Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Liberty Is Not Anarchy


U.S. Has History of Banning Dangerous Immigrants

     In the early part of the 20th century an increasing number of Americans grew concerned about violent immigrants from Eastern Europe who harbored messianic beliefs about anarchism and communism.  This fear was inflamed when an anarchist (Leon Frank Czolgosz, a home grown terrorist whose parents had immigrated to Ohio) assassinated President William McKinley in 1901.
     After World War I, with a devastated Europe suffering economic and social upheaval, hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Eastern Europe headed for America.  It is said that there were over 150,000 anarchists and communists in the United States by 1919 (which represented only 0.1% of the overall population, a small but dangerous minority).


     A series of bomb explosions in 1919, including a failed attempt to blow up the Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, lead to a vigorous campaign against the communists. On New Year’s Day, 1920, over 6,000 people were arrested and put in prison.  In 1921, Congress passed the Emergency Immigration Act of 1921 which severely restricted immigration (new immigrants admitted fell from 805,000 in 1920 to 309,000 in 1921-22).  The 1921 act was made even tougher by the Immigration Act of 1924.  The purpose of this act was “to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity,” and, among other things, outright banned the immigration of Arabs.

     These tough immigration acts lasted until 1965 when they were replaced during the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson.



A brief look at the often overlooked stories of American history from colonial times to modern times, stories such as, the original Emancipation Proclamations, the plot to kill Martha Washington, terrorism in the Civil War, America’s plan to invade Canada in 1930, a planned coup against the president, and many others hidden tales.

Monday, November 30, 2015

George Washington and Billy Lee


George Washington bought William “Billy” Lee, his brother Frank and two other slaves in 1768.  Billy Lee was eighteen.  Frank became the butler at Mount Vernon, while Billy became Washington’s valet.  Billy also became the keeper of Washington’s pack of hunting dogs. 

Fox hunting was an important part of the social life of Virginia’s gentry, and Billy Lee distinguished himself as a huntsman at Washington’s side.  An eyewitness described Lee during a hunt, “Will, the huntsman, better known in Revolutionary lore as Billy, rode a horse called Chinkling, a surprising leaper, and made very much like its rider, low, but sturdy, and of great bone and muscle. Will had but one order, which was to keep with the hounds; and, mounted on Chinkling ... this fearless horseman would rush, at full speed, through brake or tangled wood, in a style at which modern huntsmen would stand aghast.” 


Washington took Billy Lee to war with him, where he served at Washington’s side for eight years.  After the war, between 1785-1789, Lee injured both of his knees and found himself back at Mount Vernon.  William Lee was freed under the terms of Washington’s will for, “his faithful services during the Revolutionary War”, and received a substantial pension for the remainder of his life and the option of remaining at Mount Vernon.  Lee lived on at Mount Vernon until his death in 1828.






Who were the slaves of the Founding Fathers? What do their individual stories tell us about the Founding Fathers as men?

Lincoln's Flying Spies

War presented special problems for the world of ladies’ fashion in the Confederacy, as is best described in the words of General James Longstreet:

“While we were longing for the (reconnaissance) balloons that poverty denied us, a genius arose... and suggested we.... gather silk dresses and make a balloon. It was done, and we soon had a great patchwork ship.... One day it was on a steamer down on the James River, when the tide went out and left the vessel and balloon high and dry on a bar. The Federals gathered it in, and with it the last silk dresses in the Confederacy.”






A quick look at women doctors and medicine in the Civil War for the general reader. Technologically, the American Civil War was the first “modern” war, but medically it still had its roots in the Middle Ages. In both the North and the South, thousands of women served as nurses to help wounded and suffering soldiers and civilians. A few women served as doctors, a remarkable feat in an era when sex discrimination prevented women from pursuing medical education, and those few who did were often obstructed by their male colleagues at every turn.





