Friday, January 25, 2008

Aboard the Brig Grey Hound

An 1816 Inventory of a Sailor’s Belongings
(This is an actual original inventory, taken in 1816. Following is an exact transcription of the inventory. Where questions marks are substituted, I was unable to decipher the writing.)
Inventory of Goods or Wearing Apparel belonging to W. Clarke Pratt, late Second Mate of Brig Grey Hound, who departed this Life 10th Nov. 1815 in Lat. 20 degrees 67" North, longitude 64 degrees 55" West, on a passage from Martinique towards Turks Islands.
Chest containing as follows
1 Black Broad Cloth Coat, 1 pr Ditto* pantaloons
1 course short blue jacket, 1 Ditto Vest
1 yellow Nankeen short jacket, 1 pr Ditto Pantaloons
1 cotton sheet, 2 Ditto Shirts, 1 pr duck trousers
1 black silk Handkerchief; 4 handkerchiefs of different kinds
2 thin vests, pillow case, 5 pr. yarn stockings
2 pr shoes, 2 pr yarn mittins
1 looking glass and shaving utensils
2 American Practical Navigators
1 account book, 1 writing Ditto
1 Printed Ship’s Journal, chart of the coast U.S.
10 charts of different parts, 1 slate
7 bottles pepper sauce, 35 fine tooth combs
Cash $18.80
Cut Money 13 pieces
1 clothes bag containing as follows
1 light coloured pea jacket, 2 pr woolen trousers
1 brown short jacket, 2 woolen vests
1 red flannel shirt, 1 coarse white Ditto
1 pair shoes, Ditto Boots
1 quadrant, 3 jars tamarinds
5 Hats, 1 bbl sugar said to belong to deceased
1 Dudley to be accountable for ??? broke
1 Fowl coop sold for $1.00
3 boxes of ??? - said to belong to the deceased
On the reverse, the words I can make out are:
This is ?????? to be a true copy in the Original
Inventory taken by Capt. ?????? on or at Turks Island.
(Signed) ???????????

NOTES: United States Watermark: oval surmounted with a crown; within the oval, a seated person holding a three-leafed branch in right hand; staff in left, and shield with cross near bottom.
One problem in identifying this ship is there were many, many sailing ships named "Greyhound." If I can determine the name of the captain, it may help identify the ship.
The position noted at the top of the page is in the Caribbean is approximately halfway between Martinique and Turks Island.
I have not been able to find a definition for "Dudley."

* The inventory uses a mark that looks like a handwritten capitol D for "ditto."
In this case, "black broad cloth."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Day With President Eisenhower

It's a Ground-Breaking Ceremony in Kansas
It’s autumn, 1959.
I’m at Fort Riley, Kansas, finishing up two years service in the US Army. After a lengthy basic and advanced infantry training program, I’m assigned as writer-photographer to the public information office when it’s learned I know how to type. Not complaining, mind you, it was great duty while being a member of Delta Company but assigned to Headquarters Company of the 8th Infantry Battle Group, 1st Infantry Division. Yeah, the famous Big Red One.
You may not remember 1959. Elvis, the Kingston Trio, Bobby Darin; movies such as "Auntie Mame," "Ben-Hur," "North by Northwest;" television shows like "Gunsmoke," Have Gun Will Travel," "77 Sunset Strip;" Alaska becomes a state, pantyhose are introduced, Eddie Fisher marries Elizabeth Taylor, Fidel Castro takes control of Cuba, the Baltimore Colts beat the N.Y. Giants for the NFL Championship and the Los Angeles Dodgers take the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.
And Dwight David Eisenhower is President, nearing the end of his second four-year term.
In October, Eisenhower chose to make the main address at the groundbreaking ceremony for what would become the Dwight David Eisenhower Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas. Of course, an honor guard would be required so several units from nearby Fort Riley were selected, among them a very polished group from the 8th Infantry. Photos would be required.
During the next couple of weeks, the men representing the 8th Infantry are selected, their uniforms put in order and put through a few training movements.
On the big day, I accompany the Honor Guard on the short trip to Abilene. At the library site, there is quite a bit of standing around (anyone who was ever in the service will recall waiting). The honor guards make the last adjustments to their uniforms, network cameramen get their equipment set up and the local townspeople start crowding in to the area. But soon there are stirs in the small crowd – made up in large part by school children - the photographers and announcers perched on their scaffolding perk up and the honor units are marched into position. I crank up by little 35mm Nikon and the more bulky Rollie. I’m dressed in my best Class A uniform and wander at will through the area, no one asking for an identification or blocking my path.
The President, followed by a surprisingly small entourage but accompanied by a bevy of Secret Service agents, makes his appearance. Hail to The Chief is played by the military band, he is greeted by local dignitaries and general officers and takes his place on the elevated and covered stage. Following introductions, Eisenhower makes a relatively brief address, but the locals thoroughly enjoy the proceedings. After all, these are his kinds of people. (Although he was born in Texas, Eisenhower spent his youth in Abilene and graduated from the local high school in 1909.)
At the time, I take little note of what he said, being more interested in obtaining usable images. In putting together this little recollection, I have come across this excerpt, which pretty well sums the speech:
"When this Library is filled with documents, and scholars come here to probe into some of the facts of the past half century, I hope that they, as we today, are concerned primarily with the ideas, principles and trends that provide guides to a free, rich peaceful future in which all people can achieve ever-rising levels of human well-being."
Following his address, the President steps off the platform and is presented a chromed short-handled shovel with which he turns over more than just a couple shovelfuls of Kansas soil, marking the ceremonial beginning of construction of the Library. (He must have made some humorous remarks because, looking at the photos, onlookers in the background seem to be having a good time.) The President then steps into a convertible and reviews the assembled troops, at one point waving his Stetson in acknowledgement.
I was able to get within a few feet of the President while he was on the podium, although somewhat below the barrier of the stage.
No one – NO ONE – interfered with my presence, almost within touching distance of The Man. Perhaps I was given some slack as I was in uniform. (I do not doubt for one moment that I was not being watched.) I wonder about that to this day. In 1959, the country was pretty much at peace, the Cold War was cooling down, Vietnam was just a spark in the distance, consumers were fat and happy and there was no such thing as a threat to the security of the United States. Did we take our Freedoms for granted? I wonder.
How things have changed in the half century following Eisenhower’s speech.
Here are a couple of the photos I took, the colors now somewhat faded.
(Note: I originally made this post Jan. 17. After rooting through my personal archives, I found additional black and white negatives that caused me to add details to the story as well as add the accompanying pictures.)