Sunday, November 25, 2012


This is a public service announcement from the Mistress of History...GO SEE LINCOLN!

I saw the film this last week with a friend. I cried. I was in awe. You have before my friends, a living history. It was beautiful. Perhaps the most beautiful film I've seen in a good long while (And I know film, kiddos.)

Thus ends this public service announcement. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog station.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Blog Hop!

It's Black Friday!
  Time for prizes and fun and sharing! So in my book 'THE HOODED MAN" we see the spirit of giving, sort of, when our plunky Marian a.k.a Robin Hood gives stolen gold to the needy people of Nottingham. Today I will play Robin Hood much as Marian did in the book and give one lucky blog reader a present for Black Friday!  One lucky commentor will win a copy of THE HOODED MAN or my upcoming 1Night Stand story, BETTING IN A GOD, from Decadent Publishing. All you have to do is answer one simple trivia question and leave it in the comments section of the blog.  
 Your mission, maninis, should you choose to accept it, is to answer the following question. Which American Hero figure is most closely related and modeled after Robin Hood? The winner will receive their choice of THE HOODED MAN or BETTING ON A GOD(coming soon) Make sure to check out all the other great Decadent Authors and their blogs today for more amazing prizes and fun!  The link below is the gateway to all the other blogs that are waiting for you. Have a wonderful Black Friday and Happy reading!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Day of Thanksgiving

Today ushers in another Thanksgiving. Though we may be scattered, for example my family and I are in various parts of the United States today - separate from each other, we still find the means to be with one another. The age of technology has made that possible.

Now we all know, or we think we know, how Thanksgiving came about. But do you know how it became an actual day of celebration? How about I tell you...because you know from all the previous blogs that I love to do that. History junkie that I am.

In 1789, October 3 to be precise, President George Washington (Now I know you all know who he is) proclaimed that Nov 26th would be a day "set aside to give sincere thanks and gratitude" and so we celebrated our very first Thanksgiving. On October 3 1863 (There's that day again) President Abraham Lincoln gave a proclamation stating that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, thus making it a National holiday. Think about it. We are in the midst of a bloody civil war and the President asks people to put aside their differences and celebrated a single day of thanks in the face of all that terrifying death and destruction. And they do.

Next up comes our man, FDR. In 1939 he moved the date to the third Thursday of the month of November, in an effort to lengthen the shopping season and to bolster the economy. This move sparked wide-spread debate and in 1941 Congress passed a joint resolution (that means both the House and the Senate agreed on the resolution...something that rarely happens today) and President Roosevelt signed it thus ensuring by law that Thanksgiving would be celebrated nationwide on the fourth Thursday in November. (Check out last year's Black Friday Blog post for a bit more info on this if you're so inclined.)

So, my dirty birdies, I give you a brief history of Thanksgiving. Remember there is always more to something then the simple story you've been told in your youth. You know what I mean...Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a huge feast in harmony and peace (right before the Pilgrims hand the Indians blankets infested with small pox...OK I'll stop ranting and save that for another blog)

One final note, YouTube the Butterball hot line episode of The West Wing. You will thank me for it later.

Here is the text of Lincoln's Proclamation on Thanksgiving. Enjoy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

A Proclamation. The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tear that Stonewall down!

The history of America is as varied as her people. The path that we have traveled to get us where we are today is long and has been pretty damn rocky. From the landing of the pilgrims to the re-election of our first African-American president, we have seen and accomplished more in our 390 some odd years then other countries have managed in their whole hallowed existences. (I’m including the stuff that happened all the way back to 1620 in that count by the way) But some of the potholes we hit on the road to get to right now may not be as well-known as they should be. So tonight we will talk about something that most of you probably have no idea ever happened. In fact, I had no idea what it was until I was watching an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race (I love drag queens. Glitter and spandex and bitchy attitudes. I love it!!) We are going to talk about The Stonewall Riots of 1969. The first real outcry for equality in the LGBT community and unfortunately 43 years later it was not the last.

On June 28, 1969 in New York City, police raided a known gay bar called Stonewall Inn. The bar was located in Greenwich Village at 51 and 53 Christopher Street. Owned by the Genovese family (yes the mafia Genoveses) Stonewall began its life as a restaurant and nightclub. However in 1966, three members of the family invested $3,500 to turn the place into a hangout for the LGBT community in the neighborhood. (Mostly likely this change occurred because the mafia realized the money to be made from such an establishment, mainly because the surrounding neighborhood at the time had a large Gay community) The battle had just begun for Stonewall and its visitors.

There was no running water, no fire exits, and the toilets overran consistently. Once a week the police showed up for their payoff – an envelope full of cash. But still people came. Stonewall was the only gay club in town that allowed dancing and that was a big draw for its clientele. Police raids were frequent, happening about once a month, sometimes more. When the bar was raided the lights were turned on, customers lined up against the wall – criminal style – and their IDs were inspected. Any man found in drag was arrested on the spot. Women not wearing at least three pieces of female clothing were arrested.

At about one in the morning of June 28th, four plainclothes officers, two unis, and a detective and a DI arrived at Stonewall and pushed open the doors, shouting “Police! We’re taking the place!” Earlier in the evening four undercover officers had entered Stonewall to “collect evidence.” The music was shut off and the lights turned on. Stonewall was packed that night with about 200 people enjoying their evenings. Everything was going according to the usual plan – i.e. line up for ID and gender check (I’m not kidding folks. Anyone dressed in drag was escorted to the women’s john where a female police officer checked her parts. Kind of degrading if you ask me.) The officers reportedly manhandled the patrons while doing searches in rough and degrading fashion. Now this is where it gets really ugly. No one exactly what caused the next part to happen…“There was no one thing that happened or one person, there was just…a flash of group, of mass anger.”

Police ejected and herded the customers outside, forming separate groups for those that were free to go and those to be placed in paddy wagons and taking into to station houses for booking. The crowd of customers began to fight back, shouting at the officers and throwing coins at them. (The coins symbolizing the massive payoffs gay clubs around NY had to hand out to police. Soon bottles, rocks, and other larger items were lobbed. The police retreated back into the bar, trashing the place and fighting against the crowd. A folk singer who had the misfortune of passing by the doorway at that exact moment was savagely beaten by police.  

Riot police were called in and they advanced down the street a la Roman turtle style. The crowd retreated but would not be stopped. They shouted and yelled taunts at them. The rioting and protests went on for five days. By the end of the violence many ended up in the hospital, a teenager had lost two fingers, and others had countless broken bones and bruises. This was the beginning of the battle for equality for all sexualities.

Stonewall has become an icon to the LGBT community and to the activists who continue to fight for equality to this day. Whether you are gay or straight or omnisexual, the battles that have been fought in the name of unity cross gender and subculture lines.

I wrote this blog as a straight ally to the LGBT cause. Equal Rights and Gender Equality are my generations Civil Rights movement. With any Civil Rights movement, we must know our history – the good and the bad – so we can learn from it and never let it happen again.

