Grave Trails

I went driving looking for things of interest to photograph. I saw a small cemetery on the side of the road and stopped to take a look. I thought it might be a local family cemetery and it was . . . only the family was from much farther back than I thought.


View Snead Cemetery at Edgewood in a larger map

Robert Snead

That he was born within 9 miles of Hanover court House on the 23 day of May 1762,
that, he has seen a record of his age in the family Bible, and that he believes it is now in
possession of Benjamin Thomas, of the said county; that when he went into service, he lived at
the place of his nativity, that since the Revolutionary war, he has lived in the same county near
Ground Squirrel Meeting house1 and still lives in the same place; that he served many tours; the
first he substituted himself for his brother John Snead, in the company of Joseph Cross, that
he marched as a private in that company in the fall or winter of 1778, as he thinks to
Williamsburg; that he served at that place and at a place called Rich Neck [in Richmond
County] until discharged after two months; that during this tour Gen’l [Thomas] Nelson2
commanded; that there was but one regiment as well as he remembers, at that place; that they
were engaged in guarding the coast and that nothing material occured. that when Arnold
invaded the state [Gen. Benedict Arnold, 5 Jan 1781] he was drafted, and served as a private
under Capt. John Anderson;

from this source (links/footnote are mine)

Sophia Snead

Twelve children. Seems more heroic than the whole Revolutionary War thing but also disturbingly like baseball card stats.


1 Now known as Cavalry Christian Church. I prefer the old name.

2 Founding father

Hollywood Cemetery – Preliminary Thoughts

Hollywood Cemetery

I’m pretty excited about a new project we’ll be working on this year. We’re going to look at a local historically significant, but still active, cemetery through a variety of disciplinary lenses. Hollywood Cemetery is the permanent home of two presidents of the USA (James Monroe and John Tyler) and one president of the CSA as well as a variety of other interesting local people. Dr. Ryan Smith from VCU’s history department has already had students doing quite a bit of work with local cemeteries. Back Story also recently republished a podcast (Grave Matters) which mentions Hollywood cemetery quite a bit and is all kinds of good. Even the Girl Scouts have some great information on Hollywood Cemetery1. So that brings up the question- What can we do that hasn’t been done and how can we make this something really valuable to the community- both locally and at large?

SA Lacy

The Players and Their Lenses

Looking through the lens of sociology, Dr. Susan Bodnar-Deren will be helping us think through work around mortality, social status etc. by analyzing the data from gravestones.2 Dr. Bernard Means will be bringing an archaeological3 and 3D imaging background4 that he has honed in VCU’s Virtual Curation Lab. Dr. Ryan Smith will round out our professorial group with his focus on history. I will be playing the motley fool who is trying to create workflows, repositories, and visualizations of these data that make sense and are useful. In the end we hope to have the potential for at least one, and possibly more, interdisciplinary courses that focus on Hollywood Cemetery. Additionally we will create an interactive, informative, and interesting way for a variety of audiences to interact with the information we gather.

Open to the  public

I think that universities should focus more on how they take advantage of where they are geographically and use their courses to create value for students and community members because of their location. It is rare for non-educational organizations to have the energy, people, and time to attack a project like this. VCU is only minutes from so many historic areas. We could do a lot of good. Location is part of what makes VCU unique as a university. Here is a chance, one of many, to create real value for scholars and community members while driving student learning in valuable and interesting ways. Win, win, and win.

SA Lacy

Data

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Date of death
  • Implied/Defined Gender – guess based on the name or defined through statements like “wife of/husband of”

There’s the obvious data associated with grave markers (although even this varies a good bit).
From this we should be able to figure out the age at death and we should be able to divide the data by quarter decades and see it broken down by gender. I need to think through how make this most efficient technically. Currently, I’ve been playing with a Gravity Forms to WordPress post solution and then pulling the birth/death data from the Gravity Forms database. It may be more sensible to do that another way, maybe custom post types and custom metadata.

There’s also an entirely different world of additional data that reflects everything from the time period and religion to economic class and the age of the deceased. I need to consider the way this data will be used and the workflow in gathering it so that we get what makes sense with as little pain as possible. It is interesting how quickly I find I need better, more specific words than I currently have. Taxonomic considerations like this are always interesting. It may be that a chunk of these don’t matter but I find it helpful to start big and then slim down.

