Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I'm going to touch on the Lake George theme, but focus today on some American Irish history, something warm for my NYC friends to think about as we walk home tonight through the puke of a thousand tourist fratty assholes.

The first 200 or so years of colonial American history are filled with a lot of religious tension. The reformation was still fairly young, and sentiment toward Catholics among settlers was strongly negative. The ill feelings had tempered since the publication of the Geneva bible (a mere 60 years before the establishment of the Plymouth colony), a time when it was widely believed among protestants that the end times were near and that the pope himself was the anti-christ. James the First had replaced the Geneva Bible with, of course, the King James version, and established diplomatic relations with a number of Catholic countries (Puritans and Puritanism in Europe and America By Tom Webster, page 304). But the Puritans, being “the hotter sort of protestants,” (Webster, 305), maintained the belief that the Pope was the Antichrist.
The Pope and Catholics in general were the embodiment of evil in the eyes of the Puritans, and the French and their Native American allies were agents of the devil, attacking the godly New England colonies.
But in non-Puritan English colonies (Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina), Catholicism was tolerated among Irish settlers, who formed largely forgotten and often unfairly maligned settlements of their own on the frontiers of the east coast. (The Scotch-Irish in America, by the Scotch-Irish Society of America, 1901).

The French and Indian war, however, brought tensions between Irish Catholic settlers, subjects in an English colony, and their protestant government to a head. Irish men were drafted to fight along side Englishmen who considered their faith to be evil and, in some colonies, illegal. Some Irish soldiers moved to Canada of their own free will and joined the Catholic French army, while others chose to remain in Canada and fight for the French after capture. Therefore both the French and English had Irish battalions. (The Catholic Encyclopedia, by Charles George Herbermann, page 148).

Many Irish remained thereafter in the province of Quebec, and that is why my maiden name is Barry.

Relations between English and Irish soldiers fighting on the same side however could easily be improved with the employment of alcohol. On St. Patrick’s Day in 1757, the Irish soldiers at Fort William Henry on Lake George “were paying homage to their patron saint in libations of heretic rum, the product of New England stills; and it is said that John Stark’s Rangers forgot theological differences in their zeal to share the festivity. The story adds that they were restrained by their commander, and that their enforced sobriety proved the saving of the fort. This may be doubted; for without counting the English soldiers of the garrison who had no special call to be drunk that day, the fort was in no danger until twenty-four hours after, when the revelers [sic] had had time to rally from their pious carouse.” (Montcalm and Wolfe, by Francis Parkman, 1884). Parkman fairly revises the telling of the story, which implies that the drunken Irish could have been responsible for the downfall of the fort, had a good English officer not stepped in and kept them from being a bad influence.

The Fort was not taken on March 18, 1757, the attack being thwarted by responsible, sober watchmen who heard the French troops coming across the ice in the night.

St. Patrick’s day was also used by the British army to recruit Irish immigrants during the revolutionary war. In New York City in 1779, Catholic “Volunteer” soldiers marched to the Bowery for a St. Patrick’s day feast in an effort to encourage Irish enlistment (The Wearing of the Green, by Mike Cronin and Daryl Adair, 2006, page 11).

I’m going to continue to research this as I know very little about the Irish presence in America before the great migrations of the 19th century.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Don't die in a boating accident!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


The “Progressive Era” is what Kellogg’s time was called, the period of social reform and new attitudes about health and medicine between the Civil and Second World Wars. It was the era that gave us Grape Nuts, alcohol prohibition, gym class and eugenics. People got cleaner, more racist, and sometimes less drunk. And it was illegal to spit in public in New York City, because everyone was reasonably afraid of TB (The Progressive Era’s Health Reform Movement, by Ruth C. Engs. Page 268).

The late 1800s saw the first gym craze. Exercise outside of physical labor (the sort of thing the middle and upper classes had no part in anyway) was increasingly being seen as essential to a healthy lifestyle. It was “considered necessary for the prevention of racial degeneration, along with hygiene and the avoidance of racial pollutions such as alcohol, tobacco, and venereal diseases,” (ibid, 258). As I said before, it was a racist time. I am also tickled by the idea that working out can help prevent venereal disease. Just run a few laps, James, and I’m certain that you won’t catch the clap! I imagine the idea was to prevent the young people from fornicating by having them devote their time and energy to sport. As we know now, athletes are notoriously abstinent.

The health movement and contemporary religious movements blended to increase tourism to towns that could accommodate the needs of both sets simultaneously, as middle and upper class tourists and spa goers were often both vacationers and pilgrims.

The town of Saratoga Springs, for example, managed to encompass all things trendy at the time. Upstate New York was the vacation destination of choice between the end of the civil war and the 2nd Great Depression. Disney is, appropriately enough, nearly finished building (it’s open, still being touched up) a Saratoga Springs resort in Orlando, emulating as they have with the Wilderness Lodge, the Grand Floridian, et al the classic vacation style once preferred by the upper middle class, but minus the typhoid carrying help, constant fires, and authenticity.

Saratoga was home to both, of course, the springs, which drew health enthusiasts and those who believed the town was spiritually gifts to “take the waters.” On the flip side, there was (and still is, of course) the race track. You could purify yourself and then gamble your life savings away in 24 hours.

The irony of the Disney Saratoga Springs experience is that Saratoga Springs itself is still there, and still looks much as it did 125 years ago…creepy Victorian houses and all.
(Batcheller Mansion Inn)

It just isn’t 80 degrees outside in November in upstate New York, at least not yet. Saratoga had it’s share of winter sports for tourists, but it doesn’t quite feel like vacation some people without anthropomorphic mice and dogs serving you tea before you head out to get a sunburn.

My second wwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh! about Disney’s Saratoga Resort stems from the fact that Saratoga is at the foot of a mountain range, and Orlando is almost completely flat.

