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Archive for January, 2012

I thought I’d have enough mad-skilz to merge the image with the text, but no. Following is the article along with the photo.  Enjoy!

HARPER’S FERRY
Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion
October 14, 1854

On page 233 we give a picture of Harper’s Ferry, taken from a recent sketch, and full reliance can be placed upon its truthfulness. Harper’s Ferry is 174 miles from Richmond. This place has risen at the justly celebrated pass of the Potomac river through the Blue Ridge, and is situated immediately at the junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, on the right bank of the Potomac, above the mouth of the Shenandoah. The Shenandoah, after running along the foot of the Blue Ridge in a direction nearly northeast, turns suddenly to the east, and mingles its waters with those of the Potomac, at the point where the latter, after flowing through a deep and well-wooded dell, from northwest to southeast, is entering that singular gap in the Ridge, through which the waters escape. The valleys of both rivers are romantic, and that of the Potomac unites singularity with beauty. The breadth of the Potomac is from two hundred and fifty to three hundred yards ; that of the Shenandoah, one hundred and fifty. Both rivers are so shallow that the waterleaves innumerable rocks bare in every part of the channel, whose sides are worn by thousands of petty rapids, which fret and struggle among the large blocks of granite. The town extends itself in contempt of all order, along both sides of the hills which divides the two rivers, and runs up to the jaws of the picturesque, but no way tremendous pass of the Potomac. At the point of this tongue of land is the armory; on the left and nearly even with the water, the working part of the arsenal: on the right, and overhanging the western bank of the Shenandoah, Jefferson’s Rock.

On the opposite banks of the two rivers the cliffs are more bold and striking. That on the Maryland side is supposed to resemble the profile of Washington, an illusion very pleasing to those whose minds are not adapted to relish the beauties of nature. The two cliffs of which we have spoken form a noble entrance to the romantic valley which lies beyond, embosomed amid woods and mountains, and winding among the projections of the latter until its exit is again guarded by immense rocks, where a passage corresponding to that of Harper’s Ferry, is broken through the Short Hills – a chain parallel to the Blue Ridge, and connected with it by spurs which enclose on every side this dell that contains so many elements of the picturesque.

The mountains, of considerable height, are clothed to their summits by forests of oak and pine, from out the thick shade of which project immense masses of granite, that yet shand the stern witnesses of some tremendous convulsion, the trees of which not even time, that has for thousands of years been scattering their debris daily below, has been able to obliterate. The bases of these mountains present elevated and very rugged cliffs, which, projecting into the valley, break its uniformity, and give a wilder aspect to the river, that spreads itself between them.

The western part of Virginia abounds in romantic scenery, but the traveler may toil for hours in its immediate vicinity plunged in a depth of shade, that excludes all idea of the beauty by which he is surrounded ; to ascend the mountains is difficult, and ads but little to his chance of gratification ; the foliate is nearly as thick there as at their base; but necessary local knowledge would be at the command of all, if those who annually make summer excursions through our country were as ardent admirers of nature as they commonly are of warm springs, or other objects which draw together a number of half sick, half idle people, who lounge away the best part of the year. As an instance, how many Dr. Syntaxes in search of the picturesque, of the company at the Springs or the wonders of Weyes’s Cave, plunge in the innumerable shades of Brown’s Gap, which brings so forcibly to mind the falsehood of Thomson’s lines :

‘I care not, Fortune, what you me deny,
You cannot bar me from fair nature’s grace,
You cannot shut the windows of the sky,
Through which Aurora shows her smiling face.’

How many unhappy wights perform this darksome pilgrimage, when they might, a few miles off from Sauks Gap, have seen the sun rise over a landscape, which exhibits the country towards tide-water, spreading out in an extent of forest as boundless and level as the ocean, to the north and south the long chain of the Blue Ridge, to the ewst the well cultivated valley watered by the Shenandoah, adorned by detached and picturesque mountains, and bounded by the hazy and unbroken line of the North Mountain The celebrated passage of the Potomac, before alluded to, at this place, is an object truly grand and magnificent.

