These days a map tends to be viewed as a dry, dusty piece of parchment. With a GPS at our fingertips, a map might simply be looked at as ancient navigational tool.
In actuality, maps of early America were conversation pieces, works of art and crucial tools in identifying lifestyles of the times in which they were drawn. They became the social glue that bound a young nation into a community and shaped its identity.
Winterthur Museum’s new major exhibition “Common Destinations: Maps in the American Experience” offers a fascinating voyage through two centuries that included colonial wars, nation building and industrialization. The exhibition runs through January 5, 2014.
While other map exhibitions have focused largely on great mapmakers or on decorative aspects of maps, curator Dr. Martin Bruckner took aim at the “social life of maps.” He collaborated with Linda Eaton, Winterthur’s director of collections.
Then, as today, America took pride in building unity out of diversity, and maps helped a fledgling nation forge common bonds and foster good citizenship,” noted Bru¨ckner, an associate professor of English at the University of Delaware who conceived “Common Destinations.”
“Visitors will see how men used maps at home and abroad. How women and children engaged with maps to nurture family ties. Maps would bind a people of strangers into a community during times of change and development."
Looking to celebrate the Summer Solstice? Jump behind the wheel and travel to Dover, Delaware for the Firefly Music Festival. Set on the edge of a low-density woodland, the three-day event will host more than 70 artists over four stages from headliners Tom Petty and Red Hot Chili Peppers to rising stars like Foster The People, The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes, Vampire Weekend and hip-hop legend Public Enemy.
The festival kicks off the first day of summer, June 21, and wraps up on Sunday, June 23, a full month earlier than the festival’s inaugural outing in 2012. It will be staged at an 87-acre site known as “The Woodlands” at the Dover International Speedway in central Delaware. Festival officials are preparing for upwards of 50,000 fans per day.
Firefly hopes to propel Delaware into the same rare musical sphere with annual summer gatherings such as Bonnaroo, Outside Lands and Lollapalooza. The festival is organized by Red Frog Events -- a Chicago-based production company famously known for throwing the extreme obstacle race Warrior Dash. Last year Firefly drew about 30,000 music fans a day from 48 states with a three-day lineup that featured artists such as Jack White, The Killers, The Black Keys, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, the Flaming Lips, and a total of 41 more bands.
In colonial Philadelphia oysters sellers clattered up and down the shell-paved streets hawking a bounty of oysters to be eaten raw, in stew, in oyster pies or fried over coals and served with chicken salad. They were so abundant and that cheap oysters were sold off carts the way hot dogs are today.
At the oyster industry’s peak in 1880, 2.4 million bushels (each bushel contained roughly 285 oysters) were harvested from the Delaware Bay where 1,400 boats plied these waters, employing 2,300 men. Towns along the bay like Bivalve were processing hubs where thousands of workers shucked and canned oysters.
Bay oysters once streamed out of here. Schooners and oystermen harvested the bivalves for local oyster houses. Prized for their fine flavor and plump, firm meat, the Cape May Salts were collected in barrels, loaded onto trucks and dispatched to Philadelphia. The mollusks were also headed for restaurants in New York, northern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Chicago, St. Louis and San Francisco. Windfall profits from the oyster industry could be seen in the dazzling Victorian mansions that dotted the beaches of Cape May.
By the 1920s the once fertile oyster beds had become exhausted from overfishing. Then, in the late 1950s, the beds were nearly wiped out by a parasitic disease known as MSX. In 1990 another parasite called Dermo struck, killing young oysters before they could reach marketable size. It’s been a constant struggle. Beyond the waves of disease harvests have declined precipitously due to over-aggressive fishing, environmental hazards and poor management.
H. P. McGrath was a barroom brawler who worked his way up from crooked dice games in his native Kentucky to owning posh gambling parlors in New Orleans and New York City. Cashing in his enormous profits, McGrath returned to Lexington, Ky. as a member of the landed gentry in 1867. He built his lordly estate McGrathiana on the crest of a hill a few miles outside town. Breeding, racing, and wagering on top-flight thoroughbreds would dominate the rest of his life.
