Friday, November 30, 2012

'Tis the season cookies, 7

These cookies are a little more trouble to make than the ones I put up last year.  It has been several years since I made them and I noticed this time that the chocolate didn’t taste as strong or as flavorful as I would like.   If you want a stronger chocolate bite I would recommend 1 ½ cubes of melted unsweetened chocolate instead of just one cube or perhaps even some chocolate extract.  The cookies look festive and that is a plus.   The downside is you have to roll the two pieces of dough carefully so that you get two layers of colors and not a mix that looks all one color like well used play dough .   A variation of this type of cookie is to use peppermint flavoring and red flood coloring in place of the chocolate.  Roll the two colors separately into multiple small “snakelike” tubes, twist pieces together to form candy cane shapes.   Definitely more work and as I have said before I am basically lazy so the pinwheels are just fine. 

Chocolate Pinwheels*

½ cup soft butter
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together.  Add:

1 ½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Mix until the dough is stiff and pulls from the side of the bowl.  [I use a wooden spoon and my hands to mix the dough many people prefer to use a heavy-duty mixer like a Kitchen Aid.]

Melt in a double boiler or in a single pan at very low heat
1 oz (1 square) unsweetened baking chocolate

Divide the dough into two equal parts.  Add the cooled, melted chocolate to one section.  Chill both parts until firm enough to roll out.

Roll between waxed paper or plastic wrap.  I roll both pieces together at once rather than trying to make equal sized rectangles and pressing together afterwards but that is a personal preference.  Once the light and dark pieces are rolled out and pressed together form into a jellyroll shape.  Wrap in plastic wrap and foil. Chill over night.  When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F, cut the roll into approximately 1/8 inch slices and bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 10 to 12 minutes.  Makes about 3 to 4 dozen cookies.  These cookies can be frozen and keep well in a container. 


PS  I make a lot of cookies and my cookie sheets are old, well used, well loved and look the part!    I’m not apologizing.


* From:  Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, volume 3, page 434

Thursday, November 29, 2012

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 67

Norwegian postal stamps for 1990

Did you know that there are postcards with pictures of stamps on them?  These two postcards from Norway show the stamps issued in 1990 and 1992.  I do not know if they are part of an annual postcard series or just happened to be published these two years.  The 1992 postcard includes some stamps that were promoting Expo '92 and the Winter Olympic Games to be held in Lillehammer in 1994.  

The background photograph on the card above was taken or published by Knudsens fotosenter and shows Sognefjorden mot Nærøyfjorden. 

The background on the card below is of løvetann or dandelions and was photographed by Terje Hellesø.   We have dandelions here too and it was fun to see that this humble, hardy plant with the bright yellow flowers must be found in many different places around the globe.

I thought the stamps were pretty and since I had posted stamps from France it seemed like a good time to put up some from Norway also. 

Norwegian postal stamps for 1992

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Postcard Thursday, 66, Update

Today I received an email from Rune Jensen regarding the postcard that went up on the blog this past Thursday showing a group of people dressed in the costume from Setesdal.  He sent the photo and link above plus another link for other pictures of the costumes from this area in southern Norway.  One thing he mentioned that was very interesting is that while there are 19 counties or fylker in Norway there are 400 different designs for bunader.  I had wondered if there were variations within the counties and the answer is an emphatic, yes!  Nevertheless, there are strict regulations regarding the designs and colors to be used in all these costumes. 

As you notice the men’s bunad comes in basically two styles for this area, short trousers and long trousers, dark jacket and light jacket.  The light colored jacket looks like it is probably shorter in length than the dark jacket.  I personally like the dark jacket and short trousers with the nice high stockings, tassels, colored vest, and buckled shoes.  All versions have an attractive tie or cravat that compliments the ensemble.  Very handsome looking all of them.

Rune mentioned that he thought all the women's skirts except those from Setesdal are long but even the long ones had multiple underskirts.  Apparently there is a story about a woman who wore seven underskirts or “stakker” during an especially hard, cold winter to keep warm.  I think that seven underskirts might look a little bulky and be heavy as the material used for these skirts is usually wool.  He did say that everything has been sewn so nice that the different layers can be shown off for example when a woman has to lift her skirts while walking in the forest. 

