Saturday, December 30, 2017

Review: The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull

The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull by Robert M. Utley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had a paperback copy of this book in my possession for a couple of years. I picked it up second hand somewhere but never got around to reading it.
I actually haven't even finished the book but I'm on the last chapter and I felt compelled to write a quick review. This book is an amazing account not just of Sitting Bull and his times but of his way of thinking and the Sioux way of doing things. Popular culture has diluted this man and created a caricature of him that's hard to shake but the author does a good job, warts and all. The book is packed full of detail but it is easy to read and heavily sourced. I do however wish the author included more about his time with Cody's Wild West Show.
Near the end, I learned of his friendship with Indian advocate Catherine Weldon and discovered there is a book about her and a movie based on that book has just been released in September 2012 but I'm having trouble locating the 2002 book Woman Walking Ahead by Eileen Pollack at a reasonable price. It also seems like the movie is currently seeking US distribution.
This is one of those books I'll be sad when it ends! Will we ever get a proper movie biopic of Sitting Bull?

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Update to the review posted to Goodreads: I finished this book in October 2017 and did end up reading the informative Weldon book. The movie should be out in 2018.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Famous Ohio Indians glasses

Cornstalk, Little Turtle, Pontiac, Logan
In a recent post, I told you all about some Ohio Presidential glassware. This time it’s Ohio Indian glassware featuring Famous Ohio Indians: Blue Jacket, The Prophet, Tecumseh and Cornstalk (all Shawnee), White Eyes (Delaware), Little Turtle (Miami), Chief Logan (Mingo), and Pontiac (Ottawa). Each painted glass is 16 ounces and measures 6 1/2" tall and 2 3/4" across. It's clear that no attempt was made to resemble the person they are depicting. These are generic looking Indians but at least they appear to be an attempt at an Eastern Woodland look. In other words, there are no big Plains Indian war bonnets. I'll give them points for that.

very rare original box sighting
A funny coincidence. Eight Ohio Presidents, eight Ohio Indians. Both are also kind of loose with the "from". For example, of the Ohio Presidents, WH Harrison was born in VA but lived much of his adult life in Indiana. He ran for POTUS with his home state as Ohio and served in government there. Ohio and VA both claim him. For Grandson Ben, he was born in Ohio but served the state of Indiana and that state was his home state when he ran for President. Ohio and Indiana claim him. Grant was born in Ohio but lived most of his life elsewhere and Illinois was his home state. Ohio and Illinois claim him. You get the idea...

White Eyes, Tecumseh, The Prophet, Blue Jacket
Exact Indian birthplaces from that time period are hard to determine in many cases. Pontiac was likely born in MI although some think it was Defiance Ohio. Little Turtle was likely born in Indiana. Cornstalk and White Eyes, probably PA by birth. Logan was born somewhere East of Ohio, maybe WV. Most historians agree that the Shawnee Indians Blue Jacket, Tecumseh, and The Prophet were all born in Ohio. Regardless of those details, important aspects of all their legacies are tied to Ohio in some manner.

Oh, my. Here am debating the historical accuracy of frosted glass tumblers!

Blue Jacket
I'd originally seen an entire set at a local antique mall for $45 and I was kicking myself for passing it up. I ended up cobbling together my eight-piece set as individual purchases and Christmas gifts over a year or so. I certainly paid more than $45. Lesson learned

The set is from the late 1950s or early 1960s (I've never determined exact years) and was promoted by Bonded Oil. One glass was awarded for every $2.50 in gas purchased. Gas was about 25 cents a gallon then, but before you get too nostalgic on the gas price, keep in mind that with inflation that would be $2.10 a gallon in 2017 money. So roughly the same. I guess this was sort of like Kroger Fuel Points in reverse.

White Eyes
Unlike the Ohio President glasses, I’ve never been able to determine who made this series. A seller on eBay said Hazel-Atlas but that company had a distinct marking that I have not seen here. But as I’ve mentioned before, Ohio was one of the world’s leading glass producers so it’s pretty safe to say that given the context, they were made in Ohio.

I found a mention online that indicated that the art itself was done by Indian artist Acee Blue Eagle. The font in the heading is even the same as another collection he is known to have designed. That was an exciting development! However, I was able to quickly debunk that theory. I saw another article online that first appeared in an antique magazine in 1991. That person makes a good case that Blue Eagle had nothing to do with the Ohio glasses. They ARE very similar to a set of Oklahoma Indian glasses he painted and released in 1959 for a similar promotion by Knox Oil, but having been well known at the time, his artwork would have incorporated his name. The Ohio glasses are likely just a copycat design by another gas station chain capitalizing on mid-century America's Indian nostalgia thanks to movie Westerns and TV shows like The Lone Ranger.

Pitcher and original box - on my wishlist
There is also a 2-quart pitcher that goes with the set. I don’t have one and have never seen one in person. They show up on eBay from time to time. I'm hoping one shows up under my Christmas tree this year.
"c. Bonded" marking
For a while, I speculated that the pitcher was not really part of the set as it doesn’t have “Famous Ohio Indians” on it and also does not have “c. Bonded Oil Co.” anywhere like the glasses do. The artwork is even a bit different. However, I found that the original box with those words is printed on it. So the pitcher is definitely part of this set. Supposedly the pitcher was the bonus after you collected all eight glasses.

