Dolley Madison’s Cheese Straws

The following recipe is credited to First Lady Dolley Madison.

First Lady Dolley Madison

First Lady Dolley Madison

Dolley Payne Todd Madison (May 20, 1768 – July 12, 1849) was the wife of James Madison, President of the United States from 1809 to 1817.

According to Wikipedia, she was noted for her social gifts, which boosted her husband’s popularity as President. In this way, she did much to define the role of the President’s spouse, known only much later by the title First Lady – a function she had sometimes performed earlier for the widowed Thomas Jefferson.

Dolley Madison also helped to furnish the newly constructed White House. When the British set fire to it in 1814, she was credited with saving the classic portrait of George Washington.

In widowhood, she often lived in poverty, partially relieved by the sale of her late husband’s papers.”

Ingredients: 

  • 4 c. sharp Cheddar cheese, finely grated, room temperature
  • 1 c. butter, room temperature
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper

Directions: In a bowl, cream cheese and butter together. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly to form dough.

Roll out dough on a floured board to 1/4″ thickness.  Using a sharp knife, cut into strips about 1/2″ x 4″ wide.  Place strips on an un-greased baking sheet.

Bake 400°F for 8 minutes until golden brown.

Yield: 6 dozen

Calories:  70 calories per serving

Source: Famous White House Recipes, The American Collection Cookbooks, Volume 1

The History of Armed Forces Day courtesy of “History by Zim”

The blog “History by Zim: Beyond the Textbooks” offers an informational account of how this honor began.

 

On July 26, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 which consolidated the military branches under the Department of Defense’s control.  In late August 1949, …

Source: The History of Armed Forces Day

Dolley Madison Layer Cake

Dolley_Madison 1804 by Gilbert Stuart

First Lady Dolley Madison (1804) Portrait by Gilbert Stuart

In honor of the The First Lady of the United States Dolley Madison’s birthday, let’s celebrate with a layer cake!   The recipe is courtesy of Cokie Roberts’ book “Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation.”   It can also be found on Martha Stewart’s website.

Dolley Madison was born May 20, 1768.  She is most famously known for saving the portrait of George Washington during the War of 1812.

She also created the role of First Lady.  Dolley was instrumental in hosting official functions on behalf of the President, at first widower Thomas Jefferson and later for her husband, James Madison.   She also contributed to the development and decoration of the White House.

Dolly Madison was the only First Lady given an honorary seat on the floor of Congress.

 

 

Yield: One 8-inch Layer Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
  • 8 large egg whites
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Carmel Icing*

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter four 8-by-2-inch round cake pans, set aside.

  2. Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form; set aside.

  3. In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. With the mixer running, slowly add milk; mix until well combined. Sift together flour and cornstarch; slowly add to mixer and beat until well combined. Add vanilla and mix well.

  4. Gently fold in reserved egg whites and divide evenly between prepared pans. Bake until cake springs back when lightly touched, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in cake pans on wire racks, about 10 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool completely on wire racks.

  5. Place 4 strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate. Pour over about 1/2 cup icing, spreading evenly to cover. Repeat process with 2 more layers. Repeat process with two more layers. Place the remaining layer on top of the third layer and cover cake completely with remaining icing.

*Carmel Icing

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Whisk together sugar, cream, and butter in a medium bowl. Set bowl over (but not touching) simmering water, cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove bowl from heat; stir in vanilla. Let cool.

Cokie Roberts

Image courtesy of Cokie Roberts, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives

History of Thanksgiving in America

n 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

THANKSGIVING AT PLYMOUTH
In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Did You Know?
Lobster, seal and swans were on the Pilgrims’ menu.

Squanto

Squanto a.k.a. Tisquantum

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.

THANKSGIVING BECOMES AN OFFICIAL HOLIDAY
Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.

In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, however, and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.

THANKSGIVING TRADITIONS
In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. Turkey, a Thanksgiving staple so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous with the holiday, may or may not have been on offer when the Pilgrims hosted the inaugural feast in 1621. Today, however, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat the bird—whether roasted, baked or deep-fried—on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. Other traditional foods include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate.

Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters.

U.S. President Harry Truman "pardons" a turkey from Thanksgiving dinner

Pictured here on Nov. 16, 1949, President Harry Truman reportedly was the first U.S. President to “pardon” a turkey from Thanksgiving Dinner. (AP Photo)

Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual.

