Posted by: japotts | May 22, 2015

A Salute to a Fallen Delawarean

belt buckle

Civil War belt buckle worn by Captain William Laws Cannon (DHS object collection)

This Memorial Day, in keeping with the original spirit of the holiday, we remember Civil War soldier and fallen Delawarean, William Laws Cannon. Cannon was born in Bridgeville, Delaware on April 6, 1839 to William and Margaret Ann Laws Cannon. His father, a local merchant, became Governor of Delaware during the Civil War. William Laws Cannon attended Dickinson College, graduating in 1860 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, after which he began working for the Census Bureau in Washington D.C.

When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted and became a Captain in Company B of the First Delaware Cavalry. Shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg, he contracted typhoid fever during the occupation of Bel Air, Maryland and died there on August 18, 1863. He was returned to Delaware and buried with full military honors in the family plot at Bridgeville Cemetery in Sussex County. His epitaph reads:

“A man of intense full life.
A son of most affectionate disposition.
A friend whose constancy never wavered.
A soul of noblest impulse.
He gave his heart to God and his life for his country.”


Delaware soldiers remembered this Memorial Day weekend are 1st Lieutenant John Paul Heinel, Private John Joseph Horty, who, as we see in his service record below, was killed in action, and African American soldier Private Kennou Wood.

This week in 1915, we learn from the Sunday Star newspaper that the United States and Germany narrowly avert direct hostilities, German airplanes attack Paris, Italy’s million man army ramps up its readiness for war, a major naval battle is taking shape between Austria and Italy and all islands in the Adriatic Sea are vulnerable to being engulfed by general violence.

For more soldiers from Delaware and Sunday Star clips, see past posts of Remembering WWI in Delaware

In honor of Memorial Day, our literary curiosity this week is a poem written by Margaret Sidney and published in Boston, Massachusetts by D. Lothrop & Company in 1886. Numerous serene illustrations accompany this “Ballad of The Shot Heard Round the World”. Memorial Day is expressly cited on the first page:

“On this Memorial Day, When the grateful hearts of all, Recounting the struggle for Liberty, The Nation’s birth recall”

The poem extols the brave Minute Man of Concord, Massachusetts. It is 30 pages, measures 16 x 20 cm, and is trimmed in gold. An 1893 inscription mentions Walter Tatnall, a member of the prominent Tatnall family of Wilmington, Delaware. When it was first printed it would have made a handsome little treasure. Our particular copy has a disintegrated binding, though the gold of the block is still present, and the pages are in fine shape.


About this blog:

We salute Corporal George Wesley Heinel, Sergeant Warren Ridgway Baldwin, and Private Frank Balling today.

The Sunday Star indicates unrest in Portugal and runs a story concerning the U.S. Navy and its readiness for combat should the need arise.

For more soldiers from Delaware and Sunday Star clips, see past posts of Remembering WWI in Delaware

Posted by: EdR | May 13, 2015

Delaware Sportsman

The Delaware Historical Society owns tens of thousands of individual periodicals. Featured this week are the two issues of The Delaware Sportsman in the Society’s collection; Volume 1 of June 1935 and Volume 3 of September 1938.

This magazine was the official publication of the Delaware Game and Fish Protective Association.

About the blog This Old Book:

As we see from Wilmington’s Sunday Star, one hundred years ago this week the world is horrified at the sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania. The Star is saturated with aspects of the tragedy. First reports list deaths at 1346, although it was later determined to be 1198 deaths of passengers and crew.  See yesterday’s post by my colleague Jennifer for more information on the Lusitania and on a 1915 British propaganda medal in the DHS collection.

As we do each week, three soldiers from Delaware are honored in this post. This week we highlight the service records of Private Ebert Holmes, Sgt. Major Charles Elbert Hollis, and Private Frank H. Balling. The records you see are scans of the originals. They are likely the only ones in existence. The same is true of the photographs shown each week. It is likely these photos are not even known to exist by the descendants of the soldier depicted. Therefore  these photos and records serve as a resurrection of memory,  a resurfacing of forgotten heroes. Historical societies serve not only the living community. They promote a reverence for and preserve the dignity of those citizens who have come before us.