Now for a couple of unsolved mysteries.

4 smaller glasses - also on the wishlist
I've seen 4 smaller 4 3/4 oz glasses being sold sometimes with the pitcher and the eight large glasses which are: Little Jumping Rabbit, Princess Little Fawn, Little Princess Red Wing, Little Running Bear. These are all just generic names and cartoonish compared to the full-size glasses. None of them have a tribe listed or a mention of Ohio. I'm not really sure if they really go with this series or not but they do have “c. Bonded Oil Co.” on them and as far as I know, this is the only promotion like this that Bonded issued. They seem to be hard to find.

There may have even been a metal rack for the eight glasses but I've only seen one mention of that anywhere.

the lone Pontiac mystery glass
During my research, I discovered another oddity. Besides the eight glasses, there is a ninth “bonus” glass with the heading “Famous Ohio Indian” (note the singular), and “Pontiac/The Red Napoleon” at the bottom with a depiction of this chief but no tribal affiliation. It doesn’t have “c. Bonded Oil Co.” on it either. I’m not sure what the story is here. It's not the same artwork as the Pontiac in the full set but overall is similar in design. Perhaps it was prototype before the whole series was made? If so, I'm not sure why they would choose Pontiac. Tecumseh would be more "Ohio" than the others. This  Ottawa leader was active in Ohio but his birthplace is open for debate and most historians think he was born in Michigan where his famous rebellion occurred. Maybe it was because of the Pontiac car and these were gas station giveaways?   I have no idea and I was unable to find any more information.  I did, however, find one on eBay and snapped up this outlier for $13!

It’s one of my favorite glass collections. They are beautiful to look at and the set represents American Indians in the Ohio Valley from a time period I fell in love with many years ago.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Review: Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In 2016 I was delighted to learn of the third book from New York Times best-selling author Candice Millard. Her first book Destiny of the Republic, about President Garfield's death, is one of my favorites. Ohio, an obscure President. That's right up my alley. Her second book River of Doubt on Teddy Roosevelt's post Presidential exploration of a river in the Amazon rainforest was like an adventure novel.
I just love her writing style. She really brings history to life in a highly readable fashion. If more teachers taught like she writes, we would have more students interested in how the world came to be, which to me is one of the major points of studying the past.

I will admit I was a bit hesitant to read the new book as the topic is outside my normal historical focus. It definitely has nothing to do with Ohio. It's not American or Presidential and it takes place at the turn of the 20th century. Hmmm.
Based on my love of her first two books I ended up getting the Kindle version and also checked out the audiobook from the library to listen to on my work commute.

This book turned out not to be just a biography on Churchill as a young man, it's also a primer on a war I suspect most people outside England or South Africa don't know anything about, the Second Boer War which implies there was a First I also never heard of. I didn't even know what a Boer was before I read this book. It turns out they are descendants of the Dutch-speaking settlers of southern Africa. They grew to hate British rule and also treated the indigenous people such as the Zulu terribly. All of this tension resulted in armed conflict with all of those groups. As a student of American history, this sounds familiar.
Given my interests, I saw some parallels. The Boers as the Americans, the British as...well the British imperialists trying to retain a colony, and the Native Africans as the Native Americans caught in the middle trying to hang on to what they had before the Europeans showed up.

Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899 at age 29 as a war reporter and was captured by the Boer after two weeks during a train ambush. This was a setback for a man who was convinced greatness was his destiny. He remained a Boer prisoner for several months always observing and plotting his escape. It was amazing to me that POWs like Winston and captured officers unlike the average captured soldier here were allowed quite a few luxuries by their captors. They had access to haircuts, a camp store, decent food, and a degree of freedom within the camp. As the book states, this was more due to the Boers trying to show the world that they were not the curs the British made them out to be. They wanted respect in the eyes of the world. This desire certainly was an enabling factor in Churchill's successful escape. Millard covers in exciting detail how young Winston would make that escape alone over hundreds of miles in a hostile land with only a few meager provisions, his wits, and a few sympathetic South Africans.

My overall impression of Churchill from this book was that he was a blue-blooded overly confident and sometimes reckless and selfish man. We see this a lot in history. Men doing things for honor to gain a better station in life. We still see it but now but it's hardly ever at the risk of one's own life in war. He was a product of his time and heritage. Churchill's world would soon need a fearless leader like this. Those unrefined traits were sharpened during this period and came in handy later in helping win WWII.

I have an interesting takeaway mentioned in the epilogue, I had no idea that the term "concentration camp" was introduced by this war. Thousands of homeless Boer civilians perished in horrible conditions after their farms and towns were burned as part of a systematic British scorched Earth policy. It reminded me a bit of the regretful Trail of Tears in the US as well as the horrors of US Civil War campaigns such as Sherman's March. Regretfully we sometimes repeat the worst of history as we would also find out in Nazi Germany in WWII.

