Friday, March 30, 2007

Figure It Out Friday #8


Myths About Hands

Well, we’re in the mist of student tour season and there are several myths that abound in the Washington, DC/Virginia area.

The most prevalent myths have to do with the hands of President Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial and the hands of the five Marines and the Navy Corpsman (Pharmacists Mate) at the United States Marine Memorial (Iwo Jima) in Arlington, Virginia.

This is where you can really tell if your tour guide is competent:

The myths concerning the Lincoln Memorial that range from the significance of the number of steps leading to it as well as the two ‘faces’ that are supposedly on the back of the statue and one on top of his head. I hear these bogus explanations every time I’m there with a group.

The myth of the seated Lincoln’s hands at the memorial is this: The hands represent ‘A’ and ‘L’ in sign language.

But one can understand where this myth emanated; it’s just a result of historic fact extended into an incorrect assumption.

Daniel Chester French did indeed know about American Sign Language as he had sculpted Thomas Hopkins Galludet and a young girl, Alice Cogswell . Galludet was, the first school for the deaf and currently the only university in the world to primarily accommodate the deaf and hard of hearing. It is located in Washington, DC.

But French did not sculpt the hands of President Lincoln, who was instrumental in getting the formerly named Columbia School for the Deaf established into an ‘A’ and ‘L’. (Since this is a federally chartered private university, the sitting President serves as a patron.)

The best source of this would be the papers and recollections of both Daniel Chester French and his daughter which can be found at Chesterwood, the home of the French family..

On the official website of Chesterwood one can find this :

By the end of October his first model was finished. He modeled the head on photographs and on the death mask made after Lincoln's assassination. Worried about the hands on the arms of the chair, he studied photographs to see how Lincoln usually placed his hands. French even made casts of his own hands for reference.

French also studied the life casts of Lincoln’s hands which can be seen in the museum dedicated to Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre.

The idea of the seated Lincoln is to show him as a great leader and judge; a Soloman-like figure. He is indeed in the seat of judgment which depicts faces, the Roman symbol of law and authority as well as unity. French wanted to convey the duality of his nature: stern and merciful; that necessary qualities for fair judgment and leadership. If one looks at the seated Lincoln and then walks to one’s right and looks at his profile, the expression is stern. The hand on the right (as we see it) is clenched; tension. Walk to the middle at look right up at him, the smile seems a bit crooked, and the bow tie definitely is; this is the transition between stern and merciful. Notice that the right leg is also pulled in, again tension. But take a look to the left, and the hand and leg are relaxed. And then if one goes to the side of the statue and looks at Lincoln’s other profile, he seems benign, with a hint of a smile; this is the merciful side. (By the way, these profiles are the only other 'faces' besides the front view, intended by French; the one in the back, which looks like either Robert E. Lee or Beethoven, and the one on top of the head are illusions, with urban legends to match.)

So again, consult primary documents rather than rely on hearsay and most internet sites.

There is an interesting email exchange here between concerning this question and the answer is a bit up in the air.

(By the way, just in case you were wondering, the number of steps at the memorial (from which ever one you start your count, is significant; they’re the exact number needed to get to the top! Any other explanation: lies, lies, and more lies!)

Now we get to the United States Marine Memorial, which is also known as, Iwo Jima.

No doubt you’ve seen or read,
Flags of Our Fathers, and Letters from Iwo Jima and have some idea of the intent and carnage there.

The idea for the memorial came from AP photographer’s Joe Rosenthal’s photo, which is perhaps the best known photo of all of WWII. The massive sculpture by Felix de Weldon depicts five US Marines and one Pharmacists Mate (Navy Corpsman). It is perhaps one of the most exciting and moving pieces of sculpture in the world.

Counting the hands and legs seems to be a preoccupation for most groups and many faith-based groups have been telling that there are actually thirteen hands; the extra one is the, ‘Hand of G-d’.

Now that’s a nice story, but it just isn’t true.

Anyone who has a replica of this famous memorial and can look at it from a bird’s-eye view can tell that there are twelve hands. A pamphlet, The Myth of the 13th Hand proving this, was written by Thomas W. Miller, Jr., who participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima. The pamphlet can be bought at the Arlington Cemetery gift shop for about $2.50.

My favorite story involving a fellow DC tour guide*, who was known to embellish and make up stories for effect is as follows:

It was right before the Marine Corps birthday, (November 10th) and I had spoken with my student group about WWII, the history of the United States Marine Corps, Battle of Iwo Jima, and the story and statistics of the memorial. I stressed that there were only twelve hands.

As we got off the bus, my colleague, dressed as Uncle Sam, delivered one of the most poignant stories of the heroes of that battle and described the memorial. His last bit of theatricality was to remove his hat, bow his head, and with tears in his eyes, he looked towards the statue, raising his hand and said, “And the thirteenth hand is the hand of G-d”!

Naturally, my students looked at me smugly, until a voice shot out from behind the statute which surprised everybody! The voice belonged to a Maine who was actually in the sculpture! (Seeing the Marine juxtaposed against figures six times his size, gave some perspective as to how large it was!)