  • Type of marker – statuary? marker? mausoleum/shrine?
  • Construction material – limestone vs granite vs iron
  • Size
  • Iconography – engraved or the shape of the marker itself, same/different as other stones within the plot/locally
  • Stone location – family plot, top of the hill etc.
  • Epitaph
  • Descriptors – wife of, son of, etc.

The key is trying to think through how people will want to see and interact with this information. We have lots of audiences and I’d like to make a number of them happy through different interfaces but we’ll need the core data to do that. It’ll also be important to think through how to deal with incomplete data- grave markers without birth dates for instance.

Hollywood Cemetery Map

I can see at least three main interfaces – one would be focused on the grave markers themselves (something very visual with some sorting/filtering options), another interface would be built around an aerial view of the cemetery (current map is pictured above), and the third would be a data focused interface which may be modeled after GapMinder.

There would also be the possibility of writing posts that reference various grave markers in the collection. If we leave trackbacks on, we should be able to automatically interweave the resources (individual grave makers) with larger understandings/narratives simply by linking back to them in the larger analysis posts. I think that simple but also pretty interesting. It’d also be interesting to see how and how frequently different grave markers are used over time.


1 Warning- Word document

2 Already, I feel the need for better vocabulary. Grave marker maybe?

3 His Death and Burial course sounds pretty awesome.

4 Incorporating these types of files has led to all sorts of interesting 3D js library exploration.

“Truth” through omission

The mission is “Truth” through omission. Can you get at the underlying truth of a historical document through blackout poetry?

Blackout poetry has been fairly popular for a while1 but I haven’t seen any done on historical documents with the intent to get at a deeper, if fairly melodramatic, “truth”. I decided to use The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It makes for a pretty interesting way to interact with a dry document and requires a pretty close, and repeated, reading. I like the idea of redaction being a way to expose, rather than hide, things the government would rather not have said.

Gulf of Tonkin Blackout Poetry

The text from above . . .

The United States of America

in violation of the principles of the of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked the Communist regime in North Vietnam

the United States has territorial, military, political ambitions in that area

desires the Congress approves

the United States regards the Constitution
its obligations
reasonable assured
except that it may be terminated earlier by concurring resolution of the Congress.


1 It appears Austin Kleon invented the idea in 2010 which seems crazy.

A Strange Aside – A Rejoinder About Crackers

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I saw this interesting photo on the Smithsonian Libraries Tumblr which led me to this online archive of Forest & Stream from the 1890s. Where I found the letter included below (because of the interesting photograph beside it). Bonus points for the ability to download specific pages with or without the OCR data.

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The letter makes for an interesting read in a variety of ways. Just another example of how much amazing content is out there.

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A Rejoinder About Crackers

While I do not wish nor intend to enter into controversy with “A Georgia Cracker” over the manner in which I described my first meeting with a “Florida Cracker,” still if you will kindly allow me a little of your valuable space in which to defend myself, I promise not to transgress again.

Now, in the first place, if “A Georgia Cracker” will kindly look on page 507 of Forest and Stream, in the first column near tbe top, he will find these words: “There may be a better class of this part of the human race than we met. I hope there is.” I did not say that there was not a better class of these people. That I hoped there was. My assertion that we did not meet this better class, however, I still stand by. While I do not in the slightest doubt the word of your Atlanta correspondent when says he has met this better class, still what he has met and what I have seen are “horses of different colors.”

Secondly — 1 do not wish “A Georgia Cracker” nor any one else, from anything I may have written, to infer that I include all persons born in the State of Florida categorically as “Crackers.” Far from anything of the kind. I always supposed that they were to be found exclusively in the lower class of Southern whites. And from all accounts of camping, hunting and fishing in that State that I have read (for I, too, have read Forest and Stream very closely ; in fact, as I write my eyes rest on more numbers of that valued journal than an able-bodied man could very well lift, as they date as far back as 1879), I do not remember having read anything that would lead me to infer to the contrary. I would not for one minute class the considerate Fernandina storekeeper with the concave-chested exister.

Thirdly— It puzzles my mind considerably, in fact, it is utterly impossible for me to get it through my head — how under the sun friend “Georgia Cracker” could investigate such cases so thoroughly as in one place to say that if I “had taken the trouble to inquire of them their birthplace,” as he had done in Georgia and Florida, “I am sure their answer would have been Philadelphia or other refined centers of the North;” when in another place he distinctly says he never has run afoul of a case of the kind while hunting, fishing and traveling in every State east of the Mississippi.

