Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Lending a Hand

How Social Services Provide the Mechanism to Help our Fellow Citizens

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Did you see the news article from Australia where commuters spontaneously joined together to tilt the train so that a man could free his leg wedged in the gap? It was a heartwarming story of folks, seeing a catastrophe unfolding, pitching in to help the person who could not help himself.

In the case of the trapped commuter, the humanitarian response seems obvious. Unfortunately, the metaphor of assisting others who are on the brink of disaster, does not always carry over with the same compassionate response toward folks who must rely on social services. I am often amazed that some of the kindest and most giving people on a personal level, who are so willing to offer their help to friends and family in need, either through church groups or civil associations, turn away in contempt when it comes to their more distant neighbors and fellow citizens. It would be arrogant on our part to assume that we can understand the complexities of various disabilities, such as schizophrenia, autism, addiction, depression or bi-polar. Compounded on these disabilities are the social scars from dysfunctional families or just plain bad luck. We must not scapegoat on those who are most vulnerable. Therefore, as a society we come together to help these folks, in a concerted way, through policy and practice of social services, rather than charity.

Some feel that people on welfare or needing food stamps are getting a free ride at their expense. Media outlets with an agenda supporting corporate welfare, cast those who need help as undeserving, making up false accusations, such as their refusing to work, and this propaganda fuels the fire of hatred. If we look at the statistics, fraud and abuses are relatively minor. Sharing the facts about low fraud, however, does little to move those who have come to believe that folks that require social services are moochers. Some even point to owning a refrigerator or microwave as evidence that no one is really poor. It’s as if they want to believe the visceral and dehumanizing rhetoric regardless of the truth.

If we do nothing to help the poor or disabled, that in itself is an abuse. Government assistance is an organized attempt to offer an ethical solution to poverty, and it is in the best interests of all citizens that we attempt to ameliorate the conditions of poverty. Otherwise, we face increased illness and crime, deterioration of the family structure, and a workforce unprepared for skilled jobs. Scapegoating on the down trodden blames these victims of circumstance, most of whom were born into their situation.

It’s the multi-million dollar corporations which steal from citizens. Economic elites have significant impact on U.S. government policy, while average citizens have little or no influence. Corporations hire lawyers to figure every way to dodge our taxes, while still benefiting from working on U.S. soil.

I believe in pulling together to tilt the train to help those caught in the throes of poverty, illness or despair. We must support each other for the health of the society and for ourselves, as it is in our own self-interest to help others. We are all workers, and an injury to one is an injury to all.

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Swan Pond

Swan Pond

For over a year, I’d been planning an outing to the Morris Arboretum, and finally after a late start, drove down PA 476 to the northwest corner of Philadelphia to the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of the 92-acre garden. Ignoring the heat at around 90 degrees, the high humidity and thunder clouds threatening in the distance, I considered these positive circumstances–no crowds!

The gardens were set high on a hilltop, providing lovely views of the surrounding forest landscape. The gardens, modeled after the English park style, featured wide paths that wound past a swan pond, rustic cabin, stone buildings and sculpture exhibit. Sounds of water trickling along the creek offered a soothing and cooling atmosphere in the summer heat.

Much of the park is shaded, and I kept to those paths that offered relief from the direct sun. I strolled along the 450-foot raised walkway, built from recycled metal and wood, and which soars to 50 feet at the highest point through the treetops. Rope netting hung like hammocks where visitors could just lay back and gaze at canopy overhead. A gigantic bird nest made from tree branches provided benches to sit and ponder the three large blue “eggs” resting in the center.

The Garden Railway

My fascination with trains is what really brought me to this garden. G-scale trains and trolley cars run along a quarter-mile of track through a magical garden setting. The entire display, including all the buildings, are constructed from natural materials, everything from bark to seeds. Rivers and waterfalls flow through the miniature town, which includes replicas of famous Philadelphia landmarks such as Independence Hall and the Betsy Ross House. Each building was a masterpiece, with intricate detailing in the doors and windows. The whimsical chicken train glided along to accompanying music, what else but the chicken song, and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile even carried a bottle of mustard. I lingered for quite a while in the railroad garden, as the miniature recreation offered so much to enjoy.

