Let’s Talk About….Teddy’s Bear

There is so much history swirling around the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi! Doubt one could have time to read all the books that have been published about this river town through the decades. One story concerns Teddy Roosevelt. 

TR (1858-1919), was a politician, statesman, soldier, conservationist and naturalist and was America’s 26th president. He was a cousin to Franklin D. Roosevelt. TR’s biggest love was anything outdoors and he especially loved the sport of hunting. Hoping to get some good publicity, Mississippi’s governor, Andrew H. Longino, invited Teddy on a bear hunting trip in 1902 near Onward, Mississippi.

The hunting party went off in great spirits, but after several days they had not yet even seen a bear. One of Roosevelt’s assistants, led by Holt Collier, a born slave and former Confederate cavalryman, corned and tied a black bear to a tree. They summoned Roosevelt and suggested he shoot it. Viewing this as extremely unsportsmanlike, Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear.

The story of “Teddy’s Bear” flashed quickly across the country and everyone loved the tale. A political cartoon of the day shows Roosevelt in his Rough Riders garb refusing to shoot a loveable-looking little bear. 

This image inspired a couple in Brooklyn, who were making stuffed toys, write to Roosevelt asking his permission to make “Teddy’s Bear.” Hearing a yes reply, the couple set to making stuffed little bears and nowadays teddy bears are everywhere. Fun to think the worldwide popularity of teddy bears can be traced back to Theodore’s fateful hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902.

And that’s the rest of the story…………….. this is an original Teddy’s Bear, now in the Smithsonian.

Let’s Talk About…. Weyerhaeuser, IA TO WA

We here in the heavily timbered land of the Pacific Northwest have certainly seen and heard the name of Weyerhaeuser Company and know it has something to do with the timber and lumbering industry. We’d never have guessed that Frederick Weyerhaeuser (1834-1914) began his company in the Mississippi River town of Davenport, Iowa, but he did.

The company was founded in 1900 by Frederick Weyerhaeuser who had emigrated to the U.S. from Germany when he was 18. He worked first as a laborer in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he met and married Elisabeth Bladel. In 1856, the young couple moved to Rock Island, Illinois (across the river from Davenport). Weyerhaeuser found work in a sawmill and lumber yard, eventually becoming foreman and arduously began saving his money. Weyerhaeuser was a workaholic and by the mid-1860s he had purchased the mill and was buying pine tracts in Wisconsin, expanding into Minnesota, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

By 1903, Weyerhaeuser owned more than 1.5 million acres of land in Washington even though he kept his residence in St. Paul. He was survived by seven children; his son, John P. Weyerhaeuser, succeeded him as president of the company. Demands for lumber during World War I led to a substantial increase in the company’s business. The military demand for lumber was so high that the Army sent soldiers to work as lumberjacks in Weyerhaeuser’s forests to increase production. By 1941, industry executives joined John P. Weyerhaeuser and Washington Gov. Arthur Lang in dedicating the nation’s first tree farm near Montesano.

And it all started with a hard-working German immigrant in a small Midwestern town.

(Thanks to www.historylink.org for the information on Weyerhaeuser.)  If you want all the details of his life, click to Google.

Let’s Talk About….Nuns & Can Buoys

Here I stand between a nun buoy and a can buoy. I knew buoys (whether ocean, lake or river) came in red and green and that was about it. The plaque below reads:

“Buoys are floating navigational aids that mark channels, hazards and prohibited areas and also help navigators locate their position. Buoys are coded by color, shape and numbers. They are moored to the bed of a waterway by chain or rope to concrete sinkers. Nun buoys are red with cone-shaped tops. They mark the right side of a waterway when entering a channel from the sea. Nun buoys carry even numbers.  Can buoys are green and are square or shaped like a large can. They mark the left side when entering a channel from seaward. Can buoys carry odd numbers.”

Capt. Kelly explained all this to us (a rapt audience) and then with a smile told of how buoys get “whacked” by ships or barges and float loose……… to end up on the sand or even up in the trees during high water. He said at one point there was a program for folks to rescue and return for a bonus these stranded buoys. “But soon that program had to be abandoned,” he said, “because the buoys were disappearing from the river.” (Think about it. 🙂

Let’s Talk About….Samuel Clemons/Mark Twain: One Great American

(Sign on lamp post in downtown Hannibal; it reads:  “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” )

It was a really, really windy day when our cruise ship ported at Hannibal, Illinois. I put on every jacket and shirt  I had and out I went………could not miss the opportunity to visit Mark Twain. 

