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A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged USA:

The Mammoth Cheese

In 1801 there was a strong fear amongst Federalist citizens of the United States that the Republican President, Thomas Jefferson, was, by separating the church from the state, paving the way for a revolution akin to that in France, where "the altars of New England would be demolished, and all their religious institutions would be swept away by an inrushing and irresistible flood of French infidelity”. Elder John Leland of Cheshire, Connecticut, disagreed, however, and to show his support to his president and old friend, he produced what was dubbed ‘The Mammoth Cheese’.

Milk and curd was taken from every cow in town (about 900), although Leland was careful to exclude any cows owned by Federalists, "lest it should leaven the whole lump with a distasteful savour." In an evidently political statement the cheese was made, according to Leland, "without the assistance of a single slave”. Freeborn farmers poured the ingredients into a huge cheese press fashioned from a cider press with a large metal hoop around it, and after some time "the greatest cheese ever put to press in the New World or Old" was ready to present to the president. It was transported to Washington DC via sleigh, boat and wagon.

By all accounts Jefferson was rather pleased, as he wrote to his son-in-law: "the Mammoth cheese is arrived here and is to be presented this day. it is 4 f 4 1/2 I. diameter, 15. I. thick, and weighted in August 1230 lb. … it is an ebullition of the passion of republicanism in a state where it has been under heavy persecution."News of the cheese having been reported in the news for months before its presentation, Leland was convinced it was a contributing factor in Jefferson winning the 1801 election. There are reports that the cheese remained at the presidents house until as late as 1804 when it was described as "very far from being good".

[Sources: Monticello | Wikipedia | Image 2 (unrelated wheel of Cheshire cheese) | Massive thanks to LadyTudorRose, who you should all go and follow]

The Last New England Vampire
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries there was a widespread belief in vampires throughout New England. The vampiric condition became associated with the deadly Tuberculosis, a disease misunderstood at the time and therefore the cause of much superstition. 
It was believed to cause nightly visitations from previously deceased victims, as well as bringing general sickness and multiple deaths to the family. As a result, there are various accounts of families having their deceased disinterred for the purpose of removing their hearts and bringing to an end their reign of terror, and the most famous of these cases is that of Mercy Brown.
There had been numerous deaths as a result of TB within the Brown family. Mercy’s mother and sister had died within a few years of one another, then, in 1892, Mercy herself succumbed to the illness. 
Mercy’s brother Edwin was also ill and, in accordance with the aforementioned folklore, Mercy’s father was persuaded to exhume the bodies of his dead relatives in an attempt to cure his son. The mother and sister’s body were found to have undergone significant decomposition, however, Mercy’s body remained relatively unchanged*: a clear sign that she was undead and the agent of Edwin’s condition. 
As a result, her heart was removed, burnt, mixed with water and fed to Edwin. He died two months later.
* A cold New England winter likely caused this.
[Sources: Image | Mercy Brown Vampire Incident | Vampire]

The Last New England Vampire

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries there was a widespread belief in vampires throughout New England. The vampiric condition became associated with the deadly Tuberculosis, a disease misunderstood at the time and therefore the cause of much superstition.

It was believed to cause nightly visitations from previously deceased victims, as well as bringing general sickness and multiple deaths to the family. As a result, there are various accounts of families having their deceased disinterred for the purpose of removing their hearts and bringing to an end their reign of terror, and the most famous of these cases is that of Mercy Brown.

There had been numerous deaths as a result of TB within the Brown family. Mercy’s mother and sister had died within a few years of one another, then, in 1892, Mercy herself succumbed to the illness.

Mercy’s brother Edwin was also ill and, in accordance with the aforementioned folklore, Mercy’s father was persuaded to exhume the bodies of his dead relatives in an attempt to cure his son. The mother and sister’s body were found to have undergone significant decomposition, however, Mercy’s body remained relatively unchanged*: a clear sign that she was undead and the agent of Edwin’s condition. 

As a result, her heart was removed, burnt, mixed with water and fed to Edwin. He died two months later.

* A cold New England winter likely caused this.

