Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Benjamin Fisk

Benjamin Fisk, 1742, Wenham, MA
HEre Lyeth ye Body
of Mr Benjamin Fisk
Who Died Iune ye 6th
1742 Aged About
67 years

Friday, July 30, 2010

The "Original" 13th Amendment

Last month, the Iowa Republican Party adopted a platform that calls for "the reintroduction and ratification of the original 13th Amendment, not the 13th amendment in today’s Constitution." They mean the 13th Amendment that was passed by congress and ratified by 12 states in 1812 — the one that reads,
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
As far as I can tell, the "Thirteenthers'" interpretation of this almost-amendment is fairly silly — they think it applies to titles such as "Esquire" and awards such as the Nobel Prize.

Of course, there are other failed 13th Amendments still floating around. When I first saw the headline for this story, I thought immediately of the Corwin Amendment — a 13th Amendment that was passed by congress in 1861 and ratified by several states:
No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State
While the Corwin Amendment was submitted to the states without a deadline and is still technically open for ratification, it is not likely to be ratified by another 35 states anytime soon. The actual 13th Amendment — the one abolishing slavery that actually passed the whole ratification process — makes the Corwin Amendment obsolete. Still, it is not impossible for state legislatures to ratify old amendments — Mississippi didn't get around to ratifying the 13th Amendment until 1995.

I don't think the Iowa Republican Party supports (or knows about) the Corwin Amendment, but I think that Newsweek goes too far in declaring, "No, it's not about slavery." Yes, the arguments of "Thirteenthers" are specifically about the anti-title amendment, but the language of the proposal — calling for a new, old 13th Amendment — is (unintentionally?) suggestive of reopening old debates about the slavery, emancipation, and the other failed 13th Amendment.

Gravestone of the Day: Amy Woods

Amy Woods, 1758, Pepperell, MA
Here lies the Body of
Mrs Amy Woods the
second Wife of Mr Isaac Woods
who departed this Life
September 10th 1758
in the 28th Year of
her Age

from Deaths Arrist no Age is free

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Esther Convers

Esther Convers, 1703, Woburn, MA
1703 IN Ye

This stone caught my eye because women of all ages are generally identified in terms of their relationships to husbands/fathers/masters. This is especially true of very young women and girls. This stone is very small — perhaps it was cheaply made and whoever erected it didn't want to pay for the extra letters. Maybe there just wasn't room (though carvers squish in all kinds of text when they want to).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Sarah Waterman

Sarah Waterman, 1776, North Burial Ground, Providence, RI
In Memory of
Wife of Mr.
Amaziah Waterman
She died Sept. 18th
1776, in the 64th
Year of her 

Amaziah is a name I haven't run across often, but I like it!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Bradbary Dweile

Bradbary Dweile, 1748, Norwell, MA
ye 22th. 1748 IN ye 13.

Good name. "Here lies the body / of Bradbary Dweile" sounds like the first two lines of a nursery rhyme.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Jonas Fletcher

Jonas Fletcher, 1777, Groton, MA
HERE lies
the Body of Mr.
who departed this
Life Decr:   1777
Aged 83

This gravestone seems to have been executed with unusual inattention for a Park workshop stone. "Departed" is carelessly misspelled and there is no precise date of death.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: James Pearson

James Pearson, 1744, Haverhill, MA
9th 1744 IN THE 67

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Take the Nickname Quiz!

Regular readers know that I am a great lover of all things name-related. The list of names I would want to use for my own child is so extensive (and, some would say, eccentric), that it is a miracle that Pete and I have been able to narrow it down to a single first and single middle name.

During the decision-making process, I have been frequenting a baby naming forum where people share their names and offer feedback on other posters' suggestions. One thing I have found surprising is that many people are unfamiliar with the traditional nicknames for common English names. Often, a poster will suggest a name like Maggie as a full name and then express surprise at learning that Maggie has traditionally been a nickname for Margaret.

