The Gilgamesh Dream Tablet

Hobby Lobby is a chain of big-box craft stores in the United States, privately held by David Green. Green is a committed Christian: he is a major donor to evangelical causes and keeps Hobby Lobby closed on Sundays. This stance earned him a certain notoriety back in 2014, when he successfully sued the government to be exempt from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. He was not against contraception as such, just the obligation to fund “Plan B” drugs and IUDs, which prevent fertilized embryos from implanting themselves in the uterine wall, and thus constitute baby-killing, as far as he is concerned. A lot of people were upset about this – but not the sort of people who tend to shop at Hobby Lobby, so the chain abides.

Green’s major vanity project is the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. I certainly think that such an important book is worthy of a museum, although how it is presented will of course be controversial (“It’s not really a museum of the Bible, it’s a museum of American Protestantism” – Biblical scholar Candida Moss). An even bigger problem with the place has been how it acquires its material. Following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the Arab Spring in 2011, there has been a great deal of instability in the Middle East, and thus a thriving black market for antiquities, which the Museum of the Bible has participated in – even, perhaps, funding ISIS in doing so! In 2018, the Museum returned some 5500 artifacts to Iraq, and agreed to pay a $3 million fine as punishment for illegally importing them. The latest news that the Museum has been stripped of the so-called Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, a clay tablet measuring five by six inches and inscribed in Sumerian cuneiform, which will also go back to its country of origin. This one actually disappeared in the wake of the first Iraq War in 1991, and was purchased at auction at Christie’s in London in 2014, so the Museum is not entirely at fault here. Nonetheless, it would be nice if they applied the same scrupulosity to their acquisitions that Mr. Green does towards contraception.

Banned Books, Again

My observation is that we’re all hypocrites about freedom of speech. When it comes to speech we agree with, of course we’re in favor of it. When it comes to speech we disagree with, we have all sorts of rationalizations at our disposal about why we shouldn’t have to listen; indeed, why that speech (now designated “misinformation”) should be “deplatformed” or censored, or its speakers punished. I assume that, given the opportunity, everyone would act on this principle, but of course I am most familiar with its operation in academia, where speech from the left is cherished, and speech from the right condemned. ‘Twas ever thus, and I think of it again during the fatuous Banned Books Week, which is upon us once again. Here is a Facebook graphic for this event:

From a Facebook friend: 

News you can use, from Snead Hearn. Guess what? Most threatened books these days are not about rebellious white men! With one exception they’re books by and about LGBTQ people that challenge gender and sexual (hetero) norms.  

From Snead Hearn: 

My genuine thanks to someone on my feed for giving me a reason to talk about something relevant and political that means a lot to me.

It IS Banned Books Week, that’s true. And that’s important! But if you see this graphic (the original, without the red cross-out and note I’ve added) being shared around… it’s wrong. And I think it’s wrong in a kind of deliberately gross way that we need to talk about.

This picture of stacked books didn’t actually come from Banned Books Week. I know that because these are not actually the top 10 most banned books anymore. THESE books haven’t been the most banned for many years. Many of you probably remember them fondly from your youth – I do too, but it was OUR youth when they were being routinely challenged. I suspect they’re being trotted out falsely as current because the current political climate makes it easy to pretend that “woke liberals” are trying to get old classics pulled off the shelves for not being with the times, buuuuuuuut (1) they aren’t, and (2) when these books WERE being banned, it wasn’t the left doing it, it was people upset by Huckleberry Finn discussing American racism, or who thought that 1984 was “pro communist”. In short: it’s never been “the libs” banning these books, y’all. (Psst: they’re usually the librarians fighting to keep the books on the shelves.)

“So which books are actually being banned *now*? Here’s the current top 10, and the reasons why, and you can read more about Banned Books Week at the link

– #1: George by Alex Gino

Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”

– #2: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased

– #3: A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning

– #4: Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth

Reasons: Challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”

– #5: Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Reasons: Challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint

– #6: I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”

– #7: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”

– #8: Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”

– #9: Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals

– #10: And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole

Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content

That’s the ACTUAL list. Maybe you’ll notice a theme.

