Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Christmas Truce of 1863

"Christmas Eve," an illustration by Thomas Nast for Harper's Weekly, January 3, 1863
Christmas on the Rappahannock

The story below is from the Civil War. It was published in Harper’s Weekly in 1886 by Rev. John Paxton who himself served as a Union soldier with the 140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. His story takes place on Christmas Day just after the Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg. 

While on patrol, his unit came upon a group of Confederate soldiers standing across the Rappahannock River. It is said that instead of fighting, they declared a pause, an unofficial truce, in the fighting for Christmas. Then they met to share the Christmas spirit.

Christmas on the Rappahannock
Story by Rev. John R. Paxton, D.D.

“Gentlemen, the chair of the Professor of the Mathematics is vacant in this college; permit me to introduce to you, Captain Fraser.” Rah! rah! rah! and away we went and enlisted – to go to Richmond. It took us three years to get there. No wonder; there were so many Longstreets to make our way through; so many Hills to climb; so many Stonewalls to batter down; so many Picketts to clear out of the way. It was as hard as a road to travel as the steep and stony one to heaven.

No preaching, sir! Can’t you forget the shop? Don’t you know that you have squeezed yourself into that faded, jacket, and are squirming, with a flushed face and short breaths, behind that sword belt, which had caused a rebellion in media res?

I started for Richmond in July 1862, a lad eighteen years old, a junior in college, and chafing to be at it, – to double-quick it after John Brown’s soul, which, since it did not require a knapsack or three days’ rations or a canteen or a halt during the night for sleep, was always marching on. 

On the night before Christmas, 1862, I was a dejected young patriot, wishing I hadn’t done it, shivering in the open weather a mile back of the Rappahannock, on the reserve picket and exposed to a wet snowstorm. There was not a stick of wood within five miles of us; all cut down, down, even the roots of trees, and burned up. We lay down on our rubber blankets, pulled our woolen blankets over us, spooned it as close as we could to get to steal warmth from our comrades, and tried not to cry.

Next morning the snow lay heavy and deep, and the men, when I wakened and looked about me, reminded me of a church graveyard in winter. “Fall in for picket duty. There, come, Moore, McMeaus, Paxton, Perrine, Pollock, fall in.” We fell in, of course, No breakfast; chilled to the marrow; snow a foot deep. We tightened our belts on our empty stomachs, seized our rifles, and marched to the river to take our six hours on duty.

It was Christmas Day, 1862. “And so this is war,” my old me said to himself while he paced in the snow his two hours on the river’s brink. “And I am out here to shoot that lean, lank, coughing, cadaverous-looking butternut fellow over the river. So this is war; this is being a soldier; this is the genuine article; this is H. Greely’s ‘On to Richmond.’ Well, I wish he were here in my place, running to keep warm, pounding his arms and breast to make the chilled blood circulate. So this is war, tramping up and down this river my fifty yards with wet feet, empty stomach, swollen nose.”

Alas, when lying under the trees in the college campus last June, war meant to me martial music, gorgeous brigadiers in blue and gold, tall young men in line, shining in brass. War meant to me tumultuous memories of Bunker Hill, Caesar’s Tenth Legion, the Charge of the Six Hundred, – anything but this. 

Pshaw, I wish I were home. Let me see. Home? God’s country. A tear? Yes, it is a tear. What are they doing at home? This is Christmas Day. Home? Well, stockings on the wall, candy, turkey, fun, merry Christmas, and the face of the girl I left behind. Another tear? Yes, I couldn’t help it. I was only eighteen, and there was such a contrast between Christmas, 1862, on the Rappahannock and other Christmases. Yes, there was a girl, too, – such sweet eyes, such long lashes, such a low tender voice.

“Come, move quicker. Who goes there?” Shift the rifle from one aching shoulder to the other.

“Hello, Johnny, what are you up to?” The river was narrow, but deep and swift. It was a wet cold, not a freezing cold. There was no ice, too swift for that.

“Yank, with no overcoat, shoes full of holes, nothing to eat but parched corn and tabacco, and with this darned Yankee snow a foot deep, there’s nothin’ left, nothin’ but to get up a cough by way of protestin’ against this infernal ill-treatment of the body. We uns, Yank, all have a cough over here, and there’s no sayin’ which will run us to hole first, the cough or your bullets.”

The snow still fell, the keen wind, raw and fierce, cut to the bone. It was God’s worst weather, in God’s forlornest, bleakest spot of ground, that Christmas Day of ’62 on the Rappahannock, a half-mile below the town of Fredericksburg. But come, pick up your prostrate pluck, you shivering private. Surely there is enough dampness around without your adding to it your tears.

“Let’s laugh, boys.”

“Hello, Johnny.”

“Hello, yourself, Yank.”

“Merry Christmas, Johnny.”

“Same to you, Yank.”

“Say, Johnny, got anything to trade?”

“Say, Johnny, got anything to trade?”

“Parched corn and tabacco, – the size of our Christmas, Yank.”

“All right; you shall have some of our coffee and sugar and pork. Boys, find the boats.”

Such boats! I see the children sailing them on small lakes in our Central park. Some Yankee, desperately hungry for tobacco, invented them for trading with the Johnnies. They were hid away under the backs of the river for successive relays of pickets.

We got out the boats. An old handkerchief answered for a sail. We loaded them with coffee, sugar, pork, and set the sail and watched them slowly creep to the other shore. And the Johnnies? To see them crowd the bank and push and scramble to be the first to seize the boats, going into the water and stretching out their long arms. Then, when they pulled the boats ashore, and stood in a group over the cargo, and to hear their exclamations, “Hurrah for hog.” “Say, that’s not roasted rye, but genuine coffee. Smell it, you’uns.” “And sugar, too!”

Then they divided the consignment. They laughed and shouted, “Reckon you’uns been good to we’uns this Christmas Day, Yanks.” Then they put parched corn, tobacco, ripe persimmons, into the boats and sent them back to us. And we chewed the parched corn, smoked real Virginia leaf, ate persimmons, which if they weren’t very filling at least contracted our stomachs to the size of our Christmas dinner. 

And so the day passed. We shouted, “Merry Christmas, Johnny.” They shouted, “Same to you, Yank.” And we forgot the biting wind, the chilling cold; we forgot those men over there were our enemies, whom it might be our duty to shoot before evening.

We had bridged the river, spanned the bloody chasm. We were brothers, not goes, waving salutations of good-will in the name of the Babe of Bethlehem, on Christmas Day in ’62. At the very front of the opposing armies, the Christ Child struck a truce of us, broke down the wall of partition, became our peace. We exchanged gifts. We shouted greetings back and forth. We kept Christmas and our hearts were lighter of it, and our shivering bodes were not quite so cold.

-- end of article, Christmas Number, Harper’s Weekly, 1886.

I did not correct most of the misspellings or punctuation mistakes in the Harper's Weekly article above. Other than a coma or two, it appears above as it did in 1886.

The Civil War was a time of valor and tremendous sacrifice on both sides, but also great sorrow. During the summer months, the heat was horrible -- especially on those who lay wounded and dying on the battlefield. While that was the case, it is said that there was no worse time to be a soldier in either army than that of the dead of winter. 

The freezing cold, the mud, the dung, the lack of food and sanitation, the sickness, and of course the dead. Both Union and Confederate troops had it tough and struggled to do their duty because simple survival in the freezing cold took more of a priority than that of duty in many cases. Just the fight to survive the harsh winter weather alone killed thousands of troops. Thousands died from exposure and disease throughout the war. More died of diseases in the Civil War than gunshot wounds. 

As with troops in every war since time and memorial, horrid conditions spur thoughts of home and loved ones. Troops have always tried to bring a little Christmas spirit, that which they yearned for, into their time underarms. To fight the loss and sorrow, fellowship and camaraderie serve to help fight the melancholy that sets in during the Christmas season away from home.

The "Christmas Truce" of 1863 would not be the last unofficial truce between Union and Confederate troops. It is certainly not as famous as the Christmas Day Truce between British, French, and German soldiers during World War I. Such things were discouraged by high ranking officers. They always have been. No, there was nothing official of any of those truces during the Civil War or that famous one later during War World I. 

Truces spring up when the exchange of gunfire and cannon stops. They happened entirely unofficially when soldiers decide on their own that for that moment and time, peace and goodwill towards their fellow man should prevail for at least a few minutes. 

