Showing posts with label united states. Show all posts
Showing posts with label united states. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Bass Reeves, the Fiercest Lawman in the Old West

Widely considered to be the inspiration behind the fictional Lone Ranger, Bass¹ Reeves lived a larger than life existence of adventure hunting criminals in the old west. One of the first African-American Federal Marshals, Reeves caught more than 3,000 outlaws, all without sustaining a single gunshot wound, or being able to read.

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Bass Reeves, sporting a truly epic
moustache.
Born in 1838, Bass spent the first few years of his life enslaved in the newly minted state of Arkansas. He and his family were owned by William Reeves, a wealthy farmer and popular southern politician. William Reeves eventually decided to relocate to Texas, and Bass was assigned to be a valet to Reeves' son, George. When George went off to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War in 1861, Bass went with him.

Bass' time serving with the Confederacy was brief. Though dates are unsure, it is generally agreed upon that in some point between 1861 and 1862 Bass escaped after an altercation with his master during a card game. From Texas, Bass fled to Indian Country, the land that would later become the state of Oklahoma.

While in Indian Country, Bass became friendly with members of the Seminole, Cherokee, and Creek Nations, learning their languages, tracking techniques, and fighting for the Union with them.

Bass was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and when the war ended in 1865 he married, bought a farm in Arkansas, and proceeded to have ten children. Bass was a successful farmer, but he was more well known for his skill with languages and knowledge of Indian Country. In 1875 he was made a deputy US Marshal, and charged with the responsibility of cleaning up Indian Country.

Indian Country at the time was a pretty lawless place. Because it wasn't under the authority of any state government criminals could only be prosecuted by the federal government, and could only be chased down by federal authorities. While tribes were allowed to organize their own law enforcement, they only had jurisdiction over Native Americans, leaving white and black criminals the responsibility of the harrassed and understaffed US Marshals.

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Isaac Parker, the 'Hanging Judge'. Parker earned
this epitaph from the many criminals he sentenced
to the noose during his vigorous efforts to rid the
West of crime.
In May of 1875 Isaac Parker, later known as 'the hanging judge' was put in charge of a portion of the west that included Indian Country. He authorized the hire of some 200 deputies, and Bass Reeves was one of the top picks. From there he set out on a more than 30 year career that would see him become one of most famous lawmen of the Old West.

Life as a U.S. Marshal was busy. Bass would spend weeks away from his family, hunting down outlaws. When he finally caught his man, Bass would return to the courthouse at Fort Smith. He would spend a few days with his family back in Arkansas, then head back out.

Bass was at something of a disadvantage when it came to crook catching, because, as a former slave, he had never been taught to read. Because of this, he had to have warrants read to him. Bass would memorize the contents of several warrants before heading out on a manhunt. These manhunts could last months, giving Bass ample time to forget the contents of the warrants, but Bass was a sharp cookie. Despite the fact that he had to rely on his memory, he never brought back the wrong man.

There were times when Bass even used his illiteracy to his benefit. It was well known that Bass couldn't read, and there were several instances of Bass being captured by outlaws, and asking them to read him a letter from his wife before they shot him. Bass would take advantage of their moment of distraction to draw a gun on them, and take them in.

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Bass Reeves
Bass was bold and imposing, standing at 6'2, but he was also a master of disguise. A famous story recounts how he disguised himself as a bum, dressing himself in rags and a hat riddled with bullet holes. He came up to a homestead belonging to the mother of two outlaws Bass was hunting. He spun a sad story about how he was being hunted by the marshals, and how they had shot the hat right off his head. Sympathetic, the woman let Bass into her home, and suggested that he should team up with her two sons. Bass agreed, and when the two outlaws came home Bass agreed to join them. However, when everyone was asleep Bass handcuffed the two brothers together. When they woke up the next morning they were angry, but Bass still managed to haul them back to Fort Smith, despite being pursued by the men's irate mother.

When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, Bass found himself abruptly out of a job. Marshal duties were taken over by the new state government, who did not allow African Americans to serve. Bass joined the Muskogee Police Department, and spent two years as a beat cop. Legend says that there was never a single crime on his beat.

In 1909 Bass was diagnosed with Bright's Disease. He died a few months later in  January of 1910. 

Bass was one of the most effective lawmen of the time. He caught over 3,000 criminals, and it is notable that of that number, he only ever had to shoot fourteen of them. He is widely considered to be the inspiration behind the popular cartoon character, the Lone Ranger, though this has never been confirmed. Either way, Bass remains an Old West legend.


¹Pronounced with a short 'a', like the fish, not with a long 'a' like the musical instrument.

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Monday, February 4, 2019

The Statue of Liberty Was a Completely Useless Lighthouse for Sixteen Years

A gift from the French government to assure the United States that they were, in fact, still friends, the Statue of Liberty was never meant to be a lighthouse. Still, for the first sixteen years of its American life, Liberty Enlightening the People served as a lighthouse, 'helping' to guide sailors into the New York Harbor. Or something like that.

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Statue of Liberty Lighthouse, 1890.
As mentioned, the statue wasn't supposed to be a lighthouse, but when the idea was posed to Frederic Bartholdi, the statue's designer, he seized on the idea with enthusiasm. A statue that not only held a torch, but held a torch that lit up and literally guided people to safety was pretty cool, and everyone else agreed, especially when it was proposed that the statue would be illuminated by the newfangled electric light.