I enjoyed the Mark Twain museums (there were two), touring the Thatcher home and just trying to “feel” being there. 

I shall not go into his biography for I’m guessing that’s pretty well known. One of his favorite homilies was that he was born in 1835 when Halley’s Comet could be seen and held onto life until 1910 so he could go out with it.

His personal life was a rather sad affair.  He married Olivia Langdon, who died six years before him. Their first child, Landon Clemons, died at age one. Their first daughter, Olivia Susan, died at age 23. Next child was Jane who passed the year before her father. Only Clara was left, living to 1962. Her daughter, Nina, never married, so Samuel Clemons has no direct descendants.

I never had read any of his books (yes, where have I been all my life?) so bought a book containing five of his best known stories. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was a revolutionary book that still holds much relevance today. The powerful friendship of young Huck and runaway slave Jim highlighted many of the great racial injustices of the past and has astounded generations of readers the world over. It was a darn good read.

Gotta love some of his quotes:

“Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it.”

“When in doubt‚ tell the truth.”

“If you tell truth you don’t have to remember anything.”

Let’s Talk About….. Elvis!

In Memphis, in a pouring rain, I went to see Elvis. The statue above is in the Memphis Visitors’ Center.  Then the bus took us to Graceland.

Elvis bought Graceland in the spring of 1957 when he was just 22 years old, paying $100,000 for the mansion and grounds. It was on the outskirts of Memphis then but surely is not today. Touring the mansion today is stepping back into a “day with Elvis” for the rooms are kept true to when he was there. (Want to see the rooms? Ask Grandma Google.) Elvis died there on August 16, 1977; he was only 42.

Under the watchful eyes of Priscilla, the upstairs of the mansion is kept for the family to use and they do still come and have big family celebrations around the big dining room table that fills the room. Elvis and Priscilla had one child, a daughter, Lisa Marie, born in 1968. Lisa Marie had been married four times:  (1) Danny Keough; had Danielle Riley and Benjamin Storm with him; (2)  Michael Jackson;  (3) Nicolas Cage;  (4) Michael Lockwood; had twin girls Harper and Finley with him. Lisa Marie’s only son, Benjamin, died by suicide in 2020 and is buried in the family cemetery on the grounds behind Graceland. Lisa Marie died in January 2023 of cardiac arrest and will be buried there too. 

A tour of Graceland is to walk through several separate museums……… one for his Army career, one for his motorcycles, one displaying all the many costumes he wore, one for all his gold records, one for his growing up years and more. It was a $125.00 extravagance to visit Graceland but I’m glad I went. Have you been there? Do go if you’re in Memphis!

Let’s Talk About…Tums For The Tummy

Who hasn’t taken Tums for the tummy?  On our bus ride from the boat to the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis, and not in the best-looking part of town, we passed a 5-story red brick factory building……. the home to Tums for nearly 100 years.  Everything comes from somewhere and Tums come from St. Louis, Missouri. Here’s a bit from their website:

Insomniac snacks, car crashes, tax audits, pink slips… Imagine all the gushes of gastric acid those Tums have neutralized. The brand leads the industry, selling more than 60 million bottles or rolls a year—almost double the total of its second-place rival, Rolaids. And 99.9 percent of those Tums, more than 6 billion tablets, are made right here. (The .1 percent? Wrafton Laboratories in England.)

Now you’re ready to be a Jeopardy champion!

Here’s another bit of trivia for you: 

When did hurricanes start getting named?  It was back in 1950 when the U.S. Weather Bureau began using the phonetic alphabet (Able-Baker-Charlie). In 1953, women’s names were substituted and in 1979 the World Meteorological Organization switched to a list that included men’s names. Now you know.

Minding the many, many vessels going up and down the Mississippi River is a huge challenge. There would be total chaos were it not for rules. I learned about two interesting websites to learn more about these rules and thought you might want to check them out too. First was www.MarineVesselTraffic.com. From an opening menu, you do a search for a specific ship (where it is), sea ports, military ships and planes tracking, container ports, cruise ships and more. Quite interesting if that’s your thing.