Tom Correa

Monday, December 21, 2020

A Kansas Christmas Dinner 1886

1886 Hand-colored double-page wood engraving featured in Harper's Weekly titled, "Here's A Jolly Christmas Load."
Drawn by F.S. Church.
The scene shows a woman holding dressed 
cherubs as a crowd of them and others look on.

Merry Christmas My Friends! 

Below is an article that was sent to me from a cookbook. Yes, a cookbook. While it may or may not have been a Christmas feast that many aspired to prepare, it's a safe bet that the below directions to that feast was meant for those who were a lot more well-off than our average pioneer family whether they were farmers, ranchers, or simply merchants trying to keep their business afloat in a frontier town. 

And really, while I found it interesting how little preparing Christmas dinners have changed, can you imagine attempting to prepare this?  Good luck! 

"Christmas Dinner

This table should be laid as for any other company dinner, the necessary adjuncts being at had on the sideboard or another table, as heretofore directed. It is a modern fancy to introduce a centre cloth of embroidered linen, or squares and ovals of plush, on which the epergne is set; but practical housekeepers would generally prefer a low dish of ferns or scarlet geraniums mingled with white carnations, having for a base a round mirror whose outer edge could be hidden under a wreath of evergreen, and upon whose surface some stray leaves or blossoms have fallen as if by accident. 

In cities and towns, where raw oysters can be had, they are often used as a first course. They should be opened and the shell washed an hour or so before dinner, and be put in a cold place. When wanted for the table, if one has not proper oyster-plates, arrange six of these shells, with an oyster in each, on a dessert-plate, with the narrow part of the shell inward, all meeting in the centre, where two or three slices of lemon are laid. 

Small crackers are passed, in addition to the bread on the napkin, and the pepper and the salt should be within reach. The second course may be breaded mutton-chops, accompanied with canned French peas. A haunch of venison and boiled cauilflower, with drawn butter poured over the latter, would make an acceptable second course. 

The venison should be purchased several days in advance and hung in a cool place, and should be washed off five or six times with vinegar. On Christmas morning it should be washed with warm water, with a dash of cold water at the last. 

Then wipe it perfectly dry and enclose it in a covering of dough made of flour and water rolled into a thickness of not more than half an inch. Encase this in two layers of white wrapping-paper and secure with a string. Fill a dripping-pan a third full of hot water and baste often, adding to it from the tea-kettle as it evaporates. Frequent basting will keep the paper from scorching; and when thorougly cooked--which will require from two to three hours--take form the oven about three-fourths of an hour before dinner, remove all the coverings, rub well with butter and dredge with flour, and then return to the oven. 

Repeat this butter-basting two or three times, till the meat is nicely browned and a 'glaze' formed. Garnish the venison with alternate slices of lemon and pickled beet-root. Season the gravy with a large spoonful of currant jelly and the juice of half a lemon. Other suitable vegetables to be passed with venison are mashed turnips, mashed potato, or sweet potato. 

If a turkey is thorugh to be a necessitiy to complete the Christmas dinner, he should be perpared for the table as directed on page 119. When dished, it will be an improvement to garnish him with oysters carefully crumbed and fried. Cranberry sauce should be passed with roast turkey. Chicken salad may follow this course, cheese and crackers coming next. 

Everything save the ornamental centre- pice will now be removed from the table, and the crumbs brushed from the cloth, making the entrance of the mince-pies, fruits, nuts, and raisins now in order. Ices will be reslished after highly-seasoned pastried, and light fancy cakes may be passed with them. 

Oranges, grapes, and the late pears are ordinarily offered, and last of all should com the little cups of black coffee, accompanied by cream and sugar. it sould be of good strength, as we fuly assent to the statement that 'well-bred and sensible people do not affect pale and watery decoctions after a hearty dinner.'"

--- Kansas Home Cook-Book consisting of recipes contributed by ladies of Leavenworth and other cities and towns, compiled by Mrs. C.H. Cushing and Mrs. B. Gray, facsimile 1886 edition [Creative Cookbooks: Monterey, CA] 2001 (p. 33-35)

By the way, as you can see, I did not correct any of the misspellings or punctuation mistakes. It appears above as it did in 1886. 

Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Did Santa Hurt His Back This Year?

Merry Old Santa Claus by Thomas Nast

Santa Claus is thought of mainly as a jolly old man in a red suit. Santa Claus, also known as Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, or simply Santa, brings gifts to well-behaved boys and girls on Christmas Eve. When good children awake during the early morning hours of Christmas Day, they find his handy work under their tree. We all know this to be true. We simply do.

Anyone who says this is not what happens during that night is positively un-American. 

Being part of our thinking is what Santa is all about. Being good should be rewarded. That's the American way. To think that Santa, or anyone else as far as that goes, would reward bad behavior goes against who we are as a people. It goes against our culture. 

We are brought up understanding that cheating is not okay, that stealing is not right, that burning and looting is something that criminals do. We are brought up to understand that condoning bias is wrong, that judges and umpires and historians not being impartial is unacceptable, and that we must condemn such things because we know that bad behavior should not be rewarded. We know Santa does not reward bad conduct. We know we shouldn't. We learn this as kids. We learn this as part of our foundation of what makes us who we are. 

Santa teaches us what kindness looks like in the faces of the children who go to see him. Santa speaks to our hearts, not about being stern or unforgiving, but about love and goodness. He does so by being giving. He does so by being understanding. He does so by being who many of us wish we could be more of -- someone who sees the world as a good place where the good are rewarded while the bad get coal in their stockings. This is pure Americanism. It goes to the heart of who we are and why the wrongs in the world bother us deeply. 

Why do I keep saying this has to do with our being Americans? Well, it does. And frankly, the world understands that's true.

The legend of Santa Claus is said to have started many hundreds of years ago during the 3rd Century when a kind monk named St. Nicholas gave away the wealth that he inherited. Besides his generosity, he is said to have traveled the countryside helping the poor and comforting the sick. He did so not out of some sort of guilt, as many today what to paint good deeds, but simply because it was morally good to do. 

Whether some understand it or not, doing something good with no strings attached makes people feel good. What's the profit in it? The profit is the good feeling one gets from doing a selfless act. That's what Santa teaches us. We can give without expecting anything in return other than a feeling that we did something good. That's what this time of year is all about. 

All of this became part of our uniquely American way of thinking almost 200 years ago.

Over the course of European history, Santa's popularity spread. And frankly, by the Renaissance period, St. Nicholas is said to have been the most popular saint in all of Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when looking up to Saints was discouraged, St. Nicholas was still held in high esteem. And really, it was for a good reason. St. Nick was loved because he showed love. 

Are you still wondering where America comes in on all of this? Well, here you go. Santa, as St. Nicholas, became part of our American culture towards the end of the 1700s. In fact, it was in December of 1773 and 1774, a couple of years before we declared our independence from England, that a New York newspaper reported how Dutch families living there had gathered together to honor and recognize the anniversary of the death of that kind monk named St. Nicholas. That day is December 6th. We get the name Santa Claus from the Dutch nickname for Sint Nikolaas, Dutch for Saint Nicholas, that being Sinter Klaas.

In 1804, the New York Historical Society distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at their annual meeting. Those engravings were of the now-familiar Santa that we know and love. Of course, the other piece to that story has to do with what else was in those engravings. The images included Santa filling stockings with toys and fruit. They were hung over a fireplace. See where this is going?

In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize Santa through stories. But really, Santa was not cemented in the American consciousness until 1822 when Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, wrote a Christmas poem for his three daughters. That long Christmas poem was entitled "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas." It was printed and reprinted repeatedly over the years with a title that it became more popularly known as "Twas The Night Before Christmas."

Rev. Moore's poem is responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus. He is the reason we see Santa as a "right jolly old elf" who has the incredible ability to do what he does. From coming down a chimney to making his Christmas Eve journey all in a single night, we can thank Rev. Moore for telling us about him. Rev. Moore's account in that poem created an American icon. 

In 1881, a political cartoonist named Thomas Nast, who is also known to have drawn the political donkey too stubborn to do what's right as the mascot for the Democratic Party, drew a Santa going along with the description in Rev. Moore's poem.

Thomas Nast's cartoon image of Santa Claus appeared in Harper’s Weekly that year. It depicted Santa as a rather stout but cheerful man with a full white beard. He was holding a sack full of toys for all of the good boys and girls. Thomas Hast gave America our Santa dressed in his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, his North Pole workshop, elves as helpers, and his wife, we all know as Mrs. Claus. That first likeness of Santa, which Thomas Nast created, is still our modern image of Santa Claus. 

