History

How They Made Books in 1947

Back before ebooks, printing was a time-comsuming laborious process. Once the author finished the writing tasks, teams of people working together were required to produce just one book. An Encyclopaedia Britannica Films documentary created in 1947 is available on YouTube that shows the process.

Johnny Appleseed Exhibit to Hit the Road

If you picture Johnny Appleseed as a loner wearing a tin pot for a hat and flinging apple seeds across the countryside, experts say you’re wrong. A traveling exhibit funded by an anonymous donation to the Johnny Appleseed Museum at Urbana University will help clear misconceptions about the folk hero and the real man behind the legend.

John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed to generations of Americans, was a pioneer nurseryman in the late 18th and early 19th centuries credited with introducing apple trees to portions of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia. While it’s probably true that he lived outdoors and wore ragged clothes, at least sometimes, researchers doubt he wore a pot on his head or just gave his seedlings and nurseries away.

If You Leave Out the Legally Inedible Parts, Haggis is Edible

Do you have Scottish ancestry? If so, you may have heard of haggis, considered the national dish of Scotland. It is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. Haggis apparently was a food staple in Scotland for centuries.

If you have an interest in the food of your ancestors, you might want to read Nick O’Malley’s description of his recent encounter with haggis. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t real haggis as it didn’t have sheep’s lung in it. Sheep’s lung cannot be sold as “food” in the U.S.) You can read about Nick’s recent experience in the MassLive web site at http://www.masslive.com/dining/2014/07/i_ate_it_so_you_dont_have_to_h.html. The article also tells where Americans can purchase “pseudo-haggis” in a can.

UN Opens Secret Archive on WWII Massacres, Murders, Torture to Public

CBS News reports that the U.N. War Crimes Commission archive that has largely been locked away for the past 70 years under restricted access at the United Nations will be made freely available to visitors to the research room of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Many of those named in the archive were never held accountable for the atrocities they committed.

While many of the crimes detailed in the archive are horrible to even imagine, the contents can be valuable to historians and to genealogists alike. The names of victims are often mentioned, along with the details of their incarceration and deaths. In many cases, families may be able to learn what happened to their missing relatives.

You can read more in an article in the CBS News web site at http://goo.gl/GCRrqi.

Amateur Explorers Claim to Find Lost US Army Fort in Florida Everglades

A team of amateur explorers say they found the site of a lost U.S. Army fort buried deep in the Everglades that once served as a restocking post for troops during a series of guerilla-like battles with Seminole Indians. Nestled into the dense, waterlogged swamps 60 miles from the coast, Fort Harrell, built in 1837, was one of nearly a dozen forts across Florida used in the early and mid-19th century.

The team identified the site by overlaying old maps with global positioning satellite coordinates. They found one site on a 1940s aerial map and found post holes in the damp ground and limestone that may have supported a wall. About 100 yards away buried in the mud they found a weathered 20-foot Cypress log carved into a long beam.

You can read more in a Reuters article by Zachary Fagenson, and available at http://goo.gl/zDOAHM.

Auto Racing Was Wildly Dangerous in the ’30s—And a Lot More Fun

If you are a motor racing enthusiast, as I am, you might enjoy looking at the photographs available at the Motoring Picture Library. It is primarily a stock photography service. Print photographs may be purchased for a fee. However, anyone and everyone is invited to look at the available old and new photographs at no charge.

An Austin 747 cc takes a gnarly turn at the Donington Park Race Meeting, May 13, 1933. Click on the above image to view a larger version.

Canaan, Connecticut, History Center to Open July 13

The Canaan History Center will open its doors for the first time to the public on July 13, providing an opportunity for researchers to delve into the history of the area. The center is located in a white clapboard building at 115 Main St. that once served as the law offices of civil rights attorney Catherine G. Roraback.

Details are available in an article by Alice Tessier in the Litchfield County Times at http://goo.gl/bU6fU4.

Napoleon and Josephine’s Marriage Certificate For Sale

Here is a chance to own a piece of history. It will “only” cost $135,000 or so.

The marriage certificate of Napoleon and his first wife Josephine is to be sold at auction in September. The document dated March 8, 1796, was signed by the future Napoleon I and his fiancee Marie Josephe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, or Josephine, the Viscomtesse de Beauharnais.

The marriage certificate states that the pair will “in no way be responsible for the debts and mortgages of the other” and that there will be “no common property” between them.

Do You Remember the Slide Rule?

It wasn’t all that long ago that engineers, astronauts, mathematicians, and students proudly carried the original pocket calculator. I had one and thought I was proficient at it. Sadly, I misplaced it years ago.

The slide rule was a simple device with one sliding part that could do complex mathematical calculations in moments. Multiplication, division, roots, logarithms, and even trigonometry could be performed with ease. But as technology marched forward with sophisticated computers and graphing pocket calculators, the lowly slide rule was forgotten.

Man Dead for 200 Years Gets American Citizenship

Sometimes it takes a while to get things done. Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, the Viscount of Gálvez, was recently granted honorary American citizenship. Gálvez was a hero of the American Revolution, having led battles against the British at Pensacola and along the Gulf Coast. Galveston, Texas is named for Gálvez.

Our Lives Are Far Better than those of Our Ancestors

Most all of our ancestors lived in poverty and often faced starvation, incurable diseases, infant mortality, and short life expectancies, even of adults. Today, even the poorest American families enjoy a roof over their heads, a solid floor under their feet, running water, a flush toilet, and electricity. Those were all unimaginable luxuries, far beyond the dreams of our ancestors, only a few generations ago.

