Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day 184/365 Not A Moment Longer

The other day I mentioned rescuing a crushed plastic tote from a collapsed bookcase with my last post being wedding photos from another galaxy far, far away.

But I saved the best for last. The last night of 2009, the last word, one last uncanny coincidence, and, lastly, and most of all, the last word towards righting a long-ago wrong.

In that crushed plastic box were several tintype photos, most with their original leather boxframes, complete with covers secured by tiny hook-and-clasps. I remember finding these when my great-aunt left me her stash of family history (13 boxes worth), but had only given them a quick look, and then somehow unaccountably packed them away in said plastic tote.

Now I have them out, and have identified a college photo of my great great grandfather, taken before he joined the Smyth County Blues in 1861. He is quite the young man, gentlemanly, well-dressed and, like all young men, quite impressed with himself. So we'll leave him there, and move along to the next photo, the one taken several years after the War.

This is actually two tintypes, not meant to sit in this frame together, but placed in next to each other, by someone. Possibly the two tins were taken one after the other, papa holding the older daughter, mama holding the baby. The backdrop is pastoral and looks to be the same one.

This is again my great-great-grandfather. Wander here for his story. He's holding my great aunt Addie and his necktie is crooked, so I imagine she's been playing with it.

The woman could be none other than my great-great-grandmother, Adeline Virginia Magruder. She's the one lost to us all, locked up by her husband in the asylum. The one we had never seen a picture of.

I don't remember seeing these before, so I'm thinking they were in with all the other photos, and we assumed they were of someone in the family, so they were kept. After dwelling on them with a magnifying glass it's apparent it's Adeline, and her husband.

I can't help but wonder who kept that one tintype. The husband who never mentioned her, or the girls who never asked how their mother was? Or was the stigma so great that the tintypes were put away, and the poor woman never brought up out of embarrassment? (and lest we forget, this ignorant behavior was repeated in the 1980's when so many died of AIDS)

Somehow it ended up in a box of assorted photos - her husband, her children, her home, her horses, her dogs. Just one of her.

Welcome back Adeline -only 121 years later, on the last night of 2009.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day 183/365 Speaking of Vortexes

Sorry for the lack of posting lately -I've been involved in a major moving/sorting/cleaning/shifting project involving two or three thousand books, and a dire shortage of bookcases.

BUT- this afternoon, I performed an emergency removal of a plastic bookcase (standard walmart issue) that had literally collapsed under the weight of books. On the bottom shelf there was a green plastic tote that I thought was empty. Turned out it was full of a lot of family items I'd misplaced, so the day after Christmas turned into a sortof Christmas sequel.

Among the photos were these 22 year old relics from our Renaissance Festival wedding. Not too long ago, a couple online friends mentioned they'd like to see them, so now the rest of you have to suffer too.

Worse, some of my readers were there the first time, so you get to suffer a second time.

Most of these pics are from guests, but the genie here did the professional pictures. It's hard to tell, but he had a blond mohawk and a more than passing resemblance to a sheik. In real life he's a professional photographer, custom jewelry designer and works with healing stones.

The troubadour supplied the 'middle ages' renditions of the songs we chose (which included a couple Beatles tunes). He's a master at what he does.

The Blue Lion Tavern, scene of the crime. Our guests included my corporate life friends, friends from high school (you know who you are), a couple bikers from the club we were riding with then, and of course, the relatives.

Mac the Mugmaker, also conveniently a Unitarian minister, and a Scotsman to boot. He let us re-write the vows. My deletion of the whole "obey" thing saved my dad from rolling in the aisles laughing uncontrollably.

The reception music. Not the Beatles, but you work with what you get.

My mom and dad, fresh from the Middle Ages. They had a blast. This would be the time to explain that at the RenFest, if we booked a wedding, everyone in the wedding had to be authentically dressed. After deciding if we wanted to be married as nobility, merchant or peasant class, we were issued guidelines for our class (merchant). Nobility involved velvets and furs and with the wedding in August, this wasn't an option. No one ever chooses peasant (not much you can do with sackcloth and ashes).

So merchants we were. This involve 100% cotton, no velvets, no furs, no tall hats.

The reception staff. When they weren't at our wedding, they were performing as jugglers and court jesters. Years later, they were still tossing things at us when we visited the festival.

