Posts Tagged ‘History’

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Bitter Sweet Day at the Historical Society

March 19, 2010

It is with a sad heart that this 11:45er is saying goodbye to the Delaware Historical Society.  Today is my last day working for a truly wonderful organization – one that I have been honored to be a part of for the past six and a half years.  It is a place where I have grown both professionally and personally and a part of my heart will always be here.

One of the ways the Historical Society truly allowed me to spread my wings was in social media.  Never in a million years did I think I would become interested in technology.  Yet here I am – blogging, tweeting, and following tech news with a passion I never would have expected.  I count myself as truly lucky to have been a part of an organization that gave me the room to try these things and also to discover myself along the way!!!

For those of you who follow Making History 11:45 – have no fear!  I have spent the past month training others to pick up where I left off.  I’m excited that you’ll have the opportunities to hear other voices from our organization and maybe even see our project take off with new life or in a new direction.  (We would love to hear from you if you have any ideas!)  I know that I’m looking forward to following the project from the other end. The picture above was from the lunchtime goodbye party the incredible staff gave me at lunch.  (Our staff has some of the best cooks out there.)

Thank you all for your support in our blog, for following this project, and for your words of encouragement!

Signing off for my final 11:45

-Andrea

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The Monster Mile” before it was a monster! (And the origin of the name.)

March 9, 2010

Aerial view of Dover Downs ca. 1965.

I’ve been cataloguing a collection of photographs representing the professional work of Cypen Lubitsh and Jack Bungarz.  They operated Lubitsh and Bungarz, a photographic studio in Wilmington from ca. 1950 until 1989.  I opened a folder to describe it for the on-line cataloguing project and could hardly believe my eyes!  Here was an aerial view labeled Dover Downs.  But what I saw in this view from about 50 years ago blew my mind- what changes time has wrought!  These days, a racing weekend at the Dover International Speedway means busy lunch counters and hotel/motel rooms all across the state.  Here was a view of a well-groomed track in the middle of almost nothing.  A few horses trot around the track but where is the giant monster holding a truck in the air, where are the lots of trailers parked for a race weekend, where are the slots, casino games and hotel?  And, where is Route 1 that passes so close to the rear of the track?!!  Wow!  (For those of us who have been around, it is easy to remember the track before it was “really big” with slots and the 46’ tall giant monster statue.  This stunning view was taken before the outside, racing track was built, and maybe even dreamed about.  Today the complex covers 750 acres. 

The track opened in 1969 as America’s first multi-purpose sports complex and remains that still today.  It’s busy schedule from opening day in 1969 included thoroughbred and standard bred horse racing  on the interior 5/8 mile oval and world-class auto racing on the outside one-mile track.  The concrete auto racing track boasted a new design called “variable degree” which helped drivers transition from flat straights to high-banked turns.  This new design allowed for drivers to reach unprecedented speeds on the one-mile track, earning it the nickname “The Monster Mile.”  It is fiercely known to have destroyed cars and driver’s hopes, an alternate definition of “monster.” 

Who says history at the Delaware Historical Society is boring.  Ha!

Ellen

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The Delaplane (not just a Newark area street name)

March 2, 2010

Delaplane, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

Robie Seidlinger, engineer and builder sits at the controls of Delaware’s first aeroplane. This was taken at the Horse Show Park, now a fashionable neighborhood known as Wawaset Park in Wilmington.

(The following information was abridged and adopted from George J. Frebert, Delaware Aviation History (Dover, DE, 1998)
One hundred years ago the Wilmington Aero Club (WAC) was incorporated. The organizers included David Snellenberg, Robie Seidelinger, George W. Crowe and John Montgomery. They contributed $1000 and sold shares in their enterprise which they hoped would allow them to develop a world-renowned aviation experimental group. The long range plan included highly publicized air-shows and innovation. At the time, they knew they could purchase a Wright (you guessed it- the Wright brothers) Flyer for $5,000 but instead the men opted to spend an estimated $6,000 for member Robie Seidelinger to design and build a plane. He did just that and in August, 1910 the Delaplane was nearly complete and was displayed at the fairgrounds.

