Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat!

     Where did Halloween come from?  What were the influences of Halloween?  Let's find out.  Like Christmas, Halloween is a mixture of pagan festivals and a church holiday.  Unlike Christmas, which has been able to maintain its religious connotation, Halloween has pretty much lost the religious connotation and has formed itself into what we know today.  The influences on today's Halloween comes from a mixture of Celtic paganism and Catholic Christianity.
     The Celtic festival, Samhain, which comes from Old Irish meaning "summer's end", was celebrated on October 31st and November 1st.  The Celts were pagan and attached to paganism was the worshiping of the spirit world through divination.  The Catholic influence was the celebration of All Saints Day on November 1st.  Following is an excerpt that has so much information that it would be difficult to form into my own words, so I shall rely on quotes...

     "The vigil of the Feast (the eve) has grown up in the English speaking countries as a festival in itself, All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. While many consider Halloween pagan (and in many instances the celebrations are for many), as far as the Church is concerned the date is simply the eve of the feast of All Saints. Many customs of Halloween reflect the Christian belief that on the feast's vigils we mock evil, because as Christians, it has no real power over us. However, for some Halloween is used for evil purposes, in which many Christians dabble unknowingly. David Morrison explains the proper relationship between Christians and Halloween. Various customs have developed related to Halloween. In the Middle Ages, poor people in the community begged for "soul cakes," and upon receiving these doughnuts, they would agree to pray for departed souls. This is the root of our modern day "trick-or-treat." The custom of masks and costumes developed to mock evil and perhaps confuse the evil spirits by dressing as one of their own. Some Christians visit cemeteries on Halloween, not to practice evil, but to commemorate departed relatives and friends, with picnics and the last flowers of the year."

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday Fifteen #1: Songs That Have Historical Meaning...To Me.

I am a very nostalgic person, especially when it comes to my childhood.  There are certain songs that remind me of certain things.  Following will be a list of songs that remind me of the summers when we would go to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for vacation...Enjoy!

1.     "Drive" by The Cars
2.     "A Little More Time" by Chairmen of the Board
3.     "I Ain't Missing You" by John Waite
4.     "Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister
5.     "You Belong To The City" by Glenn Frey
6.     "Human" by Human League
7.     "I've Been Thinking About You" by Londonbeat
8.     "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss" by P.M. Dawn
9.     "Foolish Heart" by Steve Perry
10.   "Every Breath You Take" by The Police
11.   "Africa" by Toto
12.   "The Promise" by When in Rome
13.   "Second Chance" by 38 Special
14.   "I Love Beach Music" by The Embers
15.   "Summertime's Calling Me" by The Catalinas

Bonus: "Sara" by Starship

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mr. Copley

What do John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Samuel Adams have in common?


     Other than the fact that they played huge roles in the American Revolution, these three men all knew John Singleton Copley.  Copley is the most well-known painter during the colonial-era.  What is interesting and ironic about his life is that he was American-born, but left Boston for London in 1774...permanently.  He continued his painting career once in Britain where he was elected to the prestigious Royal Academy of Art.  Even though he left Boston, Copley left his mark on the city.   A large plaza in the city as well as a subway stop are named for him.  Also, the Museum of Fine Arts has the United States' largest collection of his paintings, including the three shown above along with portraits of father and son Adams (John and John Quincy).

Source of information: The Intellectual Devotional: American History by Kidder and Oppenheim, pg. 7
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

     I was going to discuss the next entry from The Intellectual Devotional, but I read an interesting article on Yahoo concerning Rhode Island and next week's Election Day.  In order to share, I have decided to go with something a little more unorthodox.

     Excommunicated Roger Williams.  Rhode Island founded 1636.  Settlement called "Providence".  Eventual British colony.  Declared independence first.  Irony of original colonies.  Ratified U.S. Constitution last.  Smallest state in Union.  Official name.  The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.  Plantation modern day negative connotation.  Tuesday, November 2, 2010.  Ballot question for voters.  Keep "and Providence Plantations"?  Vote Yes or No.  Interested to see what happens.  Tune in next Tuesday.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Today in History

     There are many events from history that share the same date.  Today's premier event from history, according to the History Channel's "This Day in History" website, is the infamous "Shootout at the OK Corral" in Tombstone, AZ.  This event has long been the talk of anything having to do with Wyatt Earp, Tombstone, or both.  As with anything from history portrayed in a movie, the event is generally romanticized by Hollywood.  The movie does a fairly good job of portraying the gunfight...not 100% accurate, but pretty close.

     Other notable events from October 26 in the days of yore...

