Category Archives: History

Dress Wars


Good morning Everyone!

Dresses

What to Wear? http://www.clickartonline.com All rights reserved

It is one of the oldest arguments that exist between mother and daughter.  I have had it with Kayla, my Mom had it with one, or all three, of her daughters, and I’m willing to bet that she had the discussion with her mother also.  It always begins with a variation on the question, “You weren’t going to wear that, were you?”

To reach the earliest recorded instance of this argument, we are going to have to resort to the Ugg Clan Chronicles.  As was briefly discussed in A Highly Biased History of Writing, Part I, two of Ugg and Uggette’s 14 children, Uggodu and Uggodo, had an interest in substances from which would eventually spring the art of alchemy.  As part of that interest, and as a result of a string of both fortunate and unfortunate accidents involving a dried out animal skin, a summer long camping trip, mammoth and wolf dung, lots of water as well as oak and the lack of a strong sense of smell, they discovered the art of tanning, which takes animal hides and turns them into a fabric of sorts that doesn’t putrefy when wet (or dry, for that matter).  Once Mrs. Ugg finally discovered what they had been up to, and viewed the final result, she was instantly taken with the new invention (although, due to the malodorous nature of the process, she was forced to require Uggodu and Uggodo to conduct their experiments in a swamp that was normally downwind and about three miles away.)  Because the process took time, Mrs. Ugg reserved the twins’ leather for special occasion garments only, leaving the family with regular animal skins for every day wear.

Dress Argument

Uggette and Uggita Discuss Dress; http://www.clickartonline.com, All Rights Reserved

In November of that year, the Ugg’s received a cordial invitation by smoke signal to attend a campfire festival attended by all of the families in the surrounding area, of which there were two besides the Uggs – the local medicine doctor’s family and the distinguished Oop Clan.  Uggita, the oldest of the 14 children, was very much enamoured of the eldest Oop son, Alley, Jr.  Because of that, she waited until it was time for the family to leave before showing herself ready for the family procession dressed in the leather dress Mrs. Ugg had prepared for special ceremonial occasions as opposed to casual get-togethers, at which point Mrs. Ugg laid down the gauntlet by proclaiming, “You surely are NOT going to the campfire fest wearing that, are you?”  After about 10 minutes of heated argument, finally settled when Ugg, being a wise man who loved domestic harmony, weighed in on Mrs. Ugg’s behalf, a sulky Uggita returned to the cave to reemerge wearing her every day fur skin.  (For the record, Alley, Jr. found Uggita captivating even if she wasn’t in ceremonial dress.)

The second recorded instance of such an argument that I am aware of (I am sure there are many such records, but I don’t know about them) proved that even royalty is not immune from such discussions.

Maria Theresa of Austria, Hapsburg

Empress Maria Theresa, 1759 By Martin van Meytens – Buchscan, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68471

The Sep./Oct. 2016 issue of National Geographic History contained an article about the dress standards of Marie Antoinette and her court.  (Maria Pilar Queralt del Hierro, “Rococo Revolution:  Marie Antoinette’s Courtier Couture”, pp. 10-13).  Included in a sidebar to the article was the following excerpt of a letter from Empress Maria Theresa of Austria to her daughter, Marie Antionette, upon receiving a painting of Marie Antionette after she became Queen of France:

As you know, I have always been of the opinion that fashions should be followed in moderation but should never be taken to extremes.  A beautiful young woman, a graceful queen, has no need for such madness.  On the contrary, simplicity of dress is more befitting and more worthy of a queen.  I love my little queen and watch everything you do and feel I must not hesitate to draw your attention to this little frivolity.

Id., p. 11.

Marie Antoinette with rose

Marie Antoinette of France, 1783 by Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun; Public Domain Due to Age of Painting

So mothers, when you feel the need to challenge your daughter’s choice of attire, hold your heads high!  You stand with the company of your forebears and royalty when you do so.

Have a great day!

Nancy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

about the dress habits of Marie Antionette and her court

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Communications


Good morning Everyone!

I finally have relented and allowed Kayla to join Facebook, with the single stipulation that I MUST approve all friends and follows before she either makes or accepts either.  Her first wave of friends includes most of our family (if there’s anyone out there I missed, it’s purely accidental and I apologize!) including my mother.

Last night, I went in Kayla’s room to check on her, and she was very proud to tell me she had just been chatting online with my mother (her Grandma Dottie.)  Kayla was happy and excited.

