Monday, December 28, 2009

Emma and Judy

I apologize for the lack of new posts lately. Gravestones usually get pushed to the back burner during this time of year.

In our family, this hidden week between Christmas and New Year's is often devoted to working on family history and going through old photographs. This year, I've been helping Pete's mom scan several hundred photographs from the Pownall family (Pete's paternal grandmother's family).

There are plenty of wonderful photos in the set, but by far my favorite is this picture of Emma Mathilde Rathke Pownall (Pete's great-grandmother) holding her daughter, Judith Jean (Pete's great-aunt). Judy was born in November of 1915 and her mother died in March of 1919 while giving birth to Pete's grandmother, Amy. In this photo, Judy is almost 2 years old, Emma is not visibly pregnant, and they are outside without coats, so I think it was taken in the late summer/early autumn of 1917.

We have boxes and boxes of studio photographs of this generation, but few candids. Though this picture is posed, you can't pose the smile on Judy's face. It's tragic that these two little girls grew up without a mother and heartbreaking to find a photo of their happiness before it was shattered. Still, it is a lovely photograph and I will be making a copy for myself, even though I'm only associated with them by marriage.

Emma Mathilde Rathke Pownall

Judith Jean Pownall
In a good hat!

Amy Dolores Pownall
Judith Jean Pownall

Happy New Year Hat

While you're checking out the digital archives at Duke, make sure to look through the Hugh Magnum Photographs Collection. Lots of hats there.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Cait, Ben, and Graham (c. 1989) wish you a happy holiday.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guest Post: Jack-Boots and Broken Windows

Over the next few days, I will be featuring the work of several talented undergraduates who have agreed to have their research projects featured as guest posts. The papers are longer than normal posts, but I thought that readers of this blog might be interested in reading more about Revolutionary-era Boston. All formatting errors are mine — I lost some details (such as italics) in the transfer from Word to Blogger.

Today's guest poster is Allan Bradley, who used John Boyle's journal to examine popular resistance to the Stamp Act.

On the night of November 5th, 1764, rough Boston maritime workers divided into two mobs, the North End and the South End, and each built a cart carrying an effigy of the Pope. After darkness fell, they engaged in a violent battle, each side attempting to steal the other’s cart and effigy.  After half an hour of combat with clubs, staves, and brick-bats, the South End captured the North End’s effigy and burned both on Boston Neck.  It was a yearly ritual; each November 5th, the Pope met the same fiery fate at the hands of the working men of Boston, who fought for the privilege of burning the effigy of that hated enemy to English liberty.  Pope’s Day of 1764 was particularly violent, and a young printer’s apprentice named John Boyle recorded in his journal: “A Child of Mr. Brown’s at the North-End run over by one of the Wheels of the North-End Pope and killed on the Spot.  Many others were wounded in the evening.” [1]

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas Hat

Duke University has one of the best digital photo archives around. One of the most interesting collections in the archive chronicles the photography of Michael Francis Blake, an African-American photographer who operated a studio in Charleston, SC between 1912 and 1934. The collection contains many photos of children, including this sweet little girl with her velvet coat, bonnet, and giant doll (also in bonnet).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Catholic Obstetrical Textbook Quote of the Day

"A system of education that ignores the will, upon which morality and virtue are based, and substitutes a sham intellectuality as elaborated by ignorant boards of education and administered by emotional, half-educated women, together with a lack of genuine religion, is a prolific source of mental and moral deterioration and consequent degeneracy in the physical and moral orders. Our American public-school system is such and its deity is the unwashed and crassly depraved god Demos, whose bible is the evening newspaper. If we could civilize our schools, we should have no mention of legislation by vagary."

- Austin O'Malley, relevantly

The Ethics of Medical Homicide and Mutilation (1919)

This is the concluding paragraph of O'Malley's obstetrical textbook.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Jopsephely and the Sinking Apostrophes

Here's another stone from a Connecticut River Valley carver, though I'm not sure which one. The carver owes a lot to the Stebbins Family and William Holland for the crown and scroll motif, but this stone looks rougher than the others I've seen from the Stebbins workshop or Holland. Might it be an early stone by John Ely? I don't know the western Massachusetts carvers very well, but there is an extensive website dedicated to their work for anyone who is interested in the subject.

I was most interested in the lettering on this stone. Not only does the carver misspell "Joseph" (and Mary?) and employ idosyncratic capitalization, he uses commas as apostrophes in several instances. The words "died, " "April," "daughter," and "months" are rendered "di,d" "Apr,l" "daugh,r" and "mont,s." I've never seen anything quite like it. He also seems to place a tittle over his capital is, just like John Stevens I.