Side note: PBS produced a great film for their American Expericence segment called "Stonewall Uprising" You can watch it online here

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It ain't that kind of college

For some people there is one aspect of the election cycle that is more baffling, more complicated, and more intimidating than anything else. It’s not trying to understand constitutional policy about voting. It’s not trying to understand early voting numbers. It’s not polling and weird news reports. It isn’t even strangers showing up at your door asking for your vote. It’s the Electoral College. The uber scary Electoral College monster is out to get you.

Don’t go hide under the bed, dirty birdies, The Electoral College isn’t as scary as it seems, the media just makes it sound that way when they explain it. Too many yadda yadda’s and double talk. So, I am going to do what I do best here at History’s Mistress and give it to you straight.

The Electoral College came into being on September 8th, 1787. The 12th amendment in the constitution sets up how the whole shebang works and was formally adopted in 1780. Essentially the college is this: 538 votes. Yep, that’s all. The votes are made up of 435 Representatives to the House and 100 Senators. The District of Columbia, i.e. Washington D.C., gets 3 votes making up a total of 538. The distribution of votes comes from the population of the states in questions. (U.S. Territories do not get votes in the electoral college. Places like Guam and Puerto Rico. Hence the arguement that some of these places have for statehood.) My state of Nevada had 5 votes in the 2008 election but we now have 6. This is due in part to the population going up over the course of the four years as well as re-distribution of districts. Because Nevada gained a vote that means another state lost one. There can only ever be 538 votes. No more, no less.

The candidate that receives 270 of those votes is the winner and gets to be president. Now here comes the complicated part. The votes are awarded based on the direction of the popular vote in that state. For example in the current election if the popular vote in Nevada leans to Barack Obama, then all 6 will go to Obama.

That said there are two states that do not award their electoral votes as a whole, what is known as the winner-takes-all rule. Nebraska and Maine follow the proportional votes rule. Time for another example. Say that in Nebraska, Gov. Romney takes all but one district in the popular vote. That means he would take 4 out of the 5 electoral votes allotted to Nebraska and President Obama would receive one. This rarely happens but that said in the 2008 election President Obama took one vote to McCain’s four. Confused or are you still with me?

So that pretty much sums up the Electoral College in layman’s terms. Not so scary now is it? Of course the framers of the constitution put in contingency plans for if the electoral vote ends up tied at 269 apiece.  I’m not going into this those, my little blog loves, because this is where it gets confusing and convolute to me. If it gets me muddled you know it is cray-cray. I have included a video from Rachel Maddow and I’ll let her explain it to you. She’s better at it anyway.

There you have it, the big scary Electoral College explained in 500 words or less. I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, it is your choice. Just remember to vote. I can’t stress how important it is to exercise your civic duty. Remember if you don’t vote, I won’t let you bitch about the winner later on. Vote is sexy and important. So be sexy and important and do it!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

This is the City of the Angels, and you haven't got any wings

Its murder time here on History’s Mistress. Who doesn’t love to hear all the details of a scandalous murder? Come on, don’t lie. The sheer amount of crime shows, documentaries, and murder mystery novels in existence puts any denials to shame. We’ve talked about Thelma Todd. We’ve talked about Jack the Ripper. Heck, we’ve talked about Fatty Arbuckle. I can hear you thinking “What can she give us now?” I’m so glad you asked…

Lana Turner was a popular screen goddess of the 1940s and 50s. She was known as the ‘Sweater Girl’ because of the great way she filled out a sweater. Meaning…she was stacked. Anyway, Turner was the star of such films as Peyton Place, The Bad and The Beautiful, and my personal favorite – The Postman Always Rings Twice. Lana’s personal life was just as crazy as some of her film roles.

Our lovely Sweater Girl was married seven times, but none managed to last longer than five years at most. Her longest marriage was to Henry Topping at 4 Years 7 Months 14 Days. Her shortest marriage was her first marriage to Stephen Crane, which was annulled, at 6 Months 18 Days (38 days later, she married him again). She was married to Artie Shaw, the famous big band leader, for 6 Months 27 Days. Love was not something Lana was good at. Unfortunately this fact was personified in Johnny Stompanato.

Stompanato was a former Marine with dashing Italian-American good looks, a well-muscled body, and an amazing talent to charm the ladies. (And a few men) Stompanato came to California in 1948 with a man named Sir Charles Hubbard, who brought our gigolo along as a “companion” Over the course of the next two years; Johnny ‘borrowed’ $85,000 dollars from Hubbard. The intrepid FBI believed that Stompanato had blackmailed Hubbard for the money. No one really knows. Shortly after that Hubbard was busted for Marijuana (A big deal in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Haven’t you all seen Reefer Madness??) and hightailed it out of Cali, leaving John stranded. But not for long. He soon hooked up with Mickey Cohen or Mickey C as he was known, and begin working as a bagman and bodyguard for the Al Capone of California. The Mickster ran it all. Drugs. Prostitution. Numbers. You name it. Johnny was in it now. This new lifestyle gave him access to some of the wealthier elements in Los Angeles and he was seemingly always on the arm of an older, beautiful woman with some serious dosh in her bank account.

So entereth Lana.

At first Stompanato sent her flowers and records, calling her on the phone in an effort to get close to her. He laid the charm on thick and since Lana was recently divorced from her 4th husband, Johnny was the something new and exciting she thought she was looking for. Too bad it turned out to be a mistake. A fatal one for Stompanato.  (One of the main reasons she stayed with Stompanato for as long as she did was simply bad press. She wouldn’t call the cops when he beat her for fear that her career would be devastated. Same goes hiding the abuse.)

Once Johnny had inundated himself into Lana’s life, his real nature came out. He beat her and verbally abused her constantly. She had him ejected from London, where she was filming, because he was beating her so badly. (Well, that and he stormed onto the set with a gun. Sean Connery, Lana’s co-star, punched him in the jaw and took the gun. Do not mess with James Bond. I’m just saying) He threatened her life, her daughter’s life, and life of her mother. So…Lana stayed with him…until her daughter made the decision for them all.

After the Academy Awards in 1958, Lana and Stompanato returned home and promptly started fighting. Cheryl Crane, Turner’s 14 year old daughter, was in her room right next door. The teenager went to the door and pleaded with her mother to let her in. Turner yelled for her to get away from the door and that ‘Johnny was leaving’ but of course Stomapanato was staying…and still yelling and threatening Lana. Now, here is where the story gets interesting. Cheryl stated to the police that she ran into the kitchen and grabbed a carving knife off the counter. The knife had been purchased earlier that day by Turner and Stompanato (Are you all thinking the same thing I am? A brand new knife…recently purchased by the victim and Turner? Pretty coincidental isn’t it. Just wait…it gets better) Cheryl ran back to the bedroom with the knife in hand and this time Turner opened the door. Story goes; Johnny had his back to the door and was gathering clothes from the closet and some wooden hangers. Turner told police he decided to leave the house.

Now picture this if you can. Johnny at the closet. Cheryl at the door. Lana between them. Cheryl stated he turned with clothes over his shoulder and his hand raised to her mother with something that looked like a weapon. As he moved passed Lana, Cheryl struck with the knife. Lana thought, or so she told the police, that Cheryl had punched him. Nope, she stabbed him. Johnny fell to the floor. Lana picked up the knife, dropped it in the sink of her bar area, and called her mother. Not the police. Her mother. Doctors showed up in minutes but Johnny boy was toast.

