Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wordless: FOUR

Hmmmm….Why is that hunk of wood placed next to the bed? What is it for?

Other bloggers post wordless images on Wednesday , too. Visit the main page HERE to find them.

Last week's mystery explanation can be found here.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Importance of Silver

At some point in every young girl’s life she realizes the importance of silver.

Perhaps it is when she has a female relative who is getting married, and she overhears other female relatives and friends inquiring about the silver pattern she has registered for. Perhaps it is when she is old enough…..finally……to attend a wedding or baby shower with her mother and sees the array of silver trays, silver flatware, and silver coffee and tea services on display making the perfect refreshment table.

In my case…….it was when I was old enough to help my grandmother prepare the dining table for a family dinner…..more than likely Thanksgiving or Christmas. I can remember going to the drawer in the kitchen where the knives and forks were stored. My grandmother shooed me away and directed me in that constantly out-of-breath tone she had, “No, no…..go in the dining room and get the forks out of the box.”

The box? As I walked into the dining room I thought, “What box?

Then I saw the box where she had placed it on the buffet….a rectangular, wooden box with a hinged lid. As I got closer I saw it was pretty old and fairly beat up. There were scratches across the top and sides, but instead of repelling me the poor condition of the box made me want to open it all the more.

That was my first foray into someone’s silver box, and like many a young girl it made quite an impression on me. I walked over to the buffet and placed my hands on the wood feeling the uneven surface.

I was intrigued.

What would I find inside?

I lifted the top and discovered lovely and fairly heavy silver utensils encased in deep Columbia blue velvet. The knives were standing up along the inside cover of the box while the spoons and forks were stacked up and laying flat inside the box.

Now that I know better I realize the silver was not expensive, but for my hardworking farming and at one time mill employed grandmother the silver was her best, and she wanted to use it for a holiday dinner.

I thought it was simply lovely. I loved how it felt in my fingers and how the light reflected off it.  During dinner I refrained from using my knife because I just couldn't bear sullying it with food.  It was THAT beautiful to me.

Later I questioned my mom about the box and discovered she had a silver box as well. My mother was not prone to using her best items for meals, so realizing we had silver was quite a surprise for me. My sister and I finally convinced Mother to start using her silver for family dinners, and eventually she bought more of it to complete her set.  Today the silver is a treasure for my sister and I.

Silver is special…..silver is family history…….silver is spectacular.

Silver had its heyday in the United States between 1870 and 1920 though silver was in existence in our earliest days dating back to Paul Revere and the Dutch colonies. No matter the time period in history though silver was a luxury item and only the wealthiest homes had silver.

It was during the Victorian Age where silver flatware was its most decadent with some flatware lines having over 100 different types of pieces from a regular spoon, demitasse spoon, and a bouillon spoon. Then there’s the regular fork. Don’t get it confused with the pastry fork. Knives were in multiples as well with each flatware line having a knife for “place”, “dinner”, and one for “fruit” as well.

No wonder Victorian dining tables were so long.

This was also the time period where formal dinners went from three or four courses to ten or more including a course just for fruit and one for cheese.

Last week I posted a picture of a mahogany box and asked readers to identify what it was. I had no takers here but someone on Facebook correctly identified the box as a silver chest…..and that is exactly correct.

Here is a picture showing the box with a couple of silver pieces inside it. Notice this box is a little different from the silver box your family might own. The silver is stored upright in the little holes. It does not lay flat.

You can find out all sorts of information at the Silver Chatter blog…..a site headquartered in my neck of the woods…..Atlanta, Georgia with Silver Jim at the helm.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Odds and Ends From My InBox

I have several things I want to share this morning, so……….hang on.

First is The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era…….it’s published quarterly and the website advises each issue is packed with original essays, including on-line projects and reviews of scholarly books. The focus, of course, is all aspects of U.S. History from 1865-1920. I have a few articles here at History Is Elementary regarding the Gilded Age. You can access all of them here…..Just scroll through to find them all. 

Then there’s the website, Mission U.S. This is a site for for older elementary and middle school students and provides an innovative way for sharing social studies content. The first game, “For Crown or Colony?” has already launched. The setting for the game is Boston in 1770 and students actually role-play taking on the identity of a publisher’s apprentice. Students will interact with such real figures in history as Phillis Wheatley and Paul Revere. I've included an image from the game below.....

The development team for Mission U.S. includes historians from the American Social History Project and Center for Children and Technology. The game developers on the project are from Electric Funstuff.

…..and then there’s……a geographic photo search website.   There are over 87,000 images and maps from five Philadelphia organizations you can search, research, share with friends or purchase.   Some of the images you can view include the one below of Civil War soldiers camping outside of Independence Hall.  It can be accessed here at the website.

