Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Five Things You Didn’t Know About the Great Lakes

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
The American Falls of Niagara

The American Falls of Niagara

Those of us who grew up near the Great Lakes already know the basics.

They consist of Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan Ontario, and Superior. They provide 20% of the world’s fresh water, and are the largest grouping of freshwater lakes on the Earth’s surface. And, of course, the lake effect snow from these waterways create endless frustration every winter.

Then there are those of us who like to have a little more advanced knowledge…

  1. Lake Erie is the shallowest lake at 210 ft while Lake Superior is the deepest at 1,332 ft.
  2. Each lake has Native American roots to its name, except Lake Superior. While they are all either Ojibwe, Wyandot, or Iroquois names, Lake Superior is actually an English translation of French term “lac supérieur” (“upper lake”), referring to its position above Lake Huron. But the Ojibwe have their own name for it and call it “Gitchigumi.
  3. Travel through the Great Lakes began in 1844 and expanded in 1857, when palace steamers carried passengers and cargo around the Great Lakes. Tourism really picked up throughout the 20th century when large luxurious passenger steamers sailed from Chicago all the way to Detroit and Cleveland.
  4. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society in Paradise, Michigan explores notable historic maritime sites ranging from the infamous SS Edmund Fitzgerald to recently discovered 1902 ship Cyprus – which sank on its second voyage carrying iron ore from Superior, Wisconsin to Buffalo, New York.
  5. The redheaded stepchild of the Great Lakes is Lake Champlain, which was briefly labeled as the sixth great lake by the Federal government on March 6, 1998. But after much media and public ridicule for being too small to be “Great,” the offer was rescinded on March 24, 1998.

Did you grow up near a Great Lake? What are your favorite memories? Share Below.

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What does Cairo have in common with the Mississippi River?

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
Civil War era image of USS Cairo

Civil War era image of USS Cairo

The answer is the USS Cairo, which is actually pronounced “kare-o”. It was one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. In January, 1862, during the Civil War, it was commissioned by the North as a way to gain control over the lower Mississippi – part of a plan to split the South in two. Unfortunately, the USS Cairo had a short life and was the first ship to be sunk by an electronically detonated torpedo on December 12, 1862. Two explosions ripped open the hull of the ship causing it to sink 35 feet into the river in only 12 minutes – amazingly with no loss of life.Time passed with no way of retrieving the USS Cairowhich remained at the bottom of the river. Over the years, the story was forgotten and locals weren’t really sure what happened—if members of the crew had died, or even of the gunboat’s exact location.

In 1956, Smithsonian Journeys Study Leader Ed Bearss, started analyzing contemporary documents and maps. As Historian at the Vicksburg National Military Park, he and his companions Don Jacks and Warren Grabau made it their goal to uncover the gunboat, which was now buried under almost one hundred years of silt and mud. While they believed they had found the site of the ship, it wasn’t until three years later that Cairo’s armored port covers were brought to the surface, confirming the find.

It took several additional years to gain public interest and funding, and then there was the issue of actually raising an ironclad gunboat from the bottom of a river. After securing funding, the decision was made to split the USS Cairo into three parts in order to lift them to the surface. The entire ship was finally raised on December 12, 1964—exactly 102 years after it sank. After a long preservation process, it is now on display at the Vicksburg National Military Park.

The USS Cairo Gunboat today, Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service

The USS Cairo Gunboat today, Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service

Which Civil War locations have you visited? Share Below.

An Unlikely Survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn

Monday, April 26th, 2010
Comanche, the only U.S. Army survivor in the Battle of Little Bighorn, photographed in 1887

Comanche, the only U.S. Army survivor in the Battle of Little Bighorn, photographed in 1887

There were many notable characters that history has documented from the Battle of Little Bighorn.

First, there was the notorious Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer, a former Civil War hero with an ego and recklessness that led him and his men to complete defeat in Montana. As the military leader of the U.S. Army’s 7th Calvary, he led 263 soldiers and various personnel into Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne territory on June 25, 1876, with tragic results.