Cemetery Iconography

     Matters of life and death converge at a cemetery.  In death, the everyday distinctions of race, class and religion disappear.  Cemeteries are where the rich and poor, the young and the old, the famous and the not-so-famous come together in the end.
     Those who conceived the idea of the modern cemetery anticipated the movement for public parks.  Cemeteries provided the public with beautiful outdoor gathering spaces during a time when parks were scarce. Out of the movement to beautify cemeteries arose a custom of gathering in these new public spaces. Families picnicked near gravesites, and children played there. Somewhere along the way, this practice fell by the wayside.  The appreciation of cemeteries has made a comeback in the digital age.  Many genealogists have been using the Internet and GPS systems to locate the graves of long lost ancestors.  This renewed interest in cemeteries has spread to an interest in photographing tombstones, the growth of in-depth historical research, and even cemetery tourism.

     Historic cemeteries are a treasure trove of art, biography and philosophy, one’s last chance to shout out to posterity “This is who I was, this is what was important to me”.  Art, symbols and inscriptions are called upon to succinctly capture the essence of life in a beautiful and meaningful way.




Friday, November 20, 2015

The Beast of Gum Hill


     A Bristol man recently claimed that he and a hunting companion encountered a Bigfoot type beast near Gum Hill in Washington County.  The two came across a large figure sitting on a rock.  As the men approached, the figure rose, whistled and made other noise and then ran off.  The witness described its face as “Neanderthal.”
     For generations, there have been sightings of Bigfoot like creatures across America.  The legend grew in popularity in 1967, when two men in California filmed a huge and hairy beast in the woods, walking on two feet, and at one point turning directly toward the camera.  The film clip is known as the “Patterson-Gimlin film,’’ named for the men involved in the filming.  Over the years, the film has been surrounded by controversy, with many experts concluding that the subject captured on film is non-human, while others have judged it “a man in an ape suit.”
     In Virginia, a man named Billy Willard runs the Sasquatch Watch of Virginia http://www.sasquatchwatch.org/, a Bigfoot and wildlife scientific field research group.  The group conducts field investigations and field research of reported encounters or habitual recurring encounters of Bigfoot in Virginia.  Willard’s group has identified thirty eight counties in Virginia that have reported Bigfoot like sightings.
    This account from Spotsylvania County is typical of the type of sightings that the Sasquatch Watch of Virginia documents:

     “It was following a foxhunt and we were getting up hounds about the edge of dark. My husband, my granddaughter and I were on one side of the pond when suddenly I saw movement on the other side. I observed what appeared to be a 7 foot man in black walking slowly across the field towards the woods....I blinked to try to get a better focus while at the same time saying ‘what the hell is that?’ About that time my husband and granddaughter caught sight of it and my husband swung the truck around to try to get closer. He said ‘is it a bear?’ At this time the ‘thing’ started running, and when I say running I mean RUNNING! I have never seen such a large animal/person be able to run so swiftly nor so gracefully! It was almost as if it ‘glided’ across the ground. Upon realizing that a bear could never run like that on two legs we were baffled as to WHAT this ‘thing’ is. I have never seen anything like it before and if someone asked me to describe it the best way I can I would have to say it looked like a gorilla but was taller but leaner and much more graceful and swift.”





Mind bending stories from the Old Dominion. A collection of Virginia’s most notable Urban Legends, many include the true stories behind them.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Richmond Vampire


     According to this legend, a blood covered creature with jagged teeth and skin hanging from its’ body stalks Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.  Hollywood Cemetery is a likely place to encounter a vampire.  It is a large sprawling, Victorian era cemetery often called the Valhalla of the Confederacy since it is the final resting place of twenty five Confederate generals (including George Pickett of “Pickett’s Charge” and the dashing cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart) as well as the only Confederate States President, Jefferson Davis.

