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Friday, June 25, 2010

Taking a Fork

Several of the "today in history" websites list an interesting tidbit for June 25: "Fork introduced to American dining by Governor Winthrop" in 1630. As someone fascinated by culinary history, this caught my interest. Sadly, none of the sites gave citations, except to other websites , so I started digging.

The June 25, 1630 date initially seemed a bit surprising because Winthrop's ship, the Arbella, landed in Salem on June 12, and I can't imagine how he would have gotten a new fork two weeks later. However over lunch my colleagues pointed out that June 12 in the Julian calendar, which Winthrop would have used, works out to June 25 in the modern Gregorian calendar, so that mystery was cleared up.

A bit more searching on the subject of Winthrop and forks led to a plethora of references in old histories dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Some stated that he brought a fork over with him in 1630, while others, such as Alice Morse Earle's "Customs and Fashions in Old New England"claim that the fork did not arrive until 1633, citing a letter from E. Howes to Winthrop, saying that the Howes had sent to him a " case containing an Irish skeayne or knife, a bodekyn & a forke for the useful applycation of which I leave to your discretion." One piece of evidence that does seem pretty solid is that there was a fork in Winthrop's inventory when he died in 1649, so he was certainly among the first fork users in the U.S., even if the exact date seems a bit sketchy.

Regardless of its exact date, Winthrop's fork would have been a two tined affair, used to hold down food to be cut; bringing the food to the mouth was a job for the knife. An example of this kind of fork can be seen in this much-later print, done by British artist Thomas Rowlandson in 1790.

Thomas Rowlandson, Waiting for Dinner. 1790. 1986.4. Gift of Edith Rosenwald

Modern four-tined forks for bringing food to the mouth were not common in the U.S. until the nineteenth century; here's a pretty typical example from a mid-nineteenth century set that belonged to Morris and Isabella Rosenbach.

Henry Harper, 1857-68. 2003.135

The nineteenth century witnessed an explosion in forkage, as lower metal costs and more complicated etiquette led to a proliferation of specialized serving and eating forks for all different types of food. For example

The pie fork (Bailey & Co, 1860-1878. 2004.24.2)

The dessert fork (2004.21.2)

The cold meat fork (2004.21.1)

The olive fork (Gorham, 1873-1894. 2004.6.2)

Who knows what Winthrop would have thought?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bloomsday Bloomed!

Unsurprisingly, the focus around here for the past week was Bloomsday. Everything went really well; thank you to all of you who packed the house for Ulysses 101 on Monday, Declan Kiberd's talk on Tuesday, and for the readings themselves yesterday.

The fact that we moved to our Bloomsday rain location spared the city from a single drop, despite the ominous forecast, so thanks again to all of you for handling the change of venue with grace. Much of my Bloomsday was spent on the street near the museum redirecting folks and it was great to get to talk to so many Joyce enthusiasts! I also evangelized about Ulysses to anyone who looked like they might have a passing interest in talking to me, so hopefully I made a few Joycean converts.

A few photos from the event are below, but I also wanted to provide a few Joyce links to stories you may have missed:

First, you may have heard about the controversy over Apple's having censored Robert Berry's Ulysses Seen ipad app, requiring him to redraw several images containing nudity. Regular Bloomsday attendees may remember Berry's work from our 2008 Bloomsday, when it was displayed at the museum and inserted into the Bloomsday Herald.) Anyway, Apple reversed its decision just in time for Bloomsday and WHYY recorded a great piece that appeared yesterday on All Things Considered. The segment includes a clip from our Bloomsday and an interview with former Rosenbacher Mike Barsanti. The National Archives has also posted the original 1933 court decision unbanning the novel itself on its Facebook page, so check it out!.

Also, if you didn't see this Tuesday's New York Times, you might want to check out the Op-Ed on Bell Telephone's attempt in the 1950s to broaden its employees' horizons by having them read Ulysses.

Now a few pictures:

Thanks again to everyone who attended/read/worked/volunteered for Bloomsday and now it's time to go ahead and mark your calendars for next year!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Finding Your Way Around

First off, a very Happy Birthday to Maurice Sendak, who turns 82 today. Perhaps we can all celebrate by reading a Sendak book--there are scores to choose from. My son's favorite is Pierre, from the Nutshell Library, while my daughter likes the Little Bear series. Or for the visual among us, check out this clip from the DVD we made to accompany the exhibit There's A Mystery There, in which Sendak talks about his childhood and his work.

Also on our radar screen this week was the successful conclusion of one of this year's school partnership projects--Project Greenfield, which ended last evening with a Rosenparty for the students and their families.

