Category: American History

Who loves dried fruit!

A little 1900s American history … from Naples, New York

Of course, we call them dehydrators these days, but back in the day, they were called … evaporators.

This is a little article written some years ago by my great grandfather Joseph Widmer. This is the same family that owns Widmer Wines, although my great grandfather was not part of the winery. My father found a few of his old writings and shared them with me. I thought it would be nice to share them with some of my readers.

I remember my great grandfather as a kindly old man with badly bowed legs and two canes, who loved little kids and always had time for us. He was also quite an exceptional woodworker. I still remember the old farm he and his wife, Bessie, owned that we visited on occasion. I have fond memories of the frog pond we often played around (getting quite muddy) and the old apple tree in the back that always had the best apples. I think they were Northern Spy apples.


Evaporators

by Joseph B. Widmer

I lived in Naples until the spring of 1913 and knew of no public evaporators in the Town of Naples, N.Y. As far as I know, there were two privately owned fruit evaporators. One was located on the farm of Charles Hamlin, Jr., just off Naples Atlantic Road; the other was owned by my father (John Frederick Widmer) who also raised many acres of blackberries.

He had a fairly large dry house or fruit evaporator, as we dried other fruits such as apples, peaches and apricots. This dry house 16 feet long by 12 feet wide, a one-story structure, somewhat higher than a garage.

There was only one man in the Naples area that could build that type of building, a Mr. John Dinzler who lived on the corner of Tobey Street and Lower Main Streets before the new Catholic Church was built.

As I said, it was a long building that housed two long cylindrical type heaters that burned old grape posts or other woods of that size. These heaters were joined together lengthwise, resting on large rock slabs. Instead of a floor the inside was all open with a 30-inch wide catwalk and a railing along three sides of the building around the top of the heaters. A very steady low heat was kept.

There were no windows, only hinged shutters for ventilation. Inside the dryer were constructed frames and framing that held screens 30 inches by 48 inches, trays joining both lengthwise and crosswise. These trays were cover with fine screening.

While in operation it called for a full-time attendant who used a small rake in his operation of drying the fruit. When one could squeeze the dried berries in a ball without their sticking together, the were ready for the market.

At that time Walker-Boles who had a warehouse on the corner of Academy and West Avenue near the Lehigh Valley Station hired women for fifty cents a day to pack these evaporate berries in one-pound packages for shipment to a market.


Please will take a few minutes and check out some of my other interesting blog posts by clicking here! If you like music, look at the Tunes for Tuesday posts.

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Happy Fourth of July

I’ll never forget Jimmy Cagney playing George M. Cohan in the musical, Yankee Doodle Dandy

I’m a yankee doodle dandy,
A yankee doodle do or die;
A real live nephew of my uncle sam,
Born on the fourth of july.


I’ve got a yankee doodle sweetheart,
She’s my yankee doodle joy.

Yankee doodle came to london,
Just to ride the ponies,
I am that yankee doodle boy …

My two favorite 4th of July memories are:

Old Forge, NY

When I was a little boy, we went with my mother’s family to watch the fireworks in Old Forge, New York. My Mom, Dad, my brother, my grandfather and grandmother, and I think my Aunt Carol and Uncle Ken were there. Halfway through the fireworks display, it began to rain, many people fled to their cars, but the fireworks continued.

My grandfather calmly took out his handkerchief and placed it over his head and continued to sit there and watch the fireworks. Periodically, he would reach up, take the wet cloth off, wring it out, and replace it. He was not going to let a little rain dampen his patriotic enjoyment!

Norris, TN

I went to see the fireworks in Norris, Tennessee with a lady I was dating. We got settled and ready for the show to begin. We saw a man carrying a flare toward the firework setup to start the show … which he did!

The fireworks began, and it was a glorious sight—a nonstop barrage of colors and explosions lasting several minutes. I thought, Wow! If this is the opening salvo, this is really going to be something.

Then there was nothing. The silence continued on for long minutes. People began to get impatient, muttering, asking what was wrong? Eventually, word came around that it was over. This was the first year a new and safer system for setting off the fireworks was being utilized. Somebody had screwed up and ignited the whole display at once.

