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.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

US Declares War on Germany One Hundred Years Ago Today

We will get to that, but let’s start with the front page of the local newspaper, The Reporter, published Thursday, April 5, 1917, the day before the United States declared war on Germany.

There were a number of topics covered on the front page, but nothing about the war raging in Europe. That was covered later inside the paper. Instead there was an article about the County officers taking their oath. It included a photograph of Arthur R. Shirley. We will hear more about him and his family later.

The public was invited to inspect the new North Conway Loan & Banking Co. This is now the Met Coffee House and a display space for the Mount Washington Valley Arts Association.

There was a small notice about a whist party held to raise funds for Belgian relief.  

There was an advertisement proclaiming the benefits of electricity over coal or wood.

There was a report on a masquerade ball held at the Masonic Hall, and a piano recital and other social events, but nothing about the war until page four.

On page four, we find some references to the war. After reporting on the health of A.C. Kennett, there was the news that Miss Marion Weston Cottle, a lawyer with offices in North Conway and Boston, offered to lead a cavalry regiment of women in case of war.

Page five had an article with the provacative headline “Danger from German Invasion” that explored the question of farmers in NH.

The North Conway Loan and Banking Co. was on the cover of the paper again in the next week’s edition on April 12. This time it included a photo

In this first issue since the declaration of war there were a number of notices for patriotic meetings, flag raising events, and a proclamation for a day of fasting.

Still no headline about the declaration itself,

In probably the longest and most detailed report about war preparations to date, (April 12, page 5) there was the news that New Hampshire College Professor W.C.O’Kane had been appointed to the state committee on the conservation of the food supply. He was to use his knowledge of “economic entomolgy” or applied study of insects to help insure adequate food for the war effort.

Who knew there was such a thing as “economic entomology?” This is in fact the same professor O’Kane mentioned in previous blog who embarked on a one hundred mile circuit in the White Mountains with Arthur Walden and his sled dog teams to study gypsy moths and their impact on the forest.

There was an article with the title, “Hurry-ups, Take Notice” warning that you can not marry to get out of your military obligation.

So there it is, all the news that’s fit to print from Conway’s local newspaper.

However, there were also many other dramatic and revolutionary movements going on at the same time not mentioned in The Reporter. 

One hundred years ago this month Marcel Duchamp created one of the most famous sculptures of all time. Hugo Ball presented Dada performances at the
Voltaire in Zurich Switzerland.

 Ironically, Lenin lived in exile close to the Cabaret Voltaire. The current issue of the Smithsonian magazine, details the triumphant return train trip Lenin took back to Russia to take power.  

As we mentioned in a previous blog about the news from March 1917, Russian Czar Nicholas II abdicated his throne on March 15. The Reporter published the following editorial on March 22, “The world has made history fast the past week. The revolution in Russia, changing a dynasty of over 300 years existence to practically a republic was done in the twinkling of an eye, so to speak, and that without any bloodshed practically. It is a dream long held by the mass of the Russian poulace come true. And it is a conceded fact that if the people had had the reigns of government the past ten years or more in some of those central European countries there would have been no such barbarous war as the one now being waged. Germany is trembling in the balance lest the Russian revolution spread to the Kaiser’s domain. Let is come - the sooner the better. And when it does come the end of the war will come quick.”

Well it did come, and soon, but was it for the best? and did it help end the war quick?
Stay tuned as we look at the news from one hundred years ago again next month.