The conversation led me to think about communications.

Bare foot Girl

Messages By Foot
http://www.clipartonline.com
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For millenia, the only means of communication that people possessed was mouth-to-mouth.  Coupled with transportation limited to the use of the foot, it took a very long time for messages to get anywhere farther than maybe the next cave over.

Assyrian War Ship

Relief Carving of an Assyrian Battle Ship from around 800 B.C.

A few brave souls realized that you could travel to certain places quicker if you went by water.  There were unique dangers involved and the range of places you could reach by water were limited, but you could travel farther faster then on foot.

One day during those vast uncharted millennia, some enterprising soul evaluated the risks of falling off a horse trying to break it versus the rewards of being able to get a message three villages over in half the time, and the use of the horse for transportation and communication began.

Ox Cart

Ox Cart
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Another incredibly brave family apparently very fond of their possessions and wanting to move elsewhere without having to leave any behind decided to take two or four oxen and attach them to a wagon with their stuff in it.  Big animal + big horns = big problems, but someone persevered long enough to make it work.

Smack dab in the middle of antiquity, the Phoenicians, who were fantastic sailors, decided to invent the alphabet.  Before that, the Babylonians had invented a kind of picture language they inscribed on stones, and the Egyptians invented the hieroglyphics they wrote on papyrus and tomb walls, but while the Babylonians and Egyptians wrote primarily for local purposes, the Phoenicians were salesman, the tradesmen of the Mediterranean, and they need something fast, snappy, easy to adapt and relatively easy to learn.

Roman Road Algeria

Remains of a Roman Road in Algeria

So now, messages could be sent directly to someone else in a fairly far away place preserved in writing rather than dependent on memory and transmitted by ox, horse or foot power.  The Romans, believing that conquering required an excellent road system, aided this process with a series of excellent roads built throughout Europe and the Middle East.  Portions of those roads, some of them built over 2000 years ago, still exist today.

Bear in mind  that it took the world thousands of years to reach this point.  For another couple of millenia, communications’ revolutions were sedate, although people, being people, continued to make better versions of the equipage that animals could pull behind them, the ships that men could sail and the materials used to preserve and transmit messages.

Richard Trevithick

Richard Trevithick’s “Puffing Devil” (Replica)

Then, on February 21, 1804, Richard Trevithick’s “puffing devil” steam locomotive made the first train run on a track from point b to point a.    It took  about a decade for the commercial ramifications of steam engines to come to fruition, but by 1850, there were over 9000 miles of track laid down in the United States, and over 6621 miles laid down in England.

In 1837, inventors in England and in the United States invented separate telegraph systems capable of receiving and transmitting messages across wires in mere minutes.  Communication possibilities exploded.

Bell 1880 telephone

Alexander Bell Talks on a Telephone in 1880

Until now, the driving force behind communication/transportation innovations was to improve commerce, (although train companies were quick to pick up on the possibilities of passenger service).  However, communications began its next evolution in 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone, that is, the first device that was capable of producing a clearly understandable reproduction of a human voice.  By the 1900’s, not only had telephones spread throughout the United States, but their main switchboard facilities had begun to become mechanized.  As part of the effort to improve telephone service, the first digital networks began to be developed starting in the 1940’s, although it wasn’t until 1978 that Motorola developed and sold the world’s first mobile phone.

In the early 1970’s, my family lived overseas in Taiwan for a couple of years.  Even then, we could not talk to people back home by telephone very much or for very long, so we would record stuff on cassette tapes and mail them back home to the states.  I was very moved when, on my grandfather’s death a couple of years ago, I came across a cassette tape he had kept from that time.

1950 Rotary Dial Phone

Rotary Dial Phone from the 1950’s

Even when we came back to the states in the mid-1970’s, people had rotary dialing, not touch tone, and the phone stayed attached to the kitchen wall because cordless phones were either not invented yet or at least not inexpensive enough for normal people.

Now, of course, we take instant communication for granted.

New Model Cell Phone

New Model Cell Phone: HTC One, M9

If I can’t remember something I needed at the grocery store, I stop in the middle of the store and call home to find out what the unknown item was.  In fact, I get miffed if I can’t reach someone right away.

Instead of having to run for the kitchen phone from remote areas of the house when the phone rings, we now get to hunt for the cordless phone all over the house because Kayla and I both seem to be constitutionally incapable of putting the darn thing back in the same place every time.

