Thursday, May 31, 2012

Johnstown Flood

Main Street after flood
The Johnstown Flood (or Great Flood of 1889 as it became known locally) occurred on May 31, 1889. It was the result of the catastrophic failure of the South Fork Dam situated 14 miles (23 km) upstream of the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, USA, made worse by several days of extremely heavy rainfall. The dam's failure unleashed a torrent of 20 million tons of water (4.8 billion U.S. gallons; 18.2 million cubic meters; 18.2 billion litres). The flood killed more than 2,200 people and caused US$17 million of damage. It was the first major disaster relief effort handled by the new American Red Cross, led by Clara Barton. Support for victims came from all over the United States and 18 foreign countries. After the flood, victims suffered a series of legal defeats in their attempt to recover damages from the dam's owners. Public indignation at that failure prompted a major development in American law—state courts' move from a fault-based regime to strict liability.

“I filed a cross cut saw for Will Holmes this morning and drew manure rest of the day.  Lettie and I went to rehearsal this evening.  Not a very pleasant day.”

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Burr - Hamilton Duel

Alexander Hamilton fights his fatal duel with Vice President Aaron Burr
Soon after the 1804 gubernatorial election in New York—in which Morgan Lewis, greatly assisted by Hamilton, defeated Aaron Burr—the Albany Register published Charles D. Cooper's letters, citing Hamilton's opposition to Burr and alleging that Hamilton had expressed "a still more despicable opinion" of the Vice President at an upstate New York dinner party. Burr, sensing an attack on his honor, and surely still stung by his political defeat, demanded an apology. Hamilton refused because he could not recall the instance.
Following an exchange of three testy letters, and despite attempts of friends to avert a confrontation, a duel was scheduled for July 11, 1804, along the west bank of the Hudson River on a rocky ledge in Weehawken, New Jersey. This was the same dueling site at which Hamilton's eldest son, Philip, had been killed three years earlier.
At dawn, the duel began, and Vice President Aaron Burr shot Hamilton. Hamilton's shot broke a tree branch directly above Burr's head. A letter that he wrote the night before the duel states, "I have resolved, if our interview [duel] is conducted in the usual manner, and it pleases God to give me the opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire", thus asserting an intention to miss Burr. The circumstances of the duel, and Hamilton's actual intentions, are still disputed. Neither of the seconds, Pendleton or Van Ness, could determine who fired first. Soon after, they measured and triangulated the shooting, but could not determine from which angle Hamilton fired. Burr's shot, however, hit Hamilton in the lower abdomen above the right hip. The bullet ricocheted off Hamilton's second or third false rib, fracturing it and caused considerable damage to his internal organs, particularly his liver and diaphragm before becoming lodged in his first or second lumbar vertebra. Biographer Ron Chernow considers the circumstances to indicate that Burr fired second, after having taken deliberate aim.
If a duelist decided not to aim at his opponent there was a well-known procedure, available to everyone involved, for doing so. According to historian Joanne Freeman, Hamilton apparently did not follow this procedure; if he had, Burr might have followed suit, and Hamilton's death might have been avoided. It was a matter of honor among gentlemen to follow these rules. Because of the high incidence of septicemia and death resulting from torso wounds, a high percentage of duels employed this procedure of throwing away fire. Years later, when told that Hamilton may have misled him at the duel, the ever-laconic Burr replied, "Contemptible, if true."
The paralyzed Hamilton, who knew himself to be mortally wounded, was ferried back to New York and taken to the Greenwich Village home of his friend William Bayard Jr., who had been waiting on the dock. After final visits from his family and friends and considerable suffering, Hamilton died on the following afternoon, July 12, 1804 at Bayard's home at what is now 80–82 Jane Street. Gouverneur Morris, a political ally of Hamilton's, gave the eulogy at his funeral and secretly established a fund to support his widow and children. Hamilton was buried in the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in Manhattan.

