Civil War Book Review Has New Website URL

I am a bit late on posting this but better late than never I suppose. I received this press release and wanted to pass it along.

The Civil War Book Review, a quarterly journal published by the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections Division, has released its Spring 2018 issue.

I’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room: the CWBR’s website has changed! Along with the new design, the CWBR has a new URL: https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cwbr/. Using CWBR.com, however, should still redirect you to the new website. Read more about these changes in my editorial.

Now let’s take a peek at some of this issue’s great content.

Frank Williams’ reviews Lincoln’s Sense of Humor by Richard Carwardine. Williams finds Carwardine’s book a worthwhile venture for its succinct explanations of how humor helped Lincoln survive the rough-and-tumble world of antebellum politics and navigate the presidency.

For this issue’s author interview, I spoke with Brook Thomas about his new book The Literature of Reconstruction: Not in Plain Black and White.   In the interview, Dr. Thomas not only shared his thoughts about the period’s major novels, but he also explained why the era’s fictional works are essential for understanding the era’s political and legal debates.

In Civil War Obscura, our new column about classic books, Meg Groeling takes a close look at Mary Chestnut’s diaries. Groeling not only revisits Chestnut’s significance as an eye-witness, but also provides a short history about the book’s life after its original 1905 publication.

Special Collections librarian Hans Rasmussen discusses the fortifications of Civil War Washington, D.C. in this issue’s Civil War Treasures column. Be sure to view the detailed sketches Hans included by downloading the images from the supplemental materials link beside the article’s abstract.

Some of our reviews include Gaines Foster’s look at Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy and Mark Cheathem’s appraisal of The Lost Founding Father  by William J. Cooper. 

As always I want to thank the CWBR’s contributors for their hard work, and our readers for their patience and attention.

Editorial Staff
Civil War Book Review
108A Hill Memorial Library
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cwbr/

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El Real Retiro: One of Florida’s Finest Homes

Published 90 years ago today in the New Smyrna Daily News.

El Real Retiro One of Florida’s Finest Homes
New Smyrna Daily News June 8, 1928

New Smyrna El Retiro03.jpgOn the shores of the Indian River at New Smyrna, nestling in a beautiful palm grove with numerous varieties of other beautiful trees and shrubs, will be found one of the most picturesque homes in Florida, in fact one of Florida’s show places.

The house of Spanish architecture, was recently built by Robert Handley, who lavished great wealth as well as though in the construction and furnishing of this unique home, all of which is quite in keeping with its beautiful natural surroundings.

The house, which is over 200 feet in length, is constructed of heavy timber with stucco finish and an imported Spanish tile roof which lends immensely to the artistic beauty of the whole.

The interior of the rooms on the south section are tinted stucco finish all having hardwood floors, while those in the north wing are finished with pecky cypress having beamed ceilings and brick floors.

The music room is 60 feet long and 26 feet wide and is furnished with costly antiques and oriental rugs.

In our sauntering through the house we might possibly start in the bedrooms which are all spacious and beautifully furnished. Each room has a connecting bath. The windows are all casement type and each room looks out either over the beautiful front lawn with snatched glimpses of the river beyond, or on the picturesque patio which we will enter later.

The reception and writing rooms were illustrated and described in Vogue Magazine recently as follows: “The writing room in the new home of Robert Handley, Esq., brings exotic flavor of far off lands and untraveled seas with its pecky cypress walls painted lime green, rubbed with lemon yellow and decorated with lime green designs. The pilasters are all white rubbed with faint touches of yellow, blue, and green. The pottery and the Kashmir embroidered felt rugs repeat the color notes.

“The Arabian Nights, with all their glory, contained no more shimmering sight than a passage way of silver. The artist has prepared one room in Chinese silver and painted an intricate design of flowers and foliage, and the color scheme ranges from white through a full scale of green with touches of flame and pink. The floor is in moss green and the woodwork in green-black.”

We descend from the silver room down a slightly winding stone staircase of four steps, into the spacious dining room which is finished in gray stone and is on a level with the patio adjoining. The exquisite antique furniture of this room came from Spain, Italy, and England, some of it being centuries old.

There are two other similar winding staircases leading into this beautiful room, one from the patio itself at the south end of the room and the other from the butler’s service room at the west side, the stairs from the silver room being at the east side.