A thunder-storm rumbled through the hills, driving me back to my car. With many other gardens to visit–the rock wall, rose and water gardens and Japanese Overlook–I know I will return, perhaps during the holidays, when evergreens, holly boughs and twinkle lights decorate the train scape.

Anarchist Bookfair poster

No one can seem to recall if there has ever been an anarchist book fair in Philadelphia, but no matter, because on August 23, dozens of vendors and organizations came together at the Rotunda to offer a selection of literature for the discerning minds of progressive activists.

If you are new to anarchism, you might believe that anarchists are a bunch of bomb-throwing lunatics. Please park all your preconceptions at the door.

If anarchy is not about gratuitous violence, a view perpetuated to discount this group on the political fringe, then what is it? Yes, some have resorted to violence but no worse than violence brought on by “legitimate parties,” say, militarized police, for example. One group, anarcho-pacifists, completely reject the use of violence. Anarchy is a theoretical social state in which there is no governing body of persons, but everyone has absolute liberty.  Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, was sometimes seen as a philosophical anarchist who believed that, “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’, because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

Chomsky at Swarthmore College, November 2013

Chomsky at Swarthmore College,

Anarcho-syndicalism best explains my political philosophy where workers’ solidarity, direct action and workers’ self-management form the basis for encouraging workers to free themselves from the hierarchical systems of bosses and managers. In the ideal economic system, workers control the means of production and manage all aspects of their company. Workers make decisions collectively. Today Noam Chomsky, intellectual, MIT professor and author of over 100 books, is one of the most famous anarcho-syndicalists. If you have ever felt that your boss or your company was ineffective, bullying or stingy with wages, you might just be an anarcho-syndicalist.

 Books, Pamphlets, T-Shirts, Buttons

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I stopped at most of the displays, buying a t-shirt from the Lehigh Valley I.W.W, another t-shirt from Bindlestiff Books and coffee from Red Emmas. Representatives from other organizations, such as Philly Antifa, NYC Anarchist Black Cross, Marcellus Shale Earth First! and the Wooden Shoe answered questions and suggested reading materials. Most booths gave out free materials.

Entrance to the fair was free and pizza and coffee provided, with donations accepted.

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Refresher on Anarchist Economics

ASR-62Speakers presented talks throughout the morning and afternoon. I attended a lecture by Jon Bekken, who is on the editorial collective staff of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, an independent syndicalist magazine published since 1986. Jon gave an informative overview of anarchist economics, fielding questions from the audience.

The video offers a few excerpts from that discussion.

The book fair organizers hoped to challenge preconceived notions of anarchism and “move toward a world based on freedom and mutual aid.” With the number of vendors, the great turnout from the community and the workshops and discussions, I would say the fair had been a resounding success. The fair closed early so that participants could attend a vigil in Clark Park for Mike Brown and the people of Ferguson, Missouri.

Ararchist Airship flies Over William Penn

Anarchist Airship flies Over William Penn

 

Just a rock? Or Native American Artifact?

IMG_7591While beachcombing on an island off the coast of Maine, I came across a rock, just one of thousands piled along the shoreline. What struck me about this rock was the straight planes and angles, as if a human had cut the rock rather than shaped by natural forces. The rock fit nicely in the palm of my hand. Black deposits appeared on three sides, the fourth side, none at all. Shaped like a wedge, etchings marked the narrow edge. New Englanders told me that some folks collect these rocks, as they are considered lucky because two straight white lines cross each.

When I returned home, I scanned the Internet looking for any evidence that the shape might reveal its history. I studied images of Native American tools, but I could not find anything like it. I checked with the folks at rockpiles.blogspot,com, where Peter suggested that the rock might be a hoe,

You can see the “edge” as a worked sequence on the upper edge, and you can see how the hoe was was attached to a handle – the dark staining is from organic material like leather that was used to tie the hoe to the handle.