“I am Private (whatever his name) USMC, and I have been up here three days cleaning this memorial. I have been all over it! There are six individuals: five Marines and one Navy Corpsman. They each have two feet, two legs, two arms, and two hands. Twelve hands and twelve legs. That’s the way G-d makes them, and that’s the only way the Marine Corps takes ‘em!"

The hand of God was there, alright!


And I think you know me well enough to know that this story is NOT an ‘Urban Legend’!

(Any group I conducted that had had him as a guide in the past, was a difficult group. I spent most of my time proving my points and therebydiscrediting him (which I didn't enjoy.). Some teachers still don’t believe me!)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday XII:11 New York Comfort Foods

Thirteen New York City Comfort Foods (Besides Pizza)
I Miss:

Manhattan Special Espresso Soda (they have other flavors, too!)

Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda (black cherry and cream are runner-ups)

Real New York Cheesecake (No graham cracker crust!)

Italian Ices (from Lemon Ice King in Corona)

Babka (at any good Jewish Bakery - remember to take a number!)

Blintzes (cheese and cherry in Brighton Beach)

Nathan’s Hot Dogs (at Coney Island)

Chocolate or coffee eggcreams (I used to get it at Gem Spa)

Bagels and Bialies (from H&H Bagels)

Potato and Kasha Knishes (at Knish Nosh in Forest Hills- with deli mustard at)

Appetizing (smoked fish from Barney Greengrass)

A 'regular' coffee (in a Greek Blue and White paper cup)

Rice Pudding after enjoying the Blue Plate Special (at any Greek coffeeshop)

If you don't know what any of these are, don't hesitate to ask!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #9

This is the General Sherman Tree - it is the world's largest tree by volume.
Unfortunately, I am having problems transferring my WORD document to this - so there will be more information later when I rewrite. Thanks.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Baptism of Pocahontas: Capitol Offense - Get it Right!

An Argument for Primary Sources Versus Internet

No, I didn't spell Capitol incorrectly; I am referring to the United States Capitol Building.

During my meanderings this week, I came upon a post concerning the baptism of Pocahontas in Jamestown.
The Baptism of Pocahontas is one of the eight giant paintings in the rotunda of The Capitol and certainly one that is always on my tour. The artist is John Gadsby Chapman * of Alexandria, VA. (I also live in Alexandria! ) However, this Virginian knows differently and in the interest of historic accuracy, I commented on the post that this occurred in Henricus, Virginia, rather than Jamestown.

The author of the post, shot back his reference: The Architect of the United States Capitol website. So I dutifully went to the site, still knowing that I was correct. (Yes, I was THAT certain!)

Here is the official caption on the AOC website under the painting:

John Gadsby Chapman
Oil on canvas, 12' x 18'
Commissioned 1837; placed 1840

John Gadsby Chapman depicted Pocahontas, wearing white, being baptized Rebecca by Anglican minister Alexander Whiteaker in Jamestown, Virginia; this event is believed to have taken place in 1613 or 1614. She kneels, surrounded by family members and colonists. Her brother Nantequaus turns away from the ceremony. The baptism took place before her marriage to Englishman John Rolfe, who stands behind her. Their union is said to be the first recorded marriage between a European and a Native American. The scene symbolizes the belief of Americans at the time that Native Americans should accept Christianity and other European ways.

Chapman (1808-1889), born in Alexandria, Virginia, studied art in Italy and became known for his portrait and historical paintings and his rich use of color.

This caption is also quite patronizing towards the Powhatans, although Rev. Whittaker wrote of the Powhatans in one of his sermons, Good Newes from Virginia which he sent back to London in 1613:

"servants of sinne and slaves of the divill," but he also acknowledges them as "sons of Adam," who are "a very understanding generation, quicke of apprehension, suddaine in their despatches, subtile in their dealings, exquisite in their inventions, and industrious in their labour."

I was astounded and appalled at this mess!

It is offensive to me that no historian in the office of The Architect of the Capitol has questioned the content of his/her own website!

This has only come to my attention because someone, who was well-intentioned, questioned my assertion by referencing the website. I have been interpreting this painting all these years, relying on historic fact, blissfully unaware of what was on the Internet.

The advantage that I have over many teachers and historians is that I have actually visited and interpreted these sites on numerous occasions. I have spent over 25 years based as a guide in Washington, DC traveling throughout the United States and Canada with students and adults. Never underestimate the knowledge base of your tour guides and tour bus drivers! Tour guides/managers and bus drivers pick up a lot of history along the way. We have been exposed to hundreds of 'step-on' guides in cities and battlefields, docents at sites, National Park Rangers, and teachers. Most professional guides (those who have been in the field over ten years and work for several companies) and motorcoach drivers I know, also read quite a bit and pursue independent research. We spend much of our time with other colleagues comparing notes, sharing stories, and arguing over opinions; ah! we are an opinionated lot! It makes the job more interesting and our knowledge impresses the passengers! After a while, we can discern what is correct and what is heresay. We like to get it right!