It was the shortest and best fireworks display I have ever seen, even to this day!

Happy 4th of July to all my readers, friends, and fellow Americans.

May that star-spangled banner forever wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure. Jimmy Cagney, while famous for gangster roles, was a great singer and dancer as well! Check it out!

Rosie the Riveter, RIP

Rosalind P. Walter, the first “Rosie the Riveter,” died at the age of 95 on Wednesday in New York City.

Rosalind Walter was born in Brooklyn on June 24, 1924, and is survived by her son Henry S. Thompson, two grandchildren, four step-grandchildren, and several step-great-grandchildren.

Rosalind P. Walter in an undated photo. The original inspiration for “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II. Credit…Joseph Sinnott

Walter grew up privileged in a wealthy Long Island home. However, when the United States entered World War II, Rosalind joined millions of other women in the home-front crusade to arm the troops with munitions, warships, and aircraft.

Rosalind rose to fame when a newspaper column which celebrated her outstanding work ethic, inspired a 1942 patriotic song that boosted the morale of the entire nation.

“Rosie” worked the night shift driving rivets into the metal bodies of Corsair fighter planes at a plant in Connecticut, a job that had been previously reserved for men.

An American icon is created …

It was this song that got the attention of the public and inspired the series of famous posters depicting Rosie in the workforce during World War II. While different models were used for several versions of “Rosie the Riveter,” and Rosalind P. Walter may not be “the” Rosie the Riveter in the paintings, she was undoubtedly the first!

This painting became “Rosie the Riveter” to most Americans.

In fact, we should remember that in America as well as other free countries, there were a great many other “Rosie the Riveters” who contributed to the effort to defeat the evil, oppressive Nazi regime during World War II.

To me, these are women to be recognized and admired. These women set the examples our daughters should follow. These women saw a job that needed to be done and decided, “We can do it!”

These are the kinds of women who helped make America great, and will keep America great in the future!

On an interesting side note, I had a Great Aunt Rosie, who worked at Remington Arms during the war, and was nicknamed “Rosie the Riveter” by her co-workers.

Forever in Our Hearts

We will never forget.

As I watched the news on this morning, 09/11/2019, the images of the two towers, the destruction, the victims, the dust, the debris, the first responders, those rushing to help, the pain and horror of that cowardly attack is rekindled. But, so is the pride!

We are still here. We are still strong. And, we will never forget.

forever in our hearts

It is not about vengeance or retribution. It is about courage, sacrifice, and many selfless heroes rushing … not away … but toward the danger!

It is about the police, the firemen, the reporters, and the everyday citizens who pulled together to get us through one of the darkest hours in American history. It is about doing everything we can to ensure it never happens again. It is about remembering to remain strong as Americans!

Remembering Man’s Best Friend

forever in our hearts

Being a dog lover, I cannot help but also mention that, when the World Trade Center tower collapsed and 10,000 emergency rescue workers rushed in to help … over 300 of those heroes were dogs. Dogs like Bretagne, Riley, Coby, Guinness, Appollo, Thunder, Sage, Trakr, and Jake to name a few.

forever in our hearts

These dogs, along with many more devoted, brave, loyal, and hardworking K9 heroes risked life and limb on September 11 and during the many painful days over which the rescue and recovery efforts continued.

Heroic K9s searched for survivors, located remains, and provided a very real source of comfort and hope during one of the worst moment in modern American history.

We should always remember and honor them as well.

Learn more about these Hero Dogs of September 11th at The Dogington Post!

Betsy Ross, A Founding Mother!

Elizabeth Griscom Ross was born on January 1, 1752, the 8th of 17 children. Ross worked as an early American upholster and seamstress, and claimed to have done tailoring for George Washington. She had seven children, five of which lived to adulthood.

