Tag Archive | American History

In the Kitchen Tonight…Thomas Jefferson’s Marinated Asparagus

It is so much fun being able to make (and taste!) things that our ancestors once enjoyed. To be able to eat something that Thomas Jefferson enjoyed? Well, this is way too cool!

Thomas Jefferson had quite an exquisite taste for all things – especially food and he really enjoyed the French cuisine when he was the Minister to France from 1785 to 1789. One of his favorites was this French style marinated asparagus.

To read more about the history of Thomas Jefferson’s love for asparagus and view the recipe you can click here.

We had a lot of fun making it in the kitchen. It was very simple recipe to make and would make a perfect side dish. The only problem I had was…I didn’t know how to boil an egg correctly! I can do many things but boiling an egg was an issue 🙂

The next time you host a party or have to bring something for a potluck make this wonderful recipe and let people know…oh this is just a little something Thomas Jefferson liked.

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The Historical Traveler Visits the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, DC

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Standing in front of Cedar Hill, the home of Frederick Douglass (Photo Credit: The Historical Homemaker)

My latest travels took me to the historic museum and home of Frederick Douglass, located in Southeast Washington D.C. The museum showcased a timeline of Frederick Douglass’ life which included his many accomplishments and the influences he had on the course of American history. In the museum, there is a wall of his famous quotations, original pieces of his work, and of course, you can visit his beloved home, Cedar Hill, where he spent the last years of his life.

He was born into bondage in 1818 in the vicinity of Talbot County, Maryland. At eight years old, he was sent to a plantation in Baltimore, Maryland and this is where the mistress of the plantation grew very fond of him and started teaching him how to read and write – a practice that was uncommon for the time period (and in some places in the US it was against the law).

Frederick Douglass said goodbye to Baltimore in 1838 when he was 20 years old – leaving his former life in bondage behind for a brand new life in New York. Anna Murray Douglass, his first wife, sold her personal belongings to purchase him a ticket to New York. He was still a slave, however, and he vowed not to marry Anna as a slave but only if he were a free man. It wasn’t until after he secured his freedom that he and Anna were married. It was in New York that he met with the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison who recognized Frederick Douglass as a talented speaker. He was then enlisted to give speeches across the country to help educate people about the horrible atrocities of slavery. Being that he knew first had what being a slave entailed, he was able to give a personal perspective on slavery and his audience continued to grow and he became a very popular orator.

Some of the highlights of his life:

  • In 1845 wrote his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which became an international best seller.
  • Met with President Lincoln in 1863 to assist in enlisting African Americans in joining the Union troops. Did you know that the first two men he had inquired to enlist were his oldest two sons? Lewis Henry Douglass and Frederick Douglass Jr.
  • Frederick Douglass accepted the offer when President Hayes enlisted him to be the official US Marshall of Washington, D.C.
  • His first wife passed away in 1882 and he remarried two years afterwards to Helen Pitts. This caused controversy because she was a white woman and interracial marriages was not accepted socially (and in some States it was illegal)

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One of Frederick Douglass’ famous quotes on display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Original autobiography copy on display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Frederick Douglass’ Family Tree on Display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Exterior of Cedar Hill (I’m sitting on the left side of the porch) (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

On February 20, 1895, Frederick Douglass died of a massive heart attack at Cedar Hill, and was buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY with his first wife, Anna. Shortly after he passed, Helen Pitts Douglass established the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association to preserve his legacy as well as his impact on United States history. The association still maintains the legacy today.

Cedar Hill beautifully sits on top of a hill overlooking Southeast Washington D.C. The tours are free, during which you will learn about the history of the house and Frederick Douglass’ time while living there. Most of the items in the house are original pieces including the portraits, dining room furniture, and beds.

There are several rooms in the house including two rooms for entertaining and over half a dozen bedrooms. Although the entire house is rich with history, three rooms in particular I found most interesting: the first den, the dining room, one of the three guest rooms for women, and Frederick Douglass’ bedroom, all of which have original pieces from when he lived at the house.

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Entertaining room, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

 The first room used for informal entertaining of guests and showcases a piano in the left corner, a fireplace in the center of the room, and a bust of Frederick Douglass gifted to his family when he lived there. I learned in the tour that Frederick Douglass combined interior design with remembrance of American history, this being shown by the ball and chain tied around the curtains to the room symbolizing the roots of slavery in American history.

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Picture of ball and chain curtain ties, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

The dining room of Cedar Hill include pictures taken with other prominent Washington, DC people at the time, and original dining furniture. Frederick Douglass sat at the head of the table. This is indicated by the wheels on the bottom of the chair, which made it easier for him to stand up and speak, which he did frequently while entertaining his distinguished guests.

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Dining Room, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

 On the second floor of Cedar Hill, there are three bedrooms: three for women (including guests and one room for each of his wives) and three rooms for men (including the personal bedroom of Frederick Douglass). The guest room used for women included an original portrait of Susan B. Anthony, whom he was very fond of for her advocacy for women’s rights.

