For my readers who do not live in the Williamsburg / Jamestown, VA area here is a link to a story about a local historic preservation battle. Basically, Dominion (the almighty electric provider for this area of Virginia) has declared that new power lines must be run over the James River. Dominion claims that the historic view from Historic Jamestown will not be disturbed, preservationists are not so sure. Depending upon the outcome, the next time you come to visit the view may be a little different.
Day 5 consisted of driving from NJ to La Plata, MD. Of course, when we got up last Thursday morning we weren’t sure how far we would make it driving, and there was an equal chance that we would make it all the way home in one day much as we did when we drove to NJ. However, breakfast and late goodbyes got us on the road home to VA later than we left to head to NJ. Then there was traffic to contend with. Traffic, traffic, traffic. I moved out of NJ in 1996 (wow! 19 years ago…now I feel old) and couldn’t stand the traffic then, it is much worse now. We made our way down the NJ Turnpike but the Delaware Memorial Bridge surprise, surprise had a backup on it. Getting to Delaware we stopped off a Cabela’s to stretch our legs. We got back on the road after lunch but ran into lovely traffic right around Annapolis, MD. By the time we hit Waldorf, I was tired of moron drivers and needed a break. Not far down the road was the afore mentioned La Plata where a Best Western provided us refuge.
Day 6 saw us take a little detour and visit George Washington Birthplace National Monument. Part of the park rests along Pope’s Creek and another part provides access to the Potomac River. The Potomac River Beach is smallish and currently being worked on but I was more interested in exploring the historic areas.
With no picture or architectural drawings, in 1926 Congress authorized the construction of a replica of the house in which George Washington was born. At the time the site was managed by the Wakefield National Memorial Association and a generic plantation home was designed and built. The spot of the actual birthplace home was partially excavated in 1930 and fully excavated in 1936 and again in 1974. So there is a generic plantation “memorial home” to visit and an outline of the actual home discovered by archeologists in the 1930s. Overall, it is a neat place to visit and an interesting lesson on preservation and public memory (or guesswork, you decide).
So ended the Week of Wanderings as Day 7 consisted of resting up and preparing to return to work the next day for Mrs. Historian (AJ) and myself.
Day 4 found us headed out to Morristown National Historical Park. I had also been to Morristown several times as a kid so I was somewhat familiar with the history behind its importance. What I did not remember was exactly how to get around the park nor if there was an entrance fee. (Oh how great is was to travel with our parents when we were young and did not have to worry about such things.) Consequently, we started our journey at the Washington Headquarters Museum & Ford Mansion which is the easiest to find following the signage around town.
In the Eastern National store we encountered a NPS ranger who was friendly enough but didn’t listen and respond to the needs of our group. Pushing the $7 fee or $10 Senior pass to one of our party who qualified, he failed to mention that the fee was ONLY for the Washington Museum and Ford Mansion which we had not planned on seeing. Our interest was in Jockey Hollow and Fort Nonsense which is FREE but the ranger failed to listen when my wife tried to explain this to him. Our Senior member finally decided to purchase the pass and before we know it we were on a tour of the Ford Mansion.
Needless to say 18th Century stairs and knees of those eligible for the Senior Pass don’t always mix well and I was the only one of our party to take the full tour of the house. It was a good tour; the guide was friendly and knowledgeable and even modified his tour so that my companions could at least see the first floor before heading off to a bench to await the tour’s finish. From there we made our way to Fort Nonsense and Jockey Hollow.
Overall we had a pleasant visit, we just wish that the initial ranger had listened to our needs instead of pushing us into either paying a fee each or selling a Senior Pass.
On Tuesday we headed over to Monmouth Battlefield State Park. Monmouth Battlefield is a place I have been to many times before. Having grown up about 16 miles away my father took us there when I developed an interest in the American Revolution. In college I did a public history internship looking for the site of Washington’s camp the night before the battle, and when I was a re-enactor with the 3rd NJ the park let us use the Visitors Center for our meetings.
I had heard that the park had built a new VC and had all new interpretive exhibits and I was curious as to what it all looked like. The new exhibits look great. I was happy to see a breakdown of the battle along one wall with pictures and maps showing where the action on the battlefield took place. A new electric map shows troop movements and narrates the battle. I was also impressed with the displays showing how the battlefield had been used over time. Because of my association with the 3rd NJ which was a Civil War re-enacting group I knew that there was a training camp, Camp Vredenburg within the bounds of the park, but it was nice to see a display on it.
On the downside, the gift shop was not open (only on “most” Sunday’s 1-4) which was sad because there were about 5 families that were visiting when we were and most likely would have purchased something – I KNOW I would have. (On a side note, according to the Friends of Monmouth Battlefield website they do want to expand the store’s hours – at least it is in the 5 year plan). There also needs to be some better signage especially for the turn off of 522 to the Perrine Hill area. (These are also part of the Friends’ group 5 year plan.)
While I applaud the work of the Friends’ group and encourage my readers to visit their website and consider donating or joining – especially any NJ readers – I have to ask why the state isn’t taking a more active role. By contrast, for example, we visited two NPS sites on this trip and the rangers there also ran the gift shop. Here in VA the ranger at False Cape State Park was the one to sell me my obligatory patch and pin. Why can’t the folks at Monmouth do likewise?