Cheryl was let off and the murder found Justifiable Homicide. She was however made a ward of the state and sent to a home for troubled girls. Critics remarked that Turner gave her ‘best acting performance of her life” at her daughter’s trial.

So did Cheryl Crane really kill Stompanato out of fear or was it planned? No one really knows…except Cheryl…and she ain’t talking.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We won't come back till it's over, over there....

I recently took a vacation to London. It is a place I have always wanted to visit and truth be told I would kill to live there. While I was there I toured all the usual places and sites. I saw some amazing plays. One in particular, WAR HORSE, deals indirectly with tonight's topic. I recommend this play to anyone. I was blown away and I'm a jaded theatre-goer. Moving and amazing. Trust me, dirty birdies.

 My guide, a funny man who was commended by the Queen for excellence in guiding, was a font of knowledge. I'm talking about the good stuff here guys. Juicy tidbits of historical cool sauce that we love here on History's Mistress. I thought I would share such a morsel with you tonight.

As many of you know, and many of you don't, the U.S.A didn't enter World War 1 at the very onset. Much like World War 2 we waited to enter the fray. World War 1 started in 1914 but the Yanks never made it across the pond until 1917. The causes of WWI are varied but the main one is considered to be the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. (Not the musical group but an Austro-Hungarian Duke killed in 1914)

Without boring you to death with all the nitty gritty details (which I love BTW) let me just say that the Germans were being bad. They wanted to control Europe. Remember this was all prior to Hitler. Some Historians theorize that Hitler was a result of the sanctions placed on Germany after WWI, but that's another blog. of the reason the U.S. finally entered the war was the sinking of the Lusitania, a British Luxury liner. 15 Americans were killed when a German U-Boat torpedoed the ship. This obviously heightened the tensions and got the Americans blood up. The other major impetus for us to enter the war was the Zimmerman Telegraph. This was an encoded message sent from the Germans to Mexico stating that if Mexico invaded the U.S. they would help in getting some of their land back (i.e. Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, and parts of California) The Brits managed to crack the code and warn us in time.

Now comes for the fun tidbit part. When the U.S. Troops landed on British soil and marched through London, the Brits were so excited (in other words really happy we were there) the troops were met with an up roaring of cheering. It was the first time that U.S. Troops had set foot on European Soil as well. Ready for the really cool part? Are you sure? It's really awesome. I think you should sit down. I'll wait....sitting down? OK, here goes.

When the U.S. Troops marched through London a flag was flying over the British Parliament Building. I know what you're thinking...big deal Oh Mistress of History. But it really was. The flag wasn't any old flag...It was the Stars and Stripes. That flag flying that day was the American Flag. And it is the only time a flag other then the Union Jack has ever been flown above Parliament. That flag has only 48 stars and is kept locked away in the Parliament building. Wicked right? See, I knew you like that. Do I ever steer you wrong?

WWI brought us some advances in warfare and intelligence..but that dirty birdies is a topic for another blog.

What I really came to understand when I was in London is the interconnected nature between our two nations. Now I know that Great Britain is the mother of our country in a way. But what really struck me, mainly through conversations with my guide about WWII and tours through Churchill's War Rooms(yet another topic for another day) was how important the U.S. was during the war effort and how important we are to our Allies. Britain is our greatest ally. I learned to understand why when I was roaming the streets of London. And I'm very glad I did.

I managed to find a very blurry but awesome sauce picture of that flag flying over Parliament. Enjoy, dirty birdies, and try to think on what an amazing sight it must have been back in 1917 with Doughboys in their uniforms so far from home looking up to see it there. So remember "Over there, over there, Send the word, send the word over there. That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming.....We'll be over, we're coming over, And we won't come back till it's over, over there."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Robin Hood and The Hero

I'm a writer first and foremost. It is the only thing I have truly wanted to do since I was about five years old. I can't imagine my life without my writing. So, although this is not America History, I'm going to share some of the research that went into my newest novel, THE HOODED MAN, that comes out tomorrow.

It is not Americam History per se but like any good legend we have borrowed it as our own for movies and television shows. Robin Hood. The Sherwood Outlaw. The Hooded Man. Who was Robin Hood? Was he a mere man made into myth by constant oral storytelling or a symbol of a much simpler time? One could say that he is an exciting mixture of both, a unique melding of myth, hero, and man. While the legend of Robin Hood is rooted in history, it is also a combination of human interest and pagan mythology. So once again we can ask who was that hooded man? 'Was he man, or spirit of the forest, like Robin Goodfellow or the Green Man?"

In many intellectual circles, Robin Hood has been thought to have been a real man named Robert Fiztooth, the Earl of Huntingdon. While the true identity of the legendary outlaw has been highly debated throughout academia, history and Hollywood, Fiztooth probably is the most widely accepted character for the mythical woodsman. Another alter-ego belonging to the English Rogue is Robin of Loxley, a Yorkshire fugitive. Yet another identity is that of a humble forester who was outlawed for killing a deer in the Royal forest. Perhaps Robin Hood was a composite of all the mediaeval forest outlaws of England. Never the less, Robert Fitztooth's grave at Kirklees is considered to be the burial place of Robin Hood. It is visited many times over by tourist every year, searching for Robin Hood.

Many other questions arise when people try to put Robin Hood in an accurate place in history, along some type of actual time line. Was he a knight in the crusades? Did he live in the reign of Richard the Lionhearted, Henry III, Edward I, II, or III? Many books, tales and movies place him in the highly tumultuous time of Richard, a time of great turmoil and skullduggery, thus making the villain he defeats Prince John. John's plans to take over the throne were thwarted by the return of King Richard from the crusades in March of 1194. In spite of this setback Prince John does actually ascend to the throne in 1199 when he returns to England after his five year exile. So if there was really a man by the name of Robin Hood, he did not stop John from becoming King as many movies suggest. He only succeeded in slowing him down a bit. In his bid for the throne, John was indirectly responsible for advanced poverty and low public moral. These factors have contributed to the creation of Robin Hood.

John himself was not really all that terrible. He wasn't a bad or weak king; he was just king at the wrong time. His father Henry II and his brother Richard left him a rocky foundation of a kingdom. John did encourage some of the more powerful nobles to use military strength to gobble up more land and property, while he turned a blind eye, in the hopes that they would support him in his quest for king. In the end, the nobles did not support him and all John achieved was to allow the nobles the opportunity to see how powerful they really were, which caused the destruction of the Magna Carta. On the other hand, John does have a reputation for standing up from himself against all comers, but he did not have any redeeming or very loveable qualities, which helped historians and Hollywood, paint him in a sinister light.

If Robin was not a human, perhaps he was a "God." From the pagan standpoint, Robin of the Hood is connected to the Green Man. The Green man, according to the Celtic Pantheon of Gods, is Cernunnos, the God of Vegetation and fertility. Cernunnos is also the Lord of the Trees. The oak tree is sacred to Cernunnos. "The Green Man represents the male aspect of nature." Robin is consistently described as wearing Lincoln green and living in the forest. In Sherwood Forest there stands a mighty oak tree simply called The Major Oak. The tree is believed to be the meeting place for Robin Hood and his merry men. "The gargoyle-like carvings of the Green Man show a human face almost completely camouflaged by leaves." Robin has an uncanny ability to blend in with his surroundings, becoming part of the forest, much like the Green man.

