Rising sea levels threaten to drown over 13,000 American historical sites up and down the east coast over the next century. That’s according to a new study from the Panel on Climate Change, which found that in addition to displacing millions of people, engorged oceans may soon swallow the Kennedy Space Center, an historic North Carolina light house and, perhaps most ironically, Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Why is this ironic? Because the destruction of Europeans’ first permanent home here would be the culmination of America’s long and very willful ignorance on climate change.
Except for those completely committed to bike life, most of us are packing away our wheels for the winter, tearing at the freedom and fun put on hold until warmer days return. While I can’t control the weather, I can offer a few visual treats to help you get through, all from the 1890s, the period in which bicycles as know them took off…
There had been bicycle-type vehicles for decades, including variations on the pedal-less contraption German inventor Karl von Drais’ called a “running machine,” but which the public often called a “velocipede,” a “dandy horse” or, in England, a “pedestrian curricle,” and there was also the unforgiving British device nicknamed the “bone-shaker,” but bicycles as we know them didn’t take off until the 1860s, when the French company Michaux added pedals. Though was slow going at first — bikes didn’t arrive in America until 1878 —the vehicles finally became a full-on craze by the 1890s.
With the Industrial Revolution in full swing, when there were so many options of transport — steam trains, steam ships, automobiles and subways — men and women were opting to propel themselves. (So popular were bikes with women that some of the images you see here allude to a revolutionary change not only in women’s fashion, but their place in society at large.)
The bike’s popularity hasn’t waned since, becoming an indelible part of human culture the world over. Now, if we can just muster a bit more interest, we can leave this climate change thing in the dust in no time: a 2015 study showed that increasing global bike riding to 20% in urban areas would help reduce carbon emissions 11% by 2050. But we in the States still have a long way to go: current ridership in U.S. cities is only 1%.
(And f more “Found in the L.O.C., click HERE.)
Tuesdays are traditionally wordplay days over here, and my original intent was to do a short post on Dictionary.com’s word of the year, “complicit.” Then President Trump went and again referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” and, as he does, changed the game.
So, real quick, here’s something I learned today, while researching the real-life woman we call Pocahontas: Pocahontas wasn’t her real name. Not really, at least.
Like many Powhatan Indians, “P” was given a series of names throughout the course of her life: her birth name was Matoaka, meaning “bright stream between the hills;” she was later given the name Amonute, which doesn’t translate from Powhatan to English; and later in life, after marrying John Rolfe and converting to Christianity, she changed her name to Rebecca.
According to Jamestown Secretary William Strachey, Pocahontas was a childhood nickname given to her by her father; translated to “little wanton,” it captured her adventurous independence. But according to William Stith, a 19th century historian who devoted his life to studying the Virginia colony, Pocahontas was something of a codename to ward of white curses. From his 1865 The History of the First Settlement of Virginia:
“The Indians carefully concealed [her real name] from the English and changed it to Pocahontas, out of a superstitious fear, lest they, by the knowledge of her true name, should be enabled to do her some hurt.”
As someone who just completed a book all about American myths, I understand this could be apocryphal; and it’s just as possible the name Pocahontas was both a childhood nickname and a curse deterrent. But if Stith’s correct and “Pocahontas” was something of a shield against vexation, then there’s a certain irony to Trump and his supporters using the sham sobriquet to slur Elizabeth Warren. The Powhatan prophecy came true, only for a woman by another name.
(For more Fun with Words, click HERE.)
The log cabin is more complicated than you may think. In fact, I wrote a whole book about it, one beginning with the question, “Why is the log cabin a BFD in the USA?”
You can learn the fully labyrinthine and altogether fascinating answer in said book, The Log Cabin: An Illustrated History. But as you wait for your copy to arrive, here are 14 things you never knew about log cabins, plus two tangentially related factoids, too.
1. No Log Cabins in Plymouth:
We’ve all seen school books and Thanksgiving cards depicting cheery Pilgrims building log cabins, images that cast the structure as the invention of English settlers, as America’s first true home. But that’s all bunk.
The truth of the matter is that English colonists didn’t live in log cabins. They didn’t even know how to make log cabins. Accustomed to fine brick and frame homes back home, that’s what they built when they got here. Well, not immediately.
First, they slummed it in subterranean dugouts, waiting in the mud until planks could be cut and bricks kiln-fired. It was not a good look… Luckily these ugly bits would be edited out in the centuries ahead.
2. The Swedes and Finns Did It:
So, if the English didn’t bring log cabins to American shores, then who? I guess the sub-header here sort of spoils the beans, but, yes, it was the Swedes and Finns of New Sweden who erected America’s first log cabins. They and their ancestors had been building them for generations, so whipping them together here was simple as pie. But they didn’t make a lasting impression.
New Sweden was so small in population and so short-lived — it fell to the Dutch in 1655 and the land was brought under British rule in 1664 — that it had very little pull in colonial culture at large. Their English and Dutch neighbors weren’t about to copy their homes; Swedish and Finnish log cabins were therefore anomalies in this era, and the structure probably would have faded into oblivion had it not been for the thousands of immigrants who started arriving in the 1700s.
On November 14, 1959, two months before announcing his presidential campaign, John Kennedy published a TV Guide article evaluating television’s influence on American politics. His assessment? It’s complicated.
Clearly the then-new media was already instrumental in engaging and informing the public and would continue to be for generations, but the future president also worried about PR hacks creating fraudulent charlatans, feared media manipulation, and fretted about how prohibitive advertising costs would keep good politicians down.
From the conclusion of his piece, “A Force That Has Changed The Political Scene:”
…Political success on television is not, unfortunately, limited only to those who deserve it. It is a medium which lends itself to manipulation, exploitation and gimmicks. It can be abused by demagogs [sic], by appeals to emotion and prejudice and ignorance.
Political campaigns can be actually taken over by the “public relations” experts, who tell the candidate not only how to use TV but what to say, what to stand for and what “kind of person” to be. Political shows, like quiz shows, can be fixed-and sometimes are.
The other great problem TV presents for politics is the item of financial cost. It is no small item…. If all candidates and parties are to have equal access to this essential and decisive campaign medium, without becoming deeply obligated to the big financial contributors from the worlds of business, labor or other major lobbies, then the time has come when a solution must be found to this problem of TV costs.
…The basic point is this: Whether TV improves or worsens our political system, whether it serves the purpose of political education or deception, whether it gives us better or poorer candidates, more intelligent or more prejudiced campaigns-the answers to all this are up to you, the viewing public.
It is in your power to perceive deception, to shut off gimmickry, to reward honesty, to demand legislation where needed. Without your approval, no TV show is worthwhile and no politician can exist.
Kennedy was of course right about it all, as he was when he noted that television would breed a new generation of polished and youthful candidates. The only thing Kennedy got wrong in his essay? This: “Today a vast viewing public is able to detect [political] deception…” He always was an optimistic one…