Here is to many more posts to 2018. It seems every time I get going a technical issue happens. All is good now. Look forward to more Benjamin F. Butler, Belding and Ionia County history, History on Saturday spotlights and random history stuff.
The California gold rush is an integral part of American history. In the 1850s, gold fever drove men and women by the hundreds of thousands to the land known now as California. Wealth distribution was not good at this time. Simply put, most Americans were poor, barely making it or just making it while the top percentage of people were well off or wealthy. Gold provided an opportunity for those seeking fortune and fame, a chance for a better life: a comfortable living, and a legacy to pass on to future generations.
It was, however, an illusion. Once folks arrived after packing up and taking the small amount of what they owned and traveling over treacherous and dangerous routes found little gold they sought. Even so, the migration help to secure land from foreign leaders and built a nation we know today.
Empire Mine State Park is a place where you can visit a real live gold mine set up to accommodate the thousands throng. Bring the family and spend a Saturday learning the history of the mine. The park offers, trails, areas for picnics, and a gift shop. There is something for everyone at this park. Check out their informative website here:
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)
Please let me introduce to you some cool blogs that I follow. Not only are they cool, but each blogger has come up with uniquely creative ideas and ways of presenting history.
1. Practically Historical’sFacts in Five. This feature sums up a whole bunch of history in a short amount of reading time. These are fun, interesting and relevant facts. They are also some good jumping points to start some new curious research topics.
2. Stillness of Heart’s Recommended Reading Viewing Listening. This list offers some current or past articles to read that are intellectual in nature. It is also a way for the author to share some of his likes. I find it an easy, quick and curious read.
3. The History as Prologue Google+ is a history and current event discussion group. This blog is an offshoot of Mark’s History as Prologue blog. History as Prologue blog. He offers the “theme of the week” in this group. He bases his topics in history that connect the past to current historical problems for discussion.
A fellow history enthusiast posted a link to a Depression Era digitized photo collection presented by Yale on the Google+ community History as Prologue. He encouraged us to look at the site and see what we could find in our community. What a great idea! History as a big picture is great, and that picture always leads back to the very spot we are at at any given time or place. Local history is ripe for exploration, and it connects us all and leads to an understanding of our origins and how the past has led us to where we are now. We can then take that information and compare it to our own current time and this helps us make decisions about where we want to go in our future.
I decided to explore and see what I could find. As I searched the interactive map I found Ionia County, which is the closest to my current location of Belding, Michigan, also in the same county. I found one photo. It is a small blip on a large radar, but it is a start. It shows a farm house and field. It is not much different to the way the county looks now. This photo is important because it gives insight into the people who lived here during the Depression Era and how they attempted to survive economic hard times in the aftermath of a world war. Perhaps, these folks just continued on as normal. Maybe they established the property or inherited it down from family. Many more curiosities can lead from this point. Hopefully, this collection will expand to bring a clearer focus of the people and their lives in Ionia County during the Depression.
For further reading and interest of Belding and Ionia County see:
Today’s History on Saturday is about a ghost town in Arizona called, Vulture City, or officially named Wickenburg. Located in the desert, this little town is full of intrigue. Henry Wickenburg, a Prussian immigrant, moved to Arizona in 1862 during the Gold rush and established a mining town. Managing a gold mine during that time was not an easy task as people came from all over to capitalize on an opportunity to get rich quickly. Rumors of this easy wealth came to folks on the East Coast who experienced unemployment and smog filled industrialized cities. The Gold in the west also attracted some not so nice folks who existed to take advantage of any good hearted person they could find. Mining gold was more about money, not about loyalty to friend or family. After dealing with some shady business investors and loosing money without any idea of how to recover from it, Henry committed suicide in 1905, penniless and a broken man.
Today, you can visit Henry’s dream by touring the Vulture City. I am curious why Henry failed at his mine operation and why at the age of 85, he felt the only option was to kill himself. It seems to be a sad story but one that leave more questions than answers.
Summer is for adventure. So, gather around the computer for an online tour of The Smithsonian’s Exhibit of Earl Shaffer and the Appalachian Trail. As documented in the exhibit, Shaffer was a tired veteran of World War II and sought solitude in the mountains to clear his head and plan his future. I know that feeling, having retired from the US. Army myself. Veterans tend to want some peaceful quiet and privacy after military life. As Shaffer embarked upon his journey, he documented what he saw. This was to share his information with folks back home.
Fortunately, his writings have been preserved so future generations can be further inspired by his perseverance at innovation. He took what he had learned in the army and put it to good use with his explorations. Who knew that a small idea would lead to so much success with his trail blazing. He encouraged folks to be brave and bold and to seek out adventures in America’s nature preserves. At the same time, he educated people about some of the beauty nature had to offer and avenues for further exploration.
We often hear about bad apples these days. Politicians love using the term to get their opinions and ideas across to a large audience. Business owners use it in marketing to boost sales or discredit competition. Journalists use it in their editorials to gauge public opinion and place it, in a way, that everyone can see it. These ideas bring discussion, debate or interest in a topic and it allows the viewer to think about what choices they might have in order to make decisions. The method used by journalists is the center of the political cartoon because they can reach the public, politicians and business owners. In the past, the other groups could only directly reach people that were interested in a particular topic.
In the US, we grow up hearing the phrase, “One rotten apple will spoil the whole bunch.” It means that if you have a bowl of fruit out on a counter or table for a week or so the fruit starts to decay from the center outward. This is because the fruit is smothered by the others and it does not get enough oxygen. Once that happens it begins to decompose and the decomposition spreads to other apples. Americans use the term to say that if a group of folks has an idea and a particular goal in mind and one person in the group goes against that idea, the goal will not be met. That one person has the power to influence the others to change their mind and not pursue that goal anymore. Today politicians and news media are tossing the term around to let voters know that there are problems within political parties. This is why there is so much confusion in Washington and why Congress can not agree with the president on issues. There is really nothing wrong with this. It has been gong on since the country was founded. There will always be one person in a group with a doubt or an idea or even a personal agenda that differs from the rest of the group whether they even know about it or not.
Here are some examples of the political cartoons used to start talk about the bad apple idea.
Political cartoons are not as popular as they used to be and that is probably due to the use of mass electronic media today. Before there were electronic media, the political cartoon was the way everyone could be exposed to the same idea and it was useful to people and their daily lives.
For further interest in this topic see, The Art of Polemics. They publish a daily cartoon as well as other historical topics. Next time you see a political cartoon, think about the way that cartoon is being used to reach a wide audience and what that cartoon may be saying about what society as a whole is feeling about a certain topic.
I have always been a huge fan of Memorial Day probably due to my service in the military. Memorial Day becomes a part of your life when you think of all the great soldiers who have gone before you and that you stand to continue their legacy. Memorial Day has a huge history that revolves around President Lincoln. He had a good heart and wanted to preserve a day for all Americans to set aside one day a year. He wanted one day a year to put away anger and recognize united grief in loss of life resulting from a warring nation. Today mostly it is celebrated with hamburgers, hot dogs and sprinklers. I am grateful to have such a day to enjoy in May to reflect or just to pause from daily life routines and enjoy relax time.
How will you spend this day? What does Memorial Day mean to you? What part of Memorial Day history do you know or would like to know about?