Then there was Crazy Horse, a well-respected Oglala Lakota warrior who was instrumental in the defeat of Custer. He led a surprise attack with more than 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne fighters against Brigadier General George Crook’s own force of 1,000 and his allied crew of 300 Crow and Shoshone warriors. This separate conflict, called the Battle of the Rosebud, meant that Crook could not join the 7th Cavalry at Little Bighorn and left Custer without enough men. The result was only one survivor.

The only survivor of the U.S. 7th Cavalry at Little Bighorn was actually a horse of mustang lineage named Comanche. A burial party that was investigating the site two days later found the severely wounded horse. He was then sent to Fort Lincoln, 950 miles away, to spend the next year recuperating from his injuries. Even though the horse remained with the 7th Calvary, it was ordered that he never be ridden again and be formally excused from all duties. The horse’s primary responsibility going forward was at formal military functions where he was draped in black, with stirrups and boots reversed, at the head of the Regiment.

Comanche eventually died at the age of 29 of colic on November 7, 1891. The officers of the 7th Calvary wanted to preserve the horse, so after the taxidermist completed the project, Comanche was put on display in the Chicago Exposition of 1893.

Today, you can visit Comanche at Dyche Hall at the University of Kansas. The Museum of Natural History at the University now keeps him on display to the public in a  humidity controlled glass case.

Who is your favorite famous horse from history? Share Below.

The Santa Fe Indian Market©

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Pueblo at Dusk by Dan Namingha, 1987 Courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian

For the past 88 years, the Santa Fe Indian Market© in New Mexico has been a hotspot for the cultural arts – both traditional and cutting edge. Every August, over 1000 artists arrive in the city to sell their jewelry, pottery, paintings, basketry, and beadwork. Surrounding this annual event held since 1922, are gallery openings, art shows, and opportunities to mingle and network with artists, cultural historians, and connoisseurs of Native arts.

A combined effort between Native artists and museum curators, the gathering was seen as an opportunity to bring two cultures together. Non-Natives would learn about indigenous cultures while appreciating Native arts as valuable high art rather than as trinkets and souvenirs. Francis La Flesche, a well respected ethnologist and Omaha Indian, addressed the need for systematic production, steady markets, and the maintenance of adequate prices for the art movement to continue.

Decades later, the Santa Fe Indian Market© has succeeded in combining respect for beautiful, well-made Native artwork while appreciating the economic benefits to Native communities who participate. The result is a world class market that attracts approximately 80,000 people each year, and a valuable $100 million in tourism revenues to the state.

Plus, the jewelry is simply gorgeous.

Explore the world of Native Arts on our The Santa Fe Indian Market© tour this summer.

What would you buy at the Santa Fe Indian Market©?

We’re One Year Old!

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

 

A baby mountain gorilla celebrates his birthday in his own way.

It’s the 1st birthday of our Smithsonian Journeys blog! In honor of our big day, here’s an anthropological look at birthday traditions in the United States and around the world.

  • In Russia, children receive a birthday pie instead of an what we know as a birthday cake.
  • In Canada, the birthday kid’s nose is greased with butter. As a result, the child is too slippery for bad luck to catch him.
  • In Vietnam, everyone celebrates at the dawn of the New Year, but the actual day of birth is not celebrated. Each child receives a red envelope with “Lucky Money” to celebrate their aging, and when they are asked their age they respond by using the appropriate symbol to the lunar birth year.

Then there is the United States, where we have parties where the birthday girl or boy receive a cake with candles, gifts, and there is the traditional singing of “Happy Birthday.” This tradition actually started in Europe many centuries ago, when people believed that evil spirits were particularly attracted to people on their birthday.  To protect the person, friends and family would visit to bring good wishes, which evolved into today’s birthday party. Giving gifts chased off evil spirits even more effectively.

We want to thank you for reading our blog and commenting this past year! There’s always something to write about when you travel as much as we do.

What cultures do you want to see us write about on the blog? Share below.

Don’t know where to start? Take a look at our Around the World by Private Jet tour.