Thank you Rune, as always for your comments and additions.

For more pictures of the costumes from southern Norway here is the second link:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 66

 Setesdal bunad

Usually the postcards depicting the Norwegian national costume or bunad show just the women but this one shows both women and men.  The card is from Axel Eliasson’s collection and has the number 5029.  It shows a group of “farmers” from the Setesdal region of southern Norway.  I have seen skirts like these with the bars of bright colors on the hemline fairly often but the bonnet is different from the more plain dark colored one and I do not think I have ever seen a photo showing the striped shawl. 

These lovely national costumes of Norway are many and varied.  With grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great grandparents coming from Hardanger, (Hordaland and Bergen), Setesdal (Aust and Vest Agder), Rogaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Telemark I think I can choose just about any one of those places for a bunad of my own.  But they are all so beautiful and slightly different that it is hard to know which one I might find as a favorite.  Mrs. Gimlet does Hardanger embroidery so for her the choice is simple, Hardangder it is.  She wants to do the embroidery work herself but patterns are not available in the United States so she will have to find someone in Norway to help out--a project for sometime in the future.  The red vests and dark skirts with the brilliant white Hardanger aprons are very striking.  We see quite a few of this popular style here in Seattle as there is a large Norwegian American contingent that had its origins in or near Bergen, Norway.  The photo of this woman wearing the Hardanger costume was taken at Yulefest last year.

Hardanger bunad

I rather like the crewel embroidery found on the Vest Agder and Telemark costumes and also the shawls from Vest Agder.   Pictured below is an especially lovely bunad, simple but with some color and one not as commonly seen here as the Hardanger costume.  Note the dark skirt has the colored bands at the hem similar to those on the postcards above and below as well as beautiful embroidery.  Rune tells me that he sews and graciously shared this photo of his lovely wife, Anne, wearing the Vest Agder costume.

Anne wearing the bunad from Vest Agder
[photo: courtesy of Rune Jensen]

The skirts on the Setesdal costume on the card at the top are actually double skirts as can be seen on the card below that shows a girl and boy.  The girl’s skirt has been lifted a bit on one side so we can see the underskirt with additional ribbons of contrasting color.  The dress looks more like a pinafore in both postcards.  The girl is wearing the style bonnet or scarf most often shown with this costume quite different from what the women are wearing in the top card.  The young man’s hat does not have the wide brim seen on the men above either.  His shoes have a green over piece while the men above are wearing plain shoes.  Another difference is the length of the skirt.  Most of the current costumes worn today have long skirts but this design on the postcards is knee or just below the knee length instead.  It made me wonder if perhaps there are additional small differences in the costumes within the areas too and not just between the various counties.  In the lower left corner of the card below is written Eneberettiet, J.F.  EFTF   That may be the publisher’s information. 



For more pictures of the  various Norwegian traditional costumes here is a link:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sigrid Johanne Landaas

Sigrid Landaas and Harry Oliver,  1908

Sigrid Johanne Landaas was born 11 January 1886 in Bergen, Norway.  She is the youngest daughter in the family and the next to the youngest child of those born to Peder Johan Mikkelsen Landaas and Karen Olsdatter Kalvetræ.  With the infant mortality rate hovering around 50% it is amazing that only two of Karen’s eleven children died as babies and nine survived to adulthood.  Sigrid was sixteen the year she moved from Norway to begin a new life in Seattle.  She traveled with her mother, older sisters Klara and Nora and her youngest brother, Trygve arriving in Seattle 1902. 

Sigrid with her mother shortly before they left Norway

The Landaas family, as has been mentioned before, was not only large in numbers but a very close family.  They often had parties, picnics and holidays together.  They also were fond of nicknames with Mikkeline as Maggie, Petra often as Pete, and Sigrid as Taxi.  Sigrid got her nickname because she enjoyed riding in taxis from a very early age.  After she met Harry Oliver he started calling her “Tax” and that stuck with all the family eventually calling her Tax.  For the boys, Trygve was shortened to Tryg, Cornelius became Neil and Karen was called Mother by her children and Bestemor by some of the grandchildren but she remained properly Mrs. Landaas to almost everyone else outside the family. 

