A few of the items I received for Mother’s Day: flowers, my favorite candy, and a tricorn or cocked hat, with a flower pin supplied by me. My sweet husband is on board with my history loving lunacy.

It was a rainy and low-key Mother’s Day here. I remember every day how lucky I am to have such sweet, bright, and healthy daughters. I hope I am giving them everything they need to be strong, kind, and curious young women.

True Story

I always knew the Teddy Bear’s connection to Roosevelt but I never knew exactly why. The short version: In late 1902, the President went bear-hunting in Mississippi, where black bears were plentiful. Despite that, Roosevelt was unable to shoot a single bear during the whole trip. At one point, one of his fellow hunters did indeed manage to catch a small (235 lb) bear, lassoed it and stunned it with a blow to the head, then tied it to a tree. He went to fetch the President, saying that he’d cornered a bear, but when Theodore saw that it was a young and disoriented cub, tied to a tree, he refused to shoot it, because it wasn’t a fair fight.

The story got out, and Roosevelt was commended for his compassion for the animal. An editorial cartoonist began drawing very popular images depicting the President and the bear he had saved (the drawing also had racial overtones as Roosevelt had angered Southern racists by dining with Booker T. Washington). With each picture, the bear grew cuter and cuddlier. By sheer coincidence that same winter, a German toymaker shipped 300 stuffed plush bears to FAO Schwartz toy store in Manhattan. They marketed them as “Teddy” bears at the height of the hunting story’s fame. The rest is history, and the name endures.

This ad is from 1907 — five years later and going strong in TR’s second term.

Oh, and, Roosevelt never liked the nickname Teddy. But he couldn’t shake it.


I was up early as usual because my brain does not know what is a weekend, much like the Dowager Countess of Grantham. As usual I made coffee and curled up in my chair to read. In this chapter, Teddy Roosevelt is hobbled by a leg injury at the end of 1902, but still successfully mediates a labor dispute between coal miners and operators that could have ended in widespread chaos and martial law. He tells the parties involved that while they represent the workers, and the millionaire owners, he represents The People. Did I mention he was a “conservative Republican”?

I am told that it is spring, that we are in fact more than midway through spring, but while outside the flowers burst into color and the lawns grow lush and the trees are blossoming and sprinkling their pollen everywhere, it still continues to rain and a chill permeates the air. Vast iron-hued clouds still sail across the sky on a daily basis. We in the northwest wait so patiently for the perfect summer we have come to expect, which seems as though should have at least been hinted at by this day. But it has not, and Viking Fest may be another damp affair, not that that will stop me from attending. When May comes to a close in a few weeks, I will be reminded of the other name for the month that follows: Junuary.

So I have stayed inside this afternoon and culled seven bags of clothing from my closet and dresser. I also wiped thick layers of dust from the closet rods and hangers. If you find dust on your clothes, that is a sign that they should perhaps be donated. I think I won’t have too many regrets. Many of the items I got rid of were from a bygone era of office work, so old that they not only do not fit, but are also out of style. I think.

Anyway. It just started raining again. I am going to write some fiction. Somehow. It has been a few months since I did that. Way too long.

A Dinner Invite

On This Day in 1780… Hamilton wrote the following letter to Baron von Steuben:

Dear Baron,

General Knox in conversation has observed to The General, that instead of sending to Philadelphia for the 1500 arms mentioned in your letter of the 6th. and sending those here to that place to be fitted, it would be a great saving of expence in the article of transportation, to have the bayonets and accoutrements brought on without the arms, and fitted to those now here which can easily be done at the Park. The question is if the arms here have no other defect than that of bayonets. The General will be glad to know what you think of General Knox’s proposal. It seems to him eligible unless there are reasons he is not acquainted with.

If there are any other articles you wish to have sent for, (The General thinks you mentioned something of the kind to him) he will be glad to know what they are.

I have the honor to be, Dr Baron Yr very hum S

Alex Hamilton ADC
May 10th. 1780

We have heard from the Marquis. He will be here at Dinner. Will you dine with us also? The General requests it.

My favorite part of this letter is the postscript, where he basically says oh btw, Lafayette is back in town and we’re having dinner with him, George wants you there too. It’s such a normal and friendly invitation to follow a paragraph about guns and bayonets.

