Saturday, December 15, 2012
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Worcester is a poster child for central place theory. There is little else in its history to
Settled in 1636 as an outpost of Connecticut, Springfield, Massachusetts got off to an earlier and far more ambitious start than Worcester. The success of Springfield resides
Unlike Springfield, both New Haven and Hartford always dominated their respective areas. Even after the colony of New Haven was absorbed into Connecticut, both communities retained political clout as co-capitals and the seat of their respective counties. New Haven had been founded by a group of wealthy merchants for the express purpose of establishing a commercial center, while Hartford’s Puritan ministers and merchants enjoyed a central location among Connecticut’s founding settlements. New Haven’s harbor and Hartford’s location on the Connecticut River were the keys to their commercial growth. Both were incorporated as cities at the same time in 1784, and by 1790 both had become bustling, urbane communities.
Several other Connecticut towns experienced rapid growth. Middletown, Norwich, and New London had all caught up with New Haven and Hartford by Washington’s first inauguration. But no one could have forecast the future importance of Bridgeport, which did not then go by name Bridgeport, or even legally exist until 1821. But the farmers of “Poquonnock” had considered themselves a separate entity from neighboring Stratford and Fairfield as far back as the 1650’s. The road to their eventual independence began when Poquonnock was incorporated as an independent ecclesiastical society in 1694 and changed its name to Fairfield Village. Over the next century, the community underwent several more changes in name and political status. In 1790 Newfield, Connecticut had a population 3000; its village center provided a tavern and home to number of part-time artisans’ shops. More important to the eventual rise to urban status, the community’s outstanding deep-water harbor, a resource that went unnoticed during the colonial period, was only dimly grasped for the first time during the Revolutionary War. It is unlikely anyone would have ever predicted this Connecticut hamlet would outshine every other major Connecticut center its rapid economic development.
All roads lead To Providence
Manchester, New HampshireAll seven of these cities had geographical advantages that aided their development, but so did many other communities that never grew into major urban centers. Political forces and early settlement are two other important factors yet they are also not the sole determinant, as Bridgeport and Manchester had neither distinction. Natural and man-made transportation systems also played a significant role in the rise and fall of New England's central places. Individual initiative was another key to the success of all these communities -- exceptional individuals like Moses Brown, William Pynchon or Samuel Blodgett, group efforts by the Puritan merchants that founded New Haven and Hartford played key roles as well. However, of all the key characteristics of successful cities, this might be the most impossible to quantify of all, only serving to remind us it is the very unpredictability of the human venture that makes history such a fascinating business. Bruce Daniels reminds us that while “urban development between 1790 and the twentieth century seems smooth and organic, the inevitable quality of this evolution is a trick played on us by the arrogance of hindsight.”
Bruce C. Daniels, “The Colonial Background of New England’s Secondary Urban Centers,” Historical Journal of Massachusetts, Volume 14 No. 1 (January 1986).
NB: A version of this article also appears in the August 2012 Hinterlander, the monthly newsletter of the Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society
Saturday, September 1, 2012
So far, I have been able to find almost all of the newspapers in the Library of Congress collection, though at least one title (Inside) is not in their collection at all. Others are going to require me to open them up and look for publisher information; I only want to handle them one more time, when I put them into permanent storage boxes. Most are from the twentieth century -- a record of particularly momentous national or international events like the JFK assassination, Eisenhower's inauguration in 1953, or the Soviet invasion of Hungary in '56. There are others that relate more closely to the local history of area, and some date back as far as the 1880s:
The Evening Star (Peekskill, NY)
The Farm Journal (Philadelphia)
George Washington Bicentennial News (The Alexandria Gazette, Alexandria, VA)
The Home (oversize)
Mirror and Farmer (Manchester N.H.)
New England Homestead (Springfield Mass.)