Henry Price McGrath also gained immortality. His pint-size blood red colt Aristides will forever be remembered in racing history as the first Kentucky Derby winner.
The burly Irishman named the colt to honor his good friend Philadelphian Aristides J. Welch who established Erdenheim Stud shortly after the close of the Civil War. A few furlongs from the village of Chestnut Hill, its barns, boxes and paddocks were the home of many of the greatest thoroughbreds on both sides of the Atlantic in the late nineteenth century.
A purser in the Navy and a prominent contractor, Welch earned early notoriety as a signer of the bond to release Jefferson Davis after the Civil War. Few American horsemen could match Welch’s commercial breeding success. An English stakes winner, Leamington (Aristide’s sire) was the driving force behind Welch’s prominence after his purchase in 1872. The nearly black stallion already had produced some of the sport’s grandest stars-- Longfellow, Littleton and Lynchburg-- while at stud in Kentucky. Still, it was Welch’s astute broodmare selections that would propel Leamington to leading sire in North America titles in 1875, 1877, 1878 and 1881.
America’s Best Racing The Jockey Club Website www.followhorseracing.com May 2013
The path Sir Alfred Munnings travelled to artistic greatness commenced with a simple carriage ride with his father. In his memoir the young lad described the thrill:
“I can see the mare’s pricked up ears in front of us, and the short, silky, silver mane in the breeze. I can hear the hooves on the road, the jingle of the silver-mounted harness and the sound of the wheels as we bowled along.”
The leading light of English sporting art in the 20th century, Munnings captured the sensation of light and bright colors as stunningly as he captured the spirit of horses. Among his stable of discerning patrons were George V and Elizabeth II of England and American royalty Paul Mellon and John Hay Whitney.
In his autobiography, ''An Artist's Life,'' Munnings wrote: “The horse is one of the greater miracles of nature. Although horses have given me much trouble and many sleepless nights, they have been my supporters and friends. They have been my destiny.''
America’s Best Racing The Jockey Club Website www.followhorseracing.com May 2013
Sixty-five years ago, Citation unleashed the greatest three-year-old season in the annals of thoroughbred racing. Blessed with genuine speed, staying power and a seemingly endless desire to win, Citation inspired his handler Jimmy Jones to boldly say: "My horse could beat anything with hair on it.”
Citation won 19 of 20 races in 1948. He won at every distance, won at ten different tracks, and won in seven different states travelling the countryside in dusty trucks and sweltering rail cars. He won his races by a total of 66 lengths, and swept the Triple Crown races by a total of 17 lengths. The victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes were part of his 16-race win streak.
Citation represented the vaunted Calumet Farm and the Jones boys, its private trainers. Natives of Purnell, Missouri, they captured eight Kentucky Derbys, creating a dynasty that has never been matched. Famed trainer Ben Jones, big, beefy and a feared salon brawler, told his son the evening before the 1948 Kentucky Derby: "Jimmy, you can sleep well tonight, and you can take this as gospel: any horse Citation can see, he can catch. And he's got perfect eyesight."
Standing on the edge of a forest of white oak, hickory and birch with builder Dan Wright, my memories come flooding back: childhood pal Jack and I scramble up the ladder and butt the trap door open with our heads, transporting sleeping bags, flashlights and a small arsenal of water balloons. Treehouses were a treasure trove of adventure.
They still are. The enchanted hideaways of children have been gaining popularity as an “escape pod” for well-heeled baby boomers and their kids. Nestled in the crook of a hardwood tree, it is a peaceful and contemplative space where the most audible sound is the rustle of leaves through the open door.
A decade ago Wright left his career as a custom carpenter to pursue treehouse construction full time. He read books, scoured the Internet and attended a conference in Oregon. An agile man with cropped dark hair, Wright got his start installing red cedar siding on a tree-borne structure built at Longwood Gardens in the style of a Norwegian stave church.