The eye takes in, at a glance, on the north side of the Potomac and Shenandoah, at their junction, an impetuous torrent, foaming and dashing over numerous rocks, which have tumbled from precipices that overhand them ; the picturesque tops and isdes of the mountains, the gentle and winding current of the river below the ridge, presenting, altogether, a landscape capable of awakening the most delightful and sublime emotions. ‘This scene,’ says Mr. Jefferson, ‘is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.’

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I learned about this casting call yesterday. Unfortunately, I don’t have the flyer which was attached, but I’m sure if you get in touch, they will forward the flyer to you. It’s kind of steampunky, right?

From: The Casting Team <hgtvamericanhandymandc@gmail.com
Date: January 16, 2012 1:56:45 PM EST
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: HGTV’s All American Handyman is Coming to DC for Season 3!

Hi!
My name is Ashley Owen and I am a casting associate for All American Handyman, HGTV’s exciting “jack of all trades” reality competition series. We are currently casting for season 3 and would like to inform you and your staff/co-workers that we will be holding an open casting call in DC on Saturday, January 28, 2012. Many theatre industry employees (set designers, master carpenters, electricians, etc.) could be great for the show!

We are in search of the “go to” person when it comes to quick fixes; a problem solver, someone who knows a little bit about everything when it comes to handiwork around the house! Essentially, we are looking for highly skilled men and women from all different backgrounds and careers that have the personality and DIY knowledge to compete in a handyman competition.

I have attached a copy of our flyer that further details what we are looking for. Please feel free to post the flyer, publish the information on your website or forward it on to anyone you think may be interested. Any help in spreading the word about our search would be greatly appreciated!

DC Open Casting Call
When: Saturday, January 28 from 10AM to 12PM
Where: The Westin City Center, 1400 M St NW, Washington, DC 20005

For more information on our additional open casting calls in LA, Denver, NYC, Atlanta, and New Orleans – or for details about how to apply, please go to www.AllAmericanHandymanCasting.com.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions and thank you in advance for your assistance with our search!

Warmly,
Ashley Owen
Casting Associate
JS Casting Inc.
Ashley@jenscasting.com

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The Ladies’ Garland was published by John S. Gallaher in Harper’s Ferry, WV every Saturday evening at the Office of the Harpers-Ferry Free Press. This excerpt is an account of how the Waverly Novels written by Sir Walter Scott changed a farmer’s household.

“I have been compelled, almost in self-defence, to read the novels of Sir Walter Scott. They cost me some ‘days in harvest,’ and I may find the balance against me in the spring ; but it is not the mere loss of my own time that I regret. I brought the novels into the house, and something was directly at loose ends. – The butter did not come – the soap did not come-the wheel stood still – the fire went out-there was neither sewing, spinning, nor knitting – the cows were not milked – the cattle were not foddered – the hogs were not fed. It was catching weather, and I had ten tons of hay down. Some of my hands had gone off – more were wanted-one cart had broke down, and it began to rain. The news was told to me in as quick succession as it was to Job. My wife insisted I must go, but I told her I would wait to see how Jenny Deans came out with the Duke of Argyle, if there was’nt a lock of sweet hay made in the country this season. – But I soon found there was no stopping-place in the book-so I put it down, but was not fairly out of the room before my wife had taken it up, and turned back to a place marked with thread.

I contrived to read it through, and on Saturday night about sundown, I found my wife advanced a little way in the second volume. She is usually a strict observer of Saturday night, but she read till after candlelight. The girls got the tea and cleared it off. My wife put by the book but after musing some time, asked me when it was, on Saturday night, that holy time commenced. ‘Sun-down,’ said I; ‘It seems to me,’ said she, ‘that I have heard some people say it did not begin till midnight.’ ‘The evening and the morning,’ said I, ‘was the first day.’ ‘Ay, but which evening?’ ‘Why,’ said I, ‘if it was the first day, it must have been the first evening.’ ‘That’s true,’ said she, ‘I wonder there ever could have been a question about it.’

By this time one of the girls was peeping into the book. ‘Shut it up and sit down – it’s Saturday night.’

Holy time, however it might begin, ended the next day pretty punctually at sunset, when the reading again commenced, and continued till I know not what time in thei night, for I had been abed and asleep.

