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Archive for the ‘American History’ Category

The Time Machine made by Christopher Loggie for the video series, Steampunk Stacie, draws a lot of attention. But not as much as Alfred Burton’s storefront window in the late 1800s.

Alfred Burton's Watch Repair and Jewelry Shop - Historic Photo Collection - Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

Alfred Burton’s Watch Repair and Jewelry Shop – Historic Photo Collection – Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

Alfred and his three sons, Henry, Warren and William all pursued careers as jewelers and watch repairers in Harper’s Ferry and Charles Town. As you can see in the window, Alfred had quite a watch collection on display. When you come to Harper’s Ferry today, you can see some watches and clocks donated by the family to Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park.

According to the Park’s Historic Furnishings Report for Building 14, Burton Jewelry Store, Alfred displayed several items over the years, at least one of which drew so much attention that the public complained as recorded in the Spirit of Jefferson, November 5, 1878. According to the article, Burton had a

singular sort of mechanical contrivance in his store window, from which [hung] half a dozen watches — some of them old-fashioned family watches, as big and stout as dutchmen, filled with lager beer — some as small as ten cent pieces — like little babies following their fat papas, and this contrivance [kept] continually going round at the same solemn, blind horse rate — no variation, no check, no change of time. … citizens are beginning to complain of this; they say that it is having a bad effect on the brain of people who are obliged to look into the window.

In addition, he owned and displayed Flying Pendulum Clock, patented by Christian Clausen in 1883,

1883 Claussen Patent 286531

 

which was later named the “Ignatz” novelty clock in 1935.

Ignatz was the name of the mouse side-kick of Krazy Kat.

 

Like merchants today, he expanded his business to include all sorts of repair work from medical to musical instruments. He managed property after his retirement and was a locally known beekeeper.

I can’t make any promises about the “Travels in Time” exhibit beginning next month, but I’m pretty sure that it won’t have a bad effect on the brain.

 

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View from Hill Top House April 2013

View from Hill Top House April 2013

On the Occasion of West Virginia’s Sesquicentennial

West Virginia is nothing if not a dual-natured state. On one hand, it was during the “War between the States” that a dedicated, wily few decided to finally wrest unsuspecting Eastern Panhandle slavery-leaning counties from the Old Dominion by hook or by crook to secure the railroads heading west and form a new free-leaning state. On the other, it is the state where, in 1898, an African American attorney, J.R. Clifford, successfully argued before the West Virginia Supreme Court on behalf of an African American teacher,  Carrie Williams, that racial discrimination was illegal – the first such ruling in United States’ history.

There are bucolic pastures and leisurely flowing rivers along with sharply descending and precipitous cliffs. Even its name, “West Virginia” is somewhat duplicitous. The word “west” suggests a forward thinking state, yet its name retains the colonial heritage of Virginia.

The state’s motto “Montani semper liberi” or “Mountaineers Are Always Free” could also indicate duel meaning. Upon the state’s formation, were mountaineers free from something or free to do something?  I prefer the latter. You may fight to become free from something, yet find yourself in a predicament you didn’t anticipate. Aspiring to be free to do something opens up possibilities. That aspiration, the dream to do something other than what had come before, to break with comfortable traditions and a way of life, the jump into the future in the midst of a civil war, speaks volumes about the state.

From my front porch I can hear those lonesome trains, and reflect upon what they represent. A state cut within and from the mountains, forging a future for itself that is still being realized. Many made sacrifices for the state – the price for which is lost in the mists of time. One only needs to take a deep breath in the mountain air, in that mist, to be fortified by the little known, and the renowned, who leapt feet first onto a path of their own choosing in hopes of building a new life for themselves as well as everyone else who has come to call West Virginia home.

Steam at Harper’s Ferry is selling paper and fabric commemorative flags. See this and other celebratory memories here.

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Being so close to Washington, DC, Steam at Harper’s Ferry is all about power – water and electric power, that is. Phil Berneburg and Eric Holstine’s work at the Gallery span technology in Harper’s Ferry from water power to electricity.

“The Potomac Power Plant was an innovative small hydroelectric facility that operated from 1899 to 1991, originally as part of a wood pulp mill (built 1888), and solely as a power house after a fire in 1925.  Significant extant equipment/machinery in the plant includes a c.1905 Dayton Globe water turbine, and a 1925 Woodward water turbine governor.  The building is also symbolic of industry in Harpers Ferry, as it occupies the site (and possibly the partial foundations) of Harpers Ferry National Armory buildings dating to 1834 and 1853, and contains reused structural materials from various Armory buildings as well as from an 1848 Harpers Ferry cotton mill (later a flour mill).”

Reprinted from Library of Congress records.

In this photograph, you can see a 1925 GE Generator in the foreground and a 1910 generator cover in the background.

Potomac Power Plant 1925 GE Generator (front) 1910 generator (back)

Potomac Power Plant 1925 GE Generator (front) 1910 generator (back)

Where was Tesla? Did he have a hand in the design of this hydroelectric power plant?

