Friday, February 17, 2017

One hundred years ago this month

The Masonic Hall Theatre advertised the film “Where are My Children” on page one of the Reporter, Conway’s local newspaper on February 1, 1917. No children under sixteen years of age were to be admitted. A little internet research tells us that the film dealt with controversial adult themes and social issues of the day. The film played to packed houses throughout the country, except in Pennsylvania where it was banned.

The next week they announced that they were starting a new “family friendly” policy of having a special matinee for ladies and children, with movies free of suggestion of crime, domestic relations and melodrama.

The pair of front page ads shows the dramatic social tensions of the day and the ways they were handled before our more modern system of film ratings.    

In other front page news, from February 8, New Hampshire State Senate killed the suffrage bill, denying women the right to vote.

It was not until page four, that we would read that the United States had broken off diplomatic relations with Germany.

Prohibition was another issue of the day.

As usual there were more column inches about farming than the war raging in Europe, women’s right to vote, or the sale of alcohol.

There was an in-depth article about a new type of butter churn, that used the power of gears and belts to improve on efficiency.

Finally, the Martha Washington tea party was called off due to illness.

So there we are, all the news fit to print from one hundred years ago this month, a combination of social tensions, impending war, and hope for a peace jubilee. In some ways, things really have not changed all that much.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Chocorua from Chatoque

Spelled "Chatoque" in the illustration caption published in 1844, with a “q” this area of Conway is more commonly pronounced with a “g.”

However, earlier this week historian Brian Wiggin confirmed that while most people do pronounce it as “Shatagee” is should take on more of a French style sound with the "q."

That debate has been raging since at least 1853 when naturalist Thaddeus William Harris wrote to Edward Tuckerman. He explained that “At North Conway, I became acquainted with old Mr. Willey, the brother of the person of this name, who, with his family, perished by the slide. He gave me some interesting information about this region. I made enquiries concerning the name sometimes given to Conway Corner, & the manner of spelling it. It is not Shategee, though so pronounced. It should be written Chateauguay or Chateaugay.”

The official street sign near there now spells it as “Chatague Lane.” I have found at least 8 other ways of spelling it.

In his letter to Tuckerman, Harris went on to explain that “The origin of its application to Conway corner is comparatively recent, & is thus explained. Soon after the close of the last war with Gr. Britain, a great muster was held at the Corner, in which there was got up a sham fight to represent the skirmish that took place in Oct. 1813 on the Chateauguay in the North Eastern part of New York, a place since known as Chateauguay or Chateaugay, Four Corners. From this circumstance, Conway Corner afterwards got the nom de guerre of Chateaugay, or as ignorantly pronounced Shategee. The facts seem to be so well authenticated, and withal so reasonable, that I have no reason to doubt their correctness.”

It is interesting to think that Conway folks were doing a "sham fight" perhaps, like a historical reenactment of a battle that the Americans lost to the Canadians during the War of 1812. They continue to reenact this battle today near the international border.

A number of period guide books describe “Chatoque” or Conway Corner as a small village with great potential. A map from 1860 shows us some details of Chatoque or Conway Corner with its tannery, post office, Conway House hotel, mills, church, school and shops along with the names of the home owners. For more on Conway Corner see my previous blog.

However, this wood cut view of Chocorua from Chatoque is not from a tourist guide book, map or book of artistic views

It is from a book on geology commissioned by the State of New Hampshire written by Charles Thomas Jackson. It comes from the early 19th century, a time when science, art, and history were not so far apart and as we will see, these disciplines were actually much more connected that today.

This is the first of a number of blogs we will be doing on this geology report. We will look at the book with its study of seeds and soils, mining, milling and manufacturing,  as well as its interesting connections and parallels to Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Cole.

It will also explore the author’s experience with dramatic "economic embarrassment," controversies over ether and the telegraph, shame, insanity and death. It is better than a soap opera, so stay tuned!

But for now, back to the view of Chocorua from Chatoque. You can click on the image at the beginning of the blog to enlarge it. 

In studying White Mountain scenes, I always try to find the original location of the view. Luckily, I see this basic view every work day walking to and from the parking lot and the Conway Public Library. Of course, you can’t always take an artistic rendering as an accurate representation. However, there are clues that the delineator, who is not given credit here, was a good observer and interpreter of the landscape.

In the print, you can clearly see the pyramid shaped cone of Chocorua and the undulating knobs of the “three sisters” to its north (right). If you line up the ridge in the middle ground with the proper peak, you get a pretty good idea that it is from today’s Washington Street and in fact, the building looks a lot like the current White Mountains Hostel.

As we will see, the author, Charles Thomas Jackson, was obsessed with improving maps and getting the angle correct with measurements for his understanding of the landscape, so I feel a connection and kinship with him in many ways (the fun stuff, not the controversies and insanity).