Corn Festival and Artifact Appraisal

I still wanted to learn more about the rock and came across the Roasting Ears of Corn Festival, Eastern Pennsylvania’s oldest Native American Festival, held at the Museum of Indian Culture in Allentown. One of their many events included a chance for an appraisal of an Indian artifact.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I could hear the drums in the distance and joined folks streaming into the staging area. Children were taking turns at the tomahawk and spear throw, and dancers filled the central arena. Before looking for the appraisal tent, I headed first for the line for the roasted corn. Buffalo burgers and Indian taco were also on the menu. The blueberry frybread sounded good, so I ordered that, too, and found a seat at the picnic tables in front of the dancing circle. Later, I read about frybread in a Smithsonian article on the subject:

Navajo frybread originated 144 years ago, when the United States forced Indians living in Arizona to make the 300-mile journey known as the “Long Walk” and relocate to New Mexico, onto land that couldn’t easily support their traditional staples of vegetables and beans. To prevent the indigenous populations from starving, the government gave them canned goods as well as white flour, processed sugar and lard—the makings of frybread.

It seems that frybread has become a favorite at pow-wows and fairs, varying in the way it is prepared in each area of the country. Native American dancing, although energetic, is meditative with the rhythmic drumming accompanying the movements, and I fell under the spell in the soft summer air as I savored the blueberry frybread. Glad I didn’t know at the time could be as much as 700 calories!

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American Indian Cooking Demonstration

I have some familiarity with Indian history, having taken a course in Native American autobiography. In a post, My Favorite Book: Condemned by both the Left and Right, I write about the controversies surrounding the novel, Education of Little Tree. Alexie Sherman signed another one of my favorite books, Reservation Blues.  

Valuable Find

I found the Museum of Indian Cultures head curator, Lee Hallman, sitting behind his many collections of arrowheads, displayed in glass cases. Lee examined the rock and stated that it was definitely a tool, possibly a scrapping implement, that it was Native American but not valuable. I had thought that if was important I would give it to a museum in Maine. Lee said it might be worth a dollar, at the most.  Well, regardless of the monetary value, looking at the rock, I think about the hands that crafted it.

Curator Museum

Lee Hallman & arrow display

Now that I had identified my rock, time to stroll along the many tents and exhibits. At one of the tents, a musician played a large wooden flute, and the melody was so enchanting, I purchased the CD, Meditation, with the melody, “Love Mountain.” Several vendors were selling CDS so visitors had many choices of Native American music, current and traditional.

Lord of the Strings, Arvel Bird

The featured performer, Arvel Bird, played a magical combination of Native American and Celtic music, and I couldn’t image how I had the fortune to hear live someone who brought two of my favorite music genres together. Arvel’s biography on his website provides this description:

“Braveheart Meets Last of the Mohicans . . . at Woodstock” is a colorful description of this award-winning Celtic Fusion recording artist and his live performances. Arvel Bird, a violinist and Native American flutist, is known around the world for his dramatic connection between Celtic and Native American traditions, stirring up scenes that echo from North American memory. Dubbed “Lord of the Strings” by fans and music critics, his music evokes the soul of North American history and is thoroughly entertaining, but also enlightening and humanizing. In a language and experience that captures the hearts of all audiences, he’s emotional without being condescending, intellectual without being pretentious.

Arvel Bird

Given my Scotch-Irish heritage, I felt an immediate connection to his music. A skillful musician, Arvel gifted us with a joyful performance that reflected his passion for the violin. Celtic and Native American ancestral spirits would be deeply moved by his presentation of stories and songs. I especially enjoyed his classical piece, Tribal Music Suite: Journey of a Paiute, a Celtic and Native American Concerto for Violin and Native American Flute, that earned Arvel Best Instrumental Album.

I don’t usually believe in lucky charms, but somehow the rock brought me to this inspiring performance.