The next day our worthy parson paid us a visit, and surprised my wife with the novel in her hand. She hastily laid it down, but not till she was caught by the parson’s question ‘what book it was?’ which she was obliged to answer not quite so glib as I have sometimes known her. The parson took so fair an occasion to warn against the corrupting influence of novel reading. It consumed time, destroyed seriousness, gave false notions of things, and endangered morals.

I was about trying to help my help-mate out of the scrape, when she did it much better herself, by telling the parson that there was no magic in names, and there was a great difference in novels, as he might be convinced if he would read the book, the first volume of which she offered him. He sent it home, however, the next day, with a civil request for the loan of the second.

I directly perceived that the perusal of the book must go through my family as strait as the small pox : so I determined they should all have a fair chance my laborers and my folks in the kitchen, not forgetting the dogs. I then placed my three boys in a row, and made them read by turns, as they do at school; determined that the audience should have enough of it, and sit patiently till they were cured of novel reading. The youngest boy answered my purpose admirably. He made such work of the Scotch, and the poetry, and the pauses, and the sense, that if the Author himself had been by, I would not have desired to put him in greater pain. And the eldest did pretty well for some time, till he caught the run of the story, when I found myself taken in by my own contrivance. He vaired his tones, noticed the pauses, and came very near the style of an actor. It was with me a moment of weakness, and my unluck y wife suggested the propriety of sending him to college. To make short of a long story, my family have turned heroes, and heroines, and speak Scotch quite broght. The youthful reader is to go to College and be made a master of – Ravenswood – with a small chance of a little learning, and a pretty sure inheritance of poverty.”

The original newspaper, Vol. 1, No. 36, is available for purchase at Steam at Harper’s Ferry. The newspaper is comprised of pages 141-144 of the volume and has several poems and articles.

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Two bits of news I want to pass on.

First, check back with this page to see a formal “call to artists” for the Gallery. The theme will be “steampunk travel” and will be opening in late March.

Second, I am working with some folks interested in a Bolivar/Harper’s Ferry Art walk. I will be posting flyers around town and will be posting more information here as I get more information. Nothing is final yet.

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Back in August, I posted about Island Park. Today, I’m posting about Circus Hill, another forgotten Bolivar/Harper’s Ferry amusement location.

According to the National Park Service’s Circus Hill National Register of Historic Places site application (don’t know if it was every approved – anybody have information about that?), the land didn’t have a proper deed and was the subject of a dispute between the heirs of George Rowles and Lewis Wernwag. The Chancery court decided in favor of the Wernwag heirs:

“Sometime prior to 1848, Lewis Wernwag, a well-known local bridge builder who lived on Virginius Island, purchased the Union Street lot from George Rowles. No deed was recorded for this transaction unfortunately. and in 1848, both men having passed away, a special commissioner was appointed by the Chancery Court to settle the ownership dispute between the heirs of George Rowles and Lewis Wernwag. The settlement placed the lot in the hands of Wernwag’s heirs, which they retained for 68 years.”

Julia Ann Wernwag sold the property to Scott W. Lightner, a Storer College Trustee, in 1914. He, in turn, sold the property to Storer College. In 1944, the lot was sold to Edward Tattersall. Edward Tattersall’s heirs owned the property until 1995, when Melvin and Dorothy Tattersall sold the property to the National Park Service.

The Mountain Echo, a publication of the Harper’s Ferry Woman’s Club, said that Circus Hill was a site frequented by the famous John Robinson Circus .

Circus Hill appears now to be a storage location for the Park. The house and out buildings are still there. Deer can be seen about the place at dusk. Would be a nice spot for a steampunk convention …

On to the steam calliopes!

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Since Steam’s opening in October 2011, I have been asked often about the name: “Why Steam at Harper’s Ferry?” then I explain how important Harper’s Ferry was to the B&O’s expansion west, the awesome steam trains that traveled on rails along both the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, steam-powered canal boats and the water-generated industries whose clamor echoed between the mountains.

For those familiar with steampunk, there’s not much to explain. The indicia surrounds them in the space – an owl here, a raygun there, fleur de lis homages to Jules Verne, and props (keep your fingers crossed! Chris from Steampunk Styles may be coming to Steam with a raygun display in the coming months!) from the Seth Foreman’s video project Steampunk Stacie, some of which was filmed on the premises. But I’ve been at a struggling to bring Civil Rights/War history together with the town’s Victorian and Industrial past and making that connection to a steampunk present (except in my mind, of course!).