Over the years, Santa has shown up at parades and stores, in malls, and even at local American Legion posts, among other places. The Salvation Army has used Santa to raise needed funds since the 1880s. But even before Thomas Nast gave us the image that we all know and love, Santa was there in the thoughts of troops fighting in the Civil War. Yes, just as he was with those in the trenches of World War I and on the minds of those fighting World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He was with the troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as he has been with the families of those far from home. 

As during the hard times of the Great Depression when there was very little to look forward to, Santa has been a joy and respite when a short period of rest and relief from the difficult and unpleasant is yearned for. This year, Americans have had to deal with the Coronavirus, isolation, quarantines, masks, unreasonable government mandates, unemployment because of business shutdowns, and of course, the loss of loved ones. Americans have weathered hardships before, and we will meet such challenges again in our future. Yes, challenges in our future are what life is all about. And yes, indeed, our history shows us that we meet them head-on. 

But whether it's this plague or some other calamity, Americans will not only endure, but we will prevail. That's who we are. And while this is happening, even though it may seem as though Santa may have slipped and hurt his back while feeding reindeer this year, he will be here to visit good boys and girls this Christmas. We know that's true. And yes, we know there will be a lot of coal handed out this year. 

So while we remember that the reason for the season is the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, knowing Santa will carry on is a blessing to us all!

Tom Correa

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Attack On December 7th Also Hit Civilians

Dec 7th Japanese Planes Strafed Civilians

A few days ago, I entered into a conversation with some friends regarding the December 7th, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. As I told my friends, being from Hawaii, I was raised hearing many stories from my relatives who were there on December 7th, 1941. 

My mom and I were talking about Pearl Harbor the other day. She was a little girl of eight just walking to church with my grandmother that morning when the planes came over. The civilian population was hit on that day. Frankly, most don't know that the population was both terrified and angry. And civilians were indeed strafed and bombed in an attempt to instill terror on the public. This was part of why everyone expected an invasion by Japanese troops after the main attack on the Navy and Army installations on Oahu.

My mom said she never cried so hard or was so scared until that day. My family lived on Oahu and was less than 4 miles from Pearl Harbor's base gate during the attack. While it must have been scary for all, it must have been especially frightening for a little kid. As for my grandmother, she said she only thought about getting home and to safety. My grandmother worked at the Naval Supply Center at Pearl Harbor starting in 1942 as a clerk typist. She said that all through the war, there was a sense of people working together -- of everyone doing their part.

My grandfather often talked about how the soldiers at Schofield Barracks didn't have enough rifles and ammunition to go around during the attack. All of the military cutbacks during the Great Depression meant that our soldiers were not prepared to defend Hawaii. Many people do not realize that when we entered World War II, America's military ranked 17th in the world. Yes, those were the days when our military trained with wooden rifles. 

The attack on Pearl Harbor took place at 7:55am that Sunday morning. The attack lasted for an hour and 15 minutes. By 10:00am, Territorial Governor Joseph B. Poindexter created The Hawaii Territorial Guard. On December 7th, 1941, during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the territorial government of Hawaii was already organizing and ordering the mobilization of a Home Guard. 

Some don't know that during the bombing when Japanese planes were still in Hawaii's skies when the public was alerted. And by 11:00am that morning, a call when out to the population in Hawaii for civilian help to form what became known as the Hawaii Territorial Guard, also known as the Home Guard. 

Here's something some don't know, it was at 11:00am on December 7th that all members of the American Legion were also called to duty via constant radio broadcasts. Their activation instantly added more than four hundred combat-experienced members to the ranks of the Home Guard. Before the month was out, Hawaii's Home Guard saw membership of about 100 officers and over a thousand enlisted men. All veterans recalled to service.

The Hawaii Territorial Guard served strictly as a replacement for the National Guard because the National Guard of Hawaii was commissioned and made part of the federal government for the duration of the war. The Territorial Guard was the only military force available to the Territorial Governor during the war. In reality, he held the rank of Captain-General because the Hawaii Territorial Guard only answered to the governor.

The Hawaii Territory Guard -- The Home Guard with Springfield Rifles 1943

According to an uncle of mine, when some of those there tried to join the Army or Navy that next day after the attack, they were told that men were needed for duty with the Home Guard -- at least at first. 

Supposedly, he and others who owned a firearm, handguns or hunting rifles and shotguns, were told to show up with their weapons. It was later during the war that members of the Hawaii Territorial Guard would be issued M1903 Springfield rifles. Before that, they used whatever arms they could muster to use for duty. 

We forget that the Territory of Hawaii was placed under martial law as soon as the attack took place. Volunteers for the Home Guard assembled at the public parks and were organized by the Army. They were used to supplement the military while all there waited for the invasion that never came. Besides preparing for an invasion force to hit after the attack took place, the Home Guard also stood guard against a potential paratrooper assault. 

After the immediate threat had passed, they were assigned to guard key buildings and infrastructure against sabotage. My grandfather told me that as a member of the Home Guard, he was used to relieving the servicemen from doing mundane duties like the security of the docks and shore watch. They did not disband until two years after the war was over. 

My grandfather and dad, and uncles were all part of the Home Guard. In the case of my grandfather, he was a Merchant Marine seaman since the late 1920s. He would leave the Home Guard and return to the sea. When Merchant Marines were asked to stay put during the war, he had two ships sunk from under him. Many people don't know that America lost more Merchant Marine seamen than we did Navy sailors. The reason for that is that our merchant ships were the primary targets, not their Navy escort ships.

As for my dad, like others, he tried to join the Army the day after the attack. While he was referred to the Home Guard, where men were needed, he also worked at Pearl Harbor during the war. The fact is my dad was 4F because of a condition that he had since he was 3-years-old. The story goes that his condition didn't stop him from going with his friends to enlist. But while he was in line, an officer who knew my dad asked him if he wanted to do his part for the war effort. 

My dad told him that he did, and it was then that the officer took my dad to Pearl Harbor. That officer got the shipyard to take him on right then and there as a welder. It was "on the job training." My dad told me how that officer told him that he could be just as important as carrying a rifle. 

My dad used to tell me about how everyone worked to resurrect the fleet. It took everyone and not just the military to do that. My dad worked at Pearl Harbor well past the duration of the war, all while serving with the Home Guard. My dad's last job for the military was welding re-bar to the front of jeeps after the war. 

Since it was common for American troops to drive with their jeep windshields down, the re-bar welded to the front bumper was used to break any wires that the Japanese may have strung across their roads in Japan. They did that intending to cut the heads off of our troops who were stationed there during the occupation after the war. 

My dad once told me how the dire straits and hardships of the Great Depression made Americans more than willing to get to work and do whatever was needed for the war effort. But their motivation was more than just having jobs again. After years of tough times, years of mental anguish and depression, years of uncertainty and despair, Americans saw they were needed, and they're being needed lifted their spirits. That in itself made them want to make the sacrifices, to go without so the troops would have what they needed, to be a part of the team. 

My dad said he learned a lot during the war years. He found that people were more resourceful and willing to pitch in. For him, he saw his welding as an important factor in keeping ships in action. He learned that doing even the smallest job could help save lives. The war effort taught him that doing what might seem meaningless or seemingly minor can be extremely important in the bigger scheme of things.

It was something my dad never forgot. 

Tom Correa 

Dec 7th fire started by incendiary bombs dropped on Lunalilo School

Dec 7th Attack on Civilians in Honolulu

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Rose Kingsley's Colorado Christmas 1871

Rose Georgina Kingsley, 1845-1925, was the oldest daughter of controversial clergyman, English novelist, Rev. Charles Kingsley. If someone wants to know the extent of her family's wealth and influence, it should be understood that her father was once chaplain to Queen Victoria, Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge, and a private tutor to the Prince of Wales.

As for Rose Kingsley, she was an author in her own right. Among her books are "South by West; Or, Winter in the Rocky Mountains and Spring in Mexico" [1874], "A History of French Art, 1100-1899" [1899]; "Eversley Gardens and Others" [1907]; and "Roses and Rose Growing" [1908]. 