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Longing for a seafaring adventure? I’ve just returned from a six-day sailing experience on a schooner through the islands and back bays of central Maine. I prefer to write travel journals as pages, which can be found here: Sailing the Coast of Maine on a Windjammer.

A sampling of some of the photographs by primary colors.

Yellow

 Red

Blue

 

 

My father, John Kerr Malinoski, painted his childhood growing up in Royal Oak as idyllic and at a time in the history of the United States, when one working class family, with humble roots, enjoyed some basic comforts as compared with the lives of their parents, who were homesteaders on a farm in Upper Michigan and worked in the lumber mills. My father was the first in his family to graduate from college.

Malinoski Family 1923

Family Moves to Royal Oak

After eight years of marriage to my grandfather, George H. Malinoski, my grandmother, Mae Kerr, gave birth to twins on June 23, 1918 at Women’s Hospital in Detroit. My father’s sister did not survive. Accord to his baby book, Dad weighed only 3 pounds 10 ounces. 1918 was not a particularly good year to be born as the flu pandemic was sweeping across the United States and Europe with mortality running between 3 to 6%.

The family moved from Detroit to 412 Rhode Island Avenue. The population of Royal Oak was about 6,000 and growing, mostly because of the auto industry’s need for labor to work on the assembly lines. George, who had worked on his parent’s farm and then in the lumber mills, found employment at the Chrysler Plant and continued to work there until his retirement in the 1950s. My father told me his Dad was never laid off; during the Depression, George still worked part-time.

IMG_0559Mae was a homemaker, spending time quilting and embroidering; some of her work can be viewed on these posts, Appreciating the Needlework of our Grandmothers: Rethinking Four Issues and Part II.

Dad’s Stories

An ice box stood on the back porch, and they would get a regular delivery of ice. They had deliveries from many other tradesmen, including butchers and milkmen. My father told me that the milkman’s horse would know where to stop for each house. In the summer, he and his cousins would sleep on the front porch. The family never locked their doors. When friends would stop in (in those days no one had announce they were coming over ahead of time), they would put on a pot of coffee. In winter, they had to shovel coal into the furnace in the basement.

412 Road Island Royal Oak

412 Rhode Island

Camera

Eastman Kodak Camera 1910

My grandparents passed along six photo albums from this time so taking pictures was very important to them. Most of the photographs were taken with this Eastman Kodak, Pocket C, Premo, dated 1910.

The camera has an adjustable shutter and aperture. Glass frames were inserted into the back of the camera. 

Furniture: High Chair and Wicker Rocker

Two pieces from my father’s childhood, high chair and rocker.

Union Elementary School

My father attended the local elementary school, where his cousin, Phoebe Kerr, was his teacher for one year.

Union School

Union School

Classroom

Dad is sitting in the row on the right, second seat.

Classroom Union School

Classroom Union School c1925

6th Grade Report Card

John Report Card

School Song Book

School Songs

Sunday School Certificate

School Songs 1

Study Materials 

The News Outline

My father saved one example of this publication, which was a weekly current event lesson. Published in 1930 when Dad was in sixth grade, he must have paid the 5 cents to buy the “attractive cover.” Some of the titles in the publication include, Mexico’s New President, Pam-American Highway, Byrd Antarctic Expedition Returns and London Navel Conference.

Analyzing the article about Haiti provides some insight about the lessons children received about history, with a considerable amount of white-washing, no pun intended, of the facts. The opening statement is most telling:

Have you ever heard of a country in which almost all of the people are black, the officers of the government are black, and the army is made up of Negros?

The text raises the question: how did the Negros, who were not natives of America, come to control Haiti? The answer: “Negros were brought over from Africa to work on the great plantations of sugar cane.” From this description, students are given the impression that those wonderful plantations offered employment opportunities. No place in the article do the authors mention how the Africans were enslaved and then rebelled against their cruel oppressors. The article continues: “Their numbers multiplied greatly, but the Indians almost disappeared.” It is as if the Blacks were responsible for the Indian demise, when in actuality, diseases, especially smallpox, decimated their numbers. Columbus’s intent was to take wealth where ever he found it by any means. The Spanish forced the Indians to pay tribute: supplying rulers with “a hawks bell of gold” or 25 pounds of spun cotton every three months, and they would cut off their hands if they did not comply. The Spanish worked the Indians unmercifully as they labored in the fields and mines.

