Archive for April, 2016

PA Canals

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

The Amazing Pennsylvania Canals by William H Shank, PE, is true to its title.  I was astonished to learn that the canal boom of the early 1800’s was so extensive.  This map scanned from the book displays all 1,243 miles of public and private canals operated in PA.  Not all the systems worked  concurrently.  The Sandy and Beaver Canal which starts across the river from Georgetown is shown branching into Ohio along a former Indian trail leading to the Moravian villages. 

 

Map of the Connecting Canal Systems in PA (The Amazing Pennsylvania Canals by William H Shank, PE)

 

The connecting canal systems opened an avenue of transportation between the East and Ohio River Valley before the contrivance of railroads.  In 1837 Capt Jacob Poe commanded the  str Beaver No 2 in the Allegheny River trade transporting passengers and freight between Pittsburgh and various canal stops. Many of the “ports” along the canal system routes developed into sizable thriving communities: Freeport, Johnstown, Hollidaysburg, and Middletown in PA and  Fredericktown and Hanoverton in OH.

 

Railroads signaled the demise of the canal systems and the bustling towns along the canal routes beginning in the 1850′s.  Today virtually all that remains of this grand past are ruins of various canal locks and National Historic Trust homes and taverns that have been saved such as the Spread Eagle Tavern in Hanoverton, OH and Union Canal House near Hershey, PA.

The first edition of The Amazing Pennsylvania Canals was published in 1960.  My booklet is the third edition printed in Oct 1973.

 

 

  

Copyright © 2016 Francis W Nash    All Rights Reserved

No part of this website may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author.

 

Spain in our Hearts

Monday, April 11th, 2016

For anyone stirred by the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the recently published book by Adam Hochschild is a must read.  Spain in our Hearts.  It is a painful, tragic, true history of the war.  What I liked most about the book were the final chapters where Hochschild documented the lives of the survivors of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.  

 

My good friend, Sue Hanna, introduced me to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade story.  Together we attended many of the annual reunions of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (ALBA) in New York City on May Day weekend.  Those trips were memorable days.  Keynote speakers included Pete Seeger, Harry Bellefonte, Amy Goodman, …  One reunion was held at the Cooper Union building using the actual podium where Abraham Lincoln gave his campaign speech in 1860.  To be sure that was “fitting and proper”.  At the reunions, the living veterans would address the crowded auditorium with endless enthusiasm and spunk.  The last ALB veteran, Delmer Berg, died on 28 Feb 2016.  He was 100.  For me it was a sad day.  I lost a hero.  The world lost a good man. 

 

 

Sue Hanna with Jack Penrod in 2006 (F Nash Collection)

Ms Hanna and I followed, and honored, Jack Penrod (1913-2008).  Born in Birmingham, Al and raised in Johnstown, PA,  Mr John Arthur Penrod was a graduate of Pitt in 1936.  Working as an activist organizing steel workers at the Jones & Laughlin plant in Aliquippa, PA, he was fired for his efforts.  Always idealistic, he went to Spain in 1937 to fight Franco fascism.  He led a sniper squad in the MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion of the 15th International Brigade in Teruel and was wounded before the famed retreat across the Ebro River and the departure parade for the International Brigades along the Diagonal Ave in Barcelona.  That departure parade was witnessed by 300,000 people of Barcelona on 28 Oct 1938.  (Two weeks after the farewell to the International Brigades, Nazi storm troopers attacked 1,000 synagogues and 7,000 Jewish businesses in what became known as Kristallnacht.)  When Franco “liberated”  Barcelona two months later the Diagonal was empty.  After serving in the Philippines during WW II, Mr Penrod became a professor and later Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Florida.  According to Hochschild, Mr Penrod destroyed his memoir of the Spanish Civil War because “at one time I didn’t know whether they (FBI) might actually get a search warrant to search our house”.  Mr Penrod was in his nineties and hatpin sharp when I last spoke with him.

 

Sherron Biddle toasting Ernest Hemmingway with her Cava in the Hotel Majestic 2014 (F Nash Collection)

My wife and fellow world traveler and I have visited together the Barcelona and Ebro River area of Spain.  Today its Montsant and Priorat wines (DOQ) are celebrated worldwide.  While in Barcelona, we toasted Ernest Hemmingway and the other  Spanish Civil War journalists with a glass of Cava at the Majestic Hotel where he lodged during the war.  We also walked the Diagonal on a wet and dreary day in solidarity with the ideals of the ALB.

 

Have a look at the The Volunteer.   It’s a quarterly magazine featuring current news about the Spanish Civil War and the history of the volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.  The 2016 ALBA award ceremony is Sat, 7 May, honoring Lydia Cacho and Jeremy Scahill. 

 

For supplying the oil, trucks, and tires to Franco, damn Texaco, Firestone, Ford, GM, …  It did not occur to me that I could be so moved by a history book.

This post has nothing to do with steamboats.

 

Copyright © 2016 Francis W Nash    All Rights Reserved

No part of this website may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author.

The White City

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

The national bestseller (2003), Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is a wonderful book about Chicago in 1893.  The White City is the World’s Columbian Exposition.  The devil refers to a serial murderer who used the fair to lure his victims to their deaths, at least nine and maybe a total of two hundred. 

 

 

Pass to the World’s Columbian Exposition (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

For some unknown reason, I have a pass for 9 Oct 1893 with a hand written number – 716,881.  That day, Monday, had been designated Chicago Day.  Chicago was proud of its fair.  Every business closed for the day.  The weather helped also.  It was an “apple crisp” day according to Larson.  On that day 713,446 people paid to enter and another 37,380 visitors used passes.  The total was 751,026, more people than had attended any peaceful event in history.  It easily surpassed theformer world’s record of 397,000 at the Paris exposition. 

 

 

 

Pass to the World’s Columbian Exposition obverse (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

I have had this Chicago World’s Fair ticket for many years but until I read Devil in the White City I had not understood its meaning.  The ticket was included with the Jacob Poe family memorabilia.  I still have to determine to whom the pass belonged.   In 1893 a round trip fare to the world’s fair on the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Packet Line was advertised at $18. 

 

To me every trip to a library or an archive is like a small detective story.

 

 

 

Copyright 2016 © Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

No part of this website may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author.