Marketing executive Jeff Sodikoff began working for an eco-friendly cause called Project Protect. Jeff Sodikoff’s job is to take care of its digital marketing and development, as well as to consult on traditional media component. Jeff helps push various communities all around the globe into action by the use of wonderful, artistic and influential music, photography and film.
Last month Boston 1775 reader Bill Welsch sent me an interesting link to a virtual recreation of the Continental Army artillery park in Pluckemin, New Jersey. The website explains:
The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House announced the release of the 3D Visualization of the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment, the lost 1778-1779 winter cantonment of General Henry Knox’s artillery in Pluckemin, New Jersey. While no buildings survive on the site except General Knox’s Headquarters at the Jacobus Vanderveer House, significant archeological work and other historical records permitted the creation of the first of its kind 3D virtual renderings of the buildings and area that made up the cantonment.
This 3D visualization is an interpretive guide for visitors who now can come to General Knox’s Headquarters at the Jacobus Vanderveer House Museum and understand the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment’s importance to American Revolutionary War history.
Knox had about a thousand troops under his command at Pluckemin. Gen. George Washington’s infantry, about 8,000 strong, camped nearby at Middlebrook.
Until recently, the centerpiece of the three-room space was a glass-encased diorama showing soldiers dotting the hillside on both sides of the Concord River and over the bridge.
Along with the new video, produced by Northern Light Productions of Boston, which brings the Battle of Concord to life by filming historical reenactors on location, the exhibitions area now contains displays of archeological artifacts, documents, and weaponry, including an original cannon.
“We focus on three men who played key roles in the Revolutionary War: Captain David Brown, whose house foundation is visible from the park; Colonel James Barrett; and Major John Buttrick,” [chief of interpretation Leslie] Obleschuk said. “Those are names that may be fairly well known in Concord, but definitely are not known to visitors from across the country and around the world.”
The “Hancock” cannon is still on display, but it’s been taken off its carriage to make room for other artifacts and exhibits.
During his administration, Governor William Shirley served as Captain-General (Commander-in-Chief) of Massachusetts forces during two wars: King George’s War, 1744 to 1748, and the French and Indian War, 1754 to 1763.
The majority of the fighting in both wars took place in Europe, but each also resulted in Massachusetts declaring war on the Indian tribes on its Eastern frontier in Maine. European treaties ended the fighting on the continent, but Massachusetts signed separate treaties with the Indians, either to end the hostilities or to gain Indian permission for an expansion of Massachusetts military presence in the Kennebec River valley.
Using the transcripts of three conferences conducted by Shirley, Jay Adams…will compare and contrast key English and Indian cultural concepts, examine selected exchanges in the transcripts for cultural clues, and discuss why cultural differences made it so hard for Natives and non-Natives to achieve lasting peace.
This lecture begins at 2:00 P.M. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for students and seniors; and nothing for those paying for regular tours. Refreshments will be served afterward.
In 2009 Sid Lapidus’s collection of Revolutionary books and pamphlets came to the Princeton University library, which explains:
The Sid Lapidus ’59 Collection on Liberty and the American Revolution features more than 150 recently gifted important books, pamphlets and prints representing the major themes of Lapidus’ collecting: the intellectual origins of the American Revolution; the Revolution itself; the early years of the republic; the resulting spread of democratic ideas in the Atlantic world; and the effort to abolish the slave trade in both Great Britain and the United States.
Those publications are now available for viewing online.
Also online are portions of the library’s “illustrated color-printed 200 page catalogue” of the collection, and selected scans with curricular materials from the Gilder Lehrman Insitutue for American History.
Princeton has also digitized its prints of the British cartoonist James Gilray (1757-1815). Above from 1783 is “A block for the wigs – or – The new state whirligig,” a satire on the rapid changes in the British government that year.
I recently was reading a friend’s blog and she mentioned they had got a bunch of kids’ books cheap. Many were classics and I say “awesome!” But she also mentioned a book on the US presidents that is “newly updated” for President Kennedy and said that was okay becasue history is history. So here’s a question for everyone. Do history books get outdated? Obviously does the history change? We seldom change birth/death dates (unless you are talking about the change of calendars….)! So do they get outdated? Well, first if you are talking about a public or school library, I’m going to say absolutely. Student expect currency, especially today with the Internet and instant news. If our school or public library has that book on the shelf we are making a statement that currency isn’t important to us and it is quickly noted. In addition, the way certain aspects (racial relations come quickly to mind) are approached change over time and we want that currency there as well.
