Saturday, April 18, 2015

Society Saturday - Touring the Library of Congress

At the Annual Rendezvous Banquet of the Women Descendants of the Ancient & Honorable Artillery Company, we learned about the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.  Susan Reyburn who is a Senior Writer and Tour Docent there gave us a Virtual Tour.



We learned several interesting facts about the Library of Congress - 
It was started in 1812 as the "Book Palace of the American People".  Unfortunately the collection burned in 1814 when the British burned Washington.  This prompted Thomas Jefferson to sell his private collection of 6500 books to congress for $25000.  

The library continued to be the source of information for Congress and consisted primarily of law books and the like, until 1870 when the National Copyright Act was passed.  This required every item that was copyrighted to have 2 copies submitted to the Library of Congress.  Soon books began piling up everywhere in the room at the Capitol building used for the library.  Therefore, the Jefferson building was built in the 1890's.

It was the first government building built in DC for electricity and has more gold leaf than any other building in the US.  There are several art pieces in the building which were created by artists who had previously helped design the White City of the Columbian Exposition.



Ms. Reyburn showed us several examples of the art and told of all the various symbolism incorporated in it.

Some interesting statistics that she told us were:
There are currently 161 million items in inventory, including 64 million manuscripts, 36 million books, films, maps, and so on.
The US Copyright office receives 10,000 items per day.
The library staff fulfills 600,000 requests from Congress every year, ranging from books to review to full research reports.



The best part is that it is all free and open to the public.


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Society Saturday - Establishing the identity for the US Navy

The National Society US Daughters annual banquet speaker was Commander James "Chris" Rentfrow,   a history professor at the US Naval Academy.  He spoke about the role that the War of 1812 and its importance in solidifying our identity as a nation and the identity of our US Navy.



The naval actions of the War of 1812 can be divided into three parts:

First were the Single Ship Frigate Actions.  They took place from August to October 1812.  There were 3 big victories - First, the USS Constitution defeated HMS Guerriere under the command of Hull, next the SS United States defeated HMS Macedonian under the command of Steven Decatur, then the Constitution again, this time under the command of Bainbridge, defeated the HMS Java.

After sustaining three major losses, the British diverted more ships from the  Napoleonic War in Europe to North America.  The big frigates were now locked into port.

The naval war shifted to lake actions.  The Americans needed to control inland lakes to keep their supply routes safe and block movements of the British troops and supplies.  The Battle of Lake Erie represented a major victory under Commodore Perry and his flag "don't give up the ship" in September of 1813.  A year later, the British were trying to move south on Lake Champlain to reach New York City.  They were stopped by McDonough's fleet using a new "fight from anchor" strategy.

The third component of naval action was that of the USS Essex.  Captain David Porter took her to the Pacific to harass the British whaling efforts.

These events helped to solidify the identity of the US Navy, in much the same way as the War of 1812 helped establish the United States as an independant country.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Society Saturday - The Battle of New Orleans

The State Council of US Daughters of 1812 held their Annual  State Council meeting.



The guest speaker was Dale Phillips, an expert on the War of 1812 in the south.  He explained the importance of the Battle of New Orleans, which was not just "a battle that occurred after the war was over" like we were taught in school.

He explained some of the military strategy behind the final battles, and concluded that the Battle was very important to history because:

1. It catapulted Andrew Jackson straight into the presidency.
2. Although the Treaty of Ghent had been negotiated, it probably would not have been ratified by Parliament if the British had been victorious
3. If the British had won, they would have stayed encamped on US soil as an occupation force - they would not have been available to fight Napoleon at Waterloo.
4. The outnumbered Americans secured a victory to their morale as well, helping to create a more unified national consciousness.
5. Calls for secession from the New England States during the Hartford Convention were quieted by a victory over England.

After the program, the State daughters of 1812 held their business meeting which included election and installation of the 2015-18 slate of officers.



www.illinoisusd1812.org

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Society Saturday - Pocahontas' Chicago Connection

At the Chicago Colony of New England Women meeting, we heard a program from member Jan Price.  She told us all about Amonute Matoaka Powhatan Rolfe, better known as Pocahontas.