There are exceptions, but speaking by the numbers (“most banned” is the name of the meme, after all) it isn’t folks on the left who ban books in America. It’s a GOOD thing to care about, but caring means actually knowing what you’re talking about.

And if you *agree* with *these* bans, the ones actually happening now… maybe think about that a minute.

For even more information, here’s the top 100 most banned books of the decade 2010-2019.

Most of the books pictured in the graphic aren’t even in the Top 100 anymore, and none of them is in the Top 10. Which is great! People aren’t banning these anymore. But we should be upset about what they *are* banning *now*. So feel free to use this post and these links to challenge misinformation and support some books that are actually, currently under threat.

I refer you to an earlier post of mine about Banned Books week, and my criticism still stands: what does it mean for a book to be “banned”? Forbidden by federal law like meth? Or just removed from the shelves of your local public library?* Oh dear – I guess we’ll have to order it from Amazon then! Thankfully, all of these books are available on Amazon (I checked), so even if the squares in your town have succeeded in getting My Princess Boy pulled from the shelves of the library, you can still buy it over the Internet for the price of two packs of smokes or five Monster energy drinks. 

But you know what you can’t buy on Amazon? F. Roger Devlin’s Sexual Utopia in Power, Roosh V’s Game, or Colin Flaherty’s Don’t Make the Black Kids Angry. All of these were available, and then all of a sudden they weren’t (and something tells me that you won’t be able to find them at the local library either). Now, you could say that they’ve been removed for a good reason – to which I reply, maybe so, but I don’t want to hear anything from you about “banned books.” Just come clean and say yeah, we’ve taken a side. A poignant coming-of-age YA novel about a transgendered teen is simply better than a “red-pill” book about the allegedly true nature of women, according to this standard. One deserves protection and promotion, the other condemnation and erasure.** That’s fine, but don’t complain about “the left” being unfairly tarnished as “book banners.” If anything, it’s the left that desires the removal of Huckleberry Finn on account of That Word, the left that does not like 1984 on account of its bleak portrayal of Communism, and the left that wants the removal of Harry Potter, not on account of witchcraft and spells, but because of J.K. Rowling thinks that trans women aren’t really women.

* And what does it mean for a book to be “challenged”? A request that it be removed from the shelves for reasons of content? Whoa… that’s serious!

** I realize that my original argument now applies to me: these books have not been “banned,” and if you can’t buy them from Amazon, then buy them somewhere else. This is true, although I can’t help but notice places selling this sort of thing tend to get their ability to process credit card payments yanked, which is indeed getting pretty close to “banning.” 

Dr. Seuss

This post isn’t all that topical anymore, but a recent visit to the University of Minnesota’s Children’s Literature Research Collection has helped to answer a longstanding question that I had.

In March of this year, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the organization that owns the rights to the works of Theodore Seuss Geisel (1904-1991), a.k.a. beloved children’s author “Dr. Seuss,” announced that they would cease publishing six of his books. After “working with a panel of experts, including educators,” DSE determined that these six books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong”: 

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937)
McElligot’s Pool (1947)
If I Ran the Zoo (1950)
Scrambled Eggs Super! (1953)
On Beyond Zebra! (1955)
The Cat’s Quizzer (1976)
 

At the time, DSE did not elucidate exactly how these books’ contents were “hurtful and wrong.” This is the usual quandary – you want people to know that that an offense has been committed, but you don’t want to draw attention to the details, lest you end up amplifying the offense. But I’ve always believed the Faber College motto that “Knowledge is Good,” and that ordinary people deserve to know what’s going on. So, courtesy the Children’s Literature Research Collection, in particular its Kerlan Collection, First Floor Tarpley presents the apparently problematic details of these works (two of the books weren’t available at UMN, but I found them online).