The five Landaas sisters arranged by height—Petra, Klara, Maggie, Sigrid, and Nora

Harry Oliver was born July 1888 in Rich Hill, Bates County, Missouri the second of five sons born to Napoleon B. and Nellie Oliver.  He was always called Harry but his first name was really Willis.  His formal name is sometimes written as Willis Harry, W. Harry, or Harry Willis, Harry W. Oliver.  Oral history stories claim that Nellie was one half or at least part American Indian possibly Cherokee and the 1900 United States Federal Census does show her listed as Indian.  Napoleon’s occupation on that census record is given as wood chopper

The five Oliver sons—Leonard born 1896; James born 1892; John born 1885; Walker born 1894; and Harry born 1888

All the brothers were handsome men.  These fellows loved a good time.  They were physical and athletic, often boisterous.  One story about them happened at a show in downtown Seattle.  Something struck one as funny and he started to laugh.  Soon the others joined in, and could not stop no matter how hard they tried.  They tried to muffle the sounds, but to no avail after awhile the theater manager had to throw them out for disrupting the show.  They sat down on the curb and still laughed.  By that time no one could remember what was so funny!

After I.C. Lee died in 1930 my mother stayed for a short period of time with Uncle Neil and his family and then later moved around between the other aunts and uncles but she spent the most  time living with Sigrid and Harry.  They were almost a second set of parents for her. 

Sigrid, ca 1907

The story of how Uncle Harry met Aunt Sigrid has it that Harry saw Sigrid walking down the street and he decided he had to find out who she was.  He did, they met, fell in love and were married on 12 December 1908.  I think Sigrid’s wedding gown shown at the top is so lovely and very typical of the style for this time period.  On 21 September 1909 they had a baby girl who was born and died the same day, unnamed.  They did not have any other children.  They owned a very successful dry cleaning business called Belmont Dye Works that was located in the Vance Building in downtown Seattle.  Harry had at least two delivery trucks.  This photo of him with one of his trucks was made into a postcard.

Harry Oliver with one of his delivery trucks, ca 1915

After they sold the Dye Works they bought a Tavern; they also owned a apartment bungalow court on Eastlake Avenue near Lake Union in Seattle.  Those apartments are still there today. 

Harry loved to play baseball.  He and his brothers had their own team sponsored by the Belmont Dye Works.  They played towns like Black Diamond and others in the area.  Sigrid kept the score on a big board where all could see it.  She would have to climb up and change the numbers (not unlike Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune!).  Later in his life Harry played golf and was at one time president of the Kenmore Golf Club.  Harry and Sigrid lived in a little house near Northgate when I was a girl.  I can remember visitng them and loving to have Uncle Harry tell stories about bears in the woods.  He was great storyteller.  He played Santa Claus for the whole Landaas family and only lost his anonymity because one of the grandchildren recognized his shoes.

Although they did not have any other children after the daughter who died, they did care for a boy named Tommy Boswell for several years.  Tommy’s parents were customers at the Dye Works.  His father was a rug buyer for a store and his mother was a gypsy.  Tommy was one of several children in the family; two were dancers of some note.  Apparently Tommy was a very cute little boy and the Olivers admired him.  One day Tommy and his mother came into the Dye Works and his mother asked Sigrid and Harry if they would mind watching Tommy for a while.  They agreed but his mother didn’t come back.  In fact, she didn’t come back for several years!  Tommy became an unofficial foster child.   Tommy often heard Sigrid call Harry “Sweet Daddy” or “Big Daddy” and Harry call Sigrid “Tax.”  He kept in touch with the Olivers after he moved back with his own family and in later years gave them a gift of monogrammed towels.  One said “Big Daddy” and the other “Nails.”  Tommy had thought the Tax for Taxi was Tacks for Nails.  They had a big laugh about of it and kept the towels for a very long time. 

The Olivers were good hearted people, always doing things for others.  My mother said she never heard Harry say a cross word.