Fourthly— Of the hospitality of the people of the South as a whole there is no question. But as to his inferring in one place that my article was written to suit the taste of Northern readers of Forest and Stream; then again, in another place, of his distastefulness of my use of Forest And Stream’s columns in which to vent spleen and prejudice against the South he simply is ‘way off the track, as I have no feeling of prejudice whatever to vent against the South— for, list you, Sir Georgia Cracker, while I gently whisper in your ear the fact that every drop of blood that flows through my veins is Southern. My parents and grandparents, uncles, aunts and each and every one of their preceding ancestors, extending far back into the past, years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, all first beheld the light of day in that sunny land to the south of Mason and Dixon’s line.

With good feelings for all — even concave-chested “Crackers”— and animosity to none, I close.

Wm. H. Avis.

New Haven, Conn., July 4.

Historical Selfies

These were all focused on historical “selfies” right before disasters but you could do the opposite. I was inspired by the horrible and fascinating Selfies at Funerals Tumblr. You might also be appalled/inspired by Rich Kids of Instagram. I really don’t know quite enough about the selfie/hashtag culture to do this really well. The details with hashtags are what make it interesting and you need to do some research to make it work properly. There is work in humor.

Get the Photoshop template here.

George Armstrong Custer Selfie

Cpt. Smith Titanic Selfie

Napoleon Selfie

Rasputin Selfie

If You Give Bieber A Bike . . .

Mostly Nonsense

A Bieber flavored over simplication on the fallacy of hardware creating change. Probably useless but it amused me for the presentation and the audience seemed to enjoy it. My 20 minute presentation ended up being a 90 minute conversation.

hcps lay advisory.001
If you give Bieber a bike will he get home more quickly?

It seems like a straightforward question, an easy answer. Of course the bike will get him home faster.
hcps lay advisory.002
But we tend to make a number of assumptions. It could be you’re a Bieber fan and you know where Bieber is now and where his home/homes are, maybe you’re a Belieber and you even know which home he’s going to. Most people don’t. They don’t know where Bieber is nor where he’s going despite general agreement on the definition of “home.”

hcps lay advisory.003
Furthermore, I don’t know if Bieber can drive a motorcycle or if he can drive this motorcycle. If he can drive a motorcycle, how well can he do it? Does he have gas? Is a helmet required?

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Now if we give Bieber a bike and he can drive it, we have to think about the terrain between where he’s starting and where he wants to go. Maybe there’s a forest in between those two points. A forest without roads or gas stations. This street bike will actually slow him down. Maybe there’s a road and things will work out really well.

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If there’s an ocean between the two points, then requiring a motorcycle will likely result in Bieber drowning. That will substantially delay his return home.

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Things begin to get complex and we have yet to address monkey transportation and associated documentation.

So my final answer ends up being “it depends” which happens to be the same answer I give on whether or not technology will impact student learning.

Slightly Less Nonsense

Continuing in the Bieber theme . . .
hcps lay advisory.009
This is the recent quote and associated Internet furor that led to the Bieber flavor of this presentation. I learned quite a bit about Bieber as a result. This quote is a decent example of the kind of flexibility technology provides for teachers. Access to current events and the ability to associate these events with a variety of other resources quickly and easily is unique and matters. I can now use this quote to drive a conversation and build interesting extensions and associations through other media elements. There are lots of easy wins in both English and history. Naturally, showing students the quote doesn’t require them to have computers but building experiences off of that quote is made far easier and offers far more opportunities if students have technology and Internet access.

hcps lay advisory.010
The association of technology with current events is pretty obvious. I don’t think the association of technology with historical sources is as publicized. The fact that I can provide copies of a handwritten letter from a US soldier at Dachau written on SS stationary is amazing. It is not the same as holding the material but it’s far more visceral than reading a type written version or getting a quoted excerpt in a textbook. Technology removes a number of restrictions that have long shaped the content we are able to provide as well as the things we were able to do with that content.

From there I showed them where some of our students at Moody MS, with the help of Will Berry, (one of our awesome ITRTs) had been taking this historical material and using Timeline JS to build interactive multimedia timelines on WWII. Students selecting and curating primary source material to enrich a historical story is not revolutionary but technology allows for access to a breadth and depth of material that was previously impossible. The ability for many students to build collaboratively and create an interactive product that other students could actually use is fairly unique as well.