Millard really did it again with Hero of the Empire, another New York Times bestseller and a riveting page-turner on how a legendary historical figure got to be that way.

According to her Twitter account @candice_millard, the next book is about the discovery of the source of the Nile. Anything she writes is pretty great so I am definitely looking forward to it from the author of Amazon’s number one history book of 2016.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Frosted Ohio Presidents

Never in my life did I think I would get excited about mid 20th-century frosted glass tumblers, but here I am blogging about it. Again. I now have several different sets of Ohio related drink-ware and I've posted about one them before. I learned from my previous research that Ohio was a leader in the glass industry from the late 1800's to the mid 20th century so there are many Ohio themed glasses from that period.

I started this next set of  "Presidents From Ohio" glass tumblers by picking up three of them for a good price at an antique mall several years ago. I've seen the rest on eBay but at $8-14 a piece plus several dollars for shipping that was going to set me back a bit to get the entire set of eight. I'm kind of a cheapskate. Another website had an incomplete set of 6 for $120. Ouch.

Thanks to the sharp eye of an old friend browsing at a local antique mall who sent up the Gehio signal (he texted me), yours truly is now the proud owner of an entire eight-piece set. The best part? Only $35!

This series was designed by Fran Taylor and produced by her company, Gay Fad Studios of Lancaster, OH which was open from 1945-1962. Fran obtained blank glassware from various Ohio manufacturers such as Hazel Atlas Glass in Zanesville and Federal Glass in Columbus. Another was Anchor Hocking which was a few doors down from Fran's Pierce Avenue studio. The blanks were then stenciled and hand-painted. Because I had duplicates, I compared them. I noticed that the coloring on the birthplaces is somewhat different. That makes each one is unique.

The 12-ounce frosted glass tumblers are 5" high with a rim diameter or 2-3/4". The front of each President’s glass features his portrait, a facsimile of his signature, and his years in office (or year of the month in W. H. Harrison's case) with “Presidents From Ohio” above, all in brown, while the back shows his birthplace* in brown with colorful accents. In all my research I've never been able to determine the exact year these were made. Perhaps the secret is contained within the two-volume 610 page book published in 2011, Gay Fad: Fran Taylor’s Extraordinary Legacy by Donna McGrady. At $150 that's too rich for my blood to find out. I'm not so much obsessed with Fran's entire impressive career and work as I am about this particular set of glasses. It would be nice to know how many were made since as I stated before, being hand painted, they are all slightly different.

*Since I am William Henry Harrison obsessed, I noticed that being a Virginian by birth, Harrison's is not a birthplace, but a home in Ohio when he was elected. However, he never lived in a home that looked like a log cabin. The same scene is used in grandson Ben Harrison's birthplace. Ben was born on William's farm in North Bend OH but it was more like a mansion. All the others seem pretty accurate.

I have a couple of other full Ohio related glassware sets to write about waiting in the wings, so look for that...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review: Last Stand

Last Stand Last Stand by Michael Punke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A story of greed, survival, and redemption in America. Punke tells us how mankind can have a devastating impact on the environment and how one man helped turn it around.

This is more than just a book about how American thirst for land nearly destroyed the buffalo and how one man led a cause to halt it. Once again I am reminded of the way movies and cartoonish history books have shaped our views of the past and make everything seem so clean and noble. Most Americans likely believe that mere rugged individuals set out and tamed the wild west in a quest for adventure. Yee haw..the end. That sentiment is partly true but it is not even close to the whole story. Oftentimes history and its cast of characters can be a paradox.

In the late 19th century the West was tamed, or plundered if you will, in part by the robber barons and railroad men of the Eastern US who held great influence over Congress. The frontier men doing the dirty work were generally Army deserters, fugitives, and men who could make more money poaching and panning for gold vs Army life, mining or ranching. Both groups of people knew that protection laws and Native American treaties barely had a penalty and rarely enforced if they could be enforced at all. The robber barons made sure of that via their lobbyists in Washington during the scandalous Grant Administration. I find it ironic that the US Army was sent to patrol Yellowstone and prevent the further demise of the buffalo when just a few years earlier they were the very ones sent to help wipe out the Plains Indian in part by destroying the buffalo which they relied on for almost every need. That policy forced American Indians into the reservation system.

George Bird Grinnell witnessed this all first hand. He was born into a privileged class and could have been another robber baron but instead became a naturalist, author, and editor of Forest and Stream, the leading natural history magazine in the US during a time of wanton greed and reckless over-hunting. Many of the characters such as Grinnell, Teddy Roosevelt and William Tecumseh Sherman, like Daniel Boone before them, would come to lament the passing of the wild frontier and the near extinction of the buffalo, something which they helped cause.