[Sources: Image | Mercy Brown Vampire Incident | Vampire]

Postcards from the Alligator Farm

I had long suspected that these images were merely imaginative artwork, similar to tall tale postcards. Today I learnt that, in fact, they’re halftone photographs with applied colour depicting fun for all the family at the Los Angeles Alligator Farm in the early 20th century:

Originally located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Joseph ‘Alligator Joe’ Campbell’s Alligator Farm was relocated to tourist hotspot Lincoln Heights, California in 1907. The animals were loaded onto a train and a banner was hung from the side advertising the advent of the attraction.

After paying their 25 cents admission fee, visitors could enjoy the hundreds of alligators, of various sizes and ages, that lived in the back garden - and, as the postcards show, there were opportunities to ride the reptiles. In time, the farm began to supply alligators for the movie industry and feature in such films as ‘King Solomon’s Mines,’ ‘The Adventures of Kathleen,’ Walt Disney’s ‘The Happiest Millionaire’, and numerous Tarzan films.

Most famous was an alligator called Billy. Visitors to the farm would witness Billy sliding down chutes and wrestling underwater with famed alligator wrestler George Link, and, until the 1960s, most of the alligator jaws seen in films belonged to Billy, as he would automatically open his mouth when a piece of meat was dangled above him, just out of view of the camera. Billy was one of the alligators so domesticated that his owners could put a saddle on him and give their visitors a ride. Another highlight was 250lb Galapagos tortoise, Humpy. The owners’ children would put a saddle on Humpy and Billy each and race them around the garden. Humpy would regularly stray off the path but was invariably the winner.

In it’s hey day the farm was the most complete reptile collection in the world, as various other species of snake and lizard were introduced over time, and would entertain 130,000 visitors a year. 

[Mice Chat | Iconic Muse | Image Archeology | Image Sources: 1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6 : 7 | More black and White photographs]

The Anti-Flirt Club

The Anti-Flirt Club was an American club active in Washington, D.C., during the early 1920s. The club was composed of women who had been embarrassed by men in automobiles on street corners with the aim of protecting them from unwelcome attention in the future. The Anti-Flirt Club launched an “Anti-Flirt” week, which began on March 4, 1923.

The club had a series of rules, which were intended as sound and serious advice. These were:

  1. Don’t flirt: those who flirt in haste oft repent in leisure.
  2. Don’t accept rides from flirting motorists—they don’t invite you in to save you a walk.
  3. Don’t use your eyes for ogling—they were made for worthier purposes.
  4. Don’t go out with men you don’t know—they may be married, and you may be in for a hair-pulling match.
  5. Don’t wink—a flutter of one eye may cause a tear in the other.
  6. Don’t smile at flirtatious strangers—save them for people you know.
  7. Don’t annex all the men you can get—by flirting with many, you may lose out on the one.
  8. Don’t fall for the slick, dandified cake eater—the unpolished gold of a real man is worth more than the gloss of a lounge lizard.
  9. Don’t let elderly men with an eye to a flirtation pat you on the shoulder and take a fatherly interest in you. Those are usually the kind who want to forget they are fathers.
  10. Don’t ignore the man you are sure of while you flirt with another. When you return to the first one you may find him gone.

[Image Source: 1]

(Source: Wikipedia)

Michel Ney’s Great Escape
A 150-year old mystery lies buried in a graveyard … in rural Rowan County, North Carolina. Legend is that Peter Stuart Ney, the schoolmaster who was buried there in 1846, was really the great French general Marshal Michel Ney, who led the bloody winter retreat from Moscow to Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars in 1812. On his deathbed, the 77-year-old Ney was asked by his physician if he indeed was the French general referred to by his men as “the red lion” and by Napoleon as “the bravest of the brave.” He raised himself and responded “By all that is holy, I am Marshal Ney of France!”
In 1815, after Napoleon’s [dethronement], Ney had sworn allegiance to Louis XVIII [and] When Napoleon left the island of Elba with a small army he had been allowed to maintain … Ney vowed to bring him back to Paris in an “iron cage.” [However,] Ney joined forces with Napoleon and [after] they were defeated at Waterloo by Wellington, Ney was condemned to die for treason [Source]. 
In December 1815 he was supposedly executed by firing squad, though he refused to wear a blindfold and was given the right to give the order to fire himself. However, legend has it that Ney’s Masonic ties, crucially those he had to Wellington himself, helped him fake his death by placing blood packets over his heart and firing blanks at him. He was then smuggled to the USA and lived the rest of his life as a schoolmaster. 
In January 1816, a man calling himself Peter Stuart Ney arrived in the US and disappears from record. In 1821, he resurfaces as a school master in South Carolina. Between 1822 and 1828, he held semi-permanent teaching positions in several Carolina communities. He died in 1846 and on his grave one will find the words: "A native of France and soldier of the French Revolution under Napoleon Bonaparte". The grave was exhumed in 1887 and a plaster cast made of the skull by a local doctor, though it was then lost. In 1936, a letter sent to TIME magazine  claimed that the skull had been found inan attic “show[ed] evidence of having been scarred by bullets and swords” [Source].
[Thanks to southcarolinadove for bringing this to my attention]

