Friday, July 21, 2017

More Old Iron

It was 48 years ago … yesterday, that man landed on the moon and this piece of old iron (actually aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium) played a key role. It is now encased in plexiglass and on display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum restoration center in Chantilly, Virginia.

It’s hard for some of us of a certain age who saw this all on television to grasp the fact that what still seems so futuristic is actually history and in our “rear view.” In a previous blog, we searched for "old iron" with Fenway the History Dog. In that case, we explored the changing use of technology and how it affected the historic landscape of Conway village. In a future blog, we will look at how old iron persists and has changed from utilitarian/functional to decorative and symbolic both as lawn sculpture and as interior decoration.

While the space race is now history, it's universe of "old metal" has not yet made it as lawn ornament. Wait that's wrong, as we have a Redstone rocket on display here in New Hampshire in a park in the town of Warren.

In the near future, as artifacts of the space age in fact age and obtain the patina of history, we may in fact see more and more of these items on display.

The development of space technology was spread out through the country. It still is. Recently Kennett High School students were involved in a project with NASA. You can learn about 3-d digital printing, wifi technology and robots through programs at the Conway Public Library. Some of the cooling fans used in the space race were developed by the global Sturtevant Company, that started with Benjamin Franklin Sturtevant and his wooden peg manufactory in Conway New Hampshire (across the mill pond from the blacksmith shop that was replaced by Stan's Auto Repair) - see the previous blog for maps and drawings.

So stay tuned for more adventures with Fenway the History Dog.

While the "rear view" of our truck was busted, Fenway served as co-pilot and looked back to see that the course was clear for us to proceed into the future while we glanced back at the past - back to the future, again.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In Search of Old Iron

Fenway in search of "old iron" for our history blog!
... and we found some at Stan's Service Center in Conway Village. 

A 1956 Chevy Bel Air.

Note the incredible styling and color scheme. At one time all of these curves and chrome was common. However, that has all changed. You just don’t see a combination jet and eagle hood ornament on today’s cars.

However, we can use these wonderful relics of the past as way markers on our historical road trip.

You can see what used to be at the site of Stan’s Service Center if you look at the 1896 Bird’s Eye View of Conway on display near the circulation desk at the Conway Public Library. (click on the images to enlarge them).

In this panoramic view you can see earlier modes of transportation. There are a number of horse drawn vehicles on the streets. A train that just went through a wooden covered bridge can be seen in the middle ground. The Moats and Mount Washington can be seen in the background. That has not changed, but some of the open fields have grown in. 

Near the center of the print, you can see several tall towers with thick black smoke billowing out of them. In the late 19th century this would not have been seen as pollution but as a sign of progress. Clustered around the factories are the smaller houses of the workers and the larger houses of the owners. 

If we zoom in closer we can see that many of the buildings are numbered and tied to a key on the print.

Stan’s is now at the site of number 34. In 1896 this was listed as Geo. C. Wells, Horseshoeing and Jobbing. So while the technology, sources of power, types of exhaust, sights and sounds have changed, the folks who worked there then and now still help keep us moving on the road.

While Mr. Wells would shoe your horse, next door to the north from Stan’s at number 32 L.S. Merrill could repair your carriage if you had an accident. If the accident was really bad, he could also help you out as he was also an undertaker. Not far way, Fred Eaton was a carriage maker and undertaker, so their competition resulted in you having a choice and perhaps helped keep prices down?

The lumber for these workers could have come from building number 25, B.F. Clark’s lumber mill.

At the Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room, you can also compare the bird’s eye view with several of our Sanborn Insurance Maps. 

In this 1908 map, you can see that the B.F. Clark sawmill was actually built out over the water. The map details the logway on the south used to feed the logs to the mill. In the bird's eye view above you can see the logs floating in the pond waiting to be directed into the mill. This mill also generated electricity for village lights. You can also find photographs of this mill on our online collections database for more details.

Comparing the 1908 map with the 1929 Sanborn Insurance Map shows that B.F.Clark sawmill had been removed. The Sturtevant peg factory was now the Fred W. Mears Heel Co. and heel factory. The Majestic Theater has replaced Shaws grocery store and there is now a filling station east of the site of Stan’s.

