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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Just yesterday, I was reminded (via an e-newsletter) about an art festival that I had attended far too many years ago yet the memory of that event stays with me as though I had attended just yesterday!

It is held each November (the 14th through the 16th of this year) in Easton, MD and this year’s event marks the 38th. It’s “official” title is, simply, the Waterfowl Festival, however, most folks refer to it as the Easton Waterfowl Festival. The whole community gets involved, closing off the colonial center to automobile traffic and using its many fine shops and galleries as venues to display wildlife art, prints, decoys, crafts, etc.

When I attended the event, the Tidewater Inn was the “centerpiece” so to speak. One room called the “Gold Room” was used to display the original works and many of the artists were there, too, to talk to visitors, sign autographs, and so on.

Folks lining up to enter the Gold Room in the Tidewater Inn, Easton, MD.

Folks lining up to enter the Gold Room in the Tidewater Inn, Easton, MD.

Hot refreshments are provided to visitors by street vendors.

Hot refreshments are provided to visitors by street vendors.

At least in past years, and probably so even today, a World Class waterfowl carver is invited to create a special piece that is then displayed in the lobby of the Tidewater Inn. During the year that I was there, the carving was that of our nation’s symbol, the Bald Eagle.

Bald Eagle displayed in the lobby of the Tidewater Inn, Easton, MD.

Bald Eagle carving by Jett Brunet displayed in the lobby of the Tidewater Inn, Easton, MD.

I know, I know! This is just a tiny sampling of what you would see there and, I really can’t show you any art. There are those artists who are opposed to having their works photographed by the general public. But, really, if you love art, especially wildlife art, then you MUST attend this event at least once in your lifetime. It is, after all, an art festival extraordinaire!

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A couple of summers ago, I took a course called Environmental History. On the first day of class, as had been true in every other class I’d taken before then, we were asked to tell our classmates a little bit about ourselves. When I mentioned my interest in conservation art (or art for conservation), I was surprised that no one, including the professor, knew anything about it but I was also encouraged by the student’s and professor’s enthusiasm to know more.

Okay then, what is conservation art?

First of all, look in any dictionary and you will find that the term conservation means the preservation from destruction and/or neglect. Well, to me, because I am a nature lover, conservation means the preservation of wild animals, birds and habitat. Thus, in the case of conservation art, that means any art (though, in most cases, the genre or theme is nature or wildlife) that is used to raise funds for wetlands purchase and protection, or the preservation of threatened and endangered species, or the protection of wild lands against human encroachment, and so on. Admittedly though, when one mentions conservation art, more often than not, it’s “duck stamps” or waterfowl art that comes to mind.

Duck stamps?

Yes, they’re affectionately referred to as duck stamps! But, they’re really called migratory waterfowl stamps. Every duck or waterfowl hunter must purchase a Federal Migratory Waterfowl Stamp as part of their license, although, you don’t have to be a hunter to buy one, they are available for purchase by anyone. In addition to the Federal Duck Stamp program, many states also have conservation stamp programs and many of those are also required as part of a hunter’s license. And, again, these stamps are available for sale to non-hunters as well.

But now, back to conservation art … before any of these stamps are issued to hunters, stamp collectors or conservationists, they are art competitions or commissioned works of art. The granddaddy of them all is the Federal Migratory

Original artwork by William C. Morris

Original artwork by William C. Morris

Stamp Art Competition. It was started in 1934 as commissioned work then later changed to an art competition. I first learned about this stamp art program back in 1984 (or, maybe it was 1983), from an article that appeared in an issue of Smithsonian magazine, when the program was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. Well, the program is now 76 years old and, through the sale of those stamps, has “raised more than $700 million that has been used to acquire more than 5.2 million acres of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System” (see The Federal Duck Stamp Program).