Like all history, context is important and it is difficult to judge the zeitgeist of the past by today's standards but there were people then who found some of these policies and ideas unjust and worked to change conventional wisdom and in some cases redeemed themselves from a deplorable past. To me people such as this are the true heroes of history yet Grinnell, who later founded the Audubon Society, savior of Yellowstone and the buffalo, among other great successes, was a man the NY Times called in 1938 the "father of American conservationism" remains an obscure historical figure.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Muse Over Miami

Around the 2nd century BCE, the concept of the modern nation-state is a long way off. Most folks at this point identified with a particular tribe or clan. During this period the Romans were the first to call the people in the land we now call Germany, Germans, meaning spear man. By the 2nd century CE, they were called Saxons, whose name developed from the type of knife they carried, the seax. They called themselves Diutisg, meaning "of the people" which formed into Deutsche and Deutschland. This is what they still call themselves, while the rest of the world calls them Germans. In the 8th century CE the Franks and others called new seafaring invaders from this region Northmen or Norsemen. The kingdoms in Britain called them Danes which has unclear origins but is where Denmark gets its name. The Slavs to the East called them Rus, which meant "the men who row". This is where Russia gets its name. These raiders and explorers may have called themselves Víkingr. In the Icelandic Sagas, they use the phrase "to go on a vikingr" or to raid. The English variation "Viking" came along later.
By the 11th century, the seafaring Vikings encountered people they called Skraeling, believed to be ancestors of the modern Inuit, or Eskimo, the northernmost inhabitants of the New World. Skraeling meant "barbarian". This is ironic since that's what the English and the Franks thought of their Norse invaders. How's that? 12 centuries of European history in 300 words or less?

Great, but what does this have to to with Ohio history?

Fort not built by the Miami, also not in Florida
We all know that the general term Indian itself is technically incorrect. 15th-century folks thought they reached a shortcut to the East Indies.  Individual Indian tribal names can be as perplexing as European tribal names a half a millennium earlier before those groups formed into the nations of England, France, Germany, Denmark, etc. with a central authority.

We see similar names such as Cree and Creek, Dakota and Lakota, Mahican and Mohegan, for example. Are they the same tribes? Is there any relation? It can get complicated. To add to the confusion, different bands or septs within the same tribes sometimes used different or multiple names as well. I'm not going to research or attempt to explain them all in a mere blog post, but two tribes I've always found interesting are the Algonquian language speaking Delaware and Miami people.

Lord Delaware, definitely not Indian
Many times European explorers didn't bother with the difficult to pronounce or unclear indigenous name. This is true with the Lenni Lenape people who were renamed the Delaware by settlers. As is the case with many autonyms in the world, Lenni Lenape means original people. They also lived near a river named after Lord De La Warr, the first Governor of the Virginia English colony. So they were called the Delaware for many years. The state of Delaware derives its name from the same source. As settlers moved in, the Delaware people were pushed West to the Ohio Valley. Their descendants have since reverted to the name Lenape. There is also a town and a county named Delaware in Ohio.

Other times the modern tribal name is a European corruption of the tribe's autonym and/or a version of what one tribe, called another tribe. The Miami (or Maumee) people of the Ohio Valley, who incidentally are thought to be descendants of their Lenape or Delaware "grandfathers", fall into this category. So at least an attempt was made to use the correct name, even if it wasn't. More on that in a bit.

In the state of Ohio, we have the Maumee River, the Great and Little Miami Rivers. Places called Maumee, Miamitown, Miamiville. Miamisburg, New Miami, Miami County, Miami Township. A park named Miami Whitewater Forest. Miami University in Oxford OH. The British built Fort Miamis near Toledo. In Indiana and Kansas, there are similar cities, counties, and townships.

Then there is Miami Florida...a thousand miles south of Ohio. What's the story here? I've read that the Suwanee River in Florida might be connected to the Ohio Shawnee who migrated south at one point. Did the Miami people do the same?

The French were the first Europeans to encounter this Algonquin speaking Maumee in the mid 17th century. Miami comes from Maumee, a French corruption of Myaamia, which meant downstream people. Another source says it meant allies. Either way, it appears to be a name given by another tribe. These are just examples of the names. It's actually a bit more complicated.

When those French explorers encountered the Myaamia, they recorded a confederation of six bands. The French did their best to distinguish each of them by calling them "Maumee of the Ohio (river)", "Maumee of the Lake (Erie)", Maumee of the Woods", etc. This group was also known by other names by other tribes. For example, the Lenni Lenape people probably called them Twightwee which has unclear origins. One theory regarding Twightwee is that it's a reflex of Twatwa which could be the original name of the Miami people. Twatwa itself might come from the sound their sacred bird the sandhill crane makes. Whichever it is, the Miami name stuck and the Miami use the name to this day.

One of the many "Miami's" in Ohio
Through warfare, disease, and consolidation in the fight for self-survival during the French and British years, many Miami bands merged. By the end of the 18th century, there were only three bands. The Miami people were then pushed into the modern state of Indiana by United States expansion. In 1846 due to forced relocation by the US government, the Miami moved to Kansas and then to Oklahoma. By the end of the 19th century, there was basically one band, the federally recognized Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. There have been efforts to legally recognize an Eastern group that returned to Indiana in the 20th century. Both of these modern groups consider themselves to be the same people.

flag of the Miami Nation
note the Twatwa 
So how is Miami Florida related any of this? In Florida's case, "Miami" derives from the native people of that area of southern Florida through the 1740s until they became extinct. The indigenous people there referred to the large lake in that area as Mayaimi, meaning Big Water (this is now Lake Okeechobee from the Hitchiti, another extinct tribe), so similar to the English with the Delaware, the Spanish called them Mayaimi. In other words, the names are just a coincidence and "Miami" was in use in the Ohio Valley well before Florida's Miami.