THANKSGIVING CONTROVERSIES
For some scholars, the jury is still out on whether the feast at Plymouth really constituted the first Thanksgiving in the United States. Indeed, historians have recorded other ceremonies of thanks among European settlers in North America that predate the Pilgrims’ celebration. In 1565, for instance, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé invited members of the local Timucua tribe to a dinner in St. Augustine, Florida, after holding a mass to thank God for his crew’s safe arrival. On December 4, 1619, when 38 British settlers reached a site known as Berkeley Hundred on the banks of Virginia’s James River, they read a proclamation designating the date as “a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

Some Native Americans and others take issue with how the Thanksgiving story is presented to the American public, and especially to schoolchildren. In their view, the traditional narrative paints a deceptively sunny portrait of relations between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, masking the long and bloody history of conflict between Native Americans and European settlers that resulted in the deaths of millions. Since 1970, protesters have gathered on the day designated as Thanksgiving at the top of Cole’s Hill, which overlooks Plymouth Rock, to commemorate a “National Day of Mourning.” Similar events are held in other parts of the country.

National Day of Mourning plaque

Since Thanksgiving Day 1970, the town of Plymouth, MA has hosted this event where Native Americans demonstrate the events following the Pilgrim’s arrival.

THANKSGIVING’S ANCIENT ORIGINS
Although the American concept of Thanksgiving developed in the colonies of New England, its roots can be traced back to the other side of the Atlantic. Both the Separatists who came over on the Mayflower and the Puritans who arrived soon after brought with them a tradition of providential holidays—days of fasting during difficult or pivotal moments and days of feasting and celebration to thank God in times of plenty.

As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover, Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores.

Halloween Trivia

Trick or treating comes from the Middle-Age practice of the poor dressing up in costumes and going around door to door during Hallowmas begging for food or money in exchange for prayers. The food given was often a Soul Cake, which was a small round cake which represented a soul being freed from Purgatory when the cake was eaten.

The tradition of adding pranks into the Halloween mix started to turn ugly in the 1930’s and a movement began to substitute practical jokes for kids going door to door collecting candy.

Happy Halloween

Trick or Treat!

  • Orange and black are Halloween colors because orange is associated with Fall.  The color black is associated with darkness and death.
  • Halloween candy sales average about 2 billion dollars annually in the United States.
  • Chocolate candy bars top the list as the most popular candy for trick-or-treaters with Snickers as Number 1.
  • Candy corn was first made in the 1880s, and it was only more March through November.
  • Over 93% of children will go trick-or-treating. Approximately 84% of trick-or-treaters say candy and gum are their favorites with chocolate candy preferred by 50% and non-chocolate by 24%.
  • Kids’ least favorite items to get in their trick-or-treat bags are fruit and salty snacks like chips and pretzels.
  • Tootsie Rolls were the first wrapped penny candy in America.
  • Candy corn was invented in the 1880s by George Renninger of the Wunderies Candy Company.
    National Candy Corn Day is on October 30th.
  • There are 25 colors of M&Ms, the most popular candy sold in the U.S.
  • It takes an average of 252 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
  • San  Francisco is the number one U.S. city for trick-or-treating
  • In 1955, UNICEF (United Nations Children Fund) for Halloween program began.  The original idea started in 1950 in Philadelphia, when a Sunday School class had the idea of collecting money for needy children when trick-or-treating.  They sent the money they made, about $17, to UNICEF which was inspired by the idea and started a trick-or-treat program in 1955.
  • A study from the National Retail Federation shows Americans spent over $300 million on pet costumes last year!

Halloween is also know by other names:

All Hallows Eve
Samhain
All Hallowtide
The Feast of the Dead
The Day of the Dead

  • The tradition of bobbing for apples originated from the Roman harvest festival that honors Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees.
  • Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain holiday.
  • Pumpkins also come in white, blue and green.
  • There are no words in the dictionary that rhyme with orange, the color of pumpkin.
  • The ancient Celts thought that spirits and ghosts roamed the countryside on Halloween night. They began wearing masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human.
  • Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing, dance and tell fortunes.
  • Halloween is the 2nd most commercially successful holiday, with Christmas being the first.
  • Halloween also is recognized as the 3rd biggest party day after New Year’s and Super Bowl Sunday.
  • The fear of Halloween is known as Samhainopobia.

