Thursday, January 28, 2016

Revisiting History in Lawrence, KS

Stone Plaque in the Eldridge Hotel, Lawrence, KS
The stone plaque pictured at left reads:  "Site of Free State Hotel burned by Sheriff Jones, May 21, 1856 / Eldridge House burned by Quantrell, August 21, 1863."  Isaac B. Werner did not homestead in Kansas until 1878, but he too lived as a boy in a community that suffered the divisions related to the Civil War.  (Read "How Far is Gettysburg," at 6-20-2013 in the blog archives for a discussion of the strong divisions in Wernersville.)

Isaac's family also had a close connection with the city of Lawrence, for his youngest sister Ettie moved with her family from Pennsylvania to Abilene, KS, and from there to Lawrence, KS, where she and her husband are buried.  (See "Kindness of a Stranger," 10-12-2015 in the blog archives.)

Little Red Riding Hood greets fans 
This past weekend we had the pleasure of spending time in Lawrence, and we stayed at the Eldridge Hotel where the pictured plaque is posted in the hall of the main entrance. 

Just across the street from the hotel was a Starbucks that sold the New York Times on Sunday morning. When we lived in New England we loved going out to buy the Times and bringing it home to read for the rest of the day.  It was great fun to be in a city where we could indulge that pleasant memory from our youth by just walking across the street.  We have to go a lot further to buy the Times since living at the farm!

We were revisiting another bit of our own history as guests of long-time friends from college who had invited us to join them for a performance of 'Sleeping Beauty' by the Moscow Festival Ballet.  It was our first visit to the beautiful Lied Center on the Kansas University campus, and we enjoyed the ballet there, as well as seeing the excitement of young fans who lined up in the lobby to have their pictures taken with some of the ballerinas after the performance.

Our friends, Nelson and Judy, treated us to brunch at the Eldridge and then gave us a wonderful tour of campus sites, including a visit to the Dole Institute.  We will want to return to spend more time there.
Inside the Dole Institute on KU campus
The huge stained glass window that greets visitors as they enter pays homage to the home state of  senator and presidential candidate Robert "Bob" Dole.  A second equally massive window honors Dole's service to his country, as soldier, senator, and Republican leader, with a depiction in stained glass of the American flag, shown in the picture as my husband and his friend Nelson discuss the Dole Institute.

Inside the Dole Institute

As Senator Dole has freely discussed during the 2014-2015 campaign season, political discourse  has certainly changed since he ran for election.  My parents were proud to support Robert Dole when he campaigned in Kansas, and when Senator Dole was making his 'Thank You Tour' across the counties of Kansas in 2015, my husband and I attended his visit to Pratt County, where both he and his wife Elizabeth spoke at the Filley Art Museum.  I was pleased to have my picture taken with this Kansas native son.

The author with Sen. & Mrs. Dole
I am confident that my father would be proud of the picture of his daughter with Sen. & Mrs. Dole.  I am not so sure what my father would think of the Republican campaigning this election season, but I am fairly sure his opinion would be about like what Sen. Dole has expressed regarding the tone and opinions stated by some of the candidates.  As Sen. Dole has said, compromise and working together is how political parties get things done for the good of all Americans.

I'm sure I know what Isaac B. Werner would think of the picture.  He would want to know what I was doing holding the hand of a Republican politician!  As those of you who follow my blog regularly know, the People's Party saw Republicans as the servants of the wealthy, and defeating the Republicans, even if they had to work with Democrats sometimes to do it, was their goal.

I hope you enjoyed sharing a bit of our weekend in Lawrence, KS.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Potato Farming with his Neighbors

Somewhere out there I know there must be  photographs of Isaac B. Werner and his neighbors arriving to plant, and later tend and harvest what Isaac believed to be the first cooperative potato patch in Stafford County.

Perhaps he and his neighbors might have resembled this historic photograph of men gathered to harvest onions during that same period of time.

Isaac provided the land, and in his journal he described the morning the group of men arrived--Blanch, Smith, Logan and his boys, Ferguson, Pen Frack and young Carpenter on horseback posed behind the men, with Isaac's peach trees in the background, waiting for the photographer to document the first "Co-operative Tator Patch and Force at diging in Stafford County."

Next, the "Potato Patch Force" went out into the patch to begin work, and another photograph of the men at work was taken, shot looking back toward Isaac's house.

In some old photo album or in an unsorted box on the shelf of a museum, those two photographs must still exist.  How excited I would be if only someone discovered them!  Until that happens I must be satisfied with the similarity of the photograph of men gathering onions to fuel my imagination with how Isaac and his neighbors in their "Co-operative Tator Patch" might have looked!  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Turmoil in the Gilded Age