Harry passed away 29 December 1952.  Sigrid on 24 November 1962.  They are both buried in the Pacific Lutheran section of Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery here in Seattle.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 65

Le Puy-en-Velay, France

I usually have a few postcards waiting to take their place on postcard Thursdays but this card received recently from a friend who lives in France was moved forward because it is a lovely panorama as well as being interesting.  Also it is another Yvon edition as part of his La Douce France (Sweet France) collection.  His signature mark is just barely visible at the lower right corner.  The picture is of Le Puy-en-Velay one of the starting points on the pilgrim route called Chemins de Saint-Jacques (The Way of St. James) to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  This walking pilgrimage is approximately 1600 kilometers or 994 miles long.  During medieval times the daily needs of the pilgrims were met by hospitals and hospices sort of like the hostels of today located at intervals all along the way.  Legend and tradition hold that the body of St. James had been transported from Jerusalem for burial in Santiago de Compestela. 

It was the most frequented pilgrimage in France.  Some pilgrims would gather at the cathedral in the morning to receive a special blessing before setting out while others simply started walking from their own homes.  Most walked the entire distance as penance or to receive spiritual blessings.  Today the route is still followed with many continuing to walk although others travel by different means including bicycle.  The symbol for St. James is the scallop shell that would be worn as a sign that they were pilgrims and thus be given permission to sleep in churches and ask for free meals.  It also had the added benefit of warding off thieves who were reluctant to attack devoted pilgrims. 

It is a bit difficult to see on the postcard but the statue of the Virgin Mary is found at the upper left and the Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe Chapel is on the hill across the valley.  The other main attraction is the Roman Catholic Cathédrale Notre Dame du Puy seen lower down the hillside to the right of the statue.  It is impossible to guess or imagine how these structures were built on the tops of those rocky pinnacles.  It is completely amazing.

This is a very old community with mention made as early as 250.  There is much Christian religious lore concerning Le Puy everything from the legend of St. George who was supposedly brought back to life by the touch of St. Peter’s staff and became one of the 72 disciples to the legend of the vision of angels that dedicated themselves to the Blessed Virgin, an apparition of the Blessed Virgin to a sick widow and other similar tales.   I find medieval history fascinating especially these religious legends or stories that must have first been shared orally.  Knowing a little about oral history and how there is often a kernel of truth at the root of such stories but also how things get distorted with time and retelling it makes me very curious to know exactly what inspired some of these legends. 

Charlemagne made two trips here one in 772 and the second one in 780.  Several other famous historical figures also made the pilgrimage including Louis XI who came three times and walked barefoot the final three leagues to the cathedral in 1476.  The church here was accorded special spiritual and temporal favors because of its fame. 

The statue of Our Lady of Le Puy managed to escape pillage and desecration until the time of the French Revolution in 1793 when it was torn from its shrine and burned in the public square.  Later Napoleon III gave the then Bishop 213 pieces of artillery and the current statue Notre-Dame de France was cast from the iron of the guns.  I thought it particularly interesting that the statute was created from weaponry but the Virgin Mary herself is always thought of as a symbol of love and compassion. The statue was dedicated in 1860 and is the one featured on the card above.

2012 Postage Stamp, France, Le Puy-en-Velay

This year [2012] France issued a series of beautiful stamps depicting various locations along the route to Compostela.  One of the stamps features the town and Cathedral of Le Puy-en-Velay.

For more information including the names of many of the famous people who undertook the pilgrimage and photos of the area please see:


Merci pour cette merveilleuse carte postale et timbre!
[Thank you for this wonderful postcard and stamp!]

 And now also for this wonderful burgundy colored stamp . . .

To my great surprise and delight my friend sent a much earlier stamp of Le Puy en Velay, seen below, that arrived in the mail today and shows a slightly different view so I thought I would add it to this post. 

