Tales, Gossip and Scandals of 1850

Our town kicks off the fall holidays with a celebration called Jingle Bell Weekend. Craft shows, mini concerts, social gatherings and a parade in downtown are hallmarks of this outpouring of community spirit and good cheer. In recent years there has been a walking Lantern Tour of the historic neighborhoods of Waverly, Ohio. This year’s performance was last night, November 17th, 2007. The first stop of the tour provides hot drinks and cookies to those participating. Stationed along the route are actors that entertain the crowd and provide historic information about the town. Taken together, the performances at each stop make up a complete play. The performance was titled “Tales, Gossip and Scandals of 1850”.

This was my first year participating as an actor. I was one of the lucky actors that made up the “town council meeting” segment, and spent the evening indoors with the refreshments. Most of the troupe spent the evening outdoors while the temperature dropped from a comfortable 50 degrees to just above freezing. Still, most people said it was the best weather a Lantern Tour has had for the past couple of years. This year had the largest audience the tour has ever had, and the organizers broke them up into manageable sized groups for the space available at each stop. We performed our parts of the play four times during the evening.

Acting is fun. I think I do a good job as a community theater player. After most performances I have audience members approach me and tell me what a fine job I did. It is a real ego boost (like I need one!) The best part for me is when I get direct reaction from the audience during the performance. This year I got a good laugh as the town council chairman when I merely rolled my eyes and slumped my shoulders as another character repeatedly interrupted the proceedings.

After our last performance we, the town council actors, shadowed the last group of tour participants around to each stop. The crowd was laughing at each performance, and so was I. Most of these actors will also be in a mystery dinner theater play I am in. That play will be performed in early December 2007. They are a fun bunch of people to work with.

This performance is part of my 101 Things to do in 1001 Days list.  Scratch Thing #22. Give 101% into performance for Jingle Bell skit.


Presidental Dollar Coins have the Edge

One of the many viral emails consuming bandwidth these days is an erroneous little diatribe that claims that the new presidential dollar coins have omitted our nation’s motto, the words “In God We Trust”. The email includes the normal pablum of fake outrage, inaccurate facts, and a call to boycott.

It is likely that you have seen it, but for those who have not check out the Snopes.com debunking of this flawed meme.

The fact is that not only is “In God We Trust” still on the coin, its placement is likely to draw more notice to it than if it had been merely placed on the face of the coin. Where is the motto? It is on the third side of the coin; the edge. To make room for better portraits of the presidents on the face of the coins (and the reverse side’s image of the Statue of Liberty) Congress ordered the US Mint to move the motto “In God We Trust”, the phrase “E Plurbus Unum” and the year of issue to incuse lettering on the edge of the coin where it becomes very noticeable. The last coin to have incuse lettering on the edge (E Plurbus Unum) was the $20 gold coin minted from 1907 until 1933. Before that, it was used on many denominations including the earliest one cent coins which had the words “one hundred for a dollar” stamped into the edge. The placing of words, ivy vines and the now common reeding on the edges of coins was a way to limit scalawags from shaving off bits of gold and silver from the edges of the coins back when coins were made from more than copper and nickel alloys. The basic truth of the matter is that the edges of the coins are very noticeable. The smooth edge of a Sacagawea dollar helps us tactilely differentiate them from quarter dollar coins.

So, with the truth being so obvious, how on earth did this viral email get started?

I have a conspiracy theory.

There is a strong push to keep the paper dollar in circulation even though a dollar coin makes more sense in both consumer spending trends and in tax dollar savings.

Inflation has risen to the point where a dollar pays for less than a quarter dollar did only twenty years ago (82% inflation). Think back to your life twenty years ago. Would you have wanted a paper quarter dollar bill? Because the dollar bill is being used as as frequently as a quarter dollar was 20 years ago, they wear out in less than a year. Because they wear out so fast, dollar bills are being printed at a rate faster than all other denominations combined. Coins take decades to wear out under normal usage. It costs the taxpayer more to be provided with fresh replacement paper money dollars than it would to be provided with sturdy durable metal coin dollars. So why are we still using a paper dollar? In a word: money.

My theory is that those who have a interest in keeping the paper dollar in circulation were afraid that the collectible commemorative presidential dollar coins would become as popular as the commemorative states quarter dollars have been. The paper that our nation’s paper money is printed on is big business for some very rich and politically powerful families.

This meme attacking the presidential dollar coins is not about religion at all. If it were the meme would call for us to contact our senators and representatives to change the law authorizing the presidential dollar coins and have the nation’s motto included on the face of the coin. But, no, this viral meme calls for a boycott. What this attack on the presidential dollar coin is about is simply politics and big business that want to keep a dollar coin out of circulation, and to keep raking in profits from all those dollar bills that wear out in mere months.