On a whim recently, I purchased a promotional photo of James Mason portraying John Brown in a Playhouse 90 production released in 1960 entitled “John Brown’s Raid”.  It was no coincidence that the film’s release was 101 years after John Brown’s October 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry. A fitting centennial remembrance.

But wait, there’s more!

It was filmed on location in Harper’s Ferry!  This somewhat obscure production was made on the heels of two iconic steampunk films in which James Mason appeared.  “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954) and “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”  (1959)

So it was destiny that this little steampunk gallery in Harper’s Ferry exits today. Thank you James Mason!

Also, not coincidently, these book titles and DVDs are available at Steam at Harper’s Ferry.

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I finally had some time over the past few days to do some casual reading. I have been collecting the Lady Mechanika comic book series created, written and drawn by Joe Benitez, but didn’t have an opportunity to read anything after No. 1. A few days ago I started readying through Steampunk II, Steampunk Reloaded edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer to see if it was a book I’d consider selling in the shop.

Yesterday, I read the short story, “The Steam Dancer (1896)” by Caitlin R. Kiernan from Steampunk II for the first time and finished reading Lady Mechanika Nos. 2 & 3.

In my opinion, The Lady Mechanika series and The Steam Dancer are for mature readers. Not just because of the subject matter and content (some of which is sexual or violent), but because the writing makes demands of the reader. What Lady Mechanika does visually, The Steam Dancer does with description.  Both are good representations of the steampunk genre.

The Steam Dancer is about a young woman named Missouri Banks who finds herself an orphan after her mother dies of miner’s fever despite her father’s attempts to cure her mother with his own medicinal concoctions. The father commits suicide after the mother dies and Missouri is left alone. At nineteen, she is infected with bloat flies and is found by a man known to the reader only by his profession, mechanic. This is fortuitous because the bloat flies render her left leg, right hand and forearm gangrenous and must be removed. Her left eye is also infected. The mechanic fashions limbs for her and her lost eye is replaced with a glass one. She works as a dancer in the town where she and her now mechanic husband live, hence the name of the story. The mechanical limbs are steam powered and are subject to the same repair problems as other mechanical devices.

What to me is remarkable about the story is that it seems entirely plausible. Suspension of disbelief was complete and I didn’t question whether or not such limbs or such an environment was possible. The relationship with her husband was honest and touching. He doesn’t pity her and she doesn’t feel sorry for herself.

The Lady Mechanika series is about a young woman who, so far, is an avenger of sorts, on behalf of misunderstood beings.  The reader learns that some limbs are mechanical, and that she is searching for her past. Her enemy is Lord Blackpool, a man who will stop at nothing in order to prevent Lady Mechanika from protecting the disadvantaged or any being who is “different.” She is also pursued by a woman named Commander Katherine Winter, who is working with Lord Blackpool. By No. 3 of the series, Lady Mechanika learns about a mechanical genius, named Mr. Cain, renowned for his contraptions as well as his human experimentation. She meets up with the Cirque due Romani in the most recent number and we learn more about the relationship between Blackpool and Mr. Cain.

This series is different from The Steam Dancer short story in many ways, but the similarities are much more interesting.

In the Steam Dancer, the reader is inclined to think that Missouri is beautiful in some way. So beautiful that she is paid to dance. She is an exotic dancer in a literal sense – there would be few women with steam-powered limbs, and even if there were any, she was well-known for the grace with which she dances. She is also a survivor.

Lady Mechanika is beautifully drawn.  Steampunk fashion abounds, but is not ridiculous. She wears flat boots when she has to and is not overly exposed. Her gear appears practical and may actually be useful.

Both women are not objects of pity and yet they are beautiful – which is, to me, a rare combination.  Missouri does rely on the mechanic to repair and maintain her limbs, but the relationship is reciprocal. She is a partner.  Lady Mechanika is able to make friends and attain her goals not because she is weak, but because she is more successful when she has the cooperation of others.

I really enjoyed reading these works over the weekend. I think you would, too.   Ask for them at Steam at Harper’s Ferry.

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