Many people don’t know that since 1848, Frederick Douglass was also an advocate for women’s right to vote.

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Women’s guest room with Susan B. Anthony portrait in the upper left side, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

  His bedroom was opposite of his first wife’s room in the upstairs hall. Frederick Douglass would use dumbbells to work out every morning after waking up to exercise and stay physically fit. Cedar Hill has these dumbbells and they can be seen on display by the foot of the chair in his room

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Frederick Douglass’ bedroom, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Chair with original Dumbbells, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

Two other pieces I found very interesting include his desk in his office and a trunk with his name on it, which was used on his many travels throughout the country and Europe.

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Frederick Douglass’ Trunk, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Frederick Douglass’ Office, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

Every room in Cedar Hill is beautiful in its unique way and the tour guides are very knowledgeable and will answer any questions you can think of while touring the house. Visiting Cedar Hill and learning about Frederick Douglass’ life and his huge impact on American History was truly a memorable experience for me, not to mention the wonderful scenic view from Cedar Hill.

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View from outside Cedar Hill (Phot Credit: The Historical Traveler)

Click here to plan your free visit to Cedar Hill and the Frederick Douglass Museum.

The Historical Traveler Visits The Alexandria Archeological Museum

I recently traveled to The Torpedo Factory Art Center, which houses the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. The Torpedo Factory Art Center was built and began functioning in November of 1918 shortly after WWI and has since been converted into a place for local artists to show their work and also to display the ancient relics found in the area nearby as well as throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. These particular relics include a copy of The New York Tribune from 1861, an original musket that was built in the 1820’s, and a quartzite spearhead that dates back 13,000 years ago. Reading and learning about these relics, as well as the many others in the museum, allows a larger scope of understanding as to how our ancestors lived.

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(Picture of Museum Exterior)

The city of Alexandria, Virginia is a fascinating place that was founded in 1749 and is rich in American history and politics. It was originally given the name “Water Street” because of its location and proximity to the Potomac River. Since it was originally founded, Alexandria has been built around a shoreline that increases over time, requiring updates to adjust with the shoreline.

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(Picture of Alexandria shoreline displayed at the Museum)

The first relic I found particularly interesting is a newspaper on display that was originally published on May 26, 1861 with a photograph on the front page of Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth. Colonel Ellsworth had been assassinated merely two days prior in Alexandria. The paper was published by The New York Tribune, which was in print from the 1840’s to the 1860’s and was very much in support of The Whig Party. I thought it was very interesting how little the text was, and how much information fit on a single page. This makes sense though seeing as the daily paper was one of the few ways information reached the general public both on a National and a State level.

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(Picture of the display of the New York Tribune article about Col Ellsworth)

The Alexandria Archaeology Museum includes displays of information regarding Alexandria’s role in the American Civil War. During the Civil War, many Alexandria businesses were converted into military hospitals including hotels, churches, and ordinary citizen’s homes. There were a total of 30 hospitals in the city of Alexandria at one time or another during the War. Upon the conclusion of the Civil War, the military hospitals were taken down and the buildings that were converted into hospitals were either torn down or changed their appearances in a dramatic fashion.  Read more about Alexandria and their part in the Civil War here.

In 1978 during an excavation mission on the nearby courthouse, a Wickham musket was discovered almost completely intact. It was deduced that Marine T. Wickham manufactured the musket between 1822 and 1834. Wickham was contracted to produce rifles for the American Government out of Philadelphia. This particular Wickham musket pre dates the Civil War, albeit similar rifles were used in the war.

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(Picture of musket)

The coolest piece of history on display in the Alexandria Archeology Museum (in my opinion anyway) is a piece of quartzite spearhead officially named “Clovis Point.” This particular Clovis Point was discovered in 2007 in Freedman’s Cemetery, a cemetery for formerly enslaved and free African Americans that has not used since 1869. What makes this Clovis Point very interesting is its over 13,000 years old! This piece of quartzite is from the Paleoindian Period and is the oldest artifact I have ever heard of and seen personally. There is generally not a whole lot of information about humans in that time period, making this relic quite a treasure due to its extreme age. This particular quartz was easily manipulated into a spear head early humans used to hunt with. The fact there is evidence of how humans lived 13,000 years ago still blows my mind.

Other artifacts I found personally interesting include a letter from a drummer boy, a list of diseases and causes of death from 1863-1868, and a cohesive file of death records from those same years. You can read through the death records from 1863-1868 and see if any of you recognize any of the names or if you even have ancestry included, and how everyone in the records died. I couldn’t help but look through the records to curiously see if any of my ancestors had their names in the book.

The museum also has a lot of activities for families and kids including putting artifacts together with your hands.  There is way more to be seen and learn here and I highly recommend making the Alexandria Archeology museum a point of interest when you’re in the area if you want to learn more about how life was from hundreds to thousands of years ago. You can learn more about the Alexandria Archeology Museum right here.