Well. It’s a theory.

Review: Timeline V24, #4 October December 2007

Timeline: A Publication of the Ohio Historical Society

“I Wish Mark Was Here”: The Political Partnership of Mark Hanna and William McKinley– by Roy Morris Jr.

I must admit that I really didn’t know much about President McKinley; and nothing at all about his political supporters. I did know that in the early years of our nation that overt politicking by a presidential candidate was considered unseemly. And with the current presidential election process starting nearly two years before the actual election, I think our ancestors were on to something. We are all going to be sick and tired of the election by the time it rolls around in November 2008.

But things are not really all that different. Savvy campaign managers will use whatever tool they can to improve the chances of their candidate. Mark Hanna was just that person for McKinley. He was the spin doctor that turned McKinley’s financial troubles from a liability into an asset. He orchestrated a “front porch” campaign in the 1896 Presidential election. This kept McKinley from needing to out perform William Jennings Bryan on the stump circuit or even from facing him in a debate. The younger, more energetic and polished public orator Bryan surely would have bested McKinley in a more traditional campaign. Nixon could have learned from McKinley, and not have debated Kennedy on television.

Hanna and McKinley were in lock step with each other politically. Hanna knew how to get things accomplished from behind the scenes, while McKinley put forth the face of protection and concern. In some ways I feel that McKinley and Hanna were just a kinder, gentler prototype to Bush and Rove.

When the “Red Devil” Went Out in Style– by William D. Middleton

Dreams of high speed rail transportation is really nothing new. In Ohio during the Great Depression era, there was such a system in western Ohio. Electric trains capable of attaining speeds approaching 100 miles per hour traversed between Cincinnati and Dayton with legs that continued on to Cleveland and Columbus. Cheap, non-polluting, fast, clean and friendly– it would seem that this rail system had all it needed to survive. That it lasted as long as it did during troubled times in the United States is a testament to how well conceived and how well run it really was.

Front Porch Campaign– by Roger Pickenpaugh

The second of two articles to cover William McKinley, this offering focuses on the campaign of 1896. “Front Porch” campaigns were an effective tool used by candidates even up into the 1900’s. It would be difficult to mount such a campaign today mainly because of the change in attitude of the media. I can envision a modern news outlet focusing in on the safety issue caused by the instability of the speaking platform erected in McKinley’s front yard and totally ignoring the main issues of tariffs, free silver and the gold monetary standard. It is fascinating to learn how much different things were before radio, television and wireless communication meddled with the perceptions of the American populace and made it okay for a presidential candidates to be “unseemly” as long as it garners more votes.

The Kindness of Strangers: an Ohioan Escapes the Nazis– by Jerri Donohue

I have been fascinated with WWII and especially the escape attempts by prisoners ever since my parents let me stay up late one night to watch “The Great Escape” on television. The movie barely brushes on the assistance that those escapees had and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to learn more about the brave common citizens that risked everything to help allied soldiers return to Great Britain. Jerri Donohue gives us a great look at one soldier, not a prisoner of war, but a downed aviator- an “evader”- that avoided capture in German held territory and was safely returned all due to the kindness of strangers. Soldiers are easily called heroes, and rightly so in my opinion, but the common family where the husband and wife knowingly risk everything, including their lives, are also heroes. This is a fascinating article.

Abraham Lincoln Was Right

{the political lamp is lit}

I searched around for a complete version of this quote.

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” –Abraham Lincoln, speech in reply to Senator Stephen Douglas, Peoria, Illinois, October 16, 1854

It is sad how far the NeoCons have drifted from the core sentiments of the GOP. I am writing this post because a neocon blog partially quoted my post about Jose Padilla. They quoted a part that would serve their ends. Out of context the part they chose could be misconstrued as being unpatriotic. I am as patriotic as they come. On Sept. 17, 2001, I climbed aboard one of the first airplanes to fly out of Port Columbus, Ohio after 9/11. I was wearing my US Flag smiley face T-shirt. I was making the statement that the terrorists had lost, I was not afraid to fly. Five other people made the same statement. Six people on a flight that would normally have more than seventy people. Two of the others were also wearing red, white and blue. I suppose I should have realized at that point that our government was allowing the terrorist to win by continuing to hype the fear. It didn’t take me long to realized that our president was doing things that were very wrong.

The neocons have turned the words “liberal” and “progressive” into bad words. On the other hand they refer to themselves as the “RIGHT” which they imply means “correct” instead of its standard historical political definition of “conservative”. I can only assume that they did this because with the out of control spending and moral untruthfulness we are seeing within the neocon tent, that they are so far away from “conservative” that they are truly being the dictionary definition of “liberal” with the taxpayer’s money and trust.