Pawtuxet Valley Daily Times (West Warwick RI)
Providence Evening Bulletin (Providence RI)
Providence Evening Telegram (Providence RI)
Providence Journal/Providence Sunday Journal (Providence RI)
The Providence Star-Tribune (Providence RI)
The Observer (Greenville RI)
Our Young People (American Baptist Publication, Philadelphia PA)
The Reminder (Coventry RI)
The Rhode Islander - Providence Sunday Journal Magazine (Providence RI)
The Springfield Newspapers
The Stars and Stripes (Washington, D.C.)
Thoroughfare Celebration in the Shepard Stores - advertisement (Providence RI)
The Young Ladies Bazaar (Chicago IL)
The Youth’s Companion (Boston MA)
As far as advice how to begin with the preliminary organization of the rest of the collection, I emailed Lori Urso and talked with Patricia Ahl, and Eleanor Langham, the Director, Librarian & Archivist, and Museum Assistant, respectively, at the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society. Lori forwarded some pictures I sent her to Patricia and warned her I was coming with questions about the library at WRICHS. After Eleanor looked at the pictures she assured me she had seen archives in far worse shape, and suggested that she would start by organizing things into boxes by types of materials. Patricia added that if more records come to light providing accession & donor information or other provenance, that would be helpful, but for now the important thing is to find out just what we have in the WRICHS library and put like things with like. Even though they are light-years ahead of WRICHS at Pettaquamscutt in terms of organization, they are still dealing with the same problem of materials "found in collection" -- boxes filled with "stuff" that comes with little or no information as to what's inside or where it came from.
So the methodology I will follow for organizing the WRICHS collection, to go back to the Basics of Archiving course, is by "Types of Materials" where
Records are divided into groups based on what they are--correspondence, diaries, photographs, and minutes, for example.Should topics begin to emerge within or across types, that will be a further means to differentiate materials. Whenever there is any semblance of provenance or of original order, I plan to keep it, simply storing for now items in the groupings and the order they are in when they are grouped in some order. A priority that has emerged from the most recent WRICHS meetings and work on the collection policy for Paine House Museum (a whole other blog post on that is in the works) is finding all the records having to do with the Society itself. So much "institutional history" took place before any of the present members and volunteers became active that, until those papers are reorganized and gone through, the WRICHS has little sense of its "institutional self" -- we have little idea of what "we" did before we got there, if that makes any sense.
I also asked the folks at Pettaquamscutt about cataloging software (and when I spoke with Kirsten Hammerstrom at Rhode Island Historical, she gave me pretty much the same
After that, I took a bundle of news papers I had noticed in a stack of other materials last time I was working (left, the bundle is just visible in the pile to the left of the chair, in the yellow circle) and brought it out to the work table. This looks to be the last of the newspapers that were in the piles on the floor, though there are a few more on the bookshelves, and no doubt some still lurk in boxes I haven't yet looked in. These newspapers were inside a deteriorating paper bag and tied with string. On the outside of the bag were written the words: "The Story of the Hurricane of 1938." (below)
The newspapers, all copies of the Providence Journal, the Providence Evening Bulletin or the Providence Sunday Journal, ranged in date from September 22, 1938 (the day after the 1938 Hurricane struck) to October 9, 1938. For the first few days the headlines were all related to the storm: "Hurricane Kills At Least 125 In State" on September 22; "71 Dead, 57 Missing in Westerly…Villages Vanish; Coast Changed" on the 23rd; "Toll of Hurricane Reaches 300" on September 24. But a few days after the disaster, alongside the reports of the storm damage and the cleanup were stories of an escalating crisis and the possibility of war in Europe. The Czechs were balking at Hitler's demand for the Sudetenland on September 27th, 1938, but over the next several days "The Big Four" weighed in, appeasing Hitler and trading the Sudetenland (and in the spring of 1939, the rest of Czechoslovakia) for 11 more months of peace. For October 3, 1938 the headlines read "Sudetens Welcome Hitler."
But as I took each paper and cataloged it I discovered, in the midst of "The Story of the Hurricane of 1938" collection, a folded letter whose letterhead identified its origin as from Little Compton. Along with the letter was a small square of white paper (right), on which is stamped "Town of Wareham Selectman's Office September 30[?] 1938," and written on it is "Pass to Onset Edward Tourtellot and Party of Four. Officer Reidy."
