Pinterest for History Buffs

For those who have yet to discover the magic that is Pinterest, it’s a photo-sharing website organized into themed pin boards. Each “pin” or photo, links users back to the original content where the photo was found. There are some Pinterest users with some fun history boards that I thought I would share:

ancient places

User: Boyd57867

civil war sites

User: djbarr66/

colonial williamsburg

User: ruthanne1951


User: chrissy_lewin


User: rhys614

american revolution

User: historybyzim

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Christmas During the Civil War

Across the nation, historical sites are commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. This holiday season, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about how soldiers and their families lived during the Christmas season throughout the Civil War.

December 21: Ellwood Manor, Locust Grove, VA- Located near Fredericksburg on Wilderness Battlefield, Ellwood Manor has a rich Civil War history, including visits from both General Robert E. Lee in 1863 and General Ulysses S. Grant the following year. A free Christmas celebration will take place at Ellwood Manor on December 21 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be an entertaining and educational visit fro 19th-century Santa, as well as period music and readings, refreshments and  tours of the home, which is decorated for the holidays.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

December 21 and 28: Smallin Cave, Ozark, MO- Ozark was a centralized location of Union activity during the Civil War, and there is strong evidence that Smallin Cave was used by troops during that time for purposes such as a hideout for a Union spy. You can take the Christmas-themed Civil War Lantern Light Tour of Smallin Cave that includes hot cocoa and coffee. During the tour, you will hear stories of the American soldiers at Christmastime during the Civil War while sitting around a campfire. Afterwards, you will go on a lantern-lit tour of the cave.

December 22: Chatham Manor, Fredericksburg, VA- This site served briefly as Union headquarters during the Civil War. On the afternoon of December 22, Civil War Santa will be paying a visit to Chatham Manor. He will be dressed in patriotic clothes that he wore while visiting children during the Civil War. There will also be crafts, a scavenger hunt and refreshments.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Now through December 22: Old Governor’s Mansion, Milledgeville, GA- During the Civil War, this home was claimed by General William Sherman during his “March to the Sea.” The public is invited to holiday tours of the home, which take place nightly through December 22. A special candlelight tour with holiday music will take place on December 19.

Now through December 22: Buttonwillow Civil War Dinner Theater, Whitwell, TN- This special holiday dinner theater features an 1864 Tennessee Christmas show, that focuses on period holiday traditions and beliefs. The experience includes food, music, Victorian decorations, period treats and beverages.

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Art History Wednesday: Target with Four Faces

This mixed media assemblage piece was completed by Jasper Johns in 1955. It is a multi-layered piece. He started with a collage that he covered with encaustic, which is pigments added to hot wax, and added sculptural elements to the top. The masks at the top are made of paper mâché.

Target with Four Faces

Target with Four Faces

When Johns completed the piece, it created a sensation because it was so shocking- the antithesis of what was being done in the 1950s. While all other artists were doing personal and expressive pieces, this seemed cold and impersonal. There are little doors that can cover the masks at the top. When you open the doors, one would expect to find a revelation. Instead, they find something very impersonal. The eyes are cut out, which takes away personality and individuality.

Around the time that he created this piece, Johns was using targets, as well as other common images, such as flags, maps and numbers, in many of his works. By using encaustic in this piece to build up the texture of the concentric circles that create the target, Johns makes then less precise and more tactile than the common shooting target that average individuals would associate this image with.

To those who have the time, thought and sensitivity to spend more time with the piece, they see beneath the surface, both literally and metaphorically. The personal aspect of the painting is there, but it is only accessible to those who put in the time and effort to find it. In the top right corner of the painting, a newsprint headline reading “History and Biography” is visible through the red paint. Whether or not this was intentional move by Johns will remain unknown. It is up to the viewer to determine how to interpret this piece, and perhaps, that is how Johns intended it to be. However, it is important to note that there is more to this work than meets the eye on first glance.

Today, Target with Four Faces is part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

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July 1943: Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Workers

I recently came across an excerpt from the July 1943 edition of Mass Transportation magazine, where an article was published about getting more efficiency out of women employees. The article began by recognizing that there is definitely a need to hire women because the military draft has resulted in a shortage of manpower; however, there are methods to select the most efficient women to get the job done. The article listed 11 helpful tips to do just that.