So stay tuned to this blog as Fenway and I drive around in my daughter’s Chevy in search of history. While this may not quite be a 1956 Bel Air, ….

…. I do have a great co-pilot!

For more information contact us at the Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room

Thursday, June 29, 2017

June 1917 One Hundred Years Ago This Month

The June 7, 1917 edition of the Reporter newspaper included an article on “registration day” listing the number of men who answered the call and enlisted

Under the “North Conway Locals” column Edna Ricker is mentioned. Her name is also listed on the WW1 memorial in Schouler Park with ANC (Army Nurse Corp) next to her name.

For more details, see this link from the Cow Hampshire blog on military heroes of Conway and the famous “Bordeaux Belles.”

There were several articles in June 1917 about the dedication of the bronze tablet marking the site of the early settler cemetery (click on images to enlarge them).

In 2015 the Conway 250th committee dedicated another tablet on an adjacent boulder. For more details see this link.

There were many ways of fighting the war. The Committee on National Defense collected statistics about how groceries were delivered. It noted that there were more than twice as many horse drawn deliveries versus motor truck deliveries.  

The Red Cross helped to fight the war.

Folks in the small village of Wonalancet were doing their part.  

The obituary of Edwin Cranmore helps provide info on the family for whom Cranmore Mountain was named.

With the beginning of summer, thoughts and advertisements, turned to ice cream and gardening and lawn care.

Women’s suffrage was another battle reported on during June 1917.
It was another three years (August 18, 1920) before American women were granted the right to vote.

That's all the news that's fit to print, for now.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rope Trees on Greenwood

Tonight is the longest night of the year. This time of the year it is easy to identify the basswood trees in the park next to the Conway Public Library with their lime green brachts set among the large dark green leaves.

 Four of them flank the southern edge of the park along the appropriately named Greenwood Avenue across from the historic D. Baker upholstery building with its old "western" looking rectangular facade attached to the gable end of the rustic wooden building.

If you look carefully, you will notice the red brick sidewalk known as the Davis-Baker Walkway.

After Independence Day, the basswood’s lemon colored flowers will attract bees that will make a specific kind of linden honey.

In his 1792 History of New Hampshire, Jeremy Belknap reports that the “Basswood or Lime-Tree (tilia americana) is sometimes sawed into boards, which are very white, but soft, and easily warped.”

He did not seem to know that Native Americans used its inner bark to make rope and mats, nor did he mention that the wood was favored by our colonial ancestors for carving wooden sculptures.

To learn more about Conway's historic landscape or our early settler's use of trees please contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room. 


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Free News For Soldiers

One hundred years ago this month, the local newspaper offered free newspapers for any young man who volunteered for military service before being conscripted or drafted. This would provide a bit of home to life in the trenches.

It had been one month since the US declared war on Germany. See our previous blog about that.

The local community starting to organize and respond to the issues surrounding the war. (click on images to enlarge them).

There was a lot of support and relief efforts going on with churches, woman’s clubs, Granges, the YMCA and Boy Scout groups. Military recruitment was beginning. 

At the same time, life went on and real estate changed hands. 

Near the end of the month, the news was about the preparations for military registration day on June 5 and the entire text of the proclamation about the draft.

... but people still needed to remodel their homes and J.L. Gibson could provide you with the needed supplies.

While the wall board represented the future, thoughts also turned to the past. On May 3, 1917 the arrival of a bronze tablet to honor the early settlers was front page news.

Between the two great wars, Clayton Towle, one of the boys who served during World War One led the Conway Historical Society on a tour of that monument.

Some of Mr. Towle's experiences during World War One are to be featured this season at the Conway Historical Society's museum exhibit on the Great War.

The monumental area was featured in several previous blogs and celebrated in 2015 during the Town's 250th anniversary.

Click on links to explore those previous blogs.
Littoral History.

Spirits of Meeting House Hill.