The Green Man has two personas, the Holly Lord and the Oak Lord. The Holly Lord, or "old man winter", dies at Beltane and is reborn as the Oak Lord, or "baby new year". He then marries the May Queen. The horned God aspect of the Green Man is just another form of Herne. Herne is the Celtic hunter god. He is most often portrayed with stag's horns sprouting from his head. In many of the original gestes, or tales, Robin is referred to as Herne's son. This approach is taken many centuries later in the popular British television show, Robin of Sherwood. "It seems likely that Llew's [a Celtic sun god] mediaeval successor, Red Robin Hood was once also worshiped as a stag."

"Robin's weapons and tools are laden with pagan significance." Robin Hood is the best archer in all of England. In this way Robin can be seen as another type of manifestation of Herne, God of the hunt. Herne's sacred creature is the stag. In one of the most famous stories of Robin Hood, the outlaw enters Nottingham Castle with a stag thrown over his shoulders and tosses it on to a banquet table in front of the Prince, flaunting his disdain at the nobles the whole time. This scene alone made Errol Flynn as legendary as Robin himself. Many believed the forester identity came about from the killing of a stag in the Royal Forest. Laws of the Forest were strictly enforced, especially around 1200 to 1350. These laws prohibited any one not of royal blood to hunt in certain forests, Sherwood being one of them. If Robin Hood was in all actuality Robert Fiztooth, this would not have been a problem for the Earl, because he was royal blood. The episode of killing the stag as the main factor in Robin turning outlaw points more toward him being a forester, guardian or yeoman or the forest, then a nobleman. Also Foresters were there to prevent the wholesale destruction of the land. According to an old historical account several foresters were outlawed for poaching in the very forests they were to protect.

The May Queen is the main character, the leader, at Beltane. Beltane, which means Bel's fire and is held on May 1st, "marks the beginning of the summer, and the light half of the Celtic year." The May Queen takes over as head of the festival and summons the Holly Lord to her. Then her handmaidens kill him, which transforms him into the Oak Lord. Maid Marian may be the Christianized version of the May Queen. She loves Robin and in the final gestes, or ballads, of Robin Hood she marries him in the Greenwood Wedding, much in the same way that the May Queen marries the Oak Lord at Beltane.

Another figure Maid Marian may represent is that of the Virgin Mary. She is equated with the virgin by the simple fact that she is clearly Robin's "lover" yet she remains a maid, or virgin at all times. She retains this title in both her name and her reputation. Robin is devoted to the Virgin Mary in the well known versions of the ballads. He is equally devoted to Marian. He follows a fierce code of chivalry never harming a woman, which extends to Marian. On the other hand Robert Graves, in his book The White Goddess, states that "Marian is not even faithful to Robin." Graves argues that during the dark time of the year, the time preceding Beltane, she becomes the mistress of his rival, The Sheriff of Nottingham. In this aspect Marian is a symbol of the Lady of Misrule who is celebrated during Twelfth Night.

Considering the state of social acceptance of women in the mediaeval time period, Marian plays a very active role in the stories. She is never ridiculed for following her lover into the forest and living as the only woman among male outlaws. In one much later ballad Robin and Marian, in disguise, engage in sword play and knock each other about for awhile before they realize their mistake. The art of battle was not something women were encouraged to know, yet it is perfectly acceptable for Robin Hood's consort. Although she does not appear in many of the surviving ballads she is key to the legend.

Another legend that Robin Hood may be associated with is that of Puck. William Shakespeare used the character of Puck, giving him the name Robin Goodfellow as well, in his play A Midsummer Night's Dream. Although Shakespeare, who may have been influenced by the Welsh Pwca, refers to Puck using both names, Robin Goodfellow and Puck are in all actually two separate creatures. Now however, they are considered the same character. Puck was a shape-shifter. Robin Goodfellow was a master of disguise. Both had an uncanny ability to give travelers a hard time, much like Robin Hood. Shakespeare's drinking buddy and fellow writer Ben Johnson even used the Robin Goodfellow character in his unfinished Robin Hood play, The Sad Shepherd. "Since the Robin Goodfellow ballads appear later then the Robin Hood ones, it's possible that the faerie may have taken his name from the outlaw-not the other way around."

We all know Sherwood Forest to be the place Robin Hood calls home. But many tales place him in Barnsdale. Still another is Loxley in Yorkshire, thought to be the traditional birthplace of our hero. His central base of operation is the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest. This one thousand year old tree is still standing to this day. If Robin is not so closely associated with the Green Man of pagan life, would this tree, an oak tree, be as sacred to him?

Mythology is not the only place that manifests different types of "Robin Hoods." Literature has several versions of the tales under different names. The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy is yet another re-telling of the Robin Hood stories. Sir Percival Blakeney even wears "Blakeney Green." While he does not rob from the rich and give to the poor, he does save several poor souls from the guillotine. The Pimpernel acts almost in a reverse of Robin Hood. Sir Percy "steals" the rich aristocrats out from under the noses of the poor French mob. He is an eighteenth century Robin Hood. He must win the love of his wife, Marguerite, whose name happens to be the French variation of Marian or Mary. Marguerite is just as spirited as Maid Marian, maybe even more so. And the villainous Chauvelin is constantly trying to seduce her, much like the Sheriff in several Hollywood versions of Robin Hood.

Another exciting literary outlaw is Zorro. First created in 1919 by the writer Johnston McCulley, Zorro is the Hispanic version of Robin Hood. Don Diego Vega, a man of noble birth, fights for the people of Los Angeles against the evil Alcalde. The Alcalde of the Zorro stories is very much like the traditional Sheriff of Nottingham. In The Adventures of Zorro, the wealthy land owners seek the protection of the Alcalde. He in turn uses them in his bid to be governor, much the same way John used the nobles. The peasants are then made to suffer with outrageous taxes to pay. Don Diego protects the peasants from this "terrible" government by assuming the identity of El Zorro or the fox. "He is simultaneously wise, brave, charming, cunning, and romantic. Zorro has true cross-generational appeal, with four generations around the world having grown up with the character." Both The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Adventures of Zorro carry many of the same themes and characteristics of the original Robin Hood tales.

How do people deal with hardship, by creating a hero. Any hero can be looked on as a bastardization of Robin Hood. Super heroes and everyman characters that are endearing in our minds can be broken apart to show their similarity to the mythical Green man of Sherwood. Robin Hood could be compared to Captain America doing war times in The United States. Robin, dashing and full of adventure, fought off the "Evil Prince John" in efforts to protect the English crown. The monarchy, while mainly a figurehead with no real politic power, is something viewed as sacred. When their monarch is threatened, the English people take is personally. Captain America fought Nazis, protecting the American way of life. Throughout history humanity has always needed a hero.