The plane met with approval from J.D. McCurdy, an assistant to Glenn Curtiss (of Curtiss airplane fame) and word spread rapidly about the plane. After a couple of miscues because of weather, the plane was finally flown on October 21, 1910. It was placed in a hangar for the winter, with big plans for a huge event in the upcoming June. Unfortunately the hangar was struck by lightning and the entire structure and the plane were consumed by the flames. There lies the sad demise of the Delaplane.
This year marks the one hundredth birthday of the Delaplane and the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame will be celebrating. Don’t miss out on the fun and the rest of Delaware’s history, check them out at http://www.dahf.org/. This Delaware Historical Society is so glad to know it owns the only know photograph of this plane.

Happy 11:45 everyone, Ellen

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A New Kind of Club….

January 29, 2010

Students Examining Old Image of Their School, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

I am very excited about a new partnership between the us here at the Delaware Historical Society and middle school students and P.S. DuPont. Together, we have formed a history club. The club was the idea of Kelly Whitaker – an absolutely extraordinary 6th grade teacher! Because P.S. DuPont just switched from an elementary school to a middle school – she thought having a history club would be a great way to build a sense of community, history education…and FUN!

Visiting the Jail Cells
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
What is it?
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
Locked Up
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

We will all be meeting together – students, teachers, parents, and historical society staff members – once a month and learning about a variety of topics. Our first gathering was two weeks ago and we provided a general overview of the historical society. I gave a tour of the museum, students explored some of our artifacts more indepth, and we also shared with them old photographs including daguerreotypes, tintypes, negatives ,etc. (The image above shows students examining old images of their school when it was first constructed!)

We had a great group! For me, it was exciting to hear the students talk about when they visited the museum in 3rd grade or 4th grade for a field trip. I was impressed (and thrilled) by how much they remembered. Most rewarding, was watching the students feel comfortable in the museum and begin to take ownership of it. The museum is – after all – a place for them, their histories, and their stories!

I’m looking forward to our February meeting where we’ll be learning about the Underground Railroad.

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea

Here is a Smile Box Album from our history club! http://secure.smilebox.com/ecom/openTheBox?sendevent=4d54517a4f4459314d4446384d7a45354e4445304f44633d0d0a&sb=1

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The Best Part of My Day….

December 10, 2009

Student Report Card #2, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

When students come to visit us at the Delaware History Museum, we’re always interested in what they think! At the end of the day we give each teacher in attendance an evaluation for them to fill out and history museum report cards for students to rate us on how we did. Sometimes the returned student report cards are just priceless – such as these from 4th graders at Maple Lane Elementary School. Just in case you can’t decipher everything that they students drew/or are talking about…I’ll help you out along the way!

This particular report card is amazing in it’s accuracy. In our permanent exhibition (Distinctively Delaware) we have a cut out of a longhouse with skins on the floor and stretched out to dry. I think this student did a fabulous job depicting our longhouse and even used her imagination to fill in some Lenni Lenape hanging out inside.

We have some additional student report cards posted on our Flickr photostream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dehistory/.  I’m so happy by how accurate some of the images are!  My favorite drawing depicts a student and a museum guide.  It’s very detailed (this child had talent) although I have to admit I don’t know who this tall, skinny, brunette with shoulder length hair is supposed to depict.  Maybe I’ll ask my guide staff to fight it out amongst the 3 of them!!!!  I wish I could say it was me!!!!

As for the question “what was the best part of your day?”  How are these answers for some cute points:

  • “Eating lunch with my uncle”
  • “The best part of my day would be everything!”

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea (Delaware Historical Society)

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The Bancrofts

December 1, 2009

Samuel Bancroft House, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

December Greetings! It’s officially the holiday season- hoorah!

