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.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Red flowers and green lights

Do you know what the red flower stands for?

This Friday many of us will get the day off from school or work. For some, it will be an opportunity to sleep in late. Others might use it for holiday shopping or to get the house ready for winter. There will be colorful sale ads for cars, appliances and furniture. Some places might offer a discount for veterans. How many of us will really stop to think about the history of this holiday and its meaning for Conway and New Hampshire?

Do you know what the green light stands for?

Do you know what the numbers 11/11/11 mean in relation to Veterans Day?

Do you know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day?

Do you know how many veteran memorials there are in the area? Can you find them all? Have you seen them all?

Perhaps we should take some time this Veterans Day to learn about its meaning, its legacy and its relevance to us today.

In 1998, the Conway Daily Sun published a "Map of Memorials" related to Veterans (click on images to englarge). 

Ironically, one memorial missing from the list is on the north lawn of the Conway Public Library, only about 50 feet from my desk in the Henney History Room.

In April 2017, we want to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States entering WW1. We want to give the local community a reason to stop and think about the past and its implications for the future. A round-numbered anniversary helps with this, as we did with the 250th of Conway in 2015 and the 100th anniversary of the NH Primary in 2016. We plan to do it again in 2018 with the 200th anniversary of the building of the Eastman Lord House. For this project we will look at what Conway village was like at that time.

One hundred years is a good vantage point to research, evaluate, understand. It’s a Goldilocks time frame for historians, not too close, not too far away.  

We want to put the first World War into the context of what it meant for Conway and NH. Of how it impacted local folks.

To help us understand our history, the Conway Historical Society and the Conway Public Library will team up to create an exhibit and series of programs about Conway during World War One (and its local legacy). While the exhibit will open at the Salyards Center on July 4th 2017, we are asking the community now to help with our research, design, production and programs over the fall and winter.

 Please volunteer to become part of this important project!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Vote early and often

Who won?

Today’s Conway Daily Sun reports that AMC Theaters will show live coverage of next week's election results at a number of their theaters around the country, allowing crowds of folks to watch with surround sound, popcorn and soda. 

They go on to say that “Gathering with a crowd to watch election-night returns is by no means a new pastime.” and that in 1944, an estimated 250,000 people gathered in Times Square to wait for the election returns.  

Did you know the same thing happened here in Conway one hundred years ago? 

On Tuesday, November 7, 1916 the Bijou Theater (now the Glass Graphics building) had an evening of pictures and dancing with a direct Western Union Wire line from Boston (for a small admission charge).   

The paper also provided directions for how to vote (click on images to enlarge them). Remember women could not vote in 1916.

Reports on the election night were published on Thursday, November 9, however, as of press time, the results were not conclusive.

It was not until Thursday, November 16 that we get a report on the victory celebrations for the election of Woodrow Wilson who promised to keep us out of the war raging in Europe.

Keep watching this blog to see how long he kept that campaign promise.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It's a "live"

Yesterday's Google doodle celebrates the 384th birthday of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, commonly known at the "Father of Microbiology."

On Christmas Day 1841 Samuel Bemis "Bot of Widdiefield & Co" a (French) microscope and two "live box" type slides so he too could see the little "bugs" that Leeuwenhoek saw in his drops of water. (click on image to enlarge it).

 To be honest we had a hard time figuring out the hand writing and had to search around to learn about the "live box." But the internet provided many clues to this mystery. 

There is a Widdifield microscope of the period in Harvard's Collection that may be similar to the one Bemis purchased.

Over the years Bemis purchased many scientific items from this company in Boston including a telescope, thermometers, camera obscura, protractors, etc.

As we learn more about Bemis and as we sort, scan and transcribe his papers, we are finding that he was at the center of studying the White Mountains through science, art, fishing, hiking, mapping and so on.We will continue to explore that intersection of Bemis and White Mountain art, science and technology.

As always, for specific sources, or to learn more about the Samuel Bemis papers or the collection of the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room contact us. By the way, did you know that you can borrow a telescope or a microscope from the library just as you would a book or a film?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Conway Corner

Last week thousands drove by this spot on their way to and from the Fryeburg Fair.