Women are still working for equality in the workplace, but after reading this article, I can see that we have come a long way. The article suggests that companies hire young, married women because they have a greater sense of responsibility, are less likely to be flirtatious and still have the interest to work hard. It also says that “husky” women are a better choice for hire compared to their thinner counterparts because women on the heavy side are more even-tempered.

The tips go on to suggest that before hiring a woman that she be examined by a medical professional because oftentimes a woman may be mentally or physically unfit for a job. In fact, the article says, many women end up being turned down for a job because of nervous disorders. Following this portrayal of women as weak and fragile, the article also suggests that employers given women an adequate number of rest periods during the day and that women cannot shrug off harsh words the same way that me do, so it is imperative to be careful when criticizing.

Wow. Thank goodness for the pioneering women who fought for their rights, bringing about the feminist movement. Many gender inequalities continue to exist in the workplace, but women have made great strides in closing the gap.

Read the original article here.

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Chacchoben Mayan Ruins

Temple to the Sun

Temple to the Sun

The Mayan ruins known as Chacchoben, meaning “place of the red corn,” is located on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, approximately 184 miles south of Cancun. The history of the site dates back to 200 B.C.E. when evidence suggest that the first inhabitants came to the area and lived in small villages near the water. As the Mayan population and power grew, they expanded to control the territory and resources of the surrounding areas. Their strategic location near the middle of the peninsula allowed them to participate in political and commercial exchange between territories to the north and south. The height of the Mayan empire was between 600 and 900, and the ruins at Chacchoben date back to 700.

There are still overgrown areas of ruins that have yet to be excavated.

There are still overgrown areas of ruins that have yet to be excavated.

Chacchoben remained populated by the Mayans until the Spanish conquests in the 1500s. The site was rediscovered in the 1940s by a man named Serviliano Cohuo who was looking for some land to farm. He lived with his family with the Mayan ruins on his land until he died in 1978. The ruins were not reported to the Mexican government until 1972 after they were encountered by American archeologist Dr. Peter Harrison. He was in the area working on a project from Tulane University. While flying in a helicopter area, he noticed hills of land in a predominately flat landscape and realized that there were temples beneath the hills. Dr. Harrison was the first to make maps of Chacchoben.

In 1994, the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History began to excavate and restore the site. It was opened to the public in 2002. There are temples as well as living areas that have been excavated. Portions of the ruins still remain under piles of dirt and plants because of lack of funding to continue excavation.

My November visit to Chacchoben

My November visit to Chacchoben

I had an awesome visit there earlier this month, and I would definitely suggest sun screen, bug spray and an umbrella if you go during the rainy season. It went from sun to a downpour of rain when I was there. There is a circular path that you walk to see the various structures, and you do get to climb parts of them. One unique thing that I learned is that in their prime, they were bright red. If you go to the backside of the Temple of the Moon, you can see a remaining portion of the red exterior. Unfortunately, in order to excavate the site, the top layer of the structures are sacrificed. There is also abundant wildlife here. We saw quite a long snake skin the rocks (luckily not the snake) and there were monkeys swinging through the trees.

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Gifts for the History Buff in Your Life

Here are some ideas to help with holiday shopping for the history buff in your life:

1. This Abraham Lincoln wall clock features 12 portraits of our 16th president. This is also a great gift for the art lover in your life, as each image of Lincoln is a different color, reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s pop art.

Final Score Products

Final Score Products

2. These Eiffel Tower bookends are a great accessory for any bookshelf. The Eiffel Tower has been the icon of Paris since it was constructed in 1889 as the entrance to the World’s Fair and held the title of the tallest building in the world for 41 years.

Daisy Shoppe

Daisy Shoppe

3. This Candlestick phone can dress up any desk. These phones were present in homes across the United States from the 1890s until the 1930s prior to the introduction of the one-piece handset. This vintage-like model has modern conveniences, such as a redial button and adjustable volume controls.

4. History buffs can commemorate African American history with a Frederick Douglass necktie, as they proudly wear the image of a social reformer, writer and statesman who was a leader of the abolitionist movement after escaping slavery.

5. An Uncommon History of Common Things is a great book published by National Geographic. It covers topics from washing machines to wine and everything in between. It even includes colorful illustrations to go along with a wealth of information.

