Tuesday, September 11, 2012

summer arts & crafts

This photo is called "Fair Bros. play ground." An anonymous employee of the National Photo Company took it in the summer of 1922.

{Caption: Fair Bros. play ground; date Created/Published: [1922]; medium: 1 negative : glass ; 4 x 5 in. or smaller; source: Prints and Photographs Collections, Library of Congress. I saw this first on Shorpy}

There's whole lots in this photo to like (click here to view full size). First off, the eyes. You expect eyes in group shots but not so many expressive pairs of them. Next the poses. This is not a Kodak snap but professional work on glass neg. within bellows camera on tripod. Someone grouped the kids and kept them more or less in place while the photog did his laborious best to make an enduring image. Yet it feels, and quite clearly is, spontaneous. No one's nervous about the ungainly apparatus they're fronting; some a few are curious, one's coy, the rest can't be bothered to give it notice. Then there're the swingers. Catching them as he did the camera man achieved something remarkable. This is not easy to do with a cumbersome, sheet negative, view camera. He surely had a lens shutter but with sensitized plate and lens both inevitably slow, the catching of the swingers to freeze motion is remarkably ept, and doing so artistically is much more so. The framing seems banal until you notice that the right swinger is almost entirely out of view. That plus the structures at right lead the eye off the image and you hardly notice that there's also an off frame mysterious something at left as well. And the compositional reference to Da Vinci's Last Supper is certainly unconscious — accidental — but not too subtly present all the same. You can tell by the light that it's noon but not so bright a day that shadows are harsh. The light suffuses the shot nicely modeling the faces. There's lots more to see. Each child is shown to have her or his own personality; none uninteresting. We're in Washington DC and it's 1922. Many of these kids would have black playmates but there would be segregation of races in schools, businesses, and public places like this park and its summer program. Still, it's not like the families of these kids are many notches higher in the ranking of social classes than their black neighbors. The playground is hardscrabble. The boys are mostly barefoot. Nobody's in tatters but there are none of the sailor outfits that uppers put their kids into. I don't know anything about the actual location and the internets are not helpful. What is the "Fair Bros. play ground"? What do you see here? A bit more than a quarter of a century later I could be found in a group like this, 'tho with trees and grass and some tennis courts and a pool as well as the swing set. And we did gimp projects rather than yarn boards. But my feet were bare, the group was mixed ages and sexes as here, and the counselors were not that much older than the participants.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

not so much inclined towards the cultivation of the earth

My friend Mitch prepared a well-researched and -written article for a blog called "Unique at penn" (the classy lower case p is theirs, not my typing error). In it he gives a careful description of a manuscript map of 1793 showing the route from Philadelphia to the site of a treaty negotiation with leaders of the Miami Indians near Sandusky, Ohio.

His nice analysis called to mind another document related to the dealings of the new U.S. Government with the Miami's chiefs. A decade after the year the map was made two chiefs wrote the following letter to members of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends. From a time just after the making of the map the Meeting had been trying, with little success, to help the Miami survive. After U.S. forces had defeated the Indians and taken most of their hunting lands the Miami chiefs came to believe that survival depended on a cultural transformation: learning to farm and becoming a settled agricultural community. They saw the plight of the young men, defeated in battle and no long able to spend their days hunting, becoming dispirited and succumbing to alcoholism, and they saw the tribes weakened and suceptible to disease. When the Baltimore Yearly Meeting offered help, they readily accepted. The Quakers sent farming tools, put pressure on the government to outlaw sale of liquor to the Indians, and went out to Ohio to teach and advise. The letter tells how little this effort succeeded:
The Little Turtle's Town, Sept. 18th, 1803. - From the Little Turtle, The Five Medals, and others, to Evan Thomas, George Ellicott, and others.

Brother's and Friends of our hearts, — We have received your speech from the hand of our friend, Wm. Wells, with the implements of husbandry, that you were so kind to send to his care, — all in good order.

Brothers, it is our wish that the Great Spirit will enable you to render to your Red Brethren that service which you appear to be so desirous of doing them, and which their women and children are so much in need of.

Brothers, we will try to use the articles you have sent us, and if we should want more, we will let you know it.