“Drew out manure all day.  Has not rained any to speak of today.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bob Hope

Bob Hope in the Ghost Breakers trailer
Bob Hope, KBE, KCSG, KSS (born Leslie Townes Hope; May 29, 1903 – July 27, 2003) was an English-born American comedian and actor who appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in radio, television and movies. He was also noted for his work with the US Armed Forces and his numerous USO shows entertaining American military personnel.  Throughout his long career, he was honored for his humanitarian work. In 1996, the U.S. Congress honored Bob Hope by declaring him the "first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces." Bob Hope appeared in or hosted 199 known USO shows.

“I took the potatoes up town this morning and drew manure on the ground for potatoes the balance of the day.  Has not rained to speak of today.  Very cool day.  Frost reported this morning but I did not see any.”

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Troops at the Washington, D.C. Memorial Day parade, 1942

Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed annually in the United States on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
By the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as people visited the graves of their deceased relatives in church cemeteries, whether they had served in the military or not. It also became a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family gatherings, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events such as the Indianapolis 500 auto race, held since 1911 on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.
Annual Decoration Days for particular cemeteries are held on a Sunday in late spring or early summer in some rural areas of the American South, notably in the mountains. In cases involving a family graveyard where remote ancestors as well as those who were deceased more recently are buried, this may take on the character of an extended family reunion to which some people travel hundreds of miles. People gather on the designated day and put flowers on graves and renew contacts with kinfolk and others. There often is a religious service and a "dinner on the ground," the traditional term for a potluck meal in which people used to spread the dishes out on sheets or tablecloths on the grass. It is believed that this practice began before the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the "memorial day" idea.

“Rained all the latter part of the night.  I helped Lettie wash this forenoon.  Sprouted the seed potatoes and put up about 10 bu to sell this afternoon.  Has not rained since about 9 o’clock this morning.”


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the opening of the San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean. As part of both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1, the structure links the city of San Francisco, on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, to Marin County. It is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco, California, and the United States. It has been declared one of the modern Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Frommers travel guide considers the Golden Gate Bridge "possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world",

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Theodore R. Davis' illustration of President Johnson's impeachment trial in the Senate, published in Harper's Weekly
The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States, was one of the most dramatic events in the political life of the United States during Reconstruction, and the first impeachment in history of a sitting United States president. Johnson was impeached for his efforts to undermine Congressional policy; he was acquitted by one vote.
The Impeachment was the consummation of a lengthy political battle, between the moderate Johnson and the "Radical Republican" movement that dominated Congress and sought control of Reconstruction policies.
Johnson was impeached on February 24, 1868 in the U.S. House of Representatives on eleven articles of impeachment detailing his "high crimes and misdemeanors", in accordance with Article Two of the United States Constitution. The House's primary charge against Johnson was with violation of the Tenure of Office Act, passed by Congress the previous year. Specifically, he had removed Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War (whom the Tenure of Office Act was largely designed to protect), from office and replaced him with Ulysses S. Grant.
The House agreed to the articles of impeachment on March 2, 1868. The trial began three days later in the Senate, with Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presiding. Trial concluded on May 26 with Johnson's acquittal, the final count falling one vote shy of the required tally for conviction.
The impeachment and subsequent trial gained a historical reputation as an act of political expedience, rather than necessity, based on Johnson's defiance of an unconstitutional piece of legislation and with little regard for the will of the public (which, despite the unpopularity of Johnson, opposed the impeachment). Until the impeachment of Bill Clinton 131 years later, it was the only presidential impeachment in the history of the United States

“Trimmed up some apple tree limbs and drew out the brush today.  Has not rained today except a little sprinkle about 9 o’clock this morning.  I finished plowing the gardeden and cultivated the early potatoes after cleaning up the brush.”

