Archive for the ‘Steam’ Category

News From Steam At Harper’s Ferry

For Immediate Release: 4/30/2012
Contact: Cynthia – 304-885-0094 or info@steamatharpersferry.com
John Lamb – jwilliamlamb@gmail.com

Legendary Steam Gun Is Focus of Event at Steam At Harper’s Ferry
Author of Book on Winans Steam Gun to Presents Its History and Sign Copies of Book

Steam powered weapons are a staple of steampunk literature, art, and fashion, but in 1861 Harper’s Ferry played a part in the story of the “Winans” Steam Gun. “Its tough to imagine Harper’s Ferry as enemy territory, but in May 1861, Federal troops captured a steam gun, allegedly built by Maryland industrialist Ross Winans as it was being transported to Harper’s Ferry” says John Lamb, author of A Strange Engine of War: The “Winans” Steam Gun and Maryland in the Civil War. “ The men captured with it hoped to sell it to the Confederate troops there.”

While the gun never made it to Harper’s Ferry, Lamb will share its story with patrons of Steam at Harper’s Ferry on May 6. “Steam is a steampunk art and gift shop. What better place to share the story of such an outlandish, but entirely real Civil War device?” Lamb says. “Steampunk is a literary, artistic, fashion, and musical movement that starts with Victorian aesthetics, keeps things steam powered while taking technology and society in different directions. While contemporary to us, its roots go back to the 19th Century.”

 “One of the frequent themes of steampunk literature, is inventors toiling in obscurity on their creations – that is a pretty fair synopsis of the steam gun’s creation by Charles Dickinson and William Joslin,” Lamb says. What started as an effort to build a hand powered “centrifugal” gun by the men, grew into a steam powered weapon that rocketed to national prominence in the wake of the April 19, 1861 Baltimore Riot.

The gun’s menacing appearance and its arrival on the public stage at the height of anxiety after the riots helped bury its true origin, and forever linked it to noted Maryland industrialist Ross Winans through newspapers at time and through many books and historical articles over the years. While the basic facts of the story were talked about at the time, they soon faded from memory, according to Lamb. “Newspaper articles around the 50thanniversary (1911), helped bring out the story of its last days,” Lamb says. “During the 100th anniversary (1961), a replica was built for a reenactment of the gun’s capture. In 2007, Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel put the idea of the gun to the test. My book, published in 2011, continues the gun’s 50 year cycle of returning at key anniversaries for another round of publicity.”

Lamb’s interest in the gun was sparked when he found an engraving of it while working on another project in the early 1990s. “My curiosity about it began simply – what was it, was it dangerous? What happened to it? The more source materials I read, the less sense it all made – with good reason – the accepted account of events had little to do with what really happened.” Lamb says. “I worked on it here and there as I could and slowly a more complete account of the gun emerged. Being on Mythbusters spurred me to complete my work and put out a book, which came out in 2011. I have really enjoyed uncovering the true story of the Steam Gun, and am looking forward to sharing it with gallery guests at Steam at Harpers Ferry.”

If You Go: Historical Presentation/ Book Signing with John Lamb, Author of A Strange Engine of War: The “Winans” Steam Gun and Maryland in the Civil War, 2-4 p.m., Sunday, May 6, Steam at Harper’s Ferry, 180 High Street, 1B (on the stairs), Harper’s Ferry, WV, 25425. For more information visit, http://www.steamatharpersferry.com, call 304-885-0094 or send an email to info@steamatharpersferry.com

About John Lamb

John W. Lamb, author of A Strange Engine of War: The “Winans” Steam Gun and Maryland in the Civil War works in communications and development in the non-profit sector, is interested in Maryland’s Civil War history, 19th Century technology and shapenote singing, and appeared on the Discovery Channel’s *Mythbusters* series episode regarding the Winans Steam Gun. He lives in Harrison, Tennessee, with his wife and 3 children.

About Steam

Steam at Harper’s Ferry is a Victorian/Steampunk themed art gallery and gift shop located in the historic lower town of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. Steam at Harper’s Ferry has quarterly openings and features local and regional artists.

John W. Lamb
Author, Historian, and Development Professional
Harrison, TN, USA

The book is available for purchase at Steam at Harper’s Ferry.

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Last month, Steam at Harper’s Ferry opened a new exhibit entitled “Steampunk Travel” which will continue until May 13, 2012. For the Art Walk, here is an introduction to the artists and their work.


Steam at Harper’s Ferry featuring Kristin Consaul, Chip York and Jill Evans-Kavaldjian of Pith Helmet Provisions and Jason Edwards, Visual Artist
180 High Street, 1-B
Harper’s Ferry, WV

Artist Statements/Bios

Pith Helmet Provisions (from the website):  “Pith Helmet Provisions is a collaborative effort of unique talents – a painter, a tinker, and a carpenter.