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937). Summary: Walking home from school, a boy named Marco sees a horse and wagon on Mulberry Street. Dissatisfied with such an ordinary sight, Marco keeps inventing and adding details to it, such that by the time he gets home he has “seen” a great parade of exotic people and creatures. 

Problems:

• The couplet “Say—anyone could think of that,/ Jack or Fred or Joe or Nat—/ Say, even Jane could think of that” can be read as sexist: four boys are alike in mediocrity, while the one girl is even worse.

• One of the things that Marco invents is an elephant bearing a “Rajah,” perhaps truckling in Orientalist stereotypes.

Kerlan Collection.

• Another thing that Marco invents is “a Chinaman who eats with sticks.” 

Kerlan Collection

“Chinaman,” as a term, is “often pejorative,” and his bright yellow skin tone, slanted eye, conical hat, and Qing-era queue are stereotypical as well. The geta shoes that he wears are actually Japanese. With the popularization of Chinese food in the United States, “eating with sticks” is no longer remarkable. 

McElligot’s Pool (1947). Summary: Marco reappears, this time fishing in McElligot’s Pool – a fool’s errand, according to a passerby, since the pool has no fish, but lots of junk that people have thrown into it. But Marco imagines that the pool might be connected to an underground river that eventually leads to the sea, which would allow him to catch all kinds of exotic fish from all over the world.

Problems:

• One species of exotic fish is the Eskimo Fish from beyond Hudson Bay.

BooksVooks.

“Eskimo” is now somewhat pejorative (“Inuit” has been prescribed as an alternative name for some time in Canada, and the Edmonton Eskimos CFL team recently became the Edmonton Elks). The fur parkas the fish wear might be seen as stereotypical. 

• Another fish, from “the world’s highest river in Tibet,” has an odd-looking Tibetan watching it.

BooksVooks.

If I Ran the Zoo (1950). Summary: A boy imagines running the zoo. If he did, he would release all the “ordinary” animals like lions, giraffes, and zebras, and find fantastic ones as substitutes, such as the It-Kutch, the Preep, and the the Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill.

Problems:

• To capture a bird called a Bustard, and a beast called a Flustard, the narrator must travel to the desert of Zomba-ma-Tant, “with helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant.”

Kerlan Collection.

Kerlan Collection.

These creatures may not be real, but real people do have “slanted” eyes (actually: upper eyelids with epicanthic folds) and one generally does not make a big deal about this fact. 

• The “scraggle foot Mulligatawny” may be found in the “Desert of Zind.” The “brave chieftain” who rides him may be parallel to the “Rajah” above.  

Kerlan Collection.

• The “tizzle-topped Tufted Mazurka” from the “African Island of Yerka” is carried by two natives of rather stereotypical appearance. 

Kerlan Collection.

• Our narrator has designs on “A Gusset, a Gherkin, a Gasket, and also a Gootch from the wilds of Nantasket.” 

Kerlan Collection.

These creatures would be carried by “eight Persian princes,” characters not unlike the Rajah or the brave chieftain.

Scrambled Eggs Super! (1953). Summary: Peter T. Hooper, tired of the same old scrambled eggs from a hen, goes hunting rare and exotic eggs from various creatures, like the Rufflenecked Salamagoox or the Tizzle-topped Grouse.

Problems:

• Peter T. Hooper explains his project to his little sister, looking like a pickup artist in a bar.

Kerlan Collection.

• The book includes an exotic character named Ali, another Orientalist caricature.

Kerlan Collection.

Kerlan Collection.

• Other creatures in the book are “Wogs” (“the world’s sweetest frogs,” but also a pejorative name for an East Asian) and the “Kwigger” (a name uncomfortably close to a certain other word). 

On Beyond Zebra! (1955). Summary: A boy has mastered the alphabet, and invents further letters after Z, like Yuzz, Wum, or Snee. These letters are used to begin the names of various exotic creatures. If Z begins Zebra, then Yuzz can begin Yuzz-a-ma-Tuzz (pictured).

Kerlan Collection.

Kerlan Collection.