It is worth noting that at the time this was written, Hamilton was newly engaged to Elizabeth Schuyler and pretty much out of his mind in love with her and probably constantly distracted by this in one way or another, being twenty-three and everything.

Oh and also, of course, “Alex Hamilton, ADC.”

T. Rex

All plans are suspended when your little one suddenly falls ill with an earache, I suppose. This happened Friday night, when my youngest’s cough/cold transformed into “my ear hurts.” I should note here that unlike most families I know, mine has eluded ear infections entirely, in both girls. It’s totally unknown to me, so I did a bit of reading. I am not one to leap directly to a course of antibiotics, particularly as they do nothing to viruses, so I let her nap all day and gave her tylenol and ear drops. Last night she slept twelve hours with no complaints of pain, so please let this pass so we can have a more enjoyable Sunday?

Currently reading: “Theodore Rex” — volume two in the Roosevelt trilogy, this one covering his terms as president. I feel as though I am escaping into fantasy as I learn all about this Republican who advocated for conservation, national parks, and federal regulation over corporate monopolies. Sigh! It’s great, though. Beautifully written, full of all the interesting and eccentric details that I think belong in histories.

John Quincy Adams, by Copley

“Of Arms and Artists” — an interesting book about the painters who documented the American Revolution and the period afterward. Just getting into this one. My favorite American artist of the 18th century is John Singleton Copley. It’s a travesty that he never painted Hamilton — it might have been the most true to life portrait of all. Dude was talented.

In other news, I picked up a couple of Rhodia dot pads last week. Paper is smooth as silk and I think it actually likes my medium nib pen better than the extra-fine. It really has been a trial and error process to match up pens with paper surfaces. But no less delightful. I wrote a few letters last week. Such an indulgent hobby, but it brings pleasure to me and I hope to others, so I continue with it.


Oh, hello there.

This photo was brought to my attention this morning; it is a couple of historical players participating in Junior Rangers Day yesterday at Hamilton National Grange. They are dressed in the first military uniform of Alexander Hamilton, when he was a 19-year-old artillery captain in New York City. His company was known as “Hearts of Oak” and it is the oldest active Army unit.

That kid in the back is working it. His youthful face and small stature easily conjure up the image of young Alex, proudly wearing the smart uniform he had dreamed of most of his life. All that is missing is long auburn hair tied back and braided under that dashing cocked hat. I thought there would be more ruffled sleeves but I suppose those came later with the Continental Army uniforms, designed by General Washington himself.


This book was soooo cool, but almost twenty dollars so I had to pass, after first of course looking through most of the pictures. Very nice to see all those big, bad cannons in photographic form.

So, on the subject of writing with feathers, observe:

This guy did not fuck around. He did have a habit of never crossing the “t” in his name, though. And judging by the many Treasury Dept letters I have looked at, I do not think anyone called him “Alexander.” He was “Alex”, his whole life, to those who knew him, even in business correspondence.

Anyway, when using a quill, why not make huge flourishes everywhere?

It makes things look more important, more formal, more beautiful.

“This is not in my opinion the true construction of the Act.” Nothing gets by Alex, you guys.

I’ll have you know, Secretary Hamilton, that my healthcare provider once gave me a 20% discount for prompt payment in full. Though I suppose this is not equivalent to customs duty, so I beg your pardon, SIR.

Those of us using steel fountain pens can only dream of such glorious penmanship, and with a goose quill no less. I guess when you churn out thousands upon thousands of documents, you get pretty good at it. (Or not; some of these guys still had atrocious handwriting.)


Look at my new pretty. I’m about to write three letters with it. I know, jeez, why don’t you just write with a feather already!

Maybe I will!!

Actually no, that would be terrible.

Sit Down, John!

I can’t believe how long it took me to watch “1776”, but I did last night, and best of all, watched along with a crowd of other history enthusiasts on Twitter — including one of my idols, Joanne Freeman, Yale historian and author of “Affairs of Honor.” Yesterday she was recognized by someone on the subway. Pretty cool for a historian!

Anyway, I enjoyed the movie but I will have to try watching it again without all the distractions going on in the room and on my phone.

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