We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. You can start listening right away by clicking the podcast icon over on the right side of your screen. If you’d rather grab the show off itunes for later listening, click here:
We open today’s show with the story behind the invention of a great American toy. Before there were Transformer action figures, digital cameras, or Playstations, there were Tinkertoys. These and a host of other construction toys in the early 20th century helped kids throughout Appalachia learn by exercising what we now think of as “spatial intelligence.”
We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a Calendar of Events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.
“As we look over the country today we see two classes of people,” observed Alabama politician Milford Wriarson Howard in his 1895 book The American Plutocracy. “The excessively rich and the abject poor, and between them is a gulf ever deepening, ever widening, and the ranks of the poor are continually being recruited from a third class, the well-to-do, which class is rapidly disappearing and being absorbed by the very poor.”
If butterflies are about this week, you can be sure you will find them on the heads of sweet Joe-Pye-weed (Eupatorium purpureum). This perennial herb, found in moist woods and fields throughout Appalachia, is at its height of bloom right now through September. Gardeners delight in this towering, showy plant, as another common name for it, ‘Queen of the Meadow’, clearly suggests. The plant’s name is the first clue that we’re dealing with far more than just another pretty flower.
“I want to go back to the country and get my fill of cracklin’ bread,” says Virginian Roy L. Sturgill in his 1978 book Too Late for Flowers; Never Too Late for Tears. “I want to see the people eat again and shovel it in with their knives. I want to go to the neighbors to borrow the gimlet. I want to go back where they eat three meals a day…breakfast, dinner and supper…and the word “lunch” will never be heard again.
We’ll wrap things up with a closer look at the background surrounding an innocent seeming photograph. Sometimes the official stories that make it into museum collections just don’t shed enough light on the complete context of an event. The photo in question is titled “Picnic in a Coal Mine, Mount Savage, 1889, Photographed by Edgar S. Thompson.” The caption provided by the Maryland Historical Society gives scant background on this picture, and in fact may be misleading the viewer altogether.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Junesberry78s.com, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Kelly Harrell in a 1927 recording of Henry Clay Beattie.
So, call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.