Onset is a village (and a beach) in Wareham, Massachusetts; Onset Bay lies off the coast of Wareham and opens up to Buzzards Bay and out to Rhode Island Sound (Onset is labeled B on map). Wareham is at the exact opposite end of the stretch of coastline that begins with Little Compton (labeled A on map). From Little Compton the coastline curves east and north until it reaches the isthmus of Cape Cod, opposite the Elizabeth Islands and western block of Cape Cod. In a hurricane storm surge, the coastline and islands would funnel the stormwaters in Buzzard's Bay higher and higher until they reach the end of the funnel. There lies Onset.
The letterhead on the paper the letter is written upon has printed in a neat maroon font:
Gull Rock - Little Compton - Rhode Island.
The letter itself reads:
Dear Fora [Sara?],
Quite a lot has happened since I saw you. I thought Wed. I would go out in the Atlantic house and all. Three or four times perhaps more, the ocean came under my front door, lucky the door held. I was busy mopping floors and window sills. My front screen door was damaged, half dozen or so shingles torn off below living-room windows, garage doors blew off, well curb blew over.
My house escaped but you should see my yard in front [page 2] sand and rocks. bayberry bushes. bathing house door, large rocks brought up right to my front door Moved those large boulders I had for a wall half way across the front lawn.
If you came down now you wouldn’t see any Warren’s Point bathing beach or “break-water.” All houses down and from breakwater. Big fishing bldg went floating up the river with 3 people or more in it. several drowned. Two houses next Stone House collapsed.
I had 2 suit-cases packed and planed to move up to Lowe-Smith’s [Love-Smith’s?] if I had to get out. [page 3] Richard sad I was crazy to stay in the house as long as I did. Said I wouldn’t have had a chance to get out if a wave came large enough it would pick the house right up.
To-day I came nearly setting the house on fire, melting some paraffin to cover orange marmalade. Went out to speak to mail-man, came back the kitchen was ablaze, sauce-pan ad probably tipped and wax had fallen in oil burner. I turned off burner singed my hair and dropped sauce pan on floor. I’ve been having a heck of a time I’ll say.
[page 4] coming down Wed. nite Richard had to jump from his car just below Stone Bridge. He took the road near the water thinking there would be trees falling on the highland road. A large wave came and turned the car over. He was up to his waist in water. Left the car there. The wreckers brought it down the next nite. I don’t think its any good now. It had floated down the river some distance from where he abandoned it.
Yesterday his riding-horse was taken sick. We went for veterinary said sleeping-sickness so he had to be shot. This is all I can write now as I want to write my cousin in Middleboro[?] whose sister lives in Wareham also hard hit
[in the top and side margins on page 1]
I wondered how the Nickersons at the cape[?] fared. Hope you can read this scrawl.
[in the top and side margins on page 2]
You can still get here by machine, coming around by Stone House & over Lloyd’s hill but not Warren’s Point way but it is pretty rocky going in places.
Based on the evidence in the letter, Elizabeth had probably gone to her "Atlantic house" on Wednesday September 21, 1938 without knowing that a Category 3 hurricane was approaching the coast. She was familiar enough with Richard that he was most likely a relative of Elizabeth -- a cousin, son or brother, or even possibly her husband. Conditions were still so bad Wednesday evening that Richard's car was rolled over by a wave while he was driving to Gull Rock. Both were fortunate not to have been swept away in the storm.
My father had related similar stories of his experiences in the 1938 Hurricane to me since I was a kid. He was 13 in 1938 and living in Fishtown, which was once a village outside of Mystic, Connecticut (at present there seems to be little left of Fishtown other than its old cemetery). The day the '38 Hurricane struck, as my father recalls, school let out a bit early once the teacher realized a bad storm was brewing. Before he got home, my father said the water flooding the road to Fishtown was up to the front sprocket of his bicycle and he was pedaling in a foot and half of water. A passing delivery truck stopped and the driver yelled for my father to get in. The driver threw my father's bike in the back of the truck, and delivered him safely home. Then the storm really hit. The old farm house, built in 1721, weathered the storm with some minor damage, but my father, my grandparents and my Uncle Walt (my grandmother as it happened was also very pregnant with my Uncle Bruce in September 1938) watched on as the wind blew the roofs off two barns, then tore the barns right off their foundations and rolled them across the yard.
