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wwii-propaganda-posters-500-65When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, it was not only a date that has lived in infamy, it was a wake-up call for all Americans. World War II became not just an effort undertaken by soldiers but everyone in the country.

Everyone—soldier and civilian alike—had a role to play in the war effort. Children collected scrap materials, women planted victory gardens, and men served as air raid wardens. Sometimes it was hard to know if their hard work did any good as they watched map boards anxiously to track troop movements and battles and checked whether someone they knew was listed as wounded, captured or killed. Of the nearly 4,000 Adams County residents who served in the war, 118 gave their lives and many more were wounded.

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As soldiers were shipped overseas, families left behind worried over whether they would ever see their loved ones again. That worry translated into a need to do something to help in the war effort. Seeking to direct this energy, the federal government and some private companies produced posters encouraging people to buy war bonds, plant victory gardens, be careful about what they said and more.

“They showed people that things done at home were helping over there,” says Benjamin Neely, executive director of the Adams County Historical Society.

The Adams County Historical Society has a collection of more than two dozen of these posters that show the messages that county residents were being bombarded with. They are a mix of paintings and photographs emblazoned with short messages. One image that sticks with Neely is that of a sailor’s hand sticking above the water. The message of the image is that the sailor is drowning.  The poster warns, “Someone talked.”

The WWII propaganda posters were carefully planned by the U.S. Government, which tried to identify the most-effective way to not only communicate a message to Americans but to influence their behavior.

we-can-do-it“One government-commissioned study concluded that the best posters were those that made a direct, emotional appeal and presented realistic pictures in photographic detail. The study found that symbolic or humorous posters attracted less attention, made a less favorable impression, and did not inspire enthusiasm. Nevertheless, many symbolic and humorous posters were judged to be outstanding in national poster competitions during the war,” according to the National Archives web site.

The posters were created by some of the leading illustrators and photographers of the day, including Norman Rockwell.

“They encouraged the country to pull together and sacrifice,” Neely says. “I would think that they were really effective because they still survive today.”

The messages encouraged Americans to recycle materials and conserve their usage of materials needed in the war effort. They promote buying war bonds to help fund the war. They warn people to be careful of what they say because it might reach the wrong ears.

“These posters really raised awareness about different things,” says Erik Dorr, curator of the Gettysburg Museum of History. “They were the government’s way of communicating with the masses.”

The posters appeared at a time when Americans needed some direction. They were angry that the U.S. had been attacked. They wanted to help, although many of them were not eligible for military service. These posters served as a constant reminder of what they were fighting for. It helped them believe that the changes they were experiencing were worth it.

For the causeATT00001

“World War II was a unique time in the history of the country where we were really, really united in one cause,” says Dorr.

Things like gasoline, rubber, kitchen fats, and meat were rationed. Families had to register in order to receive ration books. The coupons in the book allowed the families to be able to purchase different items during certain periods of time and in specified quantities. So strict was rationing that the Gettysburg Times noted that newborn babies needed to be registered at the ration board so that the family would receive additional coupons in order to be able to get needed food items for the child.

Robert Bloom noted is his book, A History of Adams County, Pennsylvania 1700-1990, that Fairfield doctor Ira Henderson dealt with the restrictions rationing caused to driving by using a bicycle to get to his patients’ homes.

Draft boards were set up in New Oxford and Gettysburg to evaluate males for eligibility into the military. As more males went into the military, it created labor shortages at area businesses. Because of this women were encouraged through the propaganda posters to join the workforce. “Poster and film images glorified and glamorized the roles of working women and suggested that a woman`s femininity need not be sacrificed. Whether fulfilling their duty in the home, factory, office, or military, women were portrayed as attractive confident, and resolved to do their part to win the war,” the National Archives web site notes.

The posters encouraged the men and women stateside to become a part of the Civilian Defense Corps. They could serve as air raid warden, nurse’s aides, fire watchers and more. More than 4,000 Adams County residents participated in these war time roles.

Gettysburg even had a POW camp for German prisoners during the war. The prisoners were used to offset some of the labor shortages, but they also needed to be guarded. Dorr’s grandfather, Fred Pfeffer, was Gettysburg’s mayor during the war. Not only did he serve as an air raid warden, he deputized a group of men, including a hunter with a bloodhound, to track down any prisoners who escaped from the camp.

