12.07.2016

Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu

First Female Lighthouse Keeper in Florida

A lighthouse is a tower that emits a flashing beam of light from a system of lamps and lenses. They mark dangerous coastlines, shoals, or reefs, and guide pilots at sea into safe harbors. In the 19th century, they were vital lifelines to maintaining safety at sea.

St. Augustine Lighthouse
Image: St. Augustine Lighthouse, home of Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu
Built in 1700; aided mariners for 162 years.
Image shows the various stages of the lighthouse structure.
Photograph courtesy National Archives

Backstory
Don Juan Ponce de Leon discovered La Florida, the Land of Flowers, in 1513. Approximately fifty years later, Spain attempted to colonize Florida by dispatching Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles to the area. Menendez arrived off the Florida coast in 1565 and established the fledgling colony of St. Augustine, the oldest permanent European settlement in North America. Near St. Augustine, the Matanzas River flows past barrier islands named Anastasia and Conch and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

11.24.2016

Eleanor Creesy, Navigator

Female Navigator of the World's Fastest Clipper Ship

Eleanor Creesy was the navigator of Flying Cloud, a clipper ship that set the world's sailing record for the fastest passage between New York and San Francisco in 1851. She and her husband - Josiah Perkins Creesy, skipper - beat their own record two years later, and it was not broken until 1989.

clipper sailing ship at sea
Image: Clipper ship Flying Cloud by Currier and Ives
Flying Cloud, a Gold Rush era clipper ship, was commanded by Captain Josiah Creesy from 1851-1855. Eleanor Creesy sailed with her husband and served as his navigator throughout his career.

Early Years
Eleanor Prentiss was born on September 21, 1814, in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Her father was a master mariner, and he taught Eleanor the mathematics of navigation when she was a girl. Neighbors thought it was peculiar that her father educated Eleanor at a time when women rarely learned a trade, especially one dominated by men. Her dream was to marry a sea captain and sail with him around the world, and she rejected many suitors until she found the right man. In 1841 Eleanor married her sailor, Captain Josiah Creesy.

11.12.2016

Slaves in the White House I

Slaves and Presidents at the White House

Construction on the President's House began in 1792 in Washington, DC, a new capital situated in a sparsely settled region far from a major population center. Eleven U.S. presidents were slaveholders. Seven of those owned slaves while living at the White House: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor.


Image: Black cook working in the White House kitchen
Damp and moldy, the ground floor was a difficult place for the White House staff to work and live.
Photograph by Frances Benjamin

Slave Quarters at the White House
Not only did enslaved men and women work in the White House, but they also lived there; most often in rooms in the basement. Open at ground level on the south, the basement had windows on the north facing an area that was entirely hidden from view except from the kitchen. This vaulted corridor once accessed a forty-foot kitchen with large fireplaces at each end, a family kitchen, an oval servants hall, the steward's quarters, and the servants' bedrooms.

10.30.2016

Frances Fuller Victor

Author of Dime Novels and Oregon History

Frances Fuller Victor was a historian and historical novelist, who became the founding mother of all Oregon history. By the time she arrived in the Beaver State, she was already a well-known writer. Acknowledged by the Portland Oregonian as the Mother of Oregon History, Victor has also been described as 'the first Oregon historian to gain regional and national attention.'

Early Years
Frances Auretta Fuller was born in 1826 in Rome, New York. The Fullers relocated to Wooster, Ohio in 1839, where Frances was educated in a girls' school. Frances and her younger sister Metta started writing and publishing stories and poetry - first in local newspapers like the Cleveland Herald and Sandusky Daily Register and later in the New York Home Journal, a popular literary and arts magazine.

10.18.2016

Underground Railroad in Maryland

Underground Railroad in a Border State

Along with the earliest legal references to slavery in Maryland in the 17th century, there were attempts to control runaway slaves through legislation. Acts of self-emancipation made slaves "fugitives" according to the laws of the time. The abolitionist movement that began in the 1830s and its Underground Railroad focused the nation's attention on slavery to a much greater degree than earlier attempts to end the institution.

Image: Kunta Kinte - Alex Haley Memorial
Annapolis, Maryland
Ed Dwight, sculptor
The inscription reads:
To commemorate the arrival in this harbor of Kunta Kinte, immortalized by Alex Haley in Roots, and all others who came to these shores in bondage and who by their toil, character and ceaseless struggle for freedom have helped to make these United States.