The paintings on the walls of the library by Robert Locher were illustrated and described in the 1925 issue of the House and Garden Magazine as follows:

“The library shown on these pages with its decorative painted wall and interesting woodwork, is in the home of Robert Handley, Esq., at New Smyrna, Florida. The panoramic design shows important incidents in the history of this section of Florida. One scene is the passing of the first southbound steamer. The contrast to the picturesque sailing ships above (illustrated) a present day ocean liner and a scene of a modern Florida beach. Florida in the 16th century, the time of the landing of Ponce de Leon furnished the inspiration for the designs around the fireplace.

The most decorative of the shipping episodes is the landing of Ponce de Leon. The figures, tropical foliage, and Spanish galleon are in various colors against a brilliant blue background. The view of the library (illustrated) shows the effective beamed ceilings. This and the trim are of cypress colored by a thin wash of blue-green.”

The entire house is abundantly supplied with costly and exquisite tapestries, oriental rugs, antiques, and vases brought from Europe and the Orient. The servants’ quarters and garage are built on the same Spanish type north of the house. The Faulkner Street side of the property has a nine foot stucco wall extending 344 feet across the length of the property. The front of the house faces the Indian River.

The front veranda, in accordance with the Spanish architecture, is roofless, the music room previously described, opening on to it with three sliding French doors. The north and south wings adjoin this piazza, the latter also, opening on to it with a French door.

The trees, oleanders, palms, bamboos, and other beautiful products of Florida, make a bower of beauty of the front yard with the glimpses of the serene old Indian River to be seen through their branches, and at night the stars twinkling overhead making a veritable dreamland of the entire place.

One of the most attractive points of interest is the beautiful patio about 60 feet square and surrounded by a ten foot stucco wall which adjoins the house. The shrubbery, statuary, and tiled walks under the canopy of spreading branches of the majestic oaks and palms with their hanging moss, make one feel that he is in Paradise, especially on a moonlight night.

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Dick Bristley and daughter Genevieve, en route to Palm Beach last January, stopping here to pay a few days visit with friends. So impressed were they with New Smyrna and the climate that they decided to remain the balance of the winder. A few weeks later Mr. Bristley called to see the Handley home of which he had heard so much. As a result negotiations followed and the ownership and title in the Handley estate and its furnishings were transferred to Mr. Bristley.

Many improvements have been made since the new owners have taken possession, and it is their intention to make this their permanent winter home.

Mr. Bristley is a retired official of the Royal Baking Power Company of New York. The significance thereof was the dedication of this home March 15th, at their housewarming as “El Real Retiro” which is Spanish for “The Royal Retreat.”

Library Additions–June 2018 (1)

Thank you to my friends at Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a copy of their new release Lincoln and the Abolitionists (Concise Lincoln Library) written by Stanley Harrold.  I am a big fan of the Concise Lincoln Library . This wonderful series allows readers to learn more about Lincoln based upon their subject interest. The books are very reasonably priced as well; usually $25 or less for a hardcover.

From the publisher website:

Abraham Lincoln has often been called the “Great Emancipator.” But he was not among those Americans who, decades before the Civil War, favored immediate emancipation of all slaves inside the United States. Those who did were the abolitionists—the men and women who sought freedom and equal rights for all African Americans. Stanley Harrold traces how, despite Lincoln’s political distance from abolitionists, they influenced his evolving political orientation before and during the Civil War.

While explaining how the abolitionist movement evolved, Harrold also clarifies Lincoln’s connections with and his separation from this often fiery group. For most of his life Lincoln regarded abolitionists as dangerous fanatics. Like many northerners during his time, Lincoln sought compromise with the white South regarding slavery, opposed abolitionist radicalism, and doubted that free black people could have a positive role in America. Yet, during the 1840s and 1850s, conservative northern Democrats as well as slaveholders branded Lincoln an abolitionist because of his sympathy toward black people and opposition to the expansion of slavery.

Lincoln’s election to the presidency and the onslaught of the Civil War led to a transformation of his relationship with abolitionists. Lincoln’s original priority as president had been to preserve the Union, not to destroy slavery. Nevertheless many factors—including contacts with abolitionists—led Lincoln to favor ending slavery. After Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and raised black troops, many, though not all, abolitionists came to view him more favorably.

Providing insight into the stressful, evolving relationship between Lincoln and the abolitionists, and also into the complexities of northern politics, society, and culture during the Civil War era, this concise volume illuminates a central concern in Lincoln’s life and presidency.