National Geographic

National Geographic

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The History of Contemporary Ballet

Contemporary ballet emerged in the United States in the late 1800s in direct response to Classical Ballet. Some similarities remained: the same dance vocabulary was utilized, there was a strong relationship between the dance and the music and it required dancers to be at a high level of technical and artist ability.

One major shift from Classical Ballet to Contemporary Ballet was the subject matter. While Classical Ballet was about fairy tales, Contemporary Ballet was more human and dealt with controversial subjects. Contemporary Ballet doesn’t necessarily tell a story, it’s much more abstract than Classical Ballet.

Contemporary Ballet has dancers that are sometimes dancing en pointe and sometimes they would wear soft ballet slippers. This greatly differed from the Classical Ballets that were characterized by ballerinas being en pointe. Contemporary Ballet also has a lot more freedom of movement in the upper body of the dancers, than Classical Ballet, which adhered to an erect upper body with the shoulders and hips always aligned.

One notable contributor to Contemporary Ballet was George Balanchine, who is considered to be the father of American ballet. He was Russian by birth and even graduated from the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was later invited to the United States by Lincoln Kirstein, a wealthy patron of the arts, to work as a choreographer and teacher. Balanchine went on to found the School of American Ballet in 1913. Today, this school offers the foremost training for ballet in the United States.

Balanchine revolutionized the dance world by founding the New York City Ballet and by changing the face of ballet through costuming, choreography and dance philosophy. He often eliminated sets and costuming, such as those used in Classical Ballet, because they took away from the focus on the dancer. During his career, Balanchine created over 400 ballets and is considered to be the greatest contemporary choreographer of his time.

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Art History Wednesday: Fountain

The original Fountain by Marcel Duchamp, 1917, photographed by Alfred Stieglitz at the 291 (art gallery) after the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibit.

The original Fountain by Marcel Duchamp, photographed by Alfred Stieglitz at the 291 (art gallery) after the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibit.

Fountain is certainly an iconic and scandalous piece of 20th century art. It is attributed to French artist Marcel Duchamp who submitted it to the Society of Independent Artists exhibit in 1917. Indeed, it is simply a porcelain urinal signed “R. Mutt 1917″ and rotated 90 degrees and placed on a pedestal. For this exhibit, the rules stated that all works of art would be accepted as long as the artist paid the entrance fee. In submitting this urinal, Duchamp was testing the liberal “anything goes” ideal. Duchamp was actually a member of the board of the Society of Independent Artists and when they rejected the piece, not knowing it was Duchamp who had submitted it, he protested by resigning from the board. Instead of being in the exhibit, Fountain was displayed and photographed in Alfred Stieglitz’s studio. The photograph was published in The Blind Man, a art and Dada journal published in New York City by Dada artists in 1917.

Fountain forces viewers to think about it in terms of art. Duchamp transformed a bathroom fixture into high art. The irony in this piece is that Duchamp turned something useful, a urinal, into art, thereby making it no longer useful. Fountain is meant to appeal to the mind. It is a conceptual puzzle to play with the audience. Duchamp was involved with Dada, an avant-garde European art movement, also referred to as an anti-rational, anti-art cultural movement. Fountain is certainly a result of Duchamp’s involvement with Dada.

Art historian Juan Antonio Ramirez offers a unique perspective as to why Fountain was so controversial by offering a highly sexual interpretation of the piece. A urinal is a male object with curves with a vaginal hole at the bottom. This role reversal of genders makes Fountain bisexual. This interpretation, if it was the intention of the artist, also makes Fountain a playful object and offers a perspective that art is a game played between the artist and the viewer.

Unfortunately, the original sculpture, as it is called, has been lost. Only Stieglitz’s photo of Duchamp’s entry to the exhibit remains, although many museums across the country display a replica of Fountain.

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Highland Light

The Highland Light, officially known as the Cape Cod Light on nautical charts, is located in North Truro, Massachusetts. At 120 above the ocean, but standing at only 66 feet high, it is the tallest lighthouse on Cape Cod. The history of the lighthouse that stands in North Truro today dates back to 1797 when George Washington authorized the location for a lighthouse. The original station was completed that year. In 1833, a brick tower was built to replace the original wooden lighthouse.

