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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Entries in ephemera (4)

    Thursday
    May232013

    Treasure Chest Thursday: Vintage Postcards Picture the History of Decoration Day

    First There Was Decoration Day

     

    This 1909 Decoration Day postcard depicts a U.S. Army vet, sabre in hand to salute his fallen comrades. The Grand Army of the Republic, as the Union Army was known, is celebrated in the five-star membership badge of the G.A.R.

    According to a 1910 history of the G.A.R, the badge was "struck from captured Confederate cannon" and the bronze "issued to the G.A.R. by the War Department as needed."

    The design includes motifs representing charity, liberty, loyalty, and fraternity surrounded by the insignia of the various branches of service -- bugle (infantry), crossed cannons (artillery), crossed muskets (marines), crossed sabers (cavalry), and anchor (sailors).

    The design was adopted in 1866, revised in 1868 and again in 1869. A few changes were made again in 1873 and 1886. This postcard dates from 1909 per the postmark, and probably shows the latest medal design.

    Shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War, communities began commemorating the fallen soldiers by decorating graves with flowers. General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic proclaimed the first major observance May 30, 1868, held at Arlington National Cemetery where both Union and Confederate graves were decorated.

    The same fascination with symbolism that created the G.A.R. medal is evident in the postcard design in these examples. 

     

    In this illustration a young child, probably a granddaughter, slips a flower in the lapel of her grandfather. He wears the G.A.R. veteran medal on his coat near the pinned sleeve, silent testament to his loss in the war. 

    In the bottom left of the card is an artist's version of the famous battle in March 1862 between the first iron-clad warships, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. The battle ended in a stalemate, but introduced a new phase of warfare to America. 

    This postcard obviously continues the series shown above, but the painterly scene on this card recalls the infantry's efforts in the war, in the same way that the previous card depicted naval war maneuvers. Presumably, other cards in the series pay homage to other branches of service. It would be interesting to locate other cards in the series and see the entire set together.

    The main image shows a war widow (note the grandmother's photo cameo brooch) with her grandson who playing at being a soldier. He wears a miniature G.A.R. medal, a too-large belt, and is holding his grandfather's saber. 

    And Then There Was Memorial Day

    This Memorial Day card bears a postmark on the reverse of 1908; it seems that the holiday was known by both names. The images here are probably meant to depict the new and old Navy warships. The card sends "Memorial Day Greetings" rather than a message for "Decoration Day," although the term Memorial Day did not become official until 1966.

    I found these cards at a local Vintage Paper and Ephemera Show in Southern California. If you love family history, and haven't discovered these shows yet, you are missing out!

    Sources:

    Naval History and Heritage

    The Grand Army Badge

    This Day in History

    Friday
    Apr122013

    Treasure Chest Thursday for Friday's What's Up Genealogy: Ephemera or Artifact

    Man in a Bottle

    Man in a Bottle, ca. 1957

    Don't be polite. What you're really wondering is, "What the heck is it?"

    My Dad didn't want it. Neither did my aunt, my sister, or anyone else. So, I took it. 

    First definition of ephemera: stuff no one else wants.

    Really. Ephemera is intended to be thrown away after use. It has a transitory specific one-time purpose. That folks tend to tuck the odd theater stub in a scrapbook or dry prom corsages is outside the intended purpose of the item. Hence, stuff that survives is less than common and more interesting to a lot of us ephemera aficionados. Of course, there's always the craftsman who repurposes an old photo in a piece of art as well.

    Man in a Bottle 5

    "Uncle Sam" 11-29-57

    You've seen the photos and now you know as much as I do. If you have any clues about this bit of gen-u-wine mid-century craftsmanship please leave a comment or join Caroline Pointer and me tonight on What's Up Genealogy, Google+ Hangout on Air. We are talking ephemera and odd artifacts and would love to hear what you think about this treasure.

    Thursday
    Apr112013

    Everyday Ephemera on Google+ with Caroline Pointer What's Up Genealogy?

    Whatsupgen

    We're talking about genealogy and ephemera tomorrow night on What's Up Genealogy Google+ Hangout On Air hosted by Caroline Pointer. What is ephemera? What do you do with it? How can it help you with your family history research? and, How much is enough? 

    I'll be chatting with Host Caroline Pointer beginning at 6pm looking forward to hearing about some of the more unusual bits of ephemera folks have found. Caroline's popular 48 Hour Ephemera Challenge returned last week with a fabulous Victorian photo album, and she's sure to have new treasures for the next rounds.

    Everyone is invited to attend the public Google+ Hangout. Search #WhatsUpGenealogy or click on the link for information on how to join. 

    Tomorrow I'm posting a few photos from my own collection as a preview for the Googlel+ Hangout. If anyone wants to research my "Uncle Sam" feel free! 

    Thursday
    Apr042013

    Treasure Chest Thursday: Old Letters; What Do You Do With Found Ephemera?

    One of the biggest products of daily life seems to be paper. It's stacked up around my house, and it's one of the first things to deal with when you inherit a home after someone passes away. 

    A Cure for Rheumatism

    My mother-in-law saved envelopes for scratch paper. My aunt repurposed them by cutting off her name and address for a kind of DIY return-address label. And, nearly 100 years ago my Grandmother Arline used an envelope to write -- "Gum-go-wack, get enough for one qt. whiskey for rheumatism. one oz. 3 times a day."

    Envelope recipe blog

    Letter from E.B. Kinsel, Ruth, Nevada to Mrs. A.A. Parker, Wilder, Kansas

    The letter was sent from E.B. Kinsel, Arline's father. I know that Eliphaz Bigelow Kinsel worked for the railroad and was rarely at home in Kansas. In 1926, my grandmother Arline was married to Charlie Parker but she must have been living either on E.B.'s farm in Wilder or on Parker's farm.

    The other address noted at the top of the envelope -- R.W. McCleery of Benton is new to me. Looks like another clue to follow. 

    So, what exactly -- as a family historian -- do you do with "Found Ephemera" when you acquire a collection of papers?

    Digitize, Transcribe, Preserve

    Some folks would throw it away. Some might read the letter first, and then toss it. I tend to just keep on saving it. I unfold the letter, scan it and place it in an acid-free paper folder. The folders are filed by author and date in an archival vertical file box. I use the scanned image for transcribing. Any genealogical data like names, dates, events, and vital records such as neighborhood gossip (*smile*) are entered into my genealogy database program with the letter cited as the source of the information. 

    When I'm lucky, information from these bits of "found ephemera" help build a chain of evidence for a claim such a date or place of birth, marriage, or death. These tidbits are not uncommon. My ancestors lived at a distance from close family members and news traveled by letter; those letters were passed around like chocolates after dinner. They were read, re-read, and savored. Unlike the game of "Telephone" where a whispered message quickly becomes garbled and often reshaped as it makes it's way around a circle, the news found in letters doesn't change when the letter moves from hand to hand.

    I'm looking at the photo of this envelope today and wondering what the letter inside is all about. . . or if there is a letter inside. I'm also wondering if one ounce of whiskey three times a day really does help rheumatism. . .

    On April 12, 2013  I'll be talking with Caroline Pointer of 4YourFamilyStory.com about finding and caring for ephemera for Caroline's What's Up Genealogy show on Google+ Hangouts. Join us!