That neocon blog that quoted me also quoted and enhanced the Abraham Lincoln quote above. The neocon version on that blog is: “Stand with anybody that stands RIGHT. Stand with him while he is right and PART with him when he goes wrong.” I find it significant that they chose to not include the bit about also being “true”, which is in every non-political version of the quote I could find on-line. If Lincoln, heck, or Barry Goldwater were alive today they would be screaming about what the current administration is doing to our nation.

And I am afraid that even in this lame duck period we haven’t seen the end of it. This posturing and strutting about Iran has me more than just a little nervous. I am afraid that this nut will start a third war before he leaves.

And he can do it. Congress has given him the power to do it. Lincoln warned us, but we failed to heed his words.

“Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose – and you allow him to make war at pleasure.” -Abraham Lincoln

There is something that bothers me even more: that so many people, so many rational conservatives, are still so terrified that they are not willing to pull their heads out of the sand long enough to see what is happening to our civil liberties nor long enough to see that president Bush is “wrong”, and declare “Enough of this neocon liberalism! Give me Freedom, not Fear!!”

Review: The Shawnee Prophet by R. David Edmunds

The Shawnee Prophet by R. David Edmunds

I live on a plateau above the Scioto River floodplain between Chillicothe and Waverly, Ohio. The first year I tilled my garden I found a native american quartz spear point. Over the years I have found several stone arrowheads. The Shawnee tribe local to this area, the Chalahgawtha, traveled up and down the Scioto River and set up their town where game and agriculture flourished. I can imagine the tribe feasting on the ancestors of the crayfish that in live in my back yard. Perhaps Tecumseh camped in the field I now own.

I have been fascinated with native american culture since I was a small boy. When we moved to Pike County, Ohio, I became enamored with the Shawnee people and with Tecumseh in particular. In all my readings I was aware that Tecumseh had a brother, Tenskwatawa (The Open Door, also known as The Prophet), and that this brother was instrumental in spoiling Tecumseh’s plan to unite the western Indian nations. The Prophet is usually treated as a secondary player by most modern histories. Nearly everything I have read concerning the Shawnee people during this time period ended with Tecumseh’s death at the Battle of the Thames during the War of 1812.

There are books about other Shawnee and neighboring tribal leaders, figures such as Blue Jacket and Little Turtle, but very little about the Chalahgawtha Shawnees that is not dominated by Tecumseh. I don’t remember when I got this book, but the idea that an author would focus on anyone other than Tecumseh during this time period intrigued me.

It didn’t disappoint.

I really like learning new things. Even though I have been a lifelong lay-historian, Edmunds provided me with tidbits of information that I did not know. I think that because most of the written history of this time period is dominated by larger than life people, Tecumseh, Anthony Wayne, William Henry Harrison and Simon Kenton, that larger than life stories abound. It is very appearent to me that because Edmunds performed original research to find as much as possible about The Prophet, that what unfolds in this book is an account of this volatile time period with a telling that is closer to real life, not legend. His religious teachings were embraced not only by the Shawnee, but by the Kickapoo, Sacs, Fox, Winnebago, Ottawa and many other neighboring tribes. It is this religious movement that allowed Tecumseh’s political unification plans to gain a toe hold in the fiercely independent native american culture.

Tecumseh’s death is covered in a single paragraph. And instead of the Battle of the Thames being the denouement of the book, as is the case in most other accounts of the Shawnee, it was just an event that lead to the real ending of the Shawnee people as a power and protector of the midwest; their removal to the Shawnee reservation in Kansas.

I recommend this book for anyone with even a passing interest in Tecumseh or the Shawnee people. It is a must read for anyone wanting to discover more about Tenskwatawa. There is very little about his early life when he was known as Lalawethika (Noisemaker) or of his later life when, in isolation, all he had the power to do was to make noise. The tale in between is of a man that was instrumental in Shawnee leadership during their most desperate hour. He is a man of many faults and failings and yet still possessed a strength that was able to unite his people. Edmunds does justice to him and pulls him out from under the shadow of his famous older brother.

Review: Timeline V24, #3 – July September (2007)

Timeline is a quarterly publication of the Ohio Historical Society. My annual membership pays for this fine journal. One reason I am reviewing it is because it is for sale to the general public, although at $12 an issue the price is steep. It is a very high quality magazine and perhaps people think it is worth the cover price. That is the other reason I will be reviewing it. I think it is worth it, and am glad not to be directly paying for my subscription. I am facinated by history and I look forward to its arrival and thought I’d share my impressions of each issue. This issue includes articles on four very diverse topics.

