I like July 4th. I’ve met people who don’t, but I can’t identify. I grew up attending the east coast’s largest July 4th parade in Havre de Grace, Maryland. It’s a time I associate with classic cars, waving men and women I don’t know, candy thrown, cheap crap hawked from shopping carts that Mom won’t buy you, beating bass drums, bearded feather-wearing and banjo playing strutting Mummers, steamed crabs, bagpipes, and fireworks.
I also like that we should be celebrating July 2, as rhapsodized about by John Adams in a letter to his wife Abigail:
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
Yes, I’m a museum professional, but that doesn’t mean I don’t use museum databases to see objects I enjoy when I get home. I’m responsible for long-term preservation activities for a group of objects from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, so as a generalist researcher using museum databases, I tend to relax looking for things very different from the ones I work with. Regular readers are familiar with my penchant for trains, tangled up somewhere in the back of my brain with nostalgia, wanderlust, and technological advance. I was looking for some train themed collections and came upon this linocut of London Tube riders by Cyril Edward Power (17 December 1872 – 25 May 1951). I love the tension; the clatter of the subway is conveyed through the jangle of color and off angle -though anyone who’s taken the Tube knows it’s not nearly this orderly.
Cyril E. Powers. The Tube Train. National Gallery of Art. NGA 90.172.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942. While most noted for civil engineering projects like Hoover Dam and the creation of woodsy infrastructure inside our national and state parks, the CCC also had a big hand in restoring historic sites.
Inside the CCC Museum at Fort Frederick. RL Fifield 2012.
I had forgotten that Fort Frederick, a stone fort built between 1756-58 to protect western Maryland, had been reassembled by the CCC, after largely falling into ruin after the Civil War. As part of their work, the CCC reconstructed the walls and two barracks buildings, as well as some support structures. CCC buildings always remind me of my grandparents’ house, from the fixtures to the smell of old wood. Within one of these structures, the CCC established a small museum dedicated to the preservation project. The museum professional in me both smiles (at the old school exhibition techniques) and cringes (at the state of preservation of the artifacts) at the display.
When I’ve mentioned the CCC in conversation, many have quickly suggested that a program like this is needed today. While watching the excellent WGBH’s American Experience on the CCC, I had a sense of deja vu. Perhaps what made this New Deal program capable of providing work to many was that unskilled labor at the time was more manual than it might be today. But historic preservation is largely a manual activity echoing the movements that built the sites in the first place. Projects like the reconstruction of Fort Frederick are perfect for times of economic downturn – cultural heritage sites are often the first to suffer, so why not achieve two goals of providing jobs and preserving our heritage at once?
Fort Frederick prior to restoration. CCC Museum, Fort Frederick.
More train poetry, spawned by the parade of deteriorating industrial buildings which may be viewed by Amtrak and NJ Transit passengers along the Northeast Corridor.
And if I think of flaking steel
Red brown and sparkling
driving into the dirt below
Will I remember you
Before my molecules disjoin
Spreading through the loam,
the coolness of stones
the luxuriation of worms
in that earthy maelstrom
I’ll inhale the damp air
the wet leaves mouldering.
And that moment, when I knew warmth.
I found this gem while flipping through Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. Originally written in 1947, my copy is from 1959. Beverage recipes containing alcohol are noticeably absent from Given’s cookbook, with menus noting that meals should be accompanied by coffee for adults, and milk for children.
Note the Pot Licker cocktails as well! From Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking.
Pour juice into a glass jar. Add finely chopped olives, caraway, and sugar, pounded to a powder. Screw on lid and chill until ready to serve, but do not let stand more than a few hours. STrain and serve cold. If desired, tie seed in cheesecloth bag and remove just before serving. 8 to 10 servings.
The recipe sounds like an abberation of 1950s cooking, but upon checking the NYPL What’s on the Menu Project? database of menus, sauerkraut juice cocktail appears on several menus from 1933 to 1954. See The Hotel Commodor’s menu from June 1, 1933 below.
Go now, and visit the list at the Books That Shaped America project at The Library of Congress. The exhibition opens June 25 on the 2nd floor of the Jefferson building. The list celebrates books by Americans that have shaped the American experience, from Amelia Simmon’s American Cookery (1796) to Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906) to the Boston Women’s Collective’s Our Bodies, Our Selves (1971). I was cheered to see old friends on this list, and compelled to read others.
I took the survey. The first question asked me to rate which three books I thought had been most influential – that was difficult. Should it be Leaves of Grass? Uncle Tom’s Cabin? On The Road? How the Other Half Lives? In the end, I chose The Jungle, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and The Double Helix by James Watson. A feeling of inadequacy came over me, as so many Some books shape social change, while other books offer messages that we consider in quiet, within ourselves. We absorb their content on a personal level, but books impact us as a community.
Just after I planned to write this post (thanks Mr. M, LoC staffer, for pointing out the project), The Takeaway on WNYC aired a segment on the project, asking their audience to suggest additional books to add to the list. The Library of Congress doesn’t intend this to be a one-time list, but to revise the list annually. If you have suggestions, take the survey at the Books That Shaped America website.
Read this summer. Be shaped by a book – if not one of the ones from this list, then another book that might join that list in the future. Walk into your public library, choose a shelf at random, and pick something, anything (get your library card renewed while you are at it). Enjoy American heritage – enjoy literacy.
A train car to carry molten iron. RL Fifield 2012.
I wasn’t sure what to feel about Steelyard Commons. It’s a rather run-of-the mill (pun, ha) shopping center created on lands once occupied by a Cleveland steel mill in 2007. Other steel mills are located nearby. It’s identifying characteristic is the fragments of the ground’s former past, with interpretive signage nearby. So above the Five Guys Burgers & Fries, there is a utilities bridge, that once carried resources over the roadways and railways of the steel operation.
Along the edge of a parking lot, other bits of steel mill past are arranged, and the old “clock house” (where you clocked in for work at the mill) is being turned into a small museum. A running trail runs along side, and there are plans to route the Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad near the exhibits, extending eventually to Cleveland (the eventual restoration of service after all these years?)
RL Fifield 2012.
So while for once a new commercial development didn’t completely obliterate what came before, it’s still a vast arrangements of parking lots and big box stores. But I did learn about equipment used in steel production, and that helped me interpret what I was seeing around Cleveland.
I was looking for some family members using the American Antiquarian Society’s America’s Historical Newspapers database, and found this advertisement for Rock Run Beer. Lower Ferry was located between Havre de Grace and Perryville, Maryland. Rock Run beer was likely made at an area named Rock Run, approximately six miles from Havre de Grace up the Susquehanna River and Tidewater Canal. Today, you can visit Rock Run, a Lock house, the Stump Mill (1794), the Carter-Archer House (1804) and the site of where the longest covered bridge in Maryland stood from 1815 to 1857.
The Maryland Journal, February 15, 1785. America’s Historical Newspapers.
Maryland Gazette, August 9, 1787. Library of Congress. RL Fifield photo.
The Runaway Clothing Database project uses newspaper runaway advertisements to catalog the garments of indentured and enslaved women in the American colonies from 1750-1790. These advertisements are often the only glimpse of these women in the documentary record. Personal information, such as their physical characteristics, habits, and skills are included in the runaway advertisements. You can read an abstract from Textile History’s May 2011 issue here.
One of the most poignant pieces of data available through the runaway advertisement is the name of the eloped women. Below is the list of first names of enslaved women in the project. Enslaved women were generally advertised for with only a first name. Some masters advertised for women only by physical description, neglecting to include the woman’s name in the advertisement.