Category Archives: History

A mystery: 11: solved

Thanks to Cameron Binkley and his librarian contacts at the California Academy of Sciences, I now have confirmation that Laura White’s memorial to her husband, as specified in her will, was indeed realized at CAS. According to academy’s 1958 annual report, the Lovell White Hall of Man and Nature was part of the Hall of Science (along with the Alexander Morrison Planetarium).

The Whites’ daughter-in-law Ruth gave an oral history interview in 1976. She fills in some of the details of the White-CAS connection.

RB: So then I gave [the Garden of Allah] to the California Academy of Sciences and they had it for about three years, two or three years and they loved it. The reason I selected that to give it to is because the California Academy of Sciences has a memorial for Ralston’s father, Mr. Lovell White. His mother gave it to the California a memorial there, so I thought it would be very appropriate for the —

CE: The Academy of Sciences. Were they delighted with the bequest?

RB: They certainly were delighted but regrettably their income was restricted to be spent in the City and County of San Francisco so they had to give it up painfully.

A mystery inside a mystery: The Garden of Allah, Ralston and Ruth’s Marin County home, is not the Los Angeles resort of the same name that is the setting for Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah.

The Hall of Science was demolished as part of CAS’s rebuild in 2008, so maybe Laura and Lovell would have been better off with a plaque or a statue.

Posted in Golden State, History | Comments Off on A mystery: 11: solved

Manassas

This is what we so often find when searching for history—emptiness, quiet, acres of mowed grass. Battlefields where hundreds of men died on a single day become vast, pristine lawns, as lovely as a landscape by Constable or van Gogh, and historic birthplaces are so lovingly maintained that it’s hard to believe anyone ever lived there. Edith Wharton’s cellar becomes a gift shop. In the cemetery quiet of these places, all the clangor and hell of actual history—the smell of manure where horses were bedded, earth scorched from fire pits or cannonball explosions, the stench from bayonets ripping flesh—has been sanitized away. While preserving history, we remove it. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, and I’d rather see a beautifully maintained battlefield than a Wal-Mart parking lot. But that is what we’re doing while visiting historic space. It’s Versailles without the hideously overdressed and clownish aristocrats, a Potemkin village without the rotting slums behind the facades.

—Rinker Buck, The Oregon Trail (2015), chap. 16, pp. 215-216
Posted in History, Quotable | Comments Off on Manassas

Py-we-ack

yes, that's snowA few days ago, I was flipping back through my posts from my California trip in 2011, including notes I made at Tenaya Lake. In today’s paper, Daniel Duane explains how it got that name, and the story isn’t pretty.

… Tenaya Lake — a place so important to me that I want my ashes scattered there — is named not in honor of Tenaya but in joyous celebration of the destruction of his people.

Posted in Golden State, History | Tagged | Comments Off on Py-we-ack

A mystery: 11

In the course of researching the life of Laura Lyon White (Mrs. Lovell White), I came across an interesting turn of events concerning LLW’s estate.

Laura’s husband, Lovell, a banker, died in 1910. Laura died in 1916. Their one surviving son, Ralston, married Ruth Boericke. The terms of Laura’s will specified that, if Ralston and Ruth had no children, a third of the estate was to be held in trust by the Savings Union Bank and Trust Company, later the American Trust Company, to build a monument to Lovell “typical of banking development in the State of California”. This provision seemed reasonable enough in the prosperous years before 1929. However, Ralston and Ruth’s financial circumstances declined during the Great Depression. Thus, when Ralston died in 1943, at his urging, Ruth contested the provision for the memorial.

Ruth lost her case, as far as I can determine, in a appellate court decision handed down in 1945. But if so, American Trust should have erected something. Yet I can find no evidence that a monument was built. I’ve written to a couple of knowledgeable sources, but so far have found no plaques or statues.

Now, in the old California Academy of Sciences, there once was a Lovell White Hall of Man and Nature. It was so designated by 1953, and still went by the name Lovell White Hall in 1986. The original Earthquake Theater was installed there. But Lovell White Hall would have come down in the 2008 rebuild; there is no such place in today’s California Academy of Sciences.

Did LLW’s money go to the CAS? I’m still following some leads.

Posted in Golden State, History | Comments Off on A mystery: 11

Lessons

… there’s a second way to look at this. The violent opposition to the Vietnam War and the particular violence of May 4 [, 1970] also played a major role in ending the draft and thus insulated students and young people generally from many of the issues that had spurred such activism in the 1960s. Waging war today is a matter of finding the right price point at which sufficient numbers of young men and women will be tempted to risk their lives in service to their country. Arguably, too, it’s a matter of fostering economic conditions—underpaid and underemployed youth, hyper-expensive higher education—that make military service an attractive choice. What’s apparent, though, is that American troops have been in combat somewhere in the world almost continually since November 2001 with barely a whimper from the campuses that led the opposition to the Vietnam War.

—Howard Means, 67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence (2016), p. 220
Posted in History, Public Policy and Politics | Comments Off on Lessons

Living still

A longread for a snow day: Linton Weeks compiles dozens of pointers to techniques and technology that have been preserved, essentially unchanged, from a century ago.