The reception. We never saw it or any of the food. The genie had us corralled to do pictures, and by the time we made the reception the food was gone. What's funny is that we have several pictures of the food, but don't recognize any of the people eating it.

Meeting King Henry and Queen Caroline. Our first time meeting royalty, and yes, I curtsied. After a royal party with fire jugglers, dancers with boa constrictors and sword tossers, Their Highnesses invited us to ride in their parade.

On the elephant. My husband's son is perched in front on the ears, and we are hanging on the back. I love elephants. Up close and personal, they are hairy, itchy and shamelessly beg constantly for peanuts.

And then there were the bellydancers jingling and shimmying all along the parade, somehow avoiding the elephant feet.

The obligatory ring/hands photo, except ours is on a medieval sword, with my one-of-a-kind ring designed by Neal Nye, jeweler to Her Majesty The Queen, and my husband's corresponding ring with our family coat-of-arms. He took my name, and the heraldry came with it.

And finally the official wedding party photo, taken by our genie-sheik. Each dress has 33 yards of cotton. That's almost an entire bolt of material.

Try manuevering that in a port-a-potty, in August.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 182/365 Vortex

The vortex of December 15.....or, how many significant events can happen on any one particular day?

In 1791, The Bill of Rights took effect after being ratified by the state of Virginia

In 1890 Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull was killed in Grand River, South Dakota.

In 1938 the ground was broken for the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In 1939 the movie "Gone With the Wind" premiered in Atlanta, following a song performed by a 6-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr with his church choir(don't believe me?)

In 1944 swing bandleader Glenn Miller was killed when his military plane disappeared into the fog over the English Channel.

In 1961 Nazi Adolf Eichmann was sentenced to death by an Israeli court.

In 1966 Walt Disney died at age 65.

And in a final burst of humor from the same chuckling karma that put MLK, Jr. onstage at the segregated premiere of Gone With the Wind:

In 2003 the late Sen. Strom Thurmond's family finally acknowledged Essie Mae Washington-Williams' claim that she was Thurmond's illegitimate bi-racial daughter.

I know there's a pattern and a balance in there somewhere.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Day 181/365 Forgotten Bookmarks

This is Cheryl Ann. She sent this to Granny in 1968, when she was 13, from Alcalka, Spain. Some people look good in polka dots. Cheryl Ann is one of them (I'm not). At some point during the last 41 years, Granny stuck this photo in one of her books, and it ended falling out into my hands.

People forget things in books. A month or so ago in a book club edition of Outlanders (my favorite book), I found $25 dollars in crisp new bills, pinned to a note that explained they were Sharon's winning lottery ticket. Who is Sharon? No idea.

Sometimes people forget things in picture frames. This little buck-a-roo is a classic early Sixties 11 x 14 print, complete with rolled up cuffs on stiff blue jeans, cowboy boots, and a shirt that I'll bet was red gingham. I'll also bet this was taken after school, and this kid ran home to watch Roy Rogers and sing "Happy Trails to You ... until.. we... meet...again."

Sometimes the photos are older. This one dates to the 1940's, and not only are baby and mama included, but so's the boxer pup. The back says it's Balboa, California, and in their black and white world it's October 18, 1942. All three are handsome and stylish in that wartime way. This one hangs by my desk - I just like these folks.

No writing on the back of this one - I'm imagining a homeplace back on the farm, and this is one of the sons visiting home from college, all dressed up in his 1920's suit, hair slicked back, and watch fob chain just so. He's holding someone's hand - maybe this was the first time he brought His Girl home to meet the parents. Maybe they weren't impressed, so they just took the photo of him.

This plain early American house was stuck in a 1920's fishing guide. Looks to be a former log cabin, maybe an old roadside tavern, updated to the 1930's, with the original rock chimneys. When closely examined, it's actually a black and white photo, and only the roofs have been tinted green, with just a faint rosy pink glow at the distant tree line. This was common in the Fifties. Marshall Oils (kindof look like pastel crayons) were used to colorize black and white photos.

And then - the ultimate find in a book:

A will.

Found in a 1953 Guide to Montgomery Alabama. Folded carefully, and tucked tightly in.

Don't worry -it's in pencil, and clearly labeled "copy" in the upper righthand corner.

