Thursday, October 29, 2015

War Fever, 1898

The tide of Manifest Destiny crested  as the Grand American Experiment passed its century mark. The country had quintupled its territory in less than one hundred years with more opportunity than resistance.

Gloucester Daily Times, May 13, 1898
News reached Cape Ann that Admiral Dewey had vanquished the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. The annexation of Hawaii by the United States provided the naval link for the Pacific expansion.
Probing the remains of the Spanish empire in 1898, American forces triumphed in Cuba and Puerto Rico, stirred by jingoistic journalism, speeches and sermons. But coastal citizens weren't entirely sure there wouldn't be a counterattack by Spain's Atlantic fleet. Troops quartered in an old sail loft on Bearskin Neck "have established a cordon of sentinels along the Neck, and as a result every passer is subjected to being stopped and examined in true military style" reported the Times on May 11.
Within a week sentiment turned from concern to celebration as war news confirmed American naval victories. Headlines proclaimed "Town Manifests Patriotism in Unbounded Enthusiasm" after a parade, music and fireworks in Rockport on the night of May 18.
Representative Leander M. Haskins, principal speaker of the evening, reminded folks that "his ancestor John Pool settled there, when there was no other white man at Rockport, and his grandfather marched to the battle of Bunker Hill, and served eight months under Gen. Washington....It was a pleasure for him to be present and take part in the celebration and in throwing the flag to the breeze.

      "He contrasted the intelligence of America with the ignorance of Spain, and showed how the latter country, once the richest and most powerful on earth had lost her possessions and her power, while the United States had under the guidance of God won the esteem of the earth....
      "He then called for the unfurling of the flag, and as the banner appeared cheer upon cheer rent the air, it being several minutes before the applause ceased, while the band played the Star Spangled Banner and America, followed by other patriotic melodies.

      "A novel feature of the flag raising was witnessed just as the flag burst from its fastenings, when hundreds of miniature flags fell from its folds and were eagerly caught by the throng beneath.

      "A company of school boys in pretty uniforms with miniature guns and flags took part in the procession, presenting a most pleasing sight. They were greeted with cheers all along the line of march, which was made brilliant with bunting and colored fire by enthusiastic residents."
Advertisement for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
Gloucester Daily Times, June 6, 1898
Spirits stayed high as Buffalo Bill encamped in Riverdale with his Wild West Show. Cowboys and Indians joined Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in taking San Juan Hill, Puerto Rico on July 1st.

Local residents' elation peaked in September when the gunboat Gloucester visited her namesake port after playing a decisive role in the conquest of Hispaniola.

Front page of the Gloucester Daily Times, September 16, 1898
      "The reception accorded the auxiliary cruiser Gloucester showed more than words could tell the honor which Gloucester feels has been done her by the gallant little craft which bears her name. No more enthusiastic or cordial welcome could have been desired, for on the water and shore alike she and her valiant officers and crew were greeted with immense crowds, who gave vent to their appreciation of the visit to this port by a hearty welcome , in which the booming of guns and shrieks of steam whistles and the clanging of bells vied with the buzz of the multitude in proclaiming the pleasure of the citizens."

Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright
      "All the time Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright stood upon the bridge and raised his cap with each repeated salute. Some big yachts sailed past, and, as each one touched off its saluting piece, the crew and passengers would join in a hearty cheer to the gallant little fighter...

      "As the Gloucester came into the outer harbor, the first gun of the Stage Fort Battery spoke out and was the signal for the church bells about town to be rung. With the ringing of the bells came toots from the tugs in the harbor and factories and booms from the canons stationed at intervals along the shore."

What confluence of private and public achievements brought the Gloucester its glory? "She, as is well known, was J. Pierpont Morgan's yacht Corsair prior to the war, and was accounted one of the finest and fastest pleasure crafts ever constructed. She is 241 feet over all and 27 feet beam....The sloping funnel is indicative of speed, while on deck, the formidable array of guns bespeaks her real vocation." Times, Sep. 17, 1898.

While the United States consolidated order in the Western Hemisphere European powers were busy bringing Asia and Africa into modern equations. Their progress, competition, and collisions were avidly followed in the press. Under the headline HER LARGE FOOT DOWN on October 20 the Times quoted England's Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Chancellor of the Exchequer, "Our work in Egypt is not completed. Africa is big enough for us both--for France in the west and ourselves in the east. Surely we ought to be able to agree to respect one another's rights and claims. I hope, trust, and believe the question is capable of friendly solution, but this country has put her foot down. If, unhappily, another view should be taken by France, the queen's ministers know what their duty demands." 

