Category Archive 'Americana'
16 Aug 2023

School’s Out! (1942 — Dunklin County, Missouri

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24 Nov 2022

Thanksgiving Gun

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John Alden‘s Wheel-lock Carbine

Found in John Alden’s house, built in 1653 using material from an earlier house erected in 1632, at 105 Alden Street in Duxbury, Massachusetts “in a secret protective cubbyhole near the front door of the home” during a 1924 renovation, this wheel-lock bears makers’ marks on the lock and barrel indicating it was made by the Beretta, family of Brescia, Italy, known to have been in business since 1526.

It is the only firearm brought over on the Mayflower known to have survived and it is preserved today in the collection of the National Firearms Museum operated by the NRA.

Kristin Alberts article at

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

14 Jun 2022

A Bit of Americana

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HT: Vanderleun.

When I was a boy, I walked to school every day, and the daily morning walk featured human landmarks.

On the 400 block of West Lloyd Street, a fierce old man with long white hair (at a time when no men wore long hair) and a white beard would be found standing high on a second floor porch. He stood there, as if at attention, and greeted passing schoolchildren with a grave nod and never a smile.

Turning north on Chestnut Street, at the corner house just before the alley, we would find Henry Walukewicz, the undertaker, standing on the sidewalk level porch of his house waiting for us. He subscribed to weekly humor magazines, and thus armed himself with a repertoire of corny riddles, which he would dispense daily to an appreciative audience of schoolkids. After the chilly reception we got from “the wild old man” back on Lloyd Street, Henry the comedian provided a refreshing dose of human warmth.

All this was in the late 1950s.

I lived much of my adult life in Newtown, Connecticut. Our house was built in 1712 and I had a great deal of fun researching our home’s history and the history of the town itself.

At the intersection of Church Hill Road and the Boulevard, there is a stately Victorian house (now law offices, alas!) on one side of the Boulevard and a splendid large barn right across from it. An old, old man who’d grown up in Newtown told me that, long ago, when he was a boy, as the schoolkids passed by that barn, the farmer would stop feeding his cows, come out in front of the barn and do a dance for them. This would have been back in the 1920s.

(I went to Google Earth, thinking that I’d grab an image of that impressive old barn and post it here. It and the Victorian house were both gone! Tempus fugits.)

28 Sep 2021

That’s What Americans Are Really Like

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Some perspective from 1969 shared by Vanderleun.

14 Apr 2021

The Endicott Pear

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Hidden from view, down an embankment in an unremarkable business park north of Boston stands a very, very old pear tree.

The Endicott tree may be the oldest cultivated fruit tree in North America and is protected as a national landmark.

Historians estimate it was planted more than 380 years ago in the early 1630s. For reference, the Declaration of Independence was signed about 140 years later.

My hunt for this tree, which still produces pears, was exciting. I suppose I should have celebrated when I finally located the Endicott tree, but I didn’t.

Instead, I paused, stretched out on a grassy slope facing the diminutive tree and wondered how it survived centuries of encroachment by industry and suburbs.

In the early July sun, I could see a few small pears growing under a canopy held together by support wires and steel, surrounded by an iron fence that propped and protected the historic tree.

I was surprised how it appeared caged and suspended like an upside-down marionette, cornered in by a parking lot. The setting for this tree is in stark contrast to the grand old Bartlett “dinosaur” trees from my grandfather’s orchard in Washington state.

Many of my summer childhood days were spent climbing those giants, hiding in the canopy with binoculars looking for pirates and an occasional barn cat.

Though the Endicott tree was not what I expected, it was captivating. Every crag in the bark was deep, every pear nearly identical in size and shape, and it truly was a wonder to me that it was still producing.

It’s worth noting that the tree’s stubborn survival and historic significance has earned a spot for its genetic daughters to be propagated and protected at the National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon.

I highly recommend anyone traveling near Danvers, Massachusetts, to seek out this tree.


07 Apr 2021

1953 Saturday Evening Post Cover

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24 Mar 2021

Dum, Dum-de-Dum, Dum-de-Dum, Dum-de-Dum

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03 Nov 2020

Election Day

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George Caleb Bingham, The County Election, 1854, Engraving.

15 Sep 2020

War of 1812 Veteran Fought at Gettysburg

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John Burns became a very early photographic subject after the battle.

The Archive:

[I]magine a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War fighting in the Civil War. That’s a span of more than 60 years—much longer than the 24 years that separated the beginning of WWII and the Vietnam War. Then again, during the 20th century, pivotal battles weren’t literally in our front yard.

An average 69-year-old might be happy to ride out his golden years from a rocking chair.

But not John Burns.

He fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War and even tried to work as a supply driver for the Union Army but was sent back to his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

He wasn’t too happy to be excluded from the war.

See, Burns already lived nearly twice as long as the average American of the time and was ready to do more for his country. But Gettysburg was much further north than the Confederates could ever attack—or so he thought.

Burns was considered “eccentric” by the rest of the town. That’s what happens when you’re fighting wars for longer than most people at the time spent in school.

When Confederate Gen. Jubal Early captured the town, Burns was the constable and was jailed for trying to interfere with Confederate military operations. When the Confederates were pushed out of Gettysburg by the Union, Burns began arresting Confederate stragglers for treason.

His contributions to the Union didn’t end there.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Burns watched as the Battle of Gettysburg began to unfold near his home. Like a true American hero, he picked up his rifle—a flintlock musket, which required the use of a powder horn—and calmly walked over to the battle to see how he could help.

He “borrowed” a more modern musket (now a long-standing Army tradition) from a wounded Union soldier, picked up some cartridges, then walked over to the commander of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and asked to join the regiment.

This time, he wasn’t turned away, though the 150th Pennsylvania commanders did send Burns to Herbst Woods, away from where the officers believed the main area of fighting would be.

They were wrong.

Herbst Woods was the site of the first Confederate offensive of the battle. Burns, sharpshooting for the Iron Brigade, helped repel this offensive as part of a surprise counterattack.

John Burns was mocked by other troops for showing up to fight with his antiquated weapon and “swallowtail coat with brass buttons, yellow vest, and tall hat”. But when the bullets started to fly, he calmly took cover behind a tree and started to shoot back with his modern rifle.

He also fought alongside the 7th Wisconsin Infantry and then moved to support the 24th Michigan. He was wounded in the arm, legs, and chest and was left on the field when the Union forces had to fall back.

He ditched his rifle and buried his ammo and then passed out from blood loss. He tried to convince the Rebels he was an old man looking to find help for his wife, but accounts of how well that story worked vary. Anyone fighting in an army outside of a uniform could be executed, but the ruse must have worked on some level—he survived his wounds and lived for another nine years.


Burns was photographed (being a hero in the North), had a poem written about him by Brett Harte, and has his own monument on the battlefield.

14 Sep 2020

The Old America

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July 1941. “Store with cap guns and fireworks for sale, Fourth of July, Vale, Oregon.”

Cap guns were still legal when I was a boy.

From Shorpy’s.

10 Aug 2020

“Put your guns away. Keep on punching them in the head, but don’t shoot em”

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HT: Vanderleun.

09 Aug 2020

Trying For the Original 1886 Pemberton Coca-Cola Recipe

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(Needs the real coca leaf.)

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