I attempted to locate "Gull Rock" on maps of Little Compton, including this one from 1925 that the Little Compton Historical Society has "zoomified" on its website, but not that map nor any others I have looked at has a location marked Gull Rock. Based on Elizabeth's descriptions, it was probably not far from the beach since waves reached to her front door and rolled her stone wall around. There are other clues in her letter too -- Stone Bridge, for instance, and Lloyd's Hill, that might help piece together where in Little Compton Elizabeth and Richard weathered what has been described as the worst hurricane to strike New England since the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635. Elizabeth's letter, dated only "Sat. Eve.," was probably written on Saturday September 24, 1938, and the pass from the Wareham selectman, appears to be dated September 30, which was the following Friday (the day that the Providence Journal reported "Czechs Accept Big-Four Terms"). Likely there is a connection between the reference to Wareham in Elizabeth's letter and the document from the selectman's office -- had they heard from Elizabeth's cousin or her cousin's sister? Conditions in Onset were bad enough that selectmen had apparently closed off access to the area without their permission. And speaking of the selectman's pass, why is this with the letter sent from Little Compton? Was Fora (or Sara) one of the "party of four" led by Edward Tourtellot that traveled to Onset on that late September day, and who later bundled together all the newspapers, the letter and the pass and gave it to the Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society for posterity?
Altogether, there may be enough to eventually identify who Elizabeth and Richard were; the one clue that would almost certainly have identified everyone involved -- the envelope the letter was mailed in -- was not with the letter or in the newspaper collection. Someone at the Little Compton Historical Society might be able to help piece this mystery together. As far as the person the letter was addressed to -- Fora, or possibly Sara, the WRICHS records in the PHM library might have clues as to who that might have been. I also have a feeling that this discovery is only the first of many just waiting inside the next box or under the next pile of documents in the WRICHS archive... For now, just that we know that that we have this letter is an important first step in organizing this collection.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Isaac Rodman, a native son of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, was the highest ranking officer from Rhode Island to fall in the Civil War. Antietam National Battlefield had "Rhode Island Day" on August 11, 2012, and held a memorial to General Rodman. The Pettaquamscutt Historical Society, which is planning to open an exhibit in remembrance of General Rodman on September 17, currently has a display at the visitor's center at Antietam that features "General Rodman's sword and the photograph from which the visit to Antietam last summer retracing General Rodman's footsteps at his last charge at Antietam). Thousands of visitors this summer will see these relics of Rhode Island history and reflect on the sacrifice made by Isaac Rodman and the 52 other Rhode Islander's who also died at Antietam in "the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with about 23,000 casualties on both sides."
Isaac Rodman was born in South Kingstown, RI, in 1822, and save for the last 15 months of his life when he served in the Union army, he lived his entire life there. Rodman came from solid New England stock. His first American ancestor, Dr. Thomas Rodman, was a Quaker from Barbados who arrived in Newport in 1675 as King Phillip's War was about break out. His son, Thomas Rodman Jr, was also a doctor. He moved to Kingstown to take up residence on 1000 acres of land the town of Newport had gifted his father for his services as a doctor. Thomas Jr. died in 1775, exactly one century after his father had arrived in Newport, and the year that the American Revolution broke out.
In 1799, Isaac Rodman's grandfather Robert married into the Hazard family, South Kingstown's pioneering industrialists. Isaac Rodman had himself been named after Isaac Peace Hazard, who had taken over the Peace Dale mills in 1819 with his brother, Rowland Gibson Hazard II (after whom Rodman's younger brother was named for). In 1835 Isaac's father Samuel Rodman bought the small mills at Rocky Brook in South Kingstown Narragansett Times, January 14, 1860). By this time Samuel Rodman had followed his wife Mary (née Peckham) into the Wakefield Baptist Church, and Samuel had become a staunch supporter of the local temperance movement. Despite a long family association with the Society of Friends, Isaac and his brothers and sisters were all raised as Baptists.
