March 29, 2012

Impoliteness: Reading a Book in the 1850s

Below is an excerpt from an 1857 issue of the Happy Home and Parlor Magazine, a Christian publication, which details some of the impolitenesses that younger people exhibited.

Numbers two and nine on this list demonstrate reading as a very social activity. Much like families and friends gather around the tv today, the radio in the 1940s, people in the age of inexpensive publication, would gather and listen to readings by their friends and families.

Sometimes reading with friends went beyond just reading and became a dramatic reading. Poems and short plays were published frequently in magazines of the 19th and 20th centuries for people to entertain each other with in the parlor.

Dramatic readings of literature were even public events. Remember in Anne of Green Gables when Anne gets to recite two poems at a concert? (I never miss a chance of inserting an Anne of Green Gables reference.)    

We still have this innate desire to share our reading adventures with others. We frequently discuss books we read with friends, some people belong to book clubs and there are numerous online book forums. Not to mention the recent popularity of book series' such as Harry Potter, Twilight (okay, using the word "book" loosely here,) and the Hunger Games.   

Some Civil War Era Reading Material for Your Pleasure:

This next one is a skit from Godey's Lady's Book from 1860 about an artist and his highly stereotyped house servant, Tillie.  It is an interesting read because you can see the use of derogatory terms and stereotypes as were used in a commonplace way during the period. You might have to right click on the images and open the them in a new window to zoom in.

Does anyone still read aloud with family and friends? Andy and I have been reading Sherlock Holmes together (among other things) over the last few years. Reading aloud is slow going but the dramatics and conversation are irreplaceable. It's much different than watching a movie together because you and your friends contribute to the story. Parts in the story become memorable because of the interactions that accompany the story.

March 24, 2012

"Polly Put the Kettle On":19th Century Kettle-Holders

When you are cooking over an open fire, kettle-holders are of the utmost importance. Unlike modern pots, the handles of cast iron get very hot, even if it doesn't look it.

Today, what we call pot holders were called kettle-holders. Pot holders then were metal stands designed to hold pots off of the ground.  

It was common for kettle-holders to be made of wool squares, bound together at the edges with binding. Knitted kettle-holders also existed but were knitted with thinner yarn than we are used to today and "thicker" stitches. Similarly to holders today, kettle-holders generally had a loop in one corner for hanging.

Kettle-holders were small and easy embroidery projects and many feature designs or sayings such as the common "Polly put the pot on," or the abolitionist, "Any holder but a slave holder."

For examples of embroidery for kettle holders there are many "pot holder" quilts made during the Civil War. These quilts were not made from pot holders but the same type of technique was used to make each square and the binding between squares gives the appearance of pot holders.

Some Civil War "pot holder" Quilts:

-1864 Civil War Quilt
- Pot Holder Quilts
-Major Thoughts: Potholder Quilts

A later design featuring "Polly."
Another Knitted Pattern

I've got to get working on some of these. We always just use rags as they are the closest thing around but it's time that we stop dirtying our rags just to move pots. 

March 20, 2012

Opportunities for Amateur Historians

We romanticize the job of historians. We imagine them as erudite, old men, bent over old tomes with hair disheveled and glasses firmly in place. We see them in their book lined study.  Each page they turn, they are piecing together the clues to a puzzle lost in time.  They touch documents that are of such significance that your hands would shake under the importance of them.  

I’m sure this kind of historian exists, somewhere. Regardless of the image of the “classic” historian, few historians fit the picture.  Most deal with the writings of everyday people who wrote about ordinary things. Many historians never touch important documents; they study them on the computer or as photocopies.  But these “ordinary” writings are just as important to the study of history.  

The digitization of documents has been a major advancement in the history field. It has not only opened up the history field for historians but also for amateur historians. What once required detailed planning, far away museum visits, phone calls,  and hours of searching can now be done instantaneously at any time of day from the comfort of your own home. Historians are more average than ever.

Many museums have many more documents in their collections than they can afford to digitize and transcribe, so many resources remain unavailable to researchers. Many museums are now soliciting the help of nonprofessionals to transcribe these digitized works for the ease of researchers.

