas recommended two books on the subject, Overload Syndrome and Digital Invasion and added from his own experience the value of his parents' having removed the television from their home environment, replacing it with "weekly trips to the library to load up on books."  

J.S., a small town librarian whose wisdom I have referenced in the past, shared a fun dialogue between herself and a young boy who had visited the library to use the computer.

J.S. (scooting a group of computer users out at closing time):  "Does anybody want to check out books before you leave?"
Boy:  "Yeah, but I didn't bring any money."
J.S.:  "You don't need money...you can take home library books for FREE!"
Boy (looking at me like I was Out of My Mind):  "Are you SERIOUS?!"
J.S.:  "Yes--Check them out; take them home; read them; then bring them back and get some more!"
Boy:  "ALRIGHT!!!  Where are the basketball books?!"

While that story might seem a bit discouraging with reference to what children choose "to attend to," she also shared a story about a young girl who asked for "animal books."  The girl explained, "I think I want to be a veterinarian when I grow up..."  J.S. added that the girl left with a dozen or so books about animals.

J.S. took particular pleasure when a 9-year-old dropped by to see her 5 years after his family had moved and told her "I sure miss coming to this library..."

Conversations like these should make all of us hopeful that children are still curious about ideas to be gained from books.  Unfortunately, L.K. from Missouri thought of an old rhyme as she read the blog:  You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  You can give a person information but you can't make him think.

Some of you may have read the comment left at last week's blog from an international follower, which concluded:  "How does one understand history without having read a great deal of it?" 

It seems that much of my own history reading is triggered by something, and I read voraciously about the subject because that random event or bit of information tweaked my curiosity.  Each thing I read prompts me toward further reading.  For example, studying the US Constitution in law school made me want to visit Philadelphia, and although it took me several decades to get there, the visit expanded my reading about the American Revolution, our Founding Fathers, military history, and other issues of the late 1700s.  

Titles Isaac Werner's Library Contained
Isaac's Journal has led me to read and research the early history of his (and my) community, the Progressive Movement of the late 1800s, early farming methods on the prairie, and other subjects that would not otherwise have attracted my attention, many of which I have blogged about.    

Finding the toy W.W. I soldier led to more intense reading about that historic time, including Churchill biographies, W.W. I war poets, soldiers from the English village of my ancestors, the influenza pandemic, and other topics about which I knew little or nothing, information I have also shared in my blog.

If you were to reflect on your own reading habits, you might also recognize triggers of your own.  So, how can a teacher of history create triggers for his or her students that will make history of interest to young people?  An interesting article written by Ann White, a teacher of European history in Washington, D.C. suggests that the key is for teachers to allow their own passions for what they are teaching to be the trigger for their students' interest.  

In her own case, she showed her class how she, as a history writer, proceeds once she has a thesis for a paper.  "...I taught by doing--writing, before their eyes, the same paper they were writing.  Why?  Because I myself write history.  It is my passion.  ...I want to show them how I weigh evidence in my mind and how I weigh words.  Does my tentative thesis genuinely express my understanding...Should I use a more vivid verb?"  White stopped giving tests and began requiring her students to write essays, and she discovered that they responded to her enthusiasm by mirroring her process.  "...they criticize each other's thesis statements.  They recognize statements that describe but do not assert, they find each other's lapses in historical reasoning.  Questions about thesis statements produce more intense classroom conversations than my test preparation ever evoked."

However, she also recognized that other teachers taught history in entirely different ways that also excited their students.  The common factor was "impassioned teachers."  She concluded that the teachers' "passionate involvement with history" is more important that methodology.  (You may read more at "Teaching High School History:  The Power of the Personal, Ann White, May 1998.)

Isaac's Journal
When I was teaching high school English before attending law school, my classes opened their minds to poetry when I used the lyrics of popular songs or assigned the sports section of the newspaper to search for similes, metaphors, and other poetry techniques.  Not by abandoning the text book but by opening their eyes to the poetry around them, I was able to awaken their interest.  Or, as William James said in last week's post, I was able to bring poetry into their own experience.