I also strive to teach my students how to get it right. Sometimes it is good for them to hear from another voice other than their teacher's. One of my favorite spots for this teaching moment, is the Library of Congress. While they gawk at one of the most beautiful interiors in the world, I like to talk to them about the power of books, the dissemination of information, the importance of primary documents in research, and the general pursuit of truth. It's actually a short talk, but very effective. Three of the questions I pose are: Do you think libraries will be obsolete in the future? What advantages do libraries have over the Internet? Why do you think people come here to research and study rather than on the Internet? After careful consideration and an exchange of ideas, they realize the importance of thorough research; of checking and double-checking facts and figures; the use of multiple, reliable resources; discernment; and the utilization of librarians.

The National Archives is another stop on their 'tour' and the NARA does offer an on-site student program on the use of primary documents. However, if that document program is not scheduled or available, take advantage of another great teaching moment for more discussion on research. (Actually, our Charters of Freedom, is the main reason to visit the NARA.)

I constantly need to reinforce that while the Internet may be a good place to start, one cannot rely solely upon it. But if they must use the internet, they need to find official and esoteric sites germane to their research, which document each source and reference. I let them know that I would only use a article in Wikipedia or Conservapedia, if I can double-check their research and deem it sound.

So, if I were a teacher, and I had assigned a research topic on the United States Capitol, I would expect my students to get their information from the official site. That would seem perfectly reasonable.

But what if the official site contains incorrect information? A casual researcher, such as an eighth grader, or even the teacher himself, would certainly not know this due to the perceived reputation of the AOC; accepting this information as fact. Who would question that which is showcased in one of the most important buildings in the world?

I'm often in a quandary (a recurring nightmare) as to how to deal with teachers who have proudly given me a book of reports on the sites, produced by the students, only to discover that 30% of the facts are incorrect. It's not really the fault of the students, it is the quality of the sources they have consulted. A lot of hard work has gone into these projects and the efforts should be acknowleged. But I'm never sure how to proceed when one of the students proudly gets up and reads his/her report and it is downright wrong! Keep in mind that there are over 40 students and a teacher that have been given to understand the reports are correct. Some of these same teachers have been under the assumption that these are correct facts and have perpetuated falsehoods to their classes for years!

But I'm stubborn, I have to get it right! (Blame it on my bulldog high school teacher, Dr. Meade!)

So enter the iconoclastic tour guide. who lives in Alexandria, VA, with the same last name as the minister at St. John's, and who has guided groups through the US Capitol, St. John's Church, Henricus, and Jamestown for a quarter of a century, and naturally, I'm the one being doubted by my teachers!

In turn, I'm trying to figure out how the US Capitol got it wrong! Where did they get this incorrect information?

And here's the answer, which can be found at the Chapman website I provided earlier:

On 28 February 1837 the Select Committee chose John Vanderlyn, Robert Weir, Henry Inman, and John G. Chapman to paint scenes from American history (for the rotunda). According to his contract, Chapman received $10,000 in four payments. The finished painting, The Baptism of Pocahontas, was unveiled on 30 November 1840 and was accompanied by a pamphlet explaining the artist's approach to the subject and a brief history of Pocahontas and the Jamestown colony.

Aha! They relied on a Victorian-era artist for the history and have never bothered to review it for accuracy! As you know, Victorian artists were notoriously 'romantic' and put interesting 'spins' on their subjects for 'art's sake' and for their patrons. Art historians are always having to explain and rationalize incongruities, additions, and anachronisms in historic or genre paintings. And how is it that in the 167 years this painting has hung in the Capitol Rotunda, viewed by millions, no one caught the mistake? (There are other disturbing features concerning this painting, but I have written them off to, 'artistic license'. By the way, the so-called Nantequaus has six toes on one of his feet! And upon reflection, the AOC may have indeed, reviewed their information changing, 'Indian' to 'Native American', which was a term not in general use in the 1830's-1840's, to make it more PC! Their concern clearly was not about accuracy.)

However, there is not only an error about Jamestown, but the discrepancy concerning the correct way to spell the 'Anglican minister's' name. I had to consider where I should start, and I thought it should be at the church in which she was baptized.

The best source for this particular baptism is, St. John's Episcopal Church in Richmond. (The later site for Patrick Henry's, "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech.) Extant church records normally give an accurate account of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and deaths. Journals, letters, and sermons are also acceptable sources. Alexander Whittaker documented the theological education and baptism of Pocahontas (properly Matoaka) in all the aforementioned ways. He is the one credited with giving her the Christian name of, Rebecca.

St. John's Church also spells Whittaker with a double 'T', as does my family. I can only imagine that they would not have used this spelling (neither the common, 'one 'T'', as in Forrest Whitaker, nor the more uncommon one used in the painting's caption) if their records did not indicate that it was the correct spelling! The first baptism of a Native American who was also the daughter of Powhatan (the equivalent of an emperor) was big news and certainly a feather in the cap of Rev. Whittaker; there should not have been any question as to the location of this event or the spelling of this famous man's name!

Additionally, I found during my internet quest, general sloppiness amongst various sites concerning Rev. Alexander Whittaker's year of death, which was in 1617, a result of drowning in the James River. (This has always puzzled me as he was Church of England rather than a Baptist; what was he doing in the river?!) Again, I would rely on the church records and their urgent call to London for another clergyman/priest to take his place.