Posted by: japotts | May 7, 2015

Remembering the Sinking of the Lusitania

Lusitania copy

British propaganda medal depicting the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 (DHS object collection)

May 7, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, a pivotal event that helped nudge the United States into World War I. The Lusitania, a passenger liner launched in 1906 by the Cunard line, was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland by a German submarine on May 7, 1915, resulting in the deaths of 1,198 passengers and crew. The incident sparked international outrage and shortly afterwards, when German medal maker, Karl Goetz, produced a small number of satirical commemorative medals about the event, the British government was quick to produce its own copies for propaganda purposes.

One side of the medal depicts the Lusitania going down with “Keine Bann Warr” (no contraband) above, while the reverse shows the figure of Death selling tickets to a crowd of passengers at the Cunard Line booking office with “Geschaft űber Alles” (business above everything) above. Goetz objected to what he saw as Britain and America’s careless “business as usual” attitude during a wartime situation, but the British were quick to commandeer the medal’s imagery for their own ends. The British version of the medal, such as this one originally owned by T. Coleman DuPont (1863-1930) of Greenville, Delaware, was a near-exact copy of the German medal, except that it came attractively boxed and included a specially produced propaganda leaflet which made the bold claim (among others) that: “This medal has been struck in Germany with the object of keeping alive in German hearts the recollection of the glorious achievement of the German Navy in deliberately destroying an unarmed passenger ship, together with 1,198 non-combatants, men, women and children.” This medal, which was sold quite inexpensively, represented a propaganda coup and effectively galvanized anti-German sentiment during the war.


Posted by: EdR | May 6, 2015

Milton’s Paradise Lost

Along with a previously highlighted classic Don Quixote, I was surprised to see a copy of John Milton’s Paradise Lost in the Delaware Historical Society’s rare book collection. Such a dramatic title tends to grab one’s attention. As with Aldous Huxley’s brilliant book Brave New World, Milton’s Paradise Lost is a book nearly everyone with any interest in literature has heard of, but one wonders how many people actually know what the book is about. Brave New World, for example, is not a congratulatory ‘pat on the back’ to modern society and its ever expanding rejection of the “old ways”, which one might assume by the title. In fact it’s the opposite; it’s an indictment of totalitarian technocracy.  So, what is Paradise Lost about? Below are a few excerpts to give us a sense of the author, his era, and his view point on losing paradise.

About This Old Book:

Posted by: japotts | May 1, 2015

This Month in Delaware…

suffrage sash

Congressional Union Equal Suffrage sash worn by Frances Schagrin of Wilmington

American women from all over the country organized a well-coordinated series of parades and demonstrations on May 2, 1914 to demand votes for women. These events were held in cities and towns throughout the country, including Wilmington, in the run up to a big march on Washington DC planned for the following Saturday, May 9th. Wilmington’s suffrage parade, the first of its kind ever held in the state, began at 3:00 PM on May 2nd at the railroad station and then headed up Front and Market Streets on its way to the courthouse building at Tenth and Market Streets, where both marchers and onlookers were treated to a series of speeches from various Delaware notables in favor of equal suffrage. Around 300 Delaware women (and also a large number of men and children) took part, and the event received favorable and sympathetic coverage in the local papers.

One of the marchers on this historic occasion was Frances Schagrin, who, together with her husband Charles, ran a clothing shop at 608 Market Street in Wilmington. Frances’ striking purple, white, and yellow silk Congressional Union Equal Suffrage sash is now part of our collections. Local papers deemed the parade “a striking success” and described the marchers “an attractive spectacle” in their suffrage sashes and regalia. Many local businesses along Market Street, including the Reynolds Candy Company, also showed their support with colorful suffrage-themed window displays.




Delaware Soldiers  Captain Abram Halprin, Corporal Gilbert Robinson Taylor, and Private Norwood Harris are honored this week. Headlines from the Wilmington Sunday Star indicate an increase in Germany’s belligerence.


For more soldiers from Delaware and Sunday Star clips, see past posts of Remembering WWI in Delaware

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 552 other followers