I hope more of you will share your comments this week about your own triggers for exploring subjects that had not previously been part of your experience, about teachers that shared their passions for subjects in a way that captured your interest, and about reading adventures you took after something triggered your curiosity.  I look forward to hearing from you!     

  



Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Historian's Responsibility

From my first blog entry to the present, I have written of my belief that so many of our personal and our political mistakes can be avoided if only we learn from history.  (See "I Love History," 1-3-2012 and "Year's End," 12-30-2011 in the Blog Archives.)
 
I follow a wonderful blog titled "Brain Pickings" that always gives me ideas for reflection when I find time to visit it, and a recent posting inspired this week's blog with ideas taken from Erich Fromm (1900-1980), William James (1842-1910), and contemporary Dominican American writer, Junot Diaz.  A common thread in their writing inspired me to consider the challenge of creating interest in information in a world so filled with competing distractions. 
 
Artist:  Artero Espinosa
German psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm used the analogy of the development of a rose bush to our own power to direct our lives. He explained that while we have come to understand the impact of soil nutrients, optimal temperatures, sunlight and shade to aid in the growth of a rose bush, that does not prohibit the ability of the rose bush itself to bend its growth in reaching for the sun.  Likewise, each individual can reach for his or her own potential growth, despite external factors.  Fromm wrote:  "The goal of living [is] to grow optimally according to the conditions of human existence and thus to become fully what one potentially is; to let reason or experience guide us to the understanding of what norms are conductive to well-being, given the nature of man that reason enables us to understand."
 
My desire to tell Isaac's story and share the important history of a region that was the center of the Progressive Movement in the late 1800s is driven by what I see as the importance of knowing that history so that its experience can guide us today.
 
A contemporary Dominican American writer, Junot Diaz, (born 1968) expresses how art can play a role in educating readers in a rapidly changing world.  In an interview, Diaz said:  "One of the best things about art, as anyone who's studied a Victorian text knows, is that the future comes faster than we imagine, and there is a future coming up, of young artists and young critics and young scholars, who are thinking in ways that make the current conversation about our art look incredibly reductive." 
 
One important role for writers of history, I believe, is to make what we write relevant to young readers so that their perspective is not limited to their own experiences.  There is a certain arrogance that distances both young and old from each other.  A positive thing about young people is their confidence in themselves, but it tends to blind them to lessons of the past; a positive thing about older people is the wisdom they have gained from experience, but it tends to blind them to the innovation necessary in a changing world.  Writers of history must find a way to bridge both of those chasms in attitude that separate young and old.
 
William James (1842-1910)
A quote from William James (1842-1910) expresses the challenge of bridging those widely varying daily perceptions of our common world.  "Millions of items of the outward order are present to my senses which never properly enter into my experience.  Why?  Because they have no interest for me.  My experience is what I agree to attend to.  Only those items which I notice shape my mind--without selective interest, experience is an utter chaos.  Interest alone gives accent and emphasis, light and shade, background and foreground, intelligible perspective, in a word.  It varies in every creature, but without it consciousness of every creature would be a gray chaotic indiscriminateness, impossible for us even to conceive."
 
Any parent or teacher already knows that the typical teenager only pays attention to what interests him or her.  Likewise, if we are honest, by middle age most adults no longer pay much attention to the culture shaping teenagers. If capturing the attention of differing ages of people living at the same time in order to create a common experience is difficult, it is understandable that writers of history face an even greater challenge to capture the attention of readers about a historic period about which the relevance to their lives is not immediately apparent.
 
Newsboys (eyeing newsgirl) from the 1800s
To bring this discussion into today's news, I offer two examples from the same day's New York Times.  Nicholas Confessore, writing about how the GOP elite lost its voters to Trump, pointed out that "...faithful voters, blue-collar white Americans, who faced economic pain and uncertainty over the past decade [while] the party's donors, lawmakers and lobbyists prospered" were paying attention to different events. As William James explained, "Only those items which I notice shape my mind..."
 
