History Rhymes
Nineteenth-century History
New Series: Kings of Bavaria
Bavarian Coat of Arms 1835-1923

Bavarian Coat of Arms 1835-1923
Source: Wikipedia

As my research has recently taken me in a new direction, I’ve decided to start a new multi-part series about it. For my dissertation, I will be researching the relationships between the Bavarian aristocracy and monarchy in the nineteenth century.

The Kings of Bavaria will feature all of the Bavarian kings which ruled between the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and the fall of the Kingdom of Bavaria after World War I in 1918. Although the Kingdom of Bavaria did not actually last all that long (less that a century), it had some colorful figures as monarchs which left a lasting impression on Bavaria even to this day.

This will be a multi-part series. You will be able to see all of the entries in this series in the The Kings of Bavaria category which can also be found in the sidebar or by visiting the The Kings of Bavaria project page.

Some more changes

Update: I have since deleted the Twitter account mentioned below meaning the “historyalex” account is no longer mine.

I know it has been a while since I’ve posted anything meaningful, but I’ve been incredibly busy focusing on my MA and all the work that goes along with that. The past couple of days I’ve made a few important changes to History Rhymes which were sorely needed. First of all, I made several changes to the backend of History Rhymes which should keep the site functioning more smoothly. Other than that, you won’t notice any actual differences. The second thing I’ve done is to update post categories. I’ve added a few new categories and subcategories to ensure that posts of interest can be found more easily and efficiently. A couple of other changes include adding a Twitter feed for my history Twitter account (@HistoryAlex) and at long last fixing the Archives page which has been broken for some time.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am going to be focusing on German history for my MA dissertation. That means I will be writing more articles about German history on here. Since my last post I have narrowed down my topic considerably. I will be researching the relationships between the Bavarian aristocracy and the monarchy in the 19th century. In lieu of that I will be creating a new multi-part series which will be related to that. I will post an official introduction rather soon.

Some changes

Things have been extremely hectic as of late and unfortunately, I really haven’t had any time to post anything on History Rhymes. Graduate school is far more work-intensive than undergraduate school is and so my days have been crammed full of work. More articles will be coming soon though, that I promise.

A couple of changes have also occurred in the past couple of months. First of all, the direction I am taking for my MA has changed significantly based on some research I’ve done, rendering The Old Journal (the new blog I started — see the last post before this one) practically useless. I’ve decided to shut it down and just remain focused on this blog. Today I posted all articles from The Old Journal onto History Rhymes. They are all backdated to the original time I posted them. Secondly, my research has led me more into German history than American or British history.

Justizpalast in Munich as shown on a 19th century postcard

Justizpalast in Munich as shown on a 19th century postcard
Source: Wikipedia

I will be focusing primarily on the history of the German aristocracy in the 19th century. This is quite a radical change in plan, but by research interests have pointed me in that direction. For this blog, I’ve already done a series on Nineteenth Century German History and this, in a way, is an extension of that.

I’ve setup another blog specifically to record my findings and research as it happens. It’s called Das alte Tagebuch (‘The Old Journal’ in German). Despite the German title, the blog will be in English. I decided to do that as opposed to clogging up History Rhymes with random bits of research. For History Rhymes, I’ve always tried to have more polished articles based on proper research, not just ramblings, musings and snippets of thought which is what I am going to be using Das alte Tagebuch for as my research progresses.

Introducing: The Old Journal
Coronation of Queen Victoria by John Martin

Coronation of Queen Victoria by John Martin

As a lot of my readers know, I have a very strong interest in Victorian British history as well as the history of the American west. Because of this, I’ve decided to create a new blog which will focus only on Victorian British history. The new blog is called The Old Journal.

I’ve decided to create a separate blog because I want History Rhymes to remain focused on the history of the American West. This way, those that are interested in the history of the west can read History Rhymes and those who are interested in Victorian history can read The Old Journal. If you are interested in both, you can read both. Recent posts from each blog are located in the bottom of the sidebar of the other blog.

I hope you enjoy the two blogs and I look forward to hearing from my readers at both places!

Britain and the American Civil War
Battle of Gettysburg by Currier and Ives

Battle of Gettysburg by Currier and Ives
Source: Wikipedia

When most people think of the American Civil War, they do not tend to think of the reaction that the United Kingdom had to it. Despite being across the Atlantic, a large number of people in Britain followed the war with great interest. For the most part, their reaction was quite mixed. Some people hoped the Union in the north would win and others had placed their bets on the Confederacy in the south. Many people even had a personal interest in the war. For some, family members had at some previous point emigrated to the United States and were actively involved in the war. Others had business interests in the United States which were greatly affected in this time of intense industrial development in the UK.