History Is Elementary has been included in a Top 50 List for blogs with teaching tips, ideas and inspiration over at Masters in Teaching… can find the list here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Senate Chamber....A Playground for Children

I’m not happy with Congress these days…..I don’t know many of my fellow Americans that are. My title says it all. They play using my tax dollars as their kick balls and monkey bars.

However, before I go off on a rant that would cause my blood pressure to rise I want to go in a different direction with children….in particular “little boys.”

The other day I posted a drawing as one of my mystery images for Wordless Wednesday.  I’ve reposted it below:
The setting for the drawing is the United States Senate Chambers and the event being portrayed is the impeachment proceedings for President Andrew Johnson.

The drawing was included in a book titled The Story of a Great Nation (1886) by  John Gilmary Shea a writer, historian, and editor.
You can read my background article here regarding President Johnson’s impeachment over at American Presidents Blog.

I included this drawing on my Facebook profile and the page I have there for History Is Elementary. One of my visitors there… sister, to be exact…..noticed something about the drawing I had missed.

Look at the drawing again…..notice the two little boys in the lower right corner. They appear to be passing the time as best they could, don’t they?

Hmmm…..why are little boys in the Senate chamber during such an important event?

I never found a definitive answer, but I’ve made an assumption I can live with.

Now, observe another drawing of the events.   This drawing is from Harper’s Weekly and the artist is Theodore Davis.  All of his drawings detailing the impeachment hearings can be seen here.

Now, notice in the Davis drawing there are no little boys.

This spurred me on even further to research the matter to discover why the young men were playing on the floor of the Senate chambers during the Johnson Impeachment hearings.Young boys (girls didn’t serve until later) began serving as Congressional pages as early as 1827.   Members of Congress would sponsor orphaned or destitute boys taking a paternal interest them per page program history. Just like today during sessions pages sit close to the dais in case they are needed.   It makes sense the young men in the drawing I used for my mystery image were passing their time waiting until they were summoned.

The drawing with the little boys would be a terrific teaser to use with students in order to introduce them to the Congressional Page Program.

....and don't forget to become a fan of History Is Elementary on Facebook.  See the "like" button in the right sidebar.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wordless: THREE

I toured some old plantation buildings over the weekend and snapped this picture. I thought it might make a good puzzle picture.

What is this????? What was it used for????

Here’s a hint….it was a very important box and even though it sat next to the fireplace it didn’t have anything to do with it.

Other bloggers post wordless images on Wednesday , too. Visit the main page HERE to find them.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Little Desk History....

There are many types of desks. Messy ones, clean ones, ones to work at and ones just for show. There are fancy desks referred to as secretaries, computer desks, executive desks and roll top desks. Ernest Hemmingway and Winston Churchill preferred a stand-up desk. United States presidents have used the Resolute Desk, and then there is Thomas Jefferson’s lap desk.

Of course, students have desks as well. They generally have gum stuck underneath or inside them, and the tops are adorned with identifying tags left behind by precious owners extolling what they hate or who they love.

The desk I featured in my Wordless Wednesday is a U.S. Senate desk, and they have quite a history.

The desks date back to 1819 when 48 desks were commissioned following the destruction of the previous desks by the British during the War of 1812. There are only four of the original desks…..two are in private collections, one desk is in the Senate collection and another was housed at Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis’ plantation. It was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. It is hard to determine which desks are original or were commissioned later.

Some of the desks are distinguishable by their trapezoid shape. This enabled the desks to be arranged in a semi-circle. Today, the desks are arranged according to political party. In the 1950s, Senator Wayne Morse switched parties from Republican to Democrat. He actually placed his desk in the middle between each party compromising the normal arrangement.

The Cherokee Strip is an area of the Senate chamber that when used compromises the original arrangement. The area gets its name from an section of Oklahoma that was part of a dispute between the United States and the Cherokees dating back to the Kansas Nebraska Act in 1854. Today the section of the Senate chamber is used when one party has a significant majority and desks are included on the side of the other party.

Just like the desks belonging to my fourth and fifth graders some of the Senate desks contain graffiti. The earliest names and dates go back to the early 1900s and unfortunately, some of the names like Daniel Webster are deemed forgeries. It is not known if some of the desks contain the words, “For a good time call…..”

One desk drawer has more than just a signature, however. Desk number 86 has a notation that reads, “Spoke 24 hours, 18 minutes from this desk in 1957….Senator Strom Thurmond (SC) in opposition to the Civil Rights Act.” Back then Senator Thurmond had to rely on his own voice to be heard, but today, each desk is equipped with an amplification box and a microphone…

Today Senators choose their desk based on seniority except for the Daniel Webster desk which the senior senator from New Hampshire uses. Jefferson Davis’ desk is used by the senior senator from Mississippi, and the Henry Clay desk is used by the senior senator from Kentucky.

When Senators leave the Senate they have to leave their desk behind, but can tote their chair with them New chairs are made to replace them.

