California cemetery shows post-war migration

1854 official_map_of_california

A return to old haunts offered an indication of the melting pot makeup of 19th century California.

Evergreen Cemetery in Santa Cruz, Calif., along the Monterey Bay, dates back to just before the War Between the States. It not only includes graves from many of the area’s original Protestant pioneers, but the final resting place for an unusually diverse array of Union Army veterans.

Civil War soldiers from 15 states representing no fewer than 35 different units have official Veterans Administration markers in this graveyard, which is dotted by large redwood trees and also features the final resting place for ex-slaves, gold prospectors and Chinese immigrants.

Those at rest range from troops from numerous California regiments and men who served in territorial units from Nevada and Colorado to those who saw service in some of the conflict’s major battles as part of regiments from eastern and Midwestern states.

There is also at least one Confederate veteran buried in the cemetery.

And these are only the graves marked by VA stones. With more than 2,000 individuals resting in the cemetery, it’s almost certain that other soldiers are buried in the graveyard, as well.

The cemetery is different from that of many Southern and Eastern cemeteries of the same era, where the deceased are often from the state the graveyard is located in, the country they emigrated from, or, occasionally, a nearby state.

Evergreen, however, features Union veterans from the following states: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.

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Museum under scrutiny regarding noted work

Winslow_Homer_-_Milking_Time

Delaware museum officials desperate for cash have removed one of their prized paintings from their walls but remain tight-lipped about the work’s future.

Winslow Homer’s “Milking Time,” among the Delaware Art Museum’s most treasured works, disappeared from its wall and collections database earlier this month, shortly after the museum announced that it would sell as many as four artworks to repay its construction debt and replenish its endowment.

Museum officials have declined to confirm whether the 1875 oil painting of rural Americana is among works to be sold over the next few months, according to the News-Journal of Wilmington, Del.

However, museum and art experts say the change is suspicious and likely indicates the painting will be sold, the publication added.

“Milking Time” is considered a landmark painting by Homer, regarded as one of the greatest American painters of the 19th century.

Homer, the renown landscape painter, created “Milking Time” in 1875 while living on a farm in upstate New York.

“Milking Time” is a “landmark painting for him,” according to Kathleen Foster, who curated an exhibition of Homer’s seascapes for the Philadelphia Museum of Art in late 2012. The Philadelphia museum owns four Homer works, including one of his most famous, “The Life Line.”

“Milking Time” was painted during a formative time in Homer’s career, a period in which he was searching for an identity as an artist, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

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When counterfeit dimes were worth the effort

1861 counterfeit dime

The practice of counterfeiting money is as old as money itself.

Archaeologists have discovered counterfeit examples of coins produced in Lydia, a Roman province said to be the locale of the first metallic coinage, dating back to the 7th century BC.

Today, we tend to think of counterfeiters as individuals who mass produce paper money, usually in large denominations – $20 or higher.

But until relatively recently, nearly all counterfeit money came in coin form. This was because until relatively recently nearly all money came in coin form, and was known as “hard money” because it contained a commodity such as gold or silver which gave it intrinsic value.

A short 1884 article in the New York Times highlighted just how valuable even small coins – albeit those made of silver – were 130 years ago.

MARLBOROUGH, N.Y. – Counterfeit silver dollars, quarters and ten-cent pieces are being circulated in a number of the Hudson River counties. The quarter dollars and dimes are said to be very good imitations of genuine money. It is said that ticket agents on the line of the Hudson River Railroad have been told to scrutinize carefully all silver offered in payment for tickets. It is believed that the counterfeits were first put in circulation about three weeks ago.

Today it seems difficult to imagine someone going to the difficulty of attempting to counterfeit a dime, never mind working hard enough at it to do it well.

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NY man leaves $40 million but no will, heirs

parking-meter-expired

In a case that likely has more than a few people checking their own personal genealogy, New York authorities say that a 97-year old who died last year left behind an estate valued at nearly $40 million but no heirs and no will.

Roman Blum survived the Holocaust and came to the US after World War II, where he became a successful real estate developer.

Blum married another Holocaust survivor, but she died in 1992 and the couple had no children.

Despite the advice of numerous friends, Blum declined to make a will for himself, leaving the largest unclaimed estate in New York State history, according to the state comptroller’s office.

A friend summed up the situation as only a New Yorker can:

“He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot,” said Paul Skurka, a fellow Holocaust survivor who befriended Blum after doing carpentry work for him in the 1970s.

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The wacky world of the early US high court

John Jay Court

John Marshall became chief justice of the United States on this date in 1801. Marshall would sit on the high court until 1835, and his opinions laid the basis for American constitutional law and made the US Supreme Court a co-equal branch of government, along with the legislative and executive branches.

But what of Marshall’s predecessors?

The best known of the three men to lead the Supreme Court before Marshall was John Jay, who, among other things, helped write the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.

During Jay’s nearly six years as chief justice (1789-1795), the high court ruled on just four cases, rather remarkable considering today the court receives petitions to hear some 7,000 cases annually.

Jay resigned as chief justice in June 1795 after being elected governor of New York. President George Washington named John Rutledge of South Carolina, an original high court associate justice who had resigned in 1791 to become chief justice of the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas and Sessions, to replace Jay.

Washington’s appointment took effect immediately as the US Senate was not in session.

However, Rutledge’s time on the court proved one of the shortest in the history of the nation. He was a vocal opponent to the Jay Treaty of 1794, which resolved issues remaining from the Revolutionary War but left many Americans unhappy.

His opposition cost him support in the administration and the senate. In addition, questions about his mental stability, driven at least partly by partisanship, were making the rounds.

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Powder, ball found in 18th century cannon

central park cannon

A cannon that sat in New York’s Central Park for nearly 150 years was discovered last week to have been loaded with a cannonball and black powder the entire time, it was announced last week.

Parks workers came upon a live cannonball, loaded in a Revolutionary War-era cannon currently being refurbished, New York television station CBS 2 reported. The artillery piece was one of two British cannon being stored at a Central Park shed near the 79th Street transverse, according to the station.

Preservation workers for the Central Park Conservancy called police last Friday after opening up the capped artillery piece for cleaning and finding the cannonball, cotton wadding and 28 ounces of black powder wrapped in wool, still capable of firing, according to the New York Times.

The loaded cannon was on public display from the 1860s until 1996, when the Central Park Conservancy decided to bring it indoors to protect it from vandalism. It was donated to the park around the time of the War Between the States.

The cannon, believed to be more than 220 years old, was apparently donated after it is believed to have been salvaged from the HMS Hussar, a British frigate that sank in the East River around 1780 during the American Revolution, according to the Associated Press.

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Manhattan matzo factory adapts, thrives

Streit’s, Inc., located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, isn’t your typical family business.  

For one thing, it’s been around for nearly a century. For another, it produces, on an hourly basis, 1,100 pounds of matzo, the unleavened bread traditionally eaten by Jews during Passover.

In fact, Streit’s owns fully one-quarter of the US matzo market, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The business started originally with my great-grandfather Aron Streit and his elder son Irving Streit,” Alan Adler, one of the owners of the factory, told the wire service.

“We now have two fourth-generation cousins and one fifth-generation cousin running the business, and in addition there are other family members who have stock but don’t work every day.”

Producing the company’s Passover matzos is no simple task. The fare, which symbolizes the Jewish exodus from Egypt 5,000 years ago and traditionally consists of just flour and water, must be made following strict religious requirements.

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