Marei Ely
d. 1771
and Lovice Ely
d. 1763
Holyoke, MA

Catholic Obstetrical Textbook Quote of the Day

"Prolongation of the lactation period beyond the usual time for weaning, from the ninth to the twelfth month, is common among ignorant and lazy women. Some women prolong lactation in the erroneous notion that it prevents renewed impregnation. Such lactation is injurious to the child, as a rule. Ploss says hyperlactation is frequent in Spain, and that some Japanese, Chinese, and Armenian women may nurse their children for years, but this practice in undoubtedly injurious, especially among European races."

- Austin O'Malley, knowledgeably

The Ethics of Medical Homicide and Mutilation (1919), pg. 155

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spotlight on Joseph Nash

Some of the most distinctive gravestones in Western Massachusetts were created by Joseph Nash. Nash was active from the 1720s until the 1740s, carving stones for the dead of Northampton, Hadley, Hatfield, Springfield, and other communities in that section of the Connecticut River Valley.

Chileab [Caleb?] Smith
d. 1733
Hannah Smith
d. 1731
Hadley, MA

Catholic Obstetrical Textbook Quote of the Day

"Obstetrical text-books, unfortunately, are written by such emotional men; by men who lack all training in ethics other than that inculcated in childhood out of the mental vagaries of the women in the household."

- Austin O'Malley, professionally

The Ethics of Medical Homicide and Mutilation (1919), pg. ix

This is an endlessly fascinating book. The frontispiece is a giant diagram of a vasectomy. Other books might have a photo of the author before the title page, but not this one.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

iTunes Obscenities

I was poking around on iTunes today, looking for a Christmas gift, and happened across the page for No Irish Need Apply (2003). For those of you who have not seen it before, this is a CD recorded by The Gallant Sons of Erin, a band composed mostly of my family members, reenacting buddies, and neighbors and specializing in Irish-American music of the mid-19th century. My Dad plays guitar and sings, my uncle plays banjo, I play tin whistle, our friend Todd plays bodhran, our neighbor Nan plays fiddle, etc. Most of the songs are related to the experiences of the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.

Anyway, I had never seen its iTunes page before, so I was surprised to see that one of the song titles had been censored. "Fág an Bealach"* is the rallying cry of the the 28th MVI ("clear the way" in Irish), but it seems that iTunes read that first word as a slur and replaced the a with an asterisk. It's fun to see our album marked as potentially racy when, in reality, it is nuclear-level nerdy.

Come gallant sons of Erin who battle for the right,
Come show your Yankee brethren how Irish lads can fight!
The flag is waving o'er us and brightly gleams the day
We're bound for Carolina, Jeff Davis clear the way!

Fág an Bealach, Fág an Bealach, Fág an Bealach
Jeff Davis clear the way!

We bear a noble motto,'twas heard in days of yore
When the famous Connaught rangers swept o'er the Spanish shore.
The foe went down before it, and so they will the day
When Erin and Old Bay State shout, "seceshes, clear the way!"

Fág an Bealach, Fág an Bealach, Fág an Bealach
Seceshes clear the way! 

Our gallant comrades gone before have opened wide the track,
Hark! How the noble fellows call from far Port Royal Bay,
Come on, me boys, the hunt is up, seceshes clear the way!

Fág an Bealach, Fág an Bealach, Fág an Bealach
Jeff Davis clear the way! 

Old Erin's spirit wakes again, her sould is mounting high,
The soul of Robert Emmet gleams from out each patriot eye.
Lord, help the southern cohort, who in the battle's fray
Shall hear our Irish slogan, "seceshes, clear the way!"

Fág an Bealach, Fág an Bealach, Fág an Bealach
Jeff Davis clear the way!

* Sometimes spelled "Faugh a Ballagh." When I was about 13, we had a pair of kittens named Faugh and Ballagh.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Still grading, so I'll let others generate content. Enjoy!

10 Gallon Hat, 2 Gallon Head

Is he planning to wear that hat on his entire body? He is just too adorable with his little pout and his overlarge tunic and standing on that chair.

via VIA

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Catholic Obstetrical Textbook Quote of the Day

"Once crazy, always crazy, is an aphorism with much truth in it."

- Austin O'Malley, compassionately

The Ethics of Medical Homicide and Mutilation (1919), pg. 157


I'm spending the weekend grading a pile of final projects. While doing so, I am trying to walk that fine line between fairness and generosity of spirit.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Catholic Obstetrical Textbook Quote of the Day

"The vast majority of women are too lazy to take physical exercise as a hygienic duty at any time, and during pregnancy, their aversion to all effort to overcome indolence is so great they make even themselves believe they cannot."

- Austin O'Malley, respectfully

The Ethics of Medical Homicide and Mutilation (1919)

Ye Olde Thorn

Recently, I have been enjoying listening to books through Audible as I walk to campus or do chores. Pete and I have a membership that gives us one book a month and discounts if we want more than that. In the past few months, I've gone through What Hath God Wrought, The Great Cat Massacre, Battle Cry of Freedom, Misquoting Jesus, This Republic of Suffering, and several others.