Massachusetts Duck Stamp is “Unique”

Many state duck stamp programs aren’t nearly as old as the Federal program, probably around thirty-five to forty years old on average, however, for most state programs, it was the Federal program that set the standard, so to speak, when it came to the rules that artists must follow, that is, the design must depict “[a] live portrayal of [the duck].” But Massachusetts duck stamp art rules are “unique” in that the design must portray “a WORKING (not decorative) decoy of a duck, goose, or shorebird made by a known or unknown deceased, Massachusetts decoy maker” (see my earlier entry called “Massachusetts ‘Duck Stamp’ Competition to be ‘Revisited'”).

Canvasback Drake Decoy head by unknown carver. This working decoy is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

Canvasback Drake Decoy head by unknown carver. This working decoy is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

This is NOT a duck stamp entry but is from a series of decoy portraits that I’ve been creating as a personal project. The artwork is in watercolor and watercolor gouache applied using an airbrush and traditional brushes on Ampersand Claybord.

Conclusion

Of course, conservation art is so much more than just duck stamps. As was mentioned earlier, conservation art is any art used to raise funds for the preservation of all that is wild and can be rendered in oil, watercolor, colored pencil or graphite, or it can be sculptures in wood or stone or metal, and so on. Oh! And other labels apply to conservation art as well such as art for conservation, environmental art and art for sustainability, although fair warning here, some of these labels, in particular, environmental art can have other meanings too (in this case, environmental art is sometimes applied to outdoor sculpture that poses no harm to the environment). But, it really doesn’t matter what label you apply here or what medium you choose to work in. What is important is that the purpose of the art be for the preservation of planet earth and all of the life that call this planet home!

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Sometimes, it takes the observations of a special visitor to open our own eyes to what is so special about where we live. I mean, sure, as New Englanders, we know that we have some of the most beautiful coast line in the United States. And, we are especially noted for our splashy autumn foliage displays! But, who would’ve thought to be so enthralled over our cemeteries, or our recent display of various mushrooms, or our small but curious critters, and so on?!

If you want to see through the eyes of that special visitor, an Oklahoman who calls her blog “Drawing The Motmot,” then you must read a New England Love Letter, part 1 and part 2!

Thank you, Motmot, and please come back soon!

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Whoa! I sure can tell by my blog stats that I haven’t been blogging for a while! I’ll give a brief explanation for my absence in a bit. But, hey, first things first! Let’s start with revisiting a couple of my past entries like the one I called A Confederate Soldier.

William Buckner Taylor was described as a young man of “light complexion, light hair and gray eyes, his height was 5′ 5 1/2 inches.” When he enlisted at “Pinner’s Point, Norfolk County, … VA on February 19, 1862[,]” he was just 18 years old and listed his occupation as a laborer.

Mr. Taylor was first captured on “July 3rd, 1863 at Gettysburg and sent to Point Lookout, Maryland[.]” On February 18th, 1865, he was exchanged but then recaptured “on April 1, 1865 at Five Forks, and released on June 20, 1865 from Hart’s Island, New York.”

Where Mr. Taylor lived and worked, met his wife and raised his family between 1865 and 1900, I cannot say at this time. However, in the 1900 census, Mr. Taylor is listed as a stone mason and widower, “age 59, birth is listed as Feb 14, 1841[.]” This means that he should have been 21 years old instead of 18 years old at the time of his enlistment and that the date on his headstone is incorrect too. But, if you’ve ever tried researching your own family history, you would know that these discrepancies are quite common.

Living in his household in Topsfield, MA, according to the 1900 census, were his children,

“Mary B Taylor, age 15, birth April 28, 1885, born in MA
Lilian B Taylor, age 13, birth November 20, 1887, born in MA
William O. Taylor, age 6, birth March 27, 1894, born in MA”

And, by the 1910 census, William Buckner Taylor was listed “as a boarder in the home of Norman McLeod [in Topsfield], his age is listed as 69.”

Mr. Taylor passed away in 1911 and while he is buried in Topsfield, MA, “[t]here is a memorial marker to him located in Oak Grove Cemetery, Portsmouth, Va.”

Oh yes! About that grave marker … this “is a military headstone, provided by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. They will provide a headstone when one is not present for a veteran of the Civil War, both Confederate and Union, … [although] who requested it, I can’t tell you, … [i]t could be that a Son’s of Union Veteran’s could have requested it.”

