Saturday, April 22, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of April 17, 2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• The day in 1881 when the mastodons left the British Museum.
• "We lost our appetite for food": why 18thc hangriness might not be a thing.
• How a generation of consumptives defined 19thc romanticism.
Samuel Adams, "Curer of Bacon"?
• The 1906 menagerie on Bleeker Street, NYC.
Image: The Queen's House Tulip Stairs are the first
geometric self-supporting spiral stairs in the U.K.
• The secret family of the Duke of Wellington's nephew.
• When Bram (Stoker) met Walt (Whitman.)
• Pioneering French midwife Angelique du Coudray.
• The 12thc Irish Cross of Cong was made to encase a fragment of the True Cross.
• Countering war-time fabric shortages: keeping khaki kool during World War One.
Image: Fifty years ago organizers tried to keep Katherine Switzer from running the Boston Marathon because she was a woman; this week, at 70, she ran it again.
• Memories of 1775: "About one o'clock, the minute men were alarmed."
• Snapshots of Victorian seaside life.
• "You are so saucy": John Adams replies to his wife Abigail's famous "remember the ladies" letter, April, 1776.
LIFE magazine's mysterious quarter, and the Birth of a Baby, 1938.
• Joseph Priestley of Birstall, UK invented the rubber eraser 247 years ago this week.
Image: Wool and rainbow-striped woman's festival costume shoes from Mexico, c1932.
• "When that April with his showers sweet....": Chaucer's Canterbury Tales may have taken place this week in April.
• Some things never change: in 1743, undergraduate James Otis wrote this letter to his father to ask for money for commencement expenses and sundry "entertainments."
• What sadly happens when you store gunpowder in the over, "out of the Way of Children", 1757.
• Built by Vikings, medieval Irish monks, or Native Americans? Six mysterious stone structures in New England.
Deadline, and seven other words that originated during the American Civil War.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Video: Cycle Skating—A Roaring Twenties Craze

Friday, April 21, 2017
Loretta reports:

Don’t know about you, but I’d never heard of cycle skating, until somebody somewhere posted this British Pathé video. As often happens, I put on my history sleuthing hat to find out more. To my further surprise, I learned that cycle skating wasn’t exactly new in 1923. When it was new, according to this Scientific American article from March 1870, was half a century earlier.

Cycle-Skating - The New Sport of 1923, British Pathé TV.
(You can watch the same video with music here.)

Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Two Tales in Silver from the Museum of the American Revolution

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Susan reporting,

As I wrote here last week, the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, PA is filled with stories, large and small. Like all good storytellers, the museum's exhibits often show their message instead of telling it, and leave it to visitors to make meaningful connections between historical artifacts. Here are two exhibits featuring handcrafted silver, and while their purposes couldn't be more different, their stories are nonetheless intertwined.

To the above are two of an original dozen camp cups, elegantly displayed by the Museum in a tumble of gleaming silver. According to the museum's placard, Philadelphia silversmith Edmund Milne supplied Washington with "12 Silvr Camp cups," fashioned from "16 Silvr Dollrs" in August, 1777. The cups would have been used by Washington as a hospitable commander-in-chief. To be sure their glorious pedigree would never be forgotten, a later owner (the cups descended through the Washington family) had each one engraved with the inscription "Camp Cup owned and used by General Washington during War of the Revolution."

Of course, given that I still have the characters of my next book, I, Eliza Hamilton much on my mind, I thought of young Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, an aide-de-camp to Washington. I wondered if he ever drank from one of these cups, or if they were reserved only for exalted guests - other generals, visiting dignitaries, foreign diplomats, members of Congress - rather than lesser officers serving as part of the general's military family.

Regardless, it's easy to look at the cups and imagine them being used by Washington and his guests, a determined effort to maintain gentlemanly appearances no matter how grim the circumstances or meagre the camp fare. That silver would have reflected the candlelight or fire, and the toasts to liberty and freedom that were drunk from them would have helped seal the camaraderie of these elite men who were risking so much for the sake of the Revolution. Afterwards the cups would have been washed and polished and carefully put away, most likely by one of the general's enslaved servants who were brought with him from his plantation household at Mount Vernon.

In another gallery not far from the cups is another example of the silversmith's art, below. John Drayton (1738-84) of Drayton Hall Plantation in South Carolina was a gentleman of great wealth and taste, a devout member of his church, an ardent patriot, and a loyal supporter of General Washington. Like the general, he was a planter and a substantial landowner.