Highland Light

Highland Light

Just 24 years later, the lighthouse was determined to be unsafe. It was demolished and a new one was built. It is this brick structure that still remains today. A first-order Fresnel lens was placed in the tower. In 1901, an even larger first-order Fresnel lens was placed inside. In 1932, an electric light was installed and the tower was automated in 1986.

Although this 1857 structure remains, its location is not original. It was moved 450 feet to the west of its original location to prevent it falling off the side of the cliff due to erosion in 1996. It took 18 days to move the structure.

Today, the lighthouse remains active. Its light flashes white every five seconds as an aid to navigation and can be seen up to 21 miles away. The lighthouse is owned by the National Park Service as part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and open to visitors from May to October.

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St. John’s Episcopal Church, Hampton

St. John's Episcopal Church

St. John’s Episcopal Church

St. John’s Episcopal Church, located in Hampton, Virginia, is the oldest continuous Protestant church in North America. The parish was founded in 1610 at the founding of the settlement at Kecoughtan, three years after the founding of nearby Jamestown, by a small group of colonists who left Jamestown hoping to escape the famine and disease wreaking havoc on the population there. When they first settled in the area, they were welcomed by the Kecoughtan Indians, who were members of the Algonquian Indians. The colonists and Indians lived peacefully together until a colonist was killed and the settlers took over possession of the area.

In 1619, the area was named Elizabeth City in honor of the daughter of King James I, although that did not prevent colonists from continuing to use the name Kecoughtan. In fact, there is a Kecoughtan High School in Hampton today. Later, the name of the area was changed to Southampton, in honor of an earl of Southampton who was a key leader of the Virginia Company of London, a company established to support colonization in North America. By 1680, the town name was shortened to Hampton.

The day that the settlers established a colony in this area, they also founded St. John’s Episcopal Church. Excavations indicate that the church first met about two miles south of where the church stands today, and there is a historical marker there indicating the exact site. The first minister of the parish was Reverend William Mease who was appointed by the Bishop of London to serve in this capacity.

In 1663, the colony had been reestablished on the east side of the Hampton River, where Hampton University is located today. The foundations of a second parish were discovered in this area in 1910. It was a small, wooden building with a vestibule that was added after the original construction. This site was abandoned by the colonists in 1667 and the parish structure remained only until 1698. Today, the original brick foundations are visible.

A third building of the parish was built approximately a mile west of the previous settlement site. This indicates that there was growth in the settlement on the west side of the Hampton River. This building was also made of wood and was around the same size as the previous church that the settlers used. It was used for about 60 years. The foundations of this building are visible today as well.

St. John's Episcopal Church

A view of St. John’s Episcopal Church today

The church that is still standing today was built in 1728 and is located in the section of Hampton that is now referred to as the Victoria Boulevard Historic District. The colonists appealed to the governor to move the location of their place of worship so that it would be closer to the population center. The church was built in the shape of a cross, and the walls are two feet thick. The church sustained damage during the Revolutionary War.  During the War of 1812, the church was ransacked by British soldiers and used as barracks. Over the years, religious activity in the building declined as well. People worried that it was in danger of total ruin.

In 1825, funds were raised to restore the church and it was consecrated under a new name- St. John’s Episcopal Church. Up until this time, it had been referred to as Elizabeth City Parish.

During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers set fire to the church, along with their homes and businesses, in order to prevent the Union from using them to house troops and escaped slaves. When Union soldiers camped in the courtyard of the church, only blackened walls remained. Because of the fires, St. John’s is the only colonial structure that remains in Hampton today. After the war, funds were raised to rebuild the church again and services resumed in 1869. Throughout the 20th century, additions ere built, including the rear tower and the west gallery.

St. John's Episcopal Church

A view of construction being done to the church today, as well as the graves that surround the church

Today, the church is used as a place of worship and open to the public for tours. It is surrounded on all sides by graves, including the those of former rectors and parishioners. The oldest grave dates back to 1701. Inside, there is a door panel with stained glass pieces that date back to the 13th century, when they were laced in St. Helen’s Church in Willoughby, England, which is the parish where Captain John Smith was baptized. This panel was presented to the church in 1985, as part of the 375th anniversary of St. John’s. Another interesting component of St. John’s history is their communion silver. It was made in London in 1618 and has the longest history of use of any English church silver in the United States.

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