Sunday, May 24, 2020

Observing Decoration/Memorial Day

Advertisement run by a local store in
the Zanesville Times Recorder, 1887 
On Monday, May 25, at 3:00 P.M. local time, Americans are asked to remember those men and women who gave their lives to the defense of the nation. During Memorial Day weekends, many Americans will decorate graves with flowers, and some readers will recall when this observance was known as Decoration Day.

Gen. John A. Logan
General John A. Logan, a retired Union army general and commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), issued a proclamation on May 5, 1868:

The 30th day of May 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the last rebellion and whose bodies now lie in almost every city village and hamlet churchyard in the land.

Logan's proclamation was meant, of course, for the northern states. The general is said to have got the idea from the southern states, where the mothers, daughters, wives, and sweethearts of the Confederate dead had been decorating their loved ones graves annually since 1865, usually between April and June. (Some southern states still observe Confederate Memorial Day.) In another version of where Logan's inspiration originated, newly freed slaves in South Carolina re-interred hastily buried Union soldiers and covered the graves with flowers in April 1865. In 1966, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution naming Waterloo, New York as the official site of the first Decoration/Memorial Day observance. Waterloo druggist Henry C. Welles and county clerk John B. Murray were credited with founding the holiday, however, researchers have shown this is entirely mythological. In fact, there are so many competing claims as to how, when, and where America's Decoration Day began, there is actually a research center devoted to resolving these questions at Columbus (Georgia) State University. To date, there apparently are no definitive answers, except for the acknowledgement that placing flowers on military graves is a practice observed throughout time and across cultures.
Zanesville Times Recorder memorial to Union soldiers

The Decoration Day called for by Logan was observed in twenty-seven states and 127 cemeteries that first year, and each observance was entirely local and individual. In 1871, Michigan declared Decoration Day a state holiday, and other northern states followed suit over the next twenty years. Decoration Day officially became Memorial Day in 1967, and was declared a federal holiday in 1971, although throughout its (northern) history, the names were used interchangeably.

On May 30, 1884, in West Virginia and Maryland, both Union and Confederate veterans participated in the ceremonies of remembrance. As time moved on, more and more Decoration Day observances became joint ventures. It wasn't until World War I, however, that Decoration Day was expanded to honor those Americans who had fallen in any war. Up to that time, the day focused exclusively on the American Civil War.




Memorial Day tributes left at G.A.R. statue in Fultonham Cemetery

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Pandemic of 1918-1920

Zanesville Times Recorder, October 4, 1919
We're in the midst of a pandemic, a global health crisis that requires us to think and act in different, often new ways. Covid-19 confounds us, inconveniences us, frightens us, and at its worst, kills us.

One hundred years ago, in March 1920, the dreaded (and misnamed) Spanish Influenza pandemic, that began in autumn 1918, came to an end. The flu ravaged every part of the globe for a year and a half, infecting 500 million people (one-third of the world's population) and killing at least 50 million. It came in three waves, with the second one (1919) being the deadliest.

We've seen a lot of images, and heard many news stories of the personal toll taken by today's novel coronavirus. Below are photos from around the world, and headlines from the Zanesville Times-Recorder, all from the period of the Great Influenza (a more accurate name than "Spanish Flu"), that are hauntingly familiar.

Police officers in Seattle, Washington, 1918
U.S. Navy corpsmen ready to receive influenza patients at U.S. Naval Hospital,
Mare Island, California, 1918

October 7, 1918

Japanese school girls wearing protective masks

Seattle streetcar conductor orders man to don mask
before boarding, 1918
October 10, 1918

While schools were closed, American schoolchildren made toys for war refugees

Serbian soldiers in an influenza ward in the Netherlands, 1918

February 11, 1920

Oakland, California Municipal Auditorium turned into
temporary influenza hospital, 1918

Office worker wears protective mask, 1918

Australian quarantine camp, 1919
Physic class at the University of Montana being held outside, 1919.
 The open-air was believed to prevent the spread of the disease.

March 3, 1920

Emergency hospital set up in Brookline, Massachusetts to
care for influenza patients, 1918

Street cleaner in New York City, 1918. The NY Dept. of
Health's motto for city workers: "Better ridiculous than dead"

Red Cross Motor Corps transport an influenza victim in St. Louis, Missouri, 1918
December 11, 1918
Boston nurses in protective gear, spring 1919

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Down on the Farm

Life on several Newton Township farms was captured by my grandmother, Bertie Armstrong, with her Kodak box camera at the turn of the 20th century. Although the photos are faded and discolored, they still convey the look and feel of a bygone era in Muskingum County, Ohio. They make me smile, and I hope they do the same for you.

