Interactive learning quests, book reviews, lesson plans, teacher tools and technology tips for teachers.
When January brings us temperatures in the single digits, most of us turn up the thermostat or pop a container of soup into the microwave to whisk away the chill. If we lived four or five hundred years ago, it would not be as easy to snuggle up and keep warm.
Winters then were more severe, but people were more acclimated to the cold. At first, European settlers in the New World lived in caves or mud huts dug into the ground. As groups formed they began to fell trees to build log cabins. These usually consisted of one large room with a fireplace for cooking and heating. Candles provided the only source of light. In winter they huddled near the fire for warmth and sat on high-backed chairs to keep the cold drafts from the dirt floor off their necks. Windows were simply openings in the logs covered by oilskin cloth to keep out wind and rain. Before retiring, hot stones that had been placed in a brass container were removed from the fireplace and passed through the cold sheets in an effort to warm them. Indoor plumbing did nor exist, and a trip to the outhouse on a winter night was not a pleasant experience. Water wells were shallow because they were dug by hand; they frequently froze in winter. Stones had to be dropped down into the water bucket to break the ice so they could use it. Travel in winter was limited because many families could not afford a horse or donkey and were required to walk most of the time. The horse drawn sled was the best mode of travel in winter as the ground was usually covered by snow. Even so, there were few roads, hardly any bridges, and travelers had to negotiate many obstacles.
Most settlers spent winter indoors. Men could not work the land or perform outdoor maintenance chores. Children were assigned tasks like gathering eggs and tending small animals. The women canned and preserved food and smoked whatever meat they had. They spent time at the spinning wheel with wool that would be spun into cloth. They sewed sheets and clothing for the family. Because they did not have modern heating conveniences, clothing was their most important asset.
Early Americans were influenced by fashion and trade with England. The wealthy imported wigs, velvets and brocades, but this was not the case for most colonists. The lower class had to make their clothes from a coarse fabric they called “Lindsey-Wolsey.” “Dress” clothes were those you wore outside the home. To “undress” meant that you would be dressing to stay at home. Kind of like staying home today and wearing sweatpants. But don’t think the clothing was really comfortable.
Let’s look at woman’s apparel first. Gowns consisted of a bodice and skirt joined together. Underneath lay a visible underskirt and stomacher, which was a panel pinned in front of the bodice A decorative apron and lace neckerchief finished the outfit. The costume was supported by hoops and stays; undergarments that extended around the midsection. These were made of wood, whalebone or metal! She wore stockings made of cotton, wool, silk or linen held up by garters that were tied like ribbons. Dark leather shoes held together with a buckle adorned her feet. In the home, she wore a cap to keep out dust. When outdoors she wore a wool coat and a hat covering the cap. Mittens were fingerless and elbow length. Perhaps, she would carry a muff in the shape of a tube to keep warm.
Men wore durable linen trousers to the ankle or breeches to the knee for special occasions. Linen shirts were usually white and extended from neck to knee. Oversize shirts tucked in britches served as underwear. They wore stockings, garters, and similar shoes to women. Men added a wool waistcoat in winter as well as a three-cornered hat which could be carried under the arm.
Babies wore long sleeved gowns with aprons on top to keep out dirt. A biggins hat made of linen or wool was tied around the neck. Toddlers had straps of cloth sewn on the shoulders known as “leading strings” for the adult who was walking them. Sometimes a “pudding”, a padded roll on the forehead, would be worn to protect the child from falls. Around the age of six or seven boys and girls transitioned to adult clothing.
Hope you are warm and cozy right now. Think about the early settlers and be grateful for modern conveniences!
Barbara Ann Mojica,
Canadians have already celebrated Thanksgiving and Americans will be sitting around the table with family and friends soon.
How do you like to do your holiday shopping? Many of us prefer to do it in the comfort of our home. Thought I would investigate the history of shopping by mail.
Mail order is buying goods or services through a merchant by a remote method and then receiving delivery of these goods from the merchant. A mail order catalog is a listing of goods available from a particular merchant called a cataloger. The catalog is produced in a fashion similar to a magazine and then delivered to customers via the postal service or the internet.
