Archive for December, 2011

National Pepper Pot Day is a little-known holiday observed on December 29 each year in commemoration of a dish served to the Continental Army during the brutal winter of 1777, which George Washington spent with his soldiers in Valley Forge.  Supplies were scarce, and the army subsisted on a simple stew made of tripe, available vegetables, and peppercorns.  The stew became a staple family meal after the war concluded, and it is often known today as “Philadelphia Pepper Pot Soup.”  The following recipe is transcribed below:

A recipe for Pepper Pot, courtesy of Hudson River Valley Heritage.

After your sheep feet and belly is well clean’d and wash’d in salt and water cut the belly in small pieces, and put that and the feet in a kettle of cold water over a pretty good fire, when boiled tender put in your herbs, thyme onions parsley &cc and thicken it with a little flour, if you have any fragments mutton beef or pork, put them in, Potatoes, turnips or any other roots, add plenty of red pepper.

For more historic recipes, visit Opening History, which includes related collections such as Feeding America: the Historic American Cookbooks Project.

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On December 20, 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union after it became clear that Abraham Lincoln would become President of the United States of America.  South Carolina was the first of the southern states to secede, but it was followed by six others during the secession winter before Lincoln took office.  Together with Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, South Carolina founded the Confederate States of America.  In April 1861, the American Civil War began when Confederates attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

"Epitaph on the United States of America" presumably issued during the secession crisis of 1860-1861. Image courtesy of the University of South Carolina.

"The Secession Movement - Entrance Hall to an Hotel at Charleston, South Carolina" as depicted in The Illustrated London News. Image courtesy of the University of South Carolina.

The University of South Carolina has digitized 14 collections relating to the Civil War, including South Carolina and the Civil War, The Citadel and the American Civil War, and Reminiscences of the Sixties to name a few.  For a national perspective, visit the Opening History aggregation, which contains rich historical collections from across the country.

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On December 15, 1939, Gone with the Wind premiered at Loew’s Grand Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia.  For the three days leading up to the premiere, the city of Atlanta celebrated with parades, parties, and a costume ball.  The occasion was further marked when the governor, Eurith D. Rivers, declared the day of the premiere a state holiday.

View of the crowd of people outside Loew's Grand Theater for the premiere of the movie, Gone With the Wind in Atlanta, Georgia. Image courtesy of the Atlanta History Center Album.

In the midst of the celebrity gatherings and celebrations, there were some notable absences in the crowd.  No black actors from the film were allowed to attend due to Georgia’s Jim Crow laws.  Clark Gable threatened to boycott the premiere until Hattie McDaniel, the actress who played Mammy in the film, urged him to attend.  McDaniel did, however, attend the Hollywood premiere, and she was the first African-American to win an Academy Award for her role in the film.

View of author Margaret Mitchell arriving at the premiere of the movie Gone With the Wind outside the Loew's Grand Theater on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Image courtesy of the Atlanta History Center Album.

Opening History provides access to documents from this and other moments in film history.  The Atlanta History Center Album has a large collection entirely devoted to the premiere of Gone with the Wind and its subsequent anniversary celebrations.

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On December 9, 1962, the Petrified Forest National Monument was officially established as a national park.  The park extends over 146 square miles of northeastern Arizona and is named for its numerous fossils and petrified trees dating as far back as the Late Triassic period.  The Arizona Territorial Legislature had first requested that Congress grant the area national park status in 1895 when tourism and commercial interest in petrified wood were both on the rise.  In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act, and the area was first declared a national monument.

Five people stand on a petrified log forming a tree bridge in the Petrified Forest of Arizona, ca.1900. Image courtesy of the California Historical Society Digital Archive and hosted by the University of Southern California Special Collections.

Since 1962, the National Park Service has worked to protect the land for future generations, but petrified wood is regularly stolen. Approximately 12 short tons of petrified wood are taken off the land illegally each year.

Petrified Forest Nat'l Monument, Arizona, April 13, 1952. Image courtesy of the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection at Indiana University.

Discover more about this and other national parks at Opening History.  Many historic images of Petrified Forest National Park can be found through the California Historical Society Digital Archive, the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection at Indiana University, and the Library of Congress collection Panoramic Photographs: Taking the Long View, 1851-1991.

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