Grandma's parents' home in White Cottage

Grandma's parents, Elizabeth Holloway and Alexander Armstrong

Azier Dickerson poses with his dog on his farm

Labeled "Bakers Hickery Trees", this was probably taken on property
owned by George W. Baker whose wife, Martha Thompson,  had been
brought up by Grandma's Scholfield grandparents.

A similar photo in Grandma's album is labeled "Sunday dinner at
Grandmother's". "Grandmother" (the woman second from the left) would have
been Mary Jane Scholfield, widow of Charles Holloway. 

The local miller, David Gladstone, is on the right

Unidentified

Harry Kelsey poses with his horse

This dog appears in another photos with her
puppies. Here she's posing in front of a well.

Unidentified

Grandma's mother, father, grandmother, and niece Daisy Melick.

Grandma photographed her grandmother Mary Jane Scholfield Holloway
and two of Grandma's aunts at the Holloway home. She hand-colored the photo.

"Ye Old Spring" looks like it's seen better days

Grandma's maternal aunt, Manerva Holloway

Lewellyn's farm

"Uncle John" was John Caspar Holloway


Sam Woodward's farm was adjacent to the Holloway farm

John Caspar Holloway

Unidentified, but the man on the left might be Grandma's father, Alex Armstrong

"Ye Old Mill" on Jonathon Creek

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Who Could It Be? Dating (and Caring for) 19th Century Photos

If you're lucky, you have some very old family photos among your family history keepsakes. If you're really lucky, someone identified the person(s) posing, but more likely, you haven't a clue who this could be. However, if you can put an approximate date to the photo, you might be able to narrow the possibilities. If you can't make an exact identification, it's still worth the effort to guess that this is one of half a dozen ancestors or relatives, rather than one of 2,673.

The earliest known photo dates from 1826, but the process was complicated, lengthy and costly. It took at least eight hours to several days for an image to emerge on a polished sheet of pewter, coated with bitumen dissolved in lavender oil that was the camera's "film". A practical photo process didn't come into being until Louis Daguerre gave us--you guessed it--the daguerreotype. The photographic process was steadily refined throughout the 1800's, evolving from the daguerreotype to the ambrotype to the tintype to the carte de visite to cabinet cards. The first step in identifying a time frame for your old photo is to identify which type it is, and, therefore, when the photo was taken. Each photo type had certain characteristics, and those are detailed at PhotoTree.com.

Once you've identified the type of photo, you can narrow the photo's date down further by looking closely at the details of clothing, footwear, hats, and hairstyles. Sometimes the background features, even those of a studio, can be helpful. The clothes and hair, though, are your best resources for zeroing in on a photo's likely date, thereby increasing the possibility of you putting a name from your family tree to the face in that photo. 

This not great photo is made worse
by a handler's fingerprints.
There are plenty of books and online sites to guide you. Your job will be to match as many clothing and hairstyle features as possible in the family photo with the exemplars provided in books and at the online sites. To do this, you need to be able to see details clearly. You can use a strong magnifying glass, of course, but your best bet is to scan the photo at a high dpi (600 is best; no less than 300) so you can magnify the photo on your pc screen. If you don't have access to a flatbed scanner, use your smartphone (or have your favorite nephew or grand-daughter use theirs) to take a picture of the picture. It can be magnified on the smartphone or that brilliant younger person can upload it to your pc. Word of warning, many old photos taken when personal cameras started coming into use, do no magnify well. Most old studio photos magnify brilliantly, though. I have an 1876 studio photo of my great-grandmother that can be so highly and clearly magnified, I can literally stare into her eyes. (Which is pretty awesome!)

Also, when you're handling very old photos, it's best to use gloves. Even if you wash your hands thoroughly, you still have oil on your skin. You've probably seen an old photo that has a clear fingerprint impression somewhere on it's surface, often right on someone's face. That's why you want to wear gloves. Cotton gloves are best, but you can use latex. Even with gloves, try to touch the surface of the photo as little as is humanly possible. 

When you've made an educated guess as to the date the photo was taken, resist the temptation to write on the photo, and NEVER use an ink pen or a marker pen. Old-fashioned pencil is best, only write on the back (verso) of the photo, and don't press into the photo back. The best way to label a precious old photo is to put the photo into its own clear sleeve or into its own paper envelope. You can then stick a label on the front of the clear sleeve or the paper envelope.

Whichever you use, paper or clear sleeve, be sure the product's package contains words like "archival safe", "acid-free", and/or "lignin free". You can usually find these kinds of products in good craft stores, and you can also buy online from archival supply sites like Gaylord's, BCW, and from we-sell-everything Amazon. By the way, you can buy pens that are archival safe and can be used to write on the back of photos if you really, really need to do that.