Friday, May 25, 2012


A scythe  is an agricultural hand tool for mowing grass, or reaping crops. It was largely replaced by horse-drawn and then tractor machinery, but is still used in some areas of Europe and Asia. The Grim Reaper and Death are often depicted carrying or wielding a scythe.
According to the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities of Sir William Smith, the scythe, known in Latin as the falx foenaria (as opposed to the sickle, the falx messoria), was used by the ancient Romans; for illustration, Smith shows an image of Saturn holding a scythe, from an ancient Italian cameo.
According to Jack Herer and "Flesh of The Gods" (Emboden, W.A., Jr., Praeger Press, NY, 1974.); the ancient Scythians grew hemp and harvested it with a hand reaper that we still call a scythe.
The scythe was invented in about 500 BC and appeared in Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries. Initially used mostly for mowing grass, it replaced the sickle as the tool for reaping crops by the 16th century, the scythe allowing the reaper to stand rather than stoop. In about 1800 the addition of light wooden fingers above a scythe blade produced a form of scythe called the cradle which soon replaced the simple scythe for reaping grain and mowing other tall vegetation such as reeds. In the developed world, all of these have now largely been replaced by motorized lawnmowers and combine harvesters.
The Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet in Sheffield, England is a museum of a scythe-making works that was in operation from the end of the 18th century until the 1930s. This was part of the former scythe-making district of north Derbyshire, which extended into Eckington. Other English scythe-making districts include that around Belbroughton.
Mowing with a scythe remained common for many years even after most mowing became mechanized, because a side-mounted finger-bar mower (whether horse or tractor drawn) cannot mow in front of itself. Scythes would therefore be used to open up a meadow – to mow the first swathes, thus letting the mechanical mower in to complete the mowing.

“I mowed some grass with the scythe in the yards this morning and then we went over to Mr. Holme’s and got a jag of straw for bedding.  I went over to my son Pierson’s this afternoon and got a stick for a 24 foot ladder.  Has not rained any today.”

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Duke Ellington

Ellington poses with his piano at the KFG Radio Studio November 3, 1954
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist, and big-band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions. In the opinion of Bob Blumenthal of The Boston Globe "In the century since his birth, there has been no greater composer, American or otherwise, than Edward Kennedy Ellington." A major figure in the history of jazz, Ellington's music stretched into various other genres, including blues, gospel, film scores, popular, and classical. His career spanned more than 50 years and included leading his orchestra, composing an inexhaustible songbook, scoring for movies, composing stage musicals, and world tours. Several of his instrumental works were adapted into songs that became standards. Due to his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and thanks to his eloquence and extraordinary charisma, he is generally considered to have elevated the perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other traditional genres of music. His reputation increased after his death and the Pulitzer Prize Board bestowed on him a special posthumous honor in 1999.
Ellington called his music "American Music" rather than jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as "beyond category." These included many of the musicians who were members of his orchestra, some of whom are considered among the best in jazz in their own right, but it was Ellington who melded them into one of the most well-known jazz orchestral units in the history of jazz. He often composed specifically for the style and skills of these individuals, such as "Jeep's Blues" for Johnny Hodges, "Concerto for Cootie" for Cootie Williams, which later became "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me" with Bob Russell's lyrics, and "The Mooche" for Tricky Sam Nanton and Bubber Miley. He also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, such as Juan Tizol's "Caravan" and "Perdido" which brought the "Spanish Tinge" to big-band jazz. Several members of the orchestra remained there for several decades. After 1941, he frequently collaborated with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn, whom he called his "writing and arranging companion." Ellington recorded for many American record companies, and appeared in several films.
Ellington led his band from 1923 until his death in 1974. His son Mercer Ellington, who had already been handling all administrative aspects of his father's business for several decades, led the band until his own death in 1996. At that point, the original band dissolved. Paul Ellington, Mercer's youngest son and executor of the Duke Ellington estate, kept the Duke Ellington Orchestra going from Mercer's death onwards.

“Rained all day.  Could not do anything.  Ad and Julia came over about half past three and stayed until about 9 this evening.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Leach Field

Cross-section of weeping tile and leach field
Septic drain fields, also called leach fields or leach drains are used to remove contaminants and impurities from the liquid that emerges from the septic tank. A septic tank, the septic drain field, and the associated piping compose a complete septic system. The septic drain field is effective for disposal of organic materials readily catabolized by a microbial ecosystem. The drain field typically consists of an arrangement of trenches containing perforated pipes and porous material (often gravel) covered by a layer of soil to prevent animals and surface runoff from reaching the wastewater distributed within those trenches. Primary design considerations are hydraulic for the volume of wastewater requiring disposal and catabolic for the long-term biochemical oxygen demand of that wastewater

