Tag Archives: History

Hometown Attraction

Cities tend to be proud of past accomplishments and favorite sons. St. Louis joins that group with several of the displays at the Missouri History Museum.

As you might expect from the name — the past is celebrated in this building. Some of the displays are permanent (or of several years) while others have life spans measured in months.

Two features in the large entrance hall fit well in the old and new portions of the building.

The gentleman seated with his back to us is Thomas Jefferson, a president very instrumental is putting St. Louis into the United States. He’s facing the former main entrance.

The plane is a reproduction of “The Spirit of St. Louis”. It’s an apt symbol of the city in the 20th century when financing Lindbergh and then the manufacture of aircraft helped to keep St. Louis on the minds of Americans.


Kitchen Progress

Fireplace cooking is cumbersome. And heats the kitchen (sometimes the whole house) as much in summer as in winter. What felt good in January can drive a person from the room in July.

The cast iron cook stove solved some of these problems. And the companion piece — the parlor or heating stove — solved others. A stove uses less fuel. The flat cooking service accommodated any cast iron  or metal pan with a flat bottom. Gone was the hook to hang the kettle. Thanks to a small, but well placed, oven, baking became easier. And what farmer or worker doesn’t appreciate some fresh bread after a day’s labor?

A great step forward for 1850’s cooks.

Kitchen Past

On the American frontier houses were small and families were large.

And the frontier continued to move West. At one time it was Western Pennsylvania or Western Virginia. Then it became Ohio and Tennessee. The future states on either side of the Mississippi took a turn. And then the Great Plains — after a short interruption for settlers taking the Oregon Trail or heading for California gold fields.

But no matter which future state the pioneers settled, a few things were constant. The cabin, or house, or soddy needed a kitchen. And until well into the 1840’s that meant the heating-lighting-cooking all-purpose fireplace.

It what is now the American Midwest in the 1830’s you could get an idea of where the newcomers hailed from by where they put their fireplace. Those from the south put them on one end of the cabin. Families from New York and Pennsylvania put them in the center, opened both sides, and heated the bedroom.

Remember I said the houses were small. It follows that storage was limited. Forget knick-knacks or “prettys”. The mantle was for practical things — platters, candles, the clock, and hooks or pegs for tongs and ladles.

Can you smell the stew in the pot?  Bread is in the Dutch oven.


My Library Shelf – Z

We’ve reached it — the end of the alphabet. And the book of the day…

the zookeeper’s wife

by Diane Ackerman

This was the second letter which sent me shopping for a book to fit. And I’m glad I selected this one.

We’re ending with non-fiction. The story centers around the director of the Warsaw and his family during WWII. It puts the emphasis on a different group of people than previous Poland during WWII books I’ve read.

The director’s home, still functioning after the initial bombing raids, becomes a refuge with a rotating population. All of whom must be protected, sheltered, and fed. Not an easy task during Nazi occupation.

Available from on-line retailers, bookstores, and libraries. Also watch for the movie.

Thank you for roaming around my home bookshelves on a jaunt through the alphabet. I hope that you’ve found at least one new read to enjoy among the history, biography, classic fiction, and romance fiction featured in recent months.

My Library Shelf – W

Today’s selection takes us back in time. We go all the way back to 900-1000 A.D.

West Viking

The Ancient Norse in Greenland and North America

By: Farley Mowat

First the saga. Or rather, the portion which is explored in detail in the ensuing chapter. Then we have the expounding in 20th century language.

This book was interesting on many levels. The primary one is the way in which the Norse of that century were brought alive. They were presented as brave and adventurous. And at the same time in pursuit of universal needs — land, food, other resources.

Traces of these adventurous people remain – only traces. Enough to form a picture in my mind to go along with the author’s words. A group of men gathered around a smoky fire in a long, low shelter “chewing the fat” both literally and in the more modern sense of the phrase as they recount the hunt, or the journey, or the winter storm.

Check your local library. This volume is from 1965 and may be out of print.

My Library Shelf – V

VIETNAM : A History

The First Complete Account of Vietnam at War

By: Stanley Karnow

It’s an ambitious title. And a thick book. Well researched and written. This volume served as the basis for a multi-part PBS television series first broadcast in the late 1980’s.

