Tag Archive | United States

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.

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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)

 

Today in American History…William Henry Harrison was Born

Today in American history…William Henry Harrison was born in 1773. He was our 9th US President and unfortunately had the shortest Presidency (March 4 – April 4, 1841) due to becoming ill and passing away shortly after his inauguration. Unfortunately, he was the very first President to die in office. He also holds the record of having the longest inauguration speech (8,445 words which took nearly 2 hours to read!)
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Today in American History…Nancy Hanks Lincoln was Born in 1784

Not much is known of Nancy Lincoln except for the most important aspect: she was Abraham Lincoln’s mother. There aren’t any pictures of her – only a depiction (made into a painting by Lloyd Ostendorf, February 12, 1963)

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(Image of Nancy Hanks Lincoln is courtesy of Lincoln Boyhood National Museum)

We do know that she was a warm, caring mother and that her son, Abraham Lincoln, loved her very much.  He was only nine years old when his mother died of milk sickness on October 5, 1818.  Throughout his life, he recalled the love of his mother and once said, “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”

William Herndon, Law partner with Abraham Lincoln and a close confidante, later wrote a book, Life of Lincoln, and described Nancy Hanks Lincoln most likely from Lincoln’s memories of his mother and those who knew her:

She was above the ordinary height in stature, weighed about 130 pounds, was slenderly built, and had much the appearance of one inclined to consumption. Her skin was dark; hair dark brown; eyes gray and small; forehead prominent; face sharp and angular, with a marked expression for melancholy which fixed itself in the memory of all who ever saw or knew her. Though her life was clouded by a spirit of sadness, she was in disposition amiable and generally cheerful.

 

In the Kitchen Tonight…Onion Soup

I believe winter has officially arrived in Virginia! Tonight was the perfect night to make something wonderful to keep us warm – so why not make a pot of yummy soup 🙂 Tonight we stepped back in time and made something that was most likely enjoyed by the Washington family – how cool is that?

While researching recipes today I was looking for something that was not complex and had only a few ingredients. So – this recipe for Onion Soup was perfect and I found it on the Mount Vernon website.  It most likely was made in the Washington household and was a recipe included in the Hannah Glasse cookbook, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple,which was first published in 1747 and went on to become a best seller for a century after it was published.

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The recipe was very easy and I truly recommend you try it at home. If you have onions (a lot!), flour and broth? You are all set…here is the actual recipe:

Onion Soup

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds onions, peeled and coarsely chopped (7 to 8 cups)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups water
2 cups Basic Beef Stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 slice bread, toasted and diced
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the butter is sizzling, add the onions, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent them from sticking to the pan, until they are very soft and caramelized. Add the flour, stirring to coat the onions, and cook for about 1 minute.
  2. While onions are cooking, combine the water and stock, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the onions are ready, mix them into the hot stock, stirring until well combined.
  3. Pour a little of the hot stock into the skillet and stir, scraping up any onion particles that remain. Pour the stock into the stock and onions, and add the salt.
  4. Stir in the diced toast, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Combine the egg yolks and vinegar. Gradually blend 1/2 to 1 cup of the hot soup into the egg yolk-and-vinegar mixture, stirring constantly to prevent the yolks from curdling. Stir the mixture into the soup, and simmer for several minutes until the soup thickens just slightly, stirring constantly. Again, do not let the soup boil, or the egg yolks will curdle.
  6. Season with pepper and additional salt, if necessary, and serve hot.

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Of course we have our fun pictures from the kitchen tonight. Thank you to my ever so patient husband for cutting the soooooo many onions and for being my official taste tester.

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We started with the basic…

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My hubby chopped and chopped (and chopped!) 

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Fabulous onions 

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My ever so faithful cast iron skillet was wonderful tonight – here we are getting ready to saute the onions 

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caramelized onions – after about 15 minutes.  Then added flour for minute. 

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In a separate large pot – added the broth and water 

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The water, broth and onion combination 

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Chopped toast is added to the soup…

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along with egg yolks and vinegar 

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We have soup! 

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and my hubby loved it! Success!