Monday, August 30, 2010

Test Your Skill - U.S. Geography

As the world of history and entertainment attempt to collide I hope to bring to your attention from time to time games, puzzles, and more from the internet which will test your skill and expand your knowledge and hopefully be slightly fun. They can be used or shared for your children, your students, or even your own pleasure.

The first of these I found recently is a United States Geography Test on the History Channel's website. It involves a blank map of the U.S.A. and you have to try and place the state in the right spot on the map as well as name its capital. To be perfectly honest, I even had a little difficulty with a few of these and I taught geography for a couple years. Try the expert level to really test yourself. Good Luck....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What is the History Behind... the term "bear" and "bull" market

The Charging Bull of Wall Street, created by Arturo Di Modica in 1989, has become synonymous for growth in the stock market and our economy. It is a symbol of charging ahead and taking the bull by its horns and making it big. If we as a country are in what we call a "bull market" we are doing well. However where did this term come from and why is a downturn in the stock market known as a "bear market?"

Bear skin used to be one of the top money makers in the early years of this country. Speculators on the coasts would sell bear skins before they even had them in stock to people from all over the world. Their hope was that in a short period of time the price of the bears skins would drop thereby allowing them their profit. These men became known as "bear skin jobbers." It was eventually just shortened to "bear" which defined short sellers of stocks. If "bear" began to define the term of price drops in the market then how did the contrast between that and the bull come about?

In the early days of California's existence, when gold rushers where arriving in mass, a desire and need for entertainment was sought. Sundays became the day where everyone would gather for the great fight between a grizzly bear and raging bull. Since a vast majority of the population in California was still of Mexican heritage it is no surprise that the use of a bull in a fight would draw many of them in to watch. The value of capturing a grizzly bear was enormous, so the bull would actually have their horns shaved down to avoid direct killing of the bear. Once the bear was placed in the ring the bull was put into place to be released in the arena with him. A small cut was made on the bull's nose and lip to enrage the bull and have him start to fear for his own life. Once the gate opened his opponent stood before him, the great bear. As the bear population in the area decreased the fights were held less and less until they eventually became a footnote of history.

As people started to associate price dropping with the term "bear" it was naturally for them to use the term "bull" to define price increases. For years there has been that battle in the markets between a rising economy and falling one. It all goes back to those fights that occurred which entertained those "49ers" in the California frontier.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mark Twain's Game of History

There are very few options out there now-a-days for the history lover to play a fun board game with friends or family. Problem is there really isn't a huge demand for history board games. No one learned this fact better than Mark Twain. In 1883 Samuel L Clemens, known better as Mark Twain, was down on his luck and sought out creating a children's board game which he believed would make him millions. The game involved memorizing dates of historical events and moments and earning points as you progressed.

Turned out that the game was too complicated to even set up and very few people found it fun to play. I can not imagine that I would ever find this game entertaining but I would love the opportunity to play a quality history game that could actually involve an engaging learning experience. Of course for those of you out there considering creating the ultimate history board game maybe the words of Mark Twain will change your mind. "If you have ever tried to invent an indoor historical game, don't... I might have known it wouldn't be an easy job, or somebody would have invented a decent historical game long ago."

"Twain's Game," American Heritage, Spring 2010, 12.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Confederate Prison Camp Unearthed

By the end of its completion, in late 1864, Camp Lawton was considered by some to be the largest prison camp in the world. Located in Southeastern Georgia it was built to relieve the overcrowding going on at the most famous Confederate prison camp, Andersonville. Conditions there were no better however because of the Confederates lack of funds and supplies, prisoners barely ate and lived in completely unsanitary and deplorable conditions. The prison was actually only open for two months before Sherman's march started to barrel down upon the it and was abandoned. In Sherman's frustration he burned and leveled the prison, then buried it before moving on. Over time the location and boundaries of the prison faded so the relic and memories were gone.

Recently Kevin Chapman, a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, discovered the site of the original Camp Lawton that at one time housed 10,000 Union soldiers. Aided by a painting of the area from that era it was believed to have been located in Magnolia Springs State Park. Many historians for years believed that finding Camp Lawton would not unearth any major discoveries or artifacts. Chapman proved them wrong. In just a short period of time Chapman uncovered numerous artifacts that had archaeologists stunned and excited for one of the biggest Civil War finds in a long time. 