During each legislative session the Senate pages are responsible for making sure each desk is equipped with items that will be needed such as the Congressional Record, Executive Calendar, Calendar of Business, the day’s legislation, any legislative notices or bulletins and just like my students……two pencils.

It’s a wonder the Jefferson Davis’ desk is still intact. During the Civil War soldiers camped out in the Senate chamber. They identified the desk Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, had used and began to tear it apart. One of the Capital employees stopped them.

If a senator happens to pass away during a legislative session his or her desk is draped in black crepe and flowers are placed on the desk. The flag at the U.S. Capital is flown at half staff. In past years actual funerals were held in the Senate chambers, but that hasn’t happened since 1959.

The best desk of all is the candy desk. Ever since 1965 when George Murphy began to keep a supply of candy in his desk The candy desk currently sits on the back row of the Republican side.

Hmmm…..seating arrangements, two pencil requirements, candy, desks defaced with graffiti……it would seem the Senate isn’t too different from fourth or fifth grade….

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wordless: TWO

What historical event in going on here?
Other bloggers post wordless images on Wednesday , too. Visit the main page HERE to find them.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Wordless: TWO

What is this?

Other bloggers post wordless images on Wednesday , too. Visit the main page HERE to find them.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Copper King and the 17th Amendment

Last week I posted my first wordless puzzler here in quite some time.

The following post provides the rest of the story:

The vernacular of history can at times be quite confusing to students, so I’m always in search of ways to help them connect to vocabulary. Sometimes I can make the best connections using simple, inexpensive objects like picture frames.

Yes, picture frames.

I have this one frame that contains a picture of my children. The frame looks as if it is gilt……a very expensive looking gold frame. However, if you turn the frame over you see it is really brown plastic resin covered with gold paint.

Scratch the gold surface a little bit and you see there are some real issues with the frame. It simply isn’t what it appears to be.

The frame illustration helps me explain the Gilded Age – that time period from 1865 to 1901 - that at first glance seemed to be a wonderful period in the United States when many people were making money hand over fist, but scratch the surface a little bit and the time period had major problems.

The Gilded Age was coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in the book, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. The modern industrial economy was born during the Gilded Age, cities grew, corporations were born, and transportation routes improved. During this time period technology grew in leaps and bounds, however, the average American worker and the American farmer had problems. Immigration was on the rise and cities were having problems due to the influx of people. You just can’t have growth like American was experiencing and not have some major growing pains.

…..and certain men like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were making enormous amounts of money, and sometimes these men weren’t always using honest tactics. It was the age of the robber barons.

William Andrew Clark was one of them.

One thing that be said of William Andrew Clark was he recognized an opportunity when it was in front of him, and he never hesitated to change his actions in midstream especially if it would make him a buck.

Clark was originally from Pennsylvania, but at the outbreak of the Civil War he decided to fight for the Confederacy. This only happened for a year before Clark deserted his post and hightailed it to Montana when gold was found there in 1862.

Instead of finding his fortune in the gold fields of Montana, Clark saw opportunities to make money working in the industry surrounding the gold miners. He drove wagons carrying supplies back and forth between Salt Lake City and Montana. These supply wagons were basically rolling stores…..some of the first of their kind.

Clark went on into banking and became involved in the railroad business. As a banker he often repossessed miners who were down on their luck.

Other businesses Clark had a finger in included smelters, electric power companies, and newpapers.

He tried his hand with the mining business for a second time when he got involved with the copper mining industry and is remembered as one of the Copper Kings of Montana along with F. Augustus Heinz.

The city of Las Vegas has Clark to thank for its early history. The town was created as way station along the rail line from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. Clark’s brother controlled the railroad and suggested it would help his business. Clark promoted the area so a town could be built around it.

He also utilized his newspaper, the Butte Miner to leverage his career into politics, and once elected as Montana’s senator it appeared he was well on the way to Washington D.C., but he was refused entry by the Senate when it came to light Clark had paid Montana state legislators for their votes. In fact, the Clark scandal is just one of the reasons why Congress eventually passed the 17th Amendment giving citizen’s a direct vote for U.S. Senators instead of depending on state legislators to appoint Senators.

Clark did serve in the US Senate from 1901 to 1907 during a subsequent term where he was elected by the people, but even then he used the office to line his pockets. When the Panama Canal was being discussed Clark argued for a site in Nicaragua because it was actually a better location for his business concerns and would improve his bottom line.

Getting back to Mark Twain…. he wrote an essay in 1907 titled, Senator Clark of Montana where he said:

"He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs. To my mind he is the most disgusting creature that the republic has produced since Tweed's time.”

A more detailed article regarding Clark can be found here.

Recently Clark’s daughter, Huguette, has been in the news since she hasn’t been seen in several years…..hasn’t visited many of her properties in years….and there are suggestions her lawyer and other employees are taking advantage of her.

See the links here and here.

I’d call her a poor little rich girl, but she’s currently 104 years old so…..calling her a girl doesn’t seem appropriate. :)