And, like General Washington, he was also a slaveowner.

This was his branding iron. Here's the information from the museum's placard:

"Although the Continental Army fought to secure independence and liberty, these rights did not extend to all members of society. Many Americans owned slaves. In 1770, an estimated 61 percent of South Carolina's population was enslaved. This branding iron is marked for Revolutionary John Drayton of Drayton Hall Plantation, located near Charleston. A gruesome reminder of slavery, this silver-headed brand was used to mark Drayton's slaves as his property."

Although this branding iron is a modern reproduction of the original in the collection of Drayton Hall, it's still a "gruesome reminder." Crafted either in London or Charleston, the original brand (and the reproduction) was made of silver - a precious metal here used for the basest of purposes. The cast letters of John Drayton's name were bold and unmistakable, as was the brand's message, burned into an enslaved person's flesh: I own you.

Liberty and freedom, indeed.

Above: Camp Cups, made in Philadelphia by Edmund Milne, 1777. Museum of the American Revolution.
Below: Branding Iron (reproduction), made in South Carolina or England, c1790. Reproduced from original courtesy of Drayton Hall, National Trust for Historic Preservation. Museum of the American Revolution.
Photographs courtesy of Museum of the American Revolution.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tricky Surnames & How to Pronounce Them

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Lawrence, Lord Granville Leveson-Gower
Loretta reports:

The first time I saw this image, in a book, I was quite impressed. The first time I saw the portrait in person, at the Yale Center for British Art, I swooned. His stance and attitude, if not his face, have inspired more than one of my historical romance heroes (and he’s appeared in my blogs before).  And yes, you can judge the book by the cover. He was quite the ladies’ man, and aspects of his life have also made their way into my stories.

Today, though, I want to talk about his name (again): Leveson-Gower is not pronounced the way it looks. The correct pronunciation, according to Whitaker’s Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage, and Companionage of 1936 (and other guides) is LEWSON-GORR. Some books use Gore and others use Gor, and my 1985 edition of the A& C Black Titles & Forms of Address has it Lōō-son-Gaw, but it's never Gow-er and Leveson is never Lev-e-son. Wikipedia spends some time explaining the “counter-intuitive pronunciation.” This is merely one example of the way titles, surnames, place names, and other proper nouns can trip us up.

Manners and Rules of Good Society (1913 ed quoted below) offers some basic suggestions about pronouncing names, and a list of some most commonly mispronounced. I had room to post only a couple of pages, but you might want to take a look at the chapter. You may be surprised (Americans more than English readers, I suspect).
THERE are, perhaps, two reasons why various surnames are so frequently mispronounced, the one being unfamiliarity with the freak of fashion which governs the pronunciation of certain well-known names, the other ignorance, or want of education.

When sensitive persons hear a name pronounced differently from the way in which they have themselves but just pronounced it, and in a tone and manner strongly suggestive of correction, it is wounding to their amour propre.

As a rule, when persons are in doubt as to the correct pronunciation of any particular name, it would be best to avoid mentioning it, if possible, until their doubts are set at rest by someone better informed than themselves.

Names that have a fashionable or peculiar pronunciation, or are pronounced otherwise than as they are spelt, are but few, and names which it is possible wrongly to accent are also not very numerous; but it is surprising how often these names occur in the course of conversation.

...With regard to placing the accent on the wrong syllable in the pronunciation of names, it requires but little thought to avoid making this mistake, a popular error being that of placing the accent upon the last syllable of a name; whereas, in a name of two syllables, the accent should invariably be placed upon the first, and the second syllable should be as it were slightly abbreviated or slightly altered.

In names of three syllables the error usually consists in placing the accent upon the last syllable, whereas the accent should be placed upon the second syllable. There are occasional exceptions to this rule, and the few names given in this chapter, both as regards their pronunciation and accentuation, will serve as a useful guide in the pronunciation of uncommon names.
Manners and Rules of Good Society

Surname Pronunciation
Surname Pronunciation

Image: Sir Thomas Lawrence, Lord Granville Leveson-Gower, later first Earl Granville (betw 1804 and 1809), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Telling a Different Story: The New Museum of the American Revolution

Sunday, April 16, 2017
Susan reporting,

As anyone who reads this blog knows, Loretta and I are always quick to find local museums, historical societies, and other collections wherever we go. It's rare, however, to be among the first to visit a brand-new museum. Last week I was fortunate to attend a preview of the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, PA. The evolution of a century-old collection once known as the Valley Forge Museum of American History, the new museum will officially open this Wednesday, April 19 - the 242nd anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord that began the war.