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(Picture of me putting together a plate)

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(Picture of the historic and beautiful Alexandria Waterfront)

 

The Historical Traveler: Ford’s Theatre and The Peterson House

For my second historical visit, I traveled to Ford’s Theatre and The Peterson House in Washington, DC: the sites of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and death.

Since the assassination, Ford’s Theatre has been converted into a museum where you can learn everything about the assassination including the many attempts on his life before the fateful night in April 1865. You learn about the foreshadowing of the assassination from both President Lincoln and the man who shot him.  You also learn of the lives and about the trials of those who conspired to (and were then charged with and then put to death) kill President Lincoln.

fords-theater2                                 A young picture of Abraham Lincoln on display at Ford’s Theater

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States with 40% of the votes in a four-way contest.

During a speech the following year Abraham Lincoln concluded his speech with these words:

“…if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle (freedom)…I would rather be assassinated on the spot than to surrender it…”

There were many attempts on President Lincoln’s life including one from a group who named themselves the “Plug Uglies.” After this attempt, President Lincoln was advised to stay armed and carry a weapon on his persons.  He refused to do this and stated, “would not for the world have it said that Mr. Lincoln had to enter the National Capitol armed.”

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These are the actual weapons given to President Lincoln that he refused to have on him

John T. Ford opened Ford’s Theatre in 1863 under the name Ford’s New Theatre after it having been converted from a First Baptist Church.  Ford’s New Theater became a popular escape for entertainment during the depressing years of the Civil War.  Many popular actors of the day performed at Ford’s Theatre including John Wilkes Booth.  John Wilkes Booth was very famous and was known for his athleticism and his southern pride. He came from a famous Theater family and his father was the popular actor Junius Booth.

fords-theater3 John Wilkes Booth father: Junius Booth.  On display at Ford’s Theater.

Interesting Fact: During a performance of The Marble Heart, John Wilkes Booth directed his threatening lines towards the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre while President Lincoln was in attendance. He knew President Lincoln was watching and Booth hinted publicly his dislike of President Lincoln.

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John Wilkes Booth in 1865

The conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln started in the boarding house of Mrs. Mary Surratt where she and other conspirators plotted the assassination. Of the conspirators who were put on trial following the assassination, four were sentenced to death: including Mrs. Surratt. She unfortunately is known as the first woman to be executed by the US government.

Ford’s Theatre has the stories of each individual conspirator on display as well as statues representing their likeness.  I found that I am personally a lot taller than the conspirators but am of course, much shorter than President Lincoln – who was 6’3″

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Here I am standing next to one of the conspirators!

The theatre itself is very spacious and open.  The stage is not too high off the ground and the circular design of the room works really well.

Pictures of the theatre including seats, ceiling and stage

Although visitors are allowed to walk around the theatre, the Presidential Box where President Lincoln was assassinated is closed off.

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Picture of the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre

You can go through the door frame where John Wilkes Booth entered and waited to assassinate President Lincoln was really neat to see.

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Picture of the outside of the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre

Across the street from Ford’s Theatre is The Peterson House, which is where President Lincoln was carried to upon being assassinated and where he took his last breath.

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Me standing in front of The Peterson House

The Peterson House remained a boarding house for immigrant families after the death of President Lincoln. After the owner passed away, The Peterson House was stripped of all the interior decorations and converted into a newspaper headquarters.  After being purchased by the government, The Peterson House was converted into a museum along with Ford’s Theatre.  Unfortunately, the decorations and furnishings inside the home are mostly not original pieces.

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Picture of the room where President Lincoln passed away. The bed was on the far right.

The room where President Lincoln passed away is furnished almost identically to how it was when he was carried over from Ford’s Theatre.  They have recreated the room with a photograph taken the evening of the assassination.

The Peterson House is an extension of the museum which chronicles the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth and the impact of President Lincoln on the world.

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Picture of the John Wilkes Booth manhunt trail

You can follow the trail he took from Washington, DC into Virginia where he was finally caught and shot – which he then succumbed to his wounds.

Through The Peterson House is a spiral staircase with a statue of Abraham Lincoln books in the center and every flight of stairs down is another part of Lincoln’s legacy.  One floor showcased the despair felt across the Nation by telling the details of the many funerals held for President Lincoln across the United States. Funerals were held in Washington, DC, Boston, Baltimore, Harrisburg and Philadelphia – just to name a few cities.

Interesting Fact: The turnout for these funerals were astounding averaging 100,000 people per funeral, and reaching over 1 million in New York.

President Lincoln was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.

Following the same stairs downward was a room where people who passed by can leave notes describing their ideas on what qualities Abraham Lincoln possessed including courage, ideals for equality and integrity.

The staircase ends where the bottom of the statue begins and concluded my self guided tour of Ford’s Theatre and The Peterson House. There is so much more information and so many lessons to learn from going through these museums.  Tickets are easy to purchase although you will probably want to plan your trip in advance online here because the theatre is still used for productions to this day.

Ford’s Theatre is a 100% MUST SEE visit! I promise you will have a great time and learn so much along the way.

fords-theater14 Picture of the statue of books