I was attempting to draw parallels between ancient European history and comparatively recent American history but that's where the similarities mostly end. American Indians seem to have a unique place in this world. Today there are over 500 federally recognized self-governing nations within US borders, however, they are not completely sovereign like the nation states of Europe. Federal tribes are technically citizens of the United States, the US state in which the tribe resides, and the tribe itself. The Old World eventually would have found and explored the New World. Had history taken different courses, perhaps if European discovery occurred earlier, or had the people in the Americas been better armed, or maybe just more resistant to devastating European diseases, it's possible there would be a large multicultural Indian nation-state or even several bordering the modern United States or a different modern nation altogether. Don't laugh, the idea of a US-run Indian state was considered (sort of) at least once...with the Ohio!
Quiz time.
What's the largest ethnic group in Ohio comprising 25% of the population? Hint: It's also the largest in the US overall...Germans!
Oh, and who loves Miami Beach?...Germans!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: Arthur St. Clair: The Invisible Patriot

How do you celebrate Gehio's 6th anniversary? With a review of a book on my favorite frontier General. I wish it was a regular blog post vs a review but June was a busy month.

Arthur St. Clair: The Invisible Patriot Arthur St. Clair: The Invisible Patriot by R.W. Dick Phillips
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I'm very interested in the time period and the subject, so I was excited to find this book. I gave it one star only because I could not give it zero stars. I read through the beginning and was very disappointed. It doesn't appear to be researched well. Phillips goes to great lengths to inform us of St. Clairs lineage and great deeds in order to remind us he shouldn't only be known for his infamous defeat but the author gets loose and repetitious with the facts right off the bat. That didn't instill confidence. Another reviewer mentions the misleading blurb about St. Clair being "President when the U.S. Constitution and the Northwest Ordinance were drafted." and "was America’s first and last foreign-born President". This should read that he was "President of the Continental Congress"... of which there were 14 men, including John Hancock, from 1774 until 1788. The author also asserts that one of St Clair's ancestors built Newport Tower in a pre-Columbian voyage to the New World. That's a fringe theory that's been debunked many times over. A quick internet search shows that carbon dating & other 19th & 20th-century investigation of the mortar dates it to the mid-1600s. It was probably built by Benedict Arnold. No not THAT Arnold but an ancestor, the first Governor of Rhode Island. I thought that was a bit ironic. Stealing the glory of the ancestor of America's most infamous traitor and trying to give it to the ancestor of the General in charge of the worst American military defeat.

So I'm sorry Art, it was my hope...but this is not the modern bio we've been waiting for. Your legacy is still mostly St. Clair's Defeat with the footnote that you re-named Losantiville to Cincinnati. I suppose it's better to be remembered for something than nothing at all.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Celibate Christian Communists in Ohio

kinda hard to read, see text to the right
Several years ago I was out and about in rural Southwestern Ohio when I came across an old Shaker Cemetery. There were a few individual markers in this relatively large graveyard but it was the large engraved stone in the center that got my attention. It read:
Erected by the Society of Shakers
White Water Village
An Order Of Celibate Christian Communists
To Honor the Memory Of The Members Whose Mortal Remains Are Interred in This Lot

All I really knew of the Shakers was the fact that they produced plain, durable, handcrafted furniture. Maybe similar to the Amish but with added holy roller flavor. That "Celibate Christian Communists" phrase piqued my curiosity. I set out to learn more.

One of those famous chairs
The Shakers were predominantly an 18th and 19th-century religion with origins in English Quakerism. Eventually, they came to America and established their own communities.

Officially they are called the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming and their worship services tended to be frenzied and ecstatic, hence the name "Shakers". The Shakers believed in equality of the sexes, the second coming of Christ, and communal living, which was called communism well before Karl Marx.
Overall they seem to fit in with 19th-century spiritualism. I've read of other communal religious societies from that time period such as the one in nearby ghost town Utopia, OH and the more famous Oneida Community in New York that claimed future President Garfield assassin Charles Giteau as a member.

It gets a bit more interesting...
Shaker Village to the North, looks nice but read the fine print
While identifying as Christian, Shakers did not consider Christ a deity but instead an agent of God. They believed men and women were made in God's image and equal. Since the first Christ was male, the second Christ would be female. They felt this already happened in the form of their religion's founder, English born former Quaker Mother Ann Lee, whose visions led her to this conclusion and brought her followers to America in 1774. Yup.
This belief meant women took leadership roles in the church. That in itself was a radical idea in 18th century America and seems progressive on the surface. The fact is, living spaces were still segregated as were schools and work-related roles. Separate but equal I guess.