—Cynthia Buck-Thompson [Personal email, June 8 and 9, 2008]

***

Cynthia Buck-Thompson is a Civil War Living Historian as well as “the family genealogist.” Her husband reenacts with the 9th Virginia, Company B as well as Artillery for the Maryland Park Service.

I’d like to thank Cindy for all the work she did to answer my questions, every bit of the information listed here has been provided by Cindy.

***

Another entry that I’d like to revisit is the one that I called Spring Greens, especially, the part in which I mentioned the rhododendrons at Bradley Palmer State Park. They weren’t in bloom back in April and, thus, I was unable to post any photographs on my blog. So, I wrote “I promise not to let you down. I will keep track of their progress and take many photos to post when the time is right.”

Well, I did keep track. The “buds” seemed to be many, the only “flaw” I expected was the fact that some heavy pruning had been done among the lower branches. Still, new growth was appearing and I fully expected that the shear number of blossoms would be enough to “detract” from the pruning.

Unfortunately, by mid-June, when the parks’ rhododendrons should have been in all their glory, … well, … much to my surprise, not to mention my disappointment, there were barely a handful of blossoms! Oh, there were plenty of buds that had opened up, but few of those buds had any blossoms to show. I just couldn’t believe my eyes!

Perhaps, even stranger still, was the fact that, back in April, I had taken a couple of cuttings from the rhododendrons. (Now, before you all come down on me for taking cuttings of plants in a state park, please remember that these rhododendrons are hardly “wild.” Bradley Palmer State Park was once the estate of its namesake, “a noted attorney of the early 1900s who represented Sinclair Oil in the Teapot Dome Scandal and President Wilson at the Versailles Peace Conference after the First World War.” These rhododendrons were purposely placed to “line old carriage roads.” Besides, remember that the rhododendrons had already been heavily pruned! Apparently, though, their caretakers forgot to fertilize them. [Bradley Palmer State Park])

When I got the cuttings back home, I placed them in a vase then placed the vase in my bay window. But, for weeks, nothing happened. The cuttings didn’t die but the buds didn’t swell either. Then, about the beginning to the middle of June, suddenly the buds just shot up and opened up and I had rhododendron blossoms in my bay window!

Is that not weird or what? Did I have a premonition of sorts? I mean, really, the only other explanation that I can give you is that I did fertilize the cuttings, albeit with an indoor plant food, but still!

***

Okay, now about that brief explanation for my absence from blogging these past few weeks.

You see, I am fast approaching a very special anniversary. On August 27, 2008, I will become a five-year breast cancer survivor and, while I am just thrilled to pieces to be reaching this milestone, as I reflect on how far I’ve come in these past five years, I’ve also become acutely aware that I have not taken as good care of myself as I had promised I would do once I was finished with therapy. Oh, don’t get me wrong now, I haven’t fallen to pieces altogether! But, once in a while, we all need to step back and take a good look at where we’ve been and where we want to take our lives next. Fact is, this was just the perfect time for me to do that!

So, what more can I say? I’ve had my break from blogging, I’ve made some new plans, including some new ideas for this blog, and, … well, … I’m back! I sincerely hope you’ll all forgive me for my absence and, I certainly hope to see you all return too.

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Quite some time ago, I recall reading, probably in Yankee magazine, that nearly every cemetery in New England, … then again, maybe that was in the Northeast, … has at least one Confederate soldier buried there. And, if memory serves me, I believe that most of these men had been prisoners of war but then at war’s end, they decided to settle in the area rather than return to their respective home states.

Now, every Memorial Day, when small representations our nations flag are placed alongside the headstones of those men and women who served in the military, an additional Confederate flag is placed alongside the headstone of Topsfield’s lone Confederate soldier!

The grave of William Buckner Taylor
Pine Grove Cemetery, Topsfield, Massachusetts

So, … why is that? In fact, why is his headstone specially marked with his Confederate service, that is, Company I, 9th Virginia Infantry?