Le Puy en Velay stamp, 1933

This stamp clearly shows the three tall spires and the rocky landscape.  It is marvelous!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteran's Day thank you

Uncle J, Grandpa Mac, and Bopa

Last year I posted a tribute and since this is for a day of remembrance it seemed appropriate to do it again.  Yesterday was Veteran’s Day (Armistice Day), a day to remember the men and women who served and serve in the military to say “Thank you” and to let them know how much the rest of us appreciate their service in behalf of all of us. 

Bopa served in WWII as did one of his brothers their father served in WWI and their mother’s father served in the Spanish American War.  Bopa's youngest brother also served in the military but I do not think it was during war time as he was considerably younger.

Great-grandpa Col. John Q. Cannon

Bopa was a quiet, brave and uncomplaining man.  During his years of military service he was almost always wet, cold, muddy, and hungry.  I imagine he was scared part of the time too.  There were and are a lot of soldiers like this.  Nowadays soldiers most likely add the desert is too hot and their fears include things like IEDs that didn’t even exist during WWII and before.  But they do their jobs anyway.  The memory of the sorry conditions didn’t matter though, Bopa always said he thought the military was a good experience for any young man and he was forever patriotic putting the flag out on display for all the holidays and standing for the National Anthem with his hand on his heart in his latter years. 

Thank you all so very much, we love you.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Postcard Thursday, 56, update--St. Pierre's Cathédrale

St. Pierre’s Cathédrale, Montpellier, France

St. Pierre's (St. Peter's) is a Roman Catholic Cathedral located in Montpellier, France.  After this card above was posted on 13 September 2012 I received a second postcard below showing the back of the cathedral.  It is hard to visualize the size of this building even with the tiny people pictured at the right.  Both cards are shown in today’s update so some sense of the size can be appreciated.  It is a major landmark in Montpellier.  The front looks huge on the top card but is diminished when compared to the back of the building.

Rear view of St. Pierre's Cathédrale

Originally attached to the monastery of St. Benoît in 1364 the cathedral was damaged in the 16th century during the Protestant revolt.  For a short period of time there were fairly large numbers of Huguenots (French Protestants) living in this general area.  The cathedral was repaired or rebuilt in the 17th century and looks much the same today as it did when these postcards were printed probably between 1910 and 1940.   There are a number of beautiful stained glass windows that are best seen from the insideIt was also used during the French Revolution as a refuge for soldiers.  The steeple on the horizon is St. Anne’s church used today as an exhibition hall for art and a venue for other events.

For a little more information see:


As always my thanks for sending the postcards! 

The card below shows a modern aerial view of the cathedral and surrounding area including the medical faculty--the long red roofed building that forms the corner next to the cathedral.  It arrived in the mail after this update was posted.  Since it fits here so well I decided to add it now rather than make a second update. 

 Aerial view of St. Pierre's Cathédrale, Montpellier, France


Thursday, November 8, 2012

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 64

Six members of the crew, SS Elsa, Norwegian cargo ship

This postcard is slightly different than most of the ones posted previously in that it shows a group picture of people.  It should also be noted that the original card has been cropped to fit into an album so we are not able to see the entire setting.  It was very popular during the early 1900s to have a portrait or group picture like this taken in a studio or by a professional photographer and then have the studio print postcards so that the photo could be shared with a number of friends and acquaintances, even mailed to them.  It is hard to say exactly when this card was printed but the SS Elsa was built in 1904 and sunk in 1918 so it has to be within that time frame.  The card was found in one of Dick Thompson’s scrapbooks and unfortunately the people pictured are not identified but he did note the name of the ship.  I have not heard of Dick sailing but perhaps he knew one or two of the people in the picture as there are inked “X” marks by two of the individuals.

The Norwegian cargo ship, SS Elsa, 1904
[photo source: ]

The SS Elsa was a Norwegian cargo steam ship built in 1904 for the Norwegian African Australian Line of Oslo by the Tyne Iron Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. Of Newcastle, England.  It sailed the world carrying cargo such as coffee, tea, rice, coal & coke.  The full crew would have been 28 members plus the captain. 