I am in the process of cataloguing the Stereocard Collection. The Society owns approximately 250 of these cards- most were produced in the third quarter of the 19th century. They were made with a special camera that had two lenses very near one another. When the photographer took his photograph, he actually took two nearly identical images. The two were developed and mounted on a card. The cards used were of various sizes and measured about 7” wide by about 3 ½” high. They were viewed through a special contraption- a handle with glasses and an easel holder for the card. The viewer slid the easel closer or further from the “glasses” until the image appeared as a three-dimensional view. To us today, these stereopticon cards are cool, fun and very entertaining! But put yourself in the shoes of people who didn’t have television or movies and imagine what fun they were. When I was a small girl, my mom went on a steroptican kick and bought a viewer and some cards- I loved them! She bought a lot of western scenes showing people posed precariously on the tops of mountains and canyons and views of people at Niagara Falls. Even for a little girl in the 1970s- these cards provided a chance to get away and see things that were exciting and even thrilling.

Back to Delaware and the Historical Society and Cuadra Star (alas- a few moments with the thrill seekers atop the Grand Canyon and my mind starts to feel wanderlust…). Anyway, I’m working on a tiny collection of five cards donated by the Bancroft family. The Bancrofts, a Quaker family, had a very successful milling business along the Brandywine River just west of Wilmington. In 1831 Joseph Bancroft founded a cotton mill at Rockford, Delaware. Daily operations were based on the British methods of spinning and weaving. Bancroft’s sons William Poole Bancroft (1835-1928) and Samuel Bancroft, Jr. (1840-1915) became partners in the Rockford factory, which became Joseph Bancroft & Sons. In 1889 the business was incorporated, and was known thereafter as Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company.

This collection of five cards show views of the homes and mills before the company was incorporated. The one that caught my eye is a view of the home of Samuel Bancroft Jr. At 26 he married and had a house built for the couple. A hand-written note on the reverse of the card tells the story: “Samuel Bancroft and Mary R. Richardson were married June 8, 1865 and moved into this house in February 1866- this house being built for them and they occupied the “Fulton house” until this house was ready for them. Samuel Bancroft is sitting on the porch. This was the beginning of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Bancroft Jr.”

As an aside- most Delawareans would know Samuel and Mary Bancroft for their interest and generosity to the arts community. Samuel became fascinated with Pre-Raphaelite art and amassed the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art outside the United Kingdom. His donation of the collection and eleven acres of land was the impetus for the Delaware Art Museum in the 1930s.

-Ellen

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An Intern’s Work is Never Done….

November 16, 2009

Meaghan prepares wash house for November and December school programs., originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

I can’t believe that this semester is half way over already! With all the excitement here at the Read House, time has been flying by so quickly. There have been so many things for me to get involved with between research, cleaning, moving collections back and forth, and just talking with everyone here about the changes underway at the house.

I know more about windows than I thought I would ever need to know, and I could tell you which type of duster to use for finished wood and which type for unfinished wood. While this all seems like arbitrary information, it comes in handy actually working with the objects in the house. It’s great to be able to take everything that I’ve been learning in my classes and see how they can relate to actual real world experiences.

There is so much more that goes into planning and maintaining a historic house than I would have imagined. While I’ve worked as a tour guide before, I am seeing all the behind the scenes aspects of interpreting the stories that are a part of the tours. That’s really what I’ve been exposed to more than anything. I’m learning how museums go about interpreting the past and connecting it to the present. This includes interaction with the community and responding to the needs and interests of visitors.

Every day there is a new project to get involved in, or an event going on to sit in on. Last month I had the opportunity to sit in on a staff meeting and learn about (and be completely overwhelmed by) the new cataloging system which is going to make the collections of the Delaware Historic Society more accessible to the public. I also joined up with a class of college students from Wesley University that came to visit. They were concentrating on professions in the field of history—which is pretty relevant, as I’m graduating with a history degree from the University of Delaware in the spring, and should start thinking about what I’m going to do next year.

I guess to sum it up, my experience so far has taught me a few things. On the surface I am learning how to care for historic pieces: how to clean them, how to handle them, etc. More importantly, however, everything that visitors see when they visit a museum or historic house is there for a reason. Historians interpret the past and in museums, they tell this story through objects. While scholars may write an article about family relationships at the turn of the nineteenth century, museums can give a sense of family through the placement of books and globes around a table, as in the Read House. There are countless stories that could be told, and so museums interact with the public to tell the ones that are most relevant to the community.

I am glad to be a part of this interaction and I am looking forward to the second half of my stay here.

Meaghan O’Connor
Material Culture Studies Intern

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