During a visit to America in October of 1871, Rose was met by her younger brother Maurice in Denver. In one of her letters later published in her book "South by West; Or, Winter in the Rocky Mountains and Spring in Mexico" [1874], she described how she and her brother spent Christmas in Denver with friends. Her description of what took place gives us a snapshot of what could be expected by affluent visitors in Denver, Colorado, in 1871: 

"As Christmas comes but once a year, and it is many a long day since we spent it together, we determined to give ourselves a treat. So on the 20th of December, Maurice shut up his books and papers; I wound up my affairs . . . and at 12:30 we were in the cars enroute for a week in Denver.

Denver looks wintry enough, under six inches to a foot of snow; but it is full of life and bustle. The toy-shops are gay with preparations for Christmas-trees; the candy stores filled with the most attractive sweet­meats; the furriers display beaver coats, and mink, ermine, and sable, to tempt the cold passer-by.

The streets are full of sleighs, each horse with its collar of bells; and all the little boys have manufactured or bought little sleds, which they tie to the back of any passing cart or carriage; and get whisked along the streets till some sharp turn or unusual roughness in the road upsets them.

We found plenty of old friends up here, and have made many more since we came. In the frank unconventional state of society which exists in the West, friendships are made much more easily than even in the Eastern States, or still more, in our English society; and, if one wants to have, as the Americans express it, ‘a good time,’ one must expand a little out of one’s insularity, and meet the hearty good-will shown with some adequate response.

On Friday evening . . . we went out for a sleigh-drive, the first I have ever had; and most delightful it was. We were muffled up in blankets and buffalo robes and all our furs. The thermometer was 2° below zero; the moon as clear as day; and, with a capital pair of horses, we flew over the smooth sparkling snow, our sleigh-bells jingling in the frosty air.

I was asked to eat my Christmas dinner . . . where Miss J. boarded; and, simply because I was her friend, every one in the house made me welcome. Dinner of the orthodox turkey and mince-pie over, we were sum­moned to the Christmas-tree in the parlour, which was decorated, in place of our hollyberries, with strings of raw cranberries and snowy popcorns, pretty to look at, and nice to eat.

The evening passed with games and music, and constant refreshments in the shape of candy and hickory-nuts; and suddenly our host turned round to me and said, 'Now, I’ll sing something for you:' and began the first verse of "God save the Queen."

It sent a thrill over me, hearing it a thousand miles west of the Mississippi for the first time since leaving England. And then I was made to sing it all through; for, though the tune is familiar enough in America, no one present knew the right words. It was a pleasant ending to a pleasant evening."

In October of 1871, Rose joined her younger brother Maurice who is known as one of the pioneers who helped to develop Colorado Springs in the 1870s. After spending time there, the two returned to Denver to celebrate Christmas. As for Colorado Springs, it is said that so many British immigrants had settled in that area by the early 1870s that Colorado Springs was referred to locally as "Little London." 

Imagine that.

Tom Correa

Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Great Epizootic of 1872

Since a few of you have asked that I make this a stand-alone article and not simply a part of a larger article, here it is. 

The Great Epizootic of 1872

So now, let's talk about a mysterious illness that brought a halt to our economy in 1872. It affected thousands. It was a plague that stopped Americans from working and changed the way we lived at the time. It was really a mysterious epidemic that swept America.

As for the word Epizootic? Epizootic is an adjective "denoting or relating to a disease that is temporarily prevalent and widespread in an animal population." As a noun, it denotes "an outbreak of an epizootic disease." It is the non-human equivalent of an epidemic.

It is said that the world of 1872 ran on horsepower for a good reason. Because of how that plague affected horses, it was a plague affecting what we humans absolutely relied on at the time. Horses pulled stagecoaches, fancy carriages, carts, and even city streetcars.

Besides transportation needs, horses were also harnessed to both plow and farm equipment, move food to market, and pull boats on rivers. Horses were depended on for mail, milk delivery, ambulances, doctor visits, paddy-wagons, used by the U.S. cavalry, and, of course, to pull fire wagons to get steam-powered water pumps to the scene of a fire.

Fire engines, which were once small enough for gangs of men to pull through streets, were by then so large that they needed horses in harness to move them. Since all cities were mostly built of wood, a fire was always a constant threat. And while the Great Fire of Boston of 1872 that consumed 776 buildings was blamed on the poor response, many said it was because there were no horses available to pull fire pumps that the delay took place. Imagine the destruction of 776 buildings? Imagine the number of people that were displaced?

Every aspect of commerce in 1872 was moved by horses. Horses were essential to pulling all sorts of wagons, including supply wagons of every kind. To get an idea of their importance, horses hauled coal from mines, that coal was used by railroads and steamships. Without that coal, trains didn't move, and ships didn't sail. And of the many occupations that felt the ill effects of the epizootic, teamsters were out of work simply because they weren't needed. Yes, even corpses bound for cemeteries ended up piling up because there were no horses to pull the wagons to get them there.

The disease first struck horses outside of Toronto, Canada, in September of 1872 and then crossed into the United States by way of New York a month later in October of that same year.

What was it? It was an equine influenza epidemic, the likes of which no one saw before. And as with what happens with people who have the flu (influenza), the first symptoms are a higher than normal temperature, coughing, sneezing, loss of appetite, a runny nose, and general weakness. Yes, exactly the same as with people who have the flu. And exactly as with us, infected horses can barely stand, much less do any kind of work.

During that time, people had to resort to primitive means of using wheelbarrows to move supplies, mail, ice, and groceries. In Chicago, the main post office organized men pushing wheelbarrows to move mail to and from the train stations. In many instances, men used goats, dogs, and even milk cows as substitutes for draft horses. Imagine that. Some reports say men were hired to pull wagons and streetcars by hand.

It soon became common knowledge that horses and mules and donkeys were all susceptible to being infected, but bovine such as oxen were not. With that, it didn't take long for oxen to bring premium prices. In fact, some cities were known to ship in oxen during that emergency.

Since the cities in the East were affected worse than the towns and cities out West at first simply because of exposure, it is said that cities saw tens of thousands of horses sidelined with the equine flu. Some newspapers reported that merchants are unable to get goods from the depots to stores or ship goods out.

We have to keep in mind that at that time, more than half of all Americans lived in rural areas of towns with relatively small populations, on ranches and farms. As with most epidemics, the rural areas were not affected as severely as the urban areas. At least, at first. Of course, most urban horses and mules were incapacitated for a week or two.

Cities in the East were starting to fill with listless horses that were very noticeable because they would stand with drooping heads. Most stricken horses are said to have had trouble merely staying on their feet. Those sick horses that did plod along in harness did so while others were confined for treatment in stables and livery where they most likely spread the disease to other horses there.

Part of the problem at the time is that veterinarians initially had no idea how to treat them. Many veterinarians warned against archaic treatments such as blood-letting or purging sick horses with laxatives. While that was the case for some veterinarians, other veterinarians recommended all sorts of medicines and instant cures. Some owners changed their horse diets. Others bathed their horses in disinfectants and acids. Some cures advertised in newspapers were simply harmless snake-oil no different than that sold off the back of a medicine show wagon. Others were worse and actually killed some horses. According to reports, about 1% of the animals died. The rest did fully recover.

On October 25, 1872, The New York World newspaper ran the headline, Is America to Be Horseless?

An 1872 report on equine influenza describes the disease as: "An epizootic specific fever of a very debilitating type, with inflammation of the respiratory mucous membrane, and less frequently of other organs, having an average duration of ten to fifteen days, and not conferring immunity from a second attack in subsequent epizootics."

While it was fortunate for all that the mysterious condition was rarely fatal, what became known as the "Canadian Horse Disease" became the "most destructive recorded episode of equine influenza in history."

While the Great Epizootic of 1872 swept across the country to California, mortality among the horses was relatively low, and most horses survived. Part of the success in beating that epidemic is that people learned from it and adjusted their behavior. Most owners learned that infected animals spread the disease. It became understood that one sick horse could infect an entire herd by contaminating feed and water, especially if confined in a stable or livery.

While initially lost as to find answers, veterinarians learned that animals succumbing to the flu were in most cases already in poor health. If they weren't already in poor health, their owners overcompensated for the loss of other horses by pushing healthy horses too hard.

Despite the media passing along useless and even harmful information, yes, like today, most soon learned that the equine flu's most effective treatment was rest and time. As with people who realize that a cold and flu has to run it's course, the same was with the horse flu of 1872. Owners found that forcing horses that were close to recovering back to work too soon risked relapses. Most learned that giving their animals clean water and allowed them to rest would result in their recovery.