In the same day's newspaper, Yamiche Alcondor, who is covering Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side, described the world his supporters were experiencing:  "the anger at Wall Street; the indie rock anthems; and the kiwi slices consumed aboard his campaign plane" align Sanders's appeal to the cultural moment "for liberals, young people and union workers."  In short, again quoting James, "Interest alone gives accent and emphasis..."
 
Whether you are a politician shaping history or a writer sharing history, you will not reach potential voters or potential readers unless you can capture attention in a world so filled with distracting appeals, or as stated by James: "My experience is what I agree to attend to..."  No matter how compelling nor how significant the lessons of history may be, they can only shape the minds of those living today if they are noticed.  Providing a reason for reading history is the responsibility of writers who believe it is important to share that history.  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Animal Buddies

Photo credit: Larry D. Fenwick
Within the past few months each time we go to town we have noticed a horse and a goat sharing the same pasture.  At first we didn't think much about it, but gradually we realized that these two animals were friends.

Returning home last week the sun was perfect and the two animals were close enough together and near enough to the road for us to get a nice photograph of them.  My husband turned around and went back, and when the two buddies saw us stop, they came to the fence to pose.

Photo credit:  Larry D. Fenwick
 I recalled a video we had seen on television not long ago about an old blind horse and a goat named Jack, who decided on his own to become Charlie Horse's guide.  According to their owner, no one trained Jack or encouraged the relationship, but for 16 years the goat would lead the blind horse to a favorite grazing patch, where the two friends would spend the day together until it was time for Jack to lead Charlie home.  The video may be watched at americanblog.com and you can find it by googling "goat guides blind horse."  After Charlie's death, the owner recognized the rapid decline of Jack, and made plans to bury Jack beside Charlie in the clearing where the two of them loved to spend their days together.

As unusual as it may seem, if you google "animal buddies" you can find other sites with photographs of animal friends you would never expect to see together.

Photo credit:  Larry D. Fenwick
Isaac B. Werner staked his claims on the Kansas prairie in 1878, and for six years he managed without a horse.  He acquired the horse he named Dolly Varden (See "Isaac's Dolly Varden," 12-28-2012 in the Blog Archives), and Isaac named Dolly's first colt Jim.  Two years later Isaac bought Jule, a gray mare with a colt by her side that he named Baldy.  

Baldy's first brush with bad luck happened when he was three.  A neighbor named Frazee was helping Isaac one day in mid-July, and when his dog misbehaved Frazee picked up a rock to throw at the dog.  His aim was poor, and he hit Baldy in the eye.  In Isaac's own words, "Frazee knocked Baldy's right eye out with a stone throwing at his worthless nuisance of a dog, showing hardly as much judgment as an ordinary 15 year old boy..."  Isaac lost sleep worrying about Baldy, and he treated the eye socket with a "linament half Lard and half Turpentine."  Baldy survived the ordeal, but his life seemed ill-fated.

Photo credit:  Lyn Fenwick
One morning in early April of the following year, Isaac went out "...to put [the] colts on rye pasture and found 'Baldy' horse cold dead by fodder stack and 'Jim' keeping him company." About a year apart in ages, Jim and Baldy were buddies, and Jim kept watch over his friend until Isaac arrived.  (According to Isaac, death was the result of eating cane "..after much freezing, too much indigestible stalk shell in it.")

For those of us who have loved special animals in our lives, we know each one has a unique personality and a great capacity for affection.

Isaac loved his horses, his cats, even his favorite chickens, and he certainly loved and protected the wild birds on his property.  (See "Isaac and His 'Pet' Game Birds," 8-8-2013.)  As for the hogs...not so much!  (See "Isaac's Bad Luck with Hogs," 9-11-2014) 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Occupying My Time

Those of you who follow my blog already know what a fan of Willa Cather I am.  My husband and I enjoy attending Cather conferences and seminars, although most of the attendees are professors who teach Cather and have studied her more thoroughly than I have.  However, as with any addiction, I have expanded my reading beyond Cather's novels, short stories, and poems to dip my toe into some of the scholarly writing.  It was exciting to all Cather fans when her letters were finally made available to scholars, resulting in the wonderful book, The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout.  Having met and visited with both of the editors made the book even more special for me, and their depth of knowledge goes much further than just the letters they selected for the book.