The Statue of Liberty was the first lighthouse in the United States to be lit with electricity, with all other lighthouses running off old fashioned kerosene lamps. However, Bartholdi's original design didn't include any convenient places to shine lights out of, save for the lady's tiara. Bartholdi and his engineers (noted among them, Gustav Eiffel) set to finding a creative solution, or two.

Bartholdi's first idea was to install flood lights along the ledges of the torch. This would cast a bright light out to sea, illuminating the way for passing vessels. This idea, however, worked too well, and was rejected because it was feared that the light would blind sailors, and cause shipwrecks. Instead, windows were cut into the torch, and electric lights were placed inside, lighting the torch from within.

The lights were initially powered by a steam electricity plant and dynamo generator at no cost to the United States government. While the United States were thrilled to have a cool statue, they weren't too keen on paying for the lighting costs. Part of the illumination agreement was that the power plant and first week of illumination would be donated by the American Electric Light Manufacturing Company. The statue was lit up on November 1, 1886. A week later, it was dark again.

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Statue of Liberty today
Soon after going dark, President Grover Cleveland made the Statue of Liberty the problem of the Lighthouse Board. The Lighthouse Board weren't too happy with this assignment, given that the statue was expensive, difficult to light, and did no actual good as a navigational aid. There was no amplifying lense in the torch, which meant that the light was very weak. Proponents of the lighthouse claimed that the light could be seen for 24 miles out to sea. In reality, the light didn't make the 8 miles to Manhattan.¹

The first and only lighthouse keeper, Albert E. Littlefield, was hired in December of 1886. Littlefield was chosen because of his expertise with electricity, and under his care the lights kept shining for sixteen years. Though he made improvements that made the lighthouse less expensive, the Statue of Liberty was still a huge drain on Lighthouse Board resources, and it ceased to serve as a lighthouse on March 1, 1902.



¹For those who aren't lighthouse aficionados, a good lighthouse can be seen 30-40 miles away

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Sources
Statue of Liberty Lighthouse
Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty, NY

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Damn, Girl-Ella Baker-The Woman Behind the Civil Rights Movement

Activist Ella Josephine Baker was born on December 13, 1903. Dying exactly 83 years later, Ella would live through both world wars, the great depression,and the civil rights movement. She is best known for her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. While she isn't as well known as visible leaders like Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker was one of the major driving forces behind the movement. While everyone else gave speeches, Ella traveled around the country, registering voters and organizing protests.

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Ella Baker
Growing up in Norfolk Virginia, Ella was heavily influenced by her grandmother, a former slave. Her grandmother would tell Ella stories about the injustices of slavery, the most famous being the time she was severely whipped for refusing to marry a man her master had picked out for her. In her early years Ella developed both a strong sense of self, as well as an outrage about the discrimination she and other African Americans faced.

In 1930, Ella started off her career in activism by joining the Young Negros¹ Cooperative League (YNCL). The purpose of YNCL was the provide shared resources for young African Americans. The organization had a strong emphasis on gender equality, as well as anti-capitalism. She soon became national director of the organization.

Around 1940 Ella began a leadership career with the NAACP. She began as a field secretary, and later served as a Director of Branches from 1943-1946. In this role, Ella worked heavily on voter registration in African American communities. She traveled across the country registering voters, and coordinating directly with local chapters. She trained activists (including Rosa Parks), and recruited members. She is widely acknowledged to have done a great deal of the hard, nitty-gritty work for the NAACP.

Ella had to step down from her leadership role in 1946 in order to move to New York and raise her orphaned niece. She joined the NAACP chapter in New York, and remained heavily involved with working to end social injustices. In 1952 she was elected president of her chapter, the first woman to ever be elected president of an NAACP chapter. As president, she worked to end school segregation, and build unity between chapters of the NAACP.

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Ella speaking at a protest
With the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1958, Ella moved to Atlanta to serve as it's director. The SCLC is heavily associated with Dr. Martin Luther King, who served as the public face of the organization. Behind the scenes, Ella was calling the shots. She chose the issues the SCLC would focus on, planned protests, and trained other activists.

Unfortunately, within the SCLC Ella encountered a great deal of misogyny. Relations between her and Dr. King were tense, as he, along with the other male members of SCLC, weren't too keen on taking direction from a woman. Ella resigned in 1960 to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. (SNCC)
SNCC was inspired by the sit-ins at the Greensboro Lunch Counters, and focused on organizing passive resistance protests. She also lead drives to register voters, and helped form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party--an alternative to the Democrat Party--which supported civil rights for African Americans.

Ella continued her work until her death in 1986. Though she is not well known today, her influence lives on. She played a major part in enfranchising African American voters, and planning the protests that helped end the Jim Crow Laws. Today the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights  carries on her work of ensuring equal rights for people of all races.



¹This word, while not acceptable in a modern context, was more or less acceptable in Ella's time period.

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Sources
Who Was Ella Baker
Ella Baker--Civil Rights Activist
Ella Baker--American Activist
Meet Ella Baker

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Damn Girl-The Unsinkable Margaret Brown

Often known as 'Molly Brown', Margaret Tobin Brown was a turn of the century reformer, suffragette, and philanthropist, best known for her heroic behavior on the Titanic. She was never known as 'Molly' during her lifetime, and the name 'Molly', along with many of the tales about her, were circulated after her death. Using her work ethic, charm, and great wealth, Margaret helped create the juvenile court system, extend suffrage to her state of Colorado and the rest of the United States, rebuild post WWI France, and have a glittering stage career.