"What makes Camp Lawton so unique is it's one of those little frozen moments in time, and you don't get those very often," said Dave Crass, Georgia's state archaeologist. "Most professional archaeologists who ever thought about Camp Lawton came to the implicit conclusion that, because people weren't there very long, there wouldn't be much to find."
They are not completely sure at this time what part of the prison camp they are looking at however one thing they do know is that this is probably only one percent of the entire area that Camp Lawton's mysteries have to offer. It will be exciting to see over the next few years what this dig will uncover and what we will be able to learn about this prison and its short life, as well as what we can learn about the Civil War. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tomb Raiding in Turkey

It's been called Anatolia, Asia Minor, and Rum. It has been home to various civilizations such as the Trojans, the Hitties, the Romans, and the Ottomans. Today the country is known as Turkey and with it being an epicenter of various peoples and cultures it is no surprise that there is a rich history buried under ground. 

Recently, the Turkish government had to pass tough laws with strict penalties for unauthorized digs in the country. For the most part those caught, "Tomb Raiding," find things of little historical significance however are able to sell them on a type of antiquity black market. A few days ago police raided the home of one of these unauthorized digs and discovered a major historical find. What was found were two tunnels that led to an underground tomb which housed a marble coffin and ancient frescoes that archaeologists are dating back nearly 2,800 years. So far an official dig is underway and five of the ten people detained originally have been arrested and charged.

Friday, August 13, 2010

History Links: Early American History

If you have been reading this blog for some time you would be able to pick up quickly that my favorite area of history is early American. Anything involving the American Revolution to the Civil War I find compelling and worth a great deal of study and learning. With this in mind it is no surprise that one of my favorite history sites to visit on a regular basis is Early American History:

Over the past 15 years this site has grown into a preeminent resource for all information related to the eighteenth century. The editor and founder of this site Don Vitale has done a fantastic job at building multiple avenues of information and learning for the novice and the historian alike. The website provides various documents, maps, primary resources, teaching tools, along with numerous multimedia outlets such as online games, music, videos, and even follow the site on twitter. One can also find biographies on major players in early American history, a forum for discussion on different aspects of this era, and a twice yearly produced online journal called the Early American Review.

Dating back to 1996 the Early American Review truly was the first of its kind, a journal dedicated to the eighteenth century. I find the articles in this journal informative and interesting. Written by professional historians as well as the amateur ones the Review continually produces a top quality product each and every time. This writer even has an article published in the Summer/Fall 2009 edition titled, "The Regulators Movement in the Carolinas."  ( With all the different aspects available on this website it is a must read for everyone. I highly suggest giving some time to visiting it and making it one of your favorites.  

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Color Photos of the Great Depression

 Headlines posted on window of newspaper office

Photos can do a wonderful job at giving us a glimpse of the world as it was. With the advent of color photography it allowed for that openness to the past to grow exponentially. This link below displays some of the only colors photos that depict the effects of the Great Depression in small and rural town America. This is a must to view and study over. 

Here are a few of the photos that were taken.

Growing a garden in New Mexico

Store with live fish for sale in Louisiana

Monday, August 9, 2010

150th Anniversary of the Pony Express

Developed by three investors who founded the "Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company," the pony express was officially started in April 1860. Made up mostly of teenagers these individuals would ride hard and fast across some of the most treacherous terrain and avoiding some of the most dangerous enemies to deliver mail in record time. Despite this grand innovation of delivering mail across the country in only 10 days it was far too expensive of an endeavour to maintain and they were forced to fold in only 18 months. Despite being in business for such a short term the legend and mythology of the pony express grew so dramatically that it became synonymous with the west and its early culture.
My discovery of this information is sadly a little behind however there was a re-ride of the Pony Express which started June 6th in San Francisco, CA and ended in St. Joseph, MO on June 26th. The final stop was topped off with a massive celebration, living history encampment, opportunity to meet iconic western figures, and so much more. How exciting would it have been to see these people ride the trails and roads that people rode 150 years ago in order to deliver vital information from the East to the West and back again. I wish I would have been able to be apart of this event and enjoy all the activities that occurred in St. Joseph, MO. I would love to hear from any of you that had the opportunity to partake in this event and viewed the festivities. These kinds of events are fantastic and give people young and old the opportunity to learn and live our history culture. It allows us as Americans to better understand and appreciate who we are as a people and where we came from as a society.
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