     The legend of the Richmond Vampire got started in 1925 after the collapse of the Church Hill Railway Tunnel.  The collapse outed a vampire.  A blood covered monster with jagged teeth and rotting, hanging skin emerged from the cave-in and raced toward Hollywood Cemetery.  Pursued by an angry mob, the creature fled into the hillside mausoleum of one W.W. Pool.  Curiously, the mausoleum of W.W. Pool has no birth date, just a death date, 1922, three years before the cave-in.  The mob found no sign of the monster, which had vanished, and which presumably still haunts the cemetery.  Certainly some people believe this, reporting sightings of paranormal orbs of light near the crypt to this day. 

     Researcher Gregory Maitland is not a believer.  Maitland discovered that the legend is based on the true story of the collapse of the Church Hill tunnel, without the vampire.  One living man emerged from the disaster that gobbled up a still unknown number of transient laborers.  That man was 28-year-old railroad fireman, Benjamin F. Mosby.  Mosby was horribly burned, several of his teeth were broken, and layers of his skin were hanging hideously from his body as he emerged from the collapse.  Mosby, in shock, headed toward the James River, in the general direction of Hollywood Cemetery.  Concerned onlookers overtook him and took him to Grace Hospital, where he later died from his injuries.  But the legend of the vampire lives on.



Mind bending stories from the Old Dominion. A collection of Virginia’s most notable Urban Legends, many include the true stories behind them.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Tomb of the Unknowns


Installation of the Sarcophagus for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (from World War I) is seen hereThe Tomb sarcophagus was dedicated on April 9, 1932.  The marble sarcophagus weighs seventy nine tons and is inscribed, “Here Lies in Honored Glory – An American Soldier – Known But to God”. In 1958, Unknown American soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were interred with the Unknown Soldier of World War I.  On August 3, 1956, President Eisenhower signed a bill to select and pay tribute to the Unknowns of World War II and the Korean War. The selection ceremonies took place in 1958. The World War II Unknown was selected from remains exhumed from cemeteries in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific.  The caskets of the World War II and Korean War Unknowns were interred beside their World War I comrade on May 30, 1958. The designation of the Vietnam Unknown has proven to be difficult. With improvements in DNA testing it is possible that the remains of every soldier killed in the Vietnam War and later conflicts will be identified.


A first person account of the Normandy campaign from D-Day + 1 to the liberation of Paris. 

War from the perspective of the average citizen soldier.

George Washington's Church in the Civil War (Pohick Church)


Pohick Church was the parish church of George Washington.  Established in 1724 it was the first permanent church in the colony of Virginia. The Reverend Lee Massey, Pohick's second Rector and a close friend of the Washingtons, once wrote: “I never knew so constant an attendant at Church as [Washington]. And his behavior in the house of God was ever so deeply reverential that it produced the happiest effect on my congregation, and greatly assisted me in my pulpit labors. No company ever withheld him from Church. I have been at Mount Vernon on Sabbath morning when his breakfast table was filled with guests; but to him they furnished no pretext for neglecting his God…”

During the Civil War, occupying Union forces stripped the church for souvenirs of “Washington's Church” and used it as a stable.  Lieutenant Charles B. Haydon, from Michigan wrote, “I have long known that Mich 2nd had no fear or reverence as a general thing for God or the places where he is worshiped.... I believe our soldiers would have torn the church down in 2 days.”


Lieutenant Haydon continued, “They were all over it in less than 10 minutes tearing off the ornaments, splitting the woodwork and pews….They wanted pieces to carry away . . . A more absolute set of vandals than our men can not be found on the face of the earth. As true as I am living I believe they would steal Washington's coffin if they could get to it.”  

Read more in: Historic Cemeteries of Northern Virginia



A quick look at women doctors and medicine in the Civil War for the general reader. Technologically, the American Civil War was the first “modern” war, but medically it still had its roots in the Middle Ages. In both the North and the South, thousands of women served as nurses to help wounded and suffering soldiers and civilians. A few women served as doctors, a remarkable feat in an era when sex discrimination prevented women from pursuing medical education, and those few who did were often obstructed by their male colleagues at every turn.