Now the question is, where exactly did this baptism take place? Henricus (pronounced, 'Hen-RYE-cuss). This is also explained on the St. John's site:

In 1611 Sir Thomas Dale, high marshal of Virginia, pushed up the James River from the original settlement at Jamestown and founded Henricus in honor of Prince Henry, eldest son of James I. Accompanying Thomas Dale on this expedition was the Reverend Alexander Whittaker. Together they decided that the construction of a church would take precedence over other buildings, and so the first church in Henricus was built near the site of the present Dutch Gap Canal.

The Reverend Alexander Whittaker was appointed rector for this first Henricus church. Whittaker gained fame as the minister who baptized Pocahontas, giving her the Christian name of Rebecca, and who married her to John Rolfe in 1614. In 1617 Whittaker drowned in the James River. His associate William Wickham held the Parish Church together, awaiting the arrival from England of the Reverend Thomas Bargrave in 1619.

Fifteen years later in 1634 the Virginia Colony was divided into shires in the English fashion and Henricus was shortened to Henrico. It was larger than Henrico County is now, including today's Chesterfield, Powhatan and Goochland counties. Consistent with the lack of separation of church and state, parish lines for the church were the same as the shire boundaries.

The above is proof positive that Jamestown did not play a part in the baptism. But again, the pity about all of this, is that literally over a hundred thousand people this year, particularly the onslaught of students at this very writing, will be going through the US Capitol and told (since this is the 400th Anniversary of Jamestown) by their in-house guide service that the baptism took place in Jamestown. In addition, I have no idea how many students will be researching this and getting the erroneous information from the US Capitol site or how many textbooks and art books are also incorrect.

The good people at Jamestown Island and Jamestown Settlement will have to constantly explain that this seminal event did not occur there! They certainly know the truth, and also like to get it right! They're probably wondering where these students get their information! I think they would be dumbstruck to find it was the US Capitol!

Now it's your turn to help get it right!

The Tour Marm

P.S. Don't get me started on Disney!

We want you to visit us this year! Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Richmond, Petersburg, Fredericksburg, Alexandria, and Washington, DC all welcome you!

In addition to these places, look into a more rustic settlement, the Citie of Henricus, which will be a lot less crowded and an excellent contrast to Jamestown. They have very good hands-on educational programs.

There is another interesting site about Chapman from the National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria. Chapman was the grandson of John Gadsby.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ooooo! Look what I found!

It was raining Saturday and so I decided to tour my cyber neighborhood, without a map in hand.

Here are some of the interesting people and adventures I found!

First, I thought I would try to seek out some folks who were interested in local Virginia history. My 'Blog Mom', Elementaryhistoryteacher, is a proud Georgian, and I'm a bit jealous of her Georgia Blog and Carnival, which I encourage everyone to visit, along with her teammate Jenny's
American Presidents.

While I was looking at the photo of Stonewall Jackson's statue, which stands in front of VMI's barracks, I remembered it was done by a Jewish sculptor who had been a cadet and served with distinction during the Battle of Newmarket. I wanted to find out more about Moses J. Ezekiel who had also designed the Confederate Memorial at Arlington and some statues in the niches of the Renwick Gallery (former Corcoran Gallery) near the White House. I ended up spending a considerable amount of time meandering through the Jews in the Civil War and the Wild West. (Flashback of the movie, The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacobs!) Hmmm, what good ideas for posts!

Additionally during my wanderings, I found a site dedicated to Christian Reenactors (of all eras). I almost always utilize reenactors for my groups and am happy to find more resources. (Philip A. Surrey, the webmaster, is from Illinois and wears blue, which would be appropriate for my Lincoln tours in 2009!) However, he is currently deployed in the Illinois Air National Guard for a few months and there won't be any new posts; but there are enough to read while he is away. My prayers are with him.

Currently, Virginia is in the midst of celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first permanent English (British) settlement in America, and you are invited to join us for the party! I felt I needed to review some of the official l websites of Jamestown 400 (their calendar of events), Jamestown Yorktown Foundation and the National Park Service for Colonial National Historical Park to keep up to date. Well, that is my job!

But lo and behold! There's gold buried somewhere in the area! While I believe we have enough to occupy and interest people in Virginia, there is a fantastic Treasure Hunt in honor of the founding of Jamestown through Vision Forum which is open to all! This Treasure Hunt is real and brings the seekers to all the areas within the Historic Triangle of Virginia. (Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.) Vision Forum is faith-based and offers resources germane to their Christian mission.

This Commonwealth is also in a tizzy to get all gussied up to host Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. It might seem unimaginable that a former colony filled with republicans would fete a monarch, but we Virginians are gracious lot and acknowledge our legacy from Great Britain; all is forgiven! Unfortunately, I will be, 'on the road' with one of my groups when she does visit. Some of my family members were able to see her in 1957 at The College of William and Mary, and others I had known were at the 300th anniversary in 1907! It's a pity that no one in my immediate family will be carrying on the tradition insofar as my family helped to settle Jamestown.