Is this a “military” style headstone? Did he specifically request that his Confederate service be noted?

Well, I can tell you one thing, my curiosity has been aroused for several years now … it is just this year that I finally decided to do something about it. However, I’m not interested solely in William Buckner Taylor’s Confederate service. I’d like to know a little bit about the man! I mean, why did he choose to stay in this area? Did he leave family in Virginia or had they perished during the war? Did he have a family here and where are they buried? What kind of work did he do? What other kinds of interests did he have? And on and on …

Unfortunately, these questions cannot be answered quickly. Definitely not quickly enough for a blog entry. However, using the little bit of information from William Taylor’s headstone as well as a two hour “Google” search, here’s what I’ve got so far.

First, the obvious … William Buckner Taylor was born in 1844 which means that he would have been 17 years old when the Civil War began and 21 years of age when it ended. Taylor died in 1911 which means he would have been about 67 years of age.

I’m afraid that the biggest challenge thus far comes from the fact that the name of William Taylor (and even William Buckner Taylor) from Virginia, even those born in 1844, is VERY common! (But that fact can also make the search all the more fun!)

And now for some “background” information … there was a 9th Virginia Infantry Regiment and a 9th Virginia Infantry Battalion. If Taylor served in the 9th Virginia Infantry Regiment, Company I was at one time known as the “Craney Island Light Artillery” and he may then have seen “action” in places like the Second Manassas, Harper’s Ferry, Fredericksburg, and even Cemetery Hill in the battle of Gettysburg.

Sadly, Virginia saw the most battles during the Civil War … 123 to be exact (Civil War Battle Summaries by State). One can only speculate then that there wouldn’t have been much left of that beautiful countryside to return to, not to mention an economy in shambles. Certainly, some very compelling reasons not to return to one’s native state. In addition, like any war in any part of the world, human casualties are not limited to those in uniform. Many civilians perish as well from injury, hunger and disease. Was this the fate of William Buckner Taylor’s family?

***

I must admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of American Civil War history. However, I have always loved biographies and/or personal histories, especially of those “invisible” individuals (aka, “non” celebrities or “the rest of us”). And, being able to place a person in a specific time period has alway given that “moment” in history greater significance or “substance” if you will. Well, at least, it does for me.

So, while this may be a limited beginning, I am pleased with the results thus far. Trust me, however, this is just the start!

***

Note: For an update to this entry, please visit Past Entries Revisited

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The building in this first photo used to be a train station. In fact, you can still board/disembark from the train here, it’s just that with todays economics and “streamlining,” you must purchase your ticket on board the train and I’m not certain whether or not there’s a schedule posted here. But now the building is occupied by Prides Crossing Confections … yes! yes! I have an incredible sweet tooth! I especially love their chocolate turtles … especially the ones made of milk chocolate, caramel and almonds! 😀

Pride’s Crossing Confections, Pride’s Crossing, MA

Okay! Enough about my sweet tooth. What’s important here is the political statement being made right in front of the station plain as day!

See the two benches in front of this former train station? Do you see that there’s something written on them? Here’s a closer look.

That’s politics New England style folks! 😆 I love it!

Notice, though, that no difference other than the label is made between the two benches! I took closer views so that you can see the boards are the same, the paint is peeling the same, and, I’ll even bet the splinters are the same!

So … I ask you, is this partisan politics or is it bi-partisan politics? 😐

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I love things that are “old,” they just have so much character, wouldn’t you agree? Take, for example, this front door and wisteria from a home in Essex, MA.

The wood is splitting and the paint is peeling, that front door has seen a lot of use! But then, what would you expect? After all, the home was built in 1832! 😯

By the way, Essex, MA was, in its heyday, a shipbuilding community. Can you tell?

But, while the home and door may be 176 years old, I doubt that the wisteria is anywhere near that age. Still, wisterias take at least seven years before they begin to bloom and, judging from the number of blooms and the main trunk of this plant, I’d say it has seen quite a number of seven year cycles!

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