The contest focused on recalcitrant Islam (Mahdism) in the Sudan: 

Savages' Attack Repulsed by Anglo-Egyptian Army
Fired Shots For Mahdism Even In Their Death Agonies 

      "Omdurman, On the Nile, Sept. 6--General Kitchener, with the Khalifis' black standard, captured during a battle, entered Omdurman, the capital, Friday afternoon, at the head of the Anglo-Egyptian column, after completely routing the dervishes and dealing a death blow to Mahdism...
      "The flower of the Khalifa's army was caught in a depression and within a zone of withering cross-fire from three brigades, with the attendant artillery. The devoted Mahdists strove heroically to make headway, but every rush was stopped, while their main body was literally mown down by a sustained cross-fire. Defiantly the dervishes planted their standards and died beside them. Their dense masses gradually melted to companies, and companies to driblets beneath the leaden hail. Finally they broke and fled, leaving the field while with jibbah-clad corpses, like a snowdrift dotted meadow....
      "The bravery of the dervishes evoked universal admiration. Time after time their dispersed and broken forces reformed and hurled themselves upon the Anglo-Egyptians, their emirs conspicuously leading and spurning death. Even when wounded and in death agonies they raised themselves to fire a last shot."

With these images in mind Americans arrived on the world stage feeling ennobled and invincible. Cape Ann voters helped anoint Teddy Roosevelt as the next President of the United States. Within twenty years of 1898 Doughboys from Rockport and Gloucester shipped East for the 'War to End All Wars.' To the west  they encountered expansionist Japan. 

The global map writhed and re-wrote itself as vigorous energies coalesced in empire. Myths and martial music mobilized  people everywhere. Journalists kept the drum roll in the 'news.' 

Born in the War for Independence, emerging from childhood in the Civil War, the United States pulsed with adolescent ardor in the Spanish-American War. The mantle of civic maturity awaited fulfillment.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Precarious Progress, 1898

When classes resumed at the Lane School in September 1898 the Gloucester Daily Times reported that ten of the eleven new pupils had been born overseas. The children's nationalities reflected immigration currents bringing workers to Lanesville: 6 Finn, 3 Swede, 1 Italian.

At this time half the population of harbor-blessed Gloucester was foreign-born. Most of them were attracted to fishing-related opportunities. The cove-sprinkled north side of Cape Ann surrounding Halibut Point snoozed through the boom until entrepreneurs combined mining techniques with ocean transport and Boston capital  to make granite quarrying profitable for distant markets. To be competitive they needed abundant low-cost labor willing to accept back-breaking dangerous work. That meant recruiting abroad.

Clearing grout from the quarry floor
Photo courtesy of the Sandy Bay Historical Society
Most of the unskilled quarry workers came from Scandinavia. Among the push factors for emigration were insecurity and limited prospects at home. The young men of Finland, then a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire, faced military conscription for the continental aspirations of Czar Nicholas. Nineteenth-century Sweden experienced periodic famine and rebellion. 

In 1898 the villages around Halibut Point supported about 1,300 Finns and Swedes on its Rockport side and about 1,900 on its Gloucester side. Downtown they were hardly known. 
On March 1st the Times made mention on page 6 of a blast at the Pigeon Hill Granite Co. that killed quarry worker John Corscus, recently married. There were no subsequent references in the newspaper to his family or circumstances.
Granite paving blocks awaiting shipment from Lane's Cove,
piled behind the fish shacks
Pictures from the Past: Lanesville & Vicinity vol. 1, 2009
After ten-hour days in the quarries, as well as during winter or production layoffs, stone cutters developed supplemental operations to make paving blocks for the granite exporters.

On August 8 the Times reported the auction of 80,000 paving blocks on the wharf of the Lanes Cove Pier Company. The blocks belonged to the Lanesville Granite Company which had lost its shipping schooner Charlie Steadman, washed ashore at Pigeon Cove Harbor in the tremendous gale of February 1st. The company probably buckled under that loss.

Postcard from the Richard Lewis Collection
Courtesy of the Annisquam Historical Society
The industry had to respond to new concerns. On September 17 officers of the two largest firms, the  Cape Ann Granite Co. and Rockport Granite Co., escorted through their quarries  a Mr. Stanford, engineer in charge of building the Charlestown dry dock. The Times noted that "a determined effort is being made by the granite companies to have granite used instead of concrete, the whole matter depending on the expense. It is said an effort is being made to get a larger appropriation from Congress, as granite will be the most expensive and the best material for the work."

Louis Rogers inspecting operations for the Rockport Granite Company
Babson Farms Quarry, Halibut Point
Photo courtesy of the Sandy Bay Historical Society
Letter to the Editor
Gloucester Daily Times Sep 30, 1898  
Stone Workers Union of Cape Ann
Messrs Editors: Labor has no protection, all wealth and all power centre to the few, and, the many are their victims and their bondsmen. It would be hard to find any place in this country where the truth of this statement is brought home with such cruel rigour to the hearts and minds of any class who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, than the stone workers of Cape Ann.