Giving children nicknames as given names is not a new phenomenon — the Social Security list of the top 100 names of 1900 is full of Willies, Annies, and Charlies. What I find surprising is the tendency to come up with new names to accommodate nicknames, rather than using the traditional full name. For example, Jack has become very popular recently, but many modern parents prefer it as a full name on its own or a nickname for Jackson (or Jaxon, or Jaxson), rather than as a nickname for John.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to make a quiz based on these observations. Match the historical English nickname with the corresponding full name:

Click here for answers.

Post your score in the comments. Don't feel bad if you didn't get them all — I had to look up a couple just to be sure.

Gravestone of the Day: Jonathan Mors

Jonathan Mors, 1709, Nemasket Hill Cemetery, Middleboro, MA
9: 1709: IN ye 70

Does anyone know this carver? His letters remind me of runes.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Twins

Twins, 1706, Nemasket Hill Cemetery, Middleboro, MA

These stones are mostly illegible — I can make out "TWIN" and "1706."

It looks like these were once a pair of head- and footstones that may have fallen over or been rearranged to accommodate a modern lawnmower.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Ephraim Butterfield

Ephraim Butterfield, 1777, Chelmsford, MA
Memento mori

IN Memory of Mr:
Ephraim Butterfield
son of Capt: John
Butterfield and Mrs Anna
his wife who departed
this Life June 7th: 1777 Aged
36 years and 10 days

The Sin of Adam has laid me lo
For Sin hath wrought an Overthrow
From dust I came to dust Im come
And now the dusts become my home
When Christ comes down with saints to reign
Then dust me no more shall detain

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Cooper's Inventory

Joseph Dyer (1719-1780), son of Lydia Dyer, made his living as a cooper in Boston's North End. As a craftsman who worked in the city's rough-and-tumble waterfront district, he is just the sort of man we think of when we picture an ordinary Bostonian of the Revolutionary era.

When he died in 1780, Dyer was a relatively prosperous craftsman, but still someone who worked with his hands. The inventory from his probate records shows that he was able to accumulate many small luxuries over his lifetime. It is important to keep in mind that 18th-century probate records often show people at their most prosperous, after they have spent a lifetime gathering objects and resources, so we shouldn't assume that all coopers had such extensive household goods. Still, it is helpful to remember that the craftsmen of Boston were able to maintain an impressive (by 18th-c standards) standard of living, even after the economic difficulties of the 1760-1780 period.

The contents of Joseph Dyer's house in 1780:

Cell Phone Video and the Second Amendment

This morning, Andrew Sullivan linked to an ABC article about civilians who have been arrested for capturing video or audio recordings of on-duty police officers. Many discussions of this subject — including the article mentioned above — frame citizens' rights to tape police officers in terms of First Amendment rights, but I'm not sure I agree. 

To me, this is an issue of Second Amendment rights. If the Second Amendment is meant to arm citizens with the tools necessary to protect themselves against encroaching state power, I think that cell phone cameras and YouTube are the muskets of the 21st century. No modern civilian or group of civilians, no matter how well-armed with guns or bombs, has any prayer of fighting off the police (or army) by force. If police officers or soldiers are abusing their power, the best weapon of self-defense available to the modern American is media exposure.

Gravestone of the Day: John and Esther Dunwell

John and Esther Dunwell, 1797, North Burial Ground, Providence, RI
A Memorial of
who died in Surinam in 1766,
aged 51 years.

wife of Capt. John Dunwell,
died Feb. 11, 1797,
aged 77 years.

Behold my night of death has come,
My flesh now rests beneath the tomb;
When the last trumpet shakes the skies,
Then shall my slumbering dust arise.

There is a sub-genre of cenotaphs in maritime communities that are dedicated to husbands who pre-deceased their wives by several decades. These men often died at sea or in far-flung ports. I have noticed a lot of these in Plymouth. In some of the most extreme cases, 50 or 60 years separate the deaths of husbands and wives.