It was time not to dwell on this and move westward a bit to see what was there. Imagine my surprise to find a fine blog covering the whole Appalachian region! As I am a devoted fan of old black and white movies, especially biographies, I always wondered what happened after the cheery, 'THE END'. It was not unusual for me, even as a child, to do some independent research and learn more about the subject of a movie. After a while, I became a bit cynical because Hollywood puts its own spin on lives and events. Such is the case with Sgt. Alvin York in the great all-star cast headed by Gary Cooper in the film: Sargeant York. One of my favorite new neighbors, Dave Tabler, has two wonderful sites, Appalachian History and Hillbilly Savants. His current post is on Alvin York's struggles to bring education to rural Tennessee. His other posts run the gamut from natural history through popular culture; they are all well researched and the people of the area are sensitively portrayed. It is an altogether wonderful portrait of an entire region with emphasis on the Depression Era.

So take some time to follow in my footsteps and say, "Hey!" to our neighbors. And pleas do remember to send my best wishes and regards!

The Tour Marm

Friday, March 23, 2007

Figure It Out Friday #7 032307

These two photos are connected to one man: This is a real brain-teaser!
Hint: If you know what the logo above represents, you're halfway there...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thursday XIII: 10 - Lame Tour Guide Jokes

A Certain Tour Guide's Lame Jokes Told During Her Running Commentary Aboard a Motorcoach Full of 7th and 8th Graders Touring the DC Area: (And there's no escape!)

  1. If we pass a swamp or flooded area with dead, leafless trees, I tell my group that those trees are, 'dead dog trees', because they have lost their bark!
  2. Those who work at the Department of State hate to eat at their cafeteria since it mostly serves Rice!
  3. Some people, when they first see the Capitol Dome in the distance, think it is the White House (no joke)! I explain that it is a dome, not a domicile although it does have a House, you can't live there!
  4. The American Pharmaceutical Association building was originally designed for the cabin Abraham Lincoln was born in; it is located across from the Lincoln Memorial. All the tour guides refer to it as the Tomb of the Unknown Pharmacist. Interestingly enough, it was designed by a Pope. (John Russell Pope)
  5. The Department of Labor was the first federal building in Washington, DC to be named for a woman. Frances Perkins was the first female cabinet member as Labor Secretary during FDR's administration. Personally, I think it's appropriate for woman to be Secretary of Labor, since women are in labor far more often than men! (If you don't believe me, ask your mom!)
  6. If we pass a field with cattle, I point out the 'super cattle'. Super cattle are the ones that are outstanding in their field! The sitting ones are, 'ground beef'!
  7. The Lincoln Memorial is the only Presidential memorial to make sense. (If you don't believe me, look at your pennies!)
  8. Pointing out a flock of sheep: I'm looking for the iron sheep! Have you ever seen, 'iron sheep'? No? Where do you think steel wool comes from?
  9. Hay is now in large, round bales; the cattle don't like it. Since farmers started to bale the hay that way, the cattle haven't had a decent square meal.
  10. The official residence of the Vice President is very beautiful. Unfortunately, during the Reagan administration you couldn't see it, because the Bushes were in the way! During the Clinton administration, the view was Gore-geous! Now, there's a Cheney fence around it!
  11. Some of those who work at the Supreme Court play basketball on the roof of the building! Now that's what I call the highest court in the land!
  12. The Supreme Court also has a fast food snack bar but they can no longer serve a Frankfurter or Burger there. However, lawyers love the desserts in their cafeteria because they serve torts.
  13. This is by far the worst of the lot! While visiting or passing the large statue of Albert Einstein I tell my group that he is actually my cousin related on two sides of my family. You don't believe me? So what do you think E=mc2 means? Einstein is my cousin on 2 sides of my family! Well, that's my theory of relativ-ity!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's Spring!

Chansons Innocentes: I
by E. E. Cummings

in Just-

spring when the world is mud-

luscious the little

lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come

running from marbles and

piracies and it's


when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer

old balloonman whistles

far and wee

and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and






balloonMan whistles




Wordless Wednesday #8

Figure It Out Friday #6 - Portland Head Light, Lafayette & Longfellow

Here's the answer to Figure It Out Friday #6

I thought this would be simpler;

Quite frankly I was astounded that no one recognized Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or Lafayette! Perhaps I should have shown the older Longfellow and the younger Lafayette, but I thought showing Lafayette as a mature man would be better, after all, a full length portrait of him as he appeared in 1824 hangs in the United States House of Representative chamber! I wasn't sure though, that anyone would have recognized Longfellow as a young man without his beard! (The reason for the beard is a tragic story. I've given some sites at the end that you can consult about that.)

What they had in common was the Portland Head Light lighthouse in South Portland, ME in 1825. (I had posted 1824 as a clue since that was the date Lafayette arrived in the US.)

Portland Head Light on Cape Elizabeth is perhaps the most photographed lighthouse in the world and one of my personal favorite places to visit. (I have taken several Quebec City-bound bus tours that I picked up in Boston on unannounced side excursions to see it and then had lunch in Portland..)