Ok, that's great, now get to the sex part. Or lack thereof.

Additionally and probably the most puzzling of all, the Shakers believed all sex was a sin and celibacy was a path to God. This didn't just apply to church leaders or the unmarried. Everyone. Mother Ann Lee taught that sex was "the root and foundation of human depravity". That's a big drawback for a commune and had to be a hard sell when they got to that page of the brochure. In fact, they didn't even believe in marriage. I guess it was OK for others to be depraved because instead of sexual procreation to multiply their flock, the Shakers adopted orphaned children into their communities and relied on conversion of adults.

19th century Shakers shaking
The Shaker movement began on another continent in the early 1700s and virtually disappeared by 1920. That's a long run compared to other communal societies that tend to fizzle out after a few decades at best. While it's no surprise that Shakers went extinct, it seems surprising that it took so long.  If you aren't having babies then your membership is going to stall. As pacifists, they were conscientious objectors. They also didn't vote or generally participate in public life. This generated distrust from other Americans who expected otherwise. You would think all of the above would have done them in.
It was the US Civil War that brought on a rapid change that the Shakers could not adapt to. Major industrialization occurred in the postbellum era which started an economic decline for the Shakers. Folks were now able to purchase cheaper mass produced items instead of more expensive Shaker made goods. Membership started declining as new converts were hard to come by as the Shakers became less financially prosperous. Existing members left when they found the lifestyle too difficult to adhere to. Similar to the Amish, at age 21, folks could decide to stay or go. Additionally, adoption laws started to be reformed in the late 19th century. The Shakers were separatists in a closed society. Technological advances in transportation and communication such as trains and the telegraph altered the world and increased the difficulty of maintaining that separation.  Despite the popular notion, non-traditional Protestant Christian religions were not always welcomed in the US. Just read about the hard times of the early Mormons, Quakers, and Catholics in the US. We were even debating the idea of a Catholic President in 1960. What America really had going for it was land and plenty of it. Folks could spread out a bit and stay out of each other's way. For a while.
Another odd bit, The White Water Shaker Settlement which was active from 1824-1916, south of this cemetery attracted former Millerites who believed in the April 1843 Christ's Second Coming. Maybe you heard but that didn't pan out. The Shakers convinced some of these greatly disappointed Millerites that this already occurred in the form of Mother Ann Lee.

1816 Shaker text
As stated before, the Shakers were known for their simple furniture styles but they were also known for many inventions and improvements on existing items. Since they were a closed society they didn't patent anything. It's difficult to verify but some of the items attributed to the Shakers are the one piece clothespin, packaged seeds, dentures, and a circular saw. For some reason, there is a hydroelectric power station in Kentucky named after Mother Ann Lee. There was a Shaker village nearby but it seems strange to me that such a high tech power installation such as this would be named after the leader of an old-time religion.

The Shakers goal was to create a working Heaven on Earth during what they believed to be the time of the second reign of the Christ spirit while practicing the value of hard work. However, it is ironic their secular contributions such as furniture and labor-saving innovations will be their true legacy and not their Celibate Christian Communism.
The Shaker movement peaked during the Civil War with 6,000 members and dozens of villages. By the 20th century there were only 12 active communities and by 2017 there was one community in Maine with 2 members.They are still open to converts.

other sources and additional reading:
- Cincinnati Enquirer 04/07/1968 article on a man who lived at the village (scroll down to the OCR text)
- Ken Burns film on the Shakers

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Review: A Child of the Revolution: William Henry Harrison and His World, 1773-1798

A short book review on a biography I read in 2014 of William Henry Harrison on the anniversary of his death in 1841.

A Child of the Revolution: William Henry Harrison and His World, 1773-1798 A Child of the Revolution: William Henry Harrison and His World, 1773-1798 by Hendrik Booraem
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book's subtitle makes it clear that this is not a full biography of William Henry Harrison. It just covers the first 25 of his 68 years. Most books about Harrison cover his better-documented life after 1798 such as his second military career and/or his later political life through his Trivial Pursuit worthy death in 1841, so this is a nice addition. The author notes that there is scant primary source material on Harrison's early days. Therefore, much of what is in the book is somewhat speculative at times yet Booraem provides ample evidence to support those assumptions.

What little records there are of Harrison's life before 1798 are obtained from a variety of sources and then compared with Harrison's own accounts written decades later as he was ramping up for a Presidential run. Much like today, folks running for political office like to fluff up the old résumé a bit and cast a better light on some of their more youthful indiscretions. Harrison was no different so we must take his words from the 1830s with some caution as most autobiographical accounts should. For those early gaps, Booraem takes Harrison's words, known events, customs and other evidence of the period and constructs educated theories of some of Harrison's early life and whereabouts. He does a fine job at it.

Any student of William Henry Harrison's life or the early American Republic should consider this required reading to better understand how the son of a well-off slave owning Anglican Virginian planter who signed the Declaration of Independence can be transformed into an abolitionist, a military man, and a politician.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Presidential Profile Wax

The Ohio Irish Five
Happy St. Patrick's Day! Did you know that 22 U.S. Presidents had Irish roots? Five of them were from Ohio! More than any other state. I know what you are thinking though. You see Ben Harrison to the left and are wondering why William Henry isn't there. Ben was Irish on his Mothers side.
This concludes the Irish portion of the post. Feel free to use this trivia at your St. Patrick's Day shindig tonight.