Friday, October 09, 2015

The Graves of Washington's Slaves



Memorial at Mount Vernon (Courtesy Library of Congress)

Here descendants of Washington’s slaves gather at the memorial dedicated to their ancestors.  When Washington died, there were some 317 slaves living at Mount Vernon.  Under the terms of Washington’s will, his slaves (not including forty who were rented or the 154 slaves belonging to Martha Washington) were to be freed upon the death of his wife.  The terms of the will created an almost immediate problem for Martha Washington. The only thing standing between 123 slaves and their freedom was her life. According to a contemporary letter, Martha Washington “did not feel as tho her Life was safe in their [slaves] Hands”. Nor was this fear groundless. The records of colonial Virginia document the trial of 180 slaves tried for poisoning. Martha freed Washington’s slaves within a year after his death. She never freed her own slaves.


Near George Washington’s tomb are the unmarked graves of some 150 slaves, including William “Billy” Lee, Washington’s personal servant during the Revolutionary War.  William Lee was freed in Washington’s will for, “his faithful services during the Revolutionary War,” and received a substantial pension and the option of remaining at Mount Vernon.  Lee lived on at Mount Vernon until his death in 1828.  Another slave buried here, West Ford, is claimed by some to be George Washington’s illegitimate son.  According to Linda Allen Bryant, a direct descendant of West Ford, there is an oral tradition in the Ford family indicating that West Ford was the child of George Washington and a slave named Venus. At the present development stage of DNA science, no direct link to George Washington can be established.  The Mount Vernon Ladies Association has pledged its cooperation with testing as DNA science progresses.




George Washington's Tomb



The Old Tomb

At ten at night on December 14, 1799, George Washington, fearing premature burial, requested of his doctors to be “decently buried” and to “not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead.” In his last will he expressed the desire to be buried at Mount Vernon. George Washington was entombed in the existing family vault (seen above), now known as the old Vault on December 18, 1799.  Visitors wrote that the tomb was, “A low, obscure, ice house looking brick vault,” which “testifies how well a Nation's gratitude repays the soldier's toils, the statesman's labors, the patriot's virtue, and the father's cares.”  In his last will, George Washington directed the building of a new family burial vault in the following words: "The family Vault at Mount Vernon requiring repairs, and being improperly situated besides, I desire that a new one of Brick, and upon a larger Scale, may be built at the foot of what is commonly called the Vineyard Inclosure.”  In 1831, Washington’s body was transferred to the new tomb.  A French visitor wrote that Mount Vernon had become, “like Jerusalem and Mecca, the resort of the travelers of all nations who come within its vicinity.” Visitors were filled with “veneration and respect,” leading them “to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of patriotism and public worth…” 

The New Tomb


George Washington’s nephew, Bushrod inherited Mount Vernon from his uncle. The marble obelisks in front of the Tomb were erected to the memory of Bushrod Washington and his nephew, John Augustine Washington, who in turn were the masters of Mount Vernon. Both are buried in the inner vault together with many other members of the family. Bushrod Washington was the favorite nephew of President George Washington. In 1802, upon the death of his aunt, Martha Washington, he inherited Mount Vernon.  Bushrod Washington spent thirty one years as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and died in 1829. When Bushrod Washington died he left Mount Vernon to his nephew John Augustine Washington who survived Bushrod by just three years.  In 1850, his widow Jane conveyed Mount Vernon to their son John Augustine Washington, Jr., who was the last private owner of the estate.








Thursday, September 10, 2015

Is There a Medal of Honor for Animal Gallantry?

The Dickin Medal

Maria Elisabeth Dickin was a British social reformer and animal welfare pioneer who founded the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) in 1917 to provide care for the animals of the poor.  During the Second World War, the PDSA established the “Dickin Medal” (1943) to recognize animals that displayed "conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units".  The medal was awarded 54 times between 1943 and 1949 and twelve times since 1949.

