Category Archives: History

OTD in 1830 – the First Passenger Steam Train Begins a Rigorous Schedule!

By Margueritte Peterson
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On this day, May 3rd, in 1830, the first steam train regular passenger service began! Though trains had been in use in the early 1800s, they had not been used for the transportation of people – only the transportation of goods! The incredible discovery that these trains could be used as a way to deliver people from one place to another was going to be the hottest thing since sliced bread – and the gateway to mass transportation – the first of its kind!

Trains gave human beings the ability to develop civilizations quickly. Even the civilizations of Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt used tracks that horses would draw buggies on, minimizing the amount of force needed to be done by the horse. It was only a matter of time before the ingeniousness of this mode of transport would be understood. Trains, as they were in the early 19th century, made movement easy and quick – distant lands became easily, and instantly, accessible. A trip from New York to California, which previously would have taken a group with a wagon and horses months, now took only a few days. In regards to transporting both goods and people, it became apparent that there was a need of implementing standardized time zones across the world – in order to more efficiently set up schedules – arrivals and departures of both passengers and industry.

Today, despite the many optional modes of transportation (cars, airplanes, boats… teleportation – just kidding), trains are used in a variety of ways. Subway systems and electric trains are used for short travel distances, and longer trains, though used less and less often due to the abundance of air travel available (in the United States, at least – we are happy to report that trains are still used frequently in other parts of the world), are still available and equipped with all the luxuries you might expect. Freight trains continue to move much industry on all continents (and are the bulk amount of the trains in the US at this time). Bullet trains, high speed modes of transportation, can now reach speeds around 200 mph and are becoming more widespread. It is plain to see how the automotive industry shaped the ability to travel and transport goods, and how it has continued for over 150 years to grow and evolve to suit the needs of passengers!

Now, speaking of trains – we’d like to highlight a few of our most interesting automotive items!

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 7.53.57 AMThis first item is, to me, one of the most interesting as pertaining to this article. Despite us not knowing precisely when it was printed, this schematic of an early Baltimore & Ohio Rail Road Company steam train car is a blueprint to some of the early days of passenger transport! The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, one of the oldest railroads in the United States, was the country’s first “common carrier” and the first to offer scheduled freight and passenger service to the public between the years of 1828 and 1927. See it here>

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This spec sheet from Baldwin Locomotive Works is a bit more scientific in nature. Printed in 1926 it is not a spec sheet for early passenger travel, but for one intrigued by the automotive industry it is certainly a good source of information on the development of trains over time! Check it out here>

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Last but not least, a more local item! This collection of Bay Area transport items is a wonderful fount of information of the rapid Bay Area transit from 1923 to 1957 – contained within the collection are some blueprints, photographs, advertisements, tickets, charts/timetables, booklets and certificates. The Key System Transit Company (as it was then known) went through several transformations until it has developed into the very system we now use today! See it here>

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OTD in 1926 : H.L. Mencken Gets Arrested in Boston for Selling a Banned Copy of The American Mercury!

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By Margueritte Peterson

On this day in 1926, the Jazz Age was in full swing in the United States. Censorship was not an uncommon or unlawful idea at the time, and many Americans were being held to strict moral codes (like that of the prohibition) that they didn’t necessarily believe in. This was the case all over the United States (as well as elsewhere, but that’s another story for another day), but particularly so in the large East Coast City of Boston, Massachusetts, where the phrase “Banned in Boston” was applied to music, literature, motion pictures, plays among other works of art that had been deemed inappropriate or objectionable by a conservative ruling party. Also on this day in 1926, famed American journalist, critic and satirist H. L. Mencken (Henry Louis Mencken) was arrested in Boston after knowingly and purposefully selling a recently banned issue of his own magazine The American Mercury. This moment in time will forever be remembered as a startling win for those against censorship, as not only was Mencken’s case dismissed but he was later able to win a lawsuit filed against Boston’s Watch and Ward Society for illegal restraint of trade. Though at the time it seemed that his win did little to change the harsh censorship laws in Boston, it did a lot to gather attention.