Who was that hooded man? Great debate has continued through out the ages looking for historical basis as well as mythical proof as to the existence of Robin Hood. Did a single man live to take on the tyranny of injustice or was he something more?

Robin Hood is a hero for all ages. He and his legend have enthralled us for centuries and it will continue to do so for many more to come.

Friday, September 14, 2012


This being a blog about American History, I felt the need to post the trailer for the upcoming movie "Lincoln"
From the trailer we can see the bevy of amazing actors in this film. One personal favorite is Hal Holbrook. I am very excited to see him in there and kudos to Speilberg for utilizing the veteren actor. Holbrook has played Lincoln on numerous occasions to great aplomb and winning awards for his portrayals.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it

How many of you have seen the movie Mary Poppins? Come on, show of hands. I’ll wait. For those of you who haven’t you’ve been living under a rock and you’re weirdos. There I said it. Well for those of you who have then you must remember the mother singing around the house talking about Women’s Votes.  When you’re five or six or seven, the song is just a catchy little ditty you can sing along with just like Spoonful of Sugar. As I grew older, and my obsession with American History and Women’s Rights grew like wildflowers, I began to understand what the song was really about. (Honestly my first real comprehensible introduction to Suffrage was a young adult romance I read around the age of 12 called Laura. She was a 16 year old girl who lived in D.C. during the time and had to decide which boy she loved. Of course she chose the one who supported her suffrage work. I think I still have the book on my shelf…)
In our history women did not get the right to vote, or essentially be equal to men, until around 1920 when the nineteenth amendment was passed. It was a hard fought struggle. (In some ways we are still fighting. see the Equal Pay Act, see all the bullshit talk about a woman’s reproductive rights being spewed in the news today.) One woman who fought harder and stronger was Alice Paul.
Paul was born in 1886 on a 256 acre farm named Paulsdales to Quaker parents. The most enduring legacy of Paulsdale was the role it played in the suffrage movement. Alice learned many of her Women’s Equality beliefs at Paulsdale. Her mother, Tacie Paul, was a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and held many of the meetings at the Paulsdale.

Alice had a Quaker background which also added to her belief that men and women are equal. A
brilliant woman as well as being an amazing role model, Alice graduated first in her class from Swarthmore College.

After college Alice travelled to England. There is transformed herself from reserved Quaker girl to militant suffragist. In 1907, when heading to study social work at the Woodbrooke Settlement, she passed a crowd jeering a female speaker. She stopped to observe. Alice was immediately taken over by the suffragette cause, however this was a different type equality protest then she was used to. The English Suffragettes resorted to more severe measures in their quest for the vote. They broke windows, heckled passersby’s, throw rocks, and were arrested any chance they could. In prison they staged hunger strikes. The women were forcibly fed, many times by brutal methods. But all the hard work paid off. In 1910 women were awarded the vote in England.

But what about America? Well you see, dear blog minions, America has always been a little slow on the equal rights front. In 1910, Alice returned home imbued with the radical taste of the English suffrage movement, ready to do battle for her American sisters.

In 1912, a massive parade was organized to coincide with President Wilson’s inauguration. It began on March 3, 1913 (The date of January 20th as presidential inauguration date didn’t come about until 1937 with the introduction of the 20th amendment) and started out well enough until the ladies encountered scores of male onlookers who attacked the women. First they flirted (hey baby, you don’t need to vote just make me dinner) then it turned to obscenities. It didn’t take long for the men to start physically attacking the women as the police watched (remember that the modern day rape and domestic violence laws didn’t come into effect until 1985) The rioting and violence turned the Suffrage Movement into a popular discussion topic among politicians and the general public.

Now we are into the World War 1 years. I don’t want to say that the movement was derailed by the war effort, but it was definitely pushed aside a bit. Not by Paul and the NAWSA, but many believed that the protests were unpatriotic, especially since the suffragists would picket, silently, outside the White House with incendiary signs and such. When the President ordered us to war he figured the women would simply go away. They did not. So he had them arrested on trumped up charges like obstructing traffic. Alice demanded that they be treated as political prisoners and staged hunger strikes as she did in England. She was moved to a sanitarium in the hopes that the officials could get her declared her insane, where they could then lock her up forever, if she was lucky. When news of the strikes and the horrible conditions and treatment of the women reached the press, the public demanded their release.

Upon the release of the women, Paul included, Wilson changed his stance on the suffrage amendment. (Order women arrested and beaten and people start to dislike you). By 1919, the House and the Senate passed the 19th Amendment, finally ratifying it on August 18 1920 and granting Women the right to vote. (Tennessee was the only hold out until 1920, refusing to ratify the amendment. The vote that turned the tide for Tennessee came from Harry Burn, 24 and the youngest member of the assembly for the state. He was going to vote no until he received a telegram from his mom telling him to vote yes. She probably threatened to kick his ass if he voted no. Go Momma Burn)

Alice Paul continued to fight for equality for women until her death in 1977, never stopping in her desire for all Americans to be equal and free.

So to my lady readers I ask you to remember Alice Paul’s sacrifice and struggle as you move through your daily lives and certainly when you head to the voting booth in November. We owe much to her and all her counterparts. To my male readers…never underestimate the power of women.

We’ll surprise…and the kick your ass.

This video is just plain awesome. It is from the people over at Soomo Publishing. They make amazing history centered videos. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It is always the quiet ones

We’ve talked about Jack the Ripper, who is arguably considered the first serial killer, and the deaths of Thelma Todd and Marilyn Monroe so murder and mayhem are not an uncommon topics here at History’s Mistress.  Today we will talk about an American serial killer. Not Ted Bundy or Jeffery Dahmer but a man named Richard Chase. Chase was known as the Vampire of Sacramento and the Dracula Killer. (This is the point in the blog where I tell you all I was going to write about a man named Albert Fish who was a serial killer in the 1900s in NYC, who was known as the Boogey Man and the Werewolf of Wysteria. That was until I read about him. I cannot unread what I have read and will likely have nightmares from it.)  

Chase was a nutbar of the highest caliber. He claimed to have been abused by his mother at an early which led to him develop psychological problems that fall into the MacDonald Triad. (I had no idea what this was until I read about Chase.) It means he suffered from Enuresis, Pyromania, and Zoosadism all at the same time. He claimed his cranial bones were moving around in his skull so he shaved his head to watch it happen…like you do. He was constantly high on LSD and other drugs and drunk out of his skull. Probably to kill the mental problems. Didn’t help.

At first he would kill, disembowel and capture various animals sometimes eating them raw other times mixing them with Coke in a blender. (Grossed out yet?) In 1975 he was institutionalized after injecting rabbit’s blood into his veins.  He was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and given drugs. Now, I know what you’re thinking….why and how did he get out?? He was deemed safe and given into the custody of his mother…who promptly stopped giving him the meds and made him move out.  

In December of 1977, Chase took his first human victim. It was drive-by shooting of 51 year old father, Ambrose Griffin. He then claimed 5 more victims. All shooting deaths.

In January of 1978 he surprised Teresa Wallin in her home, shooting her three times. Now here comes the part that earned him the name “Vampire of Sacramento” Chase engaged in Necrophilia with Wallin…who was 3 months pregnant, as well as cannibalism.