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Margaret
Margaret was born in Hannibal Missouri, the daughter of poor Irish immigrants. Her parents were both devout Roman Catholics, and as such, had six children. Firm believers in education, Margaret's parents insisted that all of their children go to school at least through the eighth grade. An eighth grade education, especially for women, was significant for the time, and instilled a love of learning in Margaret that would carry on throughout her life.

In late 1800s America people of all races were making their way out west. Immigrants who had dreamed of making their fortune in the New World found employment closed to them on the east coast due to their nationality, and headed west for land and work. When gold was discovered in California in 1848, people dreaming to make a fortune mining left the east in droves. Daniel Tobin, Margaret's brother, was one of them. He found success as a mine promoter, and in 1886, he sent for Margaret to join him. Margaret joined in him Leadville Colorado, and found a job working in a drapery store.

Margaret had grown up very poor. She'd had to leave school at age 13 to work in a tobacco factory making cigars. She hated living in poverty, and she wanted very much to take care of her parents through their elder years. This in mind, Margaret was determined to marry rich, and Leadville wasn't a bad place to find a rich husband. Leadville had a flourishing silver mine, and with the US government heavily invested in silver, it was a pretty lucrative business. A man could become a millionaire overnight depending on his finds. Margaret was looking for such a man. However, what she found was J.J. Brown.

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James Joseph 'J.J.' Brown
James Joseph (also known as J.J.) Brown, was a handsome, well educated, vivacious miner, and Margaret fell in love. J.J. had trained as an engineer and geologist, and was set up to become much more than a mere miner, but he had yet to make his fortune, and was far from wealthy. Though Margaret had some serious reservations about marrying him, she did, and the pair married in 1886, then moved to Stumpftown to be closer to the mines.

Though not rolling in money, Margaret and J.J. seemed to have been doing alright financially. While she still did her own housekeeping, Margaret was able to devote time to helping the wives and families of some of the less well off miners. She created soup kitchens, and engaged in other charitable efforts. She also helped establish the National American Women's Suffrage Association in Colorado, and became heavily involved in lobbying for women's suffrage. These early actions in Sumpftown set the tone for the rest of Margaret's life.

Margaret and J.J. had two children--Lawrence, and Helen. They moved back to Leadville after Lawrence's birth, and they were in Leadville when the Sherman Silver Act was repealed, starting the 'Silver Crash', and putting the financial future of the entire state at risk.

What the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act meant was that the US Government would no longer be buying silver at the same rate it had been. Previously, the government had been required to buy at least 4.5 million ounces of silver a month, and pay for them with paper money. This silver was then minted into silver dollars to back up the paper money. This act was meant to prop up the failing silver industry, but had failed. When it was repealed in 1893 there was a large surplus of silver, and the entire industry went into a panic. Many families like the Browns discovered that their money was now near worthless, and were plunged into poverty.

Luckily for the Browns, J.J. was a real smart cookie. He was the manager of the Little Johnny Mine, and he used his geology and engineering experience to find a way to shore up the walls of the mine so that the miners could delve deeper into the earth. Luckily for all involved, miners found what is, to this day, the largest vein of gold in the American West.

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The Brown family home at the time it was purchased. Molly
would later make extensive renovations.
Almost overnight, life for the Browns changed completely. The owners of the mine were so happy with J.J. that they gave him significant shares in the company, and the Browns became millionaires. The Browns bought a house in Denver, Margaret sent for her parents to join her, and began to establish themselves among the wealthy elite.

It was in social circles that Margaret really shone. She was kind, outgoing, and charmed more or less everyone she met. She had a wide group of friends, and with the financial help of these friends, she set about seriously affecting change. During these early years in Denver, Margaret personally funded the local animal shelter for several years, successfully lobbied for the installation of public baths in courthouses, campaigned for city parks, and provided aid for the thousands of people living in the slums of Denver. She also raised money to build the St. Joseph's Hospital, and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Part of her new social circles brought Margaret into contact with the judge and reformer Benjamin Lindsey. Lindsey, formerly a lawyer, was deeply disturbed by the presence of children in adult prisons. A young boy, jailed for stealing bread, could be tossed into a cell with a man convicted of murder. Lindsey felt that this system wasn't productive towards the reforming goal of prisons, and set about lobbying for a juvenile court and prison system. As a mother and an advocate for children's rights, Margaret was right on board. She helped with fundraising and lobbying efforts, and in 1899 the Juvenile Justice System was put in place. This system is still the basis for the modern US Juvenile Justice System.
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Benjamin Lindsey
Margaret was still heavily involved in the suffragette movement. She was involved with organizing one of the first women's suffrage conventions, and in 1901 she became one of the first women to run for senate. She would run for Colorado senate three times--losing twice, and withdrawing from the third because of the advent of WWI. Though she never won a political office, Margaret affected serious political change.

After their move to Denver the passions between J.J. and Margaret began to cool. Margaret was heavily involved in society and reform work, and J.J. preferred to focus on mining. J.J. didn't care for society, and he certainly didn't care for his wife's political efforts. He didn't appreciate how often his wife was in the paper, and he didn't think she should be running for public office. In an attempt to rekindle old passions, the pair began traveling together in 1902. They went around Europe and Asia, and while the couple did seem to reconcile for a time, it was not to last. In 1909 they quietly separated, with J.J. moving to Arizona to continue mining.