Now, H. L. Mencken was no stranger to being in the public eye. In fact, he traveled to Boston with none other than the express intention of getting himself arrested for selling one of his own works. He knew that the Watch and Ward Society would make sure he would be punished for selling his issue (banned especially because of a story about a prostitute named Fanny) – and wanted both the attention and the absurdity that was censorship in Boston to be highlighted for the world to see. Not everyone in Boston agreed with the Watch and Ward Society’s harshness, as he was acquitted the very next day by a lenient judge. In fact, around this time Boston began to bite itself in the behind, so to speak, as their banned books began to unintentionally garner favor in other areas of the United States with the taboo of being salacious!

Mencken was a free spirit if there ever was one, and both the prohibition and censorship angered him greatly. He is quoted as saying in 1922, “I am, in brief, a libertarian of the most extreme variety, and know of no human right that is one-tenth as valuable as the simple right to utter what seems (at the moment) to be the truth.” He used his skills and connections in the journalism community to procure a reputation as, well, a bit of a badass! 

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 7.44.27 PMThe story of Mencken’s arrest goes something like this – he boarded a train for Boston and once having arrived in the city organized a meeting in a public square with John Chase, the director of the Watch and Ward Society. Once Chase arrived, police in tow, Mencken offered Chase the banned issue of The American Mercury for a half-dollar coin. Chase handed the coin over, dramatically (or so we presume), and Mencken, after having bit the coin (you know, just for good measure), was placed in handcuffs and escorted from the Boston Common! After his acquittal the following day, when the judge ruled that private citizens should not be in charge of what literature ought to be banned or not, Mencken went to lunch at Harvard University, where a crowd of over a thousand happy fans greeted him with applause and gaiety. 

Suffice to say, on this day in 1926 a fairly important moment in the history of censorship was going down! Though the Watch and Ward Society was not shut down and some could argue that no immediate response was garnered from the showdown between Mencken and Chase, here we are, almost 100 years later, still talking about this single incident! Perhaps it wasn’t all for nothing… let’s give H. L. Mencken some credit!

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Beware the Ides of March Today, Folks… But What on Earth are the “Ides of March”?

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By Margueritte Peterson

Have you ever heard anyone say “Beware the Ides of March”? I have known this phrase my whole life, and even known that it speaks of March 15th. However, I have never truly known the whole story behind the Ides or why it was something akin to a Friday the 13th – a date to be feared and treated carefully. So what began a public fear of this date? Is it something we should truly beware? Allow me to answer your questions!

The Ides of March was a date in the Ancient Roman Calendar. Their years used to begin with what we now know as the month of March, and the holidays celebrated within the month are commonly regarded as different New Years celebrations. “Ides” happened every month, however, as they were an observance of the full moon and usually on the 13th or 15th every month, and March was just one of the many. That being said, you don’t ever hear anyone say “Beware the Ides of September” – do you? So what happened to bring March’s Ides into question? Well, the assassination of Julius Caesar, and a pithy and dramatic line from none other than William Shakespeare, of course!

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 11.15.39 AMCaesar was, according to legend, warned by a seer to “Beware the Ides of March”. This was followed by Caesar throwing it gently back in the seers face while on the way to the Theatre of Pompey in 44 B.C. on March 15th, when he joked that the Ides of March had come and nothing bad had happened, and the seer replied with “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.” – meaning that the worst was yet to come. Caesar was then assassinated by almost 60 conspirators led by Brutus and Cassius at the meeting of the senate – an event which sparked civil war and led to the creation of the Roman Empire and dissolution of the Roman Republic. Shakespeare, a master of creating phrases that live on in the minds of his audience, must have known that by dramatizing such a famous occasion he would be inducing a world of fear surrounding the 15th of March! But is there any truth to the fear? Well, take a look yourself! Here are what the Smithsonian deems the top 10 events in history that took place on March 15th that coincide with the fear of the day. 

1. Assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 B.C.

Conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus stab dictator-for-life Julius Caesar to death before the Roman senate. Caesar was 55.

2. A Raid on Southern England, 1360

A French raiding party begins a 48-hour spree of rape, pillage and murder in southern England. King Edward III interrupts his own pillaging spree in France to launch reprisals, writes historian Barbara Tuchman, “on discovering that the French could act as viciously in his realm as the English did in France.”