It should be noted that while conditions in Eastern cities improved, the West suffered terribly from a shortage of horses. Since towns were isolated in many cases by many miles, and the U.S. Army was adversely affected, troops who were normally mounted cavalry were forced to march and fight on foot. The vast majority of affected horses that survived were back to full health with rest. Until their horses recovered, many in the cavalry became infantry. 

It's a safe bet to say those used to riding who were suddenly afoot weren't happy. I'm sure it wasn't to their liking.

Tom Correa

Monday, November 16, 2020

The SS Arctic & The SS Pacific of the Collins Line

The SS Pacific 1849

The first SS Pacific of note to have vanished did so in 1856. In that case, the SS Pacific was a wooden-hulled, sidewheel steamer built in 1849 specifically as a part of the transatlantic service with the Collins Line. It was a steamship that was designed strictly to outclass its British rival which was specifically the Cunard Line. The SS Pacific and her three sister ships were considered the largest and fastest transatlantic steamships of their day.

That SS Pacific, which should not to be confused with the SS Pacific that went down off the Washington state coast in 1875, started out setting a new transatlantic speed record in her first year of service. But then, mysteriously, only after five years in operation in the Atlantic, she disappeared. It's true. On January 23, 1856, while on a voyage from Liverpool, England, to New York, her crew, and 200 passengers simply vanished and were never seen again. 

She was commanded by Captain Asa Eldridge of Yarmouth, Massachusetts. Yes, he was a true Cape Cod skipper with a great reputation as a good captain and a superb navigator. Capt. Eldridge was born on July 25, 1809. He was the son of Capt. John Eldridge, who was ship captain of with his own slendid reputation. It's said that as with most all Cape Cod boys of the time, young Asa Eldridge went to sea early and worked his way up to command what can only be considered many fine ships. He sailed for years with the Dramatic Line and then with the Collins Line both of which belonged to American shipping magnate E.K. Collins out of Massachusetts and New York.

Edward Knight Collins was a shipping magnate who I find very interesting simply because of the ups and downs of his life. He was born in 1802 and went from this business to that, until 1836 when he launched the Dramatic Line of sailing ships. Actually, "sailing packets" to be correct. The packet trade of the transatlantic was all about shipping regularly scheduled cargo, passenger, and mail trade by ship. The ships are called "packet boats" or "sailing packets" because their original function was to carry "packets of mail." A "packet ship" was originally a vessel employed to carry post office mail packets to and from British colonies, as well as British embassies, across around the world. 

American shipper E.K Collins's main transatlantic competition was Great Britain's Cunard Line. Though he grew to have a huge share of what was considered "the world’s most important shipping route" of the day, that route between New York and Liverpool, he received a U.S. government subsidy in 1847 to carry mail on that route.

Known as the "Collins Line," its inaugural voyage took place in April 1850. Because of the cost to build and operate bigger steamships, and the fact that his ships were considered to be the biggest, fastest, and most luxurious on the Atlantic, Collins went back to Congress for an increase in his subsidy for carrying mail in 1852. His line had four steamships, the SS Atlantic, SS ArcticSS Baltic, and the SS Pacific

The SS Arctic 1850

As for the SS Arctic, her last commander was Captain James F. Luce who was said to have been a very experienced ship's captain. Over the years, the ship gained a reputation as being one of the fastest ocean liners of her day. In fact, in February of 1852,  she set a record when she reached Liverpool in 9 days, 17 hours, which was thought to be extremely exceptional -- especially considering it was a winter crossing. During that time, the SS Arctic became the most famous ship of the Collins Line. Those were the days when she was known as the "Clipper of the Sea."

The SS Arctic sunk in 1854. It was on September 27, 1854, while en route to New York from Liverpool, that the SS Arctic collided with the much smaller French-owned SS Vesta about 50 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. While there were problems later determining who was actually aboard the SS Arctic, it's believed that she had about 250 passengers and 150 crewmen aboard when she went down. The tale of her sinking shook society at the time. 

In accordance with the maritime regulations of the day, the SS Arctic did in fact only carry six lifeboats, the total capacity of which was around 180 people. Remember, there were about 400 people aboard. That number included women and children. Sadly as it is, it wouldn't be until after the sinking of the White Star Line's RMS Titanic in 1912 that the issue of not having enough lifeboats would be addressed by the authorities who put forth those maritime regulations on both sides of the Atlantic.

On that September day in 1854, Capt. Luce ordered the lifeboats launched. It was soon after his order given that he realized that his crewmen along with several male passengers piled into the lifeboats. Yes, that included the French Ambassador who was en route to New York. He is said to have jumped from the ship to get into one of the last lifeboats.

Everyone else was left to survive the frigid water on makeshift rafts. Of course, the women and children aboard were simply left to die. When many of us think about those days, we think of chivalry and self-sacrifice, the essence of doing the right thing. That was not the case that day. No, not at all. Cowardice and self-preservation prevailed over goodness and honor. 

Unable to leave the ship, those who didn't crowd into the lifeboats simply went down with the ship when she finally slipped away and sank four hours after the collision. Captain Luce, himself, unlike his crew, knew his duty and initially went down with his ship. Yes, initially. The fact is, he survived. Captain Luce had resurfaced after initially going down with the ship. Imagine that. It's something that I've never heard of ever happening. And by the way, when he was rescued later, it was lucky for him that he was found. The fact is, it was after two days of searching that his half-dead body was found clinging to a piece of the wreckage -- actually the paddle-wheel box.

Of the six lifeboats? Two of the six lifeboats safely reached the Newfoundland shore. One lifeboat was retrieved from the ocean by a passing steamer that joined the search for survivors. A few survivors were in fact rescued clinging on to their make-shift rafts. Some didn't make it and died. As for the other three lifeboats, no one knows what became of them because they disappeared without a trace.

Of the 85 survivors of the sinking of the SS Arctic, 61 were crew members and 24 were young male passengers. All of which would be a disservice to men everywhere if they were called "men." Of the more than 300 lives lost, almost all were women and children. In fact, what's shamefully true about the sinking of the SS Arctic is that all the women and children on board perished. Among those lost was the wife and two children of Edward Collins himself. He lost his entire family that day.  

I find it interesting how the public's grief quickly turned to rage and condemnation of the crew as the full story started to survive. Accounts started to come forward of how the lifeboats were launched in an atmosphere of panic among a crew that completely ignored the basic principle of "women and children first." 

The cowardice of the crew, and their dereliction of duty towards their passengers, soon reflected on all sailors and not simply that horrid group of worthless individuals that made-up the crew of the SS Arctic. Formal inquiries were demanded by many. The public wanted authorities to look into the disaster. Americans wanted to know about the sorry actions of the crew. Some called for the crew to be hanged. But in the end, no formal inquiry was held beyond the insurance investigation. And sadly, for the sake of justice, not one of the crew was ever called to account for their actions. 

As for that crew, Captain Luce was exonerated from any blame and retired from the sea. It's said that the American crewmen who survived the SS Arctic sinking, those responsible for letting women and children drown, chose to stay in Canada instead of returning home to the United States. Many didn't want to return in fear for their lives as some called for retribution.

Less than two years later in 1856, the Collins Line's SS Pacific disappeared without a trace on her way from Liverpool to New York. Over a hundred years later in 1991, a ship's wreckage was found off the coast of Wales, and many claimed that wreckage was the SS Pacific, I read where there was a question whether the wreckage was indeed the SS Pacific

The problem with identifying that discovered wreckage as the SS Pacific had to do with there not being anything to corroborate that it was the lost vessel. Also, over the years that wreckage has proven to be a ship that may have been lost to the sea in the late-1860s or later because of some of the dated artifacts that have been recovered.
As for the mystery of that SS Pacific, there is a story about how someone is said to have once found a message in a bottle. Yes, a message in a bottle, right off the west coast of mainland Scotland in 1861. Supposedly, the note said the SS Pacific hit an iceberg and sunk. Is that story real considering all hands and passengers were lost and there was never a trace of any debris, cargo, personal effects, or bodies? No one knows for certain.

That was 1856, the same year that Congress canceled their increased subsidy of the Collins Line. With two of its Line's four steamships sank and the subsidies ended, the Collins Line struggled until it simply could not make ends meet. By February of 1858,  the Collins Line shut their doors and folded up. 

As for Edward Collins himself, he moved to his summer home which was known as "Collinswood" located in Wellsville, Ohio. It's said he dabbled in coal and oil for a while. He then remarried and by 1862, in the middle of the Civil War, he moved to New York City. 