The Dunwells died 31 years apart, but the gravestone still identifies Esther as the "wife of Capt. John Dunwell." I imagine that someone who died in Surinam probably wasn't home a lot even when he was alive. What does it mean to be the wife of someone who died three decades ago? This gravestone does some substantial imaginative work — it reunites two people across many years and many miles and restores the idealized version of their relationship: independent adult man and wife. The gravestone becomes a monument to a fiction that does not bear very much resemblance to day-to-day life.

I'm also trying to pay attention to is the chronology of resurrection imagery and allusions. This particular epitaph also appears on the Eleazer Nickerson stone (1796).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Martha Willis

Martha Willis, 1792, West Bridgewater, MA
Here lies
wife of
Died March 27th 1792,
in her 54th Year

Monday, July 19, 2010

In all fairness to Sarah Palin . . .

. . . the word "refudiate" would allow me to point out the inaccuracy of her statements while simultaneously denouncing them. It fills a need.

Rev. Increase Poope?

This morning, while looking for information on Daniel Malcom, I stumbled across a Freedom Trail website that gives biographical information for the first-person characters adopted by tour guides. As far as I can tell, these are all real people — Phillis Wheatley, Dr. Samuel Prescott, Deborah Samson, Crispus Attucks, etc.

One of the people is Jeremiah Poope, a native of Roxbury who was killed en route to the Battle of Bunker Hill. The bio says that Jeremiah was "the 13th of 18 children born to Mehitable Clapp and Rev. Increase Poope."

So the question is, was there really a minister named Increase Poope living in the Boston area in the mid-18th century? If there was, the internet appears not to know about him, and I can't imagine that any minister would go unrecorded. I have also looked for Increase Poop and Increase Pope, but haven't found anything in Roxbury or elsewhere.

A follow-up question: If Rev. Increase Poope did not actually exist, who chose this name for the Freedom Trail guide and why?

In other news, my "recent searches" menu now contains all possible spellings of both "Poope" and "Clapp."

Gravestone of the Day: Sarah Dyer

Sarah Dyer, 1852, Castine, ME
wife of
Elisha Dyer,
Born August 10, 1775,
Died Aug. 1, 1852;
ages 77 years.

The butterfly emerging from the chrysalis represents the metamorphosis of the soul. I have seen this motif before — there is an example from 1831 at Mount Auburn and from 1798 at the Central Burying Ground in Boston.

The Mount Auburn butterfly looks a little careworn in comparison to the Castine butterfly. I don't know if it's a matter of the quality of the marble or of the elements, but this carving is remarkably sharp and detailed. The veins of the leaves and the intricate designs on the butterfly's wings are barely worn at all.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Will of Lydia Dyer

Whenever I am doing archival research, I am always delighted to find a will. Wills are some of the most illuminating documents left by ordinary people, not only because they provide details about the deceased's material life, but because they often expose the dynamics of family relationships. In the absence of confessional diaries or soul-baring letters, it can be difficult to recover hard evidence about private relationships, but wills can offer excellent clues.

One of my favorite wills was written by Pete's great(x7)-grandfather, Benjamin Weaver (1690-1754) of Newport. In it, he left most of his goods (and slaves) to his wife, Hannah Coggeshall Weaver, including a horse, which he stipulated was,
to be kept by my son Thomas in same manner as he keeps such creatures of his own, and to be brought to the door for [Hannah's] convenience whenever she sees cause, without grumbling.
Recently, I have been researching the genealogy of Lydia Dyer, the elderly Boston refugee whose gravestone proclaims that she died while attempting "to escape ye abuce of ye Ministerial Troops sent by GEORGE ye 3d to subject North-America to Slavery." On Friday, I visited the Massachusetts State Archives to read her will. As I hoped, the will and its accompanying probate records gave me a great window into the Dyer family dynamics on the eve of the Revolution.