3. Samoan Cyclone, 1889

A cyclone wrecks six warships—three U.S., three German—in the harbor at Apia, Samoa, leaving more than 200 sailors dead. (On the other hand, the ships represented each nation’s show of force in a competition to see who would annex the Samoan islands; the disaster averted a likely war.)

4. Czar Nicholas II Abdicates His Throne, 1917

Czar Nicholas II of Russia signs his abdication papers, ending a 304-year-old royal dynasty and ushering in Bolshevik rule. He and his family are taken captive and, in July 1918, executed before a firing squad.

5. Germany Occupies Czechoslovakia, 1939

Just six months after Czechoslovak leaders ceded the Sudetenland, Nazi troops seize the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, effectively wiping Czechoslovakia off the map.

6. A Deadly Blizzard on the Great Plains, 1941

A Saturday-night blizzard strikes the northern Great Plains, leaving at least 60 people dead in North Dakota and Minnesota and six more in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. A light evening snow did not deter people from going out—“after all, Saturday night was the time for socializing,” Diane Boit of Hendrum, Minnesota, would recall—but “suddenly the wind switched, and a rumbling sound could be heard as 60 mile-an-hour winds swept down out of the north.”

7. World Record Rainfall, 1952

Rain falls on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion—and keeps falling, hard enough to register the world’s most voluminous 24-hour rainfall: 73.62 inches.

8. CBS Cancels the “Ed Sullivan Show,” 1971

Word leaks that CBS-TV is canceling “The Ed Sullivan Show” after 23 years on the network, which also dumped Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason in the preceding month. A generation mourns.

9. Disappearing Ozone Layer, 1988

NASA reports that the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere has been depleted three times faster than predicted.

10. A New Global Health Scare, 2003

After accumulating reports of a mysterious respiratory disease afflicting patients and healthcare workers in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada, the World Health Organization issues a heightened global health alert. The disease will soon become famous under the acronym SARS (for Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

Now, though I am not at all convinced that the cancelling of the “Ed Sullivan Show” deserves to be on a list alongside the disappearing Ozone layer or the assassination of Julius Caesar (no matter how popular it was), but I’ll bite. It certainly seems like some tragic world events have taken place on this day in history. Then again… tragic events take place every day in history. What about the 26th of December, 2004, when 280,000 people died in the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami? Or the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York? What about every school shooting, sinking ships, genocides around the world? Surely other days could be found that have known numerous tragic events, just like the Ides of March, throughout history. 

In any case, perhaps it is best to keep your wits about you today, and hope that all turns out well! What do you believe? 

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“If people did not want their stories told, it would be better for them to keep away from me.” The Life of Sherwood Anderson

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By Margueritte Peterson

As embarrassing as this is to admit, I was first introduced to this great American author through a guilty-pleasure-teenage-girl-TV-show (that shall NOT be named) and began to research him after hearing his works mentioned several times. What I originally thought might turn into a Stephanie Meyer situation (author of Twilight… It was a teenage girl show, after all) actually turned out to be a very serious author of Americana. I read the work he is most often remembered for, Winesburg, Ohio, and immediately understood why he was popular in his time… though was a bit confused as to why I, a Literature Major, had not heard of him as of yet. 

Sherwood as a child and his family in rural Ohio.

Sherwood as a child and his family in rural Ohio.

Sherwood Anderson was born on September 13th, 1876 in Camden, Ohio. The third of seven children, Anderson’s first memories were of the family moving around quite a bit – though spending five or six years in Caledonia, Ohio, most of Anderson’s memories involved his father’s insolvency and inability to hold down a job. The family went from place to place, each time Mr. Anderson losing respectability and finances for his growing family. Because of his family’s difficulties, the young Anderson only completed about 9 months of high school before dropping out at the age of 14 to work various jobs around town in order to bring in money for his family. Despite the lack of advanced schooling, Anderson was an insatiable reader and was consistently borrowing from the local library, as reading was not necessarily a popular past time in the Anderson home. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 7.01.30 AMBy the time Anderson was 18, his father had been drinking and disappearing for weeks at a time, leaving all the children home with their mother to fend for themselves. Having been working desperately for years as a washer, Anderson’s mother Emma died of tuberculosis in 1895 when Anderson was only 19. Having no reason to continue living in the small town of Clyde, Ohio, where the Anderson’s had eventually settled, Sherwood followed his older brother to Chicago, where the two lived in a boarding house as the brother attended the Chicago Art Institute. He continued on in Chicago, eventually renting enough space for his sister and two younger brothers to move into a couple years later. However, having signed up for the Ohio National Guard, his living in Chicago was short-lived, as he was sent to Cuba in 1898, after the fighting in the Spanish-American War had stopped, for 8 months. After his return, Anderson worked in Clyde once more for a few months as he saved money, and eventually joined two of his siblings in Springfield, Ohio, where finally, at the age of 23, Anderson enrolled in classes and was able to complete his high school education. 