As part of the generation exposed to the Vietnam War via the newspapers, evening news, and acquaintances in the military at the time of these events — I found it enlightening to find the background and history of the conflict to put the events I remembered as a young adult into perspective.

The focus of this history is on events in Vietnam and US policy responding to those events. You will need to seek another source for details on domestic affairs in the US at that time.

The Chronology and Cast of Principal Characters are two reference portions in the back of the book which I find useful to double check and dispel some of the “common knowledge” since circulated.

Check your local library or inquire about an order at your favorite bookstore.

My Library Shelf – U

We’ve arrived at one of the less popular letters of the alphabet. In my paperback dictionary the letter occupies only twenty pages. And yes, it did take a bit of searching on my shelves before I spotted a suitable entry.

Utter’s Battalion

by Lt. Col. Alex Lee, USMC (Ret.)

This is a non-fiction volume, set almost exactly once century after the events in our previous volume. (Team of Rivals — Lincoln’s cabinet)

In these pages we join the 7th Marines, 2nd Battalion during preparation and operations in Vietnam. It’s a personal story, giving the detail of one specific unit’s actions. Don’t expect the broad picture, but rather the record of squads and companies as they obey orders and encounter difficulties.

As a female civilian the same age as many of the Marines putting their lives at risk — I found this the sort of record able to sift out some of the chaff comments circulated during and after this particular war.

Check out the history section to find this volume.

They Called Him “Mad”

Eccentric at the least. From the accounts I’ve heard and read — he needed some serious psychological intervention. But when it’s the King — well, it makes it all rather difficult for friends to force the issue.

While his overall decorating taste at this site was a little gaudy for my personal taste — he commissioned some beautiful individual items.

A golden sculpture in a pool outside the main entrance. It gives a peaceful view and centers the formal garden. It’s easy to imagine well dressed men and women strolling along the edges in conversation. On a fine day, it might even be a good venue to discuss affairs of state or impress a foreigner to accept your point of view.

But Ludwig II of Bavaria didn’t stop at peaceful or discreet. No, he preferred to put on a show. So the engineers obliged him.

My Library Shelf – T

Today we return to non-fiction and relatively familiar ground of history.

Team of Rivals

by Doris Kearns Goodwin

This detailed history of five tumultuous years in US history, explores the political aspects of Abraham Lincoln’s election and administration.

Lincoln’s path to the nomination, and his election, was not a clear thing at the time. Here we read of his skill in convincing the Republican party structure of his value. And his determination to put others in positions where they could use their talents for the good of the Union.

Don’t take my work for it. This volume won the Pulitzer Prize.

Available at libraries, bookstores, and on-line retailers.


Two Travel Necessities

Two things I’ve found helpful on vacations large and small. As a bonus, they don’t take up room in the luggage. So what do I want you to bring along?

Sense of humor. Every vacation contains a glitch or two. A laugh or a smile goes far to ease even the most tense of situations.

Sense of adventure. Vacations are for going new places. Seeing new things. Trying new foods or experiences. Try it – you just might like it!

The Yellow Church

Before I left home, I read travel guides and picked out a few things I wanted to see on my free time — dependent on hotel location. Well, as it turned out, it could not have been easier.

A short conversation with the hotel staff gained me a map with subway stops circled and which train to take. With a station literally yards from the hotel I was set. Until — I looked at the ticket machine. Okay, I expected it to be in German. But what zone was I in? What zone was I going to?

“Excuse me. Do you speak English?” I inquired of a young couple. Yes, they did and in a couple of minutes they helped me purchase a one-day pass and showed me where to validate it on the walk to the platform. They even got me pointed in the correct direction — and since they were on the same car — clued me when my stop was next.

I emerged from the subway to the sight of the church at the beginning of this post. And my sightseeing of Munich Residence and the surrounding few blocks began.

Imagine my surprise as I was looking for the entrance after purchasing my ticket. (That left turn was quicker than I expected.) When other tourists asked me about ticket prices. It was probably the only question I knew the answer to.

Courtyard at the Residence I wandered into before I found the actual entrance to the exhibits.