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Tammy's All Things History

Bringing the Past to Life!

African-American Woman Bessie Coleman


Bessie Coleman, First African American Pilot - GPN-2004-00027.jpg
Bessie Coleman, via Wikipedia.

Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) defied Jim Crow laws and racism towards Blacks early in the 20th century by becoming the first African-American female aviator. Despite the fact that she grew up poor, she sought out the opportunity to make her dreams come true. With the help of a mentor and the inspiration of her brothers, she ventured overseas to France to obtain flight training. France at the time did not discriminate against Blacks but welcomed them into its society and schools. There Bessie not only completed her training but gained fame and prestige as a fully qualified and talented airplane pilot, who performed stunts at air shows. This recognition influenced other African American women to realize they too could defy oppression by White society and seek opportunities previously closed to women of their race. Bessie’s success and others contributed not only to the Women’s Movement and but also to the Equal Rights Movement for years to come because of her belief in optimism and perseverance.

Unfortunately, Bessie would not live to see the changes inspired by her contributions of African-American firsts. She died on April 30, 1926, at her final air show. Her legacy continues to this day through the recognition and adoration by modern female African American aviators.

Francis Drake-The Pirate


Francis Drake
Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake lived and worked during a time when Spain was at war with its bordering nations. He was born sometime in the years between 1540 and 1541(birth records did not exist at this time). Although this lack of record keeping might seem a bit unusual in our time such a record for them was insignificant. Francis hailed from Devonshire, England and was raised by a farmer. On those days, farming could sustain a family but it could not often bring riches alone and it did not bring prestige and respect of the royal family, but success at high seas did. Drake may have dreamed his future of owning and captaining a ship as a young boy. In his spare time, he tagged along with relatives on their ships. Whenever they sailed, the crew learned the art of piracy as they targeted merchant ships traveling the sea trade routes. Francis Drake became famous as a world renown ocean navigator and land explorer but before all that he was a real pirate.

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Slave Trade 1500s

At the completion of his apprenticeship, young Francis commanded his first ship called the Judith. He hired a cousin to assist in the mission to the continent of Africa to participate in the slave trade. After acquiring slaves, they sailed for New Spain with the goal of acquiring funds by selling captives to settlers there. The slave trade was Illegal in Spain at the time and Francis along with some of his crew were soon arrested and held for those crimes. Drake vowed revenge upon the Spanish crown from that point on.

After returning to England, he received a notice from Queen Elizabeth I to take his piracy to a new level. She permitted him to obtain a privateer license. This license enabled him to use his piracy to raid, plunder and steal property that belonged to Spain. It was an unofficial war on King Phillip whom Queen Elizabeth I despised. Soon after Drake embarked upon his fist mission to Nombre De Dios, a stop in Panama for Spanish ships full of silver and gold returning from Peru. Unfortunately, Francis did not acquire much success as the Spaniards battled hard against Drake, his fleet, and ships. To compensate for this instead of high seas piracy Drake and his men raided Spanish settlements and robbed them of their precious metals instead.

For the remainder of Francis Drake’s life, he remained a pirate. Although he is known popularly for his success at being the first to circumvent the globe and as a successful maritime and land explorer he should also be remembered as a pirate and as someone who participated in the slave trade. Piracy at the time was a normal way of life and considered a divine right. Even though today we understand the piracy of the 16th century to be criminal, the expeditions conducted and led by Francis remind us how folks in his time viewed the world and the people around them.

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History That Interests Me

Below are three pics of some of my summer finds at rummage sales or antique stores. Although I’ve been a military miniature collector (and painter) for most of my life I never branched out into collectible war toys that were manufactured for most of the last century but are increasingly rare today.

The models below carry the brand  name Midgetoys. I confess that growing up I never heard of Midgetoys but probably saw them in the various “dimestores” that were popular in the 1960s like Woolworths or Ben Franklin.

http://www.esnarf.com/MTstory.htm  A little research turned up a link titled The Midgetoys Story.

Midgetoys were created by Al and Earl Herdklotz in 1948. The Herdklotz’s ran a machine shop and during WW2 and were involved in the war production industry like every other company in the US.

After the war the brothers got the idea of entering the die cast model field…

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#NeverForget: Four Little Girls and Two Little Boys


How #NEVERFORGET can be applied to the past beyond September 11.