In the U.S. The Tiffany Blue Book was the first mail order catalog produced in 1845. A few years later in 1872, an enterprising entrepreneur named Aaron Montgomery Ward of Chicago purchased merchandise and then resold it directly to his customers, cutting out the middleman and slashing his prices. His very first catalog consisted of one 8 x 12 inch page listing his merchandise with ordering instructions. His business continued to grow; in the 1920’s and 1930’s he even sold prefabricated house kits called Ward-way homes.
In 1888 Richard Warren Sears started his catalog business in Minnesota. Six years later his catalog had grown to 322 pages including items such as sewing machines, sporting goods, bicycles and automobiles. In 1895 clothing manufacturer Julius Rosenwald partnered with Sears to make the business more efficient and economical. Dolls, refrigerators, stoves, and groceries were added to their inventory. Within a few years time, the Sears catalog became known as a “Consumer’s Bible.” By 1933 the famous “Sears Wish Book” containing toys and Christmas gifts as a separate edition from the regular catalog appeared. Sears did not fail to capitalize on the housing market. As 1940 dawned, Sears had sold 70 to 75,000 house kits; many of these houses are still standing today.
Another famous cataloger began in a different way. J.C. Penny opened a retail store first. Later on, in 1963, he launched a mail-order catalog which made their store merchandise available to the public in rural areas in at least eight states. Four years later in 1967, Lester Wunderman coined the term “direct marketing.” Lester invented the toll free 1 800 system as well as customer loyalty programs like, magazine subscription clubs, Columbia Record Club, and the American Express Rewards Program.
In the twenty-first century widespread internet access is rapidly becoming the preferred method of shopping by mail. This form of mail order is frequently referred to as online shopping or e commerce.
But the only shopping difference lies in the way the product is ordered, which is by computer instead of by phone or a mail order form. Most traditional mail order companies now also sell online through their own website. The high costs of printing and postage is forcing some of the mail order companies to stop printing catalogs and rely solely on online sales. Still there are many customers who prefer browsing through those colorful catalogs before hitting the keyboard.
No doubt technology will continue to provide more options for our holiday gift shopping. Just a reminder—procrastinators you only have a few weeks left, get out there and shop till you drop!
I wish all my friends a Happy Thanksgiving and holiday shopping season.
Barbara Ann Mojica
We are rapidly approaching Halloween. Time for ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night. Got me thinking about the history of ghosts so I did some investigating. Let’s take a quick look.
Ghosts are usually imagined as disembodied spirits. We visualize them as evanescent (quickly fading) forms. The old English word gast means a “soul, spirit or breath.” The details surrounding the word ghoul are far more ominous. The Arabic word ghul signifies a creature that eats children and corpses snatched from graves. Like ghouls goblins can be mischievous. The word goblin comes from the German word kobold. In traditional folklore a goblin is a grotesque spirit or mischievous elf who can be helpful and sing to young children. On the other hand, it might hide household items, kick people or fly into a rage when hungry.
It is difficult to tell whether the earliest records of ghosts were literary stories or actual recordings of observations of spirits. We know that the ninth century Greek poet Homer believed that ghosts were passive harmless beings. The living did not fear them or feel bothered by their presence. Upon death the spirit departed to Hades, the underworld. Priests and oracles visited caves and grottoes to acknowledge their spirits. Over time the Greeks came to believe ghosts were helpful and consoling, but at times they could be threatening if they died prematurely or came to a violent end. The Greek philosopher Plato in the fourth century B.C. warned against prowling near tombs or sepulchers where the apparitions of souls who have not departed pure might be lurking.
The first written report of a haunted house is seen in the writings of Pliny the younger in the first century B.C. He wrote to his friend Lucias Sura concerning a villa in Athens that no one would rent because it was haunted by a ghost. In the middle of the night an old man with matted hair and beard shackled by irons and chains moaned never stopped moaning. Even worse, disease and death struck down anyone entering the building after dark. All of this did not deter the penniless philosopher, Athenodorus from leasing the property. On the very first night after moving in, he met and followed the apparition into the garden where it disappeared after pointing to a spot in the ground. The next day Athenodorus related his story to the local authorities who promptly dug up the spot and found the bones of a human skeleton bound in chains. The bones were given a proper burial, the house was given purification rites, and the ghost never reappeared.