Problems:

• Not only is a letter called “SPAZZ” (in my day, a diminutive of “spastic” and an insult), it is used to spell “Spazzim, a beast who belongs to the Nazzim of Bazzim.” These Nazzim of Bazzim are seemingly Orientalist caricatures.

Kerlan Collection.

• The player of a “kind of hunting horn called the o’Grunth” (to attract a Flunnel, a creature beginning with the letter FLUNN) also looks somewhat Orientalist.

Kerlan Collection.

The Cat’s Quizzer (1976). Summary: This book has no plot as such, but instead challenges the reader to answer a series of questions, some simple, some difficult, and some just absurd. 

Problems:

• On one spread, the reader is asked how old one has to be to be Japanese. The Japanese is shown wearing a stereotypically conical hat. 

Internet Archive.

Internet Archive.

• The caption got cut off with this one, but the original reads, “Which is Taller? A Tall Pigmy or a Short Giant?”

Internet Archive.

“Pigmy” (or more commonly “pygmy”) as a byword for a phenotypically short person is “sometimes considered pejorative.”

(The answers given at the back of the book: “All Japanese are Japanese the minute they are born” and “I know that a short pigmy is never taller than a tall giant. And a tall giant is never shorter than a short pigmy. But about the tall pigmy and the short giant – I give up on that one.”)

So it seems that a lot of Dr. Seuss books feature a plot in which the narrator turns away from the mundane to an imaginative world of the fantastic and bizarre. Unfortunately, one of the ways that Seuss marks for “fantastic” or “bizarre” are actual details from non-Western cultures, which by contrast casts white North Americans as “normal.” This is not how we try to think anymore. 

Once the DSE made the announcement in March prices of the discontinued books shot up on Ebay. Here is a screenshot I took at the time.

Ebay, March 2021.

But the e-commerce site quickly announced that it would not be party to such trade and banned it. One currently searches in vain there for any of the discontinued titles. I seem to remember Amazon making a similar announcement, although its banning was not as absolute as Ebay’s, as you can still find some used copies on Amazon at inflated prices.

Amazon, September 2021.

Amazon, September 2021.

Amazon, September 2021.

The real question is: what was DSE thinking in making the announcement? Dr. Seuss really is beloved, and a lot of people were scandalized that the guardians of his legacy were apparently turning against him. Whether these books are really all that offensive (I make no comment on this, although I wonder if DSE actually consulted any Asians and Africans about them), why did DSE feel the need to tell everyone that it was withdrawing them from publication for political reasons? Books go out of print all the time, and when people enquire about them, the usual answer is that they weren’t making enough money. Against this there is no argument, so why not just do that?

Alternately, why not quietly bowdlerize the books, something else that happens all the time? Richard Scarry was a pioneer on this front. Dr. Seuss’s works themselves have occasionally undergone this treatment: witness a key difference between the original Cat in the Hat (1957), featuring an unnamed narrator and his sister Sally…

Andrew Kay and Associates, Pty Ltd.

…and the PBS cartoon show The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! (2010-18), in which the original narrator is replaced by Nick, Sally’s neighbor, for reasons of diversity.

kpbs.org.

In a similar way, the “Chinaman” on Mulberry Street at one point became a “Chinese man,” and had his skin lightened and his queue lopped off. 

Jake Beal’s Next Step.

One can think of any number of ways that these Seuss books could be modified to keep them in accord with the current mores, either by changing the text, changing the illustrations, or even just omitting a page or two. (No, I’m not going to draw a comparison to the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984 – as long as editorial changes are acknowledged, and the originals available in places like the Kerlan Collection, I’m fine with children not getting the impression that Asians, Inuit, or Africans are somehow exotic or bizarre.)

So why did DSE do what it did? The simplest answer is that like most people right now in academia, publishing, government, the nonprofit sector, or even corporate America, they’re beholden to a certain ideology, and they get points in the eyes of their colleagues for acting in accord with it. They never think that they might be alienating everyone else, and potentially hurting their bottom line, but if they are, it’s a price they’re gladly willing to pay (viz. the recent behavior of the NFL, NASCAR, Dick’s Sporting Goods, etc.). As John McWhorter puts it in another context: this operation might “function as it were to make [DSE] feel noble, and look noble to one another. They were doing their duty as religious parishioners displaying their faith.”