Diary of a Historian

On September 15, 1963, Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley were murdered in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Countless others were injured in the bombing of this church which has been a cornerstone in the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. Yesterday, as many posted images of these four little girls and #neverforget, it seems as if we forgotten the other victims of this date, Virgil Ware and Johnny Robinson. This is not to dismissed the story of Addie, Carol, Carole, and Cynthia. No, this is just a call to remember the slain lives taken that day as a result of hate.

Four Little Girls

I recall seeing Ava Duvernay’s Selma earlier this year. As a historian, there were no surprises for me in the movie. When I watched the four little girls walking down the stairs my heart became heavy and…

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Why We All Love Pirates


A.J. Sefton

Ahoy maties! Today be the day we talk like a pirate. So get yourself some grog, landlubbers, and hold off swabbing the decks for a while.

We shouldn’t love pirates. They are thieves of the sea even though they can rob on the shore. They are outlaws and criminals, often violent and sometimes murderers. So what is the strange appeal that makes us tell stories about them to young children and enjoy Hollywood films about them?

When my daughter was four, pirates were everywhere. Her bed was a pirate ship with a large Jolly Roger flag at the headboard, maties such as a giant fluffy bee lookout  and a ship’s cat, crewed the ship. There was a large treasure chest carved by my uncle and wood smith extraordinaire, Norman Smith, complete with secret compartments, maps and treasure. There were the obligatory accessories: parrot, hook, hat and eye patch. I created a…

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Meet The Keystone Kops


Silent-ology

Slapstick!  Mayhem!  Incompetence!  Buffoonery!  Clumsiness!  Craziness!  Bungling!   Chasing!  Running!  Zaniness!  Now quick, say the first words that come to your mind…

…And I’ll bet the $2.38 that I have in my pocket that you just said “Keystone Kops.” Cue their most famous photo.

Image result for keystone cops

Quiz: Name the film this publicity pic is from! (The answer will be at the end of this post.)

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Benjamin F. Butler: Why All Men are not Created Equal


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Benjamin F. Butler, 1870, Wikipedia.org

“The political system of this country is founded upon what Rufus Choate once termed a “glittering generality,” contained in the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal.” This is a truth as applied to political rights, immunities, and burdens, but an utter absurdity so far as it is made to describe other mutual relations of people.”-Benjamin F. Butler

It is not surprising Benjamin F. Butler begins his autobiography with an opinion of equal rights and how those rights contradict themselves in the line of the Declaration of Independence; “all men are created equal”. Butler’s life and work were all about equality. He articulated well his idea of the definition of equality, and how the United States society’s interpretation differed. The cause of this difference according to Butler is while the definition of equality meant people and their actions were recognized legally, judiciously, it did not apply to the equal rights of individuals. Butler was not alone in his thoughts. Many other folks recognize this problem such as Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner. Butler obsessed about it because of his passion for the law and helping those who were unable to help themselves obtain equality and justice (1).

Butler’s analysis of how the “all men are created equal” caused a problem for equality in the U.S. makes a lot of sense. He uses the horse for an example of this. He explains that a horse is just a horse but when divided into different species each is quite different in its abilities. Therefore, not every horse is created equal. Like all people of the world, each belongs to a different class. Higher class horses are bread differently so that the can achieve results or meet higher expectations. People are born into these separate classes in the same way. By birthright, there is no automatic equality. Therefore basing equality on a false assumption in the Declaration of Independence unintentionally set the United States up for generations of misunderstanding about equality that is still relevant today(2).

Notes:

1. Benjamin F. Butler, Butler’s Book: Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major General Benj F. Butler : A Review of His Legal, Political, and Military Career (Boston: A.M. Thayer & Co., 1892), 33.

2 .Declaration of Independence. http://www.ushistory.org/Declaration/document/

 

 

Development of the American Pharmacy Part 2


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By the 1850s, the pharmacy became big business in America. Americans increasingly found the availability of retail drug stores convenient and affordable. When a customer entered a drug store, they would see the Apothecary (owner of the drug store) managing pharmacists, employing sales and stock clerks and providing quality product based on the United States Pharmacopeia. The future of the pharmaceutical profession looked promising for growth and potential. However, this was not simply the case. Salespeople outside of the pharmacy began imitating and selling imitations of products sold in drugstores. Not only were customers unaware of the falsehood of their purchases but that some of the drugs they purchased also posed a danger to public health. The American Pharmaceutical Association was aware that there was no effective way to regulate these false remedies. Even with this growing threat to the professional pharmaceutical business, Pharmacist’s could not find a way to combat the problem even though possible solutions were sought and discussed (1).

