Tag Archives: History

Review Tuesday 1

Before striding full force into 2021, I’m taking a glance back as some of the best books I read and reviewed in 2020. First up — a non-fiction.

The Radium Girls

By: Kate Moore


The innocent girls were proud of their work as dial painters. The luminous dials on watches and aircraft instruments saved lives in WWI. In the 1920’s the dials moved into homes on alarm clocks and wristwatches.

Then they began to die–horrible deaths. Dentists and physicians played detective.

Ms. Moore follows two groups of dial painters in this non-fiction volume which reads better than some novels. Discover the legacy and ponder as a cautionary tale.

Safety Light

Roads have signs to guide the traveller.

Office buildings have directories and numbered doors.

Waterways have lights — green, red, pulsing — to warn of danger and guide ships to safe harbor.

This shaped puzzle — a lighthouse filled with lighthouses — caught my eye the first time I explored the box of “slightly used” puzzles.

When I’m on vacation near a large body of water, I explore the opportunity to visit. They are all automated now — perhaps that has helped some of them become museums and attractions. Let your imagination soar. Could you be a lighthouse keeper? Or part of his family?

Winter storms. Isolation. Rugged terrain. Sunrise (or sunset) on the water. Curling waves. Ship sightings.

Each building and light unique to guide people and cargo to safety. From the first people to light bonfires on the cliff to warn ships to the automated lights supplementing GPS and radio — cheers for some of the “first responders” in our society.

Standing Among Heroines

Considering myself an ordinary, Midwest American woman, I don’t hobnob with the great figures of my time. My friends are more likely to be nurses, teachers, or clerks than anyone interviewed on the news.

But on a vacation several years ago we stood among some great historical figures. Well — sort of.

A daughter-in-law and I stand among the figures at Women’s Right National Historic Site.

If you ever find yourself in upstate New York — I suggest a side trip to Seneca Falls and this fine, educational attraction. These were brave women to gather in 1848. Yikes! My ancestors, and those of DIL, were still in Europe at the time.

Powerful and Picturesque

Small and mighty. This phrase is often appropriate on children’s shirts. Their influence on the people around them is not reflected only in physical size.

The same is true for some cultural institutions. Libraries, for example, can occupy buildings blending into the community. Today’s featured institution is typical of the New England town. This is convenient — since the location is Stowe, VT.

The Stowe Free Library was formed in 1866 with a core donation of 51 books and community funds of $100. The concept of a free library replaced the membership and subscription model. The collection has grown in the previous century and a half, and the location has changed from the original space.

Today the library shares a historic building with the Helen Day Art Center. Constructed in 1863, the Old High School pre-dates the library by a mere three years.

Stowe Free Library

Welcome! Step inside and find a modern collection of books and media.

Claiming a Proud Tradition

Today I want you to use your imagination a little. I want you to close your eyes and picture Boston, MA in 1848.

What comes to mind?

Irish immigrants fleeing their homeland?  A crowded harbor? Cobbled streets filled with horses pulling carts, wagons, and carriages? Abolitionists writing newspaper articles?

In the middle of all this activity — perhaps in response to recent progress — the Boston Public Library was established. In 1895 they moved into their present day building.

Boston Public Library

With a heritage to be proud of– First free municipal library to do each of the following: lend books, establish a branch, and create a children’s room — they are also a modern facility.

Pre-COVID19 they gave daily public tours to showcase the art and architecture of the building. I’ve included it on my list if I ever happen to visit Boston again.

A Mere Three Years

Has it been three years? Or three decades?

More and more this summer, I find myself yearning for the past. You know — like last year. Before the stay-at-home orders and threat of giving or receiving a deadly illness in a stray cough.

I miss the days when you could decide at breakfast to go on an adventure. Check your calendar for obligations. Pack up some bottled water and perhaps a few snacks. Check for camera and map. Then it’s into the car and off to see something new a hundred miles away. (Give or take on the distance.)

Three years ago a went on such an adventure. After driving past signs to this historic re-created village numerous times, I followed the map to visit.

It was a warm, July day. Not many other visitors were on the grounds. This made the exploring better. The demonstrations, while well attended, allowed a good spot to see and hear the craftsmen/ladies.

American frontier on the cusp of a technology leap.

Fireplaces were the heart of an 1830’s home — heating and cooking.

Blink twice and the 1850’s homes featured iron stoves which used much less fuel and heated more efficiently.

Looking for Serious?

A week ago, I wrote about taking a trip between the covers of a book. My examples were a selection of romance novels.

When you travel in person are you the sort of tourist who reads and ponders every plaque in the museum? Do you soak in the sights and sounds outside a historic home? Or a battlefield?

Then you may prefer to seek your summer escape in the non-fiction portion of the bookstore or library.

These are some of my non-fiction “keepers”.

History. Biography. Travel guide. Which section of the bookstore or library draws your attention?

Tick, Tick, Tick

Time passes. Time flies. Time drags.

Some days (most days?) Americans appear obsessed with measuring time and packing as much activity as possible into each second.

During school and career years, large portions of my time were measured and observed by others. Some tasks were dependent on the timely completion of work by others. For example: I could not do procedure B until another person completed procedure A. And another, usually impatient, person wanted the results so they could do procedure C.

If this sounds like a supply chain — you’ve got the right idea.

Keeping track of time is not a new thing for Americans.  The settlers brought time pieces along in their wagons of goods.

A clock takes center mantle in this reproduction of a 1830’s home.


Presidential Pairs

When you have a group of 45  men over a span of 240+ plus years, it’s not surprising to find some duplicate names. When the grouping is men of power, politics, and authority the public takes notice.

Among the 45, you have a variety of occupations with a heavy percentage of lawyers, military heroes, and successful businessmen. The group even includes one engineer.

In some families, sons follow fathers, grandfathers, or uncles into an occupation which threads it’s way through generations. Just for fun — we’re ending February (the month including the President’s Day holiday) with a summary of some presidential pairs.

Adams: John and John Quincey. Father and son were 2nd and 6th presidents of the United States.

Harrison: William Henry and Benjamin. Grandfather and grandson were 9th and 23rd presidents of the United States.

Johnson: Andrew, the 17th president and Lyndon, the 36th president were not related.

Roosevelt: Theodore and Franklin. While the men were distant cousins, Franklin married Theodore’s niece. They served as the 26th and 32nd presidents.

Bush: George H. W. and George W. Father and son were the 41st and 43rd presidents of the United States.

A Great American Story

The biographies at my elementary school stressed his birthplace – a log cabin.

When you pause and think about the year of his birth – 1809 – you can imagine lots of log cabins occupied by farm families. After all, a scattering a log barns and houses where a log room or two had been covered with plaster on the inside and siding on the outside existed during my childhood a century and a half later.

However, it magnifies that he did not come from a rich family. His parents were not wealthy merchants or landowners. And if you wanted young readers to believe they could become anything — even President of the United States — it made a great, true story.

Yes, today’s presidential spotlight is on Abraham Lincoln. Honest Abe. Railsplitter. Prairie lawyer.

Lincoln’s portrait dominates on both “folding” money and the smallest coin. To celebrate his 200th birthday, scenes from his life decorated the non-obverse side of the penny.