When one of my bosses went to Germany a few weeks ago, he never missed a beat back here at home.  The speed at which he could obtain his e-mails was only limited by whether they were coming in at a time of the day when he wanted to read them.

Sometimes, (read “almost always” if you are below the age of 25), we don’t even talk on the phone anymore; we text messages back and forth on our cell phones.

Many younger people are beginning to eschew home phone lines altogether, keeping only mobile phones.  I can understand that, but it just seems so unrooted not to have at least one landline connected to your place of residence.

We can chat face to face by Skype to people on the other side of the world and receive news from anywhere in minutes through signals bounced up to and down from satellites orbiting the earth.

And we take it all for granted.

Until the smile on your child’s face after talking to her grandmother lights up your world as well as her’s.

Have a great day!

Nancy

Accents and Impressions


Good morning Everyone!

“I’d never have been misled; I’d have known Jesus was the Messiah.”

I have to chase that thought away every time I watch a dramatization about the New Testament.

To help myself do that, I pictured Jesus speaking to the priests.  Jesus’ accent would have been the accent of a Galilean peasant, fisherman  or farmer.

To get some idea of how that would affect the ruling class, imagine you are in a large, prosperous church where the worship services are choreographed to the second (and I’m not being critical here; we all worship in our own way) and broadcast on television for the unchurched and shut-ins.  The choir has sung, the offering’s been taken, maybe even communion has been offered, and then, just as the preacher stands up to give the benediction and dismiss the congregation,  a man dressed in clean but run down clothes walks down the aisle and whispers to the preacher.  Surprised, the preacher looks out at the congregation, who can see the dilemma the preacher is in – should he let this man speak or does he keep the service on schedule ?  With a sigh, because he truly is a man of God, the preacher decides to take the high road for reasons even he can’t explain, and steps aside to allow the man to speak into a microphone.

Some in the congregation shift restlessly on their cushioned pews, ready to be gone.  Some are curious, trying to figure out what is going on.  Some are disgusted – why on earth didn’t that man wear nicer clothes?  Didn’t he know he was entering a church?  A few are hoping to see the Holy Spirit in action and accept any additional teaching God intends to share through this speaker.    The TV crew is tearing their hair out, the broadcast schedule completely shot.  Except for the rustle of church programs, a few shuffling feet, and some coughs, the sanctuary is silent.

The man begins to speak – and while his voice is melodious, he has the thickest country accent (stronger than Gomer Pyle) anyone there has ever heard, or an accent that comes straight from the toughest slums in the nearest big city.  He isn’t speaking “church lingo” (although he is learned enough that he could) but straightforward stories from every day life to tell his message.

How many of the people in that church would be able to get past the man’s accent to hear what he had to say, let alone understand it?  How many that made it past the accent could make it past the everyday, homespun stories? How many would feel that the man, with his shabby appearance and strong accent, was desecrating their sanctuary and making fun of them?   How many would be open to anything that man could teach them?  Who among them would be brave enough to leave everything they owned and follow Him simply because He asked them to?

Before I judge the people of Jesus’ time, I think I would do well to answer those questions about myself first.

Have a great day!

Nancy

Just Hangin’ – The History of the Humble Coat Hanger


Good morning Everyone!

Have you ever looked at one of the objects that we use without thinking every day, and wondered who came up with the invention?  I do, and yesterday as I was putting the empty coat hangers from my clothes for the day into my closet (yes, Mark, I do remember to do that occasionally!) I suddenly wondered where coat hangers come from.

Several websites (all of whom, I think, were copying Wikipedia’s entry) say that Thomas Jefferson was believed to have invented a forerunner of the wooden clothes hanger.  However, the foremost authority on all things Thomas Jefferson, the Monticello website, disagrees.  According to the Monticello web site, there is no evidence that Thomas Jefferson invented the individual clothes hangers similar to what we use today, but he did invent the most ingenious closet gadget which allowed him to hang and access over 48 sets of coats, waist coats and other clothing easily.  While the device did not survive the ravages of time, the researchers at Monticello, relying on help from The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia have come up with a conjectural drawing of what this revolving closet might have looked like.