Michel Ney’s Great Escape

A 150-year old mystery lies buried in a graveyard … in rural Rowan County, North Carolina. Legend is that Peter Stuart Ney, the schoolmaster who was buried there in 1846, was really the great French general Marshal Michel Ney, who led the bloody winter retreat from Moscow to Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars in 1812. On his deathbed, the 77-year-old Ney was asked by his physician if he indeed was the French general referred to by his men as “the red lion” and by Napoleon as “the bravest of the brave.” He raised himself and responded “By all that is holy, I am Marshal Ney of France!”

In 1815, after Napoleon’s [dethronement], Ney had sworn allegiance to Louis XVIII [and] When Napoleon left the island of Elba with a small army he had been allowed to maintain … Ney vowed to bring him back to Paris in an “iron cage.” [However,] Ney joined forces with Napoleon and [after] they were defeated at Waterloo by Wellington, Ney was condemned to die for treason [Source]. 

In December 1815 he was supposedly executed by firing squad, though he refused to wear a blindfold and was given the right to give the order to fire himself. However, legend has it that Ney’s Masonic ties, crucially those he had to Wellington himself, helped him fake his death by placing blood packets over his heart and firing blanks at him. He was then smuggled to the USA and lived the rest of his life as a schoolmaster. 

In January 1816, a man calling himself Peter Stuart Ney arrived in the US and disappears from record. In 1821, he resurfaces as a school master in South Carolina. Between 1822 and 1828, he held semi-permanent teaching positions in several Carolina communities. He died in 1846 and on his grave one will find the words: "A native of France and soldier of the French Revolution under Napoleon Bonaparte". The grave was exhumed in 1887 and a plaster cast made of the skull by a local doctor, though it was then lost. In 1936, a letter sent to TIME magazine  claimed that the skull had been found inan attic “show[ed] evidence of having been scarred by bullets and swords” [Source].

[Thanks to southcarolinadove for bringing this to my attention]

Ghost Army
The Ghost Army was a United States Army tactical deception unit during World War II officially known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. The 1,100-man unit was given a unique mission within the Army to impersonate other U.S. Army units to deceive the enemy.
From a few weeks after D-Day, when they landed in France, until the end of the war, they put on a traveling road show, using inflatable tanks, sound trucks, phony radio transmissions and playacting. They staged more than 20 battlefield deceptions, often operating very close to the front lines. Their mission was kept secret until 1996, and elements of it remain classified.
[Image Source]

Ghost Army

The Ghost Army was a United States Army tactical deception unit during World War II officially known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. The 1,100-man unit was given a unique mission within the Army to impersonate other U.S. Army units to deceive the enemy.

From a few weeks after D-Day, when they landed in France, until the end of the war, they put on a traveling road show, using inflatable tanks, sound trucks, phony radio transmissions and playacting. They staged more than 20 battlefield deceptions, often operating very close to the front lines. Their mission was kept secret until 1996, and elements of it remain classified.

[Image Source]

Virginia House: The House that Moved Homes

The house which would become Virginia House was originally built in the 12th century and served as a priory until Henry VIII split from the Catholic church and closed the hundreds of monasteries and nunneries around Britain. Over the next four hundred years the house would change hands numerous times, with each owner adding a personal touch; such as knocking down the surrounding monastic buildings and adding curvilinear Dutch gables to the front façade around 1620. The fortunes of the house rose a fell throughout the centuries with one owner entertaining Queen Elizabeth I there and another, in the early 20th century, being forced to sell it.