I said a few other things as well but that’s the gist of where things went with the Bieber.

Maus Timeline

Maus Timeline Screenshot

I read Maus I and II and opted to make a timeline.

Maus is a graphic novel completed in 1991 by American cartoonist Art Spiegelman. It depicts Spiegelman interviewing his father about his experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. The book uses postmodern techniques—most strikingly in its depiction of races of humans as different kinds of animals, with Jews as mice, Germans as cats and non-Jewish Poles as pigs. Maus has been described as memoir, biography, history, fiction, autobiography, or a mix of genres. In 1992 it became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Wikipedia

It’s a good text to explore via a timeline because of the the non-linear storyline and the advantages of setting additional historical context.

As a result of this, I’ve spent some time trolling the National Archives. Normally I wander around the Library of Congress but I was doing a parallel reading of The Liberator1 by Alex Kershaw which had some great images from the National Archives so I was inspired to go check it out.

There is a lot of great content available digitally, including some stuff I hadn’t seen before. Search and features leave something to be desired and you have to be really specific with your search terms. One other thing to be aware of is that deep links to the pages found in your search expire.

A few of the WWII pieces I liked but didn’t put in the Maus timeline are below. I also found a pretty decent, although silent, video of soldiers spraying people with what is probably DDT in an effort to kill louses and prevent typhus (aka war fever) from spreading.


Shooting the bull


1 Another WWII text but of more traditional style. Nothing great but did have an interesting portion on the murder of SS guards at Auschwitz by U.S. soldiers.

Colonial Research – Ephemera

Beaver Hats

Here are examples of hats made of felted beaver fur, because if you ask your students to draw a picture of a beaver hat, you’re likely to get some sort of coonskin monstrosity. (Seriously, you should try that.)


Pukestocking, Puke-stocking, Puke Stocking

tl;dr – Being called puke-stocking likely has everything to do with fashion instead of seasickness.
Despite many sites claiming that Pilgrims were called puke stockings, I can’t find anything substantial to back that up (and now think it means something entirely different anyway). I did find a reference to puke stockings in Shakespeare’s King Henry IV

Wilt thou rob this leathern jerkin, crystal-button,
not-pated, agate-ring, puke-stocking, caddis-garter,
smooth-tongue, Spanish-pouch,–

Which led first to this explanation and then to this one which seems to have some backing.

In 1598, when Shakespeare wrote his play, “puke” was a very fine grade of woolen cloth, often used to make stockings as well as other garments. This kind of “puke” first appeared in English in the mid-15th century, derived from the Middle Dutch word “puuc,” meaning “the best grade of cloth.” Interestingly, “puke” cloth was, in Shakespeare’s day, usually dyed deep bluish-black or dark brown, leading to the term “puke color.” This “puke,” however, is unrelated to the brownish-purple color we know today as “puce,” which takes its name from the French word for “flea.” Apparently if one looks very, very closely at fleas (I’ll pass, thanks), they are purple-brown in color.

Source

John Smith

tl;dr – Captain John Smith was not a nice man.

Thus haue you heard the particulars of this massacre, which in those respects some say will be good for the Plantation, because now we haue iust cause to destroy them by all meanes possible: but I thinke it had beene much better it had neuer happened, for they haue giuen vs an hundred times as iust occasions long agoe to subiect them, (and I wonder I can here of none but Master Stockam and Master Whitaker of my opinion.) Moreouer, where before we were troubled in cleering the ground of great Timber, which was to them of small vse: now we may take their owne plaine fields and Habitations, which are the pleasantest places in the Countrey. Besides, the Deere, Turkies, and other Beasts and Fowles will exceedingly increase if we beat the Saluages out of the Countrey, for at all times of the yeare they neuer spare Male nor Female, old nor young, egges nor birds, fat nor leane, in season or out of season with them, all is one. The like they did in our Swine and Goats, for they haue vsed to kill eight in tenne more then we, or else the wood would most plentifully abound with victuall; besides it is more easie to ciuilize them by conquest then faire meanes; for the one may be made at once, but their ciuilizing will require a long time and much industry. The manner how to suppresse them is so often related and approued, I omit it here: And you haue twenty examples of the Spaniards how they got the West-Indies, and forced the treacherous and rebellious Infidels to doe all manner of drudgery worke and slauery for them, themselues liuing like Souldiers vpon the fruits of their labours. This will make vs more circumspect, and be an example to posteritie: (But I say, this might as well haue beene put in practise sixteene yeares agoe as now.)