Post separation, Margaret traveled more than ever. In 1912 she set off on a journey to Paris, Rome, and Egypt with her friends and daughter Helen. While in Egypt, she received a telegram from her son Lawrence. The telegram stated that Lawrence's son, Margaret's eldest grandson, was gravely ill, and would most likely die. Margaret promptly put herself on the next ship across the Atlantic, hoping to see her grandson one last time before he passed.

Unfortunately, that next ship was the RMMS Titanic . When the ship hit an iceburg on April 14th, Margaret was thrown from her bed. An experienced traveler, Margaret knew something was wrong when the engines stopped running. She asked a crew member what was wrong, but was assured that everything was fine. Margaret went back to bed, and was awoken later, and told to get her life saver.

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RMMS Titanic
Margaret very practically put on layers and layers of clothing. She grabbed some money, she got her lifesaver and went up on deck. She wasn't too keen on getting in a lifeboat herself, but she helped many other families into the lifeboats. When a crew member realized who she was, he bodily threw her over the side of the Titanic into lifeboat 6.

On the lifeboat, Margaret quickly set to work. The crew member with them was involved steering, and there were only two men on her boat. The air was a balmy 28 degrees Fahrenheit, (-2 degrees Celsius), and the water even colder. Many of the passengers were wearing only their nightclothes, so Margaret stripped off her layers, and passed clothing around. She directed the other women in rowing so that they would stay warm, and avoid being dragged into the wreckage. Margaret spoke four languages, and she put this to good use directing and comforting the women around her.

At 4:30 am Margaret's boat was picked up by the Carpathia. After getting on board, Margaret swiftly set to work fundraising for the people in the third and second classes. Many of the people in those classes were immigrants, just as Margaret's parents had been, and because of the 'women and children first' policy, many of the families had lost their main breadwinner, as well as all the money and goods they had brought with them to start a new life. She was concerned that they would all be refused entry at New York, and so she began asking her fellow first class passengers from the Titanic and the Carpathia for money to help the passengers.

Many of the passengers from first class were reluctant to give money to help the survivors of the wreck. However, using her charm, Margaret wheedled money from some passengers, and strong armed the rest. She posted a list of passengers who had given money, and how much they had given, as well as a list of passengers who hadn't given money in public. Faced with donation or social ruin, all the first class passengers ended up donating money. Before they reached New York, Margaret had raised $10,000.
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Margaret presenting an award to the captain of the Carpathia
Upon arriving in New York, Margaret received a telegram that her grandson was fine. He wasn't dying, he was just lactose intolerant. Reassured that her family was fine, Margaret set about making arrangements for the survivors from the Titanic. She found living arrangements and contacts for all the survivors. She helped document the whereabouts of every survivor, and made sure that no one would be alone in their new country. She continued this work for about a year before she was recalled to Denver.

Margaret's actions in the aftermath of the Titanic made her internationally famous. Salacious gossip newspapers printed that her first words, upon setting foot on the Carpathia were 'Typical Brown luck, I'm unsinkable!'. Newspapers started to call her 'The Unsinkable Mrs. Brown'. Though these comments were meant to sting, Margaret thought they were hilarious. She became a Denver heroine, and in 1914 she was asked to mediate in the Ludlow miner's strike. The miners and their families, having saw her work with the survivors of the Titanic, and the Mexican War called on her for protection, and the Rockerfeller family (owners of the mine) saw her as an ally. Though violence did break out, Margaret managed to the Rockerfeller's to soften. She spoke out for the rights of the miners, and convinced the Rockerfeller family that they would look much better if they paid the miner's fairly.

After her experience on the Titanic, Margaret began spending more and more time back east, specifically in Newport Rhode Island. She became involved with the National Women's Trade Union, which not only advocated for universal suffrage, but for a minimum wage and an eight hour work day. Margaret traveled around the country, and wrote dozens of articles in favor of these causes. Margaret's passion and persistence earned her censure from the press, but she pressed on undeterred by literally anything. In her passion for reform, she once burst into the office of President Calvin Coolidge, dragging an Eastern European woman with her, and lectured the president on the virtues of her causes.

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Margaret at a Suffragette rally
When World War One started in 1914, Margaret was once again running for Colorado Senate. Though she was favored to win, she ended up dropping out of the race because her sister had married a German man. She turned her efforts to helping war torn Europe, first fundraising for ambulances, then driving those ambulances herself on the front lines. After the war ended, Margaret became involved with the efforts to rebuild France, and for her work with this she was awarded the French Legion of Honor.

When J.J. died in 1922 he neglected to leave a will. The Brown family went to war, with Lawrence and Helen taking Margaret to court for possession of the house in Denver, as well as J.J.'s wealth. Unwilling to fight with her family, Margaret moved to New York to pursue a career as an actress. She was quite successful, playing a leading role in L’Aiglon in both New York and Paris. She was a successful actress, and won awards for her work in that roles.

Margaret was getting on a bit. She was 53 when she took to the stage, and she continued to work there for another decade until she died suddenly of a brain tumor in 1932. She wanted to be buried in Denver, but because of the Great Depression she was buried in New York along her husband J.J.

Image result for molly brown tombToday, Margaret's main legacy is as the character of 'Unsinkable Molly Brown', but that isn't who she really was. Her real legacy is much more strong and meaningful. The juvenile court system she helped implement still stands, women have the vote, there is both a minimum wage and an 8 hour work day. In addition to these aforementioned achievements, Margaret is also the reason that having enough lifeboats for all passengers aboard a ship is compulsory. She also lobbied to change maritime law to say that families would be saved together, instead of women and children first. Margaret's house in Denver still stands, and is open as a museum. The animal shelter she helped fund is still open, and to this day she remains one of the great reformers of the turn of the century. Though she became unbelievably wealthy, Margaret never forgot her humble beginnings, and used her wealth and influence to help bring people (especially immigrants), out of poverty.

