Tag: History

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Over 200 rare and very valuable books that were stolen over three years ago, were recovered under a floor at a Romanian house in recent days. Some of these books included first editions by Sir Issac Newton and Galileo. They were stolen from a postal transit warehouse in West London en-route to a Las Vegas […]

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America’s Sovereign States: The Obscure History of How 10 Independent States Joined the U.S.

 

It is often said that before the Civil War, the United States “are,” but after the War, the United States “is.” This is a reference to the formerly theoretically sovereign nature of each state as compared to “one nation, indivisible.”

More than just the theoretic sovereignty of the individual states, the territory now comprising the U.S. has a rich history of sovereign states outside the control of the federal government. Some of these you’ve almost certainly heard of, but a lot of them are quite obscure. Each points toward a potential American secession of the future.

Frederick Douglass and the Answer to Cancel Culture

 

“Liberty is meaningless,” Frederick Douglass once said, “where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist.”

Born a slave in the Antebellum South, Douglass knew a thing or two about freedom and bondage. As a child, Douglass learned to read and write by challenging white schoolboys his age to spelling contests. He lost every time at first, but in time, Douglass leveraged his hard-earned mastery of the English language to not only secure his own freedom, but play a crucial role in the eventual liberation of millions of American slaves.

Fast-forward to 2020. Not only are monuments to Douglass’ likeness in jeopardy from the mob, but so are the characteristics that led to his freedom. Competition, hard work, and rugged individualism—qualities that Douglass personified and which led to his own liberation—are all derided as racially exclusive values of “whiteness.”

American Architectural Geography: Part II, Form

 

One popular way to approach American architecture is to distinguish between form and style. Form, the thinking goes, involves the large-scale arrangement of elements within a building, whereas style is inherent in applied ornamentation. The placement and sizing of rooms, the positioning of door and window openings, the divisions of a structure’s facade — all these are elements of form. Of course, form can be related to style, as in the case of hip-roofed Italianate buildings designed to resemble the country houses of northern Italy, but the connection isn’t an absolute one. For readers’ sake, I’ll assume that the dichotomy makes sense, and I’ll devote most of this piece to the subject of form. The conversation on style will have to wait for another day.

. . .

On Hagia Sophia and Spiritual Reclamation

 

Hagia Sophia without the minarets

As of Friday, July 24, 2020, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has been put back into active use as a mosque.  As a Christian, I of course mourn this deeply.  As a historian, however, the move does not surprise me.  Many are the religious sites around the world today that were once worship sites for other deities, for other peoples, and for other mysteries, some barbaric.  That historian in me says we should temper our outrage that the conquerors of a land would choose to make what use of that land that they will, for we have done the same ourselves.  We should be wary of venting too much indignation over the status of a building lost ere Columbus sailed the ocean-blue and started a chain of losses for the peoples who once dwelt where we now live.  In a way, Erdogan was right in his contempt for a foreign opinion on this matter; the Turks rule the roost in Turkey (would that Turkey respected others’ borders and rights as vehemently as he demands for his own country, however, as Cyprus, Syria, Armenia, Bulgaria, and Greece can all attest).

Quote of the Day: “A Profound Failure of Historical Imagination “

 

But it is a species of moral arrogance, not to mention a profound failure of historical imagination, to pass a breathtakingly severe judgment on your forebears, whether near or distant, especially having made no attempt whatsoever to historicize them. And only that same arrogance can then fail to imagine that your descendants, even more bereft of historical awareness than you are, won’t do the same to you, or that there will be no standard left to judge you by—the standard having already been set, today, by you.