Now here is the connection:

Portland Head Light

In 1797 George Washington directed that four lighthouses be built and Portland Light was one of these. He directed that masons build these lighthouses of rubblestone because the government was poor and the materials were to be taken from fields and shores. Because the Federal government was being formed, it looked as if the lighthouses would never be built, however, Alexander Hamilton did eventually authorize appropriations and work could be resumed. The engineers and masons took four years, but Portland Head Light was completed in 1790 and it was first lighted with Whale oil on January 10, 1791. Portland Head Light still stands as one of the first four lighthouses in the United States,. None of them have ever had to be rebuilt. It has remained a source of pride for the citizens of the Portland area as well as Maine.

The light was an imposing and beautiful sight and attracted a number of visitors to it on the rocky Maine promontory overlooking Casco Bay and Portland. It is a romantic vision that juxtaposes the steadfastness of the tower at the edge of treacherous rocks, against capricious weather, and somewhat violent tides. The storms in that area are of legendary proportion; there are many stories and legends of shipwrecks and lives lost.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It was this romantic view that compelled a resident of Portland to write poetry and inspired a poem written over thirty years later. Young Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland in 1807 . While he loved his city, he spent a great deal of time walking to the lighthouse and yearning for the chance to follow its beam of light to distant shores.

In 1822, he entered Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME where he met a classmate named Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was to become a lifelong friend; they graduated together.


In February of 1824, the United States by Presidential (James Monroe) and Congressional Proclamation invited Citizen Lafayette to tour the country he helped to create as a nineteen year old officer. Since he had lost most of his inheritance (and title( as a result of the French Revolution, Congress appropriated $200,000 dollars and a township of land to reward him for his patriotism. In addition to that, American citizens were to raise money through subscriptions in order to lavishly to entertain him with feasts, receptions, parades, and other tributes. The culmination of his visit was a reenactment of the Battle of Bunker Hill (Breed's Hill) on its 50th anniversary. Several states extended citizenship to him and his male heirs, thus becoming a citizen of the United States*.

He initially arrived in New York City on August 24, 1824 and spent the next sixteen months spending time with old friends like Thomas Jefferson and touring virtually everyplace in the United States including Maine in June of 1825.

It was at that time that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow crossed paths with Lafayette, who was on his way to visit Portland Head Light.

Lafayette arrived in the United States a poor man, but on December 7, 1825, he returned home a wealthy, honored, and appreciated one

In 1826. Longfellow realized his dream to visit Europe ; he spent three years there and was to become a world traveler. He eventually became America’s uncrowned Poet Laureate.

The first poem below, by Longfellow, probably was inspired by Portland Head Light. it was written in 1837. The second, in my opinion, describes the lives of these two great men.

The Lighthouse
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The rocky ledge runs far into the sea,
and on its outer point, some miles away,
the lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.

Even at this distance I can see the tides,
Upheaving, break unheard along its base,
A speechless wrath, that rises and subsides
in the white tip and tremor of the face.

And as the evening darkens, lo! how bright,
through the deep purple of the twilight air,
Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light,
with strange, unearthly splendor in the glare!

No one alone: from each projecting cape
And perilous reef along the ocean’s verge,
Starts into life a dim, gigantic shape,
Holding its lantern o’er the restless surge.

Like the great giant Christopher it stands
Upon the brink of the tempestuous wave,
Wading far out among the rocks and sands,
The night o’er taken mariner to save.

And the great ships sail outward and return
Bending and bowing o’er the billowy swells,
And ever joyful, as they see it burn
They wave their silent welcome and farewells.

They come forth from the darkness, and their sails
Gleam for a moment only in the blaze,
And eager faces, as the light unveils
Gaze at the tower, and vanish while they gaze.

The mariner remembers when a child,
on his first voyage, he saw it fade and sink
And when returning from adventures wild,
He saw it rise again o’er ocean’s brink.

Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same,
Year after year, through all the silent night
Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame,
Shines on that inextinguishable light!

It sees the ocean to its bosom clasp
The rocks and sea-sand with the kiss of peace:
It sees the wild winds lift it in their grasp,
And hold it up, and shake it like a fleece.

The startled waves leap over it; the storm
Smites it with all the scourges of the rain,
And steadily against its solid form
press the great shoulders of the hurricane.

The sea-bird wheeling round it, with the din
of wings and winds and solitary cries,
Blinded and maddened by the light within,
Dashes himself against the glare, and dies.

A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock,
Still grasping in his hand the fire of love,
it does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock,
but hails the mariner with words of love.

Sail on!” it says: “sail on, ye stately ships!”
And with your floating bridge the ocean span;
Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse.
Be yours to bring man nearer unto man.



Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real ! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o'erhead !

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

HAPPY 200th , Henry!


* Sir Winston Churchill was the first to gain US citizenship through Presidential and Congressional proclamation)

Educational Tours and Family Holidays:

As this is a blog dedicated to educational student tours, naturally, I would like to urge you, your families, and students to visit Portland Head Light, Portland, Bowdoin College, Harvard, and all the other sights related to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 200th birthday. Two of my groups this year will be dining at Longfellow's Wayside Inn at Sudbury, MA after a literary tour of Concord concentrating on the Alcotts and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Wayside Inn was where Longfellow wrote, Tales of a Wayside Inn which included the very famous, Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. The references contained in the body of the post as well as below will have visitors' information and educational programs.