“I mowed the yards and set up a leach & C.  Has been a pleasant afternoon cleared off about one o’clock.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail, by Albert Bierstadt, circa 1863
The Oregon Trail is a 2,000-mile (3,200 km) historic east-west wagon route and emigrant trail that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon and locations in between. The eastern part of the Oregon Trail spanned part of the future state of Kansas and nearly all of what are now the states of Nebraska and Wyoming. The western half of the trail spanned most of the future states of Idaho and Oregon.
The beginnings of the Oregon Trail were laid by fur trappers and traders from about 1811 to 1840 and were only passable on foot or by horseback. By 1836, when the first migrant wagon train was organized in Independence, Missouri, a wagon trail had been cleared to Fort Hall, Idaho. Wagon trails were cleared further and further west, eventually reaching all the way to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. What became called the Oregon Trail was complete even as improved roads, "cutouts", ferries and bridges made the trip faster and safer almost every year. From various "jumping off points" in Missouri, Iowa or Nebraska Territory, the routes converged along the lower Platte River Valley near Fort Kearny, Nebraska Territory and led to rich farmlands west of the Rocky Mountains.
From the early to mid 1830s and particularly through the epoch years 1846–1869 the Oregon Trail and its many offshoots were used by about 400,000 settlers, ranchers, farmers, miners, and businessmen and their families. The eastern half of the trail was also used by travelers on the California Trail (from 1843), Bozeman Trail (from 1863), and Mormon Trail (from 1847) which used of the same eastern trails before turning off to their separate destinations. Use of the trail declined as the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, making the trip west substantially faster, cheaper, and safer. Today, modern highways such as Interstate 80 follow the same course westward and pass through towns originally established to service the Oregon Trail.

“I finished the floor today and put on the screen doors.  Has not rained any today but does not look real pleasant.  I drove up town and got the lawn mover .  Was sent up this morning to be sharpened.”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Charles the 1st of England

 Stamped brass pierced and mounted inside a wide brass border stamped with a design of florets. A faceted steel is centered in each floret. Charles has the rose and Royal Arms of England and the garter belt with motto, which forms a narrow border.
Charles I (19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649) was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles believed was divinely ordained. Many of his English subjects opposed his actions, in particular his interference in the English and Scottish churches and the levying of taxes without parliamentary consent, because they saw them as those of a tyrannical absolute monarch.
Charles's reign was also characterised by religious conflicts. His failure to successfully aid Protestant forces during the Thirty Years' War, coupled with the fact that he married a Roman Catholic princess, generated deep mistrust concerning the king's dogma. Charles further allied himself with controversial ecclesiastic figures, such as Richard Montagu and William Laud, whom Charles appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Many of Charles's subjects felt this brought the Church of England too close to the Roman Catholic Church. Charles's later attempts to force religious reforms upon Scotland led to the Bishops' Wars, strengthened the position of the English and Scottish parliaments and helped precipitate his own downfall.
Charles's last years were marked by the English Civil War, in which he fought the forces of the English and Scottish parliaments, which challenged his attempts to overrule and negate parliamentary authority, whilst simultaneously using his position as head of the English Church to pursue religious policies which generated the antipathy of reformed groups such as the Puritans. Charles was defeated in the First Civil War (1642–45), after which Parliament expected him to accept its demands for a constitutional monarchy. He instead remained defiant by attempting to forge an alliance with Scotland and escaping to the Isle of Wight. This provoked the Second Civil War (1648–49) and a second defeat for Charles, who was subsequently captured, tried, convicted, and executed for high treason. The monarchy was then abolished and a republic called the Commonwealth of England, also referred to as the Cromwellian Interregnum, was declared. Charles's son, Charles II, who dated his accession from the death of his father, did not take up the reins of government until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

Portrait by Anthony van Dyck, 1636

Rained nearly all night and big showers all day.  There is water everywhere.  The “Oatka creek has never been known to be so high in a good many years.  Commenced fixing the scaffold floor over the east granary this afternoon.”