On January 22, 1878, almost 22 years to the day that he lost his first wife and children in the sinking of the SS Arctic, and almost 20 years since losing the Collins Line, he died. As for the rest of the story? Well, believe it or not, it's said that the once-wealthy shipping magnate E.K. Collins is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York. Yes, an unmarked grave. Imagine that.

Tom Correa

Monday, November 9, 2020

Victor Davis Hanson on the 2020 Election

Dear Friends, 

Here is a great commentary by Victor Davis Hanson regarding the recent election. I am sharing this with you because it is such a great commentary of what has taken place.  I hope you find this as fascinating as I do. 

Tom Correa

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Who Was Texas Guinan

She was born Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan on January 12, 1884, in Waco, Texas. Her parents were Irish immigrants who arrived in Canada and migrated to the United States. Mary Louise went on the stage at a young age. At a young age, she left home in search of fame and fortune. While that's not unusual for someone who sees their small town as limiting, her dreams led her to fame of sorts.  

For a number of years, she barnstormed with stage companies and then was part of travel rodeos. She is reported to have joined a Wild West Show before she ended up in Chicago where she got married to a newspaper cartoonist in 1905. Supposedly, her first marriage only lasted two years. By 1906, she was divorced and living in New York City working as a juggler, singer, and dancer on Vaudeville. 

She was known to a gifted storyteller who had the gift of gab. The vivacious Mary Louise was described as a combination "barking P.T. Barnum and flirtatious Mae West."  It wasn't because of her size, or because she was also known for being loud, brassy, obnoxious, and sarcastic with everyone that met that she was saddled with the moniker "Texas Guinan." She was from Texas. 

In Chicago, she had parts of increasing importance in a series of musical comedies and revues, including Miss Bob White, The Hoyden, The Gay Musician, and The Passing Show of 1913

By 1917,  she landed in California where she landed a job as an actress in about 200 silent films known as "two-reelers," films that were about 20 minutes long. Because of her talent with horse and familiarity with guns, she usually played the part of the Western heroine who wasn't afraid to grab a six-gun or the reins of a horse. It's said her small parts actually creating a new role for the Western woman in films -- one who wasn't afraid to be a heroine. In those films, she typically portrayed a blunt, aggressive, Western heroine more in the tradition of the dime-novel. It was during this time that she was also part of a troop of entertainers who when to France to entertain the troops during World War I. 

As for her appearances in films, it's said that her "cowgirl heroine" act in movies was fairly unique in film at a time. That's very true when one considers how women in Westerns, what film-makers called "Horse Operas" or "Oaters," were normally cast as helpless damsels in distress who needed a tall, dark, and handsome hero to come to their rescue. While she was looked upon as unique,  she was already looked at as being too old to work in films even by the Hollywood standards of the time. To fight being alienated from being cast because of her age and the fact that she wasn't very slim, she tried running her own silent film production company for a while. 

As an actress in silent movies, Texas Guinan created a new kind of heroine in films. But since she was not a quiet or shy person, her brassy attitude, age, and size all worked against her in Hollywood. Of course, that didn't stop her from being herself. In fact, I'd say it was her being herself that landed her in a position more suited to she was. That has to do with the story of how she returned to New York. 

According to legend, she was attending a party when she began to sing and entertain people there. While it was all a spontaneous response to liven up a fairly dull party, the people throwing the party liked what they heard and hired her to emcee their club in New York.  She was 39 and had a reputation for being outspoken and brassy. Becoming an emcee was considered groundbreaking since most in that position at the time were men. The fact is, it was seen as a man's profession.

"Hello, Suckers!"

To fit in with the East Coast celebs visiting the club she was hired to emcee, it's said she died her hair blonde and wore strings of pearls. For all practical purposes, Texas Guinan became a flapper. She was fashionable and intent on enjoying herself while flouting conventional standards of behavior. Yes, all while showing everyone a great time. To do so while working in that club as an emcee and hostess during the Prohibition era, she was known to greet both wealthy gents and gangsters alike with "Hello, Suckers!" That was Texas Guinan. 

She became quite the celebrity in New York and teamed up with a known bootlegger and gangster by the name of Larry Fay in 1924. While working at his El Fay Club, she hobnobbed with the rich and notorious alike. Along with being emcee, she got a percentage of the club and was in charge of the entertainers, including the showgirls. Those luscious ladies were bait to get the guests in the door. It's said that many of those showgirls were on loan from the Ziegfeld Follies and who were known to supplement their wages as prostitutes. 

Guinan's job was to greet and insult guests. Yes, sort of like a female Don Rickles. That was her schtick. Along with coaxing those there to get drunk on the bootleg whiskey, she became quite a celebrity in her own right. Between Fay and Guinan, they are said to have made a million dollars in today's money. 

While some say she saw everyone as a sucker ripe for the pickings, she is known to have given a great deal to charities. As for her work ethic, she was said to be a hard worker who was the first to arrive at the clubs and the last to leave. She had a large home in Greenwich Village. She moved her parents and brother Tom from Texas to live a better life with her there. What might not surprise some is knowing that Texas Guinan was a voracious reader and she loved her home. Her father and mother were known to sit in her clubs enjoying milk or coffee while enjoying their daughter's "insult comedy" performance. 

What was her act? She was perched on a stool in the center of the club. She was armed with a whistle and she used her booming voice to single-handedly create an atmosphere of fun which was absolutely unique among nightclubs of the Prohibition-era, and greeted each newcomer with "Hello, Sucker!" Her particular name for the free-spending out-of-towner was a "big butter-and-egg man," which entered the vernacular of the era.

Her Arrests!

As for being arrested, she was arrested routinely for violating Prohibition -- but because of expensive lawyers, she was never tried in court. Also, the authorities could never prove she had any ownership in the clubs. Of course, her arrests made headlines on both the front page and in the society columns. And her attitude about her arrests only made her more famous. 

It became such a common practice for the police to raid her club that she paid the police to let her know when they were coming. She would prepare for them by welcoming them with photographers and even having her band play the "Prisoner's Song" as they escorted her out of her nightclubs. It's shouldn't surprise anyone that she was known to routinely buy the police breakfast since she was also known to bribe the police to get rid of any evidence that may get her in real trouble. 

As for her partner gangster Larry Fay, it's said he was not happy to hear she wanted her own club. When it became known that she felt threatened by him when she brought it up to him, her friend Owney "The Killer" Madden came to her aid. Because both she and Fay knew Madden would protect her no matter what, Fay decided to leave her alone. Fay himself was killed in 1933 at another club that he owned. 

After the police closed the El Fay Club, she reappeared at the Del Fay and then at the Texas Guinan Club, the 300 Club, the Club Intime, and Texas Guinan’s Salon Royale. In a short time, she became one of the best-known celebrated figures of the 1920s. 

As for Texas Guinan, she was known for saying, "Never give a sucker an even break." And yes, she charged a very steep cover charge and outrageous prices for the bootlegged booze she was passing off as premium liquor. Especially for the times, $25 for a bottle of rum was certainly outrageous. Of course, it's ironic that she didn't drink while she attracted the wealthy, film, stage, and radio celebrities, and the notorious to her clubs -- as well as clubs she may have had a share in over the years. 

What was the attraction? She adorned herself in furs and jewels. Of course, she famously wore a police whistle around her neck which she used during her arrests. Where ever she worked she was the life of the party, and everyone wanted to say they knew her. In the 1920s in New York City, Texas Guinan was the "undisputed queen of the nightclubs." 

She typified the craziness of post-World War I America, the Roaring Twenties, the days of bootleg whiskey, speakeasies, and flappers. It's said she loved her fame, attention, and status. And for those who came to see her and have fun, it's said they loved her charm, glamour, and confidence as she poked fun at everyone no matter what their station or their status. Texas Guinan returned to the Broadway stage with her own revue, Padlocks of 1927. 

Things did change for Texas Guinan with the stock market crash of 1929. While people say the stock market crash under the Hoover Administration is when the Great Depression started, I content that the Great Depression actually started a few years earlier for blue-collar workers. It was in 1929 that the wealthy got hit. Because of the economic impact on the wealthy and celebrities, nightclubs like hers didn't fare very well. 