Coincidentally, last month, relatives of Mr. Towle from Canada, donated his 1949 membership card for the New Hampshire Library Association and his copy of that association’s Constitution and Bylaws to the Conway Public Library.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Red Oak and Spring Green: It's About Time

There are treasures hidden in plain sight both inside and outside the Conway Public Library - and there are often interesting connections between the two.

Recently twilight loomed after I helped close up the library and I chanced to glance back towards the clock tower. Silhouetted against the Maxfield Parrish blue sky were the branches and distinctive ephemeral leaves of one of a pair of large red oak trees that flank the northern corners of the Conway Public Library lawn.

You may ask, how do I know it’s a red oak when seen after dusk and in shadow? Well it’s because the leaves of the red oak are not as ephemeral as most other deciduous trees. Used in this way, “ephemeral” refers to the fleeting and transient changes in nature and the passage of time as we move through the seasons.

These trees retain a scattered shotgun like pattern of a handful of dry brown leaves still hanging on to their craggy branches throughout the winter and into the spring. In a way, they are a reminder of the previous Autumn. You can actually see this phenomenon in some of the more observant works of the White Mountain painters where they also served as a symbol of life, death and rebirth.

The term “ephemera” is used by archivists for items in the collection that were only intended to be used or enjoyed for a short time. It comes from the Greek "ephemeros," meaning “lasting only one day, short-lived.”

Trying to preserve these items is a real challenge. A good example are newspapers. Usually printed on cheap, highly acidic and degradable paper, our large collection of newspapers can end up taking a lot of space and we try to protect them by storing them in acid free boxes out of the light, changing humidity and dust of the main room.

However, due to the principle of “inherent vice” the acid in the wood pulp based paper is actually on an unstoppable course of self-destruction. As a result, a book that is over two-hundred years old printed on cotton based paper can often be in better shape that last year’s Conway Daily Sun. 

One of the treasures within the Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room is the The History of New Hampshire by Jeremy Belknap. Our copy of volume 3 was published in 1812 and includes timeless advice and information on secrets of nature and science. However, these insights are hidden in the Dewey Decimal dedicated history section, 974.2 Bel NH HHR.  

The embossed seal of the Conway Public Library can be seen stamped on the title page.

While the paper on which it was printed preserves well, the then popular style of using “f” in the place of “s” was an ephemeral fad, making it hard to read in its original state (click on images to enlarge).

While the rhetoric in his introduction to the chapter on trees is about science, the reality and substance of his commentary is on the uses of the trees themselves. He talks about four species of oak and three varieties of red oak in New Hampshire and outlines their uses during the period for tanning leather, keels of ships, barrel staves, and writing ink.

The iron gall ink he describes was used with quill pens like the one topping the weather vane in the first picture above. Here etymology has met entomology through dendrology.

In a future blog we will track the oak inside the building and explore a different language of decorative motifs.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tobacco and Beer for Warriors

I was saving this for September, when these articles and ads were published, as part of our ongoing series of looking at the news from one hundred years ago each month, but with the news in today’s Conway Daily Sun, (pages 10-11) I felt I had to share this now. In a remarkable coincidence, today’s paper echoes an effort to support the troops during World War One. 

This Saturday, April 15th, Cigar Shenanigans will honor veterans through a program where one can donate cigars and beer to our military while enjoying a good time yourself and doing good for others.

One hundred years ago, The Reporter was the local newspaper and the paper took it on itself to coordinate a tobacco fund.
The article below is from the front page of the September 13, 1917 Reporter newspaper.  

(Click on images to enlarge them).

This was part of of a larger effort by other groups such as local ladies sewing clubs, the Red Cross, YMCA, and libraries to give soldiers a taste of home.

We actually mentioned the World War One soldier support efforts at the Conway Historical Society’s program on World War One memorials last night. (in case you missed it we have two more programs and an exhibit coming up and the info from last night’s program will be posted online soon). You can learn more about those programs here and here.

The article is continued below (click on images to enlarge them).

On a related personal note, I was born and raised in the Tampa Bay area and one of our favorite places to go was Ybor City, which according to the Federal Government was the cigar capital of the world.

Way back we are related to the brewers of Cottrell Old Yankee Ale.