While listening to Marcus Rediker's The Slave Ship: A Human History, I was enormously distracted by the reader's continued mispronunciation of the thorn ("y^e") as "YEE." I've always assumed that "y^e" is pronounced "the" and that the "YEE" pronunciation was part of the joke when used in the phrase "ye olde." Just as I would pronounce "y^t" as "that" and "y^r" as "their," I would say "the" unless I were dictating and needed to distinguish the thorn from regular old "the."

But now I'm doubting myself. Ever since I listened to this book, I have been paying attention to the times when I've heard others read the thorn aloud (surprisingly, it has come up rather often — I suppose I travel in strange circles). More than half of the people reading old documents said "YEE" instead of "the" and now I'm all turned around. I was sure I was right, but now I'm not.

I'm putting a poll up in the sidebar. Since many of you are skilled in the ways of Early Modern English, I trust your judgment to set me straight.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cheery Reading of the Day

I am currently doing some background research for an undergraduate course on the history of life and death issues. This project brings a whole host of light reading across my desk:

Fun Fact of the Day

In 1790, 84 of the 573 households in Plymouth, MA were headed by women. That's 14.66%.

Three households (.52%) were headed by black men (Cato Howe, Prince Goodwin, and Plato Turner).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Authentic Fabrics

Via Jezebel, this article in the Smithsonian Magazine highlights the work of the wonderfully named Rabbit Goody, who weaves historically accurate fabrics for Hollywood costumes. Some of her big projects include the John Adams HBO miniseries and work with various historic homes.

Textiles are certainly not my specialty, but I love them. I have several coverlets from Family Heirloom Weavers in Red Lion, PA and they are so wonderfully cozy-looking. Warm, too!

Widows of Plymouth

While perusing the Plymouth epitaphs, I found several gravestones dedicated to women who outlived their husbands by several decades. I suppose many towns may have had elderly widows, but I can't help but wonder whether the combination of men dying young and women never remarrying is more common in maritime communities. I won't be able to answer that comparative question until I have documented several other cemeteries, but I can look at a few examples of Plymouth's long-term widows:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Not a Hat

While I was looking for more daguerreotypes of kids in hats, I came across this image in the online collections of the George Eastman House. The little girls are hatless, but check out that farmer's tan!

Usually, 19th-century portraits show children dressed within an inch of their lives, but this photograph was taken by Julia Margaret Cameron, whose artistic portraits are rarely so stiff or formal. The religious overtones of this portrait cast the children as cherubs, saints, or the Christ child, but the little one's sun-darkened arms make it immediately clear that she belongs to earth, rather than to heaven. It's a lovely image.

Visit the George Eastman House website for more photos by Cameron and other famous photographers of the 19th century.

Monday, December 7, 2009

In Which I Identify With Creationists

This weekend, I went home to see my family and assist with some early Christmas preparations. During my visit, I had a chance to examine my 14-year-old sister's world history homework, which was genuinely appalling.

Her teacher has adopted Gavin Menzies' 1421: The Year China Discovered America as a key text for their class and is, apparently, teaching it as factual information. Menzies' central argument is that a Chinese fleet commanded by Zheng He sailed from China in 1421, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and sailed on to North America, eventually establishing a colonial settlement in modern-day Rhode Island. Menzies (who neither reads nor speaks any Chinese language either ancient or modern) bases his argument on a handful of maps, speculative interpretation of DNA evidence, and the existence of structures such as the Newport Tower and the Bimini Road. He claims that records of the voyage were intentionally destroyed by Chinese officials, but provides a wealth of very specific and uncited information about the expedition. In short, it is a crackpot theory.

This Hat is Brought to You by the Harvard Theatre Collection and the Number 3

Young Irving Selden and his magnificent hat.

See this and many other unusual portraits from the Harvard Theatre Collection here!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Susannar Burgess

I apologize for the dearth of substantive posts lately — it's that time of the semester. Between commenting on drafts for increasingly panicked students, navigating holiday obligations, and trying to get a bit of my own work done, I haven't been giving this blog as much attention as I would like. Hopefully, I'll have some down time over break to recommit myself.

In the meantime, here's another fun entry from Benjamin Drew's transcriptions of Plymouth, MA epitaphs:

See also Annar, Marther, Prissilar, etc.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jacob Lakin Stone, 1758

The Old Burying Ground in Groton, MA is home to several beautiful Park workshop gravestones from the 1750s. Of these, the most impressive is the Jacob Lakin stone. Its unusual shape, intricate detail, and elevated position (on top of a tomb mound) make this stone an eye-catcher.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy Desembar!

This message brought to you by Obadiah Wheeler
and the Farber Gravestone Collection.