Some of the recipients include: (1) Rob, a mongrel who served in North Africa and made over twenty parachute jumps, (2) GI Joe, an American carrier pigeon who flew twenty miles in twenty minutes just in time to prevent a friendly fire incident, (3) Beauty, a terrier who helped dig out sixty-three people from under the rubble of a bombing raid in London, and (4) Simon, a ship’s cat who, although wounded continued to hunt rats and protect the crew’s food supply throughout a siege in 1949 along the Yangtze River in China.


The United States has no medal for animal gallantry.

Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Civil War


A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Parrots and Bats in War


Throughout history animals have been used in warfare.  The Carthaginians used elephants against the Romans as early as 262 BC.  Things have not always gone in accordance with the best laid plans of the military however.

During World War the Soviet Army strapped bombs to dogs and deployed the suicide dogs to destroy German tanks.  The well cared for dogs, however, ran toward their own army which they identified with food and comfort, causing some Red Army units to beat a hasty retreat.

The American Army had similar problems with “Project X-Ray” which involved strapping miniature incendiary charges on thousands of bats which were to be released over Japan.  The plan was scrapped when the bats escaped and destroyed an aircraft hangar and a general’s car in New Mexico.

Supposedly, during World War I, the French army stationed trained parrots atop the Eiffel Tower, from where they were expected to give a twenty minute warning of incoming German aircraft.  The project was abandoned when it was found that the parrots could not discriminate between friendly and enemy planes.


The alleged source of this information is Flight of 7 February 1918:

"Parrots early in the war were tried at the Eiffel Tower with the result that at first they gave warning fully twenty minutes before the aeroplane or airship could be made out by the eye, or heard by the human ear. These birds, however, appear to have grown bored or indifferent, as they could not be kept indefinitely at the work."



Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Civil War


A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Oldest Pet Cemeteries in America

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

America’s oldest pet cemetery was established in Hartsdale, New York, in 1896.  A veterinarian converted his apple orchard into a final resting place for dogs.  Today the cemetery, known as “The Peaceable Kingdom” is the final resting place for more than 80,000 pets of every kind.  Some of the pet mausoleums are spectacular, including a fifty ton above-ground mausoleum for two spaniels, the first and largest of its kind in the world. The famous War Dog Memorial, dedicated after World War I, was the first public tribute to honor military canines for their bravery and sacrifice.  The cost of a burial plot, casket and interment runs some $1,800 for small pets.

The Aspin Hill Memorial Park, established in 1921 in Aspen Hill, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C., is believed to be the second-oldest pet cemetery in the nation, and is the final resting place for various animal celebrities, including stars of movies and television, pets of U.S. politicians and heroes of foreign wars, as well as more than 50,000 other beloved pets.  Notable pets buried in the cemetery include seven dogs that belonged to J. Edgar Hoover, and Rags, the mascot of the First Division on World War I, “who risked life and limb in the Meuse-Argonne when he crossed enemy liens to deliver a not to Allied Forces.” President Lyndon Johnson’s dogs were cremated at Aspin Hill and the remains sent to Texas.  There also are 17 horses and hundreds of pet rabbits, monkeys, parrots, turkeys, goats, hamsters, guinea pigs, frogs, goldfish, turtles and snakes buried at Aspin Hill, as well as thirteen humans who chose to be buried close to their pets.



Reality is no respecter of delusions, except perhaps in Del Boca, a model American community, struggling to be heard above the din. The days are fully packed as the good people of Del Boca deal with such problems as elitism, education reform, celebrity culture, political correctness, free speech, science, and politics. A social satire about life in our times.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Margaret Sanger on Preventing a Permanent Criminal Underclass


In her book, The Pivot of Civilization, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood offered this prescription for eliminating the permanent criminal underclass:

There is but one practical and feasible program in handling the great problem of the feeble-minded. That is, as the best authorities are agreed, to prevent the birth of those who would transmit imbecility to their descendants. Feeble-mindedness as investigations and statistics from every country indicate, is invariably associated with an abnormally high rate of fertility. Modern conditions of civilization, as we are continually being reminded, furnish the most favorable breeding-ground for the mental defective, the moron, the imbecile. "We protect the members of a weak strain," says Davenport, "up to the period of reproduction, and then let them free upon the community, and encourage them to leave a large progeny of `feeble-minded': which in turn, protected from mortality and carefully nurtured up to the reproductive period, are again set free to reproduce, and so the stupid work goes on of preserving and increasing our socially unfit strains."