According to the popular story of the origin of the Stars and Stripes, George Washington, commander-in-chief of the fledgling Continental Army approached Betsy Ross with a design for a new American flag. He was accompanied by two members of a congressional committee, Robert Morris and George Ross.

betsy ross

Betsy Ross convinced General Washington to change the shape of the stars in the sketch of a flag he showed her from six-pointed to five-pointed stars by demonstrating that it was easier and faster to cut the latter. While there is no real historical evidence this meeting ever took place, it is known that Betsy Ross was hired to make flags for the Pennsylvania Navy during the Revolutionary War. Below is an order entry dated May 29, 1777 to pay Mrs Ross for her work.

An order on William Webb to Elizabeth Ross for fourteen pounds twelve shillings and two pence for Making Ships Colours [etc.] put into William Richards store……………………………………….£14.12.22.2

Wikipedia

Betsy Ross was a Quaker, an outspoken abolitionist, and a strong supporter of the women’s right to vote movement. She died on January 30, 1836 and has been buried in three different locations:

  • Free Quaker burial ground at South 5th St. near Locust
  • Mt. Moriah Cemetery
  • On Arch Street in the courtyard adjacent to the Betsy Ross House.

How to Correctly Celebrate Memorial Day!

What is the Significance of Memorial Day?

memorial dayMemorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States dedicated to remembering the people who died while serving in this country’s armed forces. This holiday is observed every year on the last Monday of May. The date has changed in recent history. From 1868 until 1970, Memorial Day was observed on May 31st. For many Americans, this holiday also marks the unofficial start of the summer vacation season.

Traditionally, those celebrating Memorial Day visit cemeteries and memorials to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries. I have participated in this several times. First, while a Boy Scout in my earlier years. Then, a few years ago, I attended such a ceremony at the Military Cemetery in Knoxville, Tennessee with Jackie, the daughter of a very good friend. I was deeply moved and reminded of how much this County, it’s Flag, and those who have died defending it all, mean to me.

The practice of decorating soldier’s graves is an ancient custom. In the United States, soldier’s graves were decorated before and during the Civil War. This American holiday  is a heartfelt remembrance of those who chose to make a stand rather than take a knee!

The Difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.

Memorial Day should not be confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering the men and women who died while serving their Country,  Veterans Day, observed annually on November 11th, celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.

A Memorial Day Poem by Joyce Kilmer (12/12/1886 – 0/30/1918)

Who was Joyce Kilmer?

memorial day
Joyce Kilmer’s Columbia University yearbook photograph, circa 1908

Joyce Kilmer was a prolific American writer and poet. He was also an American veteran who give his life in the service of his Country. In April of 1917, just days after the United States entered World War I in 1917, Kilmer enlisted in the Seventh Regiment if the New York National Guard. Kilmer deployed to France with the famous “Fighting 69th” and rapidly worked his way up to the rank of Sergeant. Though offered a commission as  an officer he declined, stating that he would rather be a sergeant in the Fighting 69th than an officer in any other regiment.

Military Intelligence

In April of 1918, Kilmer was transferred to the military intelligence section of his regiment. Kilmer was highly respected by the men who served with him. There are many stories of his coolness and his bravery on scouting patrols into “no man’s land.” Indeed, it was this coolness and bravery, along with his habit of volunteering for the most dangerous and difficult missions, that ultimately led to his death.

Second Battle of Marne

During the Second Battle of Marne, the last days of July had seen very heavy fighting. On July 30th, 1918, Kilmer volunteered to accompany Major “Wild Bill” Donovan (who later, during WWII founded the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner to the CIA).  Donovan’s battalion, the 1/165 Infantry, was ordered to lead the assault. During the course of the day’s fighting, Kilmer led a scouting party to locate the position of a German machine gun. Crawling to the edge of a little hill for a better view of the terrain, he was killed by a sniper’s bullet. Kilmer died at the age of 31. The French Republic posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre (War Cross) to Joyce Kilmer. Kilmer  left behind his wife, Aline Murray, another accomplished poet and five children. Below is his poem about Memorial Day:

 

“Dulce et decorum est”

The bugle echoes shrill and sweet,
But not of war it sings to-day.
The road is rhythmic with the feet
Of men-at-arms who come to pray.

The roses blossom white and red
On tombs where weary soldiers lie;
Flags wave above the honored dead
And martial music cleaves the sky.