Now what about us historians? Obviously, when I’m researching a president in depth, I want to read all that has been written, past and present. I want to see how opinions have changed over time. So are these books that have hopefully been revised many more times still useful to us? I know I’ve read many biographies that are older than I am and often learned a lot of good information as I build my own opinions. When I wrote my thesis, I had to start with a historiography – really a list of all the historians/groups who had already discussed my topic in some form and how my topic fit in here. So I can see a lot of use for these older books to historians, if not in a public/school library setting. Yet, do we really need all these? Or are just the larger biographies enough? Is a compilation from the 60s still useful, even to historians? Obviously if I’m studying Kennedy, I want to see the full progression of opinion and often these compilations beat out any larger biographies.
So I’m a bit philosophical today….you’ll have to deal with it!
I’m back in greater Boston after my trip to California, including the Monterey peninsula, and catching up on news, including an impressive tale out of Monterey, Massachusetts.
As reported by the Berkshire Eagle, fifteen-year-old Shelby M. Sebring tackled the mystery of the Rev. Adonijah Bidwell’s surviving papers while working as a paid intern at the Bidwell House Museum. The first impressive thing is Sebring’s accomplishment. The second is that a small history museum could offer a paid internship.
The Rev. Mr. Bidwell (1716-1784) left only a few “sermons in a private code: a mixture of early forms of English, Greek, Latin, symbols and shorthand.” (Descendant Edwin M. Biddle described seeing a diary with accounts of his service as a chaplain and fill-in minister in the 1740s, before he settled in what became Monterey.) Bidwell’s Wikipedia entry, last updated in March, says, “his shorthand code is too complex to gain more than the basic feel of a sermon.”
Using Fred B. Wrixton’s Codes, Ciphers and Other Cryptic and Clandestine Communication: 400 Ways to Send Secret Messages from Hieroglyphs to the Internet, which she had received as a Christmas gift, Sebring set out to fill in the gaps of the Bidwell manuscripts. The Eagle stated:
She also used an online guide to 18th-century shorthand and penmanship, Biblical references and “common sense” to chart the four-page sermon, titled “Proud.” It is labeled with three dates: 1759, 1761 and 1783.
Sebring filled three notebooks, first by writing down all the recognizable English, then mapping the numbers and symbols, and then trying to substitute words for the symbols in a way that made sense.
“There was a lot of guess and check,” Sebring said, noting that she has no background in Greek, Latin, middle English or the Bible.
Eventually, she figured that the numbers in the sermon referred to Bible verses. Ultimately, Sebring revealed an eight-page typed sermon about why people should be wary of exhibiting pride.
I suspect the three dates indicate when Bidwell preached that sermon. A chaplain on the Louisbourg expedition of 1745 and other campaigns, he might have responded to the British military victories of 1759 and the Treaty of Paris in 1783, but I’m not sure what could have prompted the 1761 call. A local history says that the minister’s infirmities meant he needed assistants during the last two years of his life.
This fall Sebring will be a sophomore at a military prep school in Virginia. The Bidwell House Museum is hosting a colonial garden party on 11 August.
[Image of the Bidwell House Museum above courtesy of Passport Magazine, which features lifestyle in the Berkshires and Litchfield County.)
So this is a list of important things done by forgotten presidents. One of them was the Pendleton Act, which reformed civil service, by Chester Arthur:
Garfield’s Vice-President, Chester Arthur, hated his boss. He had no problem with senatorial courtesy and shady appointments; since he never was actually elected to anything, merely appointed, we can see why he was so cool with other people getting work the same way.
Then he became President and, much like a jerk in a Disney film discovers he has a son and quickly learns to love kids and everything about them, he did a complete 180 on the whole friends-appointing-friends thing. Arthur managed to completely overhaul Civil Service, and the way people got government jobs. Before his accidental rise to the top job in the land, most government jobs were given to friends, family, and political allies, regardless of skill, ethics, or lack of either. Crazy Uncle Roy made it a whole day without downing several bottles of ash liquor? Deputy Sheriff!
Arthur passed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act in 1883, establishing a Civil Service Commission, which oversaw appointments for government jobs, and set up a merit system where these jobs were given based on ability, rather than connections. Thanks to Arthur, no longer can you blatantly give out jobs to cronies just because it beats having to pay them back those $20 you owe them. You’ll just have to give the out subtly and discreetly, which is much harder to pull off.
I’ve made the following additions to the indicated Planet Atlantides feed aggregators:
- Lawrence H. Schiffman’s blog has been added to Maia
- Stefan Baums and Andrew Glass’s Gandhari.org Blog has been added to both Maia and Electra
Federalist journalist William Cobbett’s 1798 poem “The Pig and the Lion,” quoted yesterday, didn’t compare William Frederick Pinchbeck’s trained pig to an actual lion. After all, wearing a wooden sword, spitting in people’s faces, and carrying a candle in one’s buttocks isn’t typical leonine behavior.