Actually, even with the limitations of the wood cut printing technique, the unknown artist did good job of capturing the contours, land forms, and ridges of the view, even down to the dirt road in the foreground.  As we will see in future blogs, there is lots more to mine in Jackson's work about art, history and science.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Pin Money

In the popular CBS television show NCIS, analytical technology plays a major role in solving criminal mysteries. While we may not have Abby’s “Major” mass spectrometer to identify chemical composition of evidence, ...

My name tag does have a magnet and I am able to use it to determine ferrous (contains iron) versus non-ferrous materials.

This simple tool actually can help date early iron pins from later brass pins found in the Bemis papers used before staples to collate papers together.

Another simple tool uses the incredible magnification power of our scanner. Using the scanner as a  forensic tool we are able to magnify the head of the pins with much better imaging that a magnifying glass.

As we increase the magnification level, you can see the wide variety of pin head shapes we have been finding in the collection.

At a higher resolution you can see that the head of these early pins were actually wrapped around the straight wire shank. You can also see the rust that is another clue that these pins were made of iron.

In his famous book, “Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith uses the example of these hand made pins to discuss the possibilities of economic improvement.

These early pins were valuable and expensive. A number of years ago, I was part of a team exploring secret drawers and hidden compartments in early American furniture. Hidden inside the walls of this desk and bookcase were sliding panels.

... and inside the walls we found pins and needles wrapped in paper and fabric packets.

Monday, January 9, 2017

January 1917

Our continuing series of looking at the news from one hundred years ago. The first issue of the Reporter newspaper for January 1917 featured a large ad from the Goodrich Falls Electric Company offering to wire six rooms for $35. (see ad below).
The price included a Tu-For-Wun plug, made by Benjamin Electric Mfg. Co. of Chicago, Illinois.

Before wall sockets were common and plugs were standardized, there was a bewildering number and variety of methods for plugging lights and appliances into the electrcial supply system. The Benjamin used the same screw type method for both their plugs and their bulbs so they were interchangeable. Many of these are now collector’s items and now sold in specialty antique shops

While the office for the Goodrich Falls Electric Company was in the Pitman Block of North Conway, the actual waterfalls where the power was generated was in Jackson, NH. For many years, the falls had served both a practical purpose as a sawmill and an aesthetic purpose as a tourist attraction with its image being captured by both painters and photographers.

Another big news feature was the Small murder trial held at the Carroll County Courthouse in Ossipee. It was the first murder case in the then new courthouse. “A telegraph office has been temporarily placed in the basement of the buildling and from it the operators are keeping the wires busy in sending out to the broad world the evidence as fast as it is produced. Even a barber shop has been placed for the convenience of all concerned.”

It is not until page six, after all the gossip and social society news that we get a summary of the war raging in Europe.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

Map Day A Smashing Success

Channeling 19th century mapmaker Franklin Leavitt, modern day cartographer and map collector, Kurt Masters welcomed a large group of map fans to the Conway Public Library’s map day, on Saturday, December 3, 2016.

 On display were a wide variety of maps, of different sizes and shapes.They were the subject of serious study …

… and friendly debate and discussion. Folks such as map expert Adam Jared Apt also brought additional maps to share.  

As a result of this program, the Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room will be working with the Freedom Historical Society to do a possible map exhibit for Summer 2017. 

If you missed our map day, or are simply interested in learning about area maps, please visit us at the Henney History Room. We have over 400 maps in our collection, so be sure to plan on staying a long time.  

For previous posts related to maps see the following links:

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ranco gets his deer November 1916

Our series of looking back at the news of one hundred years ago continues.

This ad from November 23, 1916, captures a major theme on the town’s mind, deer hunting.

Some things never change. Over the past few weeks I have seen a number of deer and hunters going off into the woods. 100 years ago there was more news on deer hunting than on the war raging in Europe since July 28, 1914.

The only mention of the war I could find was about the lack of information the community was getting, in this case due to censorship.

There was news however about cooking with electricity.  

The article reads more like an ad and another issue of the paper in November 1916 did include a large ad with a picture of the most modern, up-to-date electrical stove.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were featured in the paper. There was a “Thanksgiving Ball” at the Bijou (now the Glass Graphics building). Most music during the time was played live as “Victrolas” were a new thing.

This notice about a price increase for ice shows that you could save money if you purchased your ice “on the pond.” A few years ago, Bud Shackford talked about cutting ice in Conway.

Back to hunting. The shoes described in this ad sound like the famous L.L. Bean shoe.

So possibly wearing their Baker hunting shoes from W.R. Carter and their rifles and ammo from A.D. Davis, George Ronco and Stewart Anderson each got a deer near the Mineral Springs.

They may have preserved their deer in ice from a pond in Conway and cooked it on an electric stove or oven. 

Of course you can’t hunt there now, it’s now on the grounds of the “new” Kennett High School. The mineral springs has been preserved in large part by the relatives of George Ronco (now spelled Rancourt) and are open to the public. 

The Rancourt’s service during World War One has been memorialized on a granite sundial in Redstone along with the other boys from that village. For a map and photo see this link.

Neither war nor deer season is without danger.  

Be careful out there and wear orange during hunting season.