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Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

Happy National Ice Cream Day!

Person Holding Vanilla Ice Cream on Cone

We can actually thank President Ronald Reagan for designating the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream Day.

In July of 1984, President Reagan declared the third week of July to be National Ice Cream Month by signing proclamation 5219. In this proclamation, the president called ice cream the perfect dessert and snack food and stated that over 90 percent of Americans enjoy it on a regular basis. He also stated in the proclamation that Americans should observe this day with appropriate activities and celebrations.

It is estimated that over 90% of Americans enjoy this treat. Really can’t believe this isn’t 100%, can you?

Mug of Flavored Ice Creams in Cones

Ice cream has a long history. Alexander the Great reportedly enjoyed snow and ice flavored with nectar and honey, while the Roman emperor Nero Claudius Caesar sent runners into the mountains for  snow, which was flavored with juice.

In the 1300s, Marco Polo brought a taste for ice cream— resembling a modern-day sherbet — back to Europe after his global travels.

Records show that as president, Washington bought an ice cream serving spoon and two “dble tin Ice Cream moulds.” This was followed by “2 Iceries Compleat,” twelve “ice plates,” and thirty-six “ice pots.” (An “ice pot” was a small cup used for holding the ice cream since it was more liquid in colonial times, similar to the runniness of an ice cream cone on a hot day.) Thompson speculates, “the large number of ice cream pots suggests that this was a favorite dessert at Mount Vernon, as well as in the capital.

George Washington is said to have spent $200 on ice cream ($4500 in current money) in the summer of 1790. It appears he was liked his ice cream.
Ice Cream on Ceramic Plate

 

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Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!

Ahhh Chocolate!  No, it is not the time of year when a cup of hot chocolate might be a comfort food. But it has been on my mind.

My grandmother Lulu had a recipe for the best chocolate meringue pie. It was truly finger-licking good. Mother learned to make it as well, but I never could get the consistency right. My version would run off the plate and take the meringue with it.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Meringue Pie

It was in June that Daddy always took  his vacation, and we spent a week in Kentucky with Lulu. Since it was a twelve-hour trip then, we always arrived in time for supper. Because she knew how much my dad loved chocolate, and her pie especially, she always had the made for our dessert.

I can see it now in its place of honor on the sideboard. And I honestly believe I can taste it, too! Just call me pitiful this morning.

Bill Watterson had a good idea about chocolate, “Blustery, cold days should be spent propped up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a pile of comic books.”

Chocolate is one of the most universally loved foods, the average American consumes roughly 11 pounds of the stuff a year!  It is hard to imagine a world without chocolate and this love of the heavenly substance stretches all the way back to our country’s colonial roots. Before the mid-1800s, if you had a craving for the world’s favorite sweet, you drank it!

Chocolate has its origins in South America where archaeological evidence indicates it was being cultivated and consumed over 3,000 years ago.  The Spanish were the first Europeans to try the spicy chili and chocolate beverage of the Aztecs.  Cortez was the explorer that brought chocolate back to Spain, rather than gold or silver. They introduced it to Europe in the 1600s where, with the addition of sugar, it became the height of fashion.

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Drinking chocolate of the 18th century was different from our modern day cup of cocoa.  It was made with either cacao nibs or blocks of compressed chocolate that were then grated or ground to a paste and dissolved in a warm liquid inside a dedicated chocolate pot.

The chocolate was added to any combination of water, milk, cream, wine, or even brandy for an extra kick.  This mixture was combined with sugar, though less than we use because it was an expensive import in colonial America.  Other common ingredients included chili pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, or allspice.  This resulted in a rich, sweet, spicy, and bitter drink that the colonists couldn’t get enough of.

We know that many early Americans were fans of chocolate, but it wasn’t available to everyone.  In the 1700s, chocolate was still a fairly expensive drink, similar to tea or coffee, making it a beverage of the upper and middle classes.  It was seen as a nutritious and filling health food, commonly had with breakfast.

Thomas Jefferson commented, “The superiority of chocolate (hot chocolate), both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain.”

In 1757, George Washington ordered 20 pounds of chocolate from British merchant Thomas Knox.  While living at Kenmore Plantation, George’s sister Betty Washington Lewis ordered a gallon of chocolate. (I believe the Washingtons enjoyed chocolate!)

Actress Katherine Hepburn favored chocolate. “What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”

It may seem strange to us that there were special cups just for drinking chocolate.  However, since it was a luxury good enjoyed by the upper classes, it had a specific set of objects associated with its preparation and consumption.  A teapot or teacup could have easily functioned for drinking chocolate, but the purpose of this specialized material culture was to show off wealth and sophistication.  For this reason, a well-to-do colonial household would have separate sets of vessels for the making and consumption of tea, coffee, and chocolate.  Using the right one in the right way let your peers know you were a well-educated gentry woman or man.

Chocolate cups and pots were often made of fancy material like silver or porcelain to show off the wealth of the owner and reflect the nature of the luxury ingredient. Chocolate cups can be identified by their straight sides, unlike the gently sloping sides of a teacup.

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Similarly, 18th century chocolate pots generally are taller and have straighter sides compared to contemporary teapots. They also have a shorter spout with no strainer and often have a straight handle that juts out from the body.