A more complex answer is that the announced discontinuation might be a manufactured scandal. It is better to be talked about than not talked about, as Trump has repeatedly shown, and there is no such thing as negative publicity. DSE is making money on the books they’re still selling (perhaps because people are buying them out of fear that they too will soon be withdrawn?), and they might be making money on the books that they’ve stopped publishing, by selling them at inflated prices through third parties. If so, it’s a cynical and brilliant ploy. 

An answer between these two poles is that DSE is sacrificing some of the obscure titles to protect the popular ones, like Horton Hears a Who! (1954), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), Green Eggs and Ham (1960), The Lorax (1971), Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (1990), and the most famous of them all, The Cat in the Hat (which some people consider to be a racist portrayal of a blackface minstrel performer). The current mores dictate that one’s entire career can be ruined by a single slip-up, and Dr. Seuss is certainly in danger of this, on account of some of his early work on Madison Avenue and the anti-Japanese cartoons he did for PM magazine during World War II (plus, he’s just an old white guy anyway). So DSE decided to throw the “slip-ups” under the bus, while keeping the less objectionable (and more lucrative) stuff. But if this is true, DSE is playing a dangerous game! Any acknowledged association between “Dr. Seuss” and “racism” will come back to haunt them. 

Without knowing the people involved in making this decision I have no idea which one of these answers is true, although Occam’s Razor suggests the first.

Modern Cronies

Ken Wheeler’s new book is now out and available for purchase. From the UGA Press website:

Modern Cronies: Southern Industrialism from Gold Rush to Convict Labor, 1829-1894

By Kenneth H. Wheeler

Modern Cronies traces how various industrialists, thrown together by the effects of the southern gold rush, shaped the development of the southeastern United States. Existing historical scholarship treats the gold rush as a self-contained blip that-aside from the horrors of Cherokee Removal (admittedly no small thing) and a supply of miners to California in 1849-had no other widespread effects. In fact, the southern gold rush was a significant force in regional and national history.

The pressure brought by the gold rush for Cherokee Removal opened the path of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, the catalyst for the development of both Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Iron makers, attracted by the gold rush, built the most elaborate iron-making operations in the Deep South near this railroad, in Georgia’s Etowah Valley; some of these iron makers became the industrial talent in the fledgling postbellum city of Birmingham, Alabama. This book explicates the networks of associations and interconnections across these varied industries in a way that newly interprets the development of the southeastern United States.

Modern Cronies also reconsiders the meaning of Joseph E. Brown, Georgia’s influential Civil War governor, political heavyweight, and wealthy industrialist. Brown was nurtured in the Etowah Valley by people who celebrated mining, industrialization, banking, land speculation, and railroading as a path to a prosperous future. Kenneth H. Wheeler explains Brown’s familial, religious, and social ties to these people; clarifies the origins of Brown’s interest in convict labor; and illustrates how he used knowledge and connections acquired in the gold rush to enrich himself. After the Civil War Brown, aided by his sons, dominated and modeled a vigorous crony capitalism with far-reaching implications.

Order your copy today!

New Blog by Anne Good

Dr. Anne Good, former chair of the history program at Reinhardt, is now assistant curator of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota. The Bell is home to some 40,000 rare books, maps, and manuscripts that focus on the history and impact of trade and cultural exchange in the Early Modern Period. Due to pandemic, she is working remotely for now – but has started a blog entitled Contours of the Premodern World that focuses on items in the Bell’s collection. Check it out – and also the JFB’s Facebook page, which she also regularly updates.