Monster Trivia & Folklore

  • Signs of a werewolf are a unibrow, hair palms, tattoos, and a long middle finger.Werewolf in the light of a full moon
  • Vampires are mythical beings who defy death by sucking the blood of humans.
  • In 1962, The Count Dracula Society was founded by Dr. Donald A. Reed.
  • Dracula means “Devil’s son.”  Bram Stoker’s creation “Dracula” was based on the life of Prince Vlad Tepes (1431-1476). He was also called Vlad the Impaler since he had a bad habit of impaling his victims on stakes. The name “Dracula” is Romanian for Devil’s Son.  Vlad Draculas father was a knight of the Order of the Draco (or dragon), so Dracula also translates as “the son of Draco.”
  • To this day, there are vampire clubs and societies with people claiming to be real vampires.
  • There really are so-called vampire bats, but they’re not from Transylvania. They live in Central and South America and feed on the blood of cattle, horses and birds.
  • According to legend, you can kill a vampire by cremate it, pound a stake through its heart or bury it at a crossroads.  Sunlight is also said to kill them. Different countries have different ideas of how to destroy vampires.  Garlic and crosses only keep vampires away.
  • Allegedly, “Revenge falls upon whoever opens the coffin of a mummy.”
  • The country most associated with mummies is Egypt.
  • Zombies often wear chains for they are slaves; slaves of their evil masters who have brought them to life using magic.
  • Two areas of the world particularly associated with the zombie myth are Africa and Haiti, a country on the island of Hispaniola.
  • Many people still believe that gargoyles were created by medieval architects and stone carvers to ward off evil spirits.

Witches

  • The word “witch” comes from the Old English wicce, meaning “wise woman.” In fact, wiccan were highly respected people at one time. According to popular belief, witches held one of their two main meetings, or sabbats, on Halloween night.
  • In the Middle Ages, many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into cats.
  • Black cats were once believed to be witch’s familiars who protected their powers.

Creepy Tidbits

  • If you see a spider on Halloween, it is the spirit of a loved on watching over you.
  • Worldwide, bats are vital natural enemies of night-flying insects.
  • The common little brown bat of North America has the longest life span for a mammal it’s size, with a life span averaging 32 years.
  • In about 1 in 4 autopsies, a major disease is discovered that was previously undetected.
  • In Medieval times, a spider was rolled in butter and used as a cure for diseases such as leprosy and the plague.
  • The famous magician, Harry Houdini, died on Halloween, 1926 in Detroit, MI.

The next full moon on Halloween night will be October 31, 2020.

haunted house, owl, spider and jack-o-lanterns

Happy Hallowe’en!

The owl is a popular Halloween image. In Medieval Europe, owls were thought to be witches, and to hear an owl’s call meant someone was about to die.

Halloween is Oct. 31 – the last day of the Celtic calendar. It actually was a pagan holiday honoring the dead.

Trick-or-treating evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats and food to placate spirits who roamed the streets at Samhain, a sacred festival that marked the end of the Celtic calendar year.

Halloween is correctly spelt as Hallowe’en.

Halloween is one of the oldest celebrations in the world, dating back over 2000 years to the time of the Celts who lived in Britain.

According to Irish legend, Jack O’Lanterns are named after a stingy man named Jack who, because he tricked the devil several times, was forbidden entrance into both heaven and hell. He was condemned to wander the Earth, waving his lantern to lead people away from their paths.

Halloween was originally a Celtic holiday celebrated on October 31.

Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing, dance and tell fortunes.

Obsolete Rituals focused on the Future and Love

But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today’s trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married.

  • In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.
  • In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband. (In some versions of this legend, confusingly, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.)
  • Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband.
  • Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces.
  • Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.
  • Bobbying for apples is a fertility rite, or a marriage divination and dates back to the Celtics. Unmarried people would try to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string. The first person to bite into the apple would be the next one to marry.

bobbing for applesPumpkin Facts

  • Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini. These plants are native to Central America and Mexico, but now grow on six continents.
  • The largest pumpkin pie ever baked was in 2005 and weighed 2,020 pounds.
  • Pumpkins have been grown in North America for five thousand years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere.
  • In 1584, after French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America, he reported finding “gros melons.” The name was translated into English as “pompions,” which has since evolved into the modern “pumpkin.”
  • Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. They are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron.
  • The heaviest pumpkin weighed 1,810 lb 8 oz and was presented by Chris Stevens at the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Stillwater, Minnesota, in October 2010.
  • Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow and are picked in October when they are bright orange in color. Their seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.
  • The largest pumpkin ever measured was grown by Norm Craven, who broke the world record in 1993 with a 836 lb. pumpkin.
  • Stephen Clarke holds the record for the world’s fastest pumpkin carving time: 24.03 seconds, smashing his previous record of 54.72 seconds. The rules of the competition state that the pumpkin must weigh less than 24 pounds and be carved in a traditional way, which requires at least eyes, nose, ears, and a mouth.