It's addressed to Elizabeth, and mostly everything goes to her, nevertheless, there's quite a bit of specification:

Portrait of Great Grandfather William Armistad, 2 vases on mantel in livingroom, Sayre genealogy, some Virginian families. The blue and silver basket for sugar. Half of flat silver (who got the other half?) Chinese vase that was Rosalie's. Divide the china (but doesn't say among who). Sheffield tray on sideboard.

And then:

I leave Elizabeth my diamond crescent pin and my gold circle pin that I received on my fiftieth anniversary -given me by Philip's relatives. They are suppose to be in chest of drawers in living room.
(Signed) Lucy B. G. Trout

One may only suppose she means the pins are in the chest of drawers, not the relatives.

If any of these forgotten bookmarks belong to your family, send me an email. I'll keep them safe and sound, until I hear from you.

Actually, I'll keep them safe and sound even if I never hear from you. Cause I'm just like that.

Well, except for the $25 lottery winnings - that sucker is long gone.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 180/365 Bedlam

I'm still fascinated by my great great grandmother's sojourn in an insane asylum(her story:Day 174/365 Health Care, 1887 Style ) and have been spending a bit of time researching turn-of-the-last century insane asylums.

There's enough there to write a hundred blogs for a hundred years, but a few tidbits jump out.

This is Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride (isn't there a remarkable resemblance to Bob Newhart?). Instead of locking up the insane in prisons and poorhouses, his approach was based on what he called Moral Treatment. The idea was that isolation from cities, in a relaxing atmosphere, with good basic food and fresh air, would cure the insane.

To accomodate this method, he designed a "bat wing" building design, with the thought that the breezes would be able to flow through each building unobstructed. Male patients were housed in one wing, and women in the other while the most violent patients were housed on the ground floor, in the outermost buildings, farthest from the administration offices in the center building.

Maybe they didn't believe their own press about curing the insane.

I found the following list of reasons a person (and a LOT of women) could be committed to an insane asylum. It's long. On account of there were SO many ways to be insane back then.

Read this list carefully, and see how many justifications there were for locking your wife away.

OCTOBER 22, 1864 to DECEMBER 12, 1889
(Different hospital than my gggrandmother was locked in, but exact same time period)

Bad company
Bad habits & political excitement
Bad whiskey
Bite of a rattle snake
Bloody flux
Brain fever
Business nerves
Carbonic acid gas
Cerebral softening
Congestion of brain
Death of sons in the war
Decoyed into the army
Deranged masturbation
Desertion by husband
Disappointed affection
Disappointed love
Dissipation of nerves
Dissolute habits
Dog bite
Domestic affliction
Domestic trouble
Doubts about mother's ancestors
Effusion on the brain
Epileptic fits
Excessive sexual abuse
Excitement as officer
Explosion of shell nearby
Exposure & hereditary
Exposure & quackery
Exposure in army
Fall from horse
False confinement
Feebleness of intellect
Fell from horse
Female disease
Fever & loss of law suit
Fever & nerved
Fighting fire
Fits & desertion of husband
Gathering in the head
Gunshot wound
Hard study
Hereditary predisposition
Ill treatment by husband
Imaginary female trouble
Immoral life
Jealousy & religion
Kick of horse
Kicked in the head by a horse
Liver and social disease
Loss of arm
Marriage of son
Masturbation & syphillis
Masturbation for 30 years
Medicine to prevent conception
Menstrual deranged
Mental excitement
Milk fever
Moral sanity
Novel reading
Opium habit
Over action on the mind
Over heat
Over study of religion
Over taxing mental powers.
Parents were cousins
Pecuniary losses: worms
Periodical fits
Political excitement
Religious enthusiasm
Religious excitement
Rumor of husband's murder or desertion
Salvation army
Seduction & dissappointment
Self abuse
Severe labor
Sexual abuse and stimulants
Sexual derangement
Shooting of daughter
Snuff eating for two years
Softening of the brain
Spinal irritation
Sun stroke
Supressed masturbation
Supression of menses
Tabacco & masturbation: hysteria
The war
Time of life
Uterine derangement
Venerial excesses
Vicious vices in early life
Women trouble
Young lady & fear


I'm thinking just being a woman in the late 1800s was enough to drive a person crazy, and if you weren't crazy when you went in, you went crazy shortly thereafter. Now to find out which floor/building great great grandma was in, cause the women in our family don't start out real patient as it is.