Sunday, May 20, 2012

French FOP Buttons

French FOP Buttons
The French revolution and subsequent Reign of Terror that followed led to renunciation of all forms of elaborate and luxurious dressing, for fear of being executed as a sympathizer of aristocracy.  The men of the period clothed themselves in long jackets and leather boots (a style borrowed from Britain).  And the women in simple robes, long flowing tunics and gowns similar to ones worn by the ancient Greeks.

Following the Reign of Terror, after the execution of Maximillien de Robespierre, the Directory period began.  The ostentatious dress and life style of the aristocracy returned.  Ornate carriages began to reappear on the streets of Paris and the city erupted in a furor of pleasure-seeking and entertainment.  Theaters thrived, and popular music satirized the excesses of the Revolution.

"Les Incroyables”(the Incredibles) and “et les Merveilleuses” (the Marvelous Women)" were a collective group of young people known for their outlandish ways of dressing, who rose to prominence during this period.  Their exaggerated and luxurious styles were in response to the sober sadness that the reign of terror had spread.
The Merveilleuses scandalized Paris with dresses and tunics modeled after the ancient Greeks and Romans, but cut of light or even transparent linen and gauze.  These garments were so revealing they were termed "woven air", The garments also displayed vast amounts of cleavage and were too tight to allow pockets.  To carry even a handkerchief, these ladies had to carry small bags known as reticules.  Enormous hats, short curls like those on Roman busts, and Greek-style sandals were all the rage.
The Incroyables, wore eccentric outfits: large earrings, green jackets, wide trousers, huge neckties and thick glasses.  Their musk-based fragrances earned them the nickname muscadins among the lower classes.  They wore bicorne hats and carried bludgeons, which they referred to as their "executive power."  They wore their hair at shoulder-length, sometimes pulled up in the back with a comb to imitate the hairstyles of the condemned.  Some Incroyables sported large monocles, an affected a lisp and a stooped hunchbacked posture to exaggerate their absurdity.

The Incroyables & Merveilleuses were called French Fops by the English.  It was a pejorative term for a foolish man overly concerned with his appearance and clothing in 17th century England.  Some of the alternative terms are: "coxcomb", fribble, "popinjay" (meaning "parrot"), fashion-monger, and "ninny".  "Macaroni" was another term, of 18th century men so concerned with fashion.  The English took the original French fashion drawings and satirized their hairstyles, dress and poses.  The true French FOP Buttons were copied from these caricatures.
The exaggerated poses of both men and women found in the original fashion drawings appear in the poses of the figures on the buttons.  Other buttons show figures wearing the more normal dress of the period and without the exaggerated poses and costume of true FOPS.  Although they are often included in the category of FOPs, they are not considered Merveilleuses and Incroyables
French FOP buttons were primarily produced between 1880 – 1910.  French FOP buttons are highly collectible.  Today, most FOP buttons are valued at between $30 – $75.   With a few having a value of up to $300.

Les Incroyables

“Rained a good deal last night and until after 10 o’clock this morning.  Lettie and I went to church this morning and evening rained quite a good deal this afternoon.”

Saturday, May 19, 2012

T. E. Lawrence

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO (16 August 1888 – 19 May 1935), known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18. The extraordinary breadth and variety of his activities and associations, and his ability to describe them vividly in writing, earned him international fame as Lawrence of Arabia, a title which was used for the 1962 film based on his World War I activities.
Lawrence was born illegitimate in Tremadog, Wales, in August 1888 to Sir Thomas Chapman and Sarah Junner, a governess who was herself illegitimate. Chapman had left his wife and first family in Ireland to live with Sarah Junner, and they called themselves Mr and Mrs Lawrence. In the summer of 1896 the Lawrences moved to Oxford, where in 1907–10 young Lawrence studied history at Jesus College, graduating with First Class Honours. He became a practicing archaeologist in the Middle East, working at various excavations with David George Hogarth and Leonard Woolley. In 1908 he joined the OUOTC (Oxford University Officer Training Corps), undergoing a two-year training course. In January 1914, before the outbreak of World War I, Lawrence was co-opted by the British Army to undertake a military survey of the Negev Desert while doing archaeological research.
Lawrence's public image was due in part to the sensationalized reportage of the revolt by an American journalist, Lowell Thomas, as well as to Lawrence's autobiographical account, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922).

