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 one of America’s most recognized twentieth century brands. You may not be familiar with the Bloch Brothers of Wheeling, WV, but it’s a fairly sure bet that at some point in your life you’ve encountered a roadside barn painted with the large sign “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco – Treat Yourself to the Best.”
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.
‘Hickory chickens,’ or ‘dry land fish,’ don’t have anything to do with chicken, fish or hickory. They are morel mushrooms and they’re in season right about now. Look for 3 varieties throughout Appalachia: morchella esculenta, which can be found under old apple or pear trees when the oak leaves are about mouse-ear size; morchella angusticeps (fat morel), which can be found under oak, beech or maple forests, when the serviceberry is in bloom; and morchella crassipes, found on swampy ground near jewelweed.
Before the video game, before television, the marble-take-marble world of commies, steelies, aggies and glassies kept children hunkered in the dirt and out of trouble. Marbles games like potsies and chasies flourished in many a Depression era schoolyard nationwide. With the glass marble’s rise to predominance, America truly became the marble-making capital of the world. By the first half of the twentieth century, great West Virginia companies like Peltier, Alley, and Marble King began to work their wizardry in glass.
“In the year 1843, an occurrence took place of not a little importance to the subjects of this narrative,” says T.W. Strong in his 1853 book An Account of Chang and Eng: The World Renowned Siamese Twins. “For some time previous they had been admirers of a couple of amiable and interesting sisters, the daughters of Mr. Daniel Yeats, who resided six miles north of Wilksbarre, and in April of that year, they were united in the bonds of matrimony; Miss Sarah Ann Yeats becoming Mrs. Eng, and Miss Adelaide Yeats becoming Mrs. Chang Bunkers.”
We’ll wrap things up with a look at festival entrepreneur and organizer Jean Thomas, who billed herself The Traipsin’ Woman. She had hosted Susan Steele Sampson, wife of Kentucky’s governor, the previous year at her first American Folk Song Festival, held at the Traipsin’ Woman Cabin. Now, in August 1931, Jean Thomas found herself invited to the Governor’s mansion in Frankfort to discuss the creation of an American Folk Song Society and an annual festival open to the public. How did Thomas get to this point, and why did she call herself the Traipsin’ Woman?
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by Roy & Janis Carper in a 1979 recording of Darktown Strutter’s Ball.
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.