The philosophy of Birth Control points out that as long as civilized communities encourage unrestrained fecundity in the "normal" members of the population—always of course under the cloak of decency and morality—and penalize every attempt to introduce the principle of discrimination and responsibility in parenthood, they will be faced with the ever-increasing problem of feeble-mindedness, that fertile parent of degeneracy, crime, and pauperism. Small as the percentage of the imbecile and half-witted may seem in comparison with the normal members of the community, it should always be remembered that feeble-mindedness is not an unrelated expression of modern civilization. Its roots strike deep into the social fabric. Modern studies indicate that insanity, epilepsy, criminality, prostitution, pauperism, and mental defect, are all organically bound up together and that the least intelligent and the thoroughly degenerate classes in every community are the most prolific. Feeble-mindedness in one generation becomes pauperism or insanity in the next. There is every indication that feeble-mindedness in its protean forms is on the increase, that it has leaped the barriers, and that there is truly, as some of the scientific eugenists have pointed out, a feeble-minded peril to future generations—unless the feeble-minded are prevented from reproducing their kind. To meet this emergency is the immediate and peremptory duty of every State and of all communities. 




We think we know the Victorians, but do we? The same passions, strengths and weaknesses that exist now, existed then, but people organized themselves very differently.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Presidential Anthem: Hail to the Chief

The official presidential anthem, Hail to the Chief , was first played in Boston to commemorate the birthday of George Washington, on February 22, 1815.  The tune did not formally become associated with the presidency until the administration of John Tyler (1841-1845), when the Marine band was instructed to play the air whenever the president appeared. 

The words of the song come from an 1810 poem written by Sir Walter Scott:
       Hail to the Chief who in
     triumph advances!
       Honour’d and bless’d be the
     evergreen pine!        
       Long may the tree in his
     banner that glances
       Flourish, the shelter and grace
     Of our line!


Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, used Hail to the Chief, as his presidential anthem.





     In 1933 the man who subverted American democracy pronounced, “The fact is, the English are soft. Britain is like a frightened, flabby old woman. The whole empire is just rotted through and through. Kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will collapse.” He would soon drag America into a two ocean war, with Canada as the prize.
     Sticking as closely as possible to the real history of the period, making no radical leaps in terms of behavior, logic, or technology, the author paints a stunning picture of how the history of the world could have been radically different.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Major Archibald Butt and the Sinking of the Titanic


Archibald Butt was the military aide to both Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.  Butt and his housemate (some say lover), the painter Francis Davis Millet, died during the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912.  Butt was universally recognized for his heroic conduct during the tragedy. His body was never recovered.  President Taft who had come to regard Major Butt, “as a son or a brother”, praised him as a Christian gentleman and the perfect soldier.  Taft wrote, I knew that he would certainly remain on the ship's deck until every duty had been performed and every sacrifice made that properly fell on one charged, as he would feel himself charged, with responsibility for the rescue of others.”  At a May 5 ceremony, Taft broke down weeping, bringing his eulogy to an abrupt end.


As the Titanic sank, the crew prepared the lifeboats and Major Butt helped in the rescue efforts.  One survivor described him as calm and collected, “Major Butt helped…frightened people so wonderfully, tenderly, and yet with such cool and manly firmness.  He was a soldier to the last.”  A cenotaph was erected in the summer of 1913 by his brothers in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery at a point that Major Butt had previously selected as his gravesite.  The Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain, a private memorial fountain, located in the President’s Park, adjacent to the White House, was dedicated in October 1913.  Powerful friends argued that Butt (who was an aide to the president) and Millet (who was vice chair of the United States Commission of Fine Arts at the time of his death) were both public servants who deserved to be memorialized separately from private citizens who died in the Titanic disaster. 