References and Further Research:

Lafayette in America

Excerpt from a journal immediately before Layfayette departed for Portland

Tributes to Lafayette Idzerda, Stanley J. Lafayette: Hero of Two Worlds: The Art and Pageantry of His Farewell Tour of America, 1824–1825: Flushing, N.Y.: Queens Museum, 1989.

Marquis de Lafayette Collection: Fascinating artifacts and tributes of his visit to America

Longfellow Bicentennial 2007:

Longfellow Society

Maine Historical Society Website

Tribute Blog from Blogspot’s Philobiblos (Wonderful site!)

Longfellow National Historic Site

Postscript: : The reason for the delay in posting this is that I am currently waiting for his exact itinerary from the Maine Historical Society, who are in the process of forwarding me excerpts of his itinerary. When I receive it, I shall add it to this post.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Tour Marm in the Twilight Zone

The Tour Marm in the Twilight Zone

Mrs. Virginia Green is a retired teacher in California who taught me valuable lessons during my first year as a tour guide (trip leader). I owe her a debt of gratitude because she helped shape the way I design and conduct my educational student programs. What a blessing it was to meet her during my first season of my chosen profession!


Mrs. Green approached her historic East Coast educational student tours through art discoveries.


It was a good partnership because I was brought up with an appreciation of art, and had an almost intimate knowledge of the collections held by several museums along the Eastern Seaboard. She also reminded me of Miss Fastenberg, my affectionately revered fourth grade teacher.


Her eighth grade class was traveling along the East Coast from Williamsburg to New York, stopping at several museums in and between these cities. Her enthusiastic eighth graders were well equipped with workbooks and journals. In addition to the paintings they studied, she introduced them to several iconic works of art that were not curriculum-related, but part of a decent liberal arts education.


There were specific paintings she had chosen to illustrate historic concepts, events, biographies, and art in general. Her students not only knew these paintings by sight, but also the background of the respective artists and the events surrounding the subject. Sargent’s 'scandalous', Madame X (see below), was immediately sought out by her students during their art hunt! (Evidently, Mrs. Green knew some juicy tidbits about it and they were keen to find her!) Another gigantic canvas, Washington Crossing the Delaware, which was recently posted by both elementaryhistoryteacher and American Presidents was a big surprise due to its sheer size(approx 12'x21')!


A couple of the paintings in their workbook i.e. Thomas Eakins’, Gross Clinic (see below), which has recently been in the news, were not on public display. I remember jumping off the bus while it was in traffic on a narrow, one-way street at the Jefferson Medical School to utilize my New York sense of mission and my acquired Virginia charm to convince the janitor to allow us in to view the gigantic canvas (96"x78") that CSI fans would drool over! I had a time limit; this had to be done before the bus could get around the block. (Mission accomplished!)


At the time of this tour, I had recently moved to Alexandria, Virginia in a fit of pique. The choice of Old Town Alexandria as my home was an accidental, spur of the moment decision; I had not ever been there before, but that’s another story! However, at that point in my new career in tourism, I was forced to supplement my income by waiting tables, eventually becoming a serving wench at historic Gadsby’s Tavern. There is a separate museum adjacent.


This tavern was one of several in one of the busiest seaports in America. Gadsby’s, as the city’s premier social center, hosted several of our founding families and other notables. George Washington and many of the Lee family owned town home within walking distance, and ate, gamed, danced, and met at Gadsby’s. As a daughter of a Virginian from Westmoreland County, we are kin to many of these First Families of Virginia (FFV) through both marriage and collateral ties.


My father exposed me to our family and US history during our jaunts to Williamsburg, Jamestown, and all the great plantation estates along the Potomac and James River. I felt inordinately at home working at Gadsby’s, perhaps as a result of my familial connections as well as the ties to Colonial and Early Republic history. It also reminded me of Stratford Hall, home of the Lees. After I told him where I worked, he was concerned that the ghosts of family members might still haunt the building and I should be prepared for a meeting with a cousin or two! (Dad said that, tongue-in-cheek! He was a terrible tease!)


As you know if you have read some of my other posts, I am originally from New York and was given a wonderful education through my family and the taxpayers of New York City. I spent countless Saturdays in art programs, plays, and concerts. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) was, by far, my favorite ‘hang-out’ and I am reluctant to admit that I often played hooky to visit the Met and the Cloisters. (I was once ‘caught’!)


There was a particular room in the Met’s American Wing that I was drawn into. It was a small, plain, empty, colonial ballroom with wooden floors and wainscoting. With each visit I felt compelled to enter this ballroom and dance a few steps of my fantasy version of the minuet. I ended each dance with a curtsy! The guards came to know me and a couple would applaud at the end! I started this at the age of 9!


The American Wing of the MET was closed down for many years for renovation and I don’t think it reopened in time for the country’s bicentennial. During that span of time, many changes took place in my life and I eventually settled in Alexandria.