I also learned that while the U.S. Corps of Engineers is charged with keeping the river open and safe for traffic, the U.S. Coast Guard has charge of the ships. The National Vessel Movement Center is a fairly new organization, functioning since 2001. At this website, you can learn the rules and regulations concerning the ships using the Mississippi River (and they fill volumes). 

Let’s Talk About …… New for 2023

Please read clear to the end for my Big Announcement!

I knew that my maternal grandmother, Clara Ann Joseph, was born on 14 Nov 1894 in the Mississippi River town of Ivy Landing, Illinois. By 1900, the Joseph family was living several miles inland which gives a big clue as to way I could never find Ivy Landing on any map. It must have surely washed away! In those early days, men’s attempts to control the Mighty Mississippi were puny at best. It was well into the 1890s that the Corps of Engineers began building dams to (hopefully) better control the river.

In late October 2022 I tool a cruise down the entire length of the Mississippi River. I was very surprised to see miles and miles and miles of river bank looking much like the picture above. Was this where Ivy Landing was? I’ll never know for sure but I’ll bet it was a tiny town back in the trees along a stretch of river bank just like this.

Now for my big announcement:  On this recent cruise, I kept my eyes and ears open to learn everything I could about the Mississippi River and the history of states along the river, the Heartland of America. Polling several genealogy friends, and getting their thumbs up, for the foreseeable future I will be sharing much of what I learned about America’s history. One highlight was that I got to visit Graceland and see Elvis!! Stay tuned………………. Come learn some U.S. history with me!

Let’s Talk About…… New for 2023

It is now officially 2023 and why not treat yourself to a new book for the New Year???

One might guess that with eighteen books to his credit that Nathan Dylan Goodwin was running out of ideas. But nope. Book number nineteen, The Sawtooth Slayer, adds another star on his story flag.

The Sawtooth Slayer is set in April 2020 in Twin Falls, Idaho, where a serial killer is on the loose. A nameless man is kidnapping young women from their own homes, taking them out of the city to kill them before returning their bodies to random locations around the city. The local officers in charge in frustration turn to Venator—an investigative genetic genealogical company—in hopes that they can identify the killer from his left-behind DNA before he kills another young woman.

This book is definitely not another typical murder mystery. The Sawtooth Slayer is different in that DNA is featured prominently in the solving of the murders.

Will the Venator team solve this string of gruesome murders? You betchya….with the help from DNA.

The old phrase comes to mind: “Try it, you’ll like it.”  And I believe you will. You can order it from Amazon in Kindle format, hardcover and paperback ($13.99).

Let’s Talk About: Sears Catalog 1897

Bust cream or food for only $1.46? ” unrivaled for developing the bust, arms and neck, making a plump, full, founded bosom, perfect neck and arms, a smooth skin which before was scrawny, flat and flabby.” 

You could have your very own sewing machine for only $22.50! Note that it was a foot-powered model but it did come with a 10-year guarantee!

Only $39.90 for a Michigan A Grade Family Wagon…. “we must sell 1000 of these vehicles before the close of the season.” And a 3% discount was offered if you pay in full with your order. Horses not included. 

“The Most Stylish Suit Ever Sold!” The dresser has a fancy pattern shaped mirror, 30×36 inches in size. All drawers are fitted with fancy brass handles. The bed stands 

6-feet high and 4’6″ wide (full size today width is same), and is made from the choicest quarter-sawed oak. The footboard is one solid piece……  all three of these pieces, plus a washstand (not pictured) would set you back $59.00. Imagine! 

Let’s Talk About: Sears Christmas Wish Book

How many of us remember drooling over the pages of the Sears catalog Christmas Wish book? I do!

The first Sears Christmas Book debuted in 1933 and came in the mail for 60 years, until 1993 (when Sears went totally out of the catalog business). 

Through the decades, the items offered varied. In 1937, tractor sets and Shirley Temple dolls were offered. By 1949, Western TV shows and movies exploded and the book offered a wide variety of Roy Rogers inspired gifts and even school supplies. As America entered the space race in 1968, children everywhere dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Marking America’s Bicentennial in 1975, nostalgic theme toys appeared: fife and drum sets, Colonial dolls and models of the USS Constitution.  Transformers exploded on the scene in 1984. 

What likely did your grandparents or parents or YOU order from the Sears Christmas Wish Book???