If the thought of digitizing documents on Friday night excites you, you can now do so for the only slightly lower than normal pay for a transcriber: free. :D

Projects that need help:

-William & Mary's Transcription Project: "From Fights to Rights: The Long Road to a More Perfect Union," where transcribers work on documents from the Civil War Era up through the Civil Rights Movement.

-The National Archives' "Citizen Archivist" project where transcribers can choose documents of varying transcription levels from beginner to Advanced.Visit here for more transcription projects from the National Archives.

-The University of Iowa's "Civil War Diaries & Letters Transcription Project."

March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Guest Post

This is a guest post from Andy, as he's been promising to record some music for me for quite some time. Some Irish music History will be fun for St. Patrick's Day. The song, An T-athair Jack Walsh was popular during the Civil War.

I've been promising Stephanie Ann for a long time to do a post like this. I've finally put away my bashfulness, and written it. I only hope it does The World Turn'd Upside Down justice. When St. Patrick's Day comes around each year, many people think of leprechauns, pots of gold, rainbows, dressing in green, and drinking. The Irish have a very rich culture, and generally Irish Americans are very proud of their heritage. All things Celtic have exploded in popularity in the last few decades. One thing that has gained popularity is Celtic, and especially Irish, music. In honor of Lá Fhéile Pádraig (St. Patrick's Day), I've attempted to record a few tunes. I'd like to discuss some peculiarities about each of the tunes.

 An T-athair Jack Walsh

One of the notorieties of traditional tunes among those familiar with them is the lack of a set name for many tunes. Many traditional tunes still played today were composed in the 18th and 19th centuries. During this time, the music was passed on "by ear." Musicians would learn a tune from other musicians. Learning traditional music through sheet music wasn't a common as it is now. As a tune spread through different regions, it might pick up several names. In modern times, some tunes are renamed after a musician who makes the tune popular. The jig "An T-athair Jack Walsh" (pronounced "an 'ta-her") is a tune with several names. These names are mostly the same, though, and differ mainly because of translation. The name I've given is translated from Irish as "Father Jack Walsh," as in a priest. One other common name is "Tatter Jack Walsh," an Anglicized version of the Irish name. I've recorded this tune on the flute.

The Rakes of Invercairn 

The Rakes of Invercairn is an old tune that isn't very commonly heard. I discovered it through a piper named Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn. He was featured on a BBC show called "Seinn Liom (play with me). He gives a very lovely history of the music in beautiful Irish with English subtitles. Anybody interested in this music should definitely see this! Tiernan describes where he found the tune, and that it probably hadn't been heard in about 100-200 years! Not only does he give a lovely history lesson, but also plays the tune much better than I do.

Thanks Andy! Please leave some comments!

Some past St. Patrick's Day Posts:

-Movies for St. Patrick's Day
-Irish Potato Candy Recipe
-David Kincaid at Godfrey Daniels

March 12, 2012

Night Trip: David Kincaid at Godrey Daniels

Sunday night Andy and I had the opportunity to see the famous David Kincaid live at Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem, PA. Godfrey Daniels, an ex-doughnut shop turned hip little coffee house was the perfect setting with rustic wood paneling, broadsides and folk instruments lining the walls and warm low lighting casting an intimate ambiance onto tiny tea tables. Godfrey's has been a non-profit organization since 1978 and continues to foster and promote folk music.

David Kincaid, most well known in the historical community for his musical role in Gods and Generals gave a stellar solo performance accompanied by himself on mandolin. He played a mix of songs mostly from his first (and obsessively catchy) cd, The Irish Volunteer but also played some songs from his, equally as good, "Irish-American's Song," and finished the night with The New York Volunteer which can be heard on his live Album " David Kincaid and the Brandos " and is purportedly to be released on the next studio album. Some musicians don't live up to live performances; David Kincaid is not one of them. His live work is just as captivating and engaging as his studio stuff. It was such a good performance, we were so excited and the crowd was lively.

Want it for St. Patrick's Day? "Irish-American's Song" is available for download from Itunes.

March 8, 2012

"Stop Televised Looting?"

 It’s a dream. You reluctantly go out back on your day off to start digging a garden exactly where your wife wants it. With each shovelful, you are thinking of all of the better spots in the yard for it.