Major Archibald Butt





A brief look at the often overlooked stories of American history from colonial times to modern times, stories such as, the original Emancipation Proclamations, the plot to kill Martha Washington, terrorism in the Civil War, America’s plan to invade Canada in 1930, a planned coup against the president, and many others hidden tales.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A History of Alternate History


Alternate history is fictional history, in which an author changes some aspect of the past and sees how this change would have impacted history as we know it.  The Roman historian Livy wrote the first alternate history around 25 BC, when he imagined a world in which Alexander the Great marched West rather than East.

The first mass market alternate history was written in 1836 by a Frenchman named Louis Geoffroy.  Call it literary wish fulfillment, the book entitled History of the Universal Monarchy: Napoleon and the Conquest of the World was a smash hit in France.


The first novel-length alternate history written in English appeared in 1895 and was written by an American named Castello Holford.  The book called Aristopia (which translated from the Greek means “The best place”) imagines a world in which one of the first English settlers in Virginia discovers a vast reef of gold.  The hero uses his new wealth to create a planned society where the state looks after the interests of the vast majority of the people rather than the interests of the very rich.  What an imagination!









Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Washington Speech Writer (Social Satire)


     Norbert Ealy, was a talented young man with a gift for words, and should have been one of Del Boca’s most eligible bachelors.  Unfortunately, Norbert’s talents and gifts did him little good when it came to women, because he suffered from a medical condition known as, “involuntary eye roll.”  Whenever, Norbert heard a falsehood, a half-truth, or even a statement that could not be easily corroborated, his eyes would involuntarily roll.  Thus in the midst of passion, if Norbert said, “You are the most beautiful woman in the world,” his eyes would involuntarily roll, since conceivably somewhere in the world there could be a more beautiful woman.  Unreasonably, women accused Norbert of being “the rudest and most sarcastic” man they had ever dated.  When Norbert tried to explain his rather rare condition they called him a “liar”, and he was forced to quickly exit amid a stream of flying books, flower vases, and picture frames.

     Unlucky in love, Norbert was lucky in his professional life, for he was the head speech writer for Congressman Dorrance Ague.  Of course, Norbert’s eyes were constantly rolling given the things that came out of Congressman Ague’s mouth, but his colleagues wrote this off to Norbert’s “coolness”. “Norbert sure doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid,” other speech writers and aides said admiringly.  In the Congressman’s defense, it should be said that most of the words coming out of his mouth (the very words that caused Norbert’s eyes to roll), were, in fact, the words that Norbert had put in the Congressman’s mouth.  No one could make even Dorrance Ague sound positively Churchillian or Reaganesque like Norbert Ealy.  With the insertion of a few “Indeeds” and a rolling cadence, Norbert could turn the dreariest old platitudes into crowd pleasing draughts of inspiration.  A typical speech for the Congressman went something like this.  “We are, Indeed, the American people.  Indeed, we are the people who love Mother (I call my Mother ‘Mom’).  Indeed, we are a great people who love Mom and pie.  Indeed, we love apple pie.  Indeed, we are a great people who love Mom, apple pie….and yes, we are, Indeed, a great people who love, the Flag…the flag that stands for the land we love, Indeed, that land is our home, the land that loves Mom, apple pie and the people of America!”  At this point the crowd was usually on its feet chanting “USA! USA! USA!”