But I’m being a cynic. As a child I loved Disney World in part because of the mock Victorian/Edwardian “frozen in time” with all the modern conveniences charm of the Magic Kingdom. Then I moved to a town crumbling after its Victorian hey-day, and fell even more in love with the real thing. Victorian architecture has always been a fetish of mine. Saratoga Springs, the mansions around Lake George and the Adirondacks, Great Barrington and the southern Berkshire Mountains are just bursting with the sort of thing Disney replicates well, minus the creepiness. The movies may have done it to me, but a 2nd empire or Italianate Victorian sends chills down my spine and fills me with envy for the person who gets to live there. I spent most of my childhood in a hideous contemporary build in 1985 (attached to an 1807 one room schoolhouse, creating an odd and not at all charming mish-mash).

I honeymooned in Lake George Village, which was comprised of an unsettling and freaking awesome mix of 1960’s style hotels and Victorian homes, shops and municipal buildings. One side of the street was in one era, the other side in another.

Not that Lake George itself didn’t have its share of gimmicky amusement parks and attractions mimicking the “Gay ‘90s” peak of Adirondack tourism (Gaslight Village, for example). In the 1950s/60s second wave (what I suppose could be called a sort of silver age of Lake George tourism), the legendary Charley Wood build a number of amusement parks and hotels in the Lake George area, many of which still exist in some form.

A good biography of Charley Wood, posted a couple of years before his death at a ripe old age:

Wood was a man with a head for the tourism, a Walt Disney minus the artistic aspirations. He built in Lake George a little something for everyone…Storytown during the day for families with children of all ages, Gaslight Village for older children and adults who wanted entertainment in the afternoon and evening, and the Tiki Resort, featuring some purely adult entertainment. Storytown became the Great Escape and then Six Flags. The Tiki Lodge remains the same (metal palm trees and all…but more on that later), and Gaslight Village is now a skeleton of it’s former self, awaiting conversion back into wetlands.

Charley wood was something of a misogynist, but it was a misogynistic time so that was hardly a problem. Story Town, for instance, featured a “Ghost town” with a salon for males only where, as Charley said, “a man could take his son for a beer. We only served root beer, but we made it a real ‘man’s bar.’” Of the bartender at the Tiki Lounge, Charley once said she had “the biggest bosoms in the country. She made a mint of money. She’d put her boobs right up on the counter and say, ‘What can I help you with?’”

Charley also opened sexist steak houses, a classic car museum and a wax museum at the southern end of Lake George.
The the few remaining "kiddie" and independent amusement parks in the Lake George area are sort of repositories for disgarded but still operational rides from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. And boy are they creepy. More to come!

Monday, March 2, 2009

From the Postum’s Cereal package in 1901:

“A toothsome and healthful beverage. Coffee sick people seldom charge their ill feelings to the true cause. Analytical chemistry shows the poisonous alkaloids of coffee, as in tobacco, whisky, and morphine. A perfectly healthy man or woman can stand these for a time, but ‘constant dripping wears a stone’ and finally headache, torpid liver, sick stomach or heart, and that ‘weak all over’ feeling show that a poisoned nervous system is calling for help and relief”… “This natural food drink has a fragrance of its own. It is not tea or coffee, but is made from healthful grains. Those who care to conserve their health and bodily vigor will find that the unnatural taste for tea and coffee will leave them in a few days, and a natural taste for a healthful drink will take its place.”

Yes, caffeine is bad for you. I’ve danced with the brown demon since my father started giving me coffee as a toddler, and that stuff will mess you up, man. That said, I struggle with coffee substitutes as a concept the same way I do with non-alcoholic beer. If you can’t have alcohol or caffeine, have a nice glass of grape juice or something. Do you need something that tastes terrible (or in the case of non-alcoholic beer, doesn’t have any particular taste at all) but bears a physical resemblance to what your friends are happily poisoning themselves with? Are you really that ashamed of your life choices? You’re on the moral high ground, buddy. Revel in it!

Speaking of the moral high ground…the early days of cereal. Ah, what a wacky, anally fixated time.

The late 1800s and early 1900s were an interesting time for western medicine. Medical science was moving forward at a rapid rate, while increasing global travel, emigration, population concentration, and the side effects of industry were leading to outbreaks of serious illnesses like TB, Polio, Typhoid…illnesses seen in the U.S. before but now in much larger numbers. The middle and upper classes were touched by these diseases along side their servants and laborers, and set about doing what the wealthy have done for thousands of years…spa!

Many Americans who could afford to do so flocked to hot springs and sanitariums in hopes of adopting a life style that would cure their diseases or prevent them. Methods ranged from simply sitting around in warm water to more bizarre extremes of diet and lifestyle.

One of the largest and most famous of these spas was off course the Battle Creek Sanitarium owned by the Kellogg brothers. The Kelloggs encouraged a diet low in proteins and high in fibers and carbohydrates (hence the cereal), and a lifestyle of frequent exercise and enemas.

Sojourner Truth visited the spa. So it’s likely that the employees of the people who invented Corn Flakes were giving Sojourner Truth enemas.

The source above also claims that John Harvey Kellogg may have grafted some of his own skin onto Sojourner’s leg.

John Harvey was famously something of an extremist when it came to health, favoring yogurt enemas, abstinence even from masturbation and marital intercourse, and strict vegetarianism.
From the museum of quackery:

See Dr. Kelloggs explanation of his superiority to god.

The Kelloggs employed several kinds of machinotherapy, using devices often invented by the pair to, say, stimulate the bowels:

These things always remind me of an old piece of exercise equiptment my grandmother had...

Maybe exercize equiptment tomorrow...maybe more on the 7th day adventists. Not much trivia today.