News Outline 1930

News Outline 1930

Book of Knowledge

The Book of Knowledge was a children’s set of Encyclopedias, first published by Grolier Publishing in 1890 and ended in 1963. My father’s set was published in 1926. These books were well illustrated with both black and white photographs and colored plates. The books have strong sections on poetry, literature and paintings.

The page above shows child workers in the tea plantations. After all these years, child labor is still with us today.

The Volume Library

Another book from my Dad’s collection, The Volume Library, was written for educators and published by the Educators Association. The text, which has many black and white illustrations, has some colored plates. The Volume Library covers a variety of subjects, including literature, history, geography, biography math, science, government and fine arts. A page from the text shows a “sample summer diet for children 7 to 12 years.”  If that’s what children ate back then, seems like they benefited from nutritious food, especially with the emphasis on vegetables. Desserts consisted of ginger cookies, baked apple or custard.

Diet 1911

In paging through the book, I found this poem by Jonathan Swift:

So, naturalists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bit ‘em;
And so proceed ad infinitum.
Thus every poet, in his kind,
Is bit by him that comes behind.

Greeting Cards

The family gave each greeting cards and must have felt very sentimental about them because they saved over 50. They exchanged cards for Valentine’s Day, Easter, graduation, Christmas, Mother’s Day and anniversaries.

Mother’s Day

Card 1Anniversary

Card 2Christmas

Card 3

Toys

Sleigh, sans Santa

The story goes that my father sent Santa on a parachute ride. Santa did not arrive safely, but the sleigh was passed down, remaining a centerpiece of our family holiday decorations. Because my father became an electronic engineer (story is at this link), it is not surprising that he conducted a few science experiments as a child.

Sleigh Toy

Lionel Model Train

One Christmas, Dad’s parents purchased a model train set for him. Known as Standard Gauge or Wide Gauge, the train ran on a three-rail track about two inches wide. The train was one of the models produced by the Lionel Corporation, a major manufacturer of toy trains. Throughout the 1920s Lionel manufactured several sets of authentic locomotives and train cars with careful attention to detail, including some models with brass and nickel trim.

Lionel Trains 1936

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Buddy Truck

Buddy Truck c1925

Buddy Truck c1925

Buddy “L” toys were produced by the Moline Pressed Steel Company, started in 1910 by Fred A. Lundahl, who designed and produced the all-steel miniature truck Buddy L. The company also manufactured toy cars, fire engines, and construction equipment. When we were children, we used to straddle the truck, riding down our asphalt driveway, so the next generation also enjoyed the toy.

Royal Oak High School

Royal Oak HS c1936

Royal Oak HS c1936

Graduation Announcement

Royal Oak Grad Announcement

 Graduates

Graduation 1936

Senior Year Book 1936

Year Book 1936

Typewriter

Typewriter C 1930

Royal Portable Typewriter C 1930

Music

Always

Throughout his life, Dad sang the melodies popular during his childhood. “Always”, written by Irving Berlin in 1925, was one of his favorites. My mother played the piano, and she and Dad would reminisce and sing “their song.”

Dad loved to sing The Whiffenpoof Song. There’s something very compelling about poor little lambs that have lost their way. Published in 1909, the song became a hit for Rudy Valle in 1927. The Whiffenpoofs are a cappella group from Yale.

Rudyard Kipling wrote the words, published in his poem, “Gentlemen Rankers” in 1892.

Whiffenpoof Song

We’re poor little lambs who’ve lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We’re little black sheep who’ve gone astray,
Baa—aa—aa!
Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha mercy on such as we,
Baa! Yah! Bah!

