Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Biscuit Jars

      A biscuit jar, you ask?  What is a biscuit----a bun, a roll .....  The antique biscuit jar I have belonged to my grandmother Winnie and always had a special place on the built in shelves in her living room.  She had many beautiful tea cups, plates and other pieces of china but only one little biscuit jar.  She never placed it on the dining table, nor did she ever offer me a treat from it so I always wondered where it came from or to whom it belonged before it found a home on her book shelves.  She also had a very large china cabinet/closet in which she kept her German made gold trimmed dishes along with clear cut glass goblets and fancy bowls.  But all of the hand painted or colorful porcelain pieces were on the book shelves in the living room.  Hmmmm, I finally decided that she must have enjoyed looking at all of the pretty flowers and designs that decorated those pieces because Winnie wasn't a "fancy" woman and indeed, I always have a picture of her in my mind weariing house dresses with sensible granny shoes, so for her to have something soft and pretty was slightly out of character.  However, she had some interesting hats and they also reside at my house so maybe some day I will have to find some photos in which she is wearing them at a very jaunty angle.  At any rate---back to the biscuit jar.  It might have belonged to her mother or to her mother in law, but neither of those stern looking German women seemed the type to cherish such a fine piece of glassware considering that they both had long journeys in early covered wagons or bumpy train rides before they settled into their new lives.  At some point my grandmother started attending local auctions and I know she won the bid on some very nice items that were being sold by prominent people in the community.  My grandparents had moved from the farm into town so perhaps she decided to treat herself by buying  some old antique pieces which fit into her new lifestyle.
     Biscuit jars originated in the 18th century in England and were used to store tea time treats such as scones or tea cakes since this activity was indeed a very big deal in homes at the time.   I can't picture placing Hi Hos or Saltines or gummy bears in these delicate and pretty jars so let's just pretend that they became  early cookie jars,  although  by today's standards,  plastic will be the chosen product.  At any rate, my biscuit jar is in a closed glass fronted cupboard that holds some of my favorite things that include other hand painted  china pieces as well as goblets and sherbets that came from generations of  mothers, aunts, grand mothers and great grandmothers and maybe a few friends. When my grandma passed away, I found that she kept newspaper articles, pages torn from magazines with poems or the odd photo of friends or family so it did hold memories for her, but not biscuits.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dead End Photo Albums

I assume all of you of a certain age will remember the dead end letter department of the U.S. Postal service.  Since most of humanity uses phones, texts, emails, computers etc. instead of letter writing the art of communication has changed dramatically in the past ten years----yikes is that all of the time that has passed?  Anyway,  saving  photos on those devices as well as  our memory cards and  clouds in the sky are the usual method for preserving our memories these days.  Recently, I have had occasion to purchase at auction or in antique shops  a number of photo albums containing wonderful studio cards and photos depicting women, children, military men and newly wed couples usually dressed in their finery and seated in photo studio with ornate wicker, ferns, arty back drops and sometimes heavy drapery.  The clothing and d├ęcor give excellent clues as to the time period these very personal photos were taken.  I have admired the carefully coifed "dos" of the women or the outrageous hats they donned all for vanity.  Men's fashions don't usually vary greatly from one decade to another, although now and then a young fellow will display a touch of dash with a watch fob or rakish hat.  Children are particularly fetching because they, of course, are the most natural in their poses.  Some early photos have survived and they are poignant in their simplicity----no fancy clothing or furniture but rather a couple or single person looking out at us with a certain degree of sadness.  Usually, the new pioneers or emigrants  had these pictures taken in order to send something home across the vast ocean or to prove that they had indeed survived the journey and made it to the new land or new home across the vast American landscape.   Genealogists love photos and often use them as clues when trying to determine the time period depicted.  Unfortunately,  most of these wonderful historical photographs are never identified and the only clues as to location is the name of the photographer and usually the name of town or city where they were located.  Those old photos will never have names attached and even though they may have survived a hundred years, it is likely they won't survive another.  Their destination won't be a dead album department, but more than likely will be tossed in the trash and sent to a landfill or burned in a barrel. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What is the Belamy salute?

For years I have wondered why the children of District 11 in Grant County Minnesota appeared to be using the Nazi salute in a photo I have of my dad and his sister ca: early 1920s.  Finally, I challenged myself to spend time trying to figure out the mystery.  This gesture is called the Bellamy Salute.  Originally this pledge of allegiance  was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy who was a Christian socialist magazine writer and at some point the pledge and gesture appeared  in a children's magazine called The Youth's Companion.  This magazine was subscribed to by many schools and they also received a free flag, probably as a promotion.  The inventor of the saluting gesture was James B. Upham, a partner and editor of the Youth's Companion.  Bellamy recalled that Upham, when reading the pledge saluted the flag, snapped heels together, and said "Now up there is the flag; I come to salute; as I say "I pledge allegiance to my flag,"  I stretch out my right hand and keep it raised while I say the stirring words that follow."  This ceremony was first demonstrated October 12, 1892 during National School Celebration of Columbus Day.  In the 1920s -30s the salute became associated with Italian fascists and later in the 1940s the Nazis adopted a similar  form---outstretched arm., clicking heels.   It was formally replaced by Congress with the familiar hand-on-heart gesture we use during the pledge to the flag.  Where did the idea originate-----it was thought to herald back to the time of the Roman soldiers hailing Caeser.  There are many articles written about this subject so if you are interested in learning more start googling!