If you are not familiar with our school partnerships, they are close collaborations between our Education staff and a specific class, in this case Adrienne Horowitz's 4th Grade Class at Albert M. Greenfield School. Greenfield is just down the street from us, but we have done partnerships with teachers at schools throughout Philadelphia. The projects last for a significant period of time (Project Greenfield lasted all school year) and have a specific focus, in this case maps and mapping.

The students visited the Rosenbach to see some our collection of maps and to talk about what maps are and the many different functions they can serve. Both here and at school they worked with their teacher and with Emilie Parker, our Hirsig Family Director of Education, to put that knowledge to use: taking neighborhood walks, delving into local history, drawing, photographing and mapping the spaces around them, creating different legends and keys that break down the world in different ways. Here's an example of the maps they created together:

The picture may be too small to see clearly, but the red brick building at the bottom center is the Rosenbach and the key at the lower right breaks the area down by architectural style. Pretty darn cool!

To celebrate the students' hard work we have produced a printed piece that incorporates a number of the images and maps they have produced over the year. This was made possible by the generous support of the Hirsig Family Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation. I've reproduced the finished product below, so you can get a sense of the kinds of work they've done (graphic design is by GHI design):

So congratulations to Ms Horowitz's class and to our other school partners from the 2009-2010 school year. Enjoy the summer! For more info about school partnerships, you can check out our website, which includes a list of past projects.

Finally, lest I be remiss, remember that Bloomsday is next Wednesday noon to 7PM! Hope to see you all there!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Memorial Day Recap

I hope everyone enjoyed the lovely weather over Memorial Day weekend. As you probably know, the holiday was originally known as Decoration Day and it originated as a way of honoring the Civil War dead. Although most of us no longer visit cemeteries on Memorial Day, the parades and speeches that many of us attend are a continuation of traditions that began almost a hundred and fifty years ago.

I think the scope and scale of death in the Civil War is very hard for us to understand today. Approximately 620,000 soldiers died between 1861-1865, representing almost a quarter of those who served and 2% of the total U.S. population at the time. A similar death rate today, compared to current population, would be about six million. Drew Gilpin Faust makes the case in her book This Republic of Suffering that the very death-ness of the war was one of it's most significant aspects for the people who actually lived through it. If you haven't read Faust's book, I highly recommend it; it's one of the best Civil War books I've ever read and the fact that it was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award means I'm not the only one who thinks so. As a warm-up for the book you can read a great interview with Faust here or read an excerpt here.

Also in honor of Memorial Day I am posting a letter written from C.C. Price to the father of Elmer Ellsworth, who was one of the first soldiers killed in the war. Ellsworth was shot while attempting to remove a Confederate flag from a house in Arlington, Virginia on May 24, 861. His death became a rallying point for Union supporters and this letter is one many in our collection that demonstrate the outpouring of support for Ellsworth's family. We will posting more of these letters as part of a special Civil War blog to mark the Civil War 150th, starting this fall.

It's also worth noting that at the time of Ellsworth death people still thought the war would be short and casualties would be few and that they still had the ability to memorialize each soldier individually. This would become more and more difficult as the war progressed and the dead were counted not in ones or tens but in thousands and tens of thousands

C.C. Price to Ephraim D. Ellsworth. 27 May 1861. AMS 811/2.6

Hollidaysburg Blair Co. Pa. May 27/1861
To Colonell Ellsworths Father

My brother […] by this hallowed name. I address and solace offer you. It is not the prompting of the outward, my soul has been baptised and may I say almost overwhelmed in grief. my heart was maimed.. that he young noble and generous, beloved by all, should go down so soon, and in this way. to the nation the Cost is great, but the roots of the tree of liberty no common blood could take, it must be one on whome the affections of the nation was placed, that this sacrifice might bring us to a condition in which we the more plainly could see and feel the magnitude and importance of the work before us. and from that hour we looked with fresh hope with renewed encouragement and for better fruit. since the roots with greed have drank again of the precious blood of an American Marter, Ah the strong flow of soul, the unity of purpose. the determination to be avenged needs no more of provocation to lead us as one soul to the fount of liberty to baptise anew our souls in the living watters of American patriotism, notwithstanding when I contemplate the sad event the blood seems to tingle in my veins and the tear oozes from the briney socket and I exclaim

Great Good and was it he

This sacrifice should make

That incense might to heaven arise

This nation to awake

Twas fitting that a noble soul

Should in this contest fall

If any must be given up

In freedoms earnest call

I conclude with you in this great loss, and refer you to the true course for consolation with the true sympathy of a friend I close very Respectfully C. C. Price