“I was helping Jake Jacob from TreeHouse Workshop,” recalls Wright, 34, owner of Tree Top Builders of West Chester. “It was a very good experience. But, everyone doubted I could make a living at it. So I had to try.”
For the past fifteen years I’ve been a contributing writer to a variety of national & regional magazines, prominent daily news-papers and websites. I have written about an array of topics such as arts & culture, chefs, food & drink, business entrepreneurs, travel, history, thoroughbred racing, and the animal and natural world.
I'm currently a regular arts & culture contributor to WFIT's website (the NPR radio station in Melbourne.), Vero Beach Magazine and Florida Today newspaper on a number of topics. Over recent years my work has been published regularly in Blood-Horse, Long Island Boating World and The Hunt and PA Equestrian magazines.
I am a regular contributor to the websites JustLuxe.com and SeeTheSouth.com. JustLuxe is an online magazine featuring the best of luxury lifestyle and travel, while SeeTheSouth features truly unique southern destinations. My travel articles also regularly appear in Florida Today, Long Island Boating world and the Delaware County Times, a major daily newspaper just outside Philly.
I've also contributed a variety of articles to the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the Delaware County Times, and the Montgomery County Newspapers. I have been an Arts & Culture correspondent for Newsworks, the website for WHYY-TV (PBS in Philadelphia). I have been a correspondent to ESPN.com, America's Best Racing, the Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.
After spending the past two decades in Wilmington, Delaware, my wife Jane, our Toller retriever Smarty and I have moved to Melbourne Beach, Fla. Located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River, Melbourne Beach sits on the southern end of Florida's "Space Coast." The famed coastal highway A1A runs directly along the Atlantic. Melbourne Beach (pop. 3,000) offers unspoiled beaches with sparkling blue-green waters and thousands of beautiful seabirds and long-legged shorebirds.
Head north 35 miles on A1A and you arrive at Cape Canaveral, for decades our nation's gateway to exploring and understanding our universe. Today, Cape Canaveral is a hub for many of the most exciting new private space projects such as SpaceX, the rocket and spacecraft company founded by Elon Musk (manufacturer of Tesla vehicles). Upwards of 30 launches are planned in 2017.
Back down to earth traveling on two-lane A1A south from Melbourne Beach's compact business area brings you to a series of secluded and undeveloped natural beaches. Bonsteel Park's two-acre beach provides an excellent vantage point to catch glimpses of passing dolphins, while the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is recognized as the most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles in the western hemisphere. It's also home to the gigantic leatherback turtles.
Nearby is Sebastian Inlet State Park which connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean. Its jetty break is recognized as one of the surf world's high-performance hot spots. Three generations of world-class surfers have surfed here, including 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. The 600-acre park is also celebrated for world-class fishing, and plenty of seabirds and wildlife.
Through my writing over the past decade I have traveled to spectacular destinations such as Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. and Sun Valley, Idaho; Cody, Wyoming/Yellowstone Park; Saratoga Springs, the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs and Rhinebeck, New York; Port Clyde and Monheghan Island, Maine; Avalon and Stone Harbor, New Jersey; Middleburg, Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia.
Other travel adventures have included Tampa and St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, Florida; and St. Simons and Jekyll Island, Georgia. My travel articles thoughtfully explore the history of the region along with museums, music and the arts, chefs and restaurateurs, wineries and craft breweries, outdoor and sporting adventures as well as profiling intriguing personalities of those regions.
In addition to my writing career I owned a marketing company where I represented a diversified list of clients in the areas of publicity, marketing and business development-- such as the famed Baldwin's Book Barn, Thoroughbred Charities of America and the Kahunaville restaurant chain. In another life I was the founder, publisher and editor of Life Sports Magazine.
Along with Jane and Smarty I look forward to writing about new adventures in Melbourne Beach, the "Space Coast" and other Florida destinations. That's Smarty below with his pals Willie and Nelson.