Becoming acquainted with other attendees at the conferences and seminars is a huge part of the fun in attending.  Over the years, several of them have asked why I did not submit a proposal for presenting a paper.  My answer was always, "Because I don't want to appear foolish because of my shallow depth of knowledge about Cather."  Honestly, these people must have read everything she has written, including newspaper articles when she was just a young girl!  Not only that, they are on a first name basis with all of Cather's acquaintances.  They know all of the real people from Red Cloud, NE that Cather transformed into her characters.  It was (and is) very intimidating to imagine becoming well enough informed to write a paper to be read before this group.

However, that is exactly what I have committed to do.  My focus is on comparing Cather's writing in her World War I novel, One of Ours, with the writing of W.W. I poets.  You may remember that the discovery of the W.W. I toy soldier by construction workers during the remodeling of our home launched my reading about W.W. I.  (See "My Steadfast Tin Soldier," 9/25/2014, and "My Steadfast Tin Soldier, a Sequel," 10/2/2014, in the Blog Archives.)  Among the books I read (and continue to read) were poems by soldier poets.  I can't pretend to have the depth of knowledge about Cather that other presenters at the conference will have, but I hope to share interesting comparisons of scenes from Cather's novel with the W.W. I war poems.

Of course, Isaac B. Werner died in 1895, before the start of W.W. I in 1914, and although this blog is about Isaac and his times, I thought you might enjoy reading about what is diverting me from working on the revisions to my manuscript about Isaac and his community.  I am busy doing research and writing--but for now I am taking a little history detour to W.W. I! 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Beecher Bibles and Rifles

The Beecher Bible & Rifle Church
Henry Ward Beecher has been the subject of several posts in this blog, including his influence on Isaac B. Werner's journal ("Finding Isaac's Journal," 10-23-2011; "Historic Diaries," 5-14-2015), his broader influence ("Advice from Henry Ward Beecher," 12-7-2012), and his position among wealthy men and women of the Gilded Age ("Turmoil in the Gilded Age," 1-14-2016).  However, this post relates to his very direct role in the history of Kansas.

The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill in 1854 focused the spotlight during the prelude to the Civil War directly on Kansas by allowing its residents to determine whether Kansas would be a free state or a slave state.  While allowing voters to determine the nature of their own state may have seemed to be a reasonable solution, the result was a competition to populate the state with voters sympathetic to one side or the other.  In effect, both sides set out not to stuff the ballot box with bogus ballots but rather to stuff the state with sympathetic voters.  Some of these new-comers to the region were genuine settlers; others came solely to establish temporary residences to serve their side of the issue.
New England was home to many people opposed to slavery, and some of them decided to leave New England and settle in Kansas.  New Haven, CT not only raised money for the resettlement but also some of their most prominent men joined the group willing to leave comfortable homes and established reputations for the uncertainties of Kansas.  When a meeting was held to raise money for the Connecticut-Kansas Company established for this venture, Henry Ward Beecher prompted others in the crowd to make their own pledges after making his pledge for money to buy 25 rifles if others in the crowd would meet that number with their pledges.  They did, with a total of 27.  Rev. Beecher's congregation in Brooklyn, NY honored their minister's pledge, sending not only $625 to buy the rifles but also 25 Bibles given by one of Beecher's parishioners.

This group of settlers from New Haven settled south of the Kaw River in a place called Wabaunsee.  Not all of them were prepared for the hardships of settlement in this remote place, which they referred to as "The New Haven of the West," and some returned to New England. Others were committed, and they organized "The Prairie Guard" in response to calls for men to defend Lawrence and spent 6 weeks fighting border ruffians harassing other Free State settlers there.

Their faith was an important part of their Free State mission, and they organized worship services immediately upon their arrival.  It was not until 1862, however, that their stone church was dedicated.  By then most of their men were away fighting in the Civil War, except for the old and the young.  Eventually, most of these settlers returned to live out their lives in the area from which they had come, but the few that remained influenced the region's development.