Here is a paraphrased account of what happened.  The ship was 335 feet long and had five holds.  On the last voyage she was carrying 2000 tons of coal, 200 tons of coke, and 600 tons of general cargo.  She left Calcutta, India in August 1917 bound first for a safety inspection in Sierra Leone.  This was during WWI so she then joined a convoy at Dakar and arrived safely at Falmouth, England in January 1918.  The captain, Johannes Woxholt, was told to divert to Plymouth and the ship remained there for three days.  For some reason he left the safety of Plymouth and headed out again up the Channel.  On 24 January 1918 a German U Boat torpedoed the Elsa.  The torpedo hit just behind the engine-room and the resulting explosion destroyed number 5 hold blowing the hatch covers sky-high.  One drawing I saw made it look as if the ship was almost split in half.  The captain ordered the crew into lifeboats and the ship went down stern first taking only 20 minutes to sink.  All crewmen were picked up by patrol launches and landed safely at Dartmouth.  The captain received a drubbing for disobeying orders to stay at Plymouth.  The entire incident resulted in suspended shipping between Plymouth and Portsmouth and created chaos along a big stretch of the channel. 

Reports from divers who have visited the underwater wreckage and additional information can be found at:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The children of Didrik Andreas Thomsen

Didrik Andreas Thomsen

In an earlier post I indicated that there would be a follow up concerning the children of Didrik Andreas Thomsen.  We now have what we think is an almost complete list of all his children.  The qualifier is because his son, Dick Thompson, said that there were two half-brothers and so far we have only identified one half-brother but have found an additional three half-sisters. 

The children of Didrik Andreas Thomsen with his wife, Sigrid Berentine Serene Andersdatter Dahle:

1.    Anna Berentine Thomsen, born 6 April 1875, married in 1901 to Harald Andersen.
2.    Dorothea Cæcille Thomssen, born 26 February 1877, died 6 March 1885.
3.    Hilda Gjertine Thomssen, born 28 May 1879, died about 1879
4.    Hilda Gjertine Thomssen, born 12 October 1880, died 23 December 1880
5.    Didrik Leonard Thomssen, born 20 January 1881, died 28 March 1885
6.    Hjalmar Thomssen, born 14 June 1884, died 19 October 1884
7.    Didrik  “Dick” Thompson, born 3 October 1885, married (1) Clara Elizbeth Lorig, 1916; (2) Celia Skage, 1936; died 23 May 1968.  Immigrated to America 1903.
8.    Alfhild Dorothea Thomssen, born 3 December 1890, married Olaf Pedersen
9.    Harriet Alfhild Thomssen, born 3 December 1894.  Note:  it is thought that this child is actually the same child as #8.  Alfhild adjusted her age on census records and other documents after she married Olaf Pedersen Skage in 1917 so she could appear as younger than her husband who was born in 1893.  I am not sure where the “Harriet” comes from but it is written on a photograph positively identified as that of Alfhild as a young child.  Perhaps she just liked Harriet better than Alfhild.

Anna, Sigrid, Dorothea, ca 1880

Given what we now know we can identify the two girls in the photo with their mother as Anna, born 1875, and Dorothea, born 1877. 

Dick at age 11 with his sister, Anna, age 21, ca 1896
Alfhild, age 22 and Dick, age 27, ca 1912

Infant or childhood mortality was about 50% during this time period however in the family above it was slightly higher with only three of the eight known children surviving to adulthood.  Dick’s remembrances of his life in Norway hint that the family was very poor most of the time and that could help explain the deaths especially if the children were not getting enough to eat or not enough of the right kind of nutrition.  Also I noticed that two of the children Dorothea, the second child, and Didrik Leonard, the fifth child, both died in March 1885 suggesting that a childhood illness of some sort may have caused their deaths. 

Child with Gjertrud Pedersdatter Raae:

10.    Gjert Didriksen, born 5 December 1889.  Gjert lived to adulthood, married and had children.

Gjert Didriksen with his family
[photo:  courtesy of Johanne Sognnæs]

Child with Malene Dorothea Johannesen:

11.    Andrea Judithe Thomssen, born 4 September 1902

Children with Berte Olsen:

12.    Dora Thomssen, born 30 April 1907
13.    Ragnhild Thomssen, born 7 April 1910

It is not known at the present time if these three girls lived to adulthood, married and had children. 