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Shortly after 1852, the newly established American Pharmaceutical Association dealt with some serious issues affecting the pharmaceutical profession. The financial crisis, brought on by a world trade economic problem, slowed pharmaceutical commerce, and this caused many retail drug stores to close down. Between the years 1860 and 1865, the Civil War, like other wars before, strengthened the professional side of pharmacy by the speedy fulfillment of medicine to the battlefield. The fast pace that continued in peacetime after the war allowed pharmacists to re-open the market but, capitalism once again affected the profession. The fast production of medicines and remedies meant less quality of the product. Between 1880 and 1890, state regulators addressed the problem by expediting the regulation of the manufacturing and sale of drugs. This improved the quality of pharmaceuticals, thus strengthening public safety and contributed to consumer satisfaction once again (2).

 

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As physicians and pharmacists separated their profession, pharmacists concentrated specifically on their chemistry skills to create custom medicines and remedies for patient comfort. Pharmacists labeled their medications with their name and photo and directions for use of the product. By doing this pharmacists stood by his or her product to ensure the product was legitimate and safe. Factories increased the production of pills by using a press to replicate them. However, mass production decreased the value of the product. To change this, pharmacist’s added a variety of store features in order to entice customers. These included refreshing soda fountains, photography supplies, veterinary products and women’s cosmetics (3).

detroit images

 

As business improved at the turn of the century, capitalism inadvertently sent the pharmaceutical profession spinning ahead to meet demands of industrialism and twentieth-century innovation. Customers could still enjoy the convenience of a speedy Medicine, and medicinal remedies and they could trust the product was worth every penny spent. The convenience of mass marketing and capitalism both supported the development of the American pharmacy into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

(1) Glenn Sonnedecker, The American Practice of Pharmacy, 1902-1952, in Gregory Higby and Elaine Condouris Stroud, American Pharmacy (1852-2002): A Collection of Historical Essays (Madison, WI: American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, 2005), 5-6.

(2) Ibid., 6.; For general information (not a scholarly source) on the financial crisis see, Panic of 1857, last modified on May 16, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1857

(3) Sonnedecker, 6.

History on Saturday: James C. Craig, Barber from Grand Rapids


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1915. Henry Wayne Robbins’ barber shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Meet James C. Craig, a barber from Grand Rapids, Michigan in the late 1800s. He is an African-American man who immigrated to the city in 1871. Amazed at his success during the late 19th and early 20th centuries a newspaper editor inquired about the man, and Mr. Craig replied to him, telling his story in his words.

“I was born in the city of Louisville, Kentucky on the second day of April 1849. I was a slave until 1862. I followed the 23rd Regiment of Michigan in 1864 throughout the southern states and left them at [in] Atlanta, Georgia. Then I came to Flint, Michigan with Captain George Buckingham. He was sick. I then learned the barber trade in the year 1865. Then in the year 1868, I went to Battle Creek, Michigan. I lived there until 1870 and went into business for myself. I did not meet with success as I hoped. In 1871, I came to Grand Rapids and opened up business again as a barber. I am pleased to tell you that I have made it a success this time. My place of business is 70 Canal Street. On October 28, 1884, I was appointed the honorary commissioner of the 5th District of the World’s Fair at New Orleans.”-James C. Craig (1)

This biography is modest because it tells the story of Mr. Craig’s life of perseverance and determination but it does not include information about his membership and participation in African-American (men-only) organizations. His collection does contain clippings of meetings and notes that suggest he was interested in the quality of life of fellow African-American citizens and their fight for equal rights in Grand Rapids. How active he was in these memberships or the privileges they might have given him are not known at this time. Mr. Craig’s commitment to his business and networking through memberships did distinguish him as a gentleman of his class and race. Additional research is needed to understand how if any of his contributions, his legacy, and his life helped influence the African-American community of Grand Rapids as well as the dream of equal rights for everyone in America. (2)

1. Finding aid for the James C. Craig collection Collection 183 Finding aid prepared by Lynn Eleveld … Finding aid for the James C. Craig collection Collection 183 http://grplpedia.grpl.org/wiki/images/7/7b/183.pdf

2. Jelks, Randal Maurice. African Americans in the Furniture City: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Grand Rapids. Urbana and Chicago: U of Illinois, 2006. Print.

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