Year after year their wages have been reduced until an existence has almost become an impossibility, instead of earning a wage by their hard and dangerous occupation that ought to maintain them in a decent and respectable manner, they can only with the greatest difficulty keep the wolf form the door, and their existence is that of a drudge of the most degraded kind making life a burden and almost a curse.
These were the views expressed at a meeting of the stone workers held in Channey's Hall Bay View Wednesday evening, who, recognizing that in union there is strength, have united themselves in a bond of fellowship with a view of self protection which promises to become one of the most powerful and beneficial organizations for stone workers in this district which has ever been.

The object of this Union is to cultivate feelings of brotherly interest in each other, to earn adequate pay for their work and to endeavor to cultivate the moral, intellectual and social conditions of the members, but in a special manner does it consider it one of its foremost duties to care for its sick members. The regular meeting takes place every Wednesday evening at 7:30, and all who work on stone are earnestly requested to become members.

Labor gang in a quarry
Pictures from the Past: Lanesville & Vicinity vol. 1, 2009
The forces of nature and man jostled against each other to shape the patterns of survival and prosperity. Immigrants then as now struggled mightily for a toehold in the new land. They were grist for its mills. They were its raw energy. In 1898 they depended on mutual aid and charity. There was no safety net.

People move in planetary energy adjustments similar to weather fronts moving from high toward low-pressure zones. The populating of America proceeded, clinically speaking, to equalize global energy imbalances. Indigenous cultures - and all entities at a lower dynamic state - become transmuted, invigorated or lost. Migrants are transformed as well, their native traditions scarcely recognizable within a few generations.

Movements driven by necessity and imagination encounter invitation and/or resistance, according to political dispositions at the time. Similar factors influence economic and class mobility within the society. 
Since before Exodus people have sought to overcome barriers to the Promised Land. Desire is human, happiness divine.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Go Forth and Multiply

Queen Anne's lace, Daucus carota
Flowers extend a plant's reach to further niches and generations. They are the beguilers and begetters of progeny. Ultimately they become seeds.
Queen Anne's lace seed head
They fulfill  their mission in prodigious numbers because their method, finally, is random. They cannot guide the seeds to optimal locations nor nurture their optimal growth.

Spotted jewel weed, Impatiens capiensis
Jewel weed  engineers a broadcasting plan like its Impatiens garden relatives, flinging seeds impatiently far and wide when its coiled capsules explode at maturity.

Common burdock, Arctium minus
Burdock hooks its seed pods onto animal transports to reach distant pastures.
Devil's beggar-ticks, Bidens frondosa
Bidens frondosa seeds stick to clothing, provoking names like 'Devil's beggar-ticks.'

Bull thistle, Cirsium vulgare
Stout, thorny Bull thistle re-invents itself to parachute seeds into prospective fields.

Black swallowwort, Cynanchum louiseae
Plumy seeds of the Black swallowwort vine have criss-crossed the land after reaching America from abroad.
Sour-gum or tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica
Tupelo trees bargain with birds in their propagation plan by surrounding their seeds with edible fruit. For some plant species the bird's stomach acids are a necessary agent for seed germination.

Privet, Ligustrum obtusifolium
Privet shrub fruit looks like diminutive tupelo fruit, with similar method and purpose. Privet is a useful shrub imported from Asia. It  has sallied forth from domestic plantings to colonize extensively at Halibut Point. It may be the reason that robins can now live there year-round.

Crabapple, Malus sp.
Apples have a popular history at Halibut Point. They have naturalized since introduction by horticulture, popping up in old fields and new woodlands.

Bittersweet, Celastrus scandens
At a certain stage bittersweet fruits resemble miniature crabapples. European bittersweet colonizes so successfully that it's termed an invasive species. Like humans it can alter environments quickly. We opened the door and now we legislate against it. Defenders of indigenous plants would like to eradicate it from Halibut Point, which would involve full-spectrum warfare in the State Park with no chance of permanent success.

Beach pea, Lathyrus japonicus
Two species from Japan have received fonder appreciation than bittersweet at Halibut Point, although one of them is at least as rambunctious.

Beach pea seed pods
Beach pea seeds floated over the oceans of the world to establish a global presence. The seeds are so well insulated from the brine that their germination requires abrasion by waves against rocky shores to break through the protective shell. Beach peas do not proceed inland because their specialized advantages do not serve them there.