Thomas Jefferson, coat hanger, clothes rack

Thomas Jefferson’s Revolving Closet Rack
From http://www.monticello.org

Apparently, one of the first patents for a device similar to today’s coat hangers was issued in 1869 to O.A. North, from New Britain Connecticut.  unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate that patent or the drawing that should be with the patent – records that old at the United States Patent Office are listed by year, classification and patent number only rather than by key word.  Over 13,000 patents were issued in 1869 alone!

Until 1903, coat hangers were made of wood supported by other materials.  The ubiquitous wire coat hanger was apparently first designed by Albert J. Parkhouse in 1903.  Parkhouse was an employee of the Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company in Jackson, Michigan.  His co-employees were unhappy because the company did not have enough coat hooks, so many of their heavy winter coats would fall to the floor during their work shift.  Mr. Parkhouse grabbed a length of wire, twisted it so that one end had a hook on it, there were two ovals below that, and then the other end of the wire was twisted around the stem of the hook.

Coat Hanger, Patent. Invention

The First Wire Coat Hanger

In keeping with the custom of the day, Parkhouse’s employer, Timberlake, patented the idea and reaped the profits.  After a few years, Albert Parkhouse  (perhaps realizing that it is cold in Michigan in winter and not that cold somewhere else) moved his family to Los Angeles where he started his own wire novelty company.  He died at the age of 48 from a ruptured ulcer.

Over the years, many other patents have been issued for designs that improved the original one, to where today the variety of coat hangers is overwhelming.  However, the wire coat hanger is the champion of them all, beloved by dry cleaners everywhere and collecting in our closets in prolific amounts.

Many  Hangers Photogrpah by:  "Grucce" by A7N8X - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grucce.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Grucce.jpg

Many Hangers
Photograph by:
“Grucce” by A7N8X – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Have a great day!

Nancy

 

Hello!


Good morning Everyone!

It’s really hard to believe, but we are already 1/12 of the way through 2015!  I have lots to share with you from the past month, but first I have to figure out how to download and coordinate pictures from three cameras taken in two states and one district.

This year, we did something very different for Christmas – we took a family vacation to Washington D.C.  We were there from December 24 through December 30 and had a blast!  Mark and Kayla had their cameras there, so I need to figure out how to get their pictures downloaded onto my computer.  (I’ll have to dive into the morass of cords in the electronics graveyard drawer.  Wish me luck!)  We went to Mount Vernon, Monticello, some of the Smithsonian, saw a play and had dinner at the Kennedy Center, had my birthday dinner in Georgetown and toured the Capitol building.

And we went by one of the many Tyson’s Corner shopping centers – how do they keep them all straight up there? – where the parking deck blew me away!  Each spot on the deck has a light above it – green if it is open, red if it is taken – so you can see far in advance where a spot is available.

Kayla participated in a bridal fashion show the first weekend of the New Year, so I have those pictures to download from the big Nikon.  She was lovely – and the dresses and other models were stunning, too!

I have finished my first novel and three edits of my first novel which I will write about another time.

We also camped near Mobile two weekends ago and went to the Alabama Battleship Memorial that Saturday.  Unfortunately, we forgot all three cameras that day, but I can still tell you about it!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I have been doing over the past month, give or take a few days, in addition to the regular round of daily living.

Have a great day!

Nancy

Bibliophilic Friday: The Miracle at Belleau Wood


Good Morning Everyone!

World War I, Alan Axelrod, Maines, belleau wood

The Miracle At Belleau Wood by Alan Axelrod

 Currrent and former members of the United States Marine Corps as well as history buffs interested in World War I or military history will enjoy The Miracle at Belleau Wood by Alan Axelrod.  As a rule, I find military histories somewhat hard to follow – I get lost in a maze of place names and general’s names and dates and lose track of where I am in both time and space.  This book, focusing on a single battle, is an exception.

The book provides the reader with a good description of trench warfare in World War I at its full maturation. It delivers a hard-hitting, clear view of the reality of terms tossed around in history books such as “the fog of war.”

More than anything else, this book is a coming of age story about the United States Marine Corps.  The author’s contention is that this battle consolidated the position of the USMC in the public eye as the leading edge fighters of the United States military, the all-volunteer force that is proud to be “the first to fight.”  The USMC, of course, needed no such consolidation in its own mind; it has always known who it is.