Gravestone of the Day: John Winshipp

John Winshipp, 1740, Arlington, MA
John Winshipp Son
of Deacon John &
Mrs Elizabeth
Winshipp Died
July 20th 1740 in ye
11th Year of His Age

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Martha Angier

Martha Angier, 1747, East Bridgewater, MA
DAUGHTr: OF Ye Revd Mr
JULY Ye 23d 1747
IN Ye 14th YEAR
Gone but not lost

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Rosabillah Sterry

Rosabillah Sterry, 1738, Providence, RI
Here lies Inter'd
ye Body of Rosabillah
Sterry; ye Wife of
Robert Sterry
Decd. March ye 2d
1738, in ye 28th
Year of her Age.

Another good name.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Samuel Bird

Samuel Bird, 1825, East Bridgewater, MA
Son of William &
Joanna Bird
died May 13, 1825,
AEt. 15 Mos.

Closed is the eye of youthful mirth,
A parents fondest hopes are fled;
Scarce done rejoicing at his birth,
Ere we must place him with the dead.


This epitaph caught my eye because it is so concerned with the parents' worldly grief. There is no talk of resurrection or comforting hope of heaven — just loss.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gender-Neutral Clothing

Today, Slate's Explainer runs down the history of gender-neutral clothing. Slate has previously featured slideshows explaining the history of gender-specific colors. I have also written up some guidelines for telling boys from girls in 19th-century photos.

At the end of the Slate article, Brian Palmer notes that, "Despite an uninterrupted quarter-century of lacy dresses and flowered pink headbands, observers of high-end children's clothing designers detect a trend back toward gender-neutral clothes." I wish he had provided a citation for this, because I haven't seen any evidence yet. Maybe the places I've been looking have not been high-end enough, but, as someone who has purchased approximately a million articles of infant clothing in the past few months, gender-neutral (or even just not overly frilly) clothing is hard to find. My quest for tiny corduroy overalls without appliqued butterflies or trucks on them continues largely without success.

In Defense of Weddings

Getting all dressed up to get married, July 14, 2007.
Recently, I happened across an article bemoaning the high cost of weddings. In general, I think that critics of expensive weddings make some good points — the median cost of a wedding in America is $17,500, people could use that money for other things, the wedding-industrial complex has lots of arbitrary "musts" designed to fleece consumers, we don't need no piece of paper from the city hall, etc. I certainly understand the appeal of eloping and then spending nearly 20k on a fabulous trip (that $ wouldn't buy you a garden shed in my city, so I won't say "or house").

Yet, I will speak in defense of spending serious money on a wedding.*

I think that the sort of article that bemoans Americans' supposed stupidity for spending money on weddings or other celebrations — christenings, quinceañeras, graduations — often misses something important about living in communities. Sure, if we never threw birthday parties, we would have larger savings accounts, but that is a fairly cold measure of achievement. I think that assuming that the only thing that motivates people to spend money on celebrations is a self-centered love of conspicuous consumption overlooks how people create and sustain social bonds. A wedding isn't just a chance to show off — it's a chance to bring people you love together and to give them a opportunity to enjoy one another. For many people, marking the milestones of their lives with some amount of revelry is worth stretching their financial resources. It's not that they don't understand the magic of compound interest — they are making different (and reasonable) choices.

When Pete and I got married in 2007, we spent nearly $10,000 on our wedding and it was totally worth it. If I could live that day over again for 10k, I would do it in a heartbeat.

We did not have a fancy wedding — we got married in the little church up the street from my aunt's house and had the reception in her back yard. I bought most of my flowers at Stop & Shop and cut many of the rest in my mom's and aunts' gardens. Another aunt made the invitations. I bought my dress for $110 off the rack at Macy's. The bridesmaids' dresses were $100 each at the mall. We played music off of Pete's iPod over a sound system borrowed from my uncle.
Caitlin and Brighid in their fancy (but cheap!) dresses.
So where did all that money go?

We spent money on the things that would make the day great for our 150+ guests. We wanted to give our families and friends one wonderful day of enjoying one another and I think we succeeded in that.