Last Summer I became aware of a collection of 35 “Presidential Profiles” 7-inch vinyl 33 1/3 RPM records from 1966 that were released with their very own coin! This was very exciting.
Each one commemorates President’s Washington through Lyndon Johnson. Johnson was POTUS #36 but non-consecutive Grover Cleveland was included once. As he should be.
Being a fan of oddball Presidential items, I managed to score a set (minus the original medallions) for the low low price of $22.49. That was a pretty good buy since a single record seemed to be selling anywhere from $5 to $25. The pricier ones were usually sealed and contained the 1.25-inch high relief bronze medallion. Each coin has a profile of the President on the obverse and an eagle and the words “Presidential Commemorative Medallion” on the reverse. Still yearning for a sampling of the coins I found a lot of 12 being sold separately for $10.95. That would have to do. So $33 bucks overall and some change still wasn't bad.
For as many of these I found on eBay, there was very little information found online about them but I did manage to dig up some details.
William Henry Harrison reverse
These were given out to children as promotional items by savings and loan banks. I guess this was to get kids interested in opening savings accounts and making going to the bank with their parents exciting by studying Presidential history. It's hard to believe this didn't catch fire. "Get the new Beatles record or go to the bank with Mom?...hmmm"

The recently martyred Kennedy kicked off the series in April 1966 and then it's random batches, Jackson, B Harrison, Jefferson, JQ Adams, Grant, Tyler, etc. I suppose the release order was chosen to prevent a run on the "big" Presidents like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, etc. and then have a drop off for more obscure Presidents like Harrison, Tyler, Polk, etc. This went on until ending with the current LBJ in July 1966.

The records were released by a company named Kayson’s International Ltd. I can’t find much info on Kaysons but they seemed to be a Japanese based company that also sold china in the 1960s. This may have been the company's only foray into record distribution as I don’t see any other titles with their label other than this series.

The material itself was written by Walter C. Dallenbach (1937-2014) who later became the Southern California Press Secretary for Senator Eugene McCarthy in his '68 Presidential Campaign. He eventually broke into Hollywood and wrote scripts for hit shows such as Adam-12, Rockford Files, Law and Order. Based on the time-line, this stuff was probably some of Walter's first script writing.
bronze coins included with each record

The narration was done by the then well-known Art Baker (1898-1966) who appeared in over 40 films but was best remembered as the host of the 1950s television program "You Asked for It". It looks like Art died the year they were released making this his swan song.

The foldout sleeve includes important dates in the president’s life and while in office. Each record had an original color portrait of the President painted by Reynold Brown (1917-1991). Mr. Brown produced US Government posters during WWII and over 250 movie posters between1951 and 1970 such as Mutiny on the Bounty and Creature from the Black Lagoon. When you look at the portraits you can definitely see that influence and style. Have a look at them all here.

I had to borrow a turntable to listen to them so I went ahead and converted them to MP3s while I did that. Now you can listen to them too! I wish I kept better notes along the way but hearing them was like stepping back in time to those old grade school documentaries. Overall the audio style was very atypical of their period with the lordly narration and corny music. I didn't denote any political bias of any particular President. One thing I jotted down in a scribbled note was the complete lack of any mention of Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal policy. Not a word.
Each track follows the same pattern where we eventually hear, as the subtitle suggests, each president "speak". Other than Art's narration no one is credited for the other voice work and we don't hear the actual President's voice until Hoover. The first President to be recorded was in fact  Benjamin Harrison in 1889. I imagine there wasn't enough material or good quality material until the 1920s.
1975 Bicentennial LP re-issue
There are a few mistakes on the liner notes. Again with Jackson, he was "Old Hickory" not "Old Rough and Ready", which was Zachary Taylor. Andrew Johnson is listed as Republican. While Johnson was the VP for Republican Lincoln, Johnson was a Democrat. This was a choice to help ease tension with the South. That seemed like a pretty big mistake on both counts.

In researching I learned that the records were repackaged in 1975 as twelve LPs or cassettes (with no medallions) for the upcoming US 1776 Bicentennial with the tag-line "American Revolution Bicentennial 1776-1976". Featured prominently on the originals, there is no mention of Art Baker on the 1975 LPs. That made me kind of sad to discover but I suppose they didn't want these 10 year old records to seem so dated for a new generation. Kids must have wondered what happened to Nixon and Ford.
This was a fun little project. I always enjoy seeing how history was portrayed in other time periods. As I mentioned before, it was interesting that Jackson's Indian Removal policy was not mentioned in his legacy. This was 1966 after all. While some controversies were noted, these biographies do read, or rather listen, a bit like the safe naiveté of a pasteurized 1950s era text book.
In case you missed the links above, listen to the MP3s here and view the full gallery here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Review: A History of Jonathan Alder: His Captivity and Life with the Indians

A History of Jonathan Alder: His Captivity and Life with the Indians A History of Jonathan Alder: His Captivity and Life with the Indians by Larry Nelson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't believe I just got around to reading this book that I've seen sourced in other history books many times. I've read a few other captivity narratives but this one is right up my alley in that it mostly happened in Madison County Ohio near Columbus. In fact, when I was in the middle of reading it, I happened to be off work for Christmas break so I took advantage of that timing and combined my hobby of geocaching and made the 90-minute drive to visit some of the places mentioned, including Alder's 210-year-old cabin and final resting place. It's always great when history becomes a hands-on experience.