World War I, Belleau Wood

A Marine Machine Gun Unit after 28 days at Belleau Wood

Alan Axelrod does a good job of presenting the build-up to the battle and the battle itself in an engaging manner, but without glorifying the concept of war itself.  The book is replete with anecdotes from people who were in the battle which highlight not only the bravery but the humor men seem to find in even the grimmest situations.  One of my favorite anecdotes is the Marine officer who received a message from a French officer that the Marines were supposed to retreat as the French were retreating.  The Marine looked up and told the messenger, “Retreat?  Hell, we just got here.”  My second favorite anecdote is the exchange between one officer and another when the first officer, Major Thomas Holcomb, came forward to meet with Major Frederic Wise, whose battalion he was to relieve shortly.  As he arrived, the Germans cut loose with a fierce artillery barrage.  Holcomb looked at Wise and asked, “Is this celebration due to my arrival?”  Dead pan, Wise replied, “No…This is only routine.”

Axelrod does not shield the reader from the horrors of war in the trenches, either.  The casualties in this battle were horrific – over 120 officers and over 5700 men.  As Americans rediscovered in another war a generation  later on the shores of Normandy, in spite of their heavy losses, the Marines at Belleau Wood ultimately succeeded because American commanders and officers explained to their troops their objectives and how they intended to achieve them.  American soldiers then used their ingenuity, experience and gut determination to achieve that objective – if they were cut off from their squad or platoon, if the higher ranking officers were killed, the individual soldiers still strived to forge forward to win the battle.

During the battle, the Marines were commanded by an army general, General Harbord.  By the end of the battle, the Marines voted to make General Harbord an honorary marine, an honor he ranked personally as the highest honor he ever achieved.

One of the reasons the battle of Belleau Wood was important was that it was the first time that United States fighting forces would fight the Germans essentially on their own. FN.  The Germans hoped that they would be able to squelch and demoralize the American marines completely, gaining a psychological edge on the battlefield.  The Germans also were racing against time – the sheer number of men the Americans would be able to field on behalf of the Allies would ultimately overpower Germany, which was reaching exhaustion.  For the Germans to win the war, this last offensive push had to succeed – and at Belleau Wood, only the Marines stood between them and a break in the lines to reach Paris.

The extent to which the German troops were able to “squelch” and “demoralize” the Marines can be judged by the nickname the German soldiers gave to them – the Teufelhunden, which means “Devil Dogs.”

I was very interested to learn that among the forces on the field during the battle, only the Marines emphasized the importance of marksmanship in regular battle as well as for snipers.  Common military practice at the time was to teach troops to simply point in the general direction of the enemy and shoot, the theory being that you would have so many bullets flying at the enemy at one time that he was bound to suffer casualties.  Not so the Marines – each Marine aimed at a target when he shot, and what he aimed at, he hit.

It does take the author several chapters to ease the reader into the battle – about four – and I would have liked to know a little bit more about what happened to various people after the battle throughout the rest of the war.  The first four chapters, however, provide the reader with important background information without which the reader would be unable to appreciate exactly what the Marines did at Belleau Wood and there are references throughout the book to what happens to certain of the Marines as time goes on.

Marines, Belleau Woods

Members of the 6th – Marines gather on the edge of Belleau Wood resting after the battle

The author’s assessment of the final result of the battle is interesting, too.  Many historians credit the Marines in this battle with preventing the fall of Paris in Ludendorff’s last offensive to break through the trench lines.  However, most historians also believe that once the Marines had done this, fairly early on in the battle, the rest of the fight to take the wood, which cost so many Marine lives, accomplished little. The author agrees, and yet, as he explains, after listing the terrible tally of the battle – 126 Marine officers and 5057 Marine men killed along with many more Germans:

For the U.S. Marine Corps, this investment in blood has never been subject to question or controversy.  It was a mission.  That in itself is all that really matters.  Beyond this however, it was a test of American military capacity and American character, and the marines felt fortunate that were given the responsibility for taking and passing this test. … The reputation of the marines as America’s fiercest warriors, the nation’s elite fighting force, was forged in this battle.  After Belleau Wood, the marines claimed the right to be regarded as the American vanguard, the first to fight and if necessary, the last to leave.

This book is definitely worth your time.

Have a great day!

Nancy

FN.  An army unit temporarily “on loan” to the French had acquitted itself well a few weeks earlier as well in stopping a German advance.  As a rule, General Pershing, the overall commander of the American Expeditionary Force, wanted the U.S. troops to fight as their own units rather than interspersed between French and English troops; however, one of the Ludendorff offensives compelled him to loan the artillery unit to the French.