- The Erie Canal opened in 1825.
- The Battle of Leyte Gulf ends in 1944.
- Pat Sajak from Wheel of Fortune was born in 1946.
- "Saving All My Love For You" earned Whitney Houston her first #1 hit in 1985.
- Bill Buckner in 1986 (that's all I am going to say).
- Brazil declares war on Germany in 1917.
- US aircraft carrier Oriskany catches fire in 1966.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Nicotiana tabacum

     I think the topic is fitting seeing that today marks the start of Red Ribbon Week at school.  For those that do not know, Nicotiana tabacum is the scientific name for tobacco.  Tobacco's influence on Europeans goes back to times before colonial Virginia during the first voyage to the New World by Columbus.  Several of Columbus' crew thought it was quite odd to see the natives smoking rolled up leaves.  Some of the crew decided to try it and liked it so much that they took it back to Europe with them.  Within about twenty or so years, the fad caught on in the Old World that it fueled the desire to colonize the Western Hemisphere.
     After the successful establishment of Jamestown, tobacco farms began popping up in the area as more and more settlers came to Virginia.  The year that Plymouth was founded, 1620, Virginia was exporting 119,000 pounds of tobacco back to Britain.  The demand grew more and more for the plant that by the end of the 17th century, Europe was importing more than twenty-five million pounds of tobacco.  Up until the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, tobacco was the largest cash crop in the southern colonies/states.
     Now for some interesting facts about tobacco.  First, a link between smoking and cancer was not proven until the 20th century.  Second, King James I, whom is the namesake for the first colony in Virginia, hated smoking so much that he had a pamphlet published attacking the habit.  Third, Jamestown's most famous tobacco farmer was one John Rolfe, husband of Pocahontas.  Lastly, the addictive drug that is found in tobacco, nicotine, is so toxic that it is used as an insecticide.
     Other than the fact that smoking gives a person bad breath, makes their teeth yellow, can cause cancer, and ages a person faster, it is USED TO KILL INSECTS!  The best advice I can give, kids...and probably adults too, is in order to not get addicted to smoking, DON'T START.  It is not cool, it is not smart, and it is not cool and not smart.

Source of information: The Intellectual Devotional: American History by Kidder and Oppenheim, pg. 4

Sunday, October 24, 2010


     Slavery in British North America began in 1619 with the first shipment of twenty slaves from the African continent to Jamestown.  Referencing back to the lesson on John Smith, Jamestown was founded in 1607 and those that settled were not used to partaking in physical labor.  By 1619, Jamestown was becoming a well established colony and more land was available, mostly being used for farming crops.  One of the crops that the settlers of Jamestown were introduced to was tobacco.  Tobacco was, and still is, a very labor-intensive crop to grow, along with the fact that it takes the nutrients out of the ground, killing usefulness of the soil.  A growing market for tobacco, in the colonies as well as in Britain, created a demand for extra labor in the tobacco fields.  Slave labor equaled cheap labor.
     There is however one point that needs to be made clear.  There was not an immediate influx of African slaves to the North American continent right after 1619.  The slave colonies of Maryland, North and South Carolina, and Georgia were not established until starting in the 1630s on up to the 1730s.  It also needs to be understood that the northern colonies also had slaves, just not to the extent that the southern colonies did.  The disparity between the slave populations in the northern and southern colonies did not come to fruition until after the American Revolution and with the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 by Eli Whitney.
     The aforementioned disparity in slave population has been what historians have termed "slave society" and "society with slaves".  A "society with slaves" is pretty easy and simple to understand.  The northern colonies consisted of societies that had slaves with about one in every eight households owning slaves, at most two slaves in each of those households.  The southern colonies, however, were "slave societies."  These societies were much more complex in that the economies of these colonies revolved around the use of slaves for all labor.  Remember, slave labor was cheap labor.  Contrary to popular belief, the majority of Southerners that owned slaves did not live on plantations.  The majority owned only a few slaves, at most maybe ten slaves.  Plantation owners that had the hundreds of slaves that are talked about in movies and television shows, were in the minority.
     Geography played a huge role in the establishment of the "slave society" and "society with slaves."  The labor-intensive crops, like tobacco and cotton, that were grown in the south did so because of the nutrient-rich soil and warmer climate.  These crops would not survive a growing season in the northern colonies because of the colder temperatures and different soil.  The southern colonies gravitated toward an agriculture-based economy whereas the northern colonies toward an industrial-based economy.
     Many wonder and have wondered, including myself, how slavery could be such a dividing issue leading up to the Civil War.  I think the reason is because the southern economy could not function (or believed they could not function) without the use of slave labor.  Without slaves, the southern colonies would not have had an economy, or maybe a very poor one.  On a side note, I think I need to clarify here that I do not condone or agree with the South owning slaves, but I do understand, based on how things were, why slavery existed.  There was very little industrial support and growth to act as a fall back plan in the event that slavery was abolished.  The end of the Civil War and abolition of slavery may have ordered the southern states to change their ways, but the mindset of the southern states did not change immediately concerning the idea of slave labor and African-Americans.

Source of information: The Intellectual Devotional: American History by Kidder and Oppenheim, pg. 3

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Back to the Future

      So today, Miss Wisabus and I went up to Oklahoma City to a special showing of Back to the Future at the Quail Springs movie theater.  There are several movies that I grew up watching constantly and associate with the nostalgia that is my childhood, one of them being Back to the Future.  The movie came out in 1985 when I was four years old.  I don't remember seeing it in the theater, however I do remember seeing movies II and III.  The experience of seeing this movie in the theater makes it all the more special.