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Sources
Molly Brown Biography
Mrs. Margaret Brown
Meet Molly Brown
Molly Brown
Margaret 'Molly' Brown

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Dollar Princesses-Social Mobility Across the Pond

It's the late Victorian Era, and the English nobility are having a rough time of things. Many of them are trapped with vast crumbling estates, huge debts, and little to no money. There's been an economic and agricultural depression, and country landlords are finding that their tenants can no longer pay rent. Things are pretty bleak, and all around the country, and ancient noble families are having to close the doors of their country homes and downsize.

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Jennie Jerome, later Lady Randolph Churchill. She
became engaged to Lord Randolph Churchill
within three days of meeting him. Their engagement
lasted about 4 months as their parents squabbled over
the marriage contract. Their eldest son, Winston, was
born just seven months after their wedding. 
Meanwhile, in the New World, it's the Gilded Age and things are booming! Americans have stopped killing each other, and instead they're building railroads, starting banks, opening factories, and making millions. New millionaires pop up in the mid-west every day, and as soon as they strike it rich, these millionaires move their families to New York City, home of high society. Unfortunately, upon arrival, these New Money families found that their millions couldn't necessarily buy them into upper echelons of society.

1870s New York Society was ruled by Mrs. Caroline 'Lina' Astor, and her crony Ward McAllister. Lina and McAllister were both part of the 'Knickerbockers', a stratification of New York society. To be a Knickerbocker, one had to be descended from the original Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam, and be very, very wealthy. Additionally, one's wealth couldn't come from something vulgar like railroads or manufacturing. It had to come from something aristocratic, like landowning and already being wealthy.

The railroad and manufacturing magnates didn't fit the mold, and the Knickerbockers were determined to keep them out. While it was possible for a noveaux riche to gain entre to society, it was extremely difficult, and the society courting system heavily favored the daughters of the Knickerbockers. This incensed many of the noveaux riche parents, particularly the mothers, who wanted their daughters to have all the privileges and advantages they themselves had never had. In order to give their daughters these advantages, their mothers decided to skip New York Society, and do one better--they decided to marry their daughters off to members of the English Aristocracy.

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Consuelo Vanderbilt, later Duchess of
Marlborough, was engaged to marry Winthrop
Rutherford, a man she loved when her mother made 
her break it off. She was soon engaged to the 
Duke of Marlborough. The couple separated
after 11 years of marriage, and eventually
divorced.
Hopping across the pond was not only beneficial for the daughter's marriage prospects, but a huge 'up yours' to the gatekeepers who had kept them out of New York society. If being rich wasn't enough to make families like the Astors respect them, then a title might do the trick.

This idea was not totally unfounded. While there were still some serious ill feelings between the United States and the United Kingdom (the United Kingdom had, after all, supported the South during the Civil War, attacked the United States in 1812, and it was less than 100 years since the American Revolution), having a noble or royal title still meant something in the United States, especially among the members of New York Society. Mrs. Astor and her friends wanted to create their own sort of aristocracy, and they admired little more than actual aristocracy.²

Across the ocean, these young ladies and their iron willed mothers were surprised to find themselves received into British Society with relatively open arms. The wealth, style, and glamour of the American girl made her fascinating to the British Lords, who were used to the quiet, reserved English girls. Throw in the fact that Albert, Prince of Wales and leader of fashion, ADORED American girls, and marrying an American became all the rage.

The Prince of Wales plays a big part in the success of these American women in English society. Because Queen Victoria had largely withdrawn from society, it fell to her son to be the leader of fashion and society, and this was a role Albert reveled in. He loved big parties, heavy drinking, and lots of sex, much to the disapproval of his mother. Albert had found that the wealthy Americans were much better able to host him, and that American manners much better suited his sense of fun. He became good friends (and lovers) with many of the first Dollar Princesses, and was responsible for the introduction and popularization of most of them in society.

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Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, was
the son of Queen Victoria and Prince
Albert. Even after he reached his majority
his mother kept a tight grip on her reigns
of power, leaving Albert with little
to do but party.
Marrying an American heiress wasn't just popular however, it was also very convenient, and sometimes necessary for the impoverished English Lord. Because primogeniture wasn't observed in America, American girls could expect to get an equal share in their father's estates, and many of them came with an enormous dowry. Even the smallest of American dowries could pay off an English lord's debts, and set him up comfortably for a good long time. Because of this many of these marriages became little more than business transactions--the trade of millions of dollars for a title. Extra-marital affairs, already common among the upper class of that era, were even more common in these unions. Several unions were unhappy enough that they ended in divorce, such as the case of Consuelo Vanderbilt.

For this reason, as well as a few others, marriages between society heiresses and destitute noblemen weren't incredibly popular with the American people, though they were obviously popular with the families in question. Americans, for all their love of the glitter of society weddings, did not like the idea of an arranged marriage. It was common to marry for love, or at least affection in America, and the idea that a nobleman would marry an American girl for her money and not for her personality repulsed the public. Additionally, the idea that hard earned American dollars were going into funding the crumbling institutions that had so recently oppressed them was unpopular with Americans. As the 1900s dawned the prominence of international unions led many Americans to despair that the English were stealing all the American heiresses.