Along with managing the mill, in 1847 Isaac married Sally Lyman, the daughter of former RI governor Lemuel Arnold and entered into town politics shortly after. Isaac and Sally had seven children between 1848 and 1860, and Rodman served on the school committee from 1849 to 1854, and again in 1859. In 1856 Isaac was appointed to the board of trustees of the Wakefield Institute for Savings Bank, and was also appointed director of the Wakefield Bank. That same year S. Rodman & Sons bought the Wakefield Mills from Stephen Wright, a South Kingstown blacksmith who moved west in the 1830s and after the discovery at Sutter's Mill in 1848, struck gold himself by setting up the very first bank in San Francisco. Wright had decided to move back to California, and the Rodman's took over his industrial holdings. Isaac Rodman ran for town council on the National American Party ticket and won in 1858, winning the second highest number of votes that year. He
Had the Civil War not interrupted, quite likely Isaac Rodman, a well-regarded South Kingstown businessman and politician, would have continued his cursus honorum, perhaps entering (like his colleague on the town council, Elisha R. Potter, Jr.) into state and national politics. That he might have lived to see his great-grandchildren and the first decades of the twentieth century is good possibility too; he certainly came from long-lived genes. In an age before modern medical procedures and antibiotics, his male ancestors going back to Dr. Thomas Rodman all lived at least to age sixty; some had even made it into their late eighties and early nineties, and his father lived to age 82. However, as the United States slid inexorably toward Civil War in the late winter and early spring of 1861, Isaac Rodman arrived at the sudden, fateful decision that the only option left to defend the Union was to take up arms. He burst into the office of Rhode Island's secretary of state and demanded that the Narragansett Guards, South Kingstown's long-defunct local militia, be resurrected. At the company's first drill on April 19, 1861 Rodman was voted its captain. In late May, S. Rodman and Sons went into receivership; orders of negro cloth had come to a halt in the wake of southern secession, and the Rodman's lost their Rocky Brook mills as well as their factories in Wakefield. At the June 4, 1861 town meeting, Isaac Rodman’s last official act for South Kingstown was to submit his audit of the town treasurer’s account to the town meeting; later that morning he said goodbye to his wife Sally and led what had now become Company E of the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment to the Kingston Station. A little more than a month later, at the First Battle of Bull Run, Rodman led the Rhode Island company in a desperate bayonet charge not unlike the one at Antietam that would take his life fourteen months later .
The Battle of Antietam. Rodman's final maneuvers in the battle are on the lower left. Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen, www.posix.com/CW
Below: The officers of the 1st Rhode Island. Isaac Rodman is leaning against the tree; Ambrose Burnside is sitting to Rodman's lower right.
The Battle of Antietam was a turning point in the Civil War. Though General McClellan's inexplicable caution during and immediately afterward have led military historians to deem the battle a tactical draw at best, the fact that Lee Emancipation Proclamation. This transformed the Civil War from a limited war to restore the Union to a total war on the institution of slavery and upon the southern plantations that were the economic engine of the southern war effort. The Proclamation also made it all the less likely that the public in France or Britain would support their government's involvement in a war to preserve Southern slavery, and neither would enter the conflict on behalf of the Confederacy. Less than a year later on July 4, 1863, dual Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg all but sealed the Confederate's fate.