In 1925, Alexander and Virginia Weddell bought it at a demolition sale. They had it dismantled and rebuilt part of it in Richmond, Virginia, where they hoped the west wing would serve as a museum for the Virginia Historical Society. 

The company that was to demolish the Priory felt the stones would crumble in the process, so they decided to make a small explosion in the middle of the building and send only those stones that survived the blast to America. To their amazement, most of the stones fell intact. The more fragile ornaments were packed in boxes with sand to cushion them. The ship bringing the stones to America had to turn back to port as it was taking on water. Consequently, when the stones arrived in Richmond they were soaked in seawater and had to be washed and dried. The first group of stones arrived in Richmond in the spring of 1926. 

Virginia House was completed in 1928, and in 1929 it was presented to the Virginia Historical Society with the Weddells retaining lifetime tenancy.


[Image One: The house in England : Image Two: The House in Virginia : Images 3-5: (courtesy of Vintage-Royalty) The House now]

(Source: vahistorical.org)

Midgetville

Midgetville, or Tiny Town, is a name used to refer to real or legendary communities of “midgets”, people with forms of dwarfism who are normally proportioned, or collections of small “midget-sized” houses. As many of these places are legendary they are at times given qualities that might be more fanciful than real and even some “real” ones may play on mythology for tourism purposes. Hence some descriptions are not meant to imply anything concerning real people with dwarfism.

The “Midgetville” in Vienna, Virginia was a collection of six small cottages that were torn down in 2008. In 1892 the area was purchased by Alexander Wedderburn and in 1930 his son built six small cottages. The cottages were rented out but eventually became overgrown with ivy and trees, subsequently becoming associated with “Midgetville” legends bolstered by two coincidences: the nearby Bailey’s Crossroads, named for the Bailey family of Barnum & Bailey Circus, was used as a place to winter circus animals in the mid-1800s, whilst nearby Tysons Corner is the home of one of the Barnum & Bailey Circus headquarters. Those two facts are used to substantiate the legend that Midgetville was a retirement village for circus midgets. The legend is sometimes told with the midgets being xenophobic and throwing rocks at curious visitors to chase them away.

Another so-called Midgetville is located in New Jersey. At least six small houses, with small doors, smalls windows and small furniture inside are located on a secluded dirt road. Some have very ornate exterior decorations. There is one normal-sized house on the grounds, inhabited by an elderly, average height couple. Rumor has it that Alfred Ringling, famous for the Ringling Brothers Circus, built a few small-sized houses that had four-foot doors as a sort of retirement home for the little people acts in his circus. Again, visitors claim the “midget” residents are territorial and hostile and will shoot guns at outsiders.

[Images Sources: Top Row (VA) : Bottom Row (NJ)]

[With thanks to Vintage-Royalty]

(Source: Wikipedia)

Hurricane Sandy causes coffins to rise from their graves. Two coffins, one bronze and the other silver, rose up from the ground after flooding, caused by hurricane Sandy, made the ground swell at Crisfield cemetery in Maryland.
Something similar happened when hurricane Isaac struck earlier this year, as can be seen here.
[To any of my followers who live out there, I hope you, your family and friends are all OK!]
[Oddment recommended by Vintage-Royalty]

Hurricane Sandy causes coffins to rise from their graves. Two coffins, one bronze and the other silver, rose up from the ground after flooding, caused by hurricane Sandy, made the ground swell at Crisfield cemetery in Maryland.

Something similar happened when hurricane Isaac struck earlier this year, as can be seen here.

[To any of my followers who live out there, I hope you, your family and friends are all OK!]

[Oddment recommended by Vintage-Royalty]

Bullet in a Bible
A soldier during the Civil War had his life saved by the Bible in his pocket.  He wrote to President Lincoln about it, and the President sent him a replacement with the Presidential signature.

Bullet in a Bible

A soldier during the Civil War had his life saved by the Bible in his pocket.  He wrote to President Lincoln about it, and the President sent him a replacement with the Presidential signature.

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