10 Weird Facts about Witches by Sean Hutchinson

by Sean Hutchinson,  October 31, 2013 – 7:30pm

The practice of witchcraft is deeply rooted in history, and has—excuse the joke—conjured up some very interesting myths. Here are a few facts.

1. MOST WITCHES WEREN’T BURNED AT THE STAKE.

The common image of a witch’s execution shows a large group of hysteric people surrounding the guilty person on a burning pyre—but immolation was not the primary means of execution used for those accused of witchcraft. During the Salem Witch Trials, no one was burned to death; all of the accused that pled their cases and were found guilty during the Trials in 1692 were hanged. In fact, no one found guilty of witchcraft was ever executed by burning in the American colonies—immolation wasn’t permissible by English law. But one person was pressed to death by large stones: Giles Corey, a man who refused to plead guilty or not guilty for charges of witchcraft during the Trials. The court found Corey guilty despite staying mute by using the French legal precedent of “peine forte et dure.” Corey is the only person in US history to be pressed to death by court order.

Martha and Giles Cory

Giles Corey, a prosperous farmer, and his wife Martha were caught in the Salem Witch trials. Giles’ punishment was death by heavy stones pressed upon his body.

2. WITCH HUNTS DIDN’T SPECIFICALLY TARGET WOMEN.

Historically-rooted misogyny led many to believe that women were somehow more susceptible to the dark arts or temptation by the Devil, and therefore more likely to be witches. For instance, the Laws of Alfred, written by King of Wessex Alfred the Great in AD 893, specified witchcraft as an expressly female activity. But men practiced, too, and were called many different names, including a wizard, a warlock, or a sorcerer.

Countless women and men were indiscriminately persecuted for witchcraft throughout history. During the Trier Witch Trials in Germany, which lasted from 1581 to 1593, a total of 368 people were executed—and many of the victims were leading male figures of the cities and surrounding villages, including judges, councilors, priests, and deans of colleges. In the Würzburg Witch Trial, which stretched from 1626 to 1631, 157 men, women, and children were burned at the stake for such random reasons as allegedly humming songs with the Devil to being a vagrant unable to give an explanation as to why they were passing through the town of Würzburg.

Glinda the Good Witch of the South

Glinda the Good Witch of the North was played by actress Billie Burke in 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz.

3. NOT ALL WITCHES WERE BAD.

Even though we’ve got that common image of an evil witch—a warty old woman dressed all in black, riding a broomstick, with a pointy hat—anybody familiar with The Wizard of Oz knows that there can be good witches too! Glinda the good witch was a representation of the benevolent half of witchcraft, known as white magic. Historically, practitioners of white magic were known as white witches, and they were more folk healers than devious people out for double, double toil and trouble. However, writer C.S. Lewis reversed the notion for The Chronicles of Narnia saga, making one of the main antagonists the icy and evil White Witch.

4. PEOPLE COULD BE CONVICTED OF WITCHCRAFT WITHOUT ANY SOLID EVIDENCE.

During the Salem Witch Trials, most of the legally-recognized evidence used against those accused of witchcraft amounted to spectral evidence, or “witness testimony that the accused person’s spirit or spectral shape appeared to him/her witness in a dream at the time the accused person’s physical body was at another location,” which was accepted “on the basis that the devil and his minions were powerful enough to send their spirits, or specters, to pure, religious people in order to lead them astray.” Other evidence used against them were so-called “Witch’s Marks” on their skin that allegedly proved they had made pacts with the devil. Contemporary research suggests these marks were possibly small ordinary lesions or supernumerary nipples.

5. WE DON’T KNOW WHERE THE WORD “WITCH” CAME FROM.

All the etymology geeks out there may or may not be surprised to know that the word “witch” is of indeterminate origin. The closest and most obvious possible origin is the Old English word wicce, which means “female sorceress,” and is the basic linguistic root for the modern day pagan religion, Wicca. Another more specific possibility is a split meaning coming from the Old English wigle, meaning “divination” and wih, meaning “idol,” both coming from the Proto-Germanic word wikkjaz, which means “necromancer,” or “one who wakes the dead.”