By the third century A.D. Christianity had spread throughout Greece and Rome. The new religion adopted many popular beliefs especially those concerning ghosts or the afterlife. Early Christian writers like Justin Martyr acknowledged belief in the existence of the soul after death. Still other Christians argued that ghosts existed in spirit form alone. That meant after death all people would be social equals. This was a strong influence on the poor masses.
Little has changed over centuries. The question of life after death and ghostly spirits still eludes us. We are intrigued; yet most of us are well satisfied not to venture death as it is the only way to discover its answer!
Barbara Ann Mojica
Author of the Little Miss HISTORY series:
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to MOUNT RUSHMORE
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to The STATUE of LIBERTY
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to FORD’S THEATER
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to INTREPID Sea, Air & Space Museum
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to ELLIS ISLAND
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to MOUNT VERNON
The air in the morning is becoming crisp and cool. Time for back to school, which made me think about how education has changed over the centuries.
Plato, who lived from 428-347 B.C., had been a student of Socrates, a philosopher who wandered Athens. Plato changed his mind about becoming a politician after rulers poisoned his teacher. Disillusioned, Plato traveled for more than a decade after his mentor’s death, studying astronomy, geology, geometry, and religion in Egypt and Italy. His best known work, The Republic, written in question and answer format touched on wisdom, justice and courage, specifically how an individual relates to himself and to society as a whole. Plato thought society ought to be structured into three groups: governing class, warriors and workers. An ideal government would have philosophers as rulers.
Plato created his Academy on a site connected with a mythological hero, Akademos, around 387 B.C. Situated near the walls of Athens, the area contained a sacred grove of olive trees dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Plato’s Academy became the first university in Europe. It offered courses of study in mathematics, biology, political theory and philosophy. Above all it advocated skeptical thinking. Plato believed that absolute truth did not exist. Humans perceive everything through their own subjective senses; the most one could hope for is a high degree of probability. Nevertheless, educated citizens could exert major influences on government, logic and philosophy. Plato remained at the Academy with his students for the rest of his life and his philosophy continued to flourish for almost one thousand years after his death.
Things deteriorated when the Emperor Justinian came into power. (481-565 A.D.) Justinian is probably most famous for his rewriting of Roman law, the basis of contemporary civil law. But he was committed to restoring the Byzantine Empire and used force when he felt it necessary. For example, he demanded his subjects convert to his form of Catholicism or face torture and death. Justinian ordered that Plato’s Academy be shut down and its property seized, citing it as a pagan institution. In addition, the emperor insisted on erasing all forms of Hellenism and Greek culture. This meant the elimination of democratic constitutional reforms, dramatic tragedies, the philosophy of human dignity, and the tradition of the Olympic Games. Justinian attacked Western institutions and the concept of humanism, which was at its heart.
Following the long dark period and chaos of the Middle Ages, Western Europe again witnessed rebirth in the Renaissance Period during which education flourished and modern universities came into existence. Some thoughts from history as we head back to school this month.
Barba Ann Mojica
The role of children has changed dramatically over time. Children in the twenty-first century are treated as an important, if not central, part of the family unit. That was not always the case!
Circumstance and environment had a lot to do with how children grew up. In the Middle Ages up to one-quarter of infants died before the age of one, mostly due to accidents and diseases. The poorer the family, the less likely medical attention was available. On the other hand, healthy infants were seen as a special gift from God; they were usually named after saints or biblical characters. Babies were often swaddled, which involved strips of linen wrapped around their arms and legs. Parents did this so the limbs would grow straight. The practice had the added benefit of keeping the child out of trouble. Once the child was able to sit up independently, the wrappings would be removed. The mother remained the primary caretaker who fed the baby. If the mother should die, a nurse would be found to feed the baby. Richer families could employ a nurse to provide affection, bathe, sing lullabies, console, and take care of the baby when sick. Some nurses even chewed the meat for the baby before feeding, much like a mother bird. The wealthiest families kept a nurse through early childhood because these women spent much of their time at society events like banquets and court affairs.
A glance at art and literature of the period reveals few references to children. It indicates the prevalent attitude toward children. In general, childhood was simply a period of immaturity when a person was not productive enough to do much useful work. When, and if, a child reached adolescence, he might become an asset. The poorer the family, the more work the children performed. Chores might include feeding the livestock and animals, washing dishes, and caring for younger siblings. There was little time for play. Toys were handmade dolls, blocks or tops. Older children told myths and stories learned from their elders; some of these might include heroes like Robin Hood. The younger children played dress up, perhaps becoming princesses or lord of the castle.