Upon his graduation in 1900, Anderson was one of seven students in his graduating class chosen to give commencement speeches. One observer of his speech, Harry Simmons, was an advertising manager for a publishing house. Simmons was so impressed with the speech that he offered him a job as an advertising solicitor right then and there. In the summer of 1900, Anderson went back to Chicago to begin work for the type of business he would work in for the next 6 years.

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 7.01.19 AMOne important aspect often noted in Anderson’s life is the nervous breakdown he suffered as a result of professional stress in 1912. By this time, he had begun a new business called the Anderson Paint Company. The intensity of running his own (large) business took its toll and Anderson disappeared for four days, before walking into a drug store and asking an employee to help him figure out his own identity. To this day, it is uncertain as to whether Anderson’s breakdown was involuntary or voluntary, as his story changed over the months and years following the episode. Either way, however, it helped Anderson leave his business, his relationship, and start fresh. Anderson had begun publishing some stories in 1902, and soon writing would become his main source of income. 

Anderson’s first novel, Windy McPherson’s Son, was published in 1916, followed shortly thereafter by Marching Men, published in 1917. However, in 1919 he would publish the work he would remain famous for, a collection of interrelated short stories of residents in a small Ohio town – the book Winesburg, Ohio. The book was a success, as researcher Daniel Mark Fogel writes that Anderson, “Instead of emphasizing plot and action, Anderson used a simple, precise, unsentimental style to reveal the frustration, loneliness, and longing in the lives of his characters. These characters are stunted by the narrowness of Midwestern small-town life and by their own limitations.” For what seemed like the first time, an author focused very little on plot and much more on character development than any other aspect of stories. Anderson continued publishing novels, despite the success of his book of short stories. He published his novels Poor White and Many Marriages in the 20s while living in New Orleans with his third wife, while entertaining and influencing other famous writers in the United States. 

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Throughout the 30s, Anderson published many different kinds of works. A book of short stories, Death in the Woods, a book of essays entitled Puzzled America and a novel called Kit Brandon: A Portrait. Though he still experienced some success and notoriety, his public persona had begun to wane and he was no longer quite as influential as he once was. He continued writing until his death in 1941. His death was just as different as his nervous breakdown, interestingly enough. On a cruise to Panama, Anderson began experiencing abdominal pain and succumbed to a strange infection before he was even able to return to the United States. An autopsy revealed that he had swallowed a martini toothpick, which had perforated his intestines and caused an infection to spread throughout his body. A strange death following an interesting life of a little known but quite influential American author! 

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Mastering Modernist Literature… A Guide by Virginia Woolf on Her Birthday

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By Margueritte Peterson

There have been many authors over the past century that have been considered forerunners in the art of the Modern Novel. As a matter of fact, we have written about quite a few of them in the past. Some tell-tale signs of modernist literature are a few literary techniques like a stream-of-consciousness voice or interior monologue, and even numerous points-of-view within one work. These techniques are used by a great deal of modernist authors, but perhaps none so pointedly as the creator of the complex Mrs. Dalloway, feminist thinker and free spirit Virginia Woolf. 

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 8.36.28 AMVirginia was born Adeline Virginia Stephen on January 25th, 1882 in Kensington, London. She was born into a mixed family – both of her parents having been married previously with sets of children on both sides. The family was extremely literate – both parents being well connected in the artistic and literary worlds. In 1895 when Virginia was only 13 years old her mother died, followed closely by her half-sister, Stella and brother Thoby. At this point Virginia began to suffer from the nervousness and had the first breakdown of many she would suffer from throughout her life.