Four more victims happened in one house. He entered the home of 38 year old Evelyn Miroth and shot her friend Danny Meredith with his .22 caliber. He then rampaged through the house killing Miroth, her 6 year old son, and her 22 month old nephew.  With Miroth’s body, Chase engaged in the same acts as with Wallin’s.  Miroth’s son Jason, who had been out at a play date, came home startling Chase, who then ran from the house with the nephew’s body. The police found bloody shoe prints and handprints around the house; helping them to identify him as the killer.

The police also followed the lead of a 20 something woman who had gone to high school with Chase. He had approached her car and she was wigged out by his appearance. He was gaunt, eyes sunken in, and had bloodstains on his clothes. When the police made the arrest, Chase has to be forcibly detained. A gun was found on site that matched the Miroth murders. They also found a 12 inch knife, some rubber boots, several blenders containing blood, and dishes in the fridge containing body parts. (I keep eggs and lettuce in my fridge) Later they found the mummified, decapitated remains of a baby. It was believed to be the body of Miroth’s nephew.

In 1979 he stood trial for the murders, six counts of murder to be exact. It all hinged on whether they found him crazy or if he premeditated the murders.  On May 8 the jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death by gas chamber. They didn’t care if he was crazy or not, they just wanted him dead. His fellow inmates were actually freaked the hell out by him and constantly tried to get him to commit suicide.

They succeeded.

On December 26, 1980 while a guard was checking on the cells Chase was found lying in an awkward lump on his bed, not breathing. The autopsy showed he had committed suicide by taking an overdose of anti-depressants which were doctor prescribed. He had been hoarding them for weeks.

I have always had a morbid obsession with serial killers and what makes them tick. I believe that part of our history is made up of the bad stuff and men like Chase, Dahmer, Fish, and Bundy are truly the bad stuff.  While it is vile and sadistic and most of us won’t ever understand and may even want to sweep under the rug and hide it from view, this is part of our history.

The film, Rampage, is loosely based on Chase’s crimes as well as episodes of CSI and Criminal Minds.

Monday, August 13, 2012

There is a Bedioun Guard on the roof

So I spent the weekend in Los Angeles.  The City of Angels is one of my favorite places because of all the Hollywood history, the movie industry and the beach…and my wonderful friends who live there.  My friends and I played tourist this weekend. In honor of that trip, today’s blog is going to cover some fun Hollywood History. Well one person in Hollywood’s history in particular. A person who seems to have gotten lost in the passage of time but should be a household name, at least with those of us cineastes.
Early on Saturday morning we piled into my friend Chris’s neat-o electric car, it’s a leaf, and headed out to tour Grauman’s Egyptian Theater. (I just like saying my friend Chris drives a leaf…it’s like he’s Queen Mab’s boyfriend or something. Yes, I’m a geek and yes I made a bad joke. Deal) We parked the car and hoofed it down Hollywood Blvd to the Egyptian, stepping on the Walk of Fame Stars of such celebrities like Dolly Parton and Bob Hope.  
Grauman’s Egyptian is one of the oldest movie houses in the city. It first opened in 1922 with the world premiere, the very first world premiere to be exact, of ROBIN HOOD starring Douglas Fairbanks. (Those of you who know me will understand the epic geek out I had at the mention of this title…my friend Megan just shook her head at me…then took my picture and posted it on Facebook.) Our tour guide, an older gentleman who thought he was the funniest guy since Danny Kaye, proceeded to tell us some of the titles of films that had played there over the years. It got me thinking about the men and women who helped shape the Film Industry.

One such person is Lois Weber. Lois was truly a woman ahead of her time. She has become known as “one of the most important and prolific directors of the silent film era.” Did I mention she was a woman?? In a time when women were for the most part supposed to be barefoot, blissfully uneducated, and in the kitchen, here was Lois Weber standing side by side with the greats of the film industry like D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin.

Lois was born in 1879 in Pennsylvania. She was considered a child prodigy and an excellent pianist. She played music and sang, touring the country as a concert pianist. It wasn’t until 1904 that Lois took up acting. On the advice of an uncle in Chicago, she moved to New York to pursue the stage. For the next four years she was a stock player and repertory actress. (For those of you out there in the blogsphere who have no idea what that means, basically she would play parts like human prop #4 or girl in the back with a bowl of grapes)  She wrote in her spare time. Sang for her supper. Got Married. And then…moved to Los Angeles.

1910, Lois and her husband Wendell Smalley, an actor, moved to L.A. to take part in the fledgling movie industry. She starred in a film called Hypocrites, which she also wrote. What makes Hypocrites so special is it contains the very first full frontal female nude scene in film history. Yep, a movie made in 1915 holds this distinction. (I better you are all rethinking how you viewed people from the ‘olden days’ now aren’t you.) Also she wrote and starred in a film called, Where Are My Children, another controversial film which dealt with abortion and birth control…in 1916.
Lois was the first person to adapt a Tarzan novel for the movies. She is also credited with discovering people like Mildred Harris, Billie Dove, and screenwriter Frances Marion.  During her career she directed over 200 to 400 films. An exact count is not available because many of these films are lost and records have been destroyed, misplaced, or complete lost to time. Only about 20 of these films remain to this day. (Silent film era movies deteriorated badly over the years and many of what we would consider classics of the genre have been lost to the ages. If you take the tour of the theatre, the incredibly knowledge projectionist will tell you the details as to why they did.) She wrote over 114 and acted in 100. She was one of the first directors to come to the attention of the censors (Must be the naked chicks in her films and her controversial topics) Lois made only one talkie in her entire career and then faded from the flicking light beam of the movie world.  In 1932 she tried a final comeback of sorts after being hired by Universal as a script doctor. She was also a talent scout at that time. In 1933 she was offered a new directing contract for the film Glamour, but she was removed from the project abruptly. There are no records as to why.

Her final film, and her only talkie, White Heat was first shown on NBC in 1940. It is considered a lost film has no known copies exist.
In 1939, Weber passed. Her funeral was attended by over 300 people. Her death was largely overlooked though, garnering two brief paragraphs in Variety and even less in the Los Angeles Examiner. Gossip Columnist Hedda Hopper gave her a much better send off in her column. She was cremated at the Los Angeles Crematory. The location of her remains are unknown. It seems she is lost to time as many of her films are.  In 1960 she was awarded a star on the Walk of Fame at 6518 Hollywood Blvd.

Here was a woman who defied convention and become of the most prolific director, screenwriter, and producer of her time, not to mention of the highest paid earning about $50,000 a picture. (In the midst of the Great Depression and all that entails was a ridiculous amount!) When most women were standing in the kitchen with a baby on their hip, Lois Weber was breaking down barriers and crossing boundaries.  Yet, she is hardly ever mentioned in Hollywood History books or documentaries.  
There more I research topics for this blog, the more I find history appealing. There is so much out there that is not in the books. Search for it and you’ll be amazing by what you find.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Foxy Man...I think I love you...

I like to watch the movie The Patriot every Fourth of July even though it is horribly inaccurate and Mel Gibson is crazier than a road lizard. The character he plays is called Benjamin Martin and is a larger than life almost savior like man. Rambo with a musket and bad ponytail. In all actuality the character is loosely based on a real man, a hero of the Revolutionary war, Frances Marion known as the “Swamp Fox.”