Children by Post

Apparently, at one point you could send children through the mail. From Smithsonian Magazine:

One of the most overlooked, yet most significant innovations of the early 20th century might be the Post Office’s decision to start shipping large parcels and packages through the mail. While private delivery companies flourished during the 19th century, the Parcel Post dramatically expanded the reach of mail-order companies to America’s many rural communities, as well as the demand for their products. When the Post Office’s Parcel Post officially began on January 1, 1913, the new service suddenly allowed millions of Americans great access to all kinds of goods and services. But almost immediately, it had some unintended consequences as some parents tried to send their children through the mail.

“It got some headlines when it happened, probably because it was so cute,” United States Postal Service historian Jenny Lynch tells Smithsonian.com.

Just a few weeks after Parcel Post began, an Ohio couple named Jesse and Mathilda Beagle “mailed” their 8-month-old son James to his grandmother, who lived just a few miles away in Batavia. According to Lynch, Baby James was just shy of the 11-pound weight limit for packages sent via Parcel Post, and his “delivery” cost his parents only 15 cents in postage (although they did insure him for $50). The quirky story soon made newspapers, and for the next several years, similar stories would occasionally surface as other parents followed suit.

More at the link.

King Arthur Flour

Shopping at Publix just now I noticed that King Arthur Flour, perhaps the most medievalist company in the United States,* has gotten a little less medieval. Here is what their logo looked like until July:

prweb.com

And here’s what it looks like now:

An article in Adweek (which features some great animation) indicates that the makeover is, in part:

“The image of a white knight astride a horse felt very masculine, European and old fashioned. Though intended to symbolize King Arthur, the figure actually felt more like a medieval crusader… The cross on the flag further emphasized this religious crusader symbol and would alienate many consumers.” In contrast, the new brand removes hints of militarism or religious affiliation, while retaining the connection to the company’s heritage and the name King Arthur.

Be that as it may, it’s a shame that they couldn’t have found something a little more Arthurian – a sword in the stone, a Round Table, or the Holy Grail all come to mind…

UPDATE: From Theresa Rupp at the Scholarly Dilettante: “The Flour of Chivalry: King Arthur Flour and American Medievalism

* As it happens Canada also has a medievalist brand of flour:

Wikipedia.

I assume that Robin Hood’s redistributive economic policies will ensure that his image does not go the way of King Arthur’s. 

Pine Log and White

More local exploration:

Google Maps.

The Rydal post office is located at the intersection of GA-140 and US-411 in northeastern Bartow County, thus is everyone in the surrounding area denoted as living in “Rydal.” But the community to the northwest of the intersection is generally known to the locals as Pine Log, and the red star on the map indicates the location of Pine Log Methodist Church

Here is how the church appears as you cross under the railroad tracks. It gets its own historical marker, which states:

Historic Pine Log Methodist church, cemetery, tabernacle, and camp grounds, established in 1834. The oldest church in continuous use in Cass/Bartow County. This Church area is on the national register for historic district.

Another marker elaborates:

The church, built 1842; campground and tabernacle, 1888; and cemetery, begun in 1850, were listed in the National Register of Historic Places September 9, 1988. The Methodist organization was founded on this site by Stephen Elliot about 1834 in a community of recent settlers from Eastern Georgia and Pendleton District, S.C. The original meeting house was a log structure which doubled as a school. Many descendants of the first members still attend services here. Camp meetings are held for one week each August.

The size of the cemetery indicates that Pine Log Methodist has indeed been around for some time. And yes, there is a large “tabernacle” (i.e. a roofed but otherwise open building for preaching) behind the church, surrounded by a number of cabins.

I have never seen such a thing on a church grounds. Dr. Wheeler explains:

In the nineteenth century people pitched tents, but over time, families built the cabins, which they stay in during revival week. Holcomb Campground in eastern Cherokee County is this way, too. Basically a holdover from a time before people went on vacations.

Interesting stuff!

If you travel south of Pine Log on Olive Vine Road, you come to Olive Vine Baptist Church, marked with a blue star on the map. It too merits a historic marker. 