Lawrence at Rabigh, north of Jidda, 1917

“Rained nearly all night and nearly all day today.  I went up town this morning with the milk.  Could not do anything out of doors today.”

Friday, May 18, 2012

Aimee McPherson

McPherson with her "Gospel car" (1918)
Aimee Semple McPherson (October 9, 1890 – September 27, 1944), also known as Sister Aimee, was a Canadian-American Los Angeles, California evangelist and media celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s. She founded the Foursquare Church. McPherson has been noted as a pioneer in the use of modern media, especially radio, which she drew upon through the growing appeal of popular entertainment in North America.
On May 18, 1926, McPherson went with her secretary to Ocean Park Beach north of Venice Beach to swim. Soon after arriving, McPherson was nowhere to be found. It was thought she had drowned.
McPherson was scheduled to hold a service that day; her mother Minnie Kennedy preached the sermon instead, saying at the end, "Sister is with Jesus," sending parishioners into a tearful frenzy. Mourners crowded Venice Beach and the commotion sparked days-long media coverage fueled in part by William Randolph Hearst's Los Angeles Examiner and a stirring poem by Upton Sinclair to commemorate the tragedy. Daily updates appeared in newspapers across the country and parishioners held day-and-night seaside vigils. One parishioner drowned while searching for the body, and a diver died of exposure.
Kenneth G. Ormiston, the engineer for KFSG, had also disappeared during this time. Some believed McPherson and Ormiston, who was married, had become romantically involved and had run off together. After about a month, McPherson's mother received a ransom note (signed by "The Avengers") which demanded a half million dollars, or else kidnappers would sell McPherson into "white slavery". Kennedy later said she tossed the letter away, believing her daughter was dead.
Shortly thereafter, on June 23, McPherson stumbled out of the desert in Agua Prieta, Sonora, a Mexican town across the border from Douglas, Arizona. She claimed she had been kidnapped, drugged, tortured and held for ransom in a shack by a man and a woman, "Steve" and "Mexicali Rose". Her story also claimed she had escaped from her captors and walked through the desert for about 13 hours to freedom.
Some, however, were skeptical of her story since McPherson seemed in unusually good health for her alleged ordeal and her clothes showed no signs of a long walk through the desert. A grand jury convened on July 8, 1926, but adjourned 12 days later citing lack of evidence to proceed.
Five witnesses claimed to have seen McPherson at a seaside cottage in Carmel-by-the-Sea, with the cottage being rented by Ormiston under an assumed name. Ormiston admitted to having rented the cottage but claimed that the woman who had been there with him—known in the press as Mrs. X—was not McPherson but another woman with whom he was engaging in an extramarital affair.
The grand jury reconvened on August 3 and took further testimony along with documents from hotels, all said to be in McPherson's handwriting. McPherson steadfastly stuck to her story, that she was approached by a young couple at the beach who had asked her to come over and pray for their sick child, and that she was then shoved into a car and drugged with chloroform. When she was not forthcoming with answers regarding her relationship with Ormiston (now estranged from his wife), the judge charged McPherson and her mother with obstruction of justice. To combat the bad newspaper publicity, McPherson spoke freely about the court trials on the air from her radio station.
The prosecution of McPherson generated support for her among surprising sources. Local flappers attended the trial in support of McPherson, whom they regarded as a modern woman similar to themselves, and whose prosecution they believed was motivated by issues of gender. Newspaperman and cynic H.L. Mencken, previously a vocal critic of McPherson's, had been sent to cover the trial and came away impressed with McPherson and disdainful of the unseemly nature of the prosecution.
Theories and innuendo were rampant: that she had run off with a lover, she had gone off to have an abortion, she was taking time to heal from plastic surgery, or she had staged a publicity stunt. The Examiner newspaper then reported that Los Angeles district attorney Asa Keyes had dropped all charges on January 10, 1927.

McPherson (about 1920)

“Rained nearly all night.  Very fine rain.  I took the blood cow to Will McEwen’s butt this morning and then finished plowing for corn today.  Rained again tonight.  I plowed most of the garden after finishing the corn ground.”

Thursday, May 17, 2012

No Taxation Without Representation!