     Had it not been for his unfortunate medical condition, Norbert might actually have been able to take Dorrance Ague’s place in Congress, for Norbert was a talented young man with a gift with words and Dorrance Ague, while amiable, was a dunce.  Of course, it didn’t really matter that Dorrance Ague was a dunce.  He was, after all, only a Congressman, and had once proudly boasted, “I never read any piece of legislation that I ever voted on!”  Dorrance Ague regarded this as good time management.  He knew he didn’t have to waste time reading all of those tedious Bills.  All he had to do was get the word from his primary financial backer the celebrity magician and ventriloquist Selby Ampeter (aka “Selby the Great”) and he would KNOW in his heart how to vote.

     Now normally Dorrance Ague was the easiest man in the world with whom to get along.  But in early January he was tense.  Very tense. 

      “Ealy, Selby the Great is the opening act at the Party’s National Convention in Andromeda City next month and he wants me to give the warm up pitch to his newest magic trick.  This is the biggest speech of my life…you’ve got to pull out all of the stops son…all of the stops.”

      Norbert Ealy knew this was the big one.  All of the Party’s big wigs would be there, not to mention all of the Party’s big donors.  This speech could carry Dorrrance Ague to the VP spot on the national ticket, and who knew, maybe in a few years even beyond.  And Norbert Ealy could be there with him, if he could hit this one out of the ballpark.

     And so on the fateful night Congressman Dorrance Ague said, “My fellow Americans, many in America now-a bed shall think themselves accursed that they were not here with us tonight!  Here, on this historic anniversary month of Rosa Parks’ birthday.  Indeed, on this most historic of Thursdays.  Rosa Parks thought about buses in a new way.  Indeed, what she did on a bus changed everything.  And now, what Selby the Great will do has the potential, Indeed, holds out the promise to future generations of Americans, that all things are Indeed possible in this great land and that if we embrace the old with the innovations of the new we can all move forward, together, to the bright sunlit uplands!  Behold as Selby the Great makes a pig dance and sing for its supper!”

     The entire crowd was on its feet chanting, “Ague! Ague! Ague!”


     Norbert Ealy felt tears in his rolling eyes.

This story is from the "Del Boca" social satire series.



Reality is no respecter of delusions, except perhaps in Del Boca, a model American community, struggling to be heard above the din. The days are fully packed as the good people of Del Boca deal with such problems as elitism, education reform, celebrity culture, political correctness, free speech, science, and politics. A social satire about life in our times.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

INCA GOLD


The Spaniards conquered Peru over the course of several decades in an atmosphere of civil war and chaos.  The Incas had just concluded a war between two brothers, Atahualpa and Huascar when the Spanish arrived on the scene.  Atahualpa had just captured Huascar and was heading south to enter his capital, Cuzco, when he himself was made hostage by the Spanish.  Atahualpa then had Huascar murdered.  After extorting the proverbial king's ransom, the Spanish, in turn, murdered Atahualpa.  The Spanish next marched on Cuzco, the capital and Holy City of the Inca Empire, installing a puppet emperor.  Throughout the period the Incas scurried about trying to hide the most sacred religious items from defilement.     

Gold and silver had no monetary significance to the Incas.   They were considered sacred, with gold regarded as the sweat of the sun and silver as the tears of the moon.  Religious items were made of gold and silver, but they had no worth, other than artistic, to the common man. 

Huascar's Chain: On the occasion of Huascar's weaning ceremony, his father decreed that a gold chain be cast for the dancers to carry as they went through their ritual dance.  The chain later disappeared, never falling into the hands of the Spaniards, and in all probability guarded somewhere in the remote mountains.  The chain is described as being seven hundred feet long, twice the width and length of the great Square of Joy in Cuzco.  The two hundred dancers were scarcely able to raise it.

Atahualpa's Mug:  One of the Emperor Atahualpa's favorite possessions was the head of an enemy general named Atoc.  One of the Spaniards, Cristobal de Mena saw this "head with its skin, dried flesh and hair.  Its teeth were closed and held a silver spout.  On top of the head a golden bowl was attached.  Atahualpa used to drink from it when he was reminded of the wars waged against him by his brother.  They poured the chicha (beer) into the bowl and it emerged from the mouth, through the spout, from which he drank."