Monday, September 26, 2016

"...the commotions in America..."

A war by any other name....

It seems not everyone in London languished in post-war pain for years and years after the American colonists won the Revolutionary War.

Shortly after the November 20, 1785, death of Sir James Wright, the last British royal governor of the colony of Georgia, a London newspaper commented on his colonial service in his obituary:

“… As he presided in [Georgia] for two and twenty years with distinguished ability and integrity, it seems to be a tribute justly due to his merit as a faithful servant of his king and Country. Before the commotions in America, his example of industry and skill in the cultivation and improvement of Georgia was of eminent advantage…”

We call it the “Revolutionary War.”

The late 18th century obituary writer in the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser called it “the commotions in America.”

I guess there was some small comfort in taking that point of view….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Let’s put one more thing in context….

In America in 1877, 101 years after the Declaration of Independence:

Minor league baseball was organized

The first Easter “egg roll” was held on the White House lawn

President Hayes withdrew federal troops from New Orleans, ending military involvement in Reconstruction in the South

A horse named Baden-Baden won the 3rd Kentucky Derby

10 members of the Molly Maguires were hanged in coal country in Pennsylvania

The San Francisco Public Library opened

The New York Athletic Club staged the first American amateur swim meet

Thomas Edison announced his “talking machine” (phonograph) invention

The first issue of the American Bicycling Journal was published in Boston

Sketch of Crazy Horse
 ….and a U. S. soldier with a bayonet murdered the Oglala Sioux chief, Crazy Horse, outside a cell in an Army prison at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Crazy Horse was one of the Sioux leaders whose warriors wiped out Custer’s Seventh Calvary at the Little Bighorn in 1876.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Chautauqua, revisited….

The 19th century successes of the Chautauqua Institution of New York have always appealed to me. I believe I would have been thrilled to attend the profoundly educational lectures of the itinerant speakers who followed the Chautauqua circuit. For some Americans—and for many middle-class women—the Chautauqua offerings were the closest thing they could get to a higher education.

The Chautauqua Institution was founded in 1874 as a teaching camp for Sunday school teachers. The concept spread through the United States. At its peak in the 1920s the movement offered a broad range of lectures and music on both religious and nondenominational topics, in more than 10,000 communities. By 1940 the network of originally Victorian-style centers of learning and culture had lost their mass appeal, after enriching the lives of more than 45 million men and women. Today, the Chautauqua Institution on the original site is alive and well, and still attracting many thousands of participants annually.

In the late 19th century, the notion of family vacations was becoming popular, partly as a result of increasing affluence and the expansion of rail travel. In a recent issue of The Massachusetts Historical Review, Anita C. Danker wrote:
“…a significant number of largely middle-class Americans chose to make constructive use of their increased leisure time, a by-product of industrialization, in ways consistent with their values and religious beliefs.”

Framingham train station
The Chautauqua centers were attractive destinations. One such place was the New England Chautauqua Sunday School Assembly at Mount Wayte in Framingham, MA. From 1880-1918 it offered a steadily diversifying assortment of lectures and performances, drawing a dedicated audience from the area that would become MetroWest Boston. Those folks wanted to vacation in comfort and style, and they also were committed to a high-quality experience. Rail service to Mount Wayte was busy.

Danker explains:
“One form of vacation consistent with middle-class values and the moral climate of the New England region was the religious retreat…A critical mass of ordinary Americans displayed another powerful need, compatible with the ideal of a Christian vacation: the purposeful employment of leisure time for education and individual self-improvement.”

A reliable corps of attendees was “middle-class women, whose access to higher education was restricted by tradition and circumstance […they] formed the bedrock of the institution.”

Think of TED Talks without the clip-on microphone.

Anita C. Danker, “Redeeming the Time: Learning Vacations at the New England Chautauqua Assembly,” The Massachusetts Historical Review, Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 17, 2015, 67-97.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Friday, September 2, 2016

….another 3rd grade tour

An historical society docent of course doesn’t mind talking about the same stuff with every tour group, and the groups with kids reliably ask the old familiar questions.

The eager 3rd graders making the pilgrimage to the historic district along the Charles River in Natick, MA, prove the point. Sometimes it’s not easy to encourage a sensible understanding of the context of “350 years ago,” but the kids are all too ready to engage in such thinking in their own terms.

In a few years maybe they’ll be ready to expand that thinking just a bit:

Another 3rd grade tour

Well, yes, Anna, this is the same river
   the Nipmuc Indians knew in 1651
it was here, they fished in it
and, yes, they saw ducks like those
   on the other bank over there,
and, no, it’s not too deep,
but, here’s another way to look at it:
the river is new today,
it’s filled with new rain,
it carries a different twig over the dam,
it swirls new bubbles
   from the fish we didn’t quite see,
the river has forgotten the feel of a canoe,
   forgotten how to turn the mill wheel,
it has learned to ignore
   the ever louder sounds that crowd the air,
and it sniffs in surprise
   each time new toes are dipped in its currents,
and those ducks on the other bank
   are new this year, too.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Published July 29, 2016, at Whispers

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.