Effort Afloat to Bring Back the Jantzen Girl

 

Jantzen Girl
The Jantzen Girl hanging at the entrance to Stamie’s Smart Beach Wear

Since 1965 Daytona Beach has served as home to one of only six, twenty foot fiberglass Jantzen Girl statues. The statue/sign was a fixture outside of Stamie’s Smart Beach Wear since arriving from Miami. That all changed recently when the store located along the recently renovated boardwalk area closed with the retirement of second generation owner Irene Koutouzis.

The sign was never owned by the Koutouzis family but rather was still owned by Jantzen who has taken possession of the landmark piece with an apparent goal of rehoming it. The relocation will come with a price.

Despite a complete makeover in 2004 and regular coats of wax, recent hurricanes and the realities of being near the ocean will require over $10,000 worth of work according to building owner Louie Louizes.

Jantzen was formed in 1910 by co-owners John A. Zehntbauer and Carl C. Jantzen and was known as the Portland Knitting Co. By 1913 they were crafting bathing suits for the Portland Rowing Club and in 1918 the company name was changed to Jantzen Knitting Mills.

With business expanding in the 1920s a national marketing gimmick was needed. In stepped artists Frank and Florenz Clark who became inspired by Olympic tryouts for the 1920 women’s dive team. The red clad diving girl was born!

Throughout the years the image has evolved and in 1959 six of the fiberglass sculptures were created by a Los Angeles mannequin company, of which four are known to still be in existence. I am assuming two are in possession of Jantzen after having been in other, now closed, locations. A third is used for promotional displays in various stores selling Jantzen products. The Daytona Beach Jantzen girl, the last to be on display in a regular home, is currently in Washington state where the statue is receiving a complete restoration while plans for its future are decided.

Will that future include Daytona Beach? Maybe. Jantzen is currently weighing its options but is closely following the groundswell of support that Daytona Beach residents and visitors are showing. Support such as that shown at a new Facebook page “Bring Back the Jantzen Girl” can do nothing but help. And if by chance the statue goes elsewhere a page like this is a great historical record. If you have photos or memories of the Jantzen Girl please feel free to share them here in the comments section.

Perry Ellis International is the owner of Jantzen, having acquired the company in 2001.

 

A Rant About Social Media

Recently I have noticed what I feel is a strange social media phenomenon on Twitter and Instagram. Why do people follow you only to wait for you to follow them back then unfollow you just days later? It seems like such a waste of time.

An example: my wife and I have three dogs and I had followed a Labrador retriever page on Instagram. When I post the occasional photo of one of my dogs I will use the hashtag Labradorretriever or labsofinstagram or something that many others do. All of a sudden I received probably five or six requests to follow from assorted lab pages. I approved them and followed them back, I love lab photos. So lo and behold within a few days they had almost all dropped me, I believe only two are still with me. Sure, I don’t overrun my pages with photos of my dogs so maybe I wasn’t of interest to them. Photos of my dogs are really only of interest to me but I enjoy sharing at times. I have the word historian in my profile, did you think there would be hundreds of dog photos?

Now my Twitter and Instagram accounts do not have large numbers of followers (yet, I suppose I should add) nor do I follow large numbers of people and organizations so I can tell when I get unfollowed. I have started tracking those who have recently followed me and it is almost always one of them who has unfollowed me. If I followed them back I will promise you I respond in kind with a quick unfollow.

Now there are times of course I have not followed back and maybe they got their feelings hurt. Maybe they didn’t like a post: I will post pro Civil Rights pieces on Twitter but then follow it up with a complaint against monument removal. If your skin is that thin I recommend leaving social media and crawling in a hole. For me the issue is, don’t try to run up your numbers and not reciprocate.

And as an FYI, my point is only being made about non famous/prominent individuals. I didn’t expect Stephen King to follow me back when I followed him on Twitter nor do I anticipate whoever runs the Mount Vernon pages to like mine when I follow them. If I follow I don’t really expect a follow back. It’s nice but not expected.

All that said, if you wish to follow me on social media, find the icons on this page and give them a click then like or follow!

8,000 Papers from Benjamin Franklin Now Available Digitally

The Library of Congress has made available its collection of Benjamin Franklin papers online. While transcribed versions have been available you can now see what the originals look like. While only a small portion of the available papers of Franklin, this is an important step in preserving and sharing the history of one of our countries great founding fathers. The majority of Franklins surviving papers are held by the American Philosophical Society and there are several other archives with significant holdings.

See an article discussing the papers here.

Visit the Library of Congress site to view the Franklin papers here.

You may learn more about the effort to publish Franklin’s papers by visiting the Yale University website here.

