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For some reason, as I reviewed the art work submitted for Steam At Harper’s Ferry’s next exhibit, “Gadgets, Guns and Gears,” the philosopher, Martin Heidegger came to mind. I cannot say that I am a Heidegger scholar or even a fan, but his writings about “things” and the “essence of things” made an impression on me.

The theme of this exhibit is most certainly about things.

In some respects, the selected work reflects an evolution of useful things from “need” to “pleasure” in Heidegger fashion, as well as from “original steam” tools to entirely aesthetic contraptions which are representations of useful, and sometimes dangerous, things.

Four artists’ works, along with those of Steam At Harper’s Ferry’s Resident Artist, have been selected for Steam’s next exhibit starting on June 23 and ending on August 26, 2012.

The technological and visual manifestations of the artists’ perceptions appear in evolutionary order below.

“The Original Steam” hand operated tools and gadgets – visual art by Sue Parker

Gears, real gears! – photographs by Scott Little

Decorative uses of eye protection and vision enhancement – drawing by Leigh Anne Cassell

Aesthetic fanciful manifestations of weaponry and gadgetry – works by Christopher Loggie

Coalescent visualizations of all the above – illustrations by Steam’s Resident Artist, Jason Edwards

Please come and see our own “public happening of truth.”

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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
jwilliamlamb@gmail.com

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

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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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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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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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I thought I had plenty of time to get things done this month. But no. For some reason, this November has been crazy with activity.  Just in case you don’t have enough planned for the rest of the year, following are some activities and events worth considering.

Victorian Holiday Greeting Card Workshops

Where:  The Clara Barton National Historic Site, 5801 Oxford Road, Glen Echo, MD
When:  Saturdays and Sundays, November 26 & 27 and December 3 & 4 – RESERVATIONS REQUIRED
Time:  11:30 am, 1:30 pm and 3:00 pm

Old Tyme Christmas at Harper’s Ferry

Where:  Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, Lower Town
When:  Friday – Sunday, December 2-4 and Saturday & Sunday, December 10 & 11
Time:  9 am to 4 pm December 2-4 and 9 am to 5 pm December 10 & 11 for the events. The shops will be open later.
 

(more…)

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CASTING CALL

Monday, October 24, 2011 5pm-8pm (by appointment) Quality Inn Conference Center in Harpers Ferry, WV 4328 William L. Wilson Freeway Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

Seeking men, women, and child actors and re-enactors for minor roles, extras and stunt actors, for the highly anticipated historical TV mini-series about the lives and times of the men who helped build America between 1865-1917.

Casting call, by appointment only, will be held on MONDAY, OCT. 24 from 5:00pm to 8:00pm at the Quality Inn Conference Center in Harpers Ferry, WV.
Acting experience is helpful but not required. You must send recent photo and other info. identified below in advance to PERIODEXTRAS@GMAIL.COM to obtain an appointment time.

Appointments are required, no walk-ins will be permitted.

Filming will occur in both the eastern and northern regions of West Virginia between Oct. 31 and Dec. 22 and will occur mostly on weekdays and possibly some weekends. Most roles will involve filming between 1 – 4 days (some consecutive) at some point during that time frame. Roles are booked on an as-needed basis, usually only a few days in advance or the night before, sometimes last minute. In your email, please be specific about your availability during this time frame. Before being hired, you must prove you are legally able to work in the United States. Typical work days are 12 hours and sometimes more.

PERIOD ROLES NEEDED: If you fit any of the descriptions below, please respond ASAP and identify the roles for which you wish to be considered. Especially looking for interesting faces.

Lincoln
John Wilkes Booth
McKinley
Civilians (many varied roles)
Business executives
Law enforcement (sheriffs, NY/NJ Police, Marshall, Laborers (industrial workers, dock workers)
Soldiers (Admiral, Confederate, Union, Stragglers)
Musicians (fiddle, harmonica, percussion etc.)
Ladies of the night Burlesque performers (Victorian era)
Thugs (think Gangs of NY)
Photographers/ Journalists Stunts (horse/falls/fights)
Butlers/Maids Newspaper Boy/Messengers And More!

In your email, please also list any period wardrobe and props (craft tools, weapons, equipment) you have for the time period of 1865-1917. For stunt roles please note your experience with horse riding, falls and fights.

RECAP: To be considered for the Oct. 24 casting call: Send an email to PERIODEXTRAS@GMAIL.COM with RECENT PHOTO/S – Can be cell phone/snapshot (hair etc. must be as is currently) and Headshot or Photo in period civilian or military attire (may send multiple photos but only one per outfit). Send a resume (with your headshot) or write your acting, reenacting etc. experience in the body of the email. Include your first and last name and role/s in the SUBJECT LINE of the email. Include your availability and flexibility with last minute notice/ date changes, to work approximately 12 hour days (must be there the entire time) (*minors subject to child labor laws) for an average of 1-5 days or more during the time period of October 31 and December 23.

Do not come to casting call without getting an appointment time. Do not call the hotel directly. Questions will be addressed via email. If you are unavailable for the casting call on Monday, make sure you include all of the above in your email and you still will be considered and possibly invited to another casting call (you can send a links to any video you might have).

Boys and Men who are interested should refrain from shaving or cutting hair to be period appropriate (beards, mustaches). Women, men and children, also note if you are willing to have your hair cut or colored. Feel free to forward/post this email to other individuals/groups etc. you think are appropriate. Don’t miss out on this Historic Opportunity!

NAME:

ADDRESS:

AGE:

GENDER:

CONTACT INFO (phone):

CONTACT INFO (email):

AVAILABILITY BETWEEN OCT. 31 – DEC. 22:

ABILITY TO TRAVEL TO DESIGNATED LOCATIONS:

LIST OF PERIOD WARDROBE & PROPS:

ACTING EXPERIENCE (note speaking vs. non-speaking roles):

REENACTMENT EXPERIENCE (ROLES):
Sonya “Sonny” Tormoen
Extras Casting Director 651-206-0101
Talk2Sonny@aol.com
Extras Casting Inquiries PeriodExtras@gmail.com

“The Builders”

A historical mini-series from Stephen David Entertainment depicting the lives and times of the men who built America.

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