 

Despite her nervous nature and brief periods of institutionalization, Virginia began to spend a significant amount of time with a group of writers and artists that was known as the Bloomsbury Group. By 1910 they were thick as thieves, and Virginia and her sister Vanessa along with writers, editors, and artists Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, John Maynard Keynes among others participated in both intellectual discussions and amusing pranks. In 1912 she married Leonard Woolf, and though they were never to be passionate lovers, the two were close friends, collaborators and intellectual equals for the three decades they were married. A couple years after the wedding, Virginia published her first novel A Voyage Out in 1915, and in 1917 she and Leonard opened The Hogarth Press in their country home in Richmond. Most of her later work would be published by their press at home. Her writing received moderate to a good amount of success, both from the critics and from her peers throughout her life. Today, Woolf is an author often associated with the feminist movement.

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 8.37.45 AMAs far as writing goes, Woolf’s stories are often experiments in point of view and narrative. She focuses her plots on realism – typical days in the lives of her characters, sometimes no plot twists whatsoever. She, alongside other modern authors Joseph Conrad and James Joyce, has been credited with the invention of the stream-of-consciousness form of writing – where the narration takes on a inner dialogue type voice that never ceases and flows lyrically from one subject to the next, just as our regular minds do. This lyrical style is also seen in her descriptions of ordinary, commonplace events in her novels. They are so stylistically written that Woolf elevates the ordinary and creates a world rich in detail.

 

Woolf struggled with depression and nervous breakdowns throughout her life, as I mentioned previously. Unfortunately at the age of 59 in 1941 Woolf succumbed to the pain of every day life and drowned herself in the River Ouse, near the Woolf’s home in Sussex. Her cremated remains are buried in the garden there. Woolf’s work, however, has lived on, and after a brief lapse of popularity following WWII, her work experienced a revival in the feminist movements of the 1970s and has remained popular and taught in colleges ever since!

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Who’s Afraid of… What Happened to Amelia Earhart?

By Margueritte Peterson

Most of our blogs are about books, bookish things, about author holidays or birthdays, about book fairs and bibliophilia. However, sometimes we like to report on important or significant historical events. Often, those close to our heart (or our homes). So tomorrow, on the 82nd anniversary of her first completed solo flight from Honolulu to Oakland (right next door to Tavistock Books!), we’d like to ask an important question… What happened to Miss Amelia Earhart?

amelia3Amelia Mary Earhart was born on July 24th, 1897 to a family in Atchison, Kansas. She lead a somewhat average childhood. As the eldest surviving child in the family, she played the role of the ringleader well and was often in charge of her younger sister, Grace. “Meely”‘s only slightly unconventional aspect of her childhood was that her mother, Amy Earhart, did not believe in forcing manners or or tradition on her daughters! She didn’t not believe that parents should be shaping their children into “nice” little girls, and gave her two daughters a freer reign than their childhood friends would have known. This gave Amelia the chance to express her true tomboy nature and her family (or at least her mother) embraced it. In 1904 at the age of 7 Earhart completed her first (not quite successful) solo flight with the aid of an uncle. She put together a home-made ramp fashioned after a roller coaster she had seen, and placed the ramp on the roof of the toolshed at her family home. She rode in a wooden box off the ramp, and climbed out of the broken box completely exhilarated!

At this time, however, Earhart was not certain that aviation was her field. She did seem to be drawn to the more male-dominated fields – science and mechanics were the subjects at which she excelled. One story goes that after one of her family’s many moves (her father lost a couple jobs due to alcoholism) she canvassed a town to find the perfect school for herself, basing her decisions on the science laboratories and programs. Her first real job came in 1917 after a trip to Toronto to see her younger sister (who was in school there) when she saw returning wounded soldiers and decided to study as a nurse’s aide from the Red Cross and took care of surviving soldiers during WWI.