When the war was finally won in 1945 and the country celebrated its victory, they were celebrating not only the return of their loved ones but the fact that their sacrifices at home had paid off.

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razor_blade_020Men have shaved their faces for thousands of years. Some of the earliest materials for razors were clam shells, flint, shark’s teeth and pumice stones, all of which were sharpened on rocks. Though they worked, they certainly didn’t leave men’s cheeks feeling smooth as a baby’s bottom. There was also a danger of slicing your throat or your palm while getting rid of your five o’clock shadow.

Clean-shaven men were seen more commonly in the 11th Century. At that time, not only were people focusing more of personal grooming with things like perfumes, but the Roman Catholic Church began urging its men to shave as way to distinguish themselves from men of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The two churches had separated in 1054.

When men began working with metals, bronze razor blades appeared. However, it was the age of steel that allowed razor blades to make their greatest advances. As blacksmiths created sharper knives and axes with more-durable edges, it was only logical that they also use those skills to create better razors.

What has become known as the first modern razor was created by Benjamin Huntsman in the 1740. Huntsman worked in Sheffield, England, which would eventually give its name to the Sheffield Razor. Between 1740 and 1830, these blades were often marked as “cast steel” or “warranted.”

Huntsman used a special process to create steel with superior hardness so that it could hold a thin, sharp edge. These blades were easier to sharpen and held their edge longer. When these early blades did lose their edge, they were sharpened like knives were. Razor-Blades__74514_zoom

The next improvement to razors was to hollow grind them and replace the wedge-shaped edge with a concave, bevelled edge. Hollow-ground razors began showing up around 1825, though the process wouldn’t be fully refined until the end of the century.

As razors became sharper, some inventors began turning their eyes to increasing the safety of razors. The first safety razor was developed in 1770 by Jean-Jacques Perret of France. It was a straight razor with a wood guard. The Kampfe Brothers patented their safety razor in 1880. This razor had a removable handle, a head that caught excess lather and a wire guard along the blade.

King Gillette started developing his innovations to the safety razor in 1895. His idea was to use cheap, disposable blades in a safety razor. Producing this razor was still impossible until 1903 when MIT graduate William Nickerson helped Gillette develop the disposable blade.

Shaving now became convenient and easy. Gillette provided razors to the U.S. military, which allowed him to introduce millions of men to the new technology, which they then went on to use once they left the military.

Jacob Schick followed a different direction for improving the razor. He patented an electric razor in 1923.  However, the design was unwieldy and Schick continued to refine it until he began selling them in 1931.

The Gillette company also introduced the first cartridge razor in 1971. The cartridge had two fixed blades in it and could be easily attached to a handle.

Companies still continue to look for new innovations and refinements to help men and woman find the way to get a closer shave.

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This is a wonderful story about a heroic and humble man.

Pacific Paratrooper

William J. Crawford William J. Crawford

During every intermission I include at least one story from the European Theater.  This following article showed me once again the honor and humility that was common to the Greatest Generation.

Perhaps it was the way he carried himself in an unassuming and humble manner, but day after day hundreds of Air Force Academy cadets would pass this janitor in the hall oblivious to the greatness that was among them.

In the mid-1970s, William Crawford might spend one day sweeping the halls and another cleaning the bathrooms, but it was a day approximately 30 years prior that would create for him a special place in the history of war. In 1943 in Italy, the only thing  Private William Crawford was cleaning out was German machine gun nest and bunkers.

William Crawford – Medal of Honor recipient

Under heavy fire and at great risk to himself, his gallantry…

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ea18d83eeba50026386b8feea2d24a1eFebruary 24, 1857, was a special night for Adelaide Gordy. It’s not known whether it was her first ball or not, but it was a night that would change her life. From this night would come a story that would show that fairy tales can come true.

Upon hearing a tale that would enchant generations, her descendants would look at each other and smile, knowing, yes, it could happen. It had happened to Adelaide.

Reviving Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras first came to America in 1699 before there even was a New Orleans. On March 3, French Explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville set up camp on the Mississippi River 60 miles south of present-day New Orleans. Iberville named the site of the celebration Point du Mardi Gras.

Under French rule, masked balls and festivals were common for Mardi Gras. That ended under Spanish control. That masked ball ban lasted even when New Orleans became part of the U.S. in 1803.

That changed in 1823 when the residents petitioned the governor to allow the masking. The first Mardi Gras parade happened in 1837.