For online sources, this link is a good place to begin "Top 10 Resources for Dating Old Photographs"
In addition to online sources, I strongly recommend you consider investing in one or some of Maureen Taylor's resource books (see number 10 at the above site). 

UNKNOWNS FROM MY OWN FAMILY ALBUM

Ambrotype, 1855-1865. This young man sports a small beard, and is probably 19-25 years old. He's likely a member of the Scholfield-Holloway family, since this image was in an old Holloway family album. Given his probable age and the dates when this ambroytpe was made, he was born about 1830-1840. 
Tintype, 1885-1900. This particular tintype is called a cartouche card. These were thin cards with an oval (usually) cut out, and an ornate design, and were only popular from 1863-1866. The girl's hairstyle, dress waist and sleeves, and the jewelry she wears are the styles of this time period. This young girl, who might be anywhere from 8-14 years old, was probably born between 1849-1858. She also is a likely member of the Scholfield-Holloway family. 

Cabinet card, 1866-1900. Unlike the tiny 1-2" carte de visite, a cabinet card measured 6 1/2 X 4 1/4". It usually bore the photography studio name and some kind of design. The boy in this photo is probably 5-7 years old. The pleated design on the front of his jacket, the length of his jacket and pants, the high top shoes, the straw boater, and the fairly close cut, mid-parted hair all indicate this photo was taken in 1894-1895. The boy was probably born about 1887-1888. As I know this boy is a Holloway, and I know of only one Holloway boy born at that time, I am pretty certain this is my grandmother's first cousin, Frederick Howard Holloway.




Sunday, January 5, 2020

Here's to a Healthy New Year

Dr. Hartman relied heavily on bogus
"testimonials". The women in this ad
probably never used the product.
Patent medicines have been around for hundreds of years. The term refers to a "nostrum," or "remedy", obtained without a prescription. Patent medicines were heavily advertised in 19th and early 20th century newspapers, magazines, and hawked by charming, fast-talking traveling charlatans who preyed upon a sick and gullible public. Probably everyone one of us is a descendant of someone who placed his or her hopes for a cure for everything from the common cold to cancer in a magic elixir or pill. Today, some of us buy the modern-day version of a patent medicine. Do you have a bottle of Listerine in your medicine cabinet? I do.

Patent medicine inventors often called themselves "Doctor" (or at least "Professor") despite the lack of any credentials to that effect. The claims they made regarding the efficacy of their product were often ridiculous, and definitely shameful. The creation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission in the early part of the last century came about because of the need to stop the deceptive advertising, the fraudulent claims, and the occasional deaths by unintentional poisoning.

The most successful patent medicine ever marketed was made 45 miles west of Zanesville, in Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Samuel Hartman (and he really was a medical doctor) created Peruna which he claimed would cure "catarrh", a word with which our ancestors were quite familiar. Catarrh is a word we hardly hear now, but it is a real thing: the build-up of mucus, usually affecting the nose and throat. We all have suffered from this condition at some time or other. Dr. Hartman, however, told people that almost every human ailment could be attributed to catarrh. So no matter what you suffered from, Dr. Hartman, backed by hundreds of celebrity (paid) endorsements, recommended you chug down some Peruna. If you did feel better, it was probably because each bottle of Peruna was nearly one-third alcohol. And if you didn't feel better, after all that alcohol, you probably didn't care.

Some Patent Meds Our Great-Grandparents Might Have Used

"Dr." Earl Sloan successfully marketed to humans a product developed by his father to treat leg pain 
in horses. Still sold today, it's primary ingredient is chili pepper. Sloan claimed it would cure
"rhuematism and all aches & pains" and was even good for mosquito bites.


      The founders of the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company,  John E. Healey and "Dr." E. H. Flagg, 
      were New England hucksters who preyed on the public's belief that Native American medicines
      offered cure-alls that  western medicine could not. Healey and Flagg, devotees of P. T. Barnum, 
      put on the most successful "Indian medicine" shows of any patent medicine company, employing
      Native Americans (but no Kickapoos) to, literally, whoop it up and stage (fake) Indian "rituals" 
      for the gullible audiences. Buffalo Bill Cody hawked the stuff with false claims about how Sagwa
      was valued by Indians more than their horses. However, Kickapoo Sagwa wasn't even known to 
      Native Americans until Healey and Flagg invented it. Sagwa was touted as a concoction of roots, 
      berries, herbs and bark. A rival claimed it was just stale beer and aloe,which, it turned out, was closer
      to the truth. Like Peruna, Sagwa contained a lot of alcohol.
If you suffered from kidney or bladder problems, you reached for the bottle of Dr. Kilmer's
Swamp Root medicine. Developed by Dr. Sylvester Andras Kilmer, Swamp Root, at least
toward the end of its life in the 1930's when the Pure Food and Drug Act required ingredients
to be listed, contained golden seal root, skullcap leaves, larch gum,peppermint, cinnamon,
valerian root, and sassafras. It was also 10% alcohol. Of course, we have no idea what Dr.
Kilmer put in his original concoction, although it's safe to say alcohol was a constant.