Amelia Earhart

In 1920 while visiting her parents in Long Beach, California (the Earharts continued to move and Amelia spent a significant amount of her early 20s living with her sister in Toronto and then Massachusetts), Earhart and her father visited an airfield where pilot and racer Frank Hawks (famous in the day) gave her a $10 plane ride that would forever change Amelia’s life. Immediately after the ride she became determined to learn how to fly and over the next week worked many odd jobs (stenographer, photographer and truck driver, to name a few) to save up what she needed for the $1,000 needed for flying lessons. Her first teacher was Anita “Neta” Snook, a female aviator who trained her students with a “Canuck” (a training biplane also used for teaching the US Army pilots). Almost 2 years later, Earhart flew her first plane (a bright yellow Kinner Airster biplane nicknamed “The Canary”) to an altitude of 14,000 feet and set a new world record for female pilots – the highest one had ever reached! A year later (don’t ask me to explain why it happened in this order… even I don’t understand) she became the 16th woman in the world to be issued a pilot’s license by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

Unfortunately, Earhart’s dream of fame and glory would have to wait, as her family’s depleted fortune, parents’ divorce, and a return of a chronic sinus infection that she would suffer from her entire life, forced Earhart to get jobs as a teacher and social worker to support herself and her mother in Massachusetts. She held onto her love of aviation at this time, however, as she laid plans for an organization solely for female aviators and investing a small sum of money in Dennison Airport, Massachusetts.

amelia2Earhart’s fame came spectacularly randomly in 1928, when American citizen Amy Guest decided to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic ocean (following Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight in 1927). Guest decided that the journey was too dangerous and undertaking for herself, she decided to find a suitable young woman to take her place. One afternoon, Earhart received a call from a Captain Hilton H. Railey, asking her if she would like to fly across the Atlantic ocean. Earhart completed the journey with pilots Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon, and was welcomed to both England and back in the United States to rounds of applause, interviews, and even a lecture tour. With the help of George P. Putnam (publisher and publicist who was involved in the original crossing), Earhart remained at the front of the worldwide news, and was marketed as the modern woman. Simple, elegant, intelligent and effective.

In 1929, Putnam proposed to Earhart (six times, I might add) and she finally agreed to marry him. However, Earhart’s ideas of marriage were as unconventional as her mother’s ideas on pantaloons were! Earhart delivered a letter to Putnam on their wedding day stating “I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaevil [sic] code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly.” Wowza! Earhart kept her name and held onto the idea that men should not be the sole breadwinners in a household.

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The next few years held many firsts for the young aviator. Earhart became the first female to follow Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight from Newfoundland to Paris, but due to unexpected winds and electrical issues she was forced to land on a field in Ireland. Despite the route change, she was still the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic, and for that Earhart received the Distinguished Flying Cross medal from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from France, and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society from President Hoover. On January 11th, 1935, Earhart became the first aviator in the world to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California. She didn’t stop in Oakland for long, however, and her trailblazing went on with solo flights from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and then Mexico City to New Jersey. Throughout the early to mid 1930s Earhart had been planning to one day fly around the world, and in 1937 she finally got her wish and began her journey. She left Oakland, California for Honolulu, but on their (she was accompanied by pilots Fred Noonan and Harry Manning, and stunt pilot Paul Mantz) leaving Honolulu they experienced technical difficulties and were forced to abandon the attempt altogether. On her second attempt, leaving first from Oakland to Miami, Florida, and then on to (almost… so close) circumnavigate the world, Earhart and her one crew member Fred Noonan made it all the way across South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and parts of Asia all the way to Lae, New Guinea. 22,000 miles of the journey had been completed, with only 7,000 miles left to go over the Pacific ocean. Unfortunately, Earhart and Noonan would never reach their destination of Howland Island where the United States Coast Guard was waiting for them. They had difficulty reaching the USCG with the radio, could not find Howland, and many issues contributed to an inability to land safely where anyone knew where they were. They ran out of fuel searching for Howland, and disappeared.

There are many conspiracy theories of what happened to Earhart, but most recent evidence shows that she and Noonan may have been able to land the plane on nearby deserted Nikumaroro island, where recently plane remnants and the bones of a female were found. Was Earhart able to land successfully on the island, and lived out a few months as a castaway? Perhaps we will never know. Then again…

(You didn’t really think I was going to be able to shed any light on what really happened to A.E., did you? Silly rabbit.)

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“I delight in what I fear”: Happy Birthday to the Mistress of Terror, Miss Shirley Jackson

By Margueritte Peterson

For those of you unfamiliar with Jackson’s work, consider yourself warned of potential SPOILERS right now and exit out of this page. Preferably to pick up one of her books and see for yourself.

