History of a Wandering Yankee

Port Chilkoot
Gil Smith, Port Chilkoot, Alaska, n.d., watercolor, Image credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum

For the next several months, I will be posting parts of a travelogue written by Frank L. Felter as he traveled through Alaska at the turn of the century. Frank is a very distant relative- my cousin six times removed (he is the cousin of my great, great, great, great grandfather). After his trip, he wrote all about it in a long letter to my family living in New York. Frank lived in Los Angeles and I doubt he traveled back east often. This letter/manuscript is incredibly detailed and has been a really interesting read. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!

I’ll try to post the letter a page at a time, so expect to see many more posts after this one! I’ll end this post with the introduction my grandfather, Charles Sargent, wrote when he transcribed the original copy.

Map_of_maps__Alaska_and_British_Columbia_showing_the_Yukon_Cariboo_Cassiar_with_a_portion_of_the_Kootenay_gold_fields
Alaska and British Columbia showing the Yukon, Cariboo, Cassiar, with a portion of the Kootenay gold fields. 1901. Image source: University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Over one hundred years ago, the attached travelog was written by Frank Felter describing a trip he and his wife, Nell, made in the year 1900 from Los Angeles to Skagway, Alaska utilizing steamers and railroads. His vivid descriptions and attention to details reflect the fact that he must have taken copious notes along the way. His motivation to write this travelog was to tell his upstate New York cousins (Ostego County) about his experiences on the trip.

Since my “original” copy of this manuscript suffers from successive copying, I have had it retyped with absolutely no editing.

Frank and Nell left Los Angeles on May 1, 1900 and returned to L.A. on August 26 after extended lay overs in San Francisco, Portland and Skagway. On Sept. 18, 1900, after his return, Frank wrote a letter to his upstate New York cousins Frank and Mary Sargent (my grandparents) which stated:

“Have had lots of fun and seen lots of queer sights. Someday I think I’ll write a short story of my travels and have it printed and call it ‘History of a Wandering Yankee,’ sell it for 2¢ ea., 3 for a nickel. Would it pay do you think or had I better stick to my present occupation and mend shoes.”

I hope future generations will get their 2 cents worth as I have.

Incidentally, Frank Felter was the grandson of Hiram Hammond, my great, great grandfather.

Charles R. Sargent
Baltimore
February 2004

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More than an Institution: Farview State Hospital

Farview 12
The view from Farview State Hospital extends for miles. Visible in this picture is the Superintendent’s home. Circa 1920 Image credit: PA State Archives RG23.992 Farview State Hospital.

Driving along Route 6 in Wayne County, the view extends for miles. The Moosic Mountains dominate the landscape with their graceful peaks and quiet valleys. Small ponds and lakes add shades of blue to the landscape, and there are only a few small houses and farms in sight. It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful scene in Pennsylvania. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that these “restful and healthful qualities” have attracted tourists and admirers since the early 19th century.[1] The area’s beauty, isolation, and healing features, however, have also welcomed another group of Pennsylvanians: the mentally ill. Since 1912, thousands of patients lived on top of a Wayne County mountain plateau at Farview State Hospital, Pennsylvania’s first and only institution devoted to the care of the criminally insane.

From its modest beginning of a few wards and administrative buildings, the patients and staff at Farview worked hard over the decades to expand the hospital and its grounds and turn it into a self-sufficient community with all the facilities needed for the care of mentally insane patients. By the 1960s the institution had grown to become the home of over 1400 patients from all over Pennsylvania, complete with dozens of buildings and a 300 acre farm. For 84 years, Farview served as a home and community for patients who needed care and attention unavailable in prisons or other mental institutions. The hospital’s colorful history, full of challenges and dramatic transformations, sheds light on society’s changing views regarding proper care for the mentally ill, as well as the experiences of Pennsylvania’s mentally ill citizens. Continue reading “More than an Institution: Farview State Hospital”

A Week of Meals in 1942

Two weeks ago I decided to try out a new blog post format where I inserted my own thoughts and comments into text copied from the wartime edition of the American Woman’s Cookbook. Looking back, I have decided that it wasn’t the most reader-friendly way to present information and I don’t think I’ll do that again. Too much information was crammed in there. I think the post was a little too hard to digest (pun definitely intended) easily. Here is an addendum to that post: a sample week’s worth of meals taken straight from the book. Enjoy!

Sharecropper kitchen
“Corner of Kitchen and Dining Room in Ed Bagget’s House. Sharecropper Kitchen is Screened but Otherwise Open. Near Laurel, Mississippi.” 1939. Image source: Library of Congress.

HOW TO FEED A FAMILY OF FIVE ON $15 PER WEEK

“New taxes and other additional cash outlays that occur in wartime together with definite shortages in many commodities require the sharpest kind of economy. This will be no new experience to the homemaker who has been feeding a family of two adults and three children on $15.00 a week. But for those who must learn to carry on when that figure is new to them, the following pages will help meet the challenge.”

Defense Home kitchen
Kitchen in a new defense home in Bantam, Connecticut. 1942. Image Source: Library of Congress.

“Whims and fancies break down well-laid plans for good nutrition. Everybody must eat all food prepared if there is to be a minimum of waste. This puts upon the homemaker the responsibility of careful selection and good cooking. The test of a good cook is a clean plate. And good cooking means conserving all the food values…minerals and vitamins.”