Wisteria floribunda - Japanese wisteria seed pods
What the beach pea has achieved by mechanisms wisteria has matched by charm. They have both gained a foothold at Halibut Point. In the family photo album they look alike.

Wisteria in flower
Wisteria enlists humankind in its leaps around the continent. It pleases people with its pretty flowers. People oblige by gardening with it ubiquitously. Now wisteria luxuriates through the treetops of Halibut Point, thousands of miles from home.

Countless plants have occupied this land in the long dynamic of ecology. The most rapid and radical changes have resulted since the occupation by European settlers and their descendants through phases of agriculture and industry and recreation. Always the seeds of plants are waiting to follow their own code of increase into openings. Every single success initiates an ecological shift.

Our human consciousness has always wondered about our own species' origins and advances, our privileges and responsibilities. We sanctify our own legitimacy. We ponder our exercise of  power. We ourselves come from seeds stored innumerably in wombs.
The floral universe embraces its colonizing potential without the complication of conscience. It goes forth prodigally, innocently, unwaveringly to multiply. It accepts the miniscule odds of individual success and the certain fate of composting into the biological humus that supports the web of life.
Scarlet oak seeds, Quercus coccinea

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Taking What They Need

Over the summer at Halibut Point all the birds provided for themselves according to their inborn laws and tastes. Who can distinguish between Nature and God?

Goldfinch finding seeds among thorns.
Song sparrow bringing protein to its nestlings.
Black-and-white warbler stalking caterpillars.
Blue-gray gnatcatcher on the wing.
Green heron poised to snatch tadpoles coming up to breathe.
Chimney swift patrolling for aerial insects.
Common eider bringing up crustaceans from below.
Juvenile Great black-backed gull devouring a seal carcass.
Herring gull dismembering a crab.
Ruby-throated hummingbird drinking nectar.

"There is but one politics, and that is biology." Michael McClure*
* Michael McClure reading from his poems this week at the Cape Ann Museum, under the auspices of the Gloucester Writers' Center and the Charles Olson Society.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Daisy Family, Part 2

Asters and goldenrod
Asters and goldenrod drape the summer-fall landscape in New England as the final conversion of sunlight to sustenance. Their colors signal Nature's self-appreciation, and a turning point from the season of increase.
Bee and butterfly harvesting goldenrod flowers
Each tiny goldenrod flower creates abundance for its pollinators.
A pollen collector en route to fertilize another flower
Cross-pollination strengthens the species. Nectar rewards the servants of fertilization. All manner of opportunists come by.


The genius of the flower, its beauty and collaborations, orchestrates the workshop of seed production. Its integral parts become the seed itself, the packaging, the means of nourishment and dispersal. The alluring petals drop away.
Seed head of Seaside goldenrod, Solidago sempervirens
The seeds stand ready to extend the plant to new generations and to new territories.
Flax-leaved stiff-aster Ionactis linariifolia on quarry wall
A look down the face of a quarry wall reveals how improbably some seeds will take hold.
Chipmunk, an ecological agent on the quarry wall
Winds carry seeds to distant crevices. And from another partnership chipmunks barter their energies with plants for mutual increase.
White-topped aster, Sericocarpus asteroides
Both  asters and goldenrods have niches in the Composite family Asteraceae. Their corollas of disc florets and ray florets point to their kinship with star-like flowers, botanical asteroids.
Schreber's wood-aster, Eurybia schreberi
Heath American-aster, Symphyotrichum ericoides
The genus Aster per se no longer exists in modern taxonomy. The four different species of asters portrayed so far represent four different genera, according to modern complexities of research and nomenclature.

If you aim to educate yourself for a comprehensive acquaintance with the asters on Halibut Point you have to roll up your sleeves from a botanist's perspective. You have to come to terms with the lexicon: The pseudanthium, or capitulum, is a special type of inflorescence characteristic of the Asteraceae. The disc flowers in its center are actinomorphic, the ray flowers at its periphery zygomorphic. The whorl of bracts below the pseudanthium forms an involucre.
Then the field is yours.
I believe I have identified sixteen different species at Halibut Point. Perhaps I'll get a friendly challenge to meet in an herbarium or a floriferous pasture. I have backup photos-and a lot to learn.
New England aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
On the other hand, you may celebrate the simple floral delights that captivate children of all ages.

Downy goldenrod, Solidago puberula, against a quarry wall
In some ways studying our local goldenrod clan is more straightforward than the asters, as there are only two genera. But the distinguishing plant traits can be even more subtle.
Grass-leaved goldenrod, Euthamia graminifolia
 I believe I have recognized nine different species of goldenrods. I'm learning how to document the anatomy.
Adding a new plant to the list makes for a great day, walking about in paradise.