     What this movie does for me is always bring me back to the question, "Is time travel possible?"  When I was a youngster in the 5th grade, we learned about the American Revolution and how the armies fought against each other.  I would sit and daydream as to what it would be like to go back in time with a bunch of machine guns and/or sniper rifles and think about how exciting it would have been to help the Continental Army win the war at a quicker pace.  Two things escaped my mind, and perhaps never entered it for that matter, when I would daydream.  The first was how different the United States would/could be had I managed to go back in time to help the Continental Army against the British.  Second, it never occurred to me that it is physically impossible to do so.  At least since the publishing of H.G. Wells' classic The Time Machine (1895), minds alike have thought about the possibility of being able to travel through time.  As far as I am concerned, in the current universe that we occupy, time travel is an impossibility.  My reasons for thinking so comes mostly from a specific religious/philosophical viewpoint, but I digress.  The great mystery and nostalgia that will forever surround the story of Marty McFly's journey to 1955 is the novelty and wonder at the idea of being able to experience specific moments in history's past.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Pequot War

     There are several instances in United States history that are considered stains on the American psyche.  From the onset of colonization by European explorers up until present day, natives of the western hemisphere have been met by unbridled hostility.  The first official "war" of hostility for British America was the Pequot War (1636-1638).
     The Pequot tribe inhabited what today is Connecticut.  The first British settlements that were established in Connecticut were by Puritans in 1633.  Tension between the Pequots and the Puritans began almost immediately, leading to a raid and massacre of an English vessel's crew.  The Puritans blamed this massacre on warriors of the Pequot tribe and retaliated.  As seen in history, the extent of British retaliation was not equal but greater.  By today's standards, the Puritans retaliatory actions were genocidal with the indiscriminate killing of Pequot women and children along with Pequot warriors.  The end of the Pequot war was the signing of the Treaty of Hartford in 1638.  A lesson of history shows itself here whereby the winners of wars are the ones to dictate the terms.  The Puritans were bent on trying to wipe out the Pequot name whenever and wherever possible.
     What I find most disconcerting about the Pequot War is hypocrisy of the Puritans.  The Puritans fled Britain to get away from the religious persecution they were facing.  Their hostility towards the Pequot is a clear example of the persecuted becoming the persecutor.  The Pequot War would become the first in a wave of hostility toward North American native tribes throughout American history.

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Source of information: The Intellectual Devotional: American History by Kidder and Oppenheim, pg. 2

Thursday Thirteen #1: Favorite Historical Films

In honor of my blogging wife, I am going to do my first Thursday Thirteen.  Keeping with the theme of my blog, it will by my thirteen favorite historical films, in no particular order.

1.   Gettysburg
2.   Gladiator
3.   Forrest Gump
4.   The Patriot
5.   Braveheart
6.   Saving Private Ryan
7.   13th Warrior
8.   Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
9.   The Great Raid
10. Tombstone
11.  Kelly's Heroes
12.  Johnny Tremain
13.  The Hunt For Red October

Thursday, October 21, 2010

John Smith

      John Smith was captain of one of three ships taken to North America to begin a new British colony.  Upon arriving in Virginia, he became one of the main leaders of the Jamestown Colony.  He was quite the courageous fellow, so much that it occasionally got him into trouble as far as being captured.  As a mercenary fighting in Europe, he had been captured in Hungary.  During the two years of being at Jamestown, he was captured by the Powhatans.  This is where he claimed that the daughter of the Powhatan chief, Pocahontas, had saved his life by keeping her father from executing Smith.  What I find quite interesting about John Smith is that he led the expedition to the New World in 1607 at the young, sprightly age of 27...just two years younger than yours truly. 
     As a teacher and lover of history, especially American, it irks me a bit when only Plymouth Colony is referenced when talking about the beginning of Colonial America.  I can understand referencing Plymouth and religious liberty as an influence liberty that arose amongst the populace during the American Revolution.  Jamestown, however, was where the first notion of a "new world" began.  In the "old world" of British hierarchy, "gentlemen" did not partake in laborious activities.  They had servants to do the physical tasks that were required each and every day.  Jamestown was NOT Great Britain.  Everyone of the 108 settlers at, women, and children...had to pitch in and do their part in order to make it a successful colony and survive.  At the forefront of these "gentlemen" getting a little "kick in the pants" was John Smith.  John Smith was a soldier and soldiers are trained to survive.  I really think that he had a huge part in the survival of Jamestown those first 2 dismal years.  Unfortunately, the concept of doing your part did not last for long, as Jamestown later incorporated indentured servants and African slaves into the colony.

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Source of information: The Intellectual Devotional: American History by Kidder and Oppenheim, pg. 1


Howdy folks!  I have once again decided to try to maintain a blog.  This time, however, my blog will have a more historical spin on things.  Each post will be a mini-history lesson.  I will say that most posts will be American History-esque due to my love of all things American historically.  There will also be lessons on other areas of history, but we'll just have to see how things go.  Enjoy!