Shine on Harvest Moon

“Shine on, Harvest Moon” was one of a series of moon-related Tin Pan Alley songs from the 1900s. The song became a standard in popular music throughout the 20th century.

“I”ve Been Working on the Railroad,”  “Inka Dinka Doo,”  “Git along Little Dogies,” “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” and “Cool  Water” were other favorites.

John’s First Automobile
Auto C 1936

Dad proudly displays his first car, which he used to commute to Lawrence Institute of Technology, in Southfield, Michigan, about a ten-minute drive from his home. Before Dad had the car, he would hitchhike every day to college and never once had a bad experience. He graduated with honors in 1941 with a degree in electrical engineering. He moved to Philadelphia to work for the Philco Corporation; during the war, was part of a team developing radar systems. His mother passed away in 1936, and several years later his Dad remarried and retired to Florida.

So ends this story of one family from Royal Oak, their history preserved in the few items they saved and passed down, their photo albums and the stories they told, leaving a legacy to their grandchildren. As my father described his life back in the 1920s, their lives were generally happy, that they some freedom from economic toil, had time for camping and gathering with friends in a town that offered a sweet place to grow up.

Downtown late 30s, early 40s looking north on Washington from 5th or 6th. Identification: Muriel Versagi, Curator, Royal Oak Historical Society

Downtown late 30s, early 40s looking north on Washington from 5th or 6th. Identification: Muriel Versagi, Curator, Royal Oak Historical Society

Link

Royal Oak Historical Society

 

 

The farmland, forests and fields of the Pennypacker Mills County Park provided the setting for the Civil War Reunion. The park lies 15 miles north of Valley Forge National Park and just across the Perkiomen Creek from the town of Schwenksville. “Perkiomen” is a word from the Lenape, a tribe of Native Americans who settled in the area, that means “muddy waters” and “where the cranberries grow.” As I walked down to the creek, tall grasses waved in the gentle breeze casting an incense over the landscape. Purple, white and yellow wildflowers peeked out from under the canopy of grasses. I stood on the bank of the creek as the melody, “Wade in the Water,” a song associated with the Underground Railroad, played in my mind.

The Perkiomen Creek and Underground Railroad share a connection. In a famous case, a slave named Rachel had to flee from West Chester when her owner, who lived in Maryland, showed up in town with a warrant for her arrest. Fleeing from her pursuers, Rachel jumped a seven feet high fence, escaping once again. After hiding in an attic, her friends smuggled her out of town to Phoenixville, crossing the Schuylkill River and then the Perkiomen Creek at Tyson’s Mill in the middle of the night. (The Underground Railroad in our Area)

The centerpiece of the park is a colonial revival mansion built around 1720 and owned by the Pennypacker family for eight generations. Pennsylvania governor Samuel Pennypacker, who served the state between 1903 to 1907, lived in the house and collected many of the antiques that are displayed throughout the rooms of the mansion.

Mansion at PPM

Having filmed two other Civil War reenactments, skirmishes on the Wilmington Railroad and at Rising Sun, Maryland, I looked forward to a new adventure on the rolling hills of Montgomery County. Although no Civil War battles were fought here, in 1863 Samuel Pennypacker enlisted in the 26th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia and confronted Confederate forces at a skirmish north of Gettysburg at Witmer Farm.

American Civil War: History and Recreation

Other than a few history classes in college, I hadn’t studied much about the Civil War. In order to learn more, I’ve watched the recent PBS series, Civil War: The Untold Story, the central theme, which some view as controversial, establishing that the Civil War was fought over slavery and not the issue of states’ rights. Producer-director Chris Wheeler stated that the film brought hate mail from groups on the radical right. The film also included the relatively unknown history of the contributions of African-Americans to the conflict. I admired the filming of the battle scenes. What Wheeler and I have in common is that we both photographed reenactors, who are dedicated to accurate portrayals of the Civil War.