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I still remember the first Shirley Jackson piece I ever read. Like most American high school teenagers, it was one of her short stories. A terrifying and eye-opening piece entitled The Lottery. To this day, I think it is one of the most horrifying works I’ve ever read in my life (and this coming from an avid Agatha Christie fan). A work that reveals a callous and mindless side of human nature – just following the herd mentality, even if it involves killing your own mother – what wouldn’t be creepy about that? The Lottery has always stuck with me, and also have the other stories by Jackson that I have read since. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a fan favorite for a reason! So here’s to the real question… what had this seemingly average American housewife done to become the architect of such frightening tales? Well… let’s take a look!

Jackson with her four children, who were much dramatized in her stories and prominent figures in her two later memoirs.

Jackson with her four children, who were much dramatized in her stories and prominent figures in her two later memoirs.

Shirley Hardie Jackson was born on December 14th, 1916 in San Francisco, California. (A local to boot!) She discovered writing at an early age, and during her teenage years dealing with stressful weight fluctuations and feeling like an outcast, writing was her main joy. She originally attended Rochester University, but after feeling unhappy there (with professors who judged her writing quite harshly), she transferred to Syracuse University where she thrived and finally felt like she fit in with her peers. She was involved with the University’s literary magazine, where she met her future husband, literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman. Around 1935 she and her new husband moved to the sleepy town of North Bennington, Vermont, where Hyman taught at Bennington College and Jackson continued working on her writing. Later on, in 1954, Jackson would say of these years in North Bennington: “our major exports [were] books and children, both of which we produce in abundance. The children are Laurence, Joanne, Sarah, and Barry” (Twentieth Century Authors). 

The Lottery's first appearance in The New Yorker.

The Lottery’s first appearance in The New Yorker.

When The Lottery was first published in The New Yorker in June of 1948, Jackson was catapulted to fame the likes of which she never expected. The initial response to the story was extremely negative. Jackson received 400 letters from readers over the course of the summer – and only 13 were kind (and mainly from personal friends). Many readers instantly cancelled their subscriptions to The New Yorker. While Jackson would tell others that the tone of the letters ranged from “bewilderment, speculation, and plain old-fashioned abuse.” Readers wanted to know if such rites existed, and if so – where they could go and watch someone being stoned to death. They “declared the story a piece of trash.” What could a story possibly do to make people so violently angry? Well… remind them of their own cruelty and confuse them with their own emotions, of course. While Jackson was somewhat shocked by the extremely negative reception of her story, she often refused to give the readers the one thing they wanted… an explanation of what it “really means”. One sentence she was able to send to the San Francisco Chronicle gave an explanation (that I’m sure went over really well with the readers) as such: “I suppose, I hoped… to shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.” Zing!

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-9-35-41-amThe negative response her story received did not stop her, however. Jackson continued to write stories and would come to be known as a Mistress of Terror. Her subtle plots infused with strange characters and sinister themes and plots held her audience captivated. She wrote over 100 short stories throughout the years, some children’s stories and several novels. Her novels The Bird’s Nest (1954) and The Haunting of Hill House (1959) are commonly regarded as fantastical and ghostly stories, and have inspired authors Stephen King and Neil Gaiman in their own works. In 1962 she published her novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a story following two sisters after the mysterious and unsolved mass death of their entire family in their childhood home.

So what made Shirley Jackson tick? What gave her these ideas? Her own husband has said of the matter that the darkness found in Jackson’s stories were not the side-effects of personal neurosis, but rather a result of the hard times she had seen of the world – “fitting symbols for [a] distressing world of the concentration camp and the [Cold War] bomb.” Jackson wrote of the psychological and physical destructiveness of human nature, and its consequences on others. Her stories obviously resonated with readers so upset by the simultaneous horror and unbelievably realistic nature (after all, many readers believed The Lottery was based on actual rituals experienced throughout the country) and forced all to take a deep look inside and wonder at the violence and evil that could be found in us all. One thing is for sure – were Jackson still alive today (she unfortunately passed away at only 48), I am sure she would find several ways to shock us all into submission. Happy Birthday, Ms. Jackson.

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