Above their wreath-strewn graves we kneel,
They kept the faith and fought the fight.
Through flying lead and crimson steel
They plunged for Freedom and the Right.

May we, their grateful children, learn
Their strength, who lie beneath this sod,
Who went through fire and death to earn
At last the accolade of God.

In shining rank on rank arrayed
They march, the legions of the Lord;
He is their Captain unafraid,
The Prince of Peace . . . Who brought a sword.

~ Joyce Kilmer

Have a Wonderful Memorial Day!

So, please enjoy your Memorial Day in any manner you see fit. By all means, go camping, picnic at the lake, eat hot dogs and hamburgers, drink beer, play in softball tournaments, watch old war movies on television, go hiking, biking, walk your dog, do whatever it is that makes Memorial Day special for you. But, try to take a few minutes to remember those who gave their lives so that you actually have the freedom to celebrate this great American holiday in the manner that you do choose.

Did You Know About the Other Tea Party?

The Edenton Tea Party

the other tea party
A British cartoon satirizing the Edenton Tea Party women.

Not long ago I learned about another famous American Tea Party. However, it seems it is famous only to a relatively small group of people. On the way to  Elizabeth City, NC in northeastern North Carolina, I passed through a small town called Edenton.  I learned Edenton is famous for its own Revolutionary War era Tea Party. I had never heard of this. Therefore, I decided to do a little digging.

The Other Tea Party

The Edenton Tea Party …  a political protest organized in Edenton, North Carolina in 1774. Like the Boston Tea Party, it was in response to the Tea Act passed by the British Parliament in 1773. The Edenton Tea Party is a historic landmark event. Not because of the boycott on tea … such protests were happening all across the Thirteen Colonies. This tea party is most noteworthy because women organized it.

Meet Penelope Barker

Penelope Barker led a group of 51 women who met on October 25, 1774. These women wrote and signed a statement of protest, vowing to give up tea and boycott other British products.

In addition, Barker decided their protest should reach ears in England. Therefore, she sent a copy of the declaration to the British press. Penelope Barker stated:

Maybe it has only been men who have protested the king up to now. That only means we women have taken too long to let our voices be heard. We are signing our names to a document, not hiding ourselves behind costumes like the men in Boston did at their tea party. The British will know who we are.

The 51 Women

The Signers of the Declaration include: Abagail Charlton, Mary Blount, F. Johnstone, Elizabeth Creacy, Margaret Cathcart, Elizabeth Patterson, Anne Johnstone, Jane Wellwood, Margaret Pearson, Mary Woolard, Penelope Dawson, Sarah Beasley, Jean Blair, Susannah Vail, Grace Clayton, Elizabeth Vail, Frances Hall, Mary Jones, Mary Creacy, Anne Hall, Rebecca Bondfield, Ruth Benbury, Sarah Littlejohn, Sarah Howcott, Penelope Barker, Sarah Hoskins, Elizabeth P. Ormond, Mary Littledle, M. Payne, Sarah Valentine, Elizabeth Johnston, Elizabeth Crickett, Mary Bonner, Elizabeth Green, Lydia Bonner, Mary Ramsay, Sarah Howe, Anne Horniblow, Lydia Bennet, Mary Hunter, Marion Wells, Tresia Cunningham, Anne Anderson, Elizabeth Roberts, Sarah Mathews, Anne Haughton, and Elizabeth Beasly.

Historic Record

Finally, while many famous documents from the American Revolution exist in the united States, this petition survives only through British accounts. The text of the petition, and the list of signers, was printed in the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser on January 16, 1775. As a result, many Americans do not even know this Tea Party occurred.

The full text of the petition is as follows:

As we cannot be indifferent on any occasion that appears nearly to affect the peace and happiness of our country, and as it has been thought necessary, for the public good, to enter into several particular resolves by a meeting of Members deputed from the whole Province, it is a duty which we owe, not only to our near and dear connections who have concurred in them, but to ourselves who are essentially interested in their welfare, to do every thing as far as lies in our power to testify our sincere adherence to the same; and we do therefore accordingly subscribe this paper, as a witness of our fixed intention and solemn determination to do so.