Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hapy Pickle Day!

As I am sure you all know, today is National Pickle Day.

It is a good time to get your pickle flavored candy canes in preparation for the holidays. To have the traditional red and green colors of the season, you can also make your own koolickle (Kool-Aid soaked frozen pickle treat). Who knew that was a thing?

Image result for Koolickle, frozen pickle

There is in fact a wide range of pickle colors that are available to celebrate this holiday. Items that can be pickled include beets, olives, peppers, carrots, cabbage (sauerkraut), garlic, celery, green beans, pears, lemons, tomatoes, pineapple, corn, eggs and of course cucumbers.

People also pickle fish, beef (corned beef), ham, and pig's feet.
Image result for pickled fish

The pickling tradition goes back at least 4,500 years. It was a way of preserving the harvest and making food last during the winter to come. It harkens back to a time before refrigeration and the food transportation system we have today. In this day and age, we can get fresh grapes, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables year round. Back then, hunger and even starvation was a real possibility if you did not preserve foods for the lean times of the year.

It got to be a lot easier to pickle things when Scottish chemist James Young invented paraffin wax in the early 1850s that helped seal the pickling pot. In 1858 John Mason of Philadelphia patented the first glass Mason jar.

There are pickle ornaments for the tree.

Pickle ornament in Christmas tree.

If you need more ideas to celebrate pickle day, or want to know more about the history of food preservation, contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Eyewitness to History

History Room Volunteer Marvin Swartz discovered this fascinating letter yesterday in the Morey papers collection he is processing.

It is a Civil War era letter between two sisters. We are still trying to figure out all of the details but wanted to share it now. The letter is hand written on one piece of paper, stationary marked "U.S. Sanitary Commission."  (click on images to enlarge them)

According to Wikipedia, the USSC was a private relief agency created by Federal legislation on June 18, 1861, to support sick and wounded soldiers of the Union Army during the Civil War. An interesting article about "Antiquarian Suppers" held to raise funds for the USSC in Bethel, Maine can be found at this link.


Let's look closer at the letter in the order it was written. It is a little hard to decipher all of the hand writing especially as end of the letter is written sideways over top of the start of the letter.

It starts with the address to which it was written "St. John's Hospital, Annapolis Md. March 8, 1865" and follows with "Dear Sister, Yours of the ..." acknowledging the previous letter, goes on about hens, making butter, etc.

Then it reads "I have been to Washington to the Presidential Inauguration." 

"When we got to W. (Washington) we went directly to the Capitol, and Such a crowd I think I never saw, all eager to get into the Senate Chamber where the chief rulers of our land were to meet."

"President Lincoln sat in front of the desk, where we had a good opportunity of seeing him, a plain unassuming main in appearance. His inaugural ..."

"... address was worthy of such a man as he has proved himself to be, The procession was very imposing.

The letter continues, "The Bishop spoke of the day previous, that is commenced with darkness and gloom, but at noon-day, when the President took the oath, the sun came out in splendor & brightness, he hoped it might prove a true sign, & symbol of coming events...

came last April

The letter ends with the salutation, "My love to all you, Sister Nancy"

You won't find this kind of documentation and commentary coming from today's twitter and facebook posts. You won't even have a physical piece of paper as evidence of history. My how times have changed.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Mystery for Halloween

What do you imagine this is? and what do you imagine is its connection to witches, Frankenstein, and Conway, New Hampshire?

You can find this mysterious image on our website at this link. This has been called a Druid's altar or temple. It can be found along the Thames in England not far from where George Harrison had his estate.The stone circle consists of forty-five granite megalithic stones that were once part of an ancient burial site. It is part of a pleasure garden that once belonged to Henry Seymour Conway for whom our town was named.

Also on the grounds can be found obelisks, fake Grecian ruins, gothic cottages, a rustic bridge, tunnels, caves, and a grotto reflecting the macabre and romantic tastes of the 18th century.

During Conway's 250th anniversary celebration a few years ago a lot of attention was paid to Henry Seymour Conway. Now we turn our attention to his only daughter. Here she is depicted as a witch (from Macbeth). See this link.

Here is another less Halloween-like portrait of her.

These images are part of a group of photos that had been gathered on the Conway family by a previous Curator, David Emerson, but had never been catalogued into our pastperfect online database. This image in the collection was a copy of this oil painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, also in London's National Portrait Gallery. More at this link.

Not only was she the subject of artists, she was an artist herself. Even more rare for a women of the time, she was a sculptor.

Here is a portrait bust she did of a friend dressed as Thalia (the muse of comedy and idyllic poetry) now in the National Portrait Gallery, London.See this link. It is inscribed in Greek that "Anne Seymour made me."

She did self portrait now at the Uffizi that again in Greek text reads: ΑΝΝΑ ΣΕΙΜΟΡΙΣ ΔΑΜΕΡ Η ΕΚ ΤΗΣ ΒΡΕΤΤΑΝΙΚΗΣ ΑΥΤΗ ΑΥΤΗΝ ΕΠΟΙΕΙ which translates to "Anne Seymour Damer from Britain, made herself".