Because of that, Texas Guinan relocated to Hollywood again to make a "talking picture," the film Queen of the Night Clubs (1929). As with many actors, she took her act on the road, and in 1931 her road company was refused permission to perform in France because of her reputation of consorting with gangsters. It was because of their refusal that she renamed her revue Too Hot for Paris. She continued touring and returned to Hollywood to make another "talking picture," the film Broadway thru a Keyhole (1933)

During her Western tour, she fell ill and died on November 5, 1933, in Vancouver, British Columbia. She died of amoebic dysentery which is a parasite infection of the intestines. It's believed she contracted the disease when she visited the Chicago World's Fair during the previous summer. It is important to note that about a hundred others also died from that same thing as a result of contaminated water at the hotel where she and the others were staying.

It's said that more than ten thousand people showed up for Texas Guinan's funeral at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, New York. She was buried dressed in a white beaded chiffon dress with a diamond ring and necklace. On her shoulder was pinned a spray of orchids. At one point her funeral became chaotic when a crowd forced their way past the police all in an effort to tear flowers off her silver coffin as keepsake mementos. She was only 49 years old and lived a life that some called "remarkable." Yes indeed, I'd say she certainly lived a remarkable life.

Tom Correa

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Presidential Elections Are Messy And Don't Always End Well

Presidential elections have not always been easy going for everyone concerned, including for we the American people. In 2000, that presidential election was a real mess. First, a television network mistakenly announced the wrong projection on election night, and that led to an early concession call by Al Gore to George W. Bush. Gore withdrew his concession an hour later. The presidential election hung in limbo for the next 36-days as a political and legal war over how to resolve what was essentially a tie that took place. 

George W. Bush was ultimately declared the winner after a divided Supreme Court ended the manual recount in Florida that some on the Left still claim might have produced a different outcome. The problem was not uncounted votes. Instead, the issue of fraud became obvious when the Left only wanted to count what they saw as votes for their side -- votes that the Left kept finding, which miraculously only went to them and none to their opponent. 

In the end, it was the closest presidential election in American history up to that time. How many votes separated them? Well, several hundred votes in Florida determined the winner out of more than 100 million ballots cast nationwide. 

Here's something to think about. If you think that this is just a symptom of recent times, don't. The presidential election of 1876 was a real mess. And frankly, because its resolution was left to Congress and the Supreme Court, it had horrible consequences for the nation for almost a century. Consequences that cost the lives of many black and poor white Americans in the South.

While Republicans were very popular before, during, and after the Civil War, there is a reason that the Democrats made such a showing at the 1876 Presidential Election. The fact is that 1876 was not a good year for the nation. The Panic of 1873 threw our country into what became known as the "Long Depression." 

Subsequently, from 1873 to 1879, it is estimated that more than 20,000 businesses, including more than 80 railroads, went bankrupt. Americans were broke and hurting in 1873, and that was the case until 1879 officially. Although, there are those who say that economic depression lasted well into 1885. And there is something more, as a result of the high cost of the Civil War, those funds expended by the states before and after the war, there was a great deal of economic instability of the states' economies. As a result of that being the case, 10 states and almost 300 banks also went bankrupt. It wasn't until 1878 that unemployment peaked during that economic depression. 

While there is no mistaking the fact that political corruption in the government was a factor of discontent with voters in 1876, we should not make the mistake of thinking that they did not vote their pocketbooks as Americans have during every instance of economic hard times.

In that election, the Democrat candidate emerged with the lead in the popular vote, but 19 electoral votes from four states were in dispute. It was a long and drug out election where Congress was forced to get involved. In fact, in January of 1877, Congress was forced to convene to settle the election. 

In 1876, the nation went to the polls to elect President Ulysses S. Grant’s successor. The candidates were  Democrat Samuel Tilden, Governor of New York, versus Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, Governor of Ohio. Tilden emerged with a lead of more than 260,000 popular votes. Though that was the case, Tilden only had 184 electoral votes. He was one electoral vote shy of the number needed to defeat Hayes.

The returns from three states, Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina, were being disputed, with both sides claiming victory. Together, the states represented 19 electoral votes, which along with one disputed elector from Oregon, would be enough to swing the election in favor of Hayes.

Since the U.S. Constitution did not provide a way of resolving the dispute, Congress would have to decide. As anyone knows, that meant politics and deal-making. At the time, Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, and Republicans controlled the Senate. Yes, like today in 2020. 

To find a solution, a political solution, the House and the Senate created a bipartisan electoral commission with five representatives and five senators. The commission also included five Supreme Court justices. In the end, after a series of votes along strict party lines, the commission awarded Rutherford B. Hayes all three of the contested states in early March of 1877. Their decision made him the winner of the presidential election of 1876 -- by a single electoral vote.

Soon after his inauguration, Hayes made good on his promise, ordering federal troops to withdraw from Louisiana and South Carolina, where they had been protecting Republican administrators and freed blacks. Hayes effectively ended the Reconstruction Era and began 100 years of Democratic Party control of the South. 

So now, what sort of deal was struck to get the commission to vote for Hayes over Tilden? Well, that has to do with what became known as the Compromise of 1877. The fact is, as the electoral commission deliberated, politicians from both parties met in secret to hash out what become known as the Compromise of 1877. That so-called "compromise" ended Reconstruction and resulted in almost a hundred years of Democratic Party control and institutional racism in the South.

For his part, Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes agreed to place a Democrat Southerner on his cabinet. Hayes agreed to hand over control of the South to Democrat state governments. He promised and did, in fact, remove federal troops stationed in the South. Of course, along with removing all federal troops from the South, Hayes promised that he would not use federal troops to intervene in race riots and violations of the Civil Rights of blacks and poor whites in the South. 

Let's be clear here, to get the presidency, Hayes effectively made freed blacks and poor whites the targets of terrorism, abuse, intimidation, and murder by the militant arm of the Democratic Party -- the Ku Klux Klan. With Hayes in office, it became obvious that Americans did not have a President Grant to take the fight to the KKK anymore. And yes, the Klan would actually grow in numbers and reach their peak in the 1970s before seeing any sort of real decline. 

As for their part of the Compromise of 1877, Democrats agreed not to dispute Hayes's election to the presidency. Along with that, Democrats agreed to respect the Civil Rights of black Americans. It was something Democrats had no intention of respecting. Because of the Democrats going back on their word, the Hayes administration period is one marked with horrible violations of Civil Rights and murders of black Americans with the federal government refusing to act. It is also marked with Democrats in state offices reversing most of the Reconstruction policies put in place. 

Democrats controlling the South did not honor their agreement to safeguard the rights of both black and poor white citizens. In fact, they did the opposite and reigned terror on blacks and poor whites alike. That was so much the case that there was a campaign to disenfranchise black and poor white voters and ensured racial segregation by imposing Jim Crow laws, which endured until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Everything that took place due to the mess that was the presidential election of 1876 simply demonstrates what sort of ill can take place by leaving an election to the Congress and the Supreme Court to decide. As a result of that agreement, Americans paid a horrible price with churches and homes being burned to the ground. Families were terrorized, both black and white Americans whipped and murdered, lynched in many cases. To me, the resolution to the presidential election of 1876 was a pact with the Devil. 

Tom Correa

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Ghost Ship Mary Celeste

Toward the end of December of 1972, the Battle of Salt River Canyon which was the first major engagement during the 1872 Tonto Basin Campaign under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Crook will take place. It was a major battle in the ongoing Yavapai War, also known as the Tonto Wars, from 1871 to 1875.

Often the Yavapai were mistaken for Apache. In fact, American settlers mistakenly referred to them as "Mohave-Apache," "Yuma-Apache," and "Tonto-Apache," because of their close relationship with tribes such as the Tonto and Pinal Indians. 

Almost a month before U.S. Army Lt. Col. Crook engaged the Yavapai Indians, crewmen of a British ship, a brig named the Dei Gratia, spotted an abandoned ship adrift in the choppy seas about 400 miles east of the Azores. That was on December 5, 1872.  As the Dei Gratia's Capt. David Morehouse noted in his ship's log, it was the first time anyone had discovered that the unmanned Mary Celeste. 

The Mary Celeste was an American merchant brigantine. Seeing the Mary Celeste was under partial sail but deserted, Capt. Morehouse grew concerned. He worried about the possibility of foul-play and changed course to come alongside Celeste. 

Capt. Morehouse sent a boarding party aboard the deserted ship. Immediately they took note of the fact that her lifeboat was missing. Belowdecks, the men found the ship's charts and ship's log. According to the ship log's last entry, the Celeste had battled heavy weather for close to two weeks while trying to reach the Azores. That entry was recorded at 5 a.m. on November 25.