6. PEOPLE WROTE ENTIRE BOOKS DEDICATED TO WITCH HUNTING.

In the 15th century, witchcraft was of grave concern to a lot of people, and major pieces of literature were written about witches. The most famous was the Malleus Maleficarum, a legal and theological document that became the de facto handbook on how to deal with witches and witchcraft, and spurred the nascent hysteria caused by witch-hunting in Europe that would last well into the 18th century. The book was written by two clergyman of the Dominican Order—Jakob Sprenger, the dean of the University of Cologne, and Heinrich Kramer, a theology professor at the University of Salzburg—and used Exodus 22:18, “You shall not permit a sorceress to live,” as its basis to detect and persecute any and all witches.

Even people as important as kings got in on the action. James I of England’s 1597 book, Daemonologie, was a treatise that threw his support behind the importance of the practice of witch hunting. James himself even presided over the 1590 North Berwick Witch Trials when he believed a devious Earl plotted to overthrow the then-King of Scotland with the help of a coven.

7. A POPE ONCE CONFIRMED THAT WITCHES EXIST.

The Catholic Church saw witchcraft as a threat to all of its followers. In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull titled “Summis desiderantes affectibus” (“Desiring with supreme ardor”) that recognized the existence of witches, saying, “many persons of both sexes, heedless of their own salvation and forsaking the Catholic faith, give themselves over to devils male and female,” and that they “afflict and torture with dire pains and anguish, both internal and external, these men, women, cattle, flocks, herds, and animals, and hinder men from begetting and women from conceiving, and prevent all consummation of marriage; that, moreover, they deny with sacrilegious lips the faith they received in holy baptism; and that, at the instigation of the enemy of mankind, they do not fear to commit and perpetrate many other abominable offences and crimes, at the risk of their own souls, to the insult of the divine majesty and to the pernicious example and scandal of multitudes.” The papal bull effectively gave Kramer and Sprenger—the writers of the Malleus Maleficarum—the God-given authority to begin their Inquisition.

8. LAWS ABOUT WITCHCRAFT WERE IN PLACE IN THE MID-20TH CENTURY.

Technically, England’s Witchcraft Act of 1735 was still official and on the books until 1951, when it was replaced with the Fraudulent Mediums Act. The language of the original Act wasn’t about persecuting witches per se, but rather made it illegal for people to claim that others were witches. Yet being legally convicted meant that you purported to have the powers of a witch—and in fact, a woman named Jane Rebecca Yorke was found guilty in 1944 under the law, though she was convicted mostly because she was defrauding people with bogus séances.

9. WITCHES PROBABLY DIDN’T WEAR POINTY HATS.

The origin of the association of the broad-brimmed, pointy hat with witches is murky at best. One school of thought is that it is based on the peaked cap Jews were required to wear after a 1215 decree by Pope Innocent III. Rampant anti-Semitism soon caused folks to associate heretics, pagans, and demons with wearers of the so-called Judenhat. In the early 1700s, the image was co-opted by artists who immortalized the image in paintings of the old hag in the witch’s hat we know today.

Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in the movie The Wizard of Oz

Actress Margaret Hamilton dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West in the movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

10. WITCHES REALLY DID “FLY” ON BROOMSTICKS, IN A WAY.

The origins of the broom as a witch’s preferred mode of transportation is … pretty weird. People who practiced witchcraft experimented with herbs and potions in rituals that may have used the mandrake plant. Mandrake contains scopolamine and atropine, two alkaloids that cause feelings of euphoria in low doses and hallucinations in higher doses.

The rituals—performed in the nude—called for the participants to rub an herbal ointment containing the mandrake on their foreheads, wrists, hands, and feet as well as on a staff that they would “ride.” The friction of the ointment-coated staff on the witches’, uh, lady parts would absorb the ointment into their system and cause a floating sensation—and their description of that feeling is what perpetuated the symbol of the witch flying on a broomstick.

 

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History Channel’s Labor Day Beginnings

Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894.

FANNING THE BARBECUE hot classic barbecue babe by vintage pinup artist Gil Elvgren to celebrate hot hot summer Labor Day

Fanning the Barbecue by Gil Elvgren

Labor Day also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events.

Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.Child Labor is not working

As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay. Many of these events turned violent during this period, including the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Others gave rise to longstanding traditions: On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.

The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it.Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later, when a watershed moment in American labor history brought workers’ rights squarely into the public’s view. On May 11, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.

In 1894, people throughout the nation relied on such publications as Leslie's Illustrated Weekly to keep up with the drama that was unfolding with the Pullman strike in Chicago.

In 1894, people throughout the nation relied on such publications as Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly to keep up with the drama that was unfolding with the Pullman strike in Chicago.

On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified.

Many credit Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday. Labor Day is still celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings. For many Americans, particularly children and young adults, it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.