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The most recognizable feature of a chocolate pot however is a hole in the lid where the chocolate mill, or molinillo, would be inserted and rubbed between the hands to briskly stir the chocolate, creating a delicious froth on the top.

Top View Photo of Ceramic Mugs Filled With Coffees

I bet you know what I have talked myself into doing. There is no cold weather here in June, but there are no rules on when to drink hot chocolate. And this is certainly for my health this morning!

As Charles M. Schulz once said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

 

Our Flag

In 1974, Johnny Cash released an album that included “That Raggedy Old Flag.” It is a spoken word tribute to the flag of the United States, and it speaks of patriotism and how our flag has led us in battles and wars.

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

There is mystery over who made the first flag and where it was first flown.

The Betsy Ross story is the most popular, though there is no credible historical evidence to prove it so.

The story started in 1870, almost 100 years after the first flag was supposedly sewn, when William Canby, Ross’s grandson, told the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia that his grandmother made the flag at George Washington’s request. His evidence was based solely on family tradition.

While Ross did make flags in Philadelphia in the late 1770s, it is all but certain that the story about her creating the American flag is a myth. She is attributed with changing the six-pointed star to a five-pointed star, because it was easier to make.

I don’t believe it truly matters as to whom sewed the first flag. Americans love our flag. It is displayed on homes, at government offices, in parades, and at funerals. In our home, we proudly displayed my dad’s folded flag and my husband’s grandfather’s folded flag.

Truly its symbolism can bring a tear to a veteran’s eye or a smile to a child reciting its pledge.

From America the Beautiful to Yankee Doodle Dandy, lyrics about this flag stir our hearts.

Yes, to this continued stirrings of our hearts and our belief that Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson said, “This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us — speaks to us of the past, or the men and women who went before us, and of the records they wrote upon it.”

Next Sunday, October 7, 2018, there will be a celebration of the Battle of Kings Mountain at Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, South Carolina. Join Living History Interpreters for the 238th anniversary encampment of the Battle of Kings Mountain. Learn about the men and women who fought in this significant battle of the American Revolution.

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Thomas Jefferson called this battle “The turn of the tide of success.” The battle of Kings Mountain, fought October 7th, 1780, was an important American victory during the Revolutionary War. The battle was the first major patriot victory to occur after the British invasion of Charleston, SC in May 1780. The park preserves the site of this important battle.

Faith of the Founders

When the 56 Signers of The Declaration of Independence signed their names to that document, each knew they were committing treason against the British Crown.  If caught and captured, they risked death. But death would not be swift. It would be by hanging to the point of unconsciousness, then being revived, disemboweled, their body parts boiled in oil and their ashes scattered into the wind. Our Founding Fathers valued freedom, for themselves and their posterity, to the extent that they found this fate worth the risk.

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Second President John Adams said, “The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity…I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

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The Declaration of Independence identified the source of all authority and rights as “Their Creator,” and then accentuated that individual human rights were God-given, not man-made.

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In that core group of delegates, according to public record were 28 Episcopalians, 8 Pres- byterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists,  Roman Catholics, 1 unknown, and 3 deists (those who  believe in an impersonal God), who gave the world its initial impetus but then left it to run its course).

Pictured above: Thirty-three-year-old Thomas Jefferson wrote most of this document. In approximately two weeks, he penned it in two rented rooms in the home of Graff, a noted bricklayer.

The universal words were carefully chosen, but it was individuals who signed their names. The Declaration of Independence was seditious and a break-up letter never to be forgotten.

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What were their professions? Twenty-five were lawyers or jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers or large plantation owners. One was a teacher, one a musician, and one a printer. These were men of means and education, yet they signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well that the penalty could be death if they were captured.

Their commitments were heart-felt. As Abraham Clark said, “Let us prepare for the worst. We can die here but once.”

Five were captured by the British and brutally tortured as traitors. Nine fought in the War for Independence and died from wounds or hardships they suffered. Two lost their sons in the Continental Army. Another two had sons captured. At least a dozen of the fifty-six had their homes pillaged and burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. The British jailed Francis Lewis’ wife for two months, and that and other hardships from the war so affected her health that she died only two years later.

Thomas Heyward, Jr., Edward Rutledge, and Arthur Middleton, all of South Carolina, were captured by the British during the Charleston Campaign in 1780. They were kept in dungeons at the St. Augustine Prison until exchanged a year later.

Such were the stories and sacrifices typical of those who risked everything to sign this precious document. They were soft-spoken men of means and education who were passionate about their country. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged:

“For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” 

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The basement of Independence Hall in Philadelphia once served as the city’s dog pound, and the second floor was once the home to Charles Wilson Peale’s museum of natural history. Windows were kept tightly closed, so that others could not hear their discussions. It is said that the elder statesman, Benjamin Franklin, would intentionally trip other delegates from his aisle seat. Serious, thoughtful, careful were the discussions, and sometimes quite loud.

“If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight!

The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. I Am Not A Virginian, But An American!” Patrick Henry

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And it happened here in the Assembly Room of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This is why we celebrate July 4, 1776.