Tag: History

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Everything you need in Chauvin, Louisiana.

Everything you need in Chauvin, Louisiana.

The levee of Bayou Petit Caillou supports the long strip of houses that is Chauvin and Cocodrie, the narrowest towns I have ever seen. Way down delta in Louisiana, you are either on the levee, in the bayou, or somewhere out in the salt marsh. For exactly 100 years, Cecil Lapeyrouse’s Grocery has been on the levee. Today most of the houses are seasonal, and the store gets by with business from people coming down to shrimp or fish or have fun. We stopped by on our exit from the LUMCON Marine Center in Cocodrie where Public Lab held its annual meeting. That had fallen into the fun category.

Buddles

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Stream in Soldiers Delight. I can't remember where this is. Fall 1973.

Stream in Soldiers Delight. I can’t remember exactly where this is. Fall 1973.

As a kid, my favorite thing about Soldiers Delight was playing in the streams. They were very different from all other streams I knew, which were muddy. In Baltimore County walking in a stream generally meant walking in mud. The water in Soldiers Delight streams was clear, and the stream bottoms were mostly stoney. The stream banks were also grassy and sunny. Streams elsewhere could be sunny, but even managed streams through pastures or parks were often lined with a thicket of woody plants. At Soldiers Delight long stretches of streams were lined only with tall grasses and wildflowers. Plus there were minnows and frogs and snakes. These were great streams.

Arrested development

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Entrance to the Choate mine.

Entrance to the Choate chromite mine at Soldiers Delight in Maryland. Fall 1973.

Entrance to the Choate mine.

Entrance to the Choate mine. Although trash was being removed from the area, fresh appliances had been dumped above the entrance. Fall 1973.

Soldiers Delight would be a lot less interesting to some were it not for its contribution to the economic history of Baltimore County, Maryland. Serpentine outcrops including Soldiers Delight, Bare Hills, and the State Line Barrens in Pennsylvania supplied most of the world’s chromium ore in the mid 19th century. Issac Tyson, and later his sons, owned land and operated mines at these places, shipping all the chromite to Baltimore and monopolizing the industry from the 1820s until after the Civil War. But the long term impact of this activity may have been more ecological than economic.

Red Dog Redux

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Red Dog Lodge in December 1967. Photo by Ellis J. Malashuk.

Red Dog Lodge in December 1967. This is the crop marked on the print I bought (see below) of a photo taken by Ellis J. Malashuk, December 7, 1967.

I was really pleased to learn that the archive of my own black and white negatives includes a 1973 photo of Red Dog Lodge. But last week I found a 1967 photo for sale on eBay, and it’s much better than mine. It was taken for an article that ran in the Baltimore Sunday Sun Recreation section (page 11) on December 10, 1967. I inferred that from notes and stamps on the back of the photo, and from a citation of a Paul Wilkes article “Campaign to Save Soldiers Delight” from that date.

Marker historical

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<em>The Soldiers Delight historical marker in 1969.</em>

The Soldiers Delight historical marker in 1969.


The Maryland Historical Society installed the Soldiers Delight historical marker in 1968. It looks brand new in the 1969 photo from The Baltimore Sun archives, and it appears to be on the west side of Deer Park Road near the overlook. I photographed the marker in 1973 when it appears to be on the opposite side of the road. It also appears to have been repaired after being broken off the post. I found a recent photo from August 2009 showing a completely new sign now back on the west side of the road next to the overlook parking. The wording of the sign has not changed, only the number of paragraphs and the number of spelling errors.

Assay office

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Assay office and goldenrod. Fall 1974.

Assay office and goldenrod. Fall 1974.

Land purchased by the State of Maryland for the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area included two historic buildings: Red Dog Lodge and a log cabin said to have been built in 1848. The lore is that the cabin was used as an assay office for the Tyson chromite mining operation. It was apparently well maintained for most of its decades and was well preserved when I photographed it in the fall of 1974 before much restoration had been done. There were no windows or doors, but it had a real foundation (maybe even a cellar), intact chinking, and a mostly functioning roof.
Assay office. Fall 1974.

Assay office and bristlegrass. There seems to be some light leakage at the top of this and other frames, I guess from worn out bulk-loaded cassettes. Fall 1974.

Soldiers Delight’s first ranger, E. Vernon Tracy, organized some restoration, and by the spring of 1975 the windows and doors were boarded up and it had a new roof, or at least a different roof. In 1974 there was a patched composition shingle roof, and in 1975 there appeared to be a wood shake roof, but not necessarily a brand new one. So I’m not sure what changed.

Stemming the tide

Below is a diagram that was never shown to me in science class. Alfred Wegener proposed his theory of continental drift in 1912, but it was not until 1960 that most scientists began to accept the new paradigm that continents move around. The idea of crust formation at mid ocean ridges came even later in 1966. So when scientists and teachers in the 1950s and 1960s presented a story about the serpentine rock underlying Soldiers Delight, they got it wrong. Serpentinite is formed in the lower oceanic crust, typically at the mid ocean spreading centers. That’s where it picks up its heavy minerals, like chromium, nickel, and magnesium, which are more abundant in the mantle and deep crust. When Africa floated over here 300 million years ago, a little bit of this oceanic rock got pushed along with it and ended up in the Appalachian Mountains, and in Soldiers Delight. Nobody knew that in 1960.