Alder's 1806 cabin in Madison County
Since Indians in that period had no written language we have to rely on what was told to Europeans and Americans regarding day to day life. Many times that is filtered through misinterpretation, misunderstandings, or prejudice. Alder was captured by Shawnee in Virginia and adopted by Mingo at eight years of age in 1781. He assimilated and was treated well so I think we get a pretty accurate look at his experiences, good and bad. Nelson's version denotes other versions and additions of the story by others in an italic font to what the author believes is the truest account of Alder's life. The actual story of Alder's story is a bit complicated and the author explains this in the introduction.

Alder voluntarily left his adopted Mingo family in 1805 as white settlers arrived after the Treaty of Greenville. He reunited with his birth family in Virginia and returned to Ohio with them and his new wife 1806. He served as a Captain in the War of 1812. After the war, he became a farmer and befriended the famous pioneer Simon Kenton. Alder lived out his days in Madison County Ohio until his death in 1849.

We learn so much about regular life as an Indian in Ohio in the early 19th century from Alder's excellent narrative. Nelson also provides additional footnotes throughout the story that details further what Alder was referring to at times or what he meant when in the vernacular. Definitely, do not skip out on those notes if you get this version of the book.
Alder's grave in Madison County

All in all, this is a very easy read and should be required reading for any student of the history of the early United States and the old Northwest Territory.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Review: Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero

As previously stated, I've decided to post some of my short Goodreads reviews of 4 or 5-star history books I've read over the last several years. Why? Well for one the work is half done and I don't have to edit them that much. Also, it's a good way to showcase how captivating history can be by praising great history authors and their books.

The first post of 2017 has nothing to do with Ohio history although Ohio played a vital role in the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement during the 19th century.

Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American HeroBound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero by Kate Clifford Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to read this book in May 2016 when it was announced that Harriet Tubman's likeness would share the $20 bill with Andrew Jackson. I really didn't know much about her other than the typical abolition stories most of us get from a grade school history class.

Much of Harriet's story had only been told orally by Tubman and exaggerated by others over the years. Thus, the book is peppered with speculative adverbs such as maybe, possibly, perhaps, etc. I find this to be understandable since Tubman was illiterate, and Larson backs her assertions up with other writers words and letters along with other good source material to fill out the narrative.  The author also debunks some of the long-held beliefs such as putting her number of trips at 13 and 70 slaves feed vs 19 trips and 300 slaves freed. An amazing feat nonetheless. I feel this is a truthful, captivating, and well-written biography, but it's much more than that. It's a story told in context.
Kate Clifford Larson fills in some of the gaps in Harriet's story with explanations of how the class and social system operated in 19th century America. This is crucial in order to understand how enslaved people were able to move about and operate on the Underground Railroad undetected. I think most of us envision the plantation system in the deep South, like Roots. But in Maryland, slaves could be hired out to work on other farms and were even allowed to visit extended family unsupervised for periods of time. Slaves were even permitted to marry free blacks. This wasn't done out of sheer kindness. The children of a slave/freeman marriage still belonged to the slave master. This act was more or less an investment. They knew that if a slave had a strong extended family, they were less likely to run away. If slaves caused trouble, they might be sold to a much crueler master in the deep South away from their family.
As if the moral problems of legal slavery were not bad enough, some slave owners cheated the system as they saw their livelihood slowly disappearing. As abolitionists made progress with Americans on the idea of emancipation, at a certain point selling your own slaves in Northern states became illegal. Instead of freeing or manumitting them at a certain age as the law dictated, some masters would simply sell them to illegal Southern slave dealers and claim they ran away. It was rare for a slave owner to be prosecuted for this.

It is unfortunate that despite Tubman's heroic accomplishments assisting slaves to freedom and later working for the Union Army, she was still quite poor and struggled in her final days and even dismissed by others after her death due to her race and social status. Tubman was a brave courageous woman who did much to help make this country truly "equal". One of America's greatest sins was kicking the can of slavery down the road until finally the lives 600,000 Americans would be sacrificed to end that system.

From what I've read about Jackson, he wouldn't like this one bit, but being famously anti-bank, one wonders how he made it on the $20 bill himself. In fact, you likely would have to get into the second half of the 20th century before you would find a US President who would have been OK with this. Maybe Kennedy, but not with the Jim Crow South in the 1960s. Times and attitudes change and I'll be glad to see Tubman on the $20 bill, even if it is over 100 years after her death.
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