“Where we had it last year.” Thud, thud.   
“In the corner, out of the way of the lawnmower.” Thud, thud.  
“ Near the hose so it will be easier to water,”  Thud, clink!
The headlines start rolling: “Man Discovers Civil War Cannon in Back Yard Garden!” and “Man Finds Valuable Treasure in Back Yard!”
It’s the find of a lifetime and evidence shows that this really does happen. Many people find valuable historical items accidentally, others go digging for them. 

Such is the case with Spike TV’s new show “American Digger,” which will debut on March 21st. This show follows ex-wrestler Ric Savage who leads his team to dig up the back yards of history rich areas in an attempt to make it rich in the relic market.
According to Spike TV’s website, “American Savage, based in Mechanicsville, VA, is the top artifact recovery company in the country, digging as much as half a million dollars worth of historical artifacts out of US soil each year.” Of course, once the artifacts are recovered, they are no longer artifacts, they are relics. So in reality, this company makes half a million dollars worth of relics out of artifacts each year. 

Once an item is removed from the ground, the context of the item is lost. Yes, you know it’s a Civil War belt buckle. But why is it in that particular field? What about the rest of the items from this soldier that were not made of metal? What else is in the area? What does the position of these items tell you? 

The importance of context has been a heated debate between and archeologists and metal detectorists for years.  Some people think the item is more important and others, the context of the item. Although metal detectors are regularly employed at archeological sites to plot possible artifacts, the precise digging methods are still employed to preserve the context surrounding the objects.  Read a good article about Archeology and Relic hunting at The Battle of Franklin.

Sign the petition against the show or like the facebook page “Stop Televised looting.” 

I am not against metal detecting. I just don’t believe that you should metal detect in historically important areas without working with an archeologist. If an area will be destroyed and you have permission to metal detect, by all means remove the objects.  Also, if you find something of archeological significance, you should contact local archeological authorities.

Read some stories about scary finds:  

March 6, 2012

Homemade Pierogi Recipe

Yesterday, Andy and I got really ambitious and made homemade pierogi! I wish I could say that this is a family recipe but my grandma never makes pierogi from scratch, although her mother, who was Lithuanian, did. 
Up near Andy's, pierogi are served, baked as a side dish. I was astonished the first time we went to the Allentown Zoo and there were containers of pierogi lines up next to the containers of fries at the concession stand there.   

Pierogi Recipe

Mix eggs and sour cream.

- 3 cups flour (1 cup whole wheat if preferred)
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
- 3 Eggs
-  8 ounces Sour Cream (1 small container)

Clean, peel, boil and mash potatoes.

- 2 large potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- ½ cup chopped onion (you can use frozen onion)
- Salt and White Pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
- Extra Butter and Onions needed for frying


**For an even quicker meal, you can make these using pre-made wonton wrappers. Alternatively you can make the filling a day in advance.**  

Add Flour, salt and baking powder.

Make into pierogi.
Wash, peel, chop and boil the potatoes until soft. Mash the potatoes in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside the potatoes. Melt the butter in a skillet on medium heat, add the onions and cook until see-through. Add the potatoes, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat and let cool.  

Mix the sour cream and eggs together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Sift together the baking powder, salt and baking powder. Mix flour mixture into egg mixture until it forms a nonsticky dough.  Roll out to 1/8” thick on a lightly floured surface.  Cut dough using a round 3 inch cutter.

Fry in butter and onions.
Pick up a dough cut out and stretch it a little bit in each direction with your fingers. Place dough round on a plate and add a spoonful of filling to the middle of the dough. Wet your finger and moisten the circumference of the dough round. Fold the round over and press the sides together. Press down the edges with a fork. Boil the assembled pierogi in water for about five minutes, remove to a colander. Be sure to only put in a few to avoid sticking. Once finished boiling, add 2 tablespoons of butter fry some onions and fry the pirogi until lightly browned. 

Lithuanian pierogis contain meat and the oldest recipes don’t contain sour cream. Below is a recipe from The Settlement Cookbook written in 1901 which includes meat. “The Settlement” was a social settlement in Milwaukee that offered vocational instruction and education in an attempt to help immigrant girls assimilate into American society. The recipes are from the 1921 edition of the book.  

These were surprisingly delicious! We thought they might taste differently as we used whole wheat flour but they still tasted good. If you won't be eating them right away, stop after boiling and fry shortly before serving. These can also be frozen after boiling if brushed with butter to prevent sticking. Hope you enjoy!

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