Thursday, April 28, 2011

The size of the early penny

In this day and age we still make pennies. I have to ask why? I cannot see the use of them and I would rather round out a price like they do in many other countries. But here we just spent millions of dollars on the reverse of the Lincoln penny for his 200th birthday. I would have been welcoming of a new backing for the five dollar bill. At least that makes sense. But this is far off my topic. The penny as far as I am concerned is useless except as a piece you put into jars and get lots of. In fact pennies are hard to keep in circulation as many people just put them in jars and keep them.....So why have pennies? I guess cause we always have. But today's penny is much different from the first types made in this country. The first pennies and half pennies were produced in the 1790's. I have put one in this blog about a year ago or so. But from the 1790's to the 1850's pennies were very large. Made completely of copper and a substantial weight in your pockets. In the later part of the 1850's the Flying Eagle penny would come on the scene and it would be small. But till then the penny was around the size of a current half dollar I can be happy the penny is small now as we can put more in jars and containers. If they were still the same old size as before you could not save as many and it would be a lot heavier.

Some large pennies from the 1830's to the 1850's

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The first shots of the Civil War in April of 1861 .......was it?

The first shots fired in the Civil War. On January 10, 1861. Reported in this Jan.26 issue of Harper's Weekly. This is a often disregarded moment. But all that is said about Lincoln sending a ship to the Island fort for the 1st time is not true. It had been tried before and everyone knew what happened. Lincoln knew this would cause the war everyone was waiting for. He had his explosive, he just needed a spark.

As North Carolina stated in January, any action to supply the fort would be looked on as an act of war!

Lincoln knew this, and used it to start that war. He not only sent a few ships, he sent a telegraph message to tell them he was doing it!

I am amazed when I think of the story of Ft.Sumter in North Carolina. It was there in April of 1861 that the first shots of the Civil War were fired. But is this true? I do not think that is truly so.
In January of 1861 a supply ship was sent to Ft.Sumter and was fired at by shore batteries, who did make a direct hit on the vessel. It immediately headed back to New York City from where it had been sent.
This event scared the living daylights out of then President James Buchanan, who did not want a Civil War starting on his watch. He was more of what they called then a "dough-face", which meant he was more pro south and slavery than most northerners. But the issue that was at hand was not slavery, it was succession.

He had sent in early January a ship to provision Ft.Sumter. The ship sent was the Star of the West. as mentioned before it was fired on by N. Carolina militants, as they had already succeeded from the Union. The situation at the fort was dire, as the food stocks were low and it was a new fort and not stocked for a battle. Plus it was a fort designed for harbor defense,not to battle with shore batteries.

When March comes around and Lincoln becomes President, there was much question on what to do? Lincoln is stated as saying that he would reinforce the fort and if fired upon it would be an act of aggression. He said he was sending food to hungry men, but in the ships were also arms and munitions.

However he said he was not sure how the N. Carolina crowd would handle it? He knew about the Star of the West, he had too. Also he had to know that N. Carolina said it would be looked at as an act of war if the fort was provisioned.

He knew that ships sent there would be fired upon. He even sent a telegraph message to N. Carolina to fire them up. I am of the thought that he sent the ships as a bit of a red flag to start off a war.

He knew it would be fired on, although he did not plan that the fort would be fired on before a ship ever got there.
Lincoln needed the tariff monies owed by the south. He needed to to solve this issue as he guessed the best way to do it. To have a short war and force the south back into the Union. He just needed the south to shoot first.

The first shot of the Civil War had been fired in January, the bomb exploded in April with Lincoln's firm resolve to bring the south back into Union. Slavery had nothing to do with it at the time. It was just a States Rights / Constitutional issue at first.
But in April of 1861 would be the 2nd shots of the Civil War. Which if we really look at it carefully was more of a revolution, than a civil war, but that is beyond what I am writing about here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Walking the fields of the Gettysburg battlefield, in late July 2010

I took a wonderful trip with 3 friends to the Gettysburg battle field in Pennsylvania. Now I confess as much as I have studied history,looked at history and experienced history I had never been to the battlefield before. It was an experience I am at best able to say as overwhelming. I knew the history, the persons involved, the stories, but I had never touched it. So after knowing about the battle field for well over 40 years I finally walked the walk.

It was great to take it with 3 people who knew history well and were well versed in it as I was. I was in very good company, Mike Roper, Tom Buckley, and Liz Moynihan. All of whom were well versed in history and politics. I had the great chance to chat for hours with Liz, who is the widow of the former Senator and learn so much on the car ride there. Her involvement with the political scene since the 1950's is fascinating. We talked about the various Presidents, her husbands thoughts on some of them and also the current crop of politicians. All of this was like sugar to a kid for me. Cause can listen to this for hours, and I did.
Mike Roper who is one of the greatest history teachers who has ever been, and Tom Buckley who is very well read and a charming person.

We all spent 3 days in Gettysburg and saw and learned a lot. We had one of the best tour guides at the park. There was so much to see. I collected some downed leaves to put in my scrapbook and Liz found me some White Oak, and taught me how to recognize it.

But what struck me most was the site of Picket's Charge. I need not tell the history behind it, you know already. But it was at this point I left my friends to take the car with the guide and I set out by myself.
I wanted to walk the walk that so many did that day on July 3, 1863. It was not a long walk, maybe 2 miles or so. I walked it from its starting point to where there was a fence.
This fence was there historically, and it was about 40 yards to where the Union position was. What was on the Union side were 25 cannon double charged with canisters of "Mini Balls" each canister held 25 balls. Each one of those balls weighed about 2 pounds
There were massive amounts of guns firing as well once the Rebel army reached the fence. I had in my possession one of the mini balls pulled from the earth ages ago when people could do that on that field. I carried it with me along with a bullet. One of those mini balls could level a whole group. Just imagine if you will....500 of them flying through the air!


The emotional feeling when one reaches that fence is so overpowering. It was here that literally thousands of men died. I felt the feelings and passions of that spot. Just stood there for a long while.

I know that in the battle there was a volley of those 25 cannon fired at the men at the fence just 40 yards away. After the cannon went off, there was nothing there but smoking shoes.

I finally connected with Gettysburg, and saw what I had known for so long, but never quite knew like I did that day.

The 1945 French Franc. Due to inflation and warfare it was made of some pretty cheap stuff.

The 1945 French Franc was made when a country was regaining it's freedom and it's own coinage again. It had been under the control of Germany from 1940 till 1944. In 1945 some of the old coins came back. Not as silver, gold or bronze. Nope it came back in Aluminum! In fact for the first few years after WW2 much of the coinage was mainly aluminum. By the time we get into the 1950's and early 60's, copper, bronze, silver, and steel were used for the coins of France.

A beautiful coin made of a very lightweight and inexpensive material

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dirty Water Dogs!

One of the joys of New York is the dirty water dog. What is that you ask? Go to any street corner and see the hot dog carts. The hot dog has been a staple in New York for well over a hundred years and of course is and has been the lunch of millions. Just think of how many hot dogs are sold in just NYC alone. In fact there was a battle for the hot dog concession in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The price that went to bid for the location went at over three hundred thousand dollars! So you can see what a big industry hot dogs are.

The taste of the New York Dogs is special and has a flavor all of its own. People have been indulging on hot dogs in New York since the dawn of the 20th century. The term dirty water dog comes from the fact that the hot dogs are boiled in water and kept in the water. It adds to the flavor and it truly is a real New York food.

In a city where many types of food are available, the most popular dish in NYC is indeed the dirty water dog.

Don't let the name scare you. They are wonderfully delicious and a true part of the culture of New York City.