Monday Musings: Spring Cleaning (and a few odds and ends)

Have you started spring cleaning yet?  I’m not sure if you’d call it spring cleaning, but of late I’ve been trying to organize my life a little better.  I spent a few hours recently cleaning and re-organizing my storage unit and found some long-forgotten stuff (and some stuff I should have forgotten and thrown away a long time ago, truth be told!). Of course, that got me to thinking about the history of spring cleaning.  Whenever or however it all began, it appears to have first been practiced for religious reasons.  For instance, the Jewish season of Passover is preceded by Unleavened Days of Bread – seven days when not a crumb of leavened bread is to remain in the house.  Orthodox Jews would clean their home thoroughly to eliminate the possibility of violating this sacred observance. Traditionally in Eastern Orthodox faiths the home is thoroughly cleaned during the week of Great Lent – the first day being “Clean Monday” or “Pure Monday”.  For the faithful, the week represents a time of spiritual cleansing as well. NOTE: This article is being re-purposed and may be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Please check out our new site:  www.digginghistorymag.com.  Samples are available by clicking magazine image.  Regular monthly issues currently available for only $1.99. – Updated 1/20/18....

Monday Musings: New Year’s Resolutions (care to make a peacock vow?)

The ancient Babylonians made resolutions by making promises to their gods to return borrowed items and pay outstanding debts at the beginning of their calendar year, coinciding with the planting season to ensure a successful crop and an abundant harvest later.   The Romans made promises to their gods, specifically Janus, the two-faced god from which the first month of our calendar system derives its name. Following the conversion of  Roman Emperor Constantine by Pope Sylvester (who also healed the emperor of leprosy), pagan gods were no longer worshiped.  To drive away the darkness of the past Romans wandered through dark streets shouting and making noise – you know, acting foolish much like many do today.  A mask or costume ensured the ancient gods could not punish the revelers as they made merriment. In medieval times knights gathered for one last feast during Christmas week, vowing to remain chivalrous by placing their hands on a peacock (“peacock vow”).  Fast forward to the eighteenth century when the Wesley brothers instituted watch night services on New Year’s Eve as a means to close out the old and welcome the new year by soul searching, praying and resolving to be better Christians.  In a way it was akin to both the Babylonian custom and the Jewish Rosh Hashanah (New Year) which culminates with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). NOTE: This article is being re-purposed and may be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Please check out our new site:  www.digginghistorymag.com.  Samples are available by clicking magazine image.  Regular monthly issues currently available for only $1.99. – Updated...

Monday Musings: Searching For That EUREKA! Moment (Who Were You Roy Simpleman?)

I am the newsletter editor for my local genealogical society (South Plains Genealogical Society [SPGS]) and recently introduced a column entitled “Adventures in Research:  Sometimes You Just Have to Keep Digging”.  In the November issue I shared the story below, intending also to share it soon with readers here at Digging History since that’s where it originated back in October 2013.  The research I wrote about was not mine but it’s such a fascinating story I think you will find it interesting and informative. Who Were You Roy Simpleman? On July 5, 2015 I received a comment from a reader at Digging History on one of the very first articles I wrote in October of 2013.  After learning about the Dawson, New Mexico coal mine disaster one hundred years previous, I decided to write a Tombstone Tuesday article entitled “The Immigrant Miners of Dawson, New Mexico“. I usually write those articles focusing on a single person, or perhaps a husband and wife.  Instead, for that article I wrote about the tragic deaths of immigrant miners, some who had literally just gotten off the boat days earlier.  Over two hundred and fifty men perished that day. One of the survivors was a miner whose name was reported by newspapers as Roy Simpion.  As it turns out, that was either a misprint or misspelling of his name.  The email I received in July was from Roy’s great grandson Doug Simpleman. NOTE:  This article is being re-purposed and enhanced, complete with footnotes and sources, and will be featured in the March 2018 issue of Digging History Magazine.  Purchase your copy at the...

Monday Musings: Attending Your Own Funeral

I don’t mean to start the week out with such morbid musings, but have you ever thought about it?  It seems to have especially been on the minds of folks in the nineteenth century.  Who knows – it might have been a Victorian thing, except it spilled well over into the next century it appears. In search of stories to write I often run across interesting phrases that are used repeatedly – like “saved by her corset” (I will write a story on that one day!) and the one I researched last week: “own funeral”.  A search at one newspaper archive site yielded a result of over thirteen thousand articles containing the phrase. I found the phrase used quite often when referring to someone’s political missteps.  It might refer to a one-time high and mighty fellow making a less-than-inspiring speech or taking an unpopular stand – he was attending his “own funeral” – as in his political career was kaput. NOTE: This article is being re-purposed and will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Please check out our new site:  www.digginghistorymag.com.  Samples are available by clicking magazine image.  Regular monthly issues currently available for only $1.99. – Updated 1/20/18. Footnotes:...

Monday Musings: Aunt Jean’s Daily Talk

It wasn’t the first newspaper column geared toward children, but “Aunt Jean’s Daily Talk” published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle beginning in the early twentieth century was one of the most influential during its long run.  “Aunt Jean’s Daily Talk” was a special section set aside “for [our] young readers”, news for Aunt Jean’s “nieces and nephews”. The column featured stories geared toward children and fun things like contests, puzzles and various clubs (entertainment, humane, games and more).   Children joined the clubs and regularly wrote to Aunt Jean submitting their stories, poems and drawings (many quite good), garnering credits for prizes.  They learned about history, how to be kind to animals, being kind to one another, how to be a good citizen and more. Typically a child’s letter would be signed “your nephew” or “your niece” and covered a range of topics: Dear Aunt Jean – I want to ask you if any of the baseball teams need a player aged thirteen.  I am a good player and will furnish my own suit.  I could call and see the captain of a team on Saturday afternoon at 3 o’clock.  I am a very fine catcher and pitcher and would like to belong to one of the teams and help win a good name for it.  Your nephew, LEWIS A. WALDRON NOTE: This article is being re-purposed and will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Please check out our new site:  www.digginghistorymag.com.  Samples are available by clicking magazine image.  Regular monthly issues currently available for only $1.99. – Updated 1/20/18. Footnotes:...

Monday Musings: Is It Locofoco Time Yet?

I recently came across the term “locofoco” (or “loco-foco”), and curious as I tend to be, set out to discover if there was anything historically significant which might be shaped into a Monday-Musing sort of article.  My first question was, “what the heck is a Locofoco?”.  As it turns out I found myself relating the term to the current political fray. In the nineteenth century the term was connected to the Democratic Party – a name the Whig Party pinned on their opposition. The term “loco-foco” first made an appearance as a novelty item when John Marck invented a self-lighting cigar.  A patent for the “self-igniting”cigar was granted on April 16, 1834, although it was never referred to as “loco-foco” in Marck’s patent application or journal notices. NOTE: This article is being re-purposed and will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Please check out our new site:  www.digginghistorymag.com.  Samples are available by clicking magazine image.  Regular monthly issues currently available for only $1.99. – Updated 1/20/18. Footnotes: Footnotes:...