Herbert Spencer
I am always intrigued by comparing what is happening during the same historical period in various parts of the country, as well as considering how those events have lessons for today.  When I came upon Banquet at Delmonico's by Barry Werth, I had to read it! 
The dust jacket tease describes the book this way:  "The United States in the 1870s and '80s was deep in turmoil--a brash young nation torn by a great depression, mired in scandal and corruption, rocked by crises in government, violently conflicted over science and race, and fired up by spiritual and sexual upheavals.  Secularism was rising, most notably in academia.  Evolution--and its catchphrase, 'survival of the fittest'--animated and guided this Gilded Age."  While this description may have suited the East Coast region, it sounded very little like what was happening in Isaac B. Werner's community.
Isaac arrived in Kansas in 1878, and like many others, he made his first home in a dugout.  Crop prices were good in the early years, when there were fewer farmers growing crops and less of the prairie had been broken for fields.  Those prices led Isaac and many others to go into debt for livestock and equipment, and when prices for their crops dropped, they were buried in debts on which they could pay no more than the interest.
Henry Ward Beecher
The Banquet at Delmonico's in 1882 had little resemblance to Isaac's world of a subsistence living on food stored for the winter from what they could raise during the growing season.  At the banquet in New York City, "Dinner began at half past six with raw oysters on the half shell...With a new course arriving every ten minutes, the feast lasted two and a half hours, a band playing selected pieces throughout...   The menu, printed on an engraved seven-by-five card tatted with a silk bow to a red cloth backing, was written in French...  Course after course cascaded from the kitchen, ferried by haughty French waiters..."
The banquet was in honor of Herbert Spencer, the British philosopher who had expanded Charles Darwin's theory of evolution beyond animals to encompass human society, history, psychology and ethics.  Many of the wealthy men gathered to honor him had adopted his philosophy to justify their own success and the personal wealth they had acquired, often at the human expense of low wages and unsafe working conditions for their employees.  By accepting the notion that their success was based on their superiority--survival of the fittest--they justified the huge differences between their lifestyles and the extreme poverty and harsh working conditions of their employees.
Charles Darwin
Among those in attendance were Henry Ward Beecher (See "Advice from Henry Ward Beecher," 12-7-2012, and "Keeping a Journal," 6-6-2013 in the blog archives); Union General / Senator from MO / Interior Secretary / and adviser to President Rutherford Hayes, Carl Schurz; and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.  Among the other followers of Spencer were lawyers, ministers, academics, and paleontologists.
While these men seem to have had little in common with Isaac Werner, their abusive mistreatment of workers had much to do with the People's Party, in which miners, factory workers, and farmers came together politically to confront with their numbers at the ballot box the wealth and power of men like these.  As the reviewer in Publishers Weekly wrote, " Werth elegantly reveals a firm philosophical foundation for all the antilabor excesses of the Industrial Age."  Those excesses impacted struggling workers like Isaac and led to the political movement in which he participated.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Readers' Resolutions

Time in a Bottle Collection
After our years of living in the South, we learned the importance of eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day if we expect good luck in the coming year.  So, dutifully, we fixed our black-eyed peas with jalapeno and ham and baked some corn bread to go with it.

Several of you shared your own New Year's Resolutions via face book, e-mail, and a comment to the blog.  One of my favorites was the suggestion by CH to read more books in 2016!  

On the practical side, JBB challenged her friends to a 91 day de-clutter program to get their houses in shape, and HJG suggested practical steps for a more healthful diet in 2016--dieting being a popular New Year's resolution.

GLW-T's very personal resolution was  "To continue 'releasing myself to the peace of knowing' and do my best to 'handle all the imperfections perfectly.'  And, yes, create a healthier environment so my mind, body and spirit will be a happier me."

RB, a talented photographer, decided his idea of starting a photography blog might make a good resolution for 2016.

Time in a Bottle Collection
It was RM who offered a great continuing resolution idea for those who, like me, are feeling saddened by all the bad reports we hear on the nightly news.  He suggested starting the New Year with an empty jar and adding a weekly note with a good thing that happened that week.  Then, fifty-two weeks later on New Year's Eve, empty the jar to read all the amazing things that happened during the year.  It isn't too late to take his advice and start your "Good Things Jar" for 2016!

For many of us, the pledge to exercise has already lagged, the diet has failed, and other resolutions are getting tiresome.  Don't berate yourself too harshly.  Mark Twain knows just how you feel:

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  *   *   *   Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."

All three of the antique New Year's cards pictured in this blog were found at, and the merchants offering them for sale are shown under each image.  

The illustrator of all three cards was Frances Brundage, (1854-1937), who was known for depictions of children.  In addition to cards, she also illustrated books by Louisa May Alcott, Johanna Spyri, and Robert Louis Stevenson, among others, and her work remains highly collectible even today.

Victorian Dreams Collection
She was taught by her father, Rembrandt Lockwood, and it was fortunate he had taught her well, for when she was only seventeen he abandoned his family and Frances became a professional artist.  Her first illustration was of a poem by Louisa May Alcott, which the author herself purchased.  Frances was in her early 30s when she married artist, William Tyson Brundage.  A tragic twist to her life was that although she is known for her lovely depictions of children, her only child, daughter Mary Frances, died at the age of 17 months.  She remained active professionally into her late 60s and died at the age of 82.

Because she illustrated books such as The Arabian Nights and Robin Hood, as well as calenders and prints, and she was working professionally in the 1880s and 1890s, it is quite possible that Isaac B. Werner might have seen her work.

A great way to conclude is with the resolutions of EPD.  "... be positive and ignore negativity... [and] do just one thing every day, no matter how small, that I have been putting off."