Pocahontas was born ca 1595 to a chief of the Powhatan tribe in what is now Virginia.  She served as a peace emissary to the English settlers, although the story of how she stopped the execution of John Smith is probably embellished.

She did marry John Rolfe and traveled to England with him.  She died in England in 1616/17, probably from an infectious disease that the Native Americans had no immunity to.

Pocahontas had one son, Thomas Smith Rolfe, who was born in 1614/15 in England.  He returned to Virginia as a young man, and chose to live among the English settlers.   He had one daughter, Jane, who had numerous descendants.

Sophonisba Grayson Preston, the 7th great-granddaughter of Pocahontas was born in 1833.  She married Carter Henry Harrison, III who became mayor of Chicago in 1879.  He was assassinated during his fifth term of office in 1893.

Their son, Carter Henry Harrison IV was also mayor of Chicago for five terms, and was the first Chicago mayor to be born in Chicago.

A granddaughter of Sophonisba and Carter Harrison III was Sophia Preston Owsley, born in 1890.  She married Sterling Morton, heir to the Morton Salt company fortune, and son of Joy Morton, who donated land to form Morton Arboretum, just west of Chicago.

It's amazing how everyone is connected if you trace their lineage back far enough.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Society Saturday - General George Henry Thomas

The members of the Daughters of Indian Wars and the Dames of the Court of Honor recently met for a joint meeting.  Our speaker was Jerry Kowalski who portrayed General George Henry Thomas.  He spoke about the General's life and service prior to the Civil War.

Unfortunately, my camera wasn't working, but to show you his attire I found a similar picture of him at a previous event he spoke at.

(credit to www.motherrudd.org)

General Thomas was a Virginian who attended West Point.  While there, he became close friends with William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, and Robert E. Lee.

He served in several battles leading up to the Civil War.  These included the Seminole Wars in Florida in 1841 and the Mexican American War in 1845.  He taught artillery and cavalry at West Point in the 1850's which allowed him to select some of the best cadets for his units later. 

When the Civil War broke out, he remained with the Union, feeling that his oath to the Constitution was more important than his native ties to Virginia.  This caused his sisters to disown him.  He commanded the Army at the first Union victory at Mill Springs (Logan's Run) in Kentucky.  He never advanced as far as some of his contemporaries, largely because there was always suspicion about whether he was truly a Union soldier based on his origins.

It was a very interesting program about an early American Military hero that we don't hear much about.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Matrilineal Monday - Mom's birthday celebration part 2

In addition to the card shower planned for my mother's 90th birthday (see previous post),  We had another surprise planned.

I had told her that I was going to take her to lunch at her favorite restaurant - Shorty's BBQ. What I didn't tell her was that several of her friends were going to join us.

I had secretly invited several of her friends and family to join us - some by facebook, some by email, and some by old fashioned snail mail.

Unfortunately, there was 14 inches of snow on her birthday so lunch had to be postponed.  I had to let everyone know of the new date, and hope they would be able to come.

We went a few days later.  When we walked into the restaurant and walked back toward our table, all of a sudden she saw several people she knew.


It was quite the surprise.   Including mom, there were 13 people.  Some cousins and a niece from her side of the family, some nieces from my dad's side, some friends, my sister and her daughters, and myself.








As for the card shower - as of yesterday, she had received 107 cards and a bunch of balloons.

And, being snowed in was a great opportunity to scan through some of her old photos - to be posted at another time.

It was a great way to celebrate 9 decades of her life.  Now what to do for her 100th???

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Society Saturday - Dinner at the White House

While in Ohio for a visit, I attended a meeting of my original DAR chapter.  

The speaker was member Marge Waterfield who told us about White House China.


She showed examples of the China used by several of the Presidents and told about some of the symbols used on them.

Not all of the Presidents had their own China, but some had it included in the federal budget.

Marge told us about some of their state dinners and what was served.  For example, the Washingtons had "spiced gyngerbrede " and the Lincolns served "thanksgiving salad".  Andrew Jackson served "barbeque ribs with rum " on the White House lawn.

Woodrow Wilson was the first to have China made in America.  He ordered a 1700 piece from Lennox company.  


She also brought some pieces from her collection of reproductions to show.