About $1,000 went to cake. Rather than get an elaborate wedding cake, we bought about 30 cakes from our favorite bakery (Pastiche in Providence, RI) and had a cake buffet. Rather than choose one or two flavors, we ordered a bit of everything: cheesecake, carrot cake, lemon chiffon, chocolate, fruit tart, chocolate-raspberry torte, etc.:

Another $1,000 went to drinks: beer, wine, soda, water, and coffee. Three kegs of Sam Adams (Boston lager, stout, and summer ale) took up a chunk of that, as did 2 or three cases of wine. There's a local soda maker up the street from my parents' house, so we got a dozen different flavors of soda in glass bottles. We filled some big tubs with ice and put pitchers on a table and people helped themselves.

About $3,000 went to food. My mother and aunts made vats of pasta salad and potato salad, piles of cookies, and vast fruit plates. The bulk of this money went to a friend-of-a-friend who is a BBQ competition champ — we hired him to bring his setup and make pulled pork, spare ribs, bbq chicken, and grilled vegetables:

An additional $1,500 went to two large canopies. It turned out to be a spectacular day, weather-wise, but you can never tell in New England. If it had been drizzly, we would have been very thankful that we had those tents, so I can't regret the money we spent on them.

About $2,000 went to the photographer. It was a big expense, but we treasure the pictures we have from that day. We had her take family portraits of all of the nuclear families and extended families, with everyone looking their best and all together in the same place. We gave those pictures as Christmas presents and everyone has them framed in their houses now.
All the Galante cousins smiling and looking in the same direction — a rare occurrence.
There were other expenses here and there that made up the last little bit — church fees, gifts for the bridesmaids and groomsmen (we gave them the shirts/ties and necklaces they wore for the ceremony), a few hundred dollars on flowers, etc. In general, we didn't spend much on anything that wasn't directly related to making this a good party. I've been to plenty of un-fun weddings where I have eaten overcooked chicken and cardboard cake while attempting to avoid the dance floor, and I didn't think my family would have appreciated enduring that on my behalf. Instead, we blew 10 grand on the best barbecue ever and it was awesome.

Perhaps I remember my wedding with affection because my beloved grandfather had a devastating stroke a few weeks later, so it was the last time we were really all together as a family. When I look back at the pictures, I see my mom talking to my mother-in-law's friends and my grandmothers eating lunch together while my high school friends play badminton with Pete's cousins and the younger kids splash in the pool. Both of our families are musically inclined and many people brought instruments, leading to an hours-long cross-family, friend-inclusive jam session. Everyone got to chat with everyone else and enjoy free beer and good food.

So, I suppose it's true that if we had eloped and saved that $10,000, we could have invested it and spent it on Snapdragon's college education in 18 years. But we wouldn't have had that day, and we would have been the poorer for it.
Happy Three Years!
*I should note that we were married in Connecticut and live in Massachusetts, so marriage is an option available to all of our neighbors.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names

Pete sent me a great list enumerating many of the assumptions that computer programmers make about people's names. I have run into several of these traps — everything from Facebook declaring my name invalid because it has too many capital letters (5 — the max is 4) to the Social Security Administration requiring me to change my middle name because it is too long (17 characters — SSA max is 16). At every turn, I have considered these to be bugs in the computer system, not faults in my name.