Buy Carefully

“Buy staples in quantities when permitted. Meats, fruits and vegetables need to be inspected carefully and bought in accordance with the market and the season. The woman who does her own marketing will have all the advantage over the woman who telephones and sends a child. Discriminating judgment at market is what saves money every day. Make a check list in your kitchen and then stick to it. Stay within your food budget every week. A dangerous pitfall is that of overbuying one week in the hope of making it up the next. If there is a little cash left, buy eggs or fruit. Raise a garden and poultry if you can. It will take pressure off the budget.” Continue reading “A Week of Meals in 1942”

Carlisle Indian School Disinterment

Carlisle_3
Students outside after classes, circa 1895. Image credit: Dickinson College.

Earlier this week U.S. Army personnel began excavating the remains of three Northern Arahapo boys who were students at the Carlisle Indian School in the 1880s. Little Chief, Horse, and Little Plume all arrived at the school on March 11, 1881 from the Dakota Rosebud reservation. Unfortunately, all three died within the next few years and were buried in the school’s cemetery.

The Carlisle Indian School was founded as a government-run boarding school in 1879 with the goal of assimilating thousands of Native American children into mainstream “American” culture. Students came from reservations and tribes all across North America. According to the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center : “the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (CIS) served as the model for off-reservation boarding schools across the U.S. and Canada. Operating from 1879-1918, CIS enrolled over 10,000 students from across the United States. Rather than continue the costly “Indian wars,” the founder of Carlisle, Capt. Henry Richard Pratt convinced Congress that schools such as Carlisle should be established to assimilate and “civilize” Indian children.”

Check out their website to view thousands of digitized photos and documents, as well as links to teaching resources and other publications about the school and its impact on Native Americans and the United States as a whole. There is a lot of really interesting and important material here.

To make sure that no remains or artifacts are accidentally destroyed or lost in the disinterment process this week, the graves are being dug up by hand and the soil sifted through screens. Delicate but important work for sure. After the remains are disinterred, they will be buried at the Winder River Reservation in Wyoming where the tribe currently lives.

Rose White Thunder
Rose White Thunder attended the school in the 1880s.Image credit: Dickinson College.

When I worked at the National Anthropological Archives in Washington D.C., we occasionally had different tribal groups travel to the museum to repatriate (is that the right term?) the remains of their ancestors that had been collected by Smithsonian scientists in the 19th and early 20th century for research purposes. If you want to learn more about the repatriation process see this link.

The best resource for learning more about the school is Dickinson College’s Digital Resource Center (linked above). The PA State Archives also has a small collection of photos and publications, as well as a microfilm collection of school records that are also useful for learning more.

 

Carlisle_1
This photograph of the entire student body was taken in 1884. Image credit: Dickinson College.

What’s for Lunch? Victory!

In 1942, the Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago printed a special wartime edition of The American Woman’s Cookbook to prepare American kitchens for World War II. Institute Director and editor Ruth Berolzheimer prepared the popular cookbook’s 5th edition with plenty of new recipes designed to stretch food budgets and use rationed food effectively. “To become a good cook means to gain a knowledge of foods and how they behave, and skill in manipulating them. The recipe by itself, being helpful as it is, will not produce a good product; the human being using the recipe must interpret it and must have skill in handling the materials it prescribes.” Berolzheimer’s book wasn’t just a list of recipes, it was a guide to being an effective cook who could work effectively in any situation. With World War II just entering the American home front, the wartime edition was designed to prepare homemakers (as housewives were then called) for what could be a long war with many shortages and unusual kitchen scenarios.

Total War
From a volunteer training manual from the War Price and Rationing Boards, 1943. Image source: National Archives.

I’ve copied several passages from the “Wartime Cookery” section at the end of the book that shed some light on the changes that typical meals underwent during the war. I’m trying out a new kind of blog post: I’ve written some comments and explanations in blue where I thought something was interesting or could use some context. Hopefully my comments don’t make this post seem too cluttered! Keep in mind that this book was written in 1942 before most food and product rations were announced and before Americans knew how long the war would last.

Ration Book On1
Contents of a typical ration book. Image source: Ames Historical Society.

Continue reading “What’s for Lunch? Victory!”

The Littlest Models: Harry Whittier Frees’ Animal Photography

“Puppies are tractable when rightly understood, but the kitten is the most versatile animal actor, and possesses the greatest variety of appeal.”

Harry Whittier Frees was a Pennsylvania native and creator of novelty animal postcards in the early 1900s. He is best known for his photographs of kittens and puppies dressed up and acting out human scenes.

The Cook
Harry Whittier Frees, “The Cook,” 1914. Photo Credit: Library of Congress.

Continue reading “The Littlest Models: Harry Whittier Frees’ Animal Photography”

Getting to Know the Culture Industry

benton_hollywood.jpg
Thomas Hart Benton, “Hollywood” (1937-1938). Image Credit: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

A couple years ago in graduate school at the University of Maryland, I took a course on history and contemporary theory. It was pretty much a combination of philosophy, historical theory, and historiography. A difficult class, but I certainly learned a lot.

One of the projects in the class, as I can remember it, was to design a lecture for undergraduate students about one aspect of historical theory and create an accompanying book list for reading. Given my interest in popular culture and business history, I decided to talk about the “Culture Industry” a theory that came from Frankfurt School historians/theorists in the mid 20th century (see also my blog post on War of the Worlds for more on this theory). I wasn’t able to give this lecture to an actual group of students, but I did film it and post it on Youtube. If you’d like to see the lecture, click here.

A few people commented on the video saying that they’d like to see the slides, so here is a link to my power point: The Culture Industry_presentation.

If you’re interested in learning more, this is my recommended Culture Industry reading list, complete with a variety of primary and secondary sources that explore the commodification of leisure and entertainment from a variety of angles: Continue reading “Getting to Know the Culture Industry”