Marion is known as the one of fathers of guerilla warfare. During the war, Marion joined the troops of Major General Horatio Gates a little bit ahead of the Battle of Camden. Gates couldn’t stand Marion so he sent the man to take command of the Williamsburg Militia. Marion was to undertake the scouting of missions and try to slow the British down some after that battle. (The term lambs to a slaughter comes to mind) Marion ended up missing the battle because he was sent away. He did however manage to intercept and recapture about 150 Maryland prisoners, plus 20 British guards heading back to Charleston. The prisoners, now free, thought the war was already lost to the British so they deserted from the ranks of Marion.

Marion proved to be skilled at leading the irregular militiaman. Basically this means the guys who were a bit too rough and tumble for the Continental Army (Not the goody goody boys, but the down and dirty alpha men) served Marion will. Most did so without pay, supplied their own horses and arms, and often their own food.  Some may have felt the greater call for the cause of freedom from tyranny. Others probably just wanted to fight.

Marion rarely allowed his men to serve in the frontal attacks but preferred to fight from behind in sneak attacks, using the environment as a tool, and disregarding the rules of war as a means to fight his foes. Marion, as well as others in the Continental Army, understood that standing in a line facing each and firing weapons was not going to end up well for either party involved. Thus guerilla warfare was born for the American fighters.

The most fascinating fact about Marion, at least for me, is how he is viewed by the two sides of the fray. When the movie The Patriot came out, the news reported that the legend of Frances Marion and the Swamp Fox was revitalized for a new generation. Interest among Americans grew. People wanted to know about his exploits. However, on the other side of the pond the news media and prominent historians called him a terrorist and a rapist.

Marion never won any major battles, never led an army in a major battle, and never commanded a large army. Nevertheless, He is one of the Revolutionary War’s most intriguing and enduring characters. Because of Marion’s cunning and determination the cause of American independence was kept alive in the South.

In 1959 Disney produced a TV show called “The Swamp Fox” starring Leslie Nielson. (Yep, that Leslie Nielson. The one from Naked Gun and Police Squad – although my favorite Leslie Nielson vehicle is Forbidden Planet.) It was part of the Wonderful World of Disney. You can check out some of the episodes on YouTube if you’re so inclined. Just remember it is even more inaccurate then The Patriot. Disney referred to him as the Robin Hood of the Revolutionary War.

Keep stopping by during the week for all sorts of Revolutionary War fun and facts. Plus, one random commenter over the course of the week will receive an E-book copy of Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell or Drift by Rachel Maddow. It will be winner’s choice. Make sure you leave your email for me in the comments and which book you’d prefer if you win. Winner will be chosen on July 8th, the one year anniversary of History’s Mistress Blog. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

To celebrate here are a colelction of vidoes I trolled up at YouTube that are wickedly cool about American History.

                                                             Eat it, King George.


We hold these truths to be self evident...

On this day we declare....

Keep stopping by during the week for all sorts of Revolutionary War fun and facts. Plus, one random commenter over the course of the week will receive an E-book copy of Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell or Drift by Rachel Maddow. It will be winner’s choice. Make sure you leave your email for me in the comments and which book you’d prefer if you win. Winner will be chosen on July 8th, the one year anniversary of History’s Mistress Blog.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On the Village Green

I’m sure many of you have heard the term “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” It has been used in sports, Hollywood movies, and news media. The phrase has even been associated historically with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the event that started World War I. However the phrase is an American one.
The Shot Heard ‘Round the World as a phrase is the opening line of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” which was published around 1837. It refers to the standoff between British soldiers and local militia in Lexington.
So…we talked about Paul Revere’s wild ride in an earlier blog. The events of Lexington and Concord are connected to Mr. Revere and his jaunt across the village greens.
Here’s the deal. Britain’s General Gage had a secret plan (a stupid not well thought out one but a plan none the less). He wanted to capture Sam Adams and John Hancock thinking this would demoralize the feisty colonists who had been shouting about independence. After taking the two men, the red coated general wanted his men to then seize Concord. You see my dearies; Concord was home to a nice supply of gunpowder used by the militia. Friends and spies for the Americans cause leaked the word of the plan. So off went Paul and his compatriots, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott to warn everyone, especially Hancock (yep the big signature guy) and Adams (the beer guy). Don’t capture those guys, we need them.
Word quickly spread (well as quickly as you can, riding like a bat out of hell on the back of horse) between towns and the militias prepared to confront the British (Technically we were British too at this time, but moot point) and help their neighbors Lexington and Concord. The militias had been created by colonists to actually fight against the Natives and the French and were commonly called the Minutemen. This meant they could theoretically be ready to fight in a minutes notice. (I know what you’re thinking and get your minds out of the gutter. Not THAT kind of minutemen, you dirty birdies.)
So when the advance guard of General Gage’s army showed up, all 240 of them, they found about 70 minutemen formed on the Green. The men on both sides just kind of stood there and stared each other down, each hesitant to start stuff. Suddenly out of the blue, a bullet buzzed through the air.

It was “the shot heard ‘round the world"

The British managed to kill about 7 colonists on the Green and then marched off to Concord with new regiments who had joined in. The British had superior numbers hence the causalities on the American side. However things were not so easy for the “lobster tails” when they reached Concord. The militia men managed to thwart them.  The redcoats turned and ran, only to be intercepted by more militia. We fought guerilla style, shooting from behind fences and trees. The causality count for the Brits by the end of the skirmish was well over 125 and included several officers. The fight and gumption of the colonists surprised both sides honestly.

The battle of Lexington and the “shot heard ‘round the world” marked a turning point in American history. While it happened in 1775 prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the event fanned the fires for freedom seekers. The British had shed American blood on American soil.

After the battle, Lord Percy, who led the British back into Boston after the defeat at Concord, wrote to London…”Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob will be much mistaken.” Translation – Watch out, the colonists are serious and they fight dirty.

So now you know the story of “the shot heard ‘round the world.” It was the unofficial day we said enough is Enough. No one knows who fired the shot or which side but it will continue to be one of the most important turning points in American History.

If you want to hear an amazing song that captures the feeling of the day check out "Mama, Look Sharp" from the Musical 1776.

Keep stopping by during the week for all sorts of Revolutionary War fun and facts. Plus, one random commenter over the course of the week will receive an E-book copy of Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell or Drift by Rachel Maddow. It will be winner’s choice. Make sure you leave your email for me in the comments and which book you’d prefer if you win. Winner will be chosen on July 8th, the one year anniversary of History’s Mistress Blog.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fourth of July Fun Facts and Contest!

It’s Independence week here on History’s Mistress. So to get the festivities into full gear let’s play what I like to call Fourth of July Myths debunked. Come on, you know you want to play! I can tell.  

