Saturday, December 30, 2006

Non-Presidents Laying in State

Tonight, the USA is holding a state funeral for President Gerald Ford where he will lay in state. He will be the 11th American President to be so honored. However, eighteen men who were never the President of the USA have also been given this honor.
(Henry Clay, 9th American Secretary of State, and the first American to lay in state in the US Capitol.)

These men include:
1. Henry Clay (July 1, 1852)
2. Thaddeus Stevens (August 13 and 14, 1868)
3. Charles Sumner (March 13, 1874)
4. Henry Wilson (November 25 and 26, 1875)
5. John Alexander Logan (December 30 and 31, 1886)
6. Pierre Charles L'Enfant (April 28, 1909, 57 years after death before being reburied)
7. George Dewey (January 20, 1917)
8. The Unknown Soldier of World War One(November 9, 10, and 11, 1921)
9. John Joseph Pershing (July 18 and 19, 1948)
10. Robert Alphonso Taft (August 2 and 3, 1953)
11. The Unknown Soldier of World War II (May 28, 29, and 30, 1958)
12. The Unknown Soldier of the Korean War (May 28, 29, and 30, 1958)
13. Douglas MacArthur (April 8 and 9, 1964)
14. Everett McKinley Dirksen (September 9-10, 1969)
15. John Edgar Hoover (May 3 and 4, 1972)
16. Hubert Horatio Humphrey (January 14 and 15, 1978)
17. Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam Era (May 25, 26, 27, and 28, 1984)
18. Claude Denson Pepper (June 1 and 2, 1989)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Searching for Bell Ringle

Bell Ringle is an elf who delivers on New Years Day the presents that Santa Clause forgot. Or so I have been told.

My wife (like me) is from NW Ohio. Her family has a tradition of Bell Ringle delivering gifts on January 1st. This tradition goes back at least several generations. My wife thinks it goes back four or five generations.

In the old days, the farm families of Ohio would order Christmas gifts via mail catalogs. Delivery dates were always uncertain and many orders intended as Christmas gifts arrived late. As a result, at least in one family, the elf Bell Ringle would deliver late gifts on the first day of the New Year.

While quaint, this tradition has been impacting me through eleven years of marriage. Every year, my wife prepares Bell Ringle gifts for her family and they give her (and me!) Bell Ringle gift as well. In addition, as I take my wife and two sons on the road for Christmas, we give our kids their gifts from us on New Years Day. And of course Bell Ringle is the delivery man.

The family lore is that Bell Ringle is an old German tradition. However, my attempts to research Bell Ringle find nothing. So far, searches for Bell Ringle on the Web bring up zip as do variant searches on the name. Even New Years Elf brings up nothing that is related!

So, is Bell Ringle a new oral history tradition created by my wife's great grandparents? Or, is there some actual history here that I am missing? If anyone finds this post now or years in the future and has information on this, please leave a comment. I would appreciate more details.

Until then, Bell Ringle lives in my family. And I will be seeking out some more details on his origins.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gerald Ford, 1913-2006

"For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land." President Jimmy Carter, January 20th, 1977, Inaugural Address.

I agree with the statement by President Carter. Gerald Ford did not seek the Presidency of the USA. He was thrust into it by a series of scandals unprecedented in American history. He inherited a tarnished Presidency and helped to restore respect to it. Despite the scandals of Nixon and Agnew, and a very unpopular Republican Party, he came close to winning the Presidential election of 1976. Even those who disagreed with him and his pardon of Nixon respected him.

Most of the Presidents of the last 35 years draw venom from partisans of one side or another. Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and both Bush's draw fire from those claiming them to be bad people, bad presidents, or just stupid. But not Ford. He seems to be the last American President to be respected almost universally by both sides. I hope he rests in peace.

Monday, December 25, 2006

History of Christmas Island

History of Christmas Island. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the World History Blog. And what better place to spend Christmas than at Christmas Island? No, it is not a fictional island from an old animated holiday special but a real place. This brief essay has a short history of the island.

The Encyclop├Ždia Britannica notes, "Officially Territory of Christmas Island island in the Indian Ocean, about 224 miles (360 km) south of the island of Java and 870 miles (1,400 km) northwest of Australia; it is administered as an external territory of Australia. It has an area of 52 square miles (135 square km) and comprises the summit of an oceanic mountain. The highest point on the island is Murray Hill, rising to 1,184 feet (361 m) above sea level in the western part of the island. The main settlement and chief port is at Flying Fish Cove on the northeastern part of the island."

From the site:

It is not known when and by whom the island was discovered, but under the name of Moni it appears on a Dutch chart of 1666. It was first visited in 1688 by Dampier, who found it uninhabited. In 1886 Captain Maclear of H.M.S. "Flying Fish," having discovered an anchorage in a bay which he named Flying Fish Cove, landed a party and made a. small but interesting collection of the flora and fauna.

In the following year Captain Aldrich on H.M.S. " Egeria " visited it, accompanied by Mr J. J. Lister, F.R.S., who formed a larger biological and mineralogical collection. Among the rocks then obtained and submitted to Sir John Murray for examination there were detected specimens of nearly pure phosphate of lime, a discovery which eventually led, in June 1888, to the annexation of the island to the British crown. Soon afterwards a small settlement was established in Flying Fish Cove by Mr G. Clunies Ross, the owner of the Keeling Islands, which lie about 750 M. to the westward. In 1881 Mr Ross and Sir John Murray were granted a lease, but on the further discovery of phosphatic deposits they disposed of their rights in 1897 to a company. In the same year a thorough scientific exploration was made, at the cost of Sir John Murray, by Mr C. W. Andrews, of the British Museum.

When the first settlers arrived, in 1897, it was covered with a dense forest of great trees and luxuriant under-shrubbery. Prior to colonization, the island had never been inhabited.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Wassailing - Caroling for Beer

Do you like Christmas Caroling? I will admit I do like it when carolers come by my house and sing. However, I am not big about going house to house and caroling myself. In part, this is because I am a lousy singer.

However, I may well have been a caroler in medieval times. Back then, carolers went house to house singing for beer. What a merry origin to this holiday tradition!

An AP story titled Take Cheer: Christmas has Been Out of Control for Centuries by Matt Crenson has details. Crenson wrote, "In the northern Europe of the late middle ages, gangs of young men would engage in 'wassailing,' a cross between Christmas caroling and home invasion. The gangs would visit wealthy homes, often in disguise, and sing songs that threatened violence if they were not invited in for food and drink. In agrarian societies, practices like wassailing served as a critical safety valve, giving people at the bottom of the social ladder a release that would keep them in line during the rest of the year."

Evidently, after the fall harvest, the average common workers had a lot of free time on their hands. And, just about Christmas time, lots of beer was fermented and ready to drink. Letting the masses get drunk was good policy and was a widespread tradition.

Of course, in modern times, drinking and Christmas go together as well. Wine, beer, and rum in eggnog are common. However, most people do not threaten their neighbors to get free drinks. It is always fun to learn about the origins of holiday traditions. It is nice to hear how caroling originated as well.