Isaac Rodman returned home to a hero's welcome. Flags across Rhode Island were lowered to half-staff, and his funeral was held in Providence's State House, the first time that the capital had been used for a public funeral. Newspapers across the state devoted their front pages to detailing the somber ceremony. Senator Henry Anthony delivered these words for Isaac Rodman's funeral oration:
“Here lies the true type of the patriot soldier. Born and educated to peaceful pursuits, with no thirst for military distinction, with little taste or predilection for military life, he answered the earliest call of his country, and drew his sword in her defense. Entering the service in a subordinate capacity, he rose by merit alone to the high rank in which he fell; and when the fatal shot struck him, the Captain of one year ago was in command of a division. His rapid promotion was influenced by no solicitations of his own. He never joined the crowds that throng the avenues of preferment. Patient, laborious, courageous, wholly devoted to his duties, he filled each place so well that his advancement to the next was a matter of course, and the promotion which he did not seek sought him. He was one of the best types of the American citizen; of thorough business training, of high integrity, with an abiding sense of the justice due to all, and influenced by deep religious convictions. In his native village he was by common consent the arbitrator of differences, the counselor and friend of all.”
- from Robert Gough, "South Kingstown’s Own," page 84
In the town clerk's office at the South Kingstown Town Hall, a large brass plaque commemorates Isaac Rodman and the men of South Kingstown's Company E, many of whom had worked for Isaac Rodman in one of his textile mills before the war. I had idly glanced at the plaque many times when signing in and out of the town records' vault during my MA research, noting the familiarity of many of the names (including Isaac Rodman's) in the town records, but usually giving little thought to the larger historical importance of Isaac Rodman or his men to the Civil War effort. Thinking back on my education, not once did Isaac Rodman's name come up in a high school discussion, not even in college history courses I had taken at URI. Indeed, even the academic building named "Rodman Hall" on the Kingston campus is named after some other Rodman, as it turns out. Isaac Rodman's sacrifice, like many other important pieces of South Kingstown's past, has been all but forgotten by both his town and his state.
Rodman's body was brought back to South Kingstown, and he was buried less than a mile Rodman Family Cemetery (South Kingstown Historic Cemetery #30). Local veterans and then the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) Post in Wakefield held graveside memorials every year until, in the early twentieth century the G.A.R. post closed and the veterans of the Civil War died off. In the intervening years, the Rodman lands have been sold and resold, and the hill-top cemetery where General Rodman is buried is now in the midst of a large gravel operation (below). The current Google Maps image of the site (left) was likely taken in the winter or early spring of 2012; the General's obelisk casts a long thin shadow on what appears to be open ground. A visit to the Rodman Cemetery last month however, revealed the extent of the neglect of the final resting place of Rhode Island's only Civil War general killed in the line-of-duty.
The view of the cemetery from the satellite shows that the owners of the gravel operation have purposely left area around the cemetery site alone. However, what is made clear from space is even more evident on the ground -- the excavations have so thoroughly isolated the Rodman cemetery that it has essentially been forgotten. When the General was interred, the landscape around his grave site would have been mostly (if not entirely) cleared off. The view from Rodman's final resting place was of fields and pastures dotted with farmhouses and barns, crossed by lines of fences and ribbons of dirt road leading to nearby clusters of mills houses around textile factories. But the trees have since been allowed to fill in the area between the cemetery on the hill and the villages of Peace Dale and Rocky Brook, to block the altogether unattractive view of an industrial gravel operation.
I had never been to Emmet Lane or the Rodman Cemetery before, and PHS director Lori
At one time passers-by would have seen Rodman's obelisk from half-mile away or more; now it is almost impossible to see the monument from inside some parts of the cemetery. Briars, poison ivy and dense thickets of brush have taken over, and in places the foliage has gone so long there are now trees grown nearly as tall as Rodman's obelisk. The rest of the General's family is faring almost as well. The markers for Samuel Rodman and Isaac's brother Rowland (himself a Civil War veteran severely wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg) are both overgrown with brush and poison ivy; foot-stones peek out from under thick tufts of grass and knots of weeds. Clearing the site is made all the more difficult because beside being on top of a fairly steep hill a thousand feet or more from the nearest road, the cemetery's wall also lacks a gate or entry-way in which to bring in mowers or other landscaping machinery.
Below: views of the southern approach to Isaac Rodman's grave site.
View of Isaac Rodman's obelisk from the north.
Headstone of Samuel Rodman, Isaac Rodman's father and owner of S. Rodman & Sons.
Headstone of Rowland G. Rodman, Isaac Rodman's brother and Civil War veteran.