Milton Caniff by Lucy Shelton Caswell

What is history without people? Places, events and dates give us the framework of the where, what and when something occurred, but it is the who that normally provides the most interesting insight into history. I love biographies.

As a child, I read as much as possible. I devoured the Columbus Dispatch Sunday Comics. I read every cartoon, including the serials. It was tough to keep up with the exploits of The Phantom, Steve Canyon and Prince Valiant reading only the one strip each week, but I tried. I suspect that my imagination and ability to reason things out follow from those early mental exercises each Sunday. I was aware of Milton Caniff, the creator of Steve Canyon. I did not know anything about him and this excellent article filled that gap in my knowledge. I am left with a curiosity about not only finding out more about Caniff, but also about the early years of syndicate owned comic strips. Caniff created, wrote and drew the hugely popular Terry and the Pirates that was published prior to, and during, World War II, yet Caniff had no ownership rights to his creation.

What is it About Bats – by Peter Hildebrandt

I like that the Ohio Historical Society includes Natural History as part of its mission. Geology, biology and botany are fascinating. This particular article covers bats that are indigenous to the state of Ohio. It never occurred to me why it was that bats invade barns, attics and other mostly vacant man made dwellings. It is because they needed to find substitutes for hollow trees that use to permeate the old growth forests of the distant past. I had a fun evening a few years back simply watching hundreds of bats flying out of and back into unused chimneys in downtown Waverly, Ohio. How much closer to a hollow tree could these bats get? I learned quite a bit, and the pictures are fantastic.

Autumnal Fever and Daniel Drake – by Stephen Gehlbach

This offering had everything a person like me could want; the what–autumnal sicknesses; and the who–an early scientist following the data instead of folklore.

Back in 2003 I acted in a trilogy of community theater plays that celebrated the Ohio Bicentennial here in Pike County, Ohio. In the first two plays I portrayed the same character that in the second act of the second play succumbs to the “black ague”, an unnamed autumnal fever. I did a little research on my own, but was still curious. This article actually mentions the epidemic the play’s author used in the play. It is mind numbing but 80% of the population of Pike County, Ohio died to epidemic fevers in the early 1820’s. It is a wonder anyone stayed in the area.

Enter the scientist, Daniel Drake. Drake did not trust the lore of the day that spoke of unhealthy air and bad weather causing the outbreaks. He set about collecting meteorological data, soil and water samples, and anything else that could be used to explain under what conditions the fevers occurred. This fascinating physician nearly discovered the mosquito borne malaria that was rampant in the Ohio Valley during that time. He even went so far as to predict viruses, although he called them animalcules. Because this dealt with things I was already interested in, I was totally captivated. Scientific method winning out over superstition. Great stuff!

George Crook: Soldier and Humanitarian – by John K. Ohl

I think the editor of Timelines has been looking at my reading shelf. This forth article also dealt with at topic that I am fascinated by. Native Americans, the Indian Wars and the people that stood up, even if belatedly, to give voice to the plight of these peoples.

I relished this opportunity to learn more about the famed General Crook, Indian Fighter. I was surprised to learn that he was from Ohio. I guess this is because the first I learned about him was from vacationing in Arizona near the Chiricahua Mountains. I was even more surprised to learn about his efforts to succor the native populations that he helped herd onto reservations. He came to respect Native Americans as equals. I am planning on finding additional reading about Crook and his time in Arizona.

Over all this was a fantastic issue of Timelines for me. Normally there are articles that while interesting, just don’t capture my interest and enthusiasm. Not so this time. It was an utterly enjoyable read from cover to cover. It is a shame I have to wait three months for the next one to arrive.

Overview: Ohio Historical Society

I am a unashamed history nut. Nearly all of my nonfiction books cover history or historical topics. For some reason it took a father’s day gift to get me to join the most prominent history based organization in the state of Ohio. I am very glad for the gift.

Yet, I still haven’t taken full advantage of all the Ohio Historical Society has to offer. They have holdings and museums all over the state. From Adena Manson and Gardens to Zoar Village, from Serpent Mound to the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, the society covers all areas of the state, and all eras of history. I have only visited the Adena Manson and Gardens, and that was to participate in a fund raising activity, not to simply enjoy history.

I guess I just need to make a list of places I want to see, plans some trips, and get busy enjoying history.

I hope to have more to write about in the future as I actually get out and visit all of the historical places around Ohio. Until then I will just keep reading their fantastic publications. Timeline is a wonderful journal. I have to admit that I look forward to its arrival as much as my science fiction magazines. Echoes is the newsletter and also contains fun information, but also updates on all of what is happening across the state. The OHS website is always up to date, and is very easy to navigate.