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 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 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!     


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Isaac Kills a Skunk

Disney's Flower meets Bambi
When we returned to the farm we learned from neighbors that in our region skunks are often carriers of rabies.  Since skunks are nocturnal creatures, seeing a skunk in daylight is taken as an indication that the skunk may be sick, and if it is sick, it could be rabid.  The safer method of addressing that question is to eliminate the risk.  Safer for humans and domestic animals, that is.  Not safer for the skunk. A skunk that goes for a daylight stroll in our yard is about to be a dead skunk.

That may be an easy choice for many people, but while I agree with the logic, I struggle with my conscience.  A big part of my pleasure from living on a farm is sharing the place with the birds and animals.  Moles and gophers test my patience, my heart breaks when I see a coyote chasing a fawn across the field, and I am angered by the greediness of the babies of the beautiful black swallowtail butterfly when they strip my dill plants, but I generally regard their right to live alongside us with tolerance, and we rarely interfere with Nature's way of keeping a balance in nature between predators and prey.

I remind anyone who will listen that wasps are beneficial insects and that snakes keep the mice and rat population under control.  The mud nests of barn swallows are messy, but they eat huge quantities of mosquitoes. The persistence of mice for setting up housekeeping in houses and barns tests my patience, but in general I enjoy the company of animals.  

But, back to skunks, perhaps I saw Disney's Bambi too many times as a child, or perhaps it was Pepe' La Pew's constant romantic rejections that won my sympathy, but I happen to think skunks are quite beautiful. Their luxurious coats and the dramatic contrast of black and white are stunning.

Isaac B. Werner mentions encounters with skunks twice in his journal.  In one encounter a skunk got into his chicken house and he killed it with a hammer.

In another encounter, he returned home late one evening after helping a neighbor and found a family of skunks in his house!  His journal does not describe how he disposed of them!  Isaac never mentions owning a gun, and the detailed inventory of his property following his death included such minor items as his toothbrushes and his collars, but it did not include a gun, so I do not believe he owned one.  I can only image how he got rid of a family of skunks in his house!!! 

Beautiful or not, a skunk strolling through our yard in daylight is about to be a dead skunk.