by Patrick McKenzie
  1. People have exactly one canonical full name.
  2. People have exactly one full name which they go by.
  3. People have, at this point in time, exactly one canonical full name.
  4. People have, at this point in time, one full name which they go by.
  5. People have exactly N names, for any value of N.
  6. People’s names fit within a certain defined amount of space.
  7. People’s names do not change.
  8. People’s names change, but only at a certain enumerated set of events.
  9. People’s names are written in ASCII.
  10. People’s names are written in any single character set.
  11. People’s names are all mapped in Unicode code points.
  12. People’s names are case sensitive.
  13. People’s names are case insensitive.
  14. People’s names sometimes have prefixes or suffixes, but you can safely ignore those.
  15. People’s names do not contain numbers.
  16. People’s names are not written in ALL CAPS.
  17. People’s names are not written in all lower case letters.
  18. People’s names have an order to them.  Picking any ordering scheme will automatically result in consistent ordering among all systems, as long as both use the same ordering scheme for the same name.
  19. People’s first names and last names are, by necessity, different.
  20. People have last names, family names, or anything else which is shared by folks recognized as their relatives.
  21. People’s names are globally unique.
  22. People’s names are almost globally unique.
  23. Alright alright but surely people’s names are diverse enough such that no million people share the same name.
  24. My system will never have to deal with names from China.
  25. Or Japan.
  26. Or Korea.
  27. Or Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Russia, Sweden, Botswana, South Africa, Trinidad, Haiti, France, or the Klingon Empire, all of which have “weird” naming schemes in common use.
  28. That Klingon Empire thing was a joke, right?
  29. Confound your cultural relativism!  People in my society, at least, agree on one commonly accepted standard for names.
  30. There exists an algorithm which transforms names and can be reversed losslessly.  (Yes, yes, you can do it if your algorithm returns the input.  You get a gold star.)
  31. I can safely assume that this dictionary of bad words contains no people’s names in it.
  32. People’s names are assigned at birth.
  33. OK, maybe not at birth, but at least pretty close to birth.
  34. Alright, alright, within a year or so of birth.
  35. Five years?
  36. You’re kidding me, right?
  37. Two different systems containing data about the same person will use the same name for that person.
  38. Two different data entry operators, given a person’s name, will by necessity enter bitwise equivalent strings on any single system, if the system is well-designed.
  39. People whose names break my system are weird outliers.  They should have had solid, acceptable names, like 田中太郎.
  40. People have names.

Gravestone of the Day: Hannah and Daniel Glover

Hannah and Daniel Glover, 1760, Marblehead, MA
Hannah Glover
Who died Octob. 17
1758 Aged 1 year, &
3 days.

Daniel Glover
Who died Octob. 3.
1760 Aged 1 Year &
6 Months.

Children of Mr. John & Mrs. Han-
nah Glover.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Journalist Hat

Briton Hadden, 1899, from Life Magazine Archive
This toddler is Briton Hadden (1898-1929), who grew up to be a world-famous journalist and founded Time Magazine.

Gravestone of the Day: Lothrop Children

Lothrop Children, West Bridgewater, MA
Here lies
8 Children of
Mr, Josiah Lothrop Jr
& Susanna his wife
they died in infancy

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Slave Ship: A Human History

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading Marcus Rediker's The Slave Ship: A Human History in dribs and drabs. Actually, I have been listening to the unabridged version available through Audible, but I say it counts.

I've been dancing around this book for a while because I'm not entirely sure what I think of it. On one hand, it has been enormously useful for me in thinking about death at sea and the role of terror in capitalist production. On the other, I am slightly uncomfortable with the porn-y aspect of Rediker's efforts to linger on the violence of the slave ships. I suppose Rediker would say that my discomfort is a good thing — he laments the "violence of abstraction" that characterizes much of the literature on slavery.

Yet, I think that the way in which he recovers the horrific violence of the slave ship is in some measures sensationalist and lurid. Since Rediker relies heavily on ship's manifests, court documents, and the testimony of sailors, his descriptions of violence are episodic and include detailed descriptions of torture and suffering, but few opportunities for readers to become attached to particular victims. Such is the nature of the sources —Africans flash in and out of the book as writhing, wretched, ruined bodies, as if they were illuminated by lightning strikes. We gape in horror at their anguish, but we do not know them. This structure supports Rediker's main thesis — that violence/terror is intrinsic to capitalist production and that the slave ship is the heart of that process laid bare — but it does its own kind of violence. Rediker's crazy quilt of horrors skirts the line between educational and lecherous.