One of our last stops on the tour was the Met and I had already told the cute little story about my dancing days in the American Wing. Kids like these stories; it brings a personal touch to the site, so naturally the group wanted to see this! Time was running out, and we all rushed to the room, which was in the same spot I had remembered; I was on auto-pilot! They stood and watched me ‘perform’ and a few even tried dancing the minuet themselves. We all applauded but needed to return to the bus. Mrs. Green asked me where the room was from; I told her I that I didn’t know, I hadn’t ever asked! Imagine that! She asked me to find out, incredulous, that I had never inquired!


It was the original ballroom from Gadsby's Tavern!




You be the judge!


The Educational Tour Marm

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Student Programs
Family Programs
Fun pages for kids

Stratford Hall
Student Programs

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Sic Semper Tyrannus!
44 BC
Coin struck by Brutus and Cassius, celebrating the death (assassination) of the "tyrant" (Julius Caesar) on the Ides of March:

It was already pointed out by flavian (from Sweden, so get out that translator program!) that the Ides of March should be observed on the 23rd because of the change of calendars from the Julian to the Gregorian. I knew that, but it loses something in translation. It would be like celebrating the 4th of July on the 15th. However. we have made the adjustments to the 'old style' ('OS' is indicated on Thomas Jefferson's obelisk grave marker) dates. If one were to look up the birth dates of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. they are eleven days earlier than the days we celebrate.
As I commented to flavian, "Details, details!"

So getting back to the business at hand: My original post was going to cover commemorative coins and the gruesomeness of celebrating an assassination!

However, like my blog mentor-mom elementaryschoolteacher, sometimes our research takes us to other threads far more interesting or germane to our blog. This is the case here.

The posting is about the Phrygian Cap

A Phrygian is also referred to as a Liberty Cap. It's roots are in antiquity and was most notably used as a sign in ancient Rome of a freedman - a slave who gained his/her freedom.

First, I shall present the official explanation of the coin from the people who possess it: The Fitzwilliam Museum:

The Ides of March denarius, struck by Brutus in 43/2 BC, is easily the most famous of Roman Republican coins. It was famous in antiquity -- one of the few coin types mentioned in an ancient author (Dio Cassius), and imitated a century after its issue to celebrate the murder of Nero.

The reverse is the more striking face with the plain reference to Caesar's assassination -- the legend EID MAR with two daggers --, and the meaning of the assassination -- the liberty cap, worn by slaves on the day of their manumission. The importance of the cap here derives from the Republican claim that Caesar was aiming at the kingship, since in Roman political terms the relation of king to subject was that of master to slave. The murder of Caesar has set the Roman people free; and the multiplicity of the heroic murderers is indicated by the daggers which are always unalike. When the type was copied after the murder of Nero the legend read LIBERTAS RESTITVTA.

But the later coin bore the head of Libertas on the obverse, where here we have a portrait of Brutus himself. This is a great surprise, since the head of a living Roman had never appeared on coinage until Caesar introduced himself in 44 b.c., and then it was connected with his assumption of supreme power as Dictator Perpetuus. What is Brutus up to? A famous assassination of a kingly pretender had been achieved by one of his ancestors, who was portrayed (ideally) on Brutus' own coin when he had been a mint official in Rome. Here he presumably equates himself with that great forebear, but the implied reference to Caesar is very insensitive.

This example in the Fitzwilliam Museum (Hart collection) is one of finest known of this uncommon issue.

Classical Influences: The Phyrgian Cap, Close to Home
The flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Great Seal of Virginia:

The Phyrgian Cap can also be seen on the Virginia Commonwealth Flag. It's central seal was designed by George Wythe in 1776 Wythe (pronounced, Whith) who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the tutor and mentor in law for several future US luminaries including Thomas Jefferson and the father of our modern judicial system, Chief Justice John Marshall. His aim was to emphasize Virginia's independence from Britain.
The seal shows Virtus (Virtue) wearing the Phyrgian cap, with one foot on the dead body of Tyranny, whose crown has fallen off. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, this seal was used in the flag. In 1930, the seal was revised to the one shown below. The Commonwealth mottos is: Sic Semper Tyrannus (thus always to tyrants). Naturally during the War Between the States it referenced the Union.

The Statue of Freedom
The Phyrgian Cap can also be seen on the allegorical Statue of Freedom atop the United States Capitol. In Politics: The Agendas Behind the Monuments, the entire story of the clash amongst the sculptor, Thomas Crawford; the person in charge of the construction, Senator Jefferson Davis; and the engineer Montgomery C. Meigs (Remember Meigs from my post Bringing Cemeteries to Life?) is told in great detail. The cap is disguised by a cluster of feathers which gives the Statue of Freedom the appearance of a Native American. This statue is the tallest piece of sculpture in Washington, DC at 19 1/2 feet and weighs approximately 7 1/2 tons. (The statues of the standing Jefferson and the seated Lincoln at their respective memorials are both 19 feet tall.) Thomas Crawford did not live to see his sculpture atop the US Capitol; he died in London in 1857.