This historic church was founded for the glory of God and the furthering of the gospel on Oct 31, 1880 on land donated by Rev. Henry Green Berry Turner. In the original deed, Rev. Turner, who pastored the church for many years, stipulated that “two or more of the said members shall keep up the ordinance and the example of feet washing that belong to the house of God as described in the articles of faith and covenants entered into which the said church was organized.”

Over the years, the white wooden building has remained unchanged externally. The rafters are the original hewn logs.

According to church records, Rev. H.G.B. Turner preached in this building as late as May 7, 1921 when he was in his mid-80s. He died at his home on Feb. 15, 1923. His funeral was conducted in this church on Feb 19, 1923. At his request, he was given a Masonic burial on these grounds.

This Mr. Turner seems quite the fellow. I’m glad that Primitive Baptists were allowed to join the Freemasons. His own grave merits another historic marker, which reads in part:

Rev. Henry Green Berry Turner was born Jan. 5, 1836 near Spartanburg, South Carolina and moved to Cherokee County, Georgia with his father when he was 10 years old.

At age 35, he was ordained a minister of the gospel, and for more than 50 years served as pastor of from two to four churches. He was commissioned as tax receiver in neighboring Pickens County, Georgia on Jan. 18, 1873. He moved to Bartow County and settled in Pine Log in 1876.

He was a founder of Olive Vine Baptist Church in 1880 and was an influential minister here for many years. He was known as a strict disciplinarian….

Rev. Turner died on Feb. 15, 1923 at age 87. According to his obituary printed in both the Bartow Tribune and the Cherokee Tribune, “too much could not be said about the great work that he accomplished while working among the people of Bartow County.” In his eulogy, Rev. H.H. Popham said that “the life of Mr. Turner has been one well spent and worthy of emulation by everyone; a life that was full of good works, and about which there were no regrets.”

He certainly left a large brood (twelve children, according to the sign), whose descendants regularly gather at Olive Vine Church for family reunions. 

A little further to the south, on Old Tennessee Road, is Vaughan Cemetery, which is marked with an orange star on the map.

The cemetery does not seem to have been associated with a church, but was simply the Vaughan family plot – if the names on many of the headstones are any indication.

As you can see, some of the Vaughans fought for the Confederacy, hence the government-issued grave marker of the sort noticed at Silverdale

Then, further to the south, one encounters the embarrassingly-named City of White. It too has a post office, so many people in the area, beyond the city itself, are designated as living in White. As one of those people, I have had to endure innumerable jibes over the years suggesting that my town is racist. 

But it’s really just named after its first postmaster, James Alexander White, who was exercising this function by 1890 and whose portrait used to hang in the White post office. (I took this photo a few years ago with my first digital camera, which wasn’t very good and which I didn’t quite know how to use, thus the poor quality of the image.)

According to the Etowah Valley Historical Society, mining operations to the south at Aubrey (manganese and iron ore) plus the completion of the Etowah Cartersville New Line Railroad in 1906 allowed the place to thrive. It was incorporated in 1919, with one Dr. W.B. Vaughan appointed mayor by the Georgia General Assembly (surprisingly, he does not seem to be buried in the Vaughan Cemetery, unless he is William J. “Guinea Will” Vaughan, 1863-1928). Not long afterwards, in 1925, a fire broke out in Harry Woodall’s store, which quickly spread and destroyed most of the business district. But White rebuilt, and this is reflected in the city emblem.

Note the town on fire on one side, the resurrected town on the other (complete with power lines and part of an automobile!), all under a symbolic phoenix rising from the ashes. Plus two rolls of toilet paper. 

At the corner of Old Tennessee St. and Richards Road. I believe this building is the only memento of the original business district.

But equally destructive was the Great Depression and the closing of the mines at Aubrey. The construction of US-411 in the 1930s caused the business district to shift from the west side of the tracks (where it used to line Old Tennessee Rd.) to the east side, but the construction of I-75 in 1977 means that the major north-south traffic artery now bypasses White entirely. 

