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.

Oh the Humanities

From BBC Capital:

Why ‘worthless’ humanities degrees may set you up for life

At university, when I told people I was studying for a history degree, the response was almost always the same: “You want to be a teacher?”. No, a journalist. “Oh. But you’re not majoring in communications?”

In the days when a university education was the purview of a privileged few, perhaps there wasn’t the assumption that a degree had to be a springboard directly into a career. Those days are long gone.

Today, a degree is all but a necessity for the job market, one that more than halves your chances of being unemployed. Still, that alone is no guarantee of a job – and yet we’re paying more and more for one. In the US, room, board and tuition at a private university costs an average of $48,510 a year; in the UK, tuition fees alone are £9,250 ($12,000) per year for home students; in Singapore, four years at a private university can cost up to SGD$69,336 (US$51,000).

Learning for the sake of learning is a beautiful thing. But given those costs, it’s no wonder that most of us need our degrees to pay off in a more concrete way. Broadly, they already do: in the US, for example, a bachelor’s degree holder earns $461 more each week than someone who never attended a university.

But most of us want to maximise that investment – and that can lead to a plug-and-play type of approach to higher education. Want to be a journalist? Study journalism, we’re told. A lawyer? Pursue pre-law. Not totally sure? Go into Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) – that way, you can become an engineer or IT specialist. And no matter what you do, forget the liberal arts – non-vocational degrees that include natural and social sciences, mathematics and the humanities, such as history, philosophy and languages.

This has been echoed by statements and policies around the world. In the US, politicians from Senator Marco Rubio to former President Barack Obama have made the humanities a punch line. (Obama later apologised). In China, the government has unveiled plans to turn 42 universities into “world class” institutions of science and technology. In the UK, government focus on Stem has led to a nearly 20% drop in students taking A-levels in English and a 15% decline in the arts.

But there’s a problem with this approach. And it’s not just that we’re losing out on crucial ways to understand and improve both the world and ourselves – including enhancing personal wellbeing, sparking innovation and helping create tolerance, among other values.

It’s also that our assumptions about the market value of certain degrees – and the “worthlessness” of others – might be off. At best, that could be making some students unnecessarily stressed. At worst? Pushing people onto paths that set them up for less fulfilling lives. It also perpetuates the stereotype of liberal arts graduates, in particular, as an elite caste – something that can discourage underprivileged students, and anyone else who needs an immediate return on their university investment, from pursuing potentially rewarding disciplines.

I couldn’t agree more, and said as much in a piece that will be appearing later this summer (stay tuned).

Redoshi

That slaves were illegally smuggled from West Africa to the antebellum South, between the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, is remarkable (and outrageous, of course). The last such documented shipment arrived in Mobile, Ala., in 1860, aboard the ship Clothilda. Hannah Durkin, a researcher at Newcastle University, has now determined that one of the 110 slaves aboard, a twelve-year-old girl named Redoshi (who was renamed Sally Smith) was the last survivor of the illegal slave trade between Africa and the United States, dying in 1937. The National Post has more.

Maken Engelond Gret Ayeyn

The great Paul Strohm in Lapham’s Quarterly (hat tip: Arts and Letters Daily) discusses late-fourteenth and early-fifteenth century English trade, in particular the perennial conflict between the ideas of free trade and protectionism. A sample:

Giano’s killing was one episode in the larger story of international trade and its accompanying rivalries in the later European Middle Ages. The so-called Dark Ages were never as dark as their name would imply; hucksters, peddlers, chapmen, and other minor players had always plied Europe’s roads and dealt their goods. But it was in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that high-volume international trading seriously resumed, with trade in wool one of its major drivers. In those centuries, the Port of London alone handled almost a thousand arriving and departing trading vessels a year, and numerous other English ports (including the newly active ports of Dover and Southampton) were claiming a role. Half this activity was devoted to wool, and it generated immense wealth for the realm, conferring fortunes on a small and monopolistic group of men. These successful profiteers were not the sheepherders and shearers of the provinces, nor the merchant sailors who braved the seas, but the entrepreneurial middlemen who collected revenues on exported wool. A close-knit group of at most several hundred men, they formed allegiances and confederations throughout the mercantile establishment that dominated the leading guilds and ran the city of London.

Read the whole thing, which concludes that the author of the protectionist Libel of English Policy (1438) may be considered a Brexiteer avant la lettre, “laying early foundations for varieties of economic nationalism now returning to contemporary vogue.”

Symbols of Medicine

A peeve of mine, which I record for posterity:

The proper symbol of medicine is called a Rod of Asclepius, and consists of a single snake wrapped around a central pole. It is not to be confused with the Caduceus, which consists of two snakes wrapped around a winged pole, and is associated with the god Hermes.

Rod of Asclepius and Caduceus. Pinterest.

The hero Askepios was the son of the god Apollo and either Coronis or Arsinoe, both mortals. Asklepios’s attributes are a snake and a staff, combined into a single symbol. The staff seems to have been simply the sign of an itinerant physician, while the snake can be seen in many ways:

sometimes the shedding of skin and renewal is emphasized as symbolizing rejuvenation, while other assessments center on the serpent as a symbol that unites and expresses the dual nature of the work of the physician, who deals with life and death, sickness and health. The ambiguity of the serpent as a symbol, and the contradictions it is thought to represent, reflect the ambiguity of the use of drugs, which can help or harm, as reflected in the meaning of the term pharmakon, which meant “drug”, “medicine”, and “poison” in ancient Greek. Products deriving from the bodies of snakes were known to have medicinal properties in ancient times, and in ancient Greece, at least some were aware that snake venom that might be fatal if it entered the bloodstream could often be imbibed. Snake venom appears to have been ‘prescribed’ in some cases as a form of therapy.

By an interesting coincidence a healing snake-and-pole device also appears in Numbers 21:

[The Israelites] traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

It’s interesting how snakes are generally symbols of evil in the Christian tradition, but ambiguous in Greek paganism. Here, however, is a Biblical example of a snake that does some good. (And I believe this passage has been used by Christians to justify their use of apotropaic images, in apparent violation of the second commandment.)

    

Medical bodies that are on the ball will identify themselves with a Rod of Asclepius. Left to right: the Emergency Services’ Star of Life, the coat of arms of Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, and the logo of the American Medical Association, all from Wikipedia.

The Caduceus, by contrast, comes from the Greek kērukeion, and simply means herald’s staff. Since Hermes was the herald of the gods, he is often depicted with a staff of some sort, usually with something wound around it; this has been formalized as two snakes, and the wings match the wings on Hermes’s helmet and shoes. The Caduceus, therefore, represents items in Hermes’s wheelhouse, chiefly commerce.

   

Coat of arms of Jyväskylä, Finland and of Metropolitan Toronto (1954-98) featuring Caduceuses. From Wikipedia and the Online Register of Arms, Flags, and Badges of Canada.

Or rather, the Caduceus ought to represent commerce. By the same process that saw methodology replace method, or discipline replace field, a device with two snakes (and two wings!) was seen as somehow grander than a device with one. See the Wikipedia entry on the Caduceus as a symbol of medicine.

Wikipedia.

Apparently the US Army was the chief culprit here. Daniel P. Sulmasy said that “It is hard to trust a profession that cannot even get its symbols straight,” but others have noted the ironic appropriateness of the American medical profession representing itself with a symbol of commerce.