Little formal education was available. Most parents taught their children by word of mouth. Those who had money brought their children to clergy members who could teach the child to read and write in Latin and their native language. Until the end of the eleventh century, clergy were the educators. Later on as the universities sprang up, wealthier male children might have a lay tutor to teach law or the administrative professions. Boys who were interested in learning a trade would be apprenticed with a trade master like a mason or a blacksmith in the profession. Few women were formally educated.
Life for children remained pretty much the same until the twentieth century when technological and medical advances freed the adults from many of the limitations imposed on the family. As societies began to protect the rights of individuals, children began to be seen as important to the future of the family and society and assumed a dignity in their own right.
Hot dogs, popcorn and the crack of a bat hitting the baseball is an iconic image associated with summer. Many of us look forward to watching baseball games at the stadium or on TV. Though we are all too familiar with sports scandals today, almost one hundred years ago, the “Black Sox” scandal rocked America.
The name “Black Sox” may apply to team owner Charles Comiskey’s refusal to pay for the laundering of players’ uniforms when they got dirty. Eventually, he had their uniforms washed and deducted the cost from each player’s salary. Others insist that the name came about due to the World Series scandal of 1919, which blackened the name of the White Sox baseball team.
The 1919 World Series pitted the Cincinnati Reds against the Chicago White Sox. Chicago lost to the Reds, but eight Chicago players were accused of intentionally fixing the results and taking money from gamblers. At the time the Chicago team was divided into factions who rarely spoke to each other when not on the field. Players Eddie Collins, Ray Schalk, and Red Faber were considered strait-laced, clean team members. By September, 1920, rumors of a fix became widespread so a Grand Jury convened to investigate the charges. Eddie Cicotte and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson confessed to their part in the scandal. All together eight players and five gamblers were indicted. Shortly before the formal trial in June, 1921, some key pieces of evidence mysteriously disappeared. Among these were signed confessions of Cicotte and Jackson, who later recanted his involvement. The baseball players were acquitted. Perhaps Comiskey was not such a miser after all. He issued checks of $1500, the difference between the winners and losers share, to the ten players who were not a part of the scandal.
This scandal led to major changes in governing the sport of baseball. Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed the first Commissioner of Baseball. He placed the names of the eight indicted Sox players (Eddie Cicotte, Oscar Felsch, Arnold Gandil, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles Swede Risberg, George Buck Weaver, Claude “Lefty” Williams) on the ineligible list, banning them from any role in organized baseball. The White Sox team took a nosedive into seventh place. They would not see a pennant race again until 1936.
Ironically, the following poem was published in the Philadelphia Bulletin before Game One of the Series on October 2, 1919.
Still it really doesn’t matter
After all who wins the flag.
Good clean sport is what we’re after
And we aim to make our brag
To each other or distant nation
Wherein shines the sporting sun
That of all our games gymnastic
Baseball is the cleanest one!
Get out there and play or enjoy watching a game of baseball, an iconic summertime pastime!
Sharing is caring! If you liked this article please share.
The sun is shining and the birds are singing. I notice a few wild raspberries blooming among the shrubbery, and it reminds me of walking with my children happily collecting and eating the berries as we ambled through the countryside. Today we don’t find nearly as many bushes growing untamed along the roads as more construction and fewer farms are seen in my area. Still I wondered where did these berries come from and how did they get here.
There is some archaeological evidence that Paleolithic cave dwellers ate raspberries. Red Raspberry, or Rubus idaeus, is native to Turkey and was gathered by the people living in Troy as early as the first century B.C. Rubus idaeus means bramble bush of Ida named for a nursemaid and the mountains on which they grew in Crete. During the Hellenistic Age they were associated with a Greek fertility myth that the berries were white until Ida, the nursemaid of Zeus, pricked her finger on one of their thorns and stained them red. Later on the Romans conquered vast territories and spread the seed of raspberries throughout their empire as evidenced in archaeological ruins of buildings and forts. These berries are mentioned in the fourth-century writings of Palladius, first Christian bishop of Ireland. During the Middle Ages raspberries were used for food and medicine. Artists employed their red juice in paintings.Only the rich could afford them until King Edward I in England encouraged their cultivation and made them popular in the late 13th century.