Yet the city abides. It is currently the home of White Elementary School, Cass High School, J’s Simply Soul, Wes-Man’s (both of which I recommend), several churches, the Toyo Tire factory, the North Georgia Mercantile, and Old Car City. Of course, as with many small towns, the police can be somewhat corrupt on occasion, but that problem seems to have been put behind us for now.

The Hunt for Silver

From Priceonomics (hat tip: Instapundit), a bit of interesting business history:

Until his dying day in 2014, Nelson Bunker Hunt, who had once been the world’s wealthiest man, denied that he and his brother plotted to corner the global silver market.

Sure, back in 1980, Bunker, his younger brother Herbert, and other members of the Hunt clan owned roughly two-thirds of all the privately held silver on earth. But the historic stockpiling of bullion hadn’t been a ploy to manipulate the market, they and their sizable legal team would insist in the following years. Instead, it was a strategy to hedge against the voracious inflation of the 1970s—a monumental bet against the U.S. dollar.

Whatever the motive, it was a bet that went historically sour. The debt-fueled boom and bust of the global silver market not only decimated the Hunt fortune, but threatened to take down the U.S. financial system.

The panic of “Silver Thursday” took place over 35 years ago, but it still raises questions about the nature of financial manipulation. While many view the Hunt brothers as members of a long succession of white collar crooks, from Charles Ponzi to Bernie Madoff, others see the endearingly eccentric Texans as the victims of overstepping regulators and vindictive insiders who couldn’t stand the thought of being played by a couple of southern yokels.

In either case, the story of the Hunt brothers just goes to show how difficult it can be to distinguish illegal market manipulation from the old fashioned wheeling and dealing that make our markets work.

More at the link. Stephen Green comments that: “Anyone ‘smart’ enough to try to get rich cornering the market for a natural resource ought to have a long talk with these guys. In the long run, it never works, as high prices cause people to find substitutes or new sources.”

Paleoichthyology

It’s a real word, referring to the study of fish in the past, as detailed in a recent Atlantic article:

The Medieval Practices that Reshaped Europe’s Fish

In Europe, aquatic animals have been traded at least since the days of the Roman Empire. But it was during the early Middle Ages, with the arrival of widespread Christianity, that the animals became a popular source of protein. That’s partially due to the roughly 130 days a yearwhen the faithful were exhorted not to eat meat, because fish didn’t count in that category.

At the same time, expanding agrarian populations were cutting down forests to create fields and diverting rivers to fill defensive moats around castles and towns, Hoffmann writes in one paper. From the ninth century a.d. to the 11th, the number of grain mills built along rivers in England exploded from about 200 to 5,624. Species that came into fresh water to spawn, such as salmon and sturgeon, began declining. New regulations, such as King Philip’s, were put into place to manage fish populations. A Scottish statute from 1214 required all dams to include an opening for fish and barrier nets to be lifted every Saturday, for instance. Soon highly sophisticated aquaculture ponds stocked with carp also provided regular access to fish for the landed elite.

This decline in freshwater populations coincided with a sudden, commercial-scale boom in sea fishing, which began around a.d. 1000 and is known as the “fish event horizon.” In one study, archaeologists collected cod bones in London from 95 Roman, medieval, and postmedieval sites. The number of bones jumped circa the year 1000, and isotopic sampling showed that in the following centuries, fish came from farther and farther away, indicating long-distance trade. In the southern English town of Southampton, the remains of marine species (such as cod) began to outnumber freshwater species (such as eel) by 1030.

That “fish event horizon” could have been caused by a number of forces. It came at a time of population growth, urbanism, new ship technology, and increased trade, says the archaeologist James Barrett, from the University of Cambridge. But, he adds, “I’ve argued consistently that this must also be about human impacts on freshwater and migratory fishes. The degree of vulnerability of fishes depends on how bounded the ecosystem they occupy is.”

In other words, because their habitat was smaller, freshwater fish were more likely to respond to human pressures sooner. When the reliable stocks of freshwater fish began dwindling, hungry Europeans turned to the much larger oceans. And while those populations had larger ranges, humans still had an impact.