Jason Peters, “Flaunting a Presumptuous Innocence” , Law & Liberty

Peanut Butter Crackers, Gunsmoke, and His Rubix Cube: In Search of My Grandfather

 

Growing up, I only had one grandparent. My mom’s mother, who, for a variety of reasons, my dad wished to largely keep my sister and I away from, and who died when I was 7. I’m never quite sure of how much this difference from others my age affected me; on the one hand, there was little point in pining after something I had never had, but that didn’t always mean that seeing my peers bring grandparents to every significant school occasion, and excitedly report on all of the neat adventures they got to go on with them, didn’t sometimes rankle. That vague feeling of a missed connection has waned over the years, as I was lucky enough to be kind of informally ‘adopted’ by one of my best friend’s maternal grandfather, and to have been given a second family in a community of (mostly 50 and over) Benedectine monks. Still, questions linger, questions that I didn’t really feel comfortable posing to my parents past a certain age. 

Most of them centered around my paternal grandfather, Charlie. My dad was always full of stories about his mother, who he compared to me (when I maybe wasn’t meant to be there) in terms of devotion and bullheadedness to his siblings, and the little aquatinace that I had with my maternal grandmother didn’t really leave me wanting more. My mom’s dad, meanwhile, had passed in the late ‘70s, and seemed a distant, somewhat painful memory even to her. Charlie, though, existed as a kind of aura around my dad’s stories, a cheerful and mischievous but indistinct presence who bore 7 kids and 50 something years of marriage with equanimity and good humor. The most I concretely knew about him was that he drove my grandmother crazy playing with a Rubix cube at the dinner table, ate peanut butter crackers by the thousands, and died a few months before I was born.

Member Post

 

A survey for the under-40 crowd here: Which of the following did you hear about growing up or learn about in school (not university): The Hard Hat Riot, the Prague Spring, the Bader-Meinhof Gang, the Kidnapping of Patty Hearst, the Engel vs. Vitale Case, the disentigration of Skylab and the Arab Oil Embargo. Yes, this […]

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This Tuesday, June 23, 2020, Joe Biden held a virtual fundraiser which featured former President Barack Obama. The event included a discussion or conversation between Biden and Obama and, in that conversation, Obama made an assertion that stunned me. Let me post a video which includes the assertion in question. The video is about 2 […]

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Agitprop Supports the Narrative

 

This photograph been making the rounds on Facebook. It purports to be an advertising shot of Nancy Green, the first person to represent the Aunt Jemima brand.

The trouble is, there are no known photographs of Nancy Green. There are photographs of all of the other women who portrayed the character, but not Nancy. This photo is actually a self portrait by artist Sally Stockhold, part of an exhibition in Denver in 2011 entitled Myselfportraits Icons and Absurdities: Photographs of Sally Stockhold. The Denver Post covered the exhibition:

What Will the Mob Do with Woodrow Wilson?

 

I’m fascinated by the defacing and destruction of statues and monuments around the world, but especially in the US. The mob seems focused largely (but obviously not exclusively) on those who served for the Confederacy during our “Great Unpleasantness.” After all, they are targets of our modern-day “Presentism,” that is, applying modern “morals” or “standards” to people and events from decades if not centuries ago. The complications and nuances of history don’t seem to matter.

But a few particular monuments seem exempt from the current “unpleasantness,” and that baffles me. Especially one particular former Governor of New Jersey, President of Princeton University, and President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson.

This particular historical figure re-segregated the military. He infamously chose “Birth of a Nation” as the first motion picture (silent) to feature at the White House. Never seen it? It glamorized the Ku Klux Klan, the militarized wing of the Democratic Party from the end of the Civil War to the Great Depression. Look up the 1924 Democratic Convention, infamously known as the “Klanbake.”

Quote of the Day: History and Leaves

 

History is important. And keeping ourselves anchored to the lessons learned from history will enable us to emulate the best of what it means to be human.

The late novelist Michael Crichton is reported to have said, ‘If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.’ 

History teaches us not only about the leaves of existence; it also teaches about the twigs, branches, trunks, and roots of life. And these lessons are important.

About Those US Capitol Statues Nancy Wants to Dispose Of

 

One of my privileges as a former Secretary of the United States Senate is the ability to conduct guided tours of the US Capitol. One of the offices I supervised was the US Senate Historical Office. One of the Secretary’s responsibilities is to promote the history and significance of the US Senate, a responsibility that I continue to relish. During my tours, I frequently stop to point out certain statues, especially in Statuary Hall (the former House Chamber until about 1857, when the current Chamber was completed).