While there was no sign of life on the Celeste, Capt. Morehouse's boarding party did find the belongings of her crew. In fact, all of her crewmen's belongings were still in their quarters. The boarding party noted that one of its two pumps had been disassembled, and there were three and a half feet of water sloshing in the ship's bottom. Though that was the case, its cargo of 1,701 barrels of industrial alcohol was intact. And even more important, the boarding party found that the ship had a six-month supply of food and water intact. 

The Mary Celeste was seaworthy without a soul aboard. And that, well that started the mystery of the 282-ton brigantine Mary Celeste. Of course, to add to one of the most enduring mysteries of the high seas was the fact that no one knows what happened to her captain, crew, and the ten passengers who had sailed aboard the Mary Celeste. 

We know the Mary Celeste began its voyage on November 7, 1872, when she left New York with a crew of seven and its Capt. Benjamin Spooner Briggs. Also aboard was Capt. Briggs's wife, Sarah, their 2-year-old daughter, Sophia, and eight other passengers.

Speculation being what it is, anyone's guess, there are all sorts of theories of what took place. Some say there was a mutiny, and the crew threw everyone overboard. Some say pirates boarded the ship and killed all aboard. Of course, Capt. Morehouse's boarding party didn't find anything to indicate that either thing had taken place. 

Other than those who actually speculated with all sorts of certainty that sea monsters swallowed up all on board, there are those who said that the Dei Gratia' crew were involved in the deaths of all aboard the Celeste. That was a theory going around later as a result of the courts and the suspicions of others.

Fact is, after spotting the Mary Celeste and then boarding her to give assistance, the crew of the Dei Gratia had to sail the ship about 800 miles to Gibraltar. That was where a British vice-admiralty court convened a salvage hearing. In such cases, it was a hearing to determine if the salvagers, in that case, the crew of the Dei Gratia, were entitled to payment from the ship's insurers. 

But because the attorney general in charge of the court inquiry suspected mischief on the part of the crew of the Dei Gratia, he decided to investigate the case. Because of that, it was only after more than three months that the court found no evidence of foul play. 

So, finally, the crew of the Dei Gratia received a salvage payment. But, and this is what lends itself to the belief by many that the British knew more than they revealed at the time, only a small part of the insurance money for which the ship and its cargo had been insured was paid. That in itself suggested to many that the authorities were not entirely convinced of the Dei Gratia crew's innocence.

Over the years, there have been many theories of what took place. There are many who have come up with all sorts of conclusions, all without facts, all supposition, and all without any merit. For example, 
even though the complete lack of any evidence supports the fact that no one really knows what took place, there are those who still suspect murder and conspiracy. Unfounded as they are, there are people who have come up with all sorts of crime stories that have zero evidence to support them.

Those who suspected insurance fraud were refuted. Those who suggested that Capt. Morehouse and his crew waited for the Mary Celeste, then lured everyone from the Celeste aboard Dei Gratia and killed them there, have absolutely no proof that such a thing took place. And really there is nothing to support the theory that the crews of both ships, including passengers, were somehow in cahoots to swindle the insurance carrier and split the salvage money. Believe it or not, there was a historian who speculated that the captain of the Mary Celeste killed everyone about in a fit of insanity. Of course, there were zero signs of such an event ever taking place.

As for the notion that there was an attack by pirates off the coast of Morocco? That theory leaves out the fact that pirates would have looted the ship. Remember, the boarding party found all of the personal effects of the captain and crew of the Mary Celeste undisturbed -- even those things that had value were not touched. Also, if pirates had looted and killed all, they were known to set ships ablaze before leaving them. 

Believe it or not, even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who would gain fame for his character Sherlock Holms later, based a short story on his theory that a vengeful ex-slave killed everyone and simply used the lifeboat to make his getaway. 

Of the lies that were told over time, lies that people believed, there was were those that created details to make the story more interesting. Though false, in June of 1883, The Los Angeles Times retold the story of the Mary Celeste saying, "Every sail was set, the tiller was lashed fast, not a rope was out of place. ... The fire was burning in the galley. The dinner was standing untasted and scarcely cold … the log written up to the hour of her discovery." Of course, that was not true. But that didn't matter. Also, I'm sure people believed it.

As I have said over the years, a lot of what we think is true in history is not. The problem is that people assume they did simply because their fabricated tales sound so feasible. John Wesley Hardin wrote in prison about how he outdrew Wild Bill and lived to tell about it later.  Wyatt Earp who told newspapers how he killed Curly Bill in a supposed shotgun dual and how he later killed Johnny Ringo. For both Hardin and Earp, people believed them because it sounded like something they would do. 

For Hardin and Earp, it's a pity that there's no evidence or witnesses to support their claims. But really, that has not stopped people from believing their fabrications over the years. Even today, there are still those who believe that Hardin outdrew Wild Bill and that Earp killed Curly Bill. People want to believe that they did it because it's generally believed that both Hardin and Earp were capable of doing what they claimed -- even if their claims were not true. 

It's the same case with people who made outlandish claims of murder and mayhem on the Mary Celeste. Over the years, people have believed that's what happened simply because they believe there are bad people capable of killing everyone on board that ship. It doesn't matter how absurd the theory, or if there is no evidence to prove it happened, there are people who will believe it. Yes, in spite of the fact that no one will ever know what happened on that ship.

She is probably the most famous ghost ship known to all. And what deepens the mystery of Mary Celeste is that her yawl and the captain's navigation instruments were missing when she was found. That alone has encouraged all sorts of speculation as to why she sailed the sea alone. After all, while no one knows why the captain, crew, and passengers would have simply left, and were never seen again, that's what happened. It appeared they did and vanished in the vastness of the ocean. For some unknown reason, it's believed that they all simply boarded their lifeboat and left the Mary Celeste to drift. That mystery will never be solved.

As for the Mary Celeste? She was returned to New York in September of 1873. By then, because the newspapers were filled with all sorts of sensational stories of her captain, crew, and passengers all being slaughtered in one way or another, the possibility of sea monsters swallowing up the crew, and other fantastic tales of mayhem, no one wanted her. She became a leper, a novelty of sorts, a floating crime scene with no evidence of a crime, a haunted ship, a place where monsters lurked. Because she was seen as a ghost ship, for a few years she "rotted on wharves where nobody wanted her."

She was finally bought and refitted in the late 1870s. Under new ownership, the Mary Celeste sailed the Indian Ocean routes. In February 1879, her captain, Edgar Tuthill, had died. This encouraged people to think the ship was cursed. This was especially so when it was found out that Capt. Tuthill was her third captain to die prematurely.

In February 1880, she was sold again. It was in November 1884, that she became the pawn in an insurance swindle. Along with a new captain, Gilman C. Parker, her new owners conspired to scuttle the Mary Celeste for the insurance. To do that, they filled her with worthless cargo while at the same time falsifying the ship's manifest as having valuable goods aboard. They insured her supposed "valuable goods" for $30,000. It would be worth about $800,000 today. 

On January 3, 1885, the Mary Celeste approached Port-au-Prince, the capital and chief port of Haiti. Through the channel between GonĂ¢ve Island and the mainland, Capt. Parker piloted the Celeste. That area is known for its large but well-charted coral reef known as the Rochelois Bank, and it was there that Capt. Parker deliberately ran Celeste onto the reef ripping out her bottom open. She was wrecked beyond repair. And soon afterward, the crooked captain and his crew loaded into her lifeboat and simply rowed themselves ashore. It was there that they almost immediately put in insurance claims for the supposed "valuable goods". 

While there, Capt. Parker made the mistake of selling a piece of the ship's goods to an American who was associated with the American Consulate in Haiti. When that American realized that what he bought was worthless, he notified the consulate, and soon the ship's insurers were also notified. It didn't take long before the insurers began an investigation. And not long after that, their investigation uncovered the entire swindle. 

In July of 1885, the ship's Boston owners, Capt. Parker and a few of the crew were tried and convicted in Boston for conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. Capt. Parker was also charged with wrecking a ship which was a hanging offense at the time. While he escaped the hangman's noose, it's said the curse of the Mary Celeste wreaked vengeance on Capt. Parker because he died just three months later a broken man. 

There is a story about how salvagers tried to sell pieces of the Mary Celeste but no one wanted pieces of that ship. Most believed she was cursed. Bringing a piece of the Mary Celeste aboard another vessel was seen as bad luck. Even something innocent was said to be seen as a harbinger of death.

Tom Correa