Foot-stones of veterans.
The view looking toward Peace Dale from atop the southern wall surrounding the Rodman Family Cemetary.
The task of a late-summer clean-up is well beyond the capacities of a push lawn mower that could be easily handed over the wall. A machine like a DR brush-cutter or even a (very carefully driven) tractor with a brush hog would be the best way to clear the brush and vines from the site now. The problem is there is no way to get such machinery over the substantial four-foot walls. An professional-strength "weed-whacker" equipped with a circular saw blade and a chain saw would be the heaviest equipment that could feasibility be brought into the site. Cutting down all the brush and trees and then hauling all the debris over the wall would take a crew of workers several days or a week at least to accomplish. A boy scout troop has expressed interest in cleaning up the cemetery but all pledges aside, I doubt they are truly prepared for the amount of work this project will take. It remains to be seen whether a graveside memorial that could be open to the public on September 30 is going to be feasible, or if it will be held "at your own risk."
General Rodman's epitaph.
John Russell Bartlett, Memoirs of Rhode Island Officers who were engaged in the service of their country during the Great Rebellion of the South (Providence, S.S. Rider & brother, 1867). Also available electronically on the Internet Archive.
Kathleen Bossy and Mary Kean, Lost South Kingstown: With a History of Ten of Its Early Villages (Kingston: Pettaquamscutt Historical Society, 2004).
J. R. Cole, History of Washington and Kent Counties, Rhode Island, Including Their Early Settlement and Progress to the Present Time; A Description of Their Historic and Interesting Localities; Sketches of Their Towns and Villages; Portraits of Some of Their Prominent Men, and Biographies of Many of Their Representative Citizens (New York: W. W. Preston & Co., 1889). Also available electronically on the Internet Archive.
Robert E. Gough, "South Kingstown’s Own: A Biographical Sketch of Isaac Peace Rodman Brigadier General" (2011). Special Collections Publications. Paper 20. http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/sc_pubs/20
Rhode Island Public Radio also aired a piece on remembering both the Battle of Antietam and General Rodman. Reporter Flo Jonic interviewed Pettaquamscutt director Lori Urso as part of the piece and made mention of the exhibit.
And most importantly, exceeding all my expectations to the contrary Kingston Troop 1 quite successfully cleaned up the Rodman Cemetery on Saturday September 15.
Kudos to boy scout Joshua Beck and his team for leading a herculean effort -- what a transformation!
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
But, between May 22 and yesterday I had taken "The Basics of Archives," a distance learning course offered by the American Association for State and Local History. Gwenn Stearn at the Rhode State State Archive was kind enough to send me the course on a CD-ROM, courtesy of the Rhode Island Historical Records Advisory Board.
My notes from the BACE course offered this sage advice on arranging manuscript collections under two guiding principles:
Provenance: the practice of keeping groups of records together based on who created them.
Original Order: maintaining records in their original order reveals how the creator used the records.
Case 1)I went with Case 3. BACE supplied me with two possible scenarios for Case 3 collections:
The records are well organized, record series are easy to determine, and the arrangement necessary seems almost obvious.
The records are relatively organized, but more work needs to be done to analyze collections and record series.
Case 3) The records are a mess.
Scenario A: You can identify records series
Scenario B: You cannot identify series or original order
In these cases you may be forced to create an order for the records. Archivists generally arrange these kinds of collections in one of four ways.So I would need to impose some semblance of order on the collection. Two concerns immediately arose. First, the BACE course had red-flagged the potentially destructive presence of paper and especially newspaper in a collection.
• If you must impose an order on the records, pick one of these arrangement schemes and stick with it.Types of materials• Records are divided into groups based on what they are--correspondence, diaries, photographs, and minutes, for example.Functions or roles of the creator
• Records are divided into groups based on activities. A college professor’s papers might be divided into personal life, teaching and research, professional service, and community service.Chronology
• Regardless of the type of record, everything is placed in chronological order.Topic
• Topics are identified and the records grouped by topic. The topics should reflect the person’s life or activities—not the subjects the archivist thinks people will want to research because research trends change over time.