General John F. Hartranft

General John F. Hartranft

General John F. Hartranft (a.k.a, Mark D. Grim, Jr.), a native of Montgomery County who fought in both the Eastern and Western battles, presented a lecture on his experiences during the war and as provost-marshal during the trial of those accused of assassinating Abraham Lincoln. The General stated that when Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, Union soldiers became confused as to the reason they were fighting. They understood the cause as preservation of the union and not for the freedom of the slaves. General Hartranft reaffirmed to the soldiers that preserving the union was the purpose of their sacrifice. As strongly as I believe that the preservation of the union was important, seems like freeing an oppressed population would be a more compelling reason to take up arms.

The event planners filled the weekend with activities and demonstrations including musical performances, battle reenactments, children’s events, speakers and sutlers displaying their wares. I took advantage of an early start on the day and attended every event on their schedule.

Mansion Tours

Visitors could walk through the house, where guides in each area presented a history of the rooms. The house was not electrified until after the Pennypackers left, but in 1900 much of the building was updated and renovated. Many of the original furnishings, books and paintings remained with house and in remarkable condition.

Included in the slide show below, is a portrait of Governor Pennypacker, whose veto in 1906 blocked what would have been the first compulsory sterilization law in the United States. Pennypacker stated:

“It is plain that the safest and most effective method of preventing procreation would be to cut the heads off the inmates, and such authority is given by the bill to this staff of scientific experts…Scientists like all men whose experiences have been limited to one pursuit…sometimes need to be restrained. Men of high scientific attainments are prone…to lose sight of broad principles outside of their domain…To permit such an operation would be to inflict cruelty upon a helpless class…which the state has undertaken to protect…” Wikipedia

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Songs & Stories of the Civil War

Dressed in a Confederate soldier’s uniform, Matthew Dodd played banjo and guitar, singing songs of the Civil War era, as well as telling stories. He plays “Dixie” in the video at the end of this post.

Matthew Dodd

Civilian Street Demonstrations and Families

Union Patriotic League, an organization that represents domestic life during the Civil War era, often accompanies the reenactors, displaying their specialized interests, whether basket weaving, cooking or sewing. They created charming vignettes inside their tents, with rugs, quilts, flowers and lamps.  In the real Civil War encampments, women and children rarely accompanied the soldiers, so these tents are representative of domestic life at that time and not actually recreating camp life. Photographs that follow are from the both the Union Patriotic League and Civil War reenactor camp sites.

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 Confederate Artillery Demonstration

John Houch presented a history lesson to the gathered crowd, who came to watch the firing of the cannons. John mentioned that in the filming of Gettysburg, the director borrowed 50 cannons from reenactors. In addition to the seasoned adults, children and teens also took part in the demonstration. The Confederates represented the 37th Regiment, North Carolina Troops, Company A.

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Becks Philadelphia Brass Band

Becks Brass Band

The Becks Philadelphia Brigade Band, a Civil War/Victorian-era brass band, performed military and social music of the Civil War period through the late 1800s. Authentically uniformed, the band played both reproduction and period instruments including a piccolo, Eb cornet, Bb cornet, Eb alto horn, tenor horn, baritone horn, bass and percussion. Today’s band serves as representatives of the brass band of the 2nd Division, 2nd Corps, 2nd Brigade of the Union Army of the Potomac in 1863.

Battlefield Enactment

Like the little girl whirling in circles, controversies swirl around the authenticity and ethical debates on battle enactments. For someone who would melt down every bullet and bomb ever produced, I have had to ask myself what is the attraction to watching battles, which in reality brought untold suffering and grief? Can someone so committed to peace derive an uplifting message from living history enactments?

My argument is in support of the reenactors. They have been extraordinarily kind in sharing information they have learned and generous with their time in making an honest effort at historical representation. Reenactors have every right to role play, as any movie director or documentarian has to present their view. These are regular folks who are portraying regular folks. Just like critics analyze films and television, visitors and observers may also critique these enactments. Just being present, reenactors encourage discussion, debate and further research. Historical reenacting, as well as for those of us making videos, carries the responsibility to authenticity and an understanding of the implications how the history of the Civil War might be presented.

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