Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Astronomers Land in Conway

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe

Let's hope we have better luck next week than we did in 1932! That was the last time that we had a solar eclipse come so near to us. Unlike the partial solar eclipse we will celebrate at our "eclipse party" on Monday, August 21 at 2 pm (please make a note the time change from our previous blog) the one eighty-five years ago was a total eclipse of the sun and drew astronomical expeditions from all over the country and the world.

Unfortunately, after all the work in preparation, clouds came in at the last minute largely obscuring the event.

No, this is not one of Einstein’s famous mathematical formulas for gravity or special relativity. It is from one of our history room founder’s, Keith Henney's, books - Handbook of Photography, from 1939. 

And it represents what we will be making at our eclipse party as one of the oldest and simplest and safest and cheapest ways to observe a solar eclipse. Here is Mr. Henney's explanation of the diagram above. 

Does that make it clear to you now? No, me neither.

How about another table from Mr. Henney's book?

Now we can get a sense of what he is talking about - a pinhole camera!

Even a partial eclipse like what we will have next Monday can be dangerous if you directly at it and we will be making pinhole cameras at our eclipse party so we can observe the event safely. 

This is the same principle they used to watch the eclipse in Conway eighty-five years ago with slightly larger tubes than the cardboard boxes we will use. The one the Franklin Institute from Philadelphia set up in the fields behind Kennett High School (now Kennett Middle School) was eighty-five feet long.

 Notice the familiar outline of the Moat Mountains in the background.

The picture below is from the Collections of the Van Vleck Observatory, Wesleyan University, courtesy of Roy Kilgard, Research Associate Professor of Astronomy.   They set up their observatory in South Conway and used Kennett High School to do some of their work.

Remarkably,  much of the original equipment they used in 1932 has survived and was recently restored. The photo below from facebook shows Amrys Williams in period costume taking a look through the refubished 20 inch Clark refractor to celebrate astronomer Dr. Frederick Slocum's birthday in 2016. Slocum used parts of this telescope in Conway in 1932 to study the eclipse.

Another telescope the Van Vleck observers used in Conway was their 6 inch refractor, currently on display in the foyer of their observatory. It dates to the 1830s and was briefly famous as the largest telescope of its times in the Americas.

To help place the upcoming eclipse into a historical context we have put together a small display at the library. One of the items featured is a copy of an article from the Boston Evening Transcript. Here are a couple interesting details.

So, hope to see you at our eclipse party next week. As always, if you have any questions or want to learn more about this subject, contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Across the Universe

We have the glasses and the party is two weeks from today!

So come and join the crowd on Monday, August 21, 2017 at 5:30 pm. Watch the eclipse through special glasses provided, make an eclipse viewer, and decorate sun cookies!

All the cool astronomers will be there and it is going to be groovy. Let the Conway Public Library be your “one stop shop” for what you need to enjoy this event. In addition to the glasses and the party, we also have a telescope to study the sky (do not use that to look at the sun - more on practicing safe astronomy later). We also have many astronomy related books, dvds, downloadable books, audio tapes, and music recordings (including those mop tops who sang our blog’s title song). 

Maybe, it is just “written in the stars.” Eighty-five years ago, Conway was at the center of a path of totality of a total eclipse of the sun. 

If you want to prepare for this year’s solar eclipse you can see our small display near the library’s front entrance and learn more about it in our Henney History Room (click on images to enlarge them).

On August 31, 1932 the “totality” of the solar eclipse passed directly over Conway and special expeditions were made from The Franklin Institute and Wesleyan University’s Van Vleck Observatory. Over twenty other expeditions were made along this path in places ranging from South Portland, Maine to Magog, Quebec.

The Chamber of Commerce developed special promotional materials including stationary that had a watermark of a bird’s eye view of Conway village and envelopes with gold lettering on a black stripe that may have been meant to represented the path of the “totality.”

According to our Conway history (Hounsell and Horne, pp. 362-363) the eclipse led to the first, if somewhat informal, information booth in town  near the “four corners” near the library. In preparation for the anticipated visitors Conway boosters set up card tables, had a phone line tied in, and made reservations in private homes for travelers at just a dollar per person. The Paramount News Service covered the event, and locals rushed out to buy up all the crockery pitcher and bowl sets for miles around to furnish their rooms for visitors. The official observation headquarters was set up in the fields around what was then Kennett High School (now Kennett Middle School).

In our next blog, we will continue to explore more details about Conway and the solar eclipse. As always for more info, contact us at the Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room.

As John, Paul, George and Ringo used to say, keep looking up!

Monday, July 31, 2017

July 1917 - One Hundred Years Ago This Month

World War One started in Europe 103 years ago this month. It began on July 28, 1914 and ended on November 11, 1918.

The US entered the war one hundred years ago this year on on April 6, 1917. Since January 2016 we have been doing a blog looking at one-hundred year old local newspapers each month. Here is a link to that first “looking back” blog. 

The Reporter newspaper for July 5th 1917 reports on the celebration of Independence Day (click on the images to enlarge them).

Some local companies benefited from the war effort...

… and some did not. Not much of a call for finely carved granite in the trenches.

In many ways, it seems like life went on. It’s hard to imagine that recorded music had only recently been introduced. Movies were still silent. If you would like to learn more about the movies and music of the period, contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

There were a number of efforts on the “home front” to support the war effort. Most communities had a group of ladies sewing and knitting for the soldiers.

Children’s playgrounds were militarized. It was considered “splendid” and “thrilling."

Price increases and prohibition were topics of the day.

Rockingham Race Track was turned into a military barracks. Cots were lined up in the grandstands and the track was used for marching.

 Women’s suffrage seemed ironic in that we were fighting for democracy but half of the adults in the country could not vote. This publicity stunt showed that at least twenty-two other countries allowed women to vote.

This article features the fashion of the well-dressed “farmerette” with a specially designed work outfit of “a Russion blouse of khaki, denim or gingham, with a full divided skirt of the same sewed fast under a broad low belt”

So while you might not be able to fight as a soldier, or vote for the President of the United States, at least you could look stylish while being "outstanding in your field."

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.