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Friday, July 19, 2013

A Change in the Weather?

It's about time for my annual heat wave post (check out last year's post for some great Cruikshank illustrations on how to beat the heat).  According to the weather forecasts, we are finally due for some heat-clearing storms, so I thought I'd highlight an item which could be used in understanding and predicting the weather. It is a wheel barometer. (I  apologize for the poor image: it is in storage and I couldn't get far enough away to shoot it square-on).

C.A. Canti, barometer. English, 19th century. 1954.2021   
The  reason it's known as a wheel barometer is pretty straightforward--the atmospheric pressure (and resulting weather) is read from a large dial (ours is over a foot across), as opposed to a "stick barometer" which has vertical markings like a thermometer.

C.A. Canti, barometer. English, 19th century. 1954.2021 
This type of barometer was invented in the 17th century by Robert Hook and involves a u-shaped tube filled with mercury; a float on the mercury is linked to the needle. You can see Hook's original diagram and read more about how the barometer works and about Hook's interest in weather at the Hook's London blog.  Ours is a 19th-century example; the nameplate indicates that it was made by C.A. Canti of Town Malling, Kent, who was in business ca. 1815-1845.

C.A. Canti, barometer. English, 19th century. 1954.2021 

This kind of barometer is often called a banjo barometer, due to its shape. The long neck holds the necessary tube, and also provides an excellent place to add other useful weather devices--such as a thermometer.

C.A. Canti, barometer. English, 19th century. 1954.2021 
It may be hard to see in this picture, but the thermometer is marked at several important points, such as freezing and "blood heat." I also noticed that "Sumr heat" is clearly marked--right at 76 degrees! Of course this was made in England, which is cooler than here, but they are having their own heat wave now and would probably be quite glad for that level of "summer heat".

C.A. Canti, barometer. English, 19th century. 1954.2021 
Stay cool and remember that  a visit to the Rosenbach is wonderfully air-conditioned.

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bloomsday June 16, 2013

This year Bloomsday fell on a Sunday, and not just any Sunday, it was also Father’s Day. In the over twenty years of Bloomsday programs at the Rosenbach we have never had so many readers under 10 years-old! Fathers and their children “rejoyced” together in reading Ulysses for an audience of over 1,400 people.  This was a new precedent for Rosenbach Bloomsday programs, and one we hope to continue. 

Bloomsday (a term Joyce himself did not employ) was invented in 1954, on the 50th anniversary of the events in the novel, when John Ryan and the novelist Brian O'Nolan organized what was to be a daylong pilgrimage along the Ulysses route in Dublin. The Rosenbach’s Bloomsday started in 1992 with a public reading of selected passages from the novel. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Carol Shloss, one of the original organizers of the Rosenbach’s Bloomsday. 

The Rosenbach puppets were made by Carol Shloss and Allan Troxler for the first international James Joyce Conference to be held in Philadelphia in 1987 . Carol and Allan, Swarthmore classmates, had both been members of the Bread and Puppet theater, where they learned the arts of larger-than-life size puppet making and street theater. They were constructed in North Carolina and arrived in Philadelphia in three refrigerator boxes on a greyhound bus. Once freed from their travel cases, they were  used at the head of a bagpipe procession from the Rosenbach Museum through Rittenhouse Square to the Curtis Institute on Bloomsday 1987.

We are excited to welcome Carol Shloss back the Rosenbach this fall. She will lead the Wednesday evening sessions of the Ulysses reading group, starting in October. The reading group is a fun and painless way to read (and finish!) James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses for both first-time readers, and experienced readers revisiting the text. The nine-session course incorporates episode-by-episode discussions and lectures. Shloss has recently returned to the Philadelphia area after many years of teaching at Stanford.  In the world of Joyce scholarship Shloss is a hero. She was instrumental in breaking the Joyce estate’s strong hold on copyright access to reproduce and publish parts of Ulysses. Click here to read more about her efforts

Registration for the Ulysses reading groups begins on August 15! All reading group participants are invited to read at the Rosenbach’s 2014 Bloomsday program.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

July 1863/July 2013

This is a big week for Civil War fans, as it marks the 150th anniversary of both the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) and the surrender of Vicksburg, a strategic city on the Mississippi river (July 4, 1863). There is a lot going on, both in town and around the nation, to commemorate this anniversary; for this week's blog I have picked three documents relevant to the week's events. 