With their minds on fried dough and ox pulls most of them probably missed the incredible diversity of the truly Presidential plantings. Don’t worry, this is not a political post. If you look carefully at the scene, you can see a set of granite stone steps that once led to the Presidential Inn, just north across the street from the Conway Public Library.

But it’s the sticks not the stones that we are focusing on here. Over the years, we have led a number of educational walking tours for local schools and adult groups that in part have looked at the historic uses of trees and bushes by Native Americans and early settlers. These trees and bushes provided jams, teas, naval stores, canoes, cordage, carvings, firewood, fence posts, syrups, tonics and elixirs.  

We also explore the history, continuity and change of the built environment as well. Our online database has a number of photos of the Presidential Inn during its heyday.

Thanks to our collection of maps, photos and other archival materials the history of the area can be re-imagined. A particularly interesting resource are our Sanborn Insurance maps that include an incredible amount of detail.

The map's key reveals the secrets seen on the map. For example, the yellow color indicates the building was made of wood.

To the west of the Presidential Inn was the Conway House Hotel. Today, it's a cellar hole in an empty lot.

This is how the 4 corners appeared on an 1896 Bird's Eye View of Conway.

And here is the building from an 1860 map.

The building just west of the Library has been a medical office for many years.

A great resource for understanding this building is a painting on display at the Library.

Now we come full circle to the Library and it's ongoing roof restoration work that will provide many more years protection for this wonderful historic building.

If you would like to learn about the 4 corners, contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Belknap's Barometer

What device can measure mountains and predict the weather?

Just inside the entrance to the Henney History room we have a set of instruments that includes a thermometer, barometer and hygrometer. We use them to monitor the environmental conditions of the archives.

We covered an early reference to a thermometer in the White Mountains in the Bemis papers in an earlier post. In the future we will explore some of his references to other scientific devices such as a "live box" microscope and camera lucida. 

In his 1784 "Journal of a Tour to the White Mountains" Jeremy Belknap lists some of the instruments he brought with him including 2 barometers, 2 thermometers, 1 sextant, 1 telescope, 2 surveying compasses, and 1 chain (surveying chain). 

Belknap goes on to explain that he had some bad luck with this tools, "1 barometer broke before we got to the Mountains. 1 thermometer rendered useless after we left the Mountains. 1 compass broke, the other barometer broke. These accidents were unavoidable, considering the rough ways we passed through, the rubs and knocks we endured in the woods ; though, happily, no person received any greater damage than a broken shin." 
 "As we passed through Eaton and Conway, the appearance of so many people, more than ever had been seen at once traveling that way, was very amusing to the people. We had 3 guns and 1 pair of pistols in the company. The barometers were slung across the back of one, and the sextant was carried in a large bag. This uncommon appearance was the subject of much speculation; and the good women, understanding there were 3 ministers in the company, were in hopes we should lay the spirits which have been supposed to hover about the White Mountains, an opinion very probably derived from the Indians, who thought these Mountains the habitation of some invisible beings, and never attempted to ascend them."

The barometer could well have been similar to this Mountain barometer that doubled as a walking stick. 

Today you can use apps on your cell phone to determine elevation, see the weather forecast, and even map your gps coordinates, assuming you get cell service. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Paper Bound

Recently we have looked at a number of ways that the Samuel A. Bemis papers were written, folded, sealed, mailed, unfolded, refolded and bound with red tape. Another common method we have found of collating the papers was to sort them by subject and then wrap them with a paper binder.

If you look closely at this paper wrapper for example you can read “Bills & Rec.t of 1841.” Rec.t is an abbrevation of receipts.
On the back you can see evidence of red wax used to adhere the wrapper together. Other writing on the paper indicates that Bemis “recycled” old letters, perhaps older draft versions, to make the paper wrappers.

Here is another example from 1857.  

He used another type of paper wrapper to collate some of his cancelled checks together.

On the back he did some of his calculations.

These small details about how papers were sorted, collated and bound help give us insight to the 19th century world.