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Despite being included in the 'Old Money'
elite of New York Society, Frances Work
married James Burke Roche, who was
set to inherit a barony. Unfortunately, the
couple divorced before James (and Frances)
inherited the title.
For about 20 years American heiresses went across the Atlantic to find a husband. The titles grew less important, but during the reign of Edward VII the transatlantic union was still very popular. However, this all changed when his son George ascended the throne in 1911. George (the current Queen Elizabeth's grandfather) and his wife Mary didn't approve of the joviality and high spending of Edward's court. They wanted a return to traditional English values, and marrying an American slowly fell out of fashion.

The 'Dollar Princess' is a major character in fiction. From Edith Wharton's Buccaneers to Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey, Dollar Princesses figure heavily in period pieces set in the Edwardian Era/Gilded Age/Belle Epoque. In real life, the descendants of these ladies still occupy a high place in British Society. Prince William, heir to the heir to the throne³, is the great-great grandson of Frances Work, the daughter of a stock-broker. Winston Churchill, Prime Minister during WWII was the son of Jennie Jerome, one of the first Dollar Princesses.

Aside from the children they left behind, the Dollar Princesses left a huge imprint on both their home and adopted countries. Not only did their marriages induce anglomania in the United States, but it also cemented alliances between the United States and United Kingdom. Though it was not the intention, these marriages functioned much as many political marriages of the time. They essentially married two countries together, forming an alliance that, to this day, is still one of the most important diplomatic ties for each country.

¹In the North that is. The South is undergoing Reconstruction  which pushed the region into an economic slump that still affects it to this day.
² In theory anyways. In practice, most Americans found members of nobility, especially the English nobility, to be severely lacking in moral fiber.
³ It is, however, unlikely that William will ever become king, as Queen Elizabeth II is most likely immortal.

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Sources
To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol Mc.D Wallace
The Glitter and the Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan
A Look Back at the 'Dollar Princess'
Dollar Princesses
Topics in Chronicling America-- 'Dollar Princess'
The Gilded Age's Real Life 'Dollar Princesses'
How American Dollar Princesses Changed British Nobility
Gilded Age Heiresses

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Hatpin Panic

The turn of the century saw a great increase in mobility for women. Women were no longer relegated to the parlor and kitchen--they could leave the home unaccompanied. They began riding public transport and taking jobs outside of the home. However, with this new mobility and freedom came the new threat of street harassment and aggression.

Image result for hatpin panicThe harassment of women on the street continues to  be a problem to this day. Today it's called cat-calling, around the turn of the century it was called 'mashing'. It's more or less universally detested by every woman, and nearly every woman has a story about being harassed on the street. The fight against street harassment continues in government halls and online forums, but in the late 1800s/early 1900s women took matters into their own hands. Instead of trying to solve things with words these ladies stabbed the offenders with their sword like hatpins.

The hatpin was a common accessory at the time.  Large hats, festooned with ribbons, fake flowers, and wax fruit were the fashion, and to keep the millinery concoction on their heads, women secured them to their heads with steel pins known as hatpins. The average hatpin was around 9 inches in length, had a sharp point on the piercing end, and jewels, feathers, or filigree on the other. Hatpins had to be sharp in order to get through the fabric of the hat, and, due to the size of the hats, were often quite lengthy.

Women were, essentially, wearing knives in their hair. However, there are no recorded instances of women having used them as such until 1903 when Leoti Blaker, a young Kansan visiting New York City was accosted on public transportation. When an elderly man attempted to take liberties with her person, Leoti stabbed him 'in the meat of his arm', driving the man away. Leoti later stated to newspapers that “If New York women will tolerate mashing, Kansas girls will not.”

Image result for hats 1912
The typical headgear of an early 20th century
woman
Leoti's move against her harasser was only the first recorded of such instances. Stories about women defending themselves and others from attackers with their hatpins began to crop up around the country with increasing frequency. One woman in Chicago stopped a train robbery, one in New York stopped a man from stealing the payroll of an entire company.

With the popularity of the hatpin as a weapon of self defense, and the publication of self defense manuals for women, women were protecting their rights to exist in public spaces, and this was making the men of the time uncomfortable. Editorials in newspapers started cropping up about how women were 'attacking defenseless men', and that to avoid street harassment women should perhaps dress more modestly, or, better yet, not leave the house. Legislation to regulate hatpin length was introduced in several cities, and motions to ban them outright were discussed.

Admittedly, there had been some hatpin accidents. More than once another man or woman had suffered injury from being jostled against a lady's hatpin, and women had been known to stab policemen and police horses while resisting arrest. However, the rate of accidents was much lower than stated in newspapers of the day. Newspapers, especially the Chicago Tribune, stirred the public into a frenzy that would later become known as 'The Hatpin Panic' or 'The Hatpin Peril'.

This trend of using a hatpin for self defense spread to the United Kingdom and Australia, who all had a 'hatpin panic' too. While some legislative measures were passed, the hatpin panic ultimately died with the onset of World War One. Because of metal shortages, women no longer wore large hatpins, and after the war large hats went out of fashion. Bobs and cloche hats became the norm, and the biggest female threat to society became the flapper, not the hatpin.