Tesla_Electric_Lamp_Patent_in_Crimson_Red

Potomac Power Plant HF

You can see many similar design elements in Phil Berneburg’s work here at Steam at Harper’s Ferry. For example, in his vertical boiler with wood logging, there are valves, rivets and pipes.

IMG_1970 (2)

Phil Berneburg’s Vertical Boiler with Wood Logging

Potomac Power Plant turbine flumes

Potomac Power Plant Third Tailrace

Eric Holstine’s lamps incorporate piping and electrical elements for a unique design.

Holstine - Steampunk Floor Lamp

Eric Holstine’s Steampunk Floor Lamp

Phil Berneburg and Eric Holstine’s work will be on display through April 28. The Big Top Steam Exhibit also closes that day. Come to the Bolivar-Harper’s Ferry Community Art Walk and meet these artists!

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The Jefferson County Historical Society recently sent out a newsletter featuring patents awarded to Jefferson County inventors. It is a pretty impressive list and I encourage you to check it out.

However, one inventor was missing. Estell (or Estelle) M. Black. Since I own a gallery in Harper’s Ferry’s lower town, I found it quite interesting that a woman who designed a commemorative spoon depicting Jefferson Rock was not included on the list. It was worth investigating.

Estelle May Peach Koonce Black filed for a patent on August 30, 1892. The patent was awarded on October 25, 1892 (remarkable!). The term  for her patent was 3.5 years, which is an unusual length of time.

What was also interesting was that her patent was awarded the same year the Columbian Exhibition started in Chicago. John Brown’s Fort, as readers of this blog will know, was dismantled and brought to the Fair in 1892. It was a big year for Harper’s Ferry and I don’t doubt that Estell Black wanted to take advantage of the attention being paid toward Harper’s Ferry that year.

“To all whom it may concern Be it known that I Estell M Black a citizen of the United States residing at Harper’s Ferry in the county of Jefferson and 5 State of West Virginia have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Designs for Spoons of which the following is a specification…”

 Estell Black spoon
According to the Women Inventors Index, 1790 – 1895, nine  West Virginia women were granted patents, only one of whom was from Jefferson County.
Her full name was Estelle May Peach Koonce Black. She was born in Harper’s Ferry on March 27, 1867 (the year Storer College was opened) and died on January 12, 1942 in Halltown.
Estelle Black death certificate
She is bured at Fairview Lutheran Cemetery.
Steam at Harper’s Ferry sells vintage newspapers, including Scientific American, which have illustrations from the late 1890s. Please come by!

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On this day, December 31, 1862, Lincoln signed at least two documents, the most significant of which was the Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on January 1, 1863. In addition, he signed the West Virginia statehood bill, which lead to West Virginia becoming the 35th state on June 20, 1863.

Unfortunately, the public viewing of the Emancipation Proclamation at the National Archives ended on January 1, 2013, but there are programs scheduled for the rest of the year. In addition, PBS premiered the three-part documentaryThe Abolitionists on January .”

West Virginia’s Division of Culture and History put together a useful website featuring sesquicentennial events is worth checking out.

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It was recently brought to my attention that there is a 150th anniversary of something around here – and  not just the Civil War! Was it the establishment of Harper’s Ferry? No. John Brown’s Raid? No.

It is the 150th anniversary of the formation of West Virginia! It was the only state created during the Civil War and its creation may not have been but for the War which exacerbated Virginia’s already difficult governance of the region.

There are quite a few websites dedicated to the 150th Anniversary of West Virginia and they are generally very good. There is even a website featuring our own Chief Historian Dennis Frye discussing, of course, Harper’s Ferry and the Eastern Panhandle!

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History has a website entitled: “Child of the Rebellion: An Archives and History Sesquicentennial Project.” Here you can find:

  1. Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
  2. Biographies of Statehood Leaders
  3. Biographies of Members of the First West Virginia Legislature Biographies of Western
  4. Virginia Delegates to the Richmond Convention
  5. West Virginia and the Civil War: Annotated Bibliography
  6. Timeline Trivia Question
  7. Sesquicentennial Moments
  8. West Virginia Union Militia Letters
  9. Civil War and Statehood Photographs
  10. “Military Events in West Virginia During the Civil War, 1861-1865,” by Allen W. Jones
  11. List, African American Soldiers from West Virginia
  12. List, Recruiting Officers in West Virginia
  13. Reminiscences, by T.B.A. David, 1908
  14. Election Precincts in West Virginia Counties

What a  wonderful resource!

 

 


					

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In addition to the great covers, all of these comic books

1.  Feature women with guns

2.  Have full color illustration throughout

3.  Have compelling story lines

4.  Are about the “Wild West”

5.  Have a steampunk feel

And they are all available for purchase at Steam at Harper’s Ferry!

Get your Oz on with the Legend!

Maybe there will be a Lady Mechanika movie!

I love the colors scheme in this comic book!

Steam at Harper’s Ferry has Lady Mechanika Nos. 0-3; The Legend of Oz, Wicked West No. 1; and Next Town Over Nos. 1 & 2, available for purchase in very limited quantities.

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