There could very well be other children besides the one missing son that we have not found yet.  Dick’s daughter, Didrik’s granddaughter, mentioned that one of the things Dick did not like about his father was the more or less constant womanizing and infidelity.  Dick did not have much affection or respect for his father but he did love his mother very much.  It must have been difficult for a young boy to see his mother work so hard and suffer much because of his father’s behavior.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 63


Liberty Bell on tour, 1915, with Governor Ernest Lister

Because it is a Presidential election year in the United States and November is election month I thought of this postcard published by Depue Morgan & Co. of Seattle showing the Liberty Bell when it went on a tour in 1915.  Depue Morgan & Company included two other well known Northwest photographers, Asahel Curtis and Calvin F. Todd.  This particular card is dated 14 July 1915 and shows Governor Ernest Lister, who was governor of Washington State from 1913 to 1919, standing by the bell.  The famous crack in the bell is prominently displayed.  The photographer is identified as Depue.

The bell was originally cast in 1752 by the firm of Lester and Pack of London that later became the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.  Written on the bell is a quote from Leviticus 25:10 “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”  It cracked the first time it was rung and was twice recast by local workmen John Pass and John Stow.  Their last names also appear on the bell. 

I wondered how big it was and discovered that it weighs a little over 1 ton and has a 12-foot circumference (3.7 m).  When I read that the bell was first hung on a tree behind what is now Independence Hall in Philadelphia I thought that the tree must have been almost as impressive as the bell in order to support a ton weight and not split asunder.  Later the bell was mounted on a stand.  The first recasting resulted in an unsatisfactory tone described as sounding like two ash cans bumping together when the bell was struck so it was melted down and recast again.  It is unknown exactly when or why it cracked the second time but it is thought an error may have been made in the alloy.  Both Pass and Stow were relatively inexperienced at casting, Stow being only four years out of apprenticeship. 

There are several stories relating to the second cracking of the bell.  One was that it cracked when it was rung upon the death of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835.  Another claims that the bell was damaged while welcoming Lafayette on his return to the United States in 1824.  Still another account, the most likely one, is that it cracked sometime between 1841 and 1845 on either the Fourth of July or Washington’s Birthday.  The bell was rung on both those days each year.  Following the second time the crack was filed out in the hope that by doing so the bell could continue to be rung without further damage. 

A story titled “Fourth of July, 1776,” written by George Lippard is the beginning of the bell becoming a relic of American independence.  No bells were actually rung on the 4th of July but bells were rung on July 8th and tradition holds that the Liberty Bell was one of those rung on that day. 

The home of the bell is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but years ago requests were often made for it to travel to various states so that all people could see it.  Beginning in 1885 the city of Philadelphia allowed the bell to go on tour to expositions and patriotic gatherings.  A bit hard to imagine by 1885 it was already well over 100 years old.  It attracted huge crowds everywhere and it is estimated that over 10 million people physically touched or kissed it.  When the bell returned from the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 additional small cracks were discovered. Unfortunately people also tried to pry pieces off the bell as souvenirs further damaging parts of it including the famous already existing crack seen on the card above.  To prevent more damage it was decided that the bell should be kept in one place and was even in a glass case for a period of time as additional protection.  A special request was made for the San Francisco Fair in 1915 and since the bell had not been west of the Mississippi River permission was granted.  This was to be the last tour with Seattle as one of the stops along the way.

The bell has appeared on coins such as the bi-centennial dollar and a stamp celebrating the sesquicentennial in 1926.  It is currently featured on a Forever Stamp first issued in 2007.  Replicas of the bell have been made and many can be found near state capitol buildings throughout the United States.  I liked this quote from a book about the history of Independence National Historical Park by Constance M. Grieff that reads:  “Like our democracy it [the bell] is fragile and imperfect, but it has weathered threats, and it has endured.”

There is more history and interesting information at:

Are you United States citizen and eligible to vote?  Election day is November 6.  Some of us vote ahead by mail and others will go to a polling place.   Please vote.  Voting is our right and privilege.  It is how democracy works.