 The first is a letter from Major Alexander Biddle, written to his wife 150 years ago today from a "Bivouac in the field near Gettysburg." Biddle was with the 121st Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, which had fought hard on the first day and then been in reserve on Cemetery Ridge. (You can see the 121st's monuments at Gettysburg and find out  more about the regiment at the Stone Sentinels site). 

Alexander Biddle, autograph letter signed to Julia Williams Rush Biddle, Gettysburg, 3 July 1863. Rosenbach Museum & Library. Rush IV:30:33
In this letter, Biddle filled the normal four page letter (a single sheet, folded in half to create four pages) and signed off as "your loving Alexander." However, "after writing this, about 4 O'clock in the afternoon our position was violently shelled"  so Biddle turned the paper 90 degrees and kept writing, a common 19th-century technique. In a work on letter-writing, Lewis Carroll advised never to do this, since "cross writing makes cross reading," but perhaps Biddle can be forgiven as he was giving his impressions of the attack that would become known as Pickett's Charge. In Biddle's words:

"Doubleday & Rowley both said they never heard more violent shelling.  every minute they burst or solid shot ricocheted over us.  After this they drove in our skirmishers and pushed up to the brow of a hill on our right, for a moment they took a battery but it was immediately retaken.  the result is Longstreet wounded and a prisoner — Garrett wounded lying on the field.  Gibbons division took 14 stand of Colors, on our front they were repulsed.  I think I have seen some 2000 prisoners pass us during the day.  Their shelling still continues at intervals, sometimes severely.  To day is certainly a great success — for which thank the mercy of God to us and our suffering Country."

Our second document provides a civilian perspective on Gettysburg.  It is a letter to Marianne Moore's grandmother, Jennie Craig Warner, who lived in Gettysburg with her husband, the Rev. John Riddle Warner, and her one-year-old daughter Mary (who would become Marianne's mother).

Hugh Craig, autograph letter signed to Jennie Warner, Shippensburg, Pa., 13 July 1863. Rosenbach Museum & Library Moore VI:05:21

This letter, written to Jennie on July 13, 1863, expressed both concern and fascination:"We were rejoiced to hear that you escaped unhurt. Mr. Warner’s desire to see the battle progressing must have been pretty great when he would stick his head out of the trap door of the roof when balls were whistling around in every direction. To see a great battle progressing must be a sublime sight that I would like to see, if I could witness it with safety. The anxiety and fear you must have experienced during so terrific a battle must have been great. How did little Mary get along? But I suppose she was the happiest of you all being unconscious of the danger she was in."

Our final document is the celebrated wallpaper edition of the Vicksburg Citizen. The Vicksburg campaign culminated in a siege of the strategic Mississippi town and with supplies dwindling, the Vicksburg newspaper was forced to print on wallpaper. When Union troops entered the city, they found the July 2 issue still in standing type, and they printed souvenir wallpaper copies.

The Daily Citizen. Vicksburg, Miss., 4 July 1863. Rosenbach Museum & Library. AN .D133

As you can see, the wallpaper pattern has come through the page in the last 150 years, making it a bit challenging to read the Union  postscript noting that "No more will [the paper] eulogize the luxury of mule-meat and fricassed kitten -- urge Southern warriors to such diet never more."  There were several different patterns of wallpaper used--you can see a different one on the Library of Congress's copy.

All of these documents can be seen in the Voices of 1863 exhibition; the museum will be closed July 4-5 for the Independence Day holiday, but you can swing by over the weekend to find out more. You can also find many other Civil War documents from the Rosenbach's collections at our Today in the Civil War blog.

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library.