So when the latest brouhaha over statues began, especially given the “presentism” gripping our political discourse, I knew right away it would find its way to many of those statues. Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not disappoint, calling for the removal of 11 statues of historical figures she finds especially objectionable.

Here’s what you need to know. About 100 of those statues, half of which are located in Statuary Hall, are there under a Concurrent Resolution that invited every state to send up to two statues of their choosing. They get to decide; not Congress, not Speaker Pelosi. Other statues are placed under other congressional resolutions.

Let’s Gas Up at the Gas-a-Teria!

 

Gilmore Gas-a-Teria at night 1948

In 1948, the first self-serve gas station was opened in the United States. The station was in Los Angeles, the car capital of the country, on Beverly Boulevard just past Fairfax Avenue and was operated by Gilmore Oil. Gilmore Oil was a large, local oil and gas company well known in southern California. Gilmore called these self-service stations “Gas-a-Teria’s”. The Gas-a-Teria was a massive station for the time featuring eight islands with three pumps per island. The self-serve gas saved the customer five cents per gallon and the attendants at the station were young women.

The Black Community and Our Culture Has Lost Its First Love

 

I grew up in Pittsburgh. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream”, and other speeches were part of my high school curriculum. I married a Southerner in 1987. I was shocked to hear that Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a part of his high school curriculum. I entered a different world, a world where in his growing up years, hired help was mainly black, maids, landscapers, and hardscape contractors. I began to see and hear of a South that was not part of my upbringing, but only depicted in movies like “Gone With the Wind.” However, I experienced more racism in the North than I ever did in the South.

Entering high school a naive 13-year-old, it was a landscape ripe with violent protests, riots, marches, Vietnam, Women’s Rights, Black Power. I was a kid growing up in a raucous world, but raised by a generation who grew up under a different tyranny. Being Polish and Ukrainian descent, my family came to the U.S. with nothing and created a home for me. They fled the Communists, Nazism, and Russian repression. They lived through the Great Depression. The women in my family suffered abuse as I learned, going back generations, as men from that era were angry, harsh, and even depressed. That led to drinking and fighting. Fortunately, my dad and my aunt who raised me were nothing like that. I was raised with a respect for law enforcement, the Church, and my elders. Step out of line and I got whooped, which I did quite a few times.

Member Post

 

Our Chief Historian Sam Jacobs had the fortunate opportunity to speak with author and former ATF agent, Vincent Cefalu. For those of you that might not know — Vincent Cefalu is best known as the primary whistleblower who exposed Operation Fast and Furious and Project Gunrunner to the American public. Cefalu is a curious figure, […]

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75th Anniversary: Victory in Europe Day

 

May 8, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the formal declaration of victory in Europe. The surviving German military leaders had surrendered in the earliest hours of May 7, with a ceasefire holding through the day until the national leaders of the British Empire, Russia, and the United States could make the formal announcement on the morning of May 8, 1945.

Sadly, this year there will be no great outdoor public ceremonies. Yet, there are other sorts of public commemorations. The British television schedule is filled with commemorative events, culminating in a speech by the Queen, to be broadcast at the same time as her father’s speech 75 years ago. President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump joined a small group of World War II veterans, who flew to Washington D.C. to honor their fallen comrades at the World War II Memorial. In Arizona, the three largest airplanes in the Commemorative Air Force flew in formation around the Valley of the Sun.

President Trump joined World War II veterans, laying a wreath at the WWII Memorial:

Member Post

 

Andrew Cuomo, in combination with the governors of Connecticut and New Jersey, is hiring consulting firms McKinsey and Deloitt to develop a “Trump-proof” plan for reopening the three states. (The phrase “Trump-proof” apparently comes from NJ governor Murphy.) These three governors, in putting this plan-for-a-plan together, seem focused on their hostility to the Trump administration […]

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