However, the masks also allowed violence to grow during the festivals because it hid the criminals as well as the revelers. It became so bad that public opinion began turning against continuing Mardi Gras.

The 1857 Mardi Gras was the first one held by the Comus organization, a group of six New Orleaners who were determined to bring beauty and style back to a celebration that had become known for its violence. Comus started the traditions of having a secret Carnival society, a theme parade with floats and a ball after the parade. Their efforts not only saved Mardi Gras but created a night of magic for Adelaide.

Dressing for the Ball

The 16-year-old attended the ball looking like a princess dressed in a gown made of tarlatan with silk in satin stitch. Amid all the guests, the young lady caught the eye of 27-year-old John Blount Robertson. The two danced, talked and ignited a spark. However, during the evening, Adelaide left the ball hurriedly; so much so she left behind one of her slippers.

Recovering the Slipper

John saw the stray slipper and retrieved it. Later he would write on the inside a memory of the night and the girl who wore it:

“Slipper of Adelaide Gordy

Worn at Ball of Mystic – I saw

Mardi Gras 1857 [illegible] Street. By JBR”

John pursued Adelaide in a whirlwind courtship that culminated in their marriage on April 15, not even two months after they had met.

Dream Come True

On that special day, Adelaide enchanted John again, wearing the dress that had first caught his eye as her wedding dress, and he returned to her the slipper she had left behind at the ball.

She and John were married 13 years and had seven children, although only four lived to adulthood. Adelaide died of accidental poisoning at age 29, according to the U.S. Census Mortality Schedules. She is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Here’s a good post about the war of 1812. Make sure to listen to the Battle of New Orleans song. I loved it as a kid.

History Imagined

The War of 1812 stands out in American history as a disappointment to most, a forgotten war as soon as one managed to finish 8th grade history class. It doesn’t have the same fervor as the Civil War, nor does it have the same righteous outcome as the Revolutionary War.

But June marked the anniversary of the start of the war, so now is a perfect time to open those history books again and explore what and why this war happened. It’s a bit confusing, involves Canada to some extent, the British, of course, and a lot of other elements that led to its inconclusive outcome. It gave rise to some commanding officers who later helped mold the country by taking the reins of the presidency–Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison and James Madison.

340px-James_Madison James Madison, president of the United States in 1812, who signed the document declaring war on…

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Benjamin_Franklin_by_Joseph_Siffrein_Duplessis.jpgBenjamin Franklin is well known as a publisher, statesman, scientist, and inventor, but he was also a musician who created the first American musical instrument.

Benjamin Franklin invented the glass armonica in 1761. Three years earlier he had seen Edmund Delaval play water-filled wine glasses. He worked with glassblower Charles James to build his instrument.

The name comes from the Italian word for “harmony.”

The First Armonica Performance

The glass armonica had its world premiere in February 1762. Marianne Davies in London. She gave a concert in which she not only played the armonica, but sang and played the German flute as well.

The armonica gained enough popularity in its day that both Mozart and Beethoven, as well as more than 100 composers, wrote music for the instrument. GHmains

What is a Glass Armonica?

The glass armonica is a set of 37 glass bowls mounted on a spindle. Each bowl is slightly smaller than the preceding one and they are mounted so that the bowls sit inside of each other. The spindle has a flywheel mounted on one end of it that is rotated by a foot treadle.

To play the armonica, the musician moistens his or her fingers and rubs the rims of the bowls as they rotate on the treadle. Each bowl vibrates at a different note. The resulting sound has an almost ethereal quality to it. Franklin also recommended using a small amount a chalk on one’s fingers to ensure a clear note.

The armonica is based on the same idea that causes sound when someone rubs their finger around the rim of a wine goblet.

Problems with the Armonica

Many people believed that playing the glass armonica led to health problems. This is due to both the lead in the glass bowls in the 18th Century and the lead in the paint used to mark the notes that each bowl played.

Some armonica musicians complained of the loss of feeling in their hands and some even suffered nervous breakdowns.

img-20150305194205Armonica Falls into Disuse

This fear led people to stop playing it and by 1830, it was no longer played for the most past.

Armonica Revival

After 30 years of experimentation, Gerhard Finkenbeiner, a Boston glassblower, is credited with reviving interest in the armonica. In 1984, he made an armonica using quartz rather than glass to make the bowls. The bowls also had gold bands on them that served the same purpose as black keys on a piano.

You can hear an armonica being played here.

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