Wabaunsee's population decreased but the church was maintained well enough for the structure to survive, with a particular effort made on the Church's Centennial in 1957 to renovate the building.  The pictures taken for this blog show the church as of January 2016.  In a park nearby, the Kansas State Historical Society erected a monument reading:  "In Memory of The Beecher Bible and Rifle Colony, Which Settled This Area in 1856 And Helped Make Kansas A Free State.  May Future Generations Forever Pay Them Tribute."  R.S.C., 1969

In 1856 Henry Ward Beecher spoke not only in opposition to slavery but in favor of using lethal force to oppose slavery, specifically recommending the Sharps rifle.  On February 8, 1856, the following quote appeared in the New York Tribune:  "He (Henry W. Beecher) believed that the Sharps Rifle was a truly moral agency, and that there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles.  You might just as well...read the Bible to Buffaloes as to those fellows...but they have a supreme respect for the logic that is embodied in Sharp's rifle." 

Sharps 1863 Carbine .50-70 Calibre Antique Original
It is reported that shipment of rifles were transported in cases marked "Books" or "Bibles," and Sharp's Rifles acquired the common name of Beecher Bibles as a result.  Because shipments were often made in secret, the exact number of rifles is uncertain, but it is estimated that about 900 to 1,000 Sharps rifles were purchased for the border conflict in Kansas.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Wamego's Attractions

The main street of Wamego
The city of Wamego, Kansas is not only a wonderful place to live.  It also has many reasons for visitors to be attracted to the city.  (See "Yellow Brick Road in KS," 1-28-2016; "A Visit to the World's Fair Inspires a Theater," 2-14-2016; "A Theater for Wamego," 2-21-2016 in the Blog Archives.)  The photograph at left shows the busy downtown and some of the store fronts that welcome visitors.

Hyeon jung Kim
The paintings of Sienna Clark wrap around one corner
Last week's blog mentioned the gallary located on the main floor of The Columbian Theatre.  When we visited, the paintings of Sienna Clark and Hyeon jung Kim were on display.  The mission statement of The Columbian Artist Group is "an organization of creative like-minded individuals dedicated to fostering the artistic growth and evolution of its members and promoting their talents."  The Columbian Theatre provides a large, well-lit environment to display a rotating gallery of members' work.  You may visit colunbianartist.weebly.com to read more.

Friendship House
We visited Wamego on Monday, not the best day, since some attractions and restaurants are closed on that day.  However, we enjoyed a pleasant lunch at the Friendship House Restaurant and Bakery pictured at left.  If you look closely, you can see the Yellow Brick Road that led us from the main street to the restaurant.

The Oregon Trail cuts across the northeast corner of Kansas, and deep ruts from the wagon wheels of settlers headed from the eastern part of the United States to California and states in between can still be found just northeast of Wamego.

Fortunately, we noticed the Wamego City Park, a beautiful park with an impressive train, lots of room, a mini prairie town with restored buildings, and most impressive of all, the Old Dutch Mill.

Wamego's Old Dutch Mill



The Mill was built in 1879 about 12 miles north of Wamego by a Dutch immigrant.  It took 35 teams and wagons when it was moved into Wamego in 1925 after first being dismantled--every stone numbered to enable it to be rebuilt just as it had been originally.  It is 25 feet in diameter and 40 feet high, and over the window of the mill is a bust of Ceres, the Goddess of Grain.

As this blog is being written in 2016, plans are underway for the celebration of Wamego's 150th Anniversary!  Also, Wamego is known for having one of the best 4th of July displays around.  Last year's display may be seen on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuKrLVMXDzO.

I know that many of you who follow Kansas State Football in Manhattan, as well as those of you who follow Kansas University basketball in Lawrence, drive I-70 regularly, and a side-trip to Wamego would make a delightful break in your trip.  For those of you who aren't often in that part of Kansas, maybe you should consider visiting some of the attractions I have described in recent posts.

This is our last blog about Wamego, and next week we travel down the road to a surprising historic site that is off the busy highway but definitely worth reading about.  You won't want to miss it!