Jill Evans-Kavaldjian is an artist, muralist, and decorative painter; a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Fine Arts; and a former teacher. Her work takes many different forms, from commissioned landscapes, a murals, faux-painted formal interiors, historic and one-of-a-kind floorcloths, and illustrated educational materials.

[Chip York] is an artist, photographer, seamster, carpenter, and tinkerer with mad science leanings. As a boy he took things apart to see how they worked, and occasionally put them back together. Now he takes things apart to make them into something else, scavenging the elements of his creations from the curbsides and dumpsters of our disposable culture. He claims that once you learn construction you can build anything, from a house to a corset. He was steampunk before he knew there was a name for it, and since he and his wife started steampunkfamily.com, he has a forum for sharing his DIY projects and philosophy with other like-minded souls who want to possess objects much more amazing than they can buy, and the joy of making it themselves.

[Kristin Consaul] learned carpentry and tinkering in her father’s workshop. Whenever she got in trouble, her punishment was to help dad in the shop, so she got lots of experience! She formalized her skills at the Heartwood Homebuilding School in Massachusetts. She finds inspiration in the Victorian aesthetic, an era had an elegance that is missing from much of what we surround ourselves with today. [She] is drawn by the rich colors and textures of seasoned wood, and her decorative pieces are often made of salvaged wood.”

Jason Edwards (from his website):  “For over ten years, [he] has been a professional scenic artist.  He is a graduate of  University North Carolina School of the Arts, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He participated in additional apprenticeship programs as a scenic artist at the Skylight Opera Theater, Goodspeed Opera House, Santa Fe Opera and Cobalt Studios. In the Washington, DC Metropolitan area, he has worked with some of the most well-known organizations in the performance industry, including The Shakespeare Theater, Washington National Opera, Third Dimension, and most recently with the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Award-nominated productions on which he has worked include “Fever Dream”, “Full Circle” and “Boom”. Over the past two years, he has expanded his artistic interests toward more personal art and produced several pieces available for viewing on his blog, jordebot.com. Here’s an interview from American theatre wing: http://americantheatrewing.org/biography/detail/jason_edwards



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When I wrote about the Winans Steam Gun back in October 2011, I had no idea how popular the post would be, and I certainly had no idea that there was a new book about the subject by John Lamb! I will post more in the coming weeks, but I wanted to let you know about this event well in advance.

Steam at Harper’s Ferry will be hosting a book signing and historical presentation on the legendary Winans Steam Gun from the Civil War, 2-4 p.m., Sunday, May 6, with John Lamb, author of A Strange Engine of War: The “Winans” Steam Gun and Maryland in the Civil War.

Hope to see you there! If you can’t make the event, get your hands on the book.

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Harper’s Ferry visitors have a unique opportunity to walk alongside two historic canals. One, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which extends from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD for a distance of about 185 miles and the other, the Shenandoah Canal also known as the Shenandoah Navigation, which is often overlooked even  though its construction began twenty-two years earlier than that of the C&O. 

The canal became obsolete for use as a canal once the C&O was completed, however, the water siphoned from the Shenandoah fed industries, such as the paper mill on Virginius Island, through the early 1900s. If you take the Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park bus from the Park entrance at Cavalier Heights, you can still see lock ruins, especially during this time of  year.

The train tracks along this portion of the Shenandoah were once owned by the Winchester & Potomac Railroad, considered a Confederate railroad system during the Civil War. In 1867, the Winchester & Potomac Railroad was renamed the Winchester & Strasbourg Railroad.

A few weeks ago, Harper’s Ferry experienced some excitement as !!Snow Panic!! set in, although short lived. Here is a photo showing the Shenadoah Canal lock still on the job managing the Shenandoah in the midst of the fearsome flurries.

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I have to let you know in advance that this review is biased. I am already a fan and Steam at Harper’s Ferry has asked Jonah to come to the gallery next week. That being said, I can now get to it.

This latest release by Jonah Knight “Age of Steam: Strange Machines” stays true to his folk style. A few tracks remind me of Joseph Arthur, who is another favorite of mine. This time around, Jonah has ghosts and zombies on his mind, along with an inventor who is the CD’s main character. The introduction to the CD explains:

“These songs are set between 1880 and 1920. They tell the story of an increasingly passionate inventor who, living in a world of ghosts and monsters, must rely on strange machines to live and to escape.”

The music itself is anything but hopeless. My personal favorites are Track 1, Once Around the Sun; Track 4, Old Folk Roam; and Track 8, Welcome to the Age of Steam. CDs are available at the Gallery. Jonah will be at Steam at Harper’s Ferry on February 25 from 3-4.

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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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