In a city filled with 18thc, historical landmarks (Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Carpenters Hall are neighbors, and the First Bank of America is right across the street), it's reasonable to ask if we need one more museum devoted to the American Revolution. Within the first minute of the museum's introductory video, the answer is clear: a resounding YES.

Because unlike the majority of historical sites in the region, the new museum was designed from its inception to tell not just the traditional story of the Revolution - the one most of us learned in school featuring those exceptional white male Founding Fathers, and maybe Betsey Ross - but hundreds of others. The most important single word here is "inclusive," because this museum includes the stories of enslaved Africans and Native Americans, women and children, poor laborers and soldiers as well as plantation owners and generals, those who tried to remain neutral during the conflict and those who stayed loyal to the Crown. In other words, it strives to share the many diverse and often unruly voices that somehow, against the odds, managed to come together to create a new country.

To do this, the museum offers a wealth of technological showpieces. The digital interactions, films, unexpected life-sized tableaux, upper right, of recreated historical events, a two-story recreation of a Liberty Tree, upper left, a meeting between the men and women of the Oneida Indian Nation debating which side to support, and a large-scale replica of privateer ship to climb aboard are all truly dazzling. One of the most effective is a small "battlefield theatre" that surrounds visitors with the sounds, sights, and gunpowder smoke of the Battle of Brandywine, complete with thunderous cannon-fire that you feel through the floor. Guides made sure to point out where the exit door was if things became too intense; I wondered how many of the newly-recruited American soldiers experiencing their first terrifying action on that hot September day in 1777 wished they'd had an escape door, too.

But that's one of the museum's great strengths. Exhibits make it easy to identify with the people - all the people - who contributed to the Revolution, both through computer-generated wizardry and well-chosen artifacts, like the baby shoes, middle left. The shoes belonged to the children of Sgt. James Davenport of Massachusetts, and were fashioned from the captured coat of a British soldier; to Davenport, who lost two brothers in the war, the shoes must have been a poignant reminder of the cost of liberty won for the next generation. Law books owned by Patrick Henry are balanced by a signed 1773 volume of Poems on Various Subjects by the country's first published black poet, Phillis Wheatley, written while she was still enslaved, lower right. Swords and muskets are complimented by a book of religious sermons that brought comfort to Martha Washington as she accompanied her husband and the army.

Nor do the exhibits shy from more difficult truths. The Continental Army was never a single, cohesive fighting unit, but a quarrelsome, faction-riddled force often on the verge of mutiny and desertion. Demonstrations of patriotic fervor could quickly degenerate into dangerous and destructive mobs. And the first Congressmen backed away from the abolition of slavery that could have truly fulfilled the promise of "all men created equal," with lasting ramifications that remain in America today.

Of course there are bound to be people who will think this kind of more complete history somehow diminishes the traditional version that they already know. One review of the museum in a national newspaper complained that this weakens the Revolution's familiar narrative, and cited as an example how the Battle of Saratoga is featured through the experiences of Baroness von Riesdesel, the wife of the commander of the Brunswick (Hessian) troops fighting with the British, lower left. Why this woman, the reviewer complained, and not the much better known British Gen. John Burgoyne?

Well, perhaps because the Baroness spent the last week of the siege barricaded in the cellar of a house with cannonballs flying all around her. She not only guarded the lives of other women and children entrusted to her care, but also tended to the wounded who were brought to her, and saved dozens of lives through her courage and dedication. As for Burgoyne, he was the losing general in a costly battle that he should have won. Heroes, and heroines, are where you find them, I guess.

But the ultimate lesson of the museum is to show exactly how hard-fought - and how fragile - the "American experiment" was at its inception, and how it remains so today. The history lessons that are being offered here are meant to inspire present-day citizens to realize that we shouldn't take any of this for granted. The newly-minted Americans of 1781 certainly didn't, and if ever there were a time for us in the twenty-first century to hear and remember this wide range of diverse voices from our collective past, then this is it.

I'll be sharing more from my visit in future posts. Having just finished writing I, Eliza Hamilton, which includes many of the same people, places, and events that the museum features, I can't get enough of the American Revolution!

For more information about the Museum of the American Revolution, visit their website here.

All photographs (except of Baroness Von Riesdesel) copyright and courtesy of MOAR.
Baroness Von Riesdesel exhibit photography by Susan Holloway Scott.
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