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A diagram of magma rising through the mantle and forming new oceanic crust at a mid ocean rise. This is where serpentinite is formed.

A diagram of magma rising through the mantle and forming new oceanic crust at a mid ocean rise. This is where serpentinite is formed.

Red Dog Lodge

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Red Dog Lodge in a recent photo from the SDCI web site.

Red Dog Lodge in a recent photo from the SDCI web site. Both benches have plaques on them, I think one of them has my mother’s name on it.

Red Dog Lodge was built in 1912 as a hunting lodge and has been a symbol of Soldiers Delight for me since I started meeting, playing, and hiking there when I was a kid in the 1950s. It always seemed like a place with secrets, a place were men once did things that weren’t done anymore, things that Tom Sawyer would know about because he had seen them in a book. It was built for Mr. Dolfield, who gave his name to the road I grew up on, and also for the namesake of Sherwood Hill Road where our three-letter friends the Lees and the Coes lived. I knew Mr. Hibline who used the lodge after World War II, but I never knew that he was a person who used it, or what it was used for. It never occurred to me that somebody owned it. So I didn’t know much at all, but it was always good to be at Red Dog Lodge.

Copy that

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Nikon D3100 on the 22A copy stand. The lens is a Micro-NIKKOR 55mm 1:3.5 with a 12 mm extension tube.

Nikon D3100 on the 22A copy stand. The lens is a Micro-NIKKOR 55mm 1:3.5 with a 12 mm extension tube.

The film is placed in a negative carrier from my old Omega B-22 enlarger. The light source is a frosted glass lamp shade with a compact fluorescent bulb.

The film is placed in a negative carrier from my old Omega B-22 enlarger. The light source is a frosted glass lamp shade with a compact fluorescent bulb.

I watched eBay auctions for Nikon D3100 cameras for a day, then started watching auctions for D5100 cameras. I assumed that the upgrade from the Nikon D40’s six megapixels had to be at least to 14 megapixels to make a noticeable improvement in copies of old Plus-X film, and I assumed that to really record the film grain, the D5100’s 16 megapixels would be required. But the D5100 was $100 more, and the raw files it makes are 20 MB, compared to 15 MB for the D3100 (and 5 MB for my old D40). The D5100 is also bigger and a bit heavier. After several D3100 auctions completed, I ordered a refurbished one from Adorama for $350, about the price used ones were going for on eBay with a kit 18-55 mm VR lens. This gave me a 90 day warranty and it was easy to order a couple of spare batteries. It arrived in 1.5 days for $6 shipping, way better than most eBay deals.

Convergent artifacts

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<em>A brief article about Soldiers Delight in the brown section of the Sunday Sun Magazine, August, 1960.</em>

A brief article about Soldiers Delight in the brown section of the Sunday Sun Magazine, August, 1960.

Digging around for 40 year old negatives last week turned up a couple of even older things. I found a little T-shirt, and a couple of copies of the Sunday rotogravure section from The Baltimore Sun for August 21, 1960, 53 years ago today. The brown section had been archived because it included photos of my entire family in a two page spread about Soldiers Delight. We were honored to be pictured in this article because the photographer was A. Aubrey Bodine who had worked for the Baltimore Sun since 1920. We were chosen to be the models for this photo shoot because my parents were advocates for the preservation of the undeveloped tract of serpentine barrens near our home in Owings Mills, Maryland. Also because we were really cute.

Negative space

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400 rolls of film from the 1970s.

400 rolls of film from the 1970s.

In the 1970s I exposed about 400 rolls of black and white film. Most of these were 36 exposure rolls of 35 mm Kodak Plus-X which I bulk loaded and developed at home. I made an 8 x 10 inch contact print of each roll, and put an accession number on the contact sheet and the glassine envelope with the negative strips. I still have all 14,000 of these negatives and contact prints. If you think that preserving this collection suggests that I am farsighted, consider that I never put a single date on any of this material.

Kite’s eye view

In the late nineteenth century, hand drawn “bird’s-eye maps” were a revelation to earthly New Englanders. When exotic hot air balloons were the only way to gain such a perspective, enterprising artists just imagined what a bird might see. The customers for these maps lived and worked in the buildings depicted, so these are probably placed with some accuracy, relying on existing maps for data. It is the details of the rest of the landscape that were recorded nowhere else. In the 1889 drawing below, cleared fields, orchards, and shrubby growth nearly to the top of Hogback Mountain confirm the wisdom that in 1850 the entire slope, like others all over Vermont, was probably cleared of trees. Today, the young ages of the trees tell the same story, but an old bird’s-eye view is still a revelation.