The red raspberry may have originally come to North America with the prehistoric peoples crossing the Bering Strait. Explorers arriving in North America found Native Americans eating berries of all kinds. They dried them to use while traveling. European settlers brought seeds and new species of hybrid plants. In 1737 William Prince established the first plant nursery on the continent in Flushing, Queens, NY, and raspberry plants were listed for sale. Estate records from George Washington’s home in Mt. Vernon, dating from 1761, reveal raspberries being cultivated there. One hundred years later, more than forty varieties of raspberries were known throughout America.
Luther Burbank introduced many raspberry hybrids to Americans. He produced a multitude of crosses providing an unlimited variety of qualities. These raspberry plants may be a bush or a vine that grows up to three feet high. Their fruits are ready to eat right off the stems and separate easily by using your fingers, as long as you are careful of the prickly thorns. Wild berries supply food for birds and small animals. Many useful products are gleaned from raspberries: jam, jelly, juice, pies and ice cream. Health benefits are limitless. Raspberries contain high amounts of antioxidants that are believed to fight cancer and heart disease. The high content of Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, B2, and Vitamin C, and Niacin keep our bodies strong. In addition the minerals of calcium, phosphorus, iron and potassium benefit all.
Today more than 70 million pounds of raspberries are sold within one year. So take a walk this spring to see if you can find some of these tasty and healthy raspberries.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Now that we are approaching March, most of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere are dreaming of warmer weather as we start to see patches of green sprouting up around us.
I sat down to think about the words “everything green” and was amazed at the number of images brought to mind. Some are associated with facial expressions: You look green, meaning one who has lost color and looks ill or “green with envy, one who is sneering with jealousy over another’s possessions. Then there are those phrases that apply to something or someone new, inexperienced or untested. New lumber is “green lumber”; a newcomer to a job is called a “greenhorn.” Not surprisingly, the word green is applied in the plant world. If you have a gift for gardening, you have a “green thumb.” When told to eat her vegetables, a child may be told to “eat your greens.” There is another set of words referring to places. A greenbelt is an area of land that is left largely undeveloped to conserve the environment. A “green room” is a lounge where performers wait before going on stage or television. Even the White House has a green room in which guests gather before a formal state affair begins.
In mid-March our attention turns to St. Patrick’s Day and the “wearing of the green.” Actually, blue was the color originally associated with St Patrick. The term “wearing of the green” came from an Irish ballad written in the 18th century. Because the country of Ireland has more than 400 shades of green within it and became known as the “Emerald Isle,” green seems more appropriate. Also, St. Patrick is alleged to have used the green Irish shamrock to explain the Trinity. The Irish flag contains the color green. Over time the color associated with him became green. Today cities like New York and Chicago dye street lines and rivers green for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
What I find especially interesting is the story of the “greenback.” In 1862 after fighting the Civil War for one year, it became evident that war would be long and costly. State banks had already placed paper money in circulation, but the federal government issued gold coins only, which were rapidly disappearing as the war continued. So on February 25, 1862, the United States government approved the issue of paper money not backed with precious metals but with “full faith of the government” to be valid for all public and private debts. To avoid counterfeiting this paper, a patented ink which was difficult to erase and strictly guarded as a secret formula, was used on one side of these notes. The green color was difficult to photograph or copy. Because of this green color, Union soldiers who received them as pay began calling them greenbacks. Soon everyone else followed suit. Similarly, the gray or blue paper money issued by the Confederacy were known as bluebacks or gray backs.
Throughout the rest of the 60’s and 70’s the federal government issued approximately three to four million of these greenbacks not backed with gold. The increased amounts of cash was attractive to southerners and westerners who did not want to rely on the national banking system of the east which limited their ability to expand. Many of these proponents known as Greenbackers who sprang from agrarian, Jacksonian roots distrusted banking and big business. The debate continued until the Greenback party could not agree on other issues and their opponents succeeded in returning to the gold standard in 1879.
We find ourselves in the same controversy today asking questions about how much money should be in circulation,and how it should be controlled. In any case, the greenbacks are here to stay.
Enjoy the green that is popping up all around us. Happy Spring!
Barbara Ann Mojica
(C) All Rights Reserved. Quest Teaching