Brothers, we are sorry to say that the minds of our people are not so much inclined towards the cultivation of the earth as we could wish them.

Brothers, our Father, the President of the United States, has prevented our traders from selling liquor to our people, which is the best thing he could do for his Red Children.

Brothers, our people appear dissatisfied, because our traders do not, as usual, bring them liquor, and, we believe, will request our Father to let the traders bring them liquor, and if he does, your Red Brethren are all lost forever.

Brothers, you will see, from what we have said, that our prospects are bad at present, though we hope the Great Spirit will change the minds of our people, and tell them it will be better for them to cultivate the earth than to drink whiskey.

Brothers, we hope the Great Spirit will permit some of you to come and see us, — when you will be able to know whether you can do anything for us or not.

Brothers, we delivered you the sentiments of our hearts, when we spoke to you at Baltimore, and shall say nothing more to you at present. We now take you by the hand, and thank you for the articles you were so kind to send us.


The Little Turtle, Miami Chief,
The Five Medals, Potowatamy Chief

Little Turtle, Gerard T. Hopkins, and the Baltimore Yearly Meeting

In 1795 the Baltimore Yearly Meeting had appointed Indian Committees to consider how best to help the Miami. When in 1797 Chief Little Turtle came to Philadelphia to meet President Washington the Friends invited him to come address the Yearly Meeting. The Quakers then sent tools and instructors to the tribes and used their influence to have the sale of liquor banned.

In 1804 a merchant named Gerard T. Hopkins, uncle and benefactor of the famous Johns Hopkins) documented the Quakers efforts to help the Miami tribes. His diary and letters were latter collected into a book published in a book called A mission to the Indians, from the Indian committee of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, to Fort Wayne (cited below).

Little Turtle, with miniature of George Washington on neck band.

{Source: Chicago Historical Society}

Little Turtle's name and mark (one up from the bottom) on the
Treaty of Fort Greenville, August 1795, signed by chiefs of the Ohio tribes after defeat by General Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

{National Archives and Records Administration (U.S.)}


Some sources:

Preparing for a Treaty at the Early War Department by Mitch Fraas, Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A mission to the Indians, from the Indian committee of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, to Fort Wayne, in 18O4
by Gerard T. Hopkins, Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, edited by Martha Ellicott Tyson (Philadelphia, T. Ellwood Zell, 1862)

A Quaker pilgrimage: being a mission to the Indians from the Indian Committee of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting to Fort Wayne, 1804, edited by Alene Godfrey, prepared by the staff of the Public Library of Fort Wayne and Allen County, 1959

Historical Narratives of Early Canada
When an important peace parley failed American commissioners sent the following coded message to a waiting general."We did not effect peace." The general translated this into "Begin vigorous offensive action." The offensive action occurred at a place called Fallen Timbers on August 20th 1794. The army of Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, the Natives' nemesis, met and defeated a large force of western Natives. The Miami chief, Little Turtle, was a fierce opponent of the Americans but by the time of this battle he advocated peace.

Subsequent to this defeat some 110 chiefs and warriors signed the Treaty of Fort Greenville in August 1795. By this treaty, the most important in the history of the United States, the sachems and War Chiefs gave away 25,000 square miles which today includes most of present-day Ohio, part of Indiana and the sites of Detroit, Chicago and a number of other mid-western cities for a measely 25,000 dollars in trade goods - calico shirts, farm tools, trade hatchets, ribbons, combs, mirrors and blankets and an annuity of $9500 to be divided among the tribes. It was a humiliating settlement for the payments represented a mere pittance with some tribes receiving as little as $500 a year. Few could challenge its terms, however, for when Wayne destroyed their fields, most of the destitute Natives became dependent on the United States for food. The situation and the ceremony were mocked. When a calumet or peace pipe was smoked by the parties to finalize the terms of the treaty, the ceremony was ridiculed by one American negotiator as "a tedious routine."
Battle of Fallen Timbers on Ohio History Central

Little Turtle, Chief of the Miami, prepared by the staff of the Public Library of Fort Wayne and Allen County, published 1954 by The Library in [Fort Wayne, Ind.]

Quaker Agriculture missions to the Miami in wikipedia

Johns Hopkins in wikipedia

Battle of Fallen Timbers in wikipedia