Rather, Cobbett was comparing the beast to Rep. Matthew Lyon (1749-1822, shown here) of Vermont, a radical Democratic-Republican who became the Federalists’ biggest rhetorical target that year.
Lyon was born in Ireland and came to Connecticut in 1764 as a teen-aged “redemptioner”—meaning he worked as an indentured servant on a farm for a while to pay for his passage. Lyon moved north to the “New Hampshire Grants” in 1774 and was an adjutant and a lieutenant under Col.
In 1776 Gen. Horatio Gates ordered Lyon to be cashiered. Lyon later claimed that this was because he had failed, despite his best efforts, to prevent his men from mutinying, and that he retained respect locally, which appears to be true. Lyon’s political enemies said he had been condemned to wear a wooden sword as a sign of cowardice, but there doesn’t seem to be evidence for that.
In independent Vermont, Lyon founded the town of Fair Haven, built mills, and started a newspaper. He served in the legislature and in 1796 was elected to represent Vermont in the U.S. Congress. At that time American politicians were openly forming two parties, each blaming the other for factionalism, and the bounds of accepted political behavior were being worked out.
Lyon was from the radical wing of the Democratic-Republican Party. On 30 Jan 1798, he claimed on the House floor that Connecticut Federalists weren’t representing the interests or desires of their constituents. One of those Federalists, Rep. Roger Griswold (1762-1812), replied by asking Lyon if he’d fight for them with his wooden sword. Lyon spat in Griswold’s face. Hence Cobbett’s poetic allusions to a wooden sword and spitting in Christians’ faces.
On 15 February, Griswold ran up to Lyon’s desk and started beating him with a cane. Lyon stumbled to a fireplace and grabbed the tongs to defend himself. The two men grappled before other members pulled them apart. Eventually the House decided not to take action against either Lyon or Griswold since both had behaved badly and both claimed to have won. That episode might have something to do with Cobbett’s candle allusion, though that would be more of a stretch.
In his History of the People of the United States (1914), John Bach McMaster wrote: “No man in the whole Republican party, not Benjamin Franklin Bache, nor Albert Gallatin, nor Thomas Jefferson, nor James Thomas Callender, was so hated and despised as Matthew Lyon.” In October 1798 Lyon was convicted and jailed under the Sedition Act for lambasting President John Adams’s policies toward France, but his constituents overwhelmingly reelected him anyway. He got to cast a decisive vote for Thomas Jefferson during the disputed election of 1800.
The next year, Lyon moved to Kentucky, which he and later his son also represented in Congress. J. Fairfax McLaughlin’s 1900 biography of Lyon is available on Google Books, and there have been more recent studies as well.
Yesterday I quoted an advertisement from William Frederick Pinchbeck announcing the appearance of his learned pig in Salem in 1798. A couple of months before they had appeared in Boston.
In the 1790s, William Cobbett was another immigrant from England in America. He was publishing a high Federalist newspaper in Philadelphia called Porcupine’s Gazette. In addition to promoting pro-British policies, the newspaper also commented, usually acerbically, on public entertainments.
This is what Cobbett had to say about the wonderful pig in March 1798:
The LION and the PIG.
To Mr. Pinchbeck, Proprietor of the Learned Pig now in Boston.
“Corpora magnanimo satis est prostrasse LEONI.” Ovid.
Tell us no more of your learned little pig,
In size a mere runt, though in science very big.
Tell us no more of your little pig of knowledge,
Who can cipher and spell like a sophomore at college.
Can the grunting little thing, which you set so very high on,
Be compared to our beast, the GREAT AND MIGHTY LION?
You boast your little pig can spell the hardest word;
But did your little pig ever wear a wooden sword?
Your bonny pig may dance jigs, round-abouts, and reels;
But did he ever prance with rogue’s march at his heels?
I’ll allow your bristled beau can count and tell his letters;
But can he name and shew, his gammons to his betters?
Spades, diamonds, clubs, and hearts, your piggy well can handle;
But did his hinder parts ever hold a lighted candle?
Though your piggy screws his snout in such learned grimaces,
I defy the squeaking lout to spit in Christians’ faces,
And if the thing could be, is such the hoggish fashion,
That one third of the fly would applaud him for the action?
Then tell us no more of your little grunting creature,
But confess that the LION is the GREATEST BEAST in nature.
Cobbett returned to Britain in 1800 and eventually became a radical Member of Parliament, particularly interested in agricultural reform. (The portrait above comes from that period of his career.) Cobbett had another chance to comment on learned pigs in 1817 when yet another Toby made its London debut, but I don’t think he did so.
TOMORROW: But what the heck was that poem about?