Don Boudreaux of MRUniversity (an online educational service not affiliated with any traditional college or university) explores the question economists have been asking since the era of Adam Smith: what creates wealth? On a timeline of human history, the recent rise in standards of living resembles a hockey stick, flatlining for all of human history and then skyrocketing in just the last few centuries.

More Than One Million Canadian Vintage Photographs to be Available

The Toronto Public Library’s special collections department has just received a sizeable donation: more than one million photographs, which represent the complete photographic archive of the Toronto Star for the years 1900–1999. The public will have access to most of these images as of July 7. They’ll be available in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre on the fifth floor of the Toronto Reference Library—the TPL also has plans to make some of images available in its digital archive at http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/digital-archive.

Genealogy Experts Reveal the real Captain Blackadder was a Dundee War Hero

This surprise concerns one of my favorite television series: Blackadder. The names of Blackadder, Darling, Lieutenant George and Baldrick will be familiar to many people, thanks to the BBC’s Blackadder series. But they may be surprised to learn that the characters, originally invented by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson, really did exist. Specialist military genealogy website Forces War Records has the proof.

After coming across a Captain Blackadder while uploading records to a database, the staff at www.forces-war-records.co.uk set about uncovering other servicemen who shared names with the fictional stars of Blackadder Goes Forth.

Details may be found at http://www.forces-war-records.co.uk.

Oldest Known Footage of African-Americans Playing Baseball

Archivists at the University of Georgia Libraries’ Walter J. Brown Media Archives have discovered footage dating back nearly a century. The 26-second footage, which features scenes of African-American employees of the Pebble Hill Plantation playing baseball, makes it some of the oldest footage of its kind.

The footage also made its way to Cooperstown, where Margaret Compton, the archivist who discovered the film, presented the film and her research at the 26th Annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture.

You can read more in an article in the Red & Black web site at http://goo.gl/h1sx9F.

Hunt for Acadian Ancestors Resumes in Louisiana

Mark Rees, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette professor of anthropology and archeology, is leading two research assistants this summer in field work along the Bayou Teche near Loreauville. They want to learn where the Acadian exiles first settled in Acadiana some 250 years ago. It’s all part of the New Acadia Project, or Projet Nouvelle-Acadie, a long-term, multidisciplinary project that could set the record straight about Cajun heritage.

“We want to provide some measured facts and places of interest that speak to people in terms of their identity, who they are,” Rees said.

Sir Tony Robinson Reviews Life Before World War I

In a video presentation, Sir Tony Robinson uses the records available today to get a better understanding of what life and times were like before World War I. If your ancestors lived in England at that time, you can obtain a better understanding of their lives, thanks to this video.

You can view the 44-minute video on the Ancestry.com Blog at http://goo.gl/uNtcVu or on YouTube at http://youtu.be/gCSXXsrytBs or in the video player below.

Are You Ready for Friggatriskaidekaphobia? (The Fear of Friday the 13th)

Look at the calendar. See Friday of this week? Yes, it is Friday the 13th.

I am not superstitious. Really, I am not. Well, maybe just a little…

The fear of Friday the 13th has been called friggatriskaidekaphobia. The word is derived from Frigga, the name of the Norse goddess for whom “Friday” is named in English, and triskaidekaphobia, meaning fear of the number thirteen.

Numerous stories abound as to the origins of the fear of Friday the 13th. However, Wikipedia claims “there is no written evidence for a “Friday the 13th” superstition before the 19th century. The earliest known documented reference in English occurs in Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th.

Historic Jamestown at Risk from Rising Seas

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell got a firsthand look Thursday at the effect of climate change on ever-receding Jamestown island, concluding that America’s first permanent European settlement is clearly vulnerable to rising seas. Led by National Park Service rangers, Jewell trekked around the island, where some sections now lie beneath the James River, and heard of the devastation in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel raked the low-lying landscape. The storm left many parts of the island underwater and destroyed thousands of artifacts retrieved from archaeological digs. Many are still being restored.

Our Ancestors Once Thought Mice Grew Out of Wheat and Sweaty Shirts

Our forebears couldn’t figure out how maggots could just up and appear in a corpse, or how oysters just seemed to materialize in the sea. They had to have been spontaneously generating, no sex required.

In the 17th century, physician and chemist Jean Baptiste van Helmont devised a home recipe for the manufacture of mice. It was quite simple, really, far simpler than getting a girl mouse and boy mouse together with a tiny bottle of wine: “If a soiled shirt is placed in the opening of a vessel containing grains of wheat,” he wrote, “the reaction of the leaven in the shirt with fumes from the wheat will, after approximately 21 days, transform the wheat into mice.”

Isn’t modern knowledge a wonderful thing?

Interactive D-day Landings Scenes in 1944 and Now

Here is a fascinating study of history during World War II versus today. Peter Macdiarmid has taken photographs of locations in France and England to match with archive images taken before, during and after the D-day landings. The Allied invasion to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation during the Second World War took place on 6 June 1944. Operation Overlord was the largest seaborne invasion in military history, with more than 156,000 Allied troops storming the beaches of France

You can view the “then and now” photos at http://goo.gl/KzBt95. The first photos you see will be those taken in 1944. Click on a photo to see the image taken 70 years later.

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