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Sources
The Hatpin Peril Terrorized Men Who Couldn't Handle the 20th Century Woman
With Daggers in Her Bonnet: The Australian Hatpin Panic of 1912
Early 1900s Women Had an Ingenious Method for Fending Off Gropers
When Men Feared 'A Resolute Woman, With a Hatpin in Her Hand'

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Damn, Girl-Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson is the iconic LGBT activist. She's best known for playing an instrumental role Stonewall Riots, but Marsha's story extends beyond Stonewall. Throughout her lifetime, Marsha fought for the rights of African-American Transgender people, and provided food and shelter to transgender youth living on the streets.

Image result for marsha p johnson
Marsha P. Johnson. When asked what the 'P' in her name
stood for, Marsha often replied that it stood for 'Pay it
no mind'.
Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Marsha moved to Greenwich Village in 1966. At the time, Greenwich Village was a hotbed of activism and liberal thinking. The Village hosted a large community of LGBT people, and provided places for them to gather without fear of violence or judgement.

Unfortunately, Marsha had a difficult time finding a stable source of income or accommodations in the Village, and often lived on the streets, and had to resort to prostitution to provide for herself. It was while working on the streets where she became a member of New York's large society of drag queens, and met lifelong friend and co-legend Sylvia Rivera.

Shortly after arriving in New York, Marsha began performing in drag shows and at drag balls. She was quite popular, and went on to tour the United States and the rest of the world with the popular drag group, the Hot Peaches.

In 1969 Marsha was having a drink at the Stonewall Inn, a popular drinking spot for transwomen, butch lesbians, male sex workers, and homeless LGBT youth. The police raided the inn, and Marsha famously threw a shot glass, and shouted 'I got my civil rights!', igniting the famous riot that would last for six days.

Image result for marsha p johnson warhol
Marsha was asked to pose for Andy Warhol's
'Ladies and Gentlemen' series, which was a
series of pop art portraits of transgender
individuals living in New York City.
Following Stonewall, Marsha, along with Sylvia Rivera, became a leading member of the Gay Liberation Front, and started actively lobbying for trans rights. Then, as now, much of the gay rights movement was centered around securing rights for white gay men. Marsha and Sylvia were both the loudest voices calling for inclusion of transgender people in the gay community.

To this end, Marsha and Sylvia created the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR)¹. STAR was devoted to providing food and shelter for homeless transgender youth, especially transgender youth of color. Though STAR was chronically underfunded, Marsha created a home for people pushed to the margins of society, and acted as a mother to the people she helped. Though STAR was forced to close down in the 1970s, the legacy of STAR is being carried on by the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.

In 1992, Marsha's body was pulled from the Hudson river. The NYPD detectives ruled her death a suicide, but her friends and family claim that she was not suicidal. It is much more likely that she was murdered, as she was seen being harassed by men earlier in the day.

Today Marsha is seen as one of the founders of the gay rights movement. She's an icon of resistance, and her memory is frequently invoked whenever resistance is needed. There has been a renewed interest in her life in the past decade, leading to several biographies being published, and multiple documentaries.


¹Just a note, the word 'Transvestite' while now considered a slur, was the common name for transgender people at the time of STAR.

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Sources
The Unsung Heroines of Stonewall: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera
Marsha P. Johnson-Activist (1945-1992)
Marsha 'Pay It No Mind' Johnson
Power to the People: Exploring Marsha P. Johnson's Queer Liberation


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Iroquois League-Doing America Before America Was Cool

Known among themselves as the Haudenosaunee,¹ the Iroquois League (or Confederacy) is the world's oldest participatory democracy. Located in what is today central New York state, the Haudenosaunee controlled vast swathes of woodland all the way into today's Ontario. A combination of six tribes, they banded together in mutual defense and adopted common policy in regards to other tribes and white settlers. Because of this cooperation, they were able to keep their territorial lands longer than any other confederacy in the region.

Image result for iroquois lacrosse
The Haudenosaunee are known for having invented the sport
of Lacrosse, and for being multiple time world champions.
The Haudenosaunee is comprised of six individual tribes--the Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Mohawk, and Tuscarora. Their individual languages are related, and most are mutually intelligible to the others. It is this shared language family which initially brought the Haudenosaunee together. Additionally, linguistic evidence suggests that the Haudenosaunee are immigrants to the New England area. It is thought that the original five tribes--all but the Tuscarora--emigrated from the southern United States², and it is definitely known that the Tuscarora emigrated from North Carolina.

Originally, these six tribes were separate people, and warred with each other the same way in which the confederation later warred with non-confederation people. There were frequent raids on rival tribes, and an 'eye for an eye' philosophy prevailed. If a member from one tribe was killed, the family of that person would kill a member of the tribe that killed their family member, starting a never ending cycle of bloodshed. Among the Haudenosaunee, this epoch is known as 'The Dark Times'.

Image result for map of iroquois confederacy
Map of Haudenosaunee lands
Enter Deganawida. Deganawida is a religious man, and has been told by the Great Spirit to make peace between the people. Problem was, Deganawida had a stutter, and needed a mouthpiece. To this end, he found Hiawatha. At the time, Hiawatha was a simple cannibal, doing his cannibal thing. However, one day while cooking his latest victim Hiawatha saw his reflection in his cooking pot, and realized that someone as beautiful as himself should not be eating people. While discarding of the corpse he no longer intended to eat, he met Deganawida, who named Hiawatha as his mouthpiece. Together Deganawida and Hiawatha set about uniting the five tribes--the Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Oneida.³

The Haudenosaunee confederacy was built upon a system of participatory democracy. Each tribe had one vote, and the chiefs of each clan,⁴ known as Sachems, helped each nation come to an agreement on how they would vote. The Confederacy established an inter-confederacy peace treaty, and a pact of mutual defense. Additionally, Confederacy members were able to move freely between the different nations. The Confederacy had very few laws, mostly focusing on foreign relations, but they immediately outlawed cannibalism. For any decision to be made on the behalf of the entire confederacy a unanimous vote had to be reached. Should complete agreement not be met, each tribe was free to proceed as they saw fit. This would eventually lead to the nations fighting on different sides during the American Revolution.