Posted in History | Comments Off on Living still

Some links: 71

Catching up on a lot of bookmarks, so this will be a bit of a link dump.

  • Reduced-meat or meatless diets (Mediterranean, pescetarian, vegetarian) are both better for your health and more sustainable for the environment, as David Tilman and Michael Clark find in a recent paper, and as Elke Stehfest summarizes.
  • I am loving Nature‘s new sharing tools. Susannah Locke explains the journal’s move toward more open access.
  • Emily Dreyfuss signed up to give Wikipedia six bucks a month.

    …Wikipedia is the best approximation of a complete account of knowledge we’ve ever seen.

    It’s also the most robust. The most easily accessed. And the safest. It exists on servers around the world so, unlike the library at Alexandria, it can’t be burned down.

    You should chip in, too. kottke.org

  • The Biodiversity Heritage Library has opened an online exhibit dedicated to women in science who began working before 1922. Some of my recent subjects are there, including Florence Merriam Bailey and Mabel Osgood Wright.
Posted in Agriculture, Food and Cooking, Health and Medicine, History, Natural Sciences, Philanthropy | Tagged | Comments Off on Some links: 71

I am relieved

The states of North and South Carolina are completing the resurvey of their common boundary, using high- and low-tech means, as Stephen R. Kelly notes in a recent op-ed and Kim Severson reported some time back. The colonial-era border was intended to consist of two straight lines, the 35th parallel and a diagonal crossing up from the coast. But 18th- and 19th-century surveyors made a hash of it, resulting in today’s rumpled compromise.

The rework was not intended to smooth out any of the coarse wrinkles, like the wobble around the city of Charlotte, but rather to replace the notched trees, now dead, and wandering survey monuments (including one moved by a golf course in order to impress golfers [?!]) that had originally marked the boundary.

But rest assured! South of the Border is still where it “Otto B.”

Posted in History, Tools and Technology | Comments Off on I am relieved

Yes, A-M is on the list

Cleaning out the e-mail folders and bookmarks: here’s a list of notable graduates and attendees of Northwestern University. That’s all.

Posted in History | Tagged | Comments Off on Yes, A-M is on the list

82 to Branchville

Matt Johnson annotates a video, from film shot in the late 1950s, of a streetcar trip from downtown to Branchville in Prince Georges County.

Posted in History, Transit in D.C. | Comments Off on 82 to Branchville

Mens sana in corpore sano

crispOn my way up and down J Street (so you know I wasn’t in downtown D.C.) to visit Mom I passed this charming brick and terra cotta edifice, which turns out to be the Sacramento Turn Verein, now a German language and culture society.

sound mind sound bodyRiding the wave of German immigration in the mid 19th century, the American Turnerbund movement established athletic clubs in Cincinnati; Philadelphia; Columbus, Ohio; and elsewhere. It had its roots in a nationalistic yet democratic student movement in the early 1800’s, founded by Friedrich Ludwig Jahn.

Jahn’s nationalistic spirit contributed to his role as a promoter of “patriotic gymnastics,” recognized as a strong force in Prussia’s liberation. The gymnastic exercises that he introduced were intended to infuse his students with a patriotic love of freedom that would make them capable of bearing arms for their country, in the name of war of liberation.

American Turners opposed slavery and served in the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War.

Posted in Art and Architecture, History | Comments Off on Mens sana in corpore sano

What’s cooking?

The New York Public Library has launched another crowdsourced digital transcription project of analog source materials, similar to the North American Bird Phenology Program. The NYPL is seeking volunteers to extract information from its store of historical restaurant menus. So far, data on more than 170,000 food items offered for sale has been pulled from more than 2,800 menus. There is lots of work yet to do:

With approximately 40,000 menus dating from the 1840s to the present, The New York Public Library’s restaurant menu collection is one of the largest in the world, used by historians, chefs, novelists and everyday food enthusiasts…. The New York Public Library’s menu collection, housed in the Rare Book Division, originated through the energetic efforts of Miss Frank E. Buttolph (1850-1924), who, in 1900, began to collect menus on the Library’s behalf. Miss Buttolph added more than 25,000 menus to the collection, before leaving the Library in 1924. The collection has continued to grow through additional gifts of graphic, gastronomic, topical, or sociological interest, especially but not exclusively New York-related.

Posted in Food and Cooking, History | Comments Off on What’s cooking?

Diehard

one moreI found yet another fallout shelter sign, this one on the wall of a county courthouse building in Pittsfield, Mass. The New Englanders were prepared.

Posted in History | Comments Off on Diehard

Attention history geeks

Curt Hopkins reports that the Domesday Book is online.

Posted in History | Comments Off on Attention history geeks

A sign of the times

sign onesign twoSeveral years ago I noticed these old fallout shelter markers on the apartment block at 1901-1907 15th Street, N.W. There are at least four affixed to the exterior. These Cold War mementos are badly faded now; it’s hard to know whether a capacity was ever marked on the signs.

I always meant to do some research and write up the story of these yellow and black sentinels. But it turns out that Bill Geerhart did a much better job than I ever could have done. See also this photo gallery of signs still visible in Milwaukee and elsewhere.

Posted in History, Local News and Views | Comments Off on A sign of the times