The Strange Journey of an Abandoned Gravestone

A New York man finds a gravestone on a Manhattan sidewalk.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gravestone of the Day

Eleazer Ingalls, 1718, Marblehead, MA
ye 27 1717/18

Friday, July 9, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Jem Howard

Jem Howard, 1771, Newport, RI
In Memory of
Jem Howard
a Twin Brother of
Quam & Son of
Philis, died July
17th, 1771 in the 
9th. Year of his Age

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Baby Whitman

Baby Whitman, 1794, East Bridgewater, MA
In memory of
the son of
Mr. Jepthah Whitman
& Mrs. Betsey his wife,
who died Oct. 24 1794
aged 14 days

This one caught my eye because it implies that a 2-week-old child went unnamed. I am not surprised to find that stillborn or day-old babies often went unnamed, but two weeks seems like an awfully long time to me. Other gravestones indicate that 2-week-old infants were generally named.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Thomas Fields

Thomas Fields, Jr., 1790, Castine, ME
 In Memory of
son of THOMAS &
who was drowned
before his Fathers door
July 21st 1790
Aged 2 Years & 3 Days

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: James Dennis Hammond

James Dennis Hammond, 1840, Marblehead, MA
This stone is a modern reproduction of the original.

In Memory of
He was one of the Heroes of
the Frigate Constitution and 
having been wounded in the
capture of the Java he
received a pension from his
grateful Country untill
his decease which happened
Oct. 24, 1840 at the age of
54 years 10 mos. & 14 days
Immortal honor to all those
Who bled in Freedoms Naval Fights
And vanquished all their Countrys does
To gain Free Trade & Sailors Rights

Monday, July 5, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Charles Stewart

Charles Stewart, 1783/1849, Castine, ME
In Memory of
the earliest Occupant
of this Mansion of the 
Dead, a Native of Scotland,
& 1st Lieut. Comm. of his
B.M. 74th Regt. of foot,
or Argyle Highlanders,
who died in this Town, while
it was in possession
of the Enemy,
March A.D. 1783,
and was interred beneath 
this Stone, AEt. about 40 y's.

Charles Stewart, a British officer, is buried in Castine, Maine. In 1779, he was part of the British garrison that helped fight off the infamous Penobscot Expedition — not that it needed much fighting off. The leaders of the expedition — Commodore Dudley Saltonstall and Paul Revere — waged such an ineffective campaign to drive the British out of Maine that Saltonstall had to stand trial before a court-martial and Revere was dismissed from military service. The Americans more or less sailed to Castine, made a few feeble attempts at a ground assault, and then waited around in the harbor until the British navy arrived in such force that they were forced to scuttle their own ships and walk back to Boston.

Despite the fact that Charles Stewart was on the winning side of one of America's worst naval defeats, someone in Castine has chosen to honor him by placing an American flag at his gravesite. I do not know why. I am also slightly skeptical that Stewart was actually the first person buried in this particular graveyard, seeing as I found a marker bearing the date 1782 not 20 yards away:

Shoveling Hat

Kremlin, Russia, April 1947, from Life Magazine Archive

On Vacation

Internet is spotty in coastal Maine, but I'll try to post some local gravestone pics if I can. I have a copy of Karen Wentworth Batignani's Maine's Coastal Cemeteries: A Historic Tour and a Maine Coast Heritage Trust map.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Eunice Angier

Eunice Angier, 1771, East Bridgewater, MA
Here lies the Body of
Sister of the
who departed this life
October 5th 1771
having a little before
compleated the 73d
year of her Age

This is an interesting epitaph because it defines the deceased — an elderly, seemingly unmarried woman — in terms of her relationship to her brother. Other women's stones generally call them the daughter or wife of so-and-so, but "sister of" is quite rare.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: John Fownell

John Fownell, 1673, Phipps Street, Charlestown, MA

What is this material? It doesn't look like slate. It makes me wonder about the other materials Boston-area carvers experimented with in the early days of New England gravestones (1660s and 1670s).