Together, the Haudenosaunee were a formidable foe. They regularly raided their Algonquin neighbors, and colonial settlements, gaining European goods despite having no formal trade agreements with white men. They also established a system of currency, based of of Wampum, and had a massive agricultural system, growing corn, beans, and squash.

Image result for iroquois longhouse
The Haudenosaunee lived in Longhouses--wooden dwellings
which housed multiple families. Longhouses could be anywhere
between 50 to 150 feet long
When it came to colonial clashes, the Haudenosaunee preferred to remain neutral. During the French and Indian War many of the Haudenosaunee refused to take sides. They attempted to do the same during the American Revolution, but were unable. The Haudenosaunee saw the wars between the colonists as civil wars that were none of their business, but the English insisted that the Haudenosaunee honor their treaty of mutual defense with the English.

This divided the tribes into rival factions. Due to pressure from the English, most of the tribes sided with the English, but some tribes, most notably the Oneida and Tuscarora, sided with the Americans. This division nearly killed the confederacy, as tribes began to raid the villages of confederacy members. Despite this, the confederacy remained intact, if fragile, at the end of the Revolution.⁵

The Confederacy's form of government would become a major influence on the creation of the United States Constitution. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom were well acquainted with the Haudenosaunee, were inspired by the fact that each member nation had an equal say in the policy of the group.

Image result for iroquois flag
Haudenosaunee Flag
Today the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is as strong as ever. They are recognized as their own nation, and have sent delegates to the United Nations, and issue their own passports.⁶ The nations have banded together multiple times in mutual defense when development and industrial projects threaten native lands, and lobby together for the return of cultural artifacts and human remains.



¹Meaning 'People of the Longhouse', based on the longhouses that the Haudenosaunee lived in. The name 'Iroquois' is a francosized version of the Algonquin word 'Irinakhoiw'. 'Iroquois' roughly translated, means 'real adders'. Like many colonial names for Native Americans, this is a pejorative. In this article I will refer to this group of people by the name they chose form themselves--Haudenosaunee.
Image result for iroquois passport
Haudenosaunee passport
²This conclusion was reached by comparison to other Native American languages. the Haudenosaunee languages are very closely related to the Cherokee language--a nation which originated in the southern United States. Additionally, non Haudenosaunee tribes in the New York area speak languages from the Algonquin group. This difference suggests that the Haudenosaunee were once related to, or acquainted with the Cherokee.
³The canny reader may be wondering about the Tuscarora. The Tuscarora Nation was added to the Haudenosaunee confederacy in the early 1700s when they were driven out of North Carolina by English Colonists.
⁴A tribe is comprised of a group of clans. Clans are matrilinial, and are headed by the eldest woman in each clan. There were eight major clans in the confederation, and intermarriage inside a clan was discouraged.
⁵Following the Revolution the young American government placed sanctions on all members of the confederacy, including the ones that supported them against the English. This united the confederacy against the Americans as they were forced off their lands and onto reservations in New York and Canada.
⁶Though the Iroquois passport was largely recognized in the United States traveling on an Iroquois passport after the events of September 11, 2001 became largely impossible. Additionally, many nations do not recognize Iroquois passports, and refuse entry to holders if they do not also have an American or Canadian passport.

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Sources
Iroquois Confederacy- American Indian Confederation
Iroquois League: The Ancient and Powerful Union of Six Nations
Iroquois Confederacy
The League of the Iroquois
The Six Nations: Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth
The Six Nations Confederacy During the American Revolution

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The California Sphinx

There's been a lot of exciting finds announced this week, Caesar's landing place in Britain, Iron Age human remains in Turkey, and a 3,000 year old tomb found in China. However, the most exciting (in my opinion) was the discovery of one of the lost sphinxes from the 1923 film set for the movie The Ten Commandments.

Image result for california sphinx
Aforementioned Sphinx
In 1923 Cecil DeMille set out on an ambitious black and white film entitled The Ten Commandments.¹ It was an enormous undertaking. DeMille hired thousands of actors, and built a lavish set in the middle of the Californian desert. The set was designed by the popular French art deco designer, Paul Iribe, and included more than 20 sphinxes.

The film was a hit, but an expensive hit. The Ten Commandments grossed about $4.2 million at the box office, but cost about $1.5 million to make. At the end of filming the set was too expensive to dismantle, and DeMille didn't want to leave it in the desert for another movie studio to poach. So, he did the reasonable thing, and decided to bury it.

Years passed, and the set was almost forgotten about. However, in 1980 film director Peter Brosnan started searching for the set. He was able to get a $10,000 grant from the US government to start archaeological work. In 1990 he dug up the very first sphinx, and the Californian desert has been churning out more pieces of movie set ever since.

One of the remarkable things about this find is how well it was preserved. The sphinx was made of plaster, and was mostly intact. The paint was a bit chipped, but otherwise looked as good as it did in 1923. 


¹He later remade an expanded, colorized version of this film in 1956

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Sources