These inscriptions of ponderous, almost sad faces carved in cold marble make me think of Mary Shelly's book Frankenstein which is enjoying its 200th anniversary this year. Remember that novel begins and ends with death and destruction at the North Pole. There are also etymological coincidences (or not coincidence?) that tie to our own Frankenstein here in the white mountains. See this link.

While we are just having fun with words and images, Anne's real life was a combination "girl power" and love on the rocks. Note: we have an outreach program about "love on the rocks" in the White Mountains that includes tales of love, loss, murder, suicide, betrayal and abandonment.

More about Anne's life can be found at this link. It is poignant and seasonally appropriate to mention that she was buried with her sculpture tools and the bones of her favorite dog.

Have yourself a very happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Ashmead's Kernel - Just in Time for Halloween

The name Ashmead's Kernel is strange and mysterious. It kind of sounds like a novel title by Stephen King. Actually it is connected more to his wife Tabitha, owner of Pietree Orchard in Maine.

Ashmead’s Kernel is one of fourteen heirloom apple varieties we recently acquired at their orchard for a family apple tasting event.

They describe this apple variety on their website as "Tart and spicy, with pear and pepper notes" and conclude that "Ashmead's Kernel is an adventurous apple.

The Conway Public Library's Henney History Room offers a free outreach program to schools and local community groups on historic harvest activities including apples, pumpkins, corn and grain. 

Our collection of Samuel Bemis papers provides an interesting view into apple history.  See a link to this collection and our finding guides here. You can see his apple orchard in a number of photographs (click on the image to enlarge it).

Included in his papers is an invoice from Boston's Curtis and Cobb Company for the purchase of a cider mill for $25.

His papers also include detailed notes about the kinds of apples he grew and his experiments with grafting. These grafting experiments helped him win a silver medal in 1860 from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society for his "Collection of Apples."

Apples have played an important role in Halloween activities for many years.

Bobbing for apples started out as a divination or fortune telling game that was supposed to give clues as to what kind of luck you would have in marriage.

Winslow Homer’s print from Harper’s Weekly magazine “The Apple-Bee” shows you can have fun while working (peeling and stringing apples to dry over the fireplace).  It also includes fortune telling, throwing the apple peeling over the shoulder spell out the initials when they land.

Snap apple was another fun game for the romantically inclined.

I leave you now with an apple head doll that closely resembles one of our retiring volunteers. I will leave it to you and to him to make that connection.

As always if you have have any questions or comments, please contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Happy Earth Sciences Week!

Did you know that this is “Earth Sciences Week.” Today, in fact, is National Cheese Curd Day and National Mushroom Day.

Did you further know that you can borrow “back pack” kits from the Conway Public Library to help you explore earth sciences in Conway and the White Mountains?

Created by Tin Mountain Conservation Center, and supported by L.L. Bean, we have back packs available on subjects such as birds, insects, mammals and so on. They include Items such as a compass, magnifying glass, binoculars, identification books, activity sheets, and maps.

Finally, did you know that the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room has a wide variety of resources for studying nature through history?

We do in fact, have several outreach programs we offer free to area schools and civic groups about the historical relationship between people and nature. We have programs that explore each season and cover topics such as ice harvesting in the winter, maple sugaring in the spring, farming in the summer and the "art" of the harvest for the fall.

If you would like to learn more, please contact us at the library.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Grover Cleveland papers - Conway to the Library of Congress

This week we installed a small display showing a few examples from the Conway Historical Society’s collection of President Grover Cleveland papers, before they make their move to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Cleveland had a summer home in Tamworth. Tamworth is one of the twenty-seven towns covered by the scope of the Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room as set up by Nella and Keith Henney. In Tamworth can be found one of the most unique Presidential monuments - not a sculpture, not a building, but instead a road and stone wall. Our exhibit features some pages from the fundraising committee for the project (click on images to enlarge them).

We have had quite a good bit of publicity on the project. Brian P. Wiggin has led the charge to preserve the papers and arrange to have them sent to the Library of Congress where all Presidential papers before Herbert Hoover are stored. Mr. Wiggin is a Trustee at both the Conway Public Library and the Conway Historical Society as well as a historian of both local and national history.

Please drop by and visit the display. We would be happy to talk with you about it.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Marvelous History

What's wrong with this picture? 

William Marvel does it again! In yesterday's Conway Daily Sun, he re-attributes the names of the boys in this picture from the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room collection. (click on image to enlarge it and read his argument).

Here is an image of the back of the original photo helping to see how the handwriting could have been misread.

As we reviewed in a previous blog what passes for history can change due to new insights or research such as that done by Mr. Marvel.

We welcome this kind of community involvement in getting our history correct. We invite anyone with an interest in history to join our volunteer group, for a part of a day, or on an ongoing basis. We have a large back log of items to scan, research, and post in our online collection. We have many photographs that have unidentified people in them. Perhaps you could give some of these anonymous faces a name!