"No Taxation Without Representation!" was used by Reverend Jonathan Mayhew in a sermon in Boston in 1750.
"No taxation without representation" is a slogan originating during the 1750s and 1760s that summarized a primary grievance of the British colonists in the Thirteen Colonies, which was one of the major causes of the American Revolution. In short, many in those colonies believed the lack of direct representation in the distant British Parliament was an illegal denial of their rights as Englishmen, and therefore laws taxing the colonists (one of the types of laws that affects the majority of individuals directly), and other laws applying only to the colonies, were unconstitutional. However, during the time of the American Revolution, only one in twenty British citizens had representation in parliament, none of whom were part of the colonies. In recent times, it has been used by several other groups in several different countries over similar disputes, including currently in some parts of the United States (see below).
The phrase captures a sentiment central to the cause of the English Civil War, as articulated by John Hampden who said “what an English King has no right to demand, an English subject has a right to refuse” in the Ship money case.

“I plowed all day on the corn ground.  Will’s team plowed for me this forenoon.  I have about an acre to plow yet.  Quite a shower tonight between six and seven, while we were at supper.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Button Gwinnett

Portrait by Nathaniel Hone
Button Gwinnett (1735 – May 19, 1777) was an English-born American political leader who, as a representative of Georgia to the Continental Congress, was the second of the signatories (first signature on the left) on the United States Declaration of Independence. He was also, briefly, the provisional president of Georgia in 1777, and Gwinnett County (now a major suburb of metropolitan Atlanta) was named for him. Gwinnett was killed in a duel by a rival, Lachlan McIntosh, following a dispute after a failed invasion of East Florida.

“Plowed this forenoon on the corn ground.  Went over and helped Will plant theirs this afternoon.  Looks a little rainy this afternoon.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 1896 Tornado Outbreak