Overall it was a good trip to a place I’ve enjoyed for years and will hopefully visit again. You can look for more discussion of the Battle of Monmouth here in the near future.
Day 2 consisted of driving, driving, and more driving. Google Maps lists the drive between Williamsburg, VA and family in NJ as around 5 and a half hours. Baloney. It takes more like 8 hours or so.
We did not take 95 opting instead for the 17 / 301 route. This is a much more scenic route, but since avoiding construction ANYWHERE is impossible we ran into tie ups at several points along the way. So we are here! Tomorrow on to Monmouth Battlefield.
Day 1 found AJ and I at False Cape State Park which you have to reach, as the brochure says, “by hiking, biking, or boating through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge“. We took a tram tour through the park to the Wash Woods Historical Site.
Wash Woods was a late 1800s community of around 300 or so that had close ties to the nearby community at Knotts Island. Most of the community’s buildings have all disappeared but you can still see the steeple of the Wash Woods Methodist Church and the Cemetery Site.
Both Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park are out of the way. Think primitive – which was part of the appeal to AJ and I. So if you are really looking to find some seclusion, bring your water and your backpack and perhaps even your bike and leave everything else behind.
The Pedestriennes: America’s Forgotten Superstars by Harry Hall tells the story of the nineteenth century sport of endurance walking. More specifically there were a few female athletes that dominated the sport – though the book does mention a male version of the sport Hall focuses on the ladies’ achievements.
The sport itself, pedestrianism or endurance walking, had a variety of “rules” in that in some events competitors walked a certain number of miles in an hour (1 mile every hour for 1000 hours for example) or half-miles walked in half hours, or quarter miles in quarter hours…you get the idea. Other events were long distance events with walkers walking a certain number of miles in a certain number of hours…and so on.
Either way these were taxing athletic feats. These events were mostly done on indoor tracks, had judges to make sure the number of laps / number of quarter- half- or full miles were recorded correctly, and even had resting tents for the athletes set up for the competitors.
Hall has written an eminently readable account of the sport. He has obviously done his research and is a talented writer covering the more notable events in the ladies sport as well as introducing us to the major players. His treatment of several of the competitions made for compelling reading. The only drawbacks are that there are no table of contents or index to be able to find topics / personalities quickly. However, if you are looking for an enjoyable read on a little known subject I highly recommend.
Found this in the Virginia Gazette – July 18, 1766
In the room below the lightning passed along a shelf covered with pewter, where it melted part of some basons [basins] and spoons, and many plates. A looking-glass on that end was broke into pieces, and some part of the frame dashed against the back of the chimney at the opposite end. The lightning also went through a cask of beer, and tore out on each side part of a stave about twelve inches long and two inches broad. The hoops were iron, and one of them was broke, but showed on particular mark of the cause. Mary Smith, wife of the above mentioned James Smith, stood ironing some clothes at a table near the end which was struck, with her back toward the chimney, and a box iron in her hand. She was knocked down and for half an hour showed no sign of life… The box iron which she was using showed no mark of lightening, but a pair of sleeve were no where to be found. James Smith himself, sitting on the work board, was struck across his thighs, but no mark appeared, He felt he says as if ham strung… A young man who was lolling on a feather bed, near the wall where the lightening struck, with his legs resting on the work board, got a pretty large mark above one of his knees, like a bruise, A boy about 12 or 13 years of age, standing near the table above mentioned sifting meal. was knocked down, and appeared lifeless for at least a quarter of an hour… He wore at the time a pair of breeches of green plains, the left thigh of which was torn into pieces by the lightening; and two metal button, which were on the waistband, were torn off and only a small part of one of them could afterwards be found; the other entirely disappeared – This day James Smith and his wife, like pious Christians, publickly returned thanks to the Supreme Being for their wonderful escape.
Hiltzik, Michael. Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention That Launched the Military-Industrial Complex. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. p. 512.
To be truthful I had reservations about reviewing Big Science. My speciality in American history is really from Colonization to Reconstruction – despite having taught US History II in its various forms. When you combine that with the fact that my knowledge of science is pathetic, well you can understand my trepidation. However, reading and reviewing Michael Hiltzik’s book Big Science has been a pleasure.
For me, the first mark of any good book is its readability. No matter how important the story, no matter how necessary the information, if an author cannot put words to page then the book is really an expensive doorstop. This is simply not the case with Big Science. Hiltzik’s writing style is a pleasure to read. It reads like a novel and makes me want to check out his other works notably The New Deal: A Modern History so I can learn some recent American History.
Big Science tells the story of Ernest O. Lawrence the creator of the cyclotron. Lawrence was a physicist who also worked on the Manhattan Project. The books serves as a biography of Lawrence but also advances Hiltzik’s argument that during Lawrence’s time as the study of physics became more complicated and the equipment more expensive, there was this evolution from “mom and pop” physics (my words) or physics funded on the small scale to “Big Science” or corporate/university/government funded science with big budgets, facilities, and staffs. Lawrence was at the forefront of this evolution keenly aware of and networking with big donors who would support his lab at Berkeley.
Hiltzik’s story is important for understanding today’s paradigm for studying science. The politics of government/corporate/university support of scientific advancement has its roots with Ernest O. Lawrence and Big Science. It is definitely worth reading.