There are five major myths about the Fourth of July that most people have embraced over the years, decades, and centuries. I’ve rarely seen them corrected in history class or in casual conversation (of course who other than freaky History geeks like myself would bring this stuff up in casual conversation. Imagine sitting at the bar, fruity clich├ęd drink grasped firmly in your hand as you gaze at the hot tamale next you and say…”Hey, baby, let me tell you about John Adams and the Continental Congress.” The sheer sexiness in the statement would inflame their lust and you’d have to do it against a wall…It could happen)

Number 1, and possibly the biggest myth or misconception surrounding the Fourth of July is that Independence was declared on the Fourth of July. It wasn’t.  America actually declared independence from those tea drinking Nancy boys on July 2nd,  1776 (The first vote occurred today – July 1st)  In the Pennsylvania Evening Post, on the night of the second, was published a statement that read “This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.” Cool, huh? On July 3rd, John Adams – a major player in the fight for independence and our second president – sent a letter to his wife Abigail about the signing. “But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.” (If you’re so inclined the letters that passed between Abby and John can be found collected in any number of books. They make great reading for two reasons; you get a bird’s-eye view of the struggle for independence and a glimpse into an amazing love affair.)

On to myth number 2. The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th.  Nope, wrong again. The Declaration, which you can view when you travel to the National Archives in Washington D.C (which I did and when I saw it and the Constitution, I got a little misty eyed. Do not judge me or there will be no presents at the end of the week) was signed by August 2nd when a clean copy was finally produced by the assistant to the secretary of the congress, Timothy Matlack.  Most delegates signed it that day, some waited for months later to finally add their names. The names of the delegates who signed weren’t even released to the public until January 1777.

Number 3 and one of my personal favorites is that the Liberty Bell rang for American Independence. We’ve all seen the movies where the adorable moppet of a boy runs into Independence Hall and rings the bell for freedom, truth, justice and the American way…oh wait that last part was Superman. It’s a cute story and a great marketing ploy for Philly, but it likely never happened that way. The Bell may have been rung, but no one took note of it. In fact the Liberty Bell isn’t even named for the Revolutionary War. The name Liberty Bell didn’t even occur until around 1830 when abolitionists used the bell as a symbol of their cause. Personally, I think the Liberty Bell did in fact ring on July 2nd but it was most likely one of many. And the crack, not from ringing in freedom. No one really knows how the bell cracked but we do know that it happened somewhere between 1817 and 1846.

“Hey Oh Mistress of History, Betsy Ross sewed the first flag didn’t she?” I’m so glad you asked imaginary blog reader who lives in my head from time to time. No she didn’t and now we have myth number 4.  The story goes that General Washington came to Betsy and asked her to sew the very first symbol of our freedom, requesting six stars. Betsy told Wooden Teeth that five were easier to cut out and stitch. He relented. All bunk. Seriously there is no historical evidence to support any of this, but don’t tell the nice folks who work at the Betsy Ross House in Philly…you might get hurt. Just saying.  We don’t know who sewed the first flag but we do know who designed it. Frances Hopkinson. (Betcha never heard that name before. Google it…go ahead…I’ll give you a minute…done? Cool) Still makes a good story right?

Ok so this one is not a myth but it is still a cool piece of America trivia. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – the idea man and the writer – both died on July 4th, 1826. Story goes that Adams on his deathbed uttered the words "Jefferson survives" which would have been especially moving since Jefferson had died a few hours earlier. Most likely he never said this.

So there you have it, some fun misconceptions about the Fourth of July. Keep stopping by during the week for all sorts of Revolutionary War fun and facts. Plus, one random commenter over the course of the week will receive an E-book copy of Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell or Drift by Rachel Maddow. It will be winner’s choice. Make sure you leave your email for me in the comments and which book you’d prefer if you win. Winner will be chosen on July 8th, the one year anniversary of History’s Mistress Blog.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dead Men Tell No Tales....

Musket balls are flying. Grenades are exploding. Pirates, screaming and snarling, board the merchant ship, swinging cutlasses cutting men down wily nily. No, we are not trapped in yet another sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean. We are aboard the ship of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Her name, the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Now I know that Blackbeard isn’t technically American History but in a way he is. Blackbeard made his home base in North Carolina (Of course it was around 1716 so North Carolina was still a British colony but cut me some slack. Pirates are cool.)

Teach was born in Britain around 1690. As a young man he served on a privateer ship that was based in Jamaica. Privateers are basically pirate ships with the government of one country supporting them. Teach’s ship was British which meant they were backed by Queen Anne (Who was known as Brandy Nan because she was a bit of lush and according to a very funny tour guide I once had in London built a little bit like a box. Four feet tall and four feet wide.) That meant they could loot and plunder French and Spanish ships. By the time Teach left the Navy at the end of the War of Spanish Succession he was an experienced sea robber.

Blackbeard soon rose to the rank of Captain aboard the ship he sailed, one he had stolen with the help of fierce Caribbean Pirates (Pirates of the Caribbean? Been to Disneyland one too many times Captain Ron?) As his power and reputation grew…so did good old Blacky’s beard and hair. He took to calling himself Blackbeard, braiding his beard and tying it with black ribbons. He stuffed burning rope under his hat to make himself fiercer, and to have his own personal fog machine I guess. (Pirate fashion sense was not that great. You know, since they tended not to bathe all that much)

By the fall of 1718, the townspeople of Virginia, and probably just about every other person except his crew on the face of the earth, was tired of his murdering thieving ways. Blackbeard was the most feared, most dangerous, and most deadly pirate to every live. Seriously NOT A NICE GUY. When he returned to his base off of Orcacoke Island, Blackbeard planned a huge pirate party. (I would hate to have been a chick anywhere near this shindig. It would have been bad.)

The Governor of Virginia spent the next two weeks plotting how to stop Blackbeard. He sent two sloops to the island commanded by Lt. Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy. The sloops chased Blackbeard and his ship down a narrow channel between the beach and an almost invisible sandbar. One sloop crashed into the sandbar because they had no idea it was there. Blackbeard and Myanard’s ships edged close together, with the British soldiers hiding below decks with weapons drawn. (Think a seaworthy Trojan Horse.) Blackbeard ordered his men to lobe grenades at the ship, thinking it was deserted. Then he ordered her boarded. When the pirates boarded the ship, Maynard’s men rushed from below and the battle began.

Maynard and Blackbeard faced off mano-e-mano. Both fired with Teach missing but Maynard’s shot hitting his mark. Teach managed, despite, having a hole in his chest, to swing his cutlass and snap Maynard’s blade. As Blackbeard raised his arm to finish off the British commander, a sailor came up behind and slashed Blackbeard’s throat.

As a warning to other pirates, Blackbeard’s head was cut off and suspended from the bow of Maynard’s sloop. The secret location, if there even is one, of Blackbeard’s treasure has never been revealed.
Two interesting trivia bits about Blackbeard (at least I think they are and this my freaking blog)

1. His ship has never been found. Researchers have searched and searched for the Queen Anne’s Revenge but it has never been confirmed that any of the wrecks they have found have been her. I think she’s still out there somewhere.
2. He was not the most successful pirate. That would be Black Bart Rogers, a contemporary, who captured hundreds of ships. Also Henry Avery took a single treasure ship worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in 1695, which was more than Blackbeard took in his whole career.

See sometimes real life is way cooler then the movies.