 "Mug-wump Specific" is the one patent medicine I could find nothing about. 
According to the label, this was the bottle you reached for if you'd contracted
something rather nasty and embarrassing. Not only would it cure your situation,
it was a preventative to future problems. It was manufactured by Mug-wump 
Manufacturing Co. of New Albany, Indiana. There's no information on the company.

        Lydia Estes Pinkham was a Lynn, Massachusetts wife and mother whose locally popular
        herbal for "women's complaints" became a booming family business. Pinkham's kindly 
        face on the label was definitely part of the company's successful advertising, but more so 
        was the invitation from Lydia to write to her for advice about menstruation, menopause, 
        and "facts of life" generally. Each letter received a personal answer (even years after Lydia's 
        death!), and for many women writing to Lydia Pinkham was the only way to talk openly about
        delicate matters. A version of Pinkham's "vegetable compound" is sold today at CVS. Most
        of the ingredients in the original formulation are used in the modern version, notably black 
        cohosh which is regarded as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy. Pinkham's herbs
        floated in an alcoholic-based liquid. The modern version lacks that little kick.




Thursday, December 5, 2019

Bizarre Holidays to You

Sitting down to compose this month's blog, I was casually surfing the history of Christmas postcards when I stumbled on a blog about Victorian Christmas postcards at Hyperallergic, "a forum for serious, playful, and radical thinking about art in the world today." As a collector of vintage Christmas postcards, I'm familiar with creepy human-like cats, and the occasional dead bird (not on the same card). However, "Have a Creepy Little Christmas with These Unsettling Victorian Cards" by Allison Meier introduced me to Christmas card motifs I've never seen before.

Victoria, Albert and the kids gather
around the Christmas tree, 1848
To understand these cards, we need to remember that the Christmas traditions most of us celebrate today--the decorated tree, jolly old St. Nicholas aka Santa Claus, holly berries, brightly wrapped packages--only date from the 1840's, when Queen Victoria's German husband, Prince Albert, installed a big Christmas tree (lit with candles!) in the royal apartments at Windsor Castle. Although the previous Germans who ruled Britian (all those Georges) had occasionally brought fir trees indoors at Christmas-time, when Albert did it up big, it really got people's attention. Suddenly, lighted trees and gaudy decorations became the custom.

The 1840's was also the decade when another tradition began: Christmas cards appeared and gained in popularity. I suppose the cards were somewhat of a novelty--a colorful and possibly economical way to wish the best of the season to family and friends. However, as you see from the examples here, some of the subject choices strike the modern viewer as bizarre and not as "merry" as we're used to seeing. The Victorians rarely passed up a moralizing opportunity: The dead bird motif, for example, was a reminder that death claimed too many young children, especially those living in poverty. So the subtext of the dead bird would be to remember the less fortunate with donations while you celebrate the season. But as for that killing frog and Santa stuffing a child into a sack, "[s]ome of that significance", says Meier, "is now lost to history." However, no motif or image would have appeared on a card if there were any chance the Victorian sender or recipient wouldn't "get it". So weird as they appear to us, be assured our Victorian ancestors "got" these images.

Have fun figuring out what the subtext in some of these postcards might have been.


Victorians liked cats. Maybe a bit too much.
Nothing says have a joyful Christmas like a dead bird.
The verse explains the frogs asked their mother if they could skate on
the ice. She said "No". They did it anyway. Like the bird, they're dead.
Subtext here is pretty obvious.

This child may never eat another healthy apple
Angry birds? 
"The black ants invaded by the red ants" The red ants' banner says
"The compliments of the season". Good luck figuring out this one!
OK. We talked about this one.
"Greetings from Krampus" cards were popular among Northern European Victorians.
The Krampus was a yuletide/pagan character. When he became part of Christmas (and
 he still is), he got the job of punishing bad children while Santa gifted the good ones.
These kids are looking  a bit worried, so they might be regretting some misbehavior.
Just plain disturbing.
This Santa does not look jolly. Was the Krampus busy elsewhere?
Happy Christmas. Your snowman is "dying".

Obviously, Victorians liked frogs almost as much as they liked cats.



Meier, A. (2015). "Have a creepy little Christmas with these unsettling Victorian Cards". Retrieved 5 December 2019 at https://hyperallergic.com/261847/have-a-creepy-little-christmas-with-these-unsettling-victorian-cards/