PaperA conversation back in June with Kirsten Hammerstrom, the Director of Collections at the Rhode Island Historical Society, only reinforced my suspicion that my first task should be to catalog and isolate the newspaper collection. So the safest place to start seemed to be with the newspapers, and I began cataloging and storing the newspaper collection. I am sure there are more buried under things I haven't moved yet, but all the newspapers piled on the floor under the west window
• Paper created before about 1840 was made primarily from cotton and flax rags turned into pulp. This paper is strong and quite stable. When stored correctly, this paper can last for hundreds of years.
• After 1840, modern paper production used trees as the source of pulp. This paper produces acid when exposed to air and moisture.
Newsclippings within a Collection
Newspaper is particularly unstable due to the large percentage of acidic ground wood pulp in the manufacturing process and the lack of protective alkaline buffers.
• The best way to save your old newspaper clippings is to make photocopies onto good quality archival paper and discard the originals.
• Old newsclippings can contaminate other records around them because the newsprint is highly acidic.
I came back today and worked for a few more hours. I had picked up some storage boxes, and brought those in. I cleared everything out of what had once been a pantry except for some maps on one of the shelves that are in such fragile condition I don't dare move them for the time being. I tidied up the random piles, and took out some empty cardboard boxes that are really just garbage, leaving them to be "de-accessioned" by one of the board members. I also removed the 48-star flag and the table from the middle of the library space. The table fits perfectly in the now-cleaned-out pantry, and may make a good work space once I get going again. It is possible to walk across the room once more.
But my second concern. I want to talk to people with training and expertise in this area, to find out how in a general way they might impose some semblance of order on the materials, before I do something that would be difficult or time-consuming to undo later on. In the meantime, I have gotten a start on what looks to be a lengthy and quite interesting project!
Monday, June 11, 2012
Finally, the Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society June meeting is coming up June 26--which reminds me! I have some phone calls to make and information to put together before that meeting...a future blog post on the details of our summer's work there is in the pipeline too.
I also graduated on May 17 with my masters degree in history -- I found it somewhat odd I was the only Rhode Island College MA history student to graduate in either the August 2011, January 2012, or May 2012 semesters -- when I first started there were at least dozen students pursuing the thesis-optioned MA in history. Talking with my thesis advisor Dr. Ron Dufour this past spring, he prophesied that the History MA degree at RIC would likely be phased out in the next few years... I wonder too what effect the proposed replacement of both the Board of Governors for Higher Education and the the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education with an 11-member k-20+ Board of Education is going to have on ALL public education in Rhode Island.
On a lighter note, I walked into a CPT meeting last week and discovered the History Department got a delicious cake last week to celebrate my graduation and another department member's successful acquisition of the guidance position she has been working toward for about as long as I've been working in my thesis. Cake is good!
The kids have been very busy with softball, swim and dance, which means Tara and I have been busy since none of the people can drive themselves yet to any of these activities. But this is the last week at work -- major course assessments for seniors finished last week and underclass exams are this week. Light at the end of the tunnel! Next week, Inara will turn 4, on the same day that the 2011-2012 school year will come to an end. Huzzah!
Everyone has been working hard on the garden. Tara has done much of the work this year, and it's entirely to her credit the garden is doing very well. We still need to plant some hill vegetables and tomatoes and maybe some peppers if we can find room. The legumes and lettuces are all starting to come up. We are also doing two farm shares this summer (I feel a juice fast coming on soon!) Just this past weekend we located several sources of locally-produced chicken and beef, which I intend to write more about in a future blog post.
Finally, in what I interpret as a good omen for the yard and garden this summer, yesterday morning we discovered an eastern box turtle sunning itself on the front step. The turtle became very curious of me sitting in his (or her?) vicinity and tried to crawl up -- first my shoe, then the steps -- to get a closer look at me. Kitty Man then became very curious of the turtle, but Tara shooed Mr. Man off before any possibility of a Cat vs Turtle war tournament could break out in the herb garden...and at that point the turtle took leave and very quickly hustled off.