While of course impossible to tell what the majority of Britons thought about the Union and the Confederacy, the evidence tends to suggest that a large portion of the population that followed the war in America were pro-Union. England had, earlier in the century, abolished slavery in the British Empire with the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. The Victorians were incredibly proud of this and generally viewed themselves as humanitarians for this reason. Of course because of this, one can deduce that most of the Britons would have sided with the Union which was busy fighting the pro-slavery Confederacy. Another telling piece of evidence is that those who sided with the Confederacy tending not to speak of it. For them, it was a taboo topic which was not discussed, whereas Union-supporters were very vocal about it.

Naturally there were also reasons why many people may have sided with the Confederacy. At this time, England was leading the world in terms of industry. Factories throughout the north of England were producing cotton goods at a rate absolutely unheard of at the time. This was, however, largely possible due to the availability of cheap, slave-picked cotton from the Confederacy, or “King Cotton”. At the outbreak of the American Civil War, the Union very quickly setup a naval blockade preventing the Confederacy from exporting cotton to Europe. This outraged many British capitalists who relied on the cotton for their factories and turned them towards the Confederacy’s cause. Many Victorians also believed that, with the way the American government was designed and setup, the southern states had every right to secede and that the Union was attempting to suppress this right.

Surprisingly, despite the personal interests of many people in the UK, Britain stayed neutral throughout. Her Majesty’s Government did not officially support either side morally, financially or militarily. This is perhaps because of the great diversity of opinions in both the public and Parliament as to why the Government should take one side or the other. Britain had an interest in both the North and the South, making it impossible to pick the better side.

The UK remained neutral throughout the entire war, although they did send reinforcements to the US-Canadian border. Prime Minister Palmerston (1784-1865) feared that the war may spread as far north as Canada with the Union taking advantage of its new military strength to gain more territory for itself. Fortunately this never happened.

One of the greatest ironies of the effect of the American Civil War was on the relationship between Great Britain and the United States. It actually helped mend many old feuds left over from the American War of Independence and the War of 1812. While the United States had to fight to regain its lost half, in the end, it gained an ally in Britain.

Rocky Mountain Mining Towns: South Pass City, Wyoming
South Pass City in 1870

South Pass City in 1870
Source: Wikipedia

There are many towns throughout the American west which serve as excellent examples of what a mining “boom town” was like. South Pass City, Wyoming is one such town. It is a relatively rare example, however, in that it has survived practically unchanged into the present and as such can better relate its story to us now.

The story of the town is like so many others of its ilk. In the summer of 1867, gold was found in an area along Willow Creek in the southeastern Wind River Mountains by Mormon prospectors. When the precious ore was found, this part was primarily occupied by Arapaho, Sioux and Cheyenne tribes who fiercely defended their homelands and successfully kept the majority of Anglo-Americans from coming settling there. The whole situation changed though when in 1866, US troops arrived to defend those brave (or stupid) enough to settle the region despite the risks.

People began to flow into the area under the protection of the US troops with the hope of striking it rich. In the same year, a major gold vein was found which would eventually become the Carissa Mine. By 1868, the town proper of South Pass City had been founded and contained 250 buildings and a population of over 1000 people. As with all mining “boom towns”, its decline came as quickly as its “boom”. By 1869, the population had already begun to decrease and by 1872, only a few hundred people remained.

Esther Hobart Morris

Esther Hobart Morris

South Pass City continued to be occupied for several more decades by a group loyal to the town, however. The Carissa Mine continued to function on and off until it finally closed down for good in 1949. The last residents left the town shortly thereafter, leaving South Pass City as a ghost town.

Despite being such a small town, South Pass City boasted several people who made Wyoming history. Two such examples are William H. Bright and Esther Hobart Morris. Bright was a saloon and mine owner in the town who served in Wyoming’s First Territorial Legislature. There, he introduced the first women’s suffrage bill. Once passed, Esther Hobart Morris then became the very first women in the United States to hold public office. She made history when she became Justice of the Peace on February 14, 1870.

The state of Wyoming purchased the town in 1966 as a historic site and has since continued to support its upkeep as a tourist attraction. Many of the original buildings with full original furniture are still standing today and can be visited. The official website for the historic site can be found here.

This post is part of a multi-part series about mining towns in the Rocky Mountains. See the rest of the series either on the Rocky Mountain Mining Town project page or in the category of the same name.

Google to Digitize Books from the British Library
British Library

British Library
Source: Wikipedia

I have just seen that the British Library in London has reached a deal with Google to digitize roughly 250,000 books, newspapers, articles, etc from between 1700 and 1870. These years were chosen based on copyright. 1870 is the latest sure date that the European copyrights have expired. The British Library has the largest collection of books of any library in Great Britain and is the equivalent of our Library of Congress in that they automatically receive a copy of every single book published in the country.