Page 147

Not Everyone Was A Jefferson Fan

ames Akin’s earliest-known signed cartoon, “The Prairie Dog” is an anti-Jefferson satire, relating to Jefferson’s covert negotiations for the purchase of West Florida from Spain in 1804. Jefferson, as a scrawny dog, is stung by a hornet with Napoleon’s head into coughing up “Two Millions” in gold coins, (the secret appropriation Jefferson sought from Congress for the purchase). On the right dances a man (possibly a French diplomat) with orders from French minister Talleyrand in his pocket and maps of East Florida and West Florida in his hand. He says, “A gull for the People.”

Internet Detritus – History Continued

Same as it ever was

The Massachusetts Body of Liberties 1620

More proof Pilgrams were more interesting than your history book would admit with a hat tip to my own dad for sending the link.

No torture . . . unless you’re convicted and we feel like you’re holding something back but we promise not to be “Barbarous” or “inhumane.”

45. No man shall be forced by Torture to confesse any Crime against himselfe nor any other unlesse it be in some Capitall case, where he is first fullie convicted by cleare and suffitient evidence to be guilty, After which if the cause be of that nature, That it is very apparent there be other conspiratours, or confederates with him, Then he may be tortured, yet not with such Tortures as be Barbarous and inhumane.

And of course the classics . . .

(Deut. 13. 6, 10. Deut. 17. 2, 6. Ex. 22.20)
If any man or woeman be a witch, (that is hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit,) They shall be put to death.

and

(Lev. 24. 15,16.)
If any person shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Sonne or Holie Ghost, with direct, expresse, presumptuous or high handed blasphemie, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to death.

Notice the Biblical references that back up the laws. What’s also really cool is that I can link to these passages in the Geneva Bible that the colonists were likely using. The Internet is truly amazing and these bible people have put in some serious work.

Strangely, I have to give a NSFW warning as there’s also stuff about homosexuality and not eating the animals that are victims of beastiality that you might have to worry about depending on your community. It gives quite a bit of insight into the community’s concerns but may not be worth any additional drama.

Civil War Map

Attack on Ft. Mcallister II
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A really nice high resolution image. It’d be nice to have students try to create a map of the local area or their homes and compare their efforts to this. There are also a lot of details in this map that make for a variety of document based questions. Georgia also has some really good compilations of primary source material on the Civil War in a “This Week in Civil War History” format.

Jefferson’s Pen


cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by bionicteaching

I’m reading The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo which is part of my tour of all the books available via our library’s ebook provider – OverDrive. Sadly, the app doesn’t allow me to export notes, highlight things, or do anything remotely useful. I can awkwardly take screenshots like the one you see here. But I can only complain so much about free books that are magically on my phone.

Anyway, it’s fairly interesting so far and I came across the Declaration of the Rights of Man article screenshot-ed above. Since I was already in a colonial frame of mine, this seemed to line up pretty well.

From the Declaration of Independence – 1776

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

From the Declaration of the Rights of Man 1789

2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

Given that Thomas Jefferson played a major role in the writing of both documents, they provide some interesting opportunities for comparison both in terms of these particular lines/words and the documents as a whole. Did Jefferson do a better job in round two? What impact might the subtle difference have?

Colonial History Timeline

This was made with Timeline JS and is predominantly dates from the Virginia Standards of Learning USI5 and USI6 but I’m sure this is pretty standard fare for any US history course. I’ve got a fair amount more work to do but things are at least sketched out based on the “required knowledge.” My goal is to have a decent mix of primary source material, video, and links to places with fairly deep content.

The difficult thing about making content like this for anyone other than yourself is that the ideas I have about how to use particular items aren’t easily seen by others. Adding a layer of “teacher directions” is fairly odious for me and unless done very, very well it will likely be ignored anyway. For example, I opted to use an image of the Geneva Bible to represent Massachusetts Bay. There’s the obvious ideas around how the colonists tried to use biblical elements to guide all aspects of their life. I was struck by this statement on the cover “With moste profitable annotations upon all the hard places, and other things of great importance as may appeare in the Epistle to the Reader.” The Geneva Bible was seen as the first “study bible” and had extensive margin notes, numbered verses, was likely used by Shakespeare as reference etc.1 I’d also be tempted to work with an English or world language teacher around the difficulty of translating complex texts accurately.