Damage from the St. Louis-East St. Louis Tornado.
The May 1896 tornado outbreak sequence was a series of violent and deadly tornado outbreaks that struck much of the Central and Southern United States from May 15 to May 27, 1896. It is considered one of the worst tornado outbreak sequences on record. There were four particularly notable tornado outbreaks during the two-week period. It produced at least two, or perhaps three F5 tornadoes as well as the third deadliest tornado ever in United States history. A total of 484 people were killed during the entire outbreak sequence by at least 20 different tornadoes which struck Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kentucky and Michigan.
Sherman tornado outbreak
The Sherman, Texas tornado outbreak was the first of a series of deadly tornado outbreaks that occurred during the month of May in 1896. The Sherman outbreak took place on May 15, 1896. This outbreak killed 73 people and injured nearly 300 others.
Most of the fatalities on this day came from a single supercell thunderstorm that traveled from Denton to Sherman. The first tornado destroyed several homes south of the Denton area killing two. A second storm north of the town killed an additional three people before producing the deadly Sherman tornado. At around 5:00 pm, a tornado about two blocks wide cut a path through most of the western portion of Sherman and traveled for about 28 miles (45 km). As it arrived near the city, the width narrowed to about 100 – 400 yards, but the storm intensified. In addition to the complete destruction of nearly 50 homes, an iron bridge was blown away by the cyclone. Bodies of the victims were transported into the court house and a vacant building. Several bodies were recovered from a muddy creek. Seventy-three people were killed by this single tornado, one of the worst on records in North Texas and the Red River Valley region.
Additional killer tornadoes were recorded north of Wichita, Kansas in McPherson County and further south in Bryan County, Oklahoma.
Kansas/Nebraska tornado
The second major tornado outbreak took place on May 17 where two zones of activity produced deadly tornadoes across the Midwest and Plains states. The first tornado however came from a different system, and killed at least 5 near Elva, Kentucky when their home was destroyed.
During the late afternoon a 1 mile (2 km) wide (possibly F5) tornado traveled through portions of northern Kansas and southern Nebraska and swept away numerous farms along its path and killed at least 25 people. The hardest hit areas along the 100 miles (160 km)+ track included the Seneca (six fatalities), Oneida (six fatalities), Reserve (five fatalities) and Sabetha (three fatalities). Four fatalities were also recorded in Nebraska by this same tornado. At least 200 others were injured. Damage in Seneca alone was estimated at around $250,000 in 1896 dollars where most of the homes, the fairgrounds and other small structures sustained at least heavy if not complete damage. The Grand Opera House in that town as well as the Nemaha County Courthouse were also flattened.
Midwest/Great Lakes outbreak
After a small lull in the intense activity, the third outbreak started across the Upper Plains states on May 24. One night-time tornado near Des Moines, Iowa killed at least 21 people including several members of a single family. Fatalities were recorded in Bondurant, Valeria and Mingo in Polk and Jasper Counties. 60 people were also injured.
Late during the evening hours of May 25, another F5 tornado touched down and moved northeast for about 30 miles (48 km). The system affected portions of Oakland, Lapeer and Livingston Counties northwest of Detroit. Areas affected included Thomas, Ortonville and Oakwood just after 9:00 pm. With 47 deaths, this is the second deadliest tornado ever in Michigan trailing only the Flint Tornado of 1953 which killed 116 in Genessee County just outside Flint. Nine of the fatalities were in a single home in Ortonville and parts of some homes were found dozens of miles away. Twenty-two people were killed in Ortonville, ten in Oakwood, three in Thomas, four in North Oxford and three in Whigville with others in rural areas.
Other killer tornadoes on that day touched down in Ogle County, Illinois (two different tornadoes) and Macomb & Tuscola Counties in Michigan. Several homes and farms in the Mount Clemens area were wiped out and others were moved from their foundation and the recently completed Colonial Hotel was leveled. 30 homes were leveled in total and two people were killed.
St. Louis-East St. Louis tornado
The third deadliest tornado struck the St. Louis Metropolitan Area on both sides of the Mississippi River in Missouri and Illinois on May 27. That tornado alone killed 255 while 27 other were killed elsewhere in Illinois and seven elsewhere in Missouri including three at a school in Audrain County. Twenty-four of the 27 other fatalities were recorded by a single tornado with 13 of them near New Baden. In that town about half of the homes were completely destroyed with damage figures at around $50,000. The towns of Belleville and Mascoutah were also hit. Three people were killed by the other killer tornado that tracked between Nashville and Mount Vernon. Fatalities were also reported the following day in Pennsylvania and New Jersey near Trenton between Philadelphia and New York City.

“Plowed all day on the corn ground.  Has been a very fine day.”


Monday, May 14, 2012

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra at Girl's Town Ball in Florida, March 12, 1960

Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra, , (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an American singer and film actor.
Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the "bobby soxers", he released his first album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra in 1946. His professional career had stalled by the 1950s, but it was reborn in 1953 after he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in From Here to Eternity.
He signed with Capitol Records in 1953 and released several critically lauded albums (such as In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin' Lovers, Come Fly with Me, Only the Lonely and Nice 'n' Easy). Sinatra left Capitol to found his own record label, Reprise Records in 1961 (finding success with albums such as Ring-a-Ding-Ding!, Sinatra at the Sands and Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim), toured internationally, was a founding member of the Rat Pack and fraternized with celebrities and statesmen, including John F. Kennedy. Sinatra turned 50 in 1965, recorded the retrospective September of My Years, starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, and scored hits with "Strangers in the Night" and "My Way".
With sales of his music dwindling and after appearing in several poorly received films, Sinatra retired for the first time in 1971. Two years later, however, he came out of retirement and in 1973 recorded several albums, scoring a Top 40 hit with "(Theme From) New York, New York" in 1980. Using his Las Vegas shows as a home base, he toured both within the United States and internationally, until a short time before his death in 1998.
Sinatra also forged a successful career as a film actor, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in From Here to Eternity, a nomination for Best Actor for The Man with the Golden Arm, and critical acclaim for his performance in The Manchurian Candidate. He also starred in such musicals as High Society, Pal Joey, Guys and Dolls and On the Town. Sinatra was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1985 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997. Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I commenced plowing for corn this morning.  Plowed all day on the sod. It plows very good.  Has been cloudy and a little rainy but not enough to stop work.  Will’s man spread manure for me this forenoon and about half of the afternoon.”