The Tatler of Society in Florida is Now Available Digitally

Courtesy of the Spring 2018 issue of the St. Augustine Historical Society newsletter. I used several articles from the Tatler in my book ST. AUGUSTINE & THE CIVIL WAR (Civil War Series) finding interesting tidbits on former Civil War Generals and when they were in town and what they were up to. It was not digital with an index at the time so I know I didn’t get the full use out of this fascinating reference.  Now if they can just get this source available online.

Hidden Treasures: The Tatler  Written by Bob Nawrocki

The arrival of Henry M. Flagler and the opening of his hotels brought wealthy winter tourists to St. Augustine by the train load. Before email, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media, the wealthy visitors used print publications to find out what their peers were doing.

Anna Marcotte, who previously worked on the St. Augustine News, started The Tatler of Society in Florida to document the comings and goings of wealthy visitors to St. Augustine; The Tatler was only published during the winter season. The Tatler offered a listing of who came into town, where they were staying, menus of specials events, descriptions of dresses and gowns worn to dances and ads for hotels and souvenirs.

The Research Library has the only complete collection of The Tatler in the United States. It is an invaluable resource for a researcher looking into the Gilded Age in St. Augustine. Until recently, the only way to find information in The Tatler was to read each issue until you found the information you needed. This took time and caused wear and tear to our only copies of The Tatler.

Thanks to the hard work of Marty Cawley, a Research Library volunteer, The Tatler is fully indexed. Ms. Cawley went through each issue and indexed the articles and photographs in each issue. The information was entered into Emily, our online catalog, and is available to anyone with access to the Internet. To access our catalog, visit oldesthouse.org and click on the Research Library button.

To protect our set of The Tatler, the entire run has been scanned and converted into a set of PDFs. To scan our bound set, it was necessary to use an oversize scanner. Matt Armstrong, Collections Coordinator of the University of Florida Historic St. Augustine Library at the Governor’s House, offered use of their library’s oversize scanner for this project. Chad Germany, Assistant Librarian, scanned the collection and organized the PDFs. The PDFs are only available in the reading room of the Research Library. The fragile original copies of The Tatler will be placed in secure storage where they will be in temperature and humidity controlled space, preserving them for the future.

Upcoming Appearance in Lake County

Lake County Courthouse
Lake County Courthouse in Tavares, FL

I have just today confirmed an appearance with the Lake County Historical Society at their Artists and Authors event taking place on Saturday, April 28, 2018 from 10-2p. I will have copies of all three of my books available for purchase. This should be a fun event. LCHS has some great volunteers and they usually attract a strong crowd. I missed their recent Museum by Moonlight event but heard it was a fantastic time.

 

The Lake County Historical Society operates the museum in the Lake County Courthouse located on the ground floor at 317 W. Main Street in downtown Tavares.  My dear friend Bob Grenier serves as Curator and has done a tremendous job. If you haven’t visited you are missing out.

I hope to see you there!

Controversial New Release from Fonthill Media

Today brought news of what is sure to be a controversial new release from Fonthill Media and distributed by Arcadia Publishing and author Phillip Thomas Tucker. The book is titled Blacks in Gray Uniforms: A New Look at the South’s Most Forgotten Combat Troops 1861-1865. Needless to say the title will no doubt come under some scrutiny as will the subject matter.

This is a subject that has hot feelings on both sides and some, including Kevin Levin, have almost made a career of arguing against the notion of black Confederate soldiers. In fact, he has a soon to be released book on the subject, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth.

Author Phillip Thomas Tucker has written widely on several historical themes including the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Alamo, Custer’s Last Stand, and others, often with poor to mixed reviews, especially from authoritative sources.

As for whether there were black soldiers in the Confederate army you will have to make your own decision. The evidence, including findings I made working on my book ST. AUGUSTINE & THE CIVIL WAR (Civil War Series), shows there were black soldiers in the Confederate army. My small number of finds however were musicians and non combat soldiers. North Carolina historian Michael Hardy however has found record of several black Confederates who fought. These trace amounts do not lead to the claims many have put forth of large numbers of blacks fighting for the Confederacy but they should make us step back from the statement that there were NO black troops in the Confederate service.

While Arcadia is often very generous in supplying me with review copies I did not receive a copy of this title. Personally, while skeptical, I will withhold judgement until seeing the book and reviewing the notes and bibliography which I hope are included. Often times, with the space limitations imposed by Fonthill Media these are left out. For a title like this that would be a critical error in my view.