Many of the books which will be digitized are currently not available in the public rooms of the library. Either they are too old or there is simply not enough room in the public areas of the library. Digitizing the books should give access to the books to everyone and make it easier to find historic information from them.

I, for one, am quite excited about the idea. Since the books will be available for free online, it means us historians from abroad can easily access the books without having to fly to London to do so.

For more information, the BBC has an interesting video about it and The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about it.

Emperor Norton I – Emperor of the United States
Emperor Joshua A. Norton I

Emperor Joshua A. Norton I
Source: Wikipedia

Joshua A. Norton is a little known figure in American history. He was the first and only self-declared emperor of the United States of America. He styled himself as His Majesty, Emperor Norton I. Most of his contemporaries understandably branded him as crazy, unstable and as having gone off the deep end. Although the majority of people ignored his fantasies, many of the local establishments and friends humored him to the extent that he was, in a way, able to carry out his duties as “emperor.”

Norton was born circa 1819 in England. After having spent most of his childhood in South Africa, he emigrated to the United States in 1849 where he worked as a businessman. He lost the small fortune he had acquired through business after investing in rice from Peru. At that time there was a famine in China. When China stopped exporting rice, it caused the price of rice to skyrocket in San Francisco. Norton’s idea was to buy cheap rice from Peru and corner the market. Subsequently, he purchased an entire ship full. However, this backfired when several more ships full of rice arrived in San Francisco, causing the price of rice to plummet to unprofitable amounts.

The investment caused Norton to declare bankruptcy in 1858 and leave the city for a while. Upon his return, he began to act eccentrically. He was rather disgruntled with the establishment in the United States and decided to take matters into his own hands by declaring himself “Emperor of these United States” in a letter which he distributed to several newspapers in San Francisco:

At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of S. F., Cal., declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of Feb. next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.

NORTON I, Emperor of the United States.

With this letter, he began what would be a twenty-one year “reign” of the United States. Later, he would add “Protector of Mexico” to his title.

Proclamation by Emperor Norton I

Proclamation by Emperor Norton I
Source: Wikipedia

During his time as “Emperor,” Norton issued many decrees — the vast majority of which were simply ignored. On October 12, 1859, he issued a decree which dissolved the United States Congress and, when Congress ignored his order, he ordered the military to arrest and prosecute members of Congress as traitors. He would attempt to battle the elected officials of the American government throughout his entire reign — including the abolishment of the Democratic and Republican parties. Eventually, however, he was forced to “accept” the existence of Congress and all other parts of the government.

Although the majority of his decrees were simply ignored, there were a few of them which, albeit well after his death, came true. One such decree was to build a bridge and/or dig a tunnel across the bay which would connect San Francisco with Oakland. Both of these projects were realized in the 1930s.

Despite Norton’s eccentric behavior and the fact that he did not have any actual power or political influence, he was loved by the people of San Francisco. He was broke and yet often dined at the finest San Francisco restaurants whose owners often hung up a brass plaque outside their establishment which symbolized that “the Emperor of the United States” had eaten or frequently ate there. Many theatrical productions would reserve a balcony seat for Norton and be honored by his visit to the performance.

The city of San Francisco itself even paid tribute to him in their own way. Among other things was the replacement of his navy-blue military uniform when his old one began to look shabby. Norton issued his own currency to pay for his debts which was often accepted as legal tender. At one point, he was arrested on the charge of being mentally unstable. This caused such an uproar among the citizens of San Francisco that the Chief of Police ordered him released and formally apologized to him, saying that “that he had shed no blood; robbed no one; and despoiled no country; which is more than can be said of his fellows in that line.” From then on, police officers saluted to Norton whenever they encountered him.

On January 8, 1880, Norton collapsed in front of Old St. Mary’s Church. Before medical help could arrive, the Emperor had died. His obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle was published under the headline “Le Roi est Mort” (“The King is Dead”). His grave, which lies in Woodlawn Cemetery, is inscribed with “Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.”

Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Nazis
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany

Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany
Source: Wikipedia

I’ve recently been reading a German history magazine called Der Spiegel: Geschichte. The most current issue focuses on the Hohenzollern dynasty in Prussia and ultimately in the German Empire from 1871 until 1918. One of the last articles in the issue discusses the last German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, and his life after his abdication from the German imperial and Prussian royal thrones.

Something I find quite fascinating about Kaiser after his abdication is his relationship to the Nazis once they came to power in the early 1930s. At first, he believed their nationalistic tendencies would lead to a re-establishment of the German monarchy and he would therefore be able to regain the throne he had lost. This of course proved to be just wishful thinking.

While he corresponded with Hitler through his son, the Nazis were never interested in bringing back the Kaiser or the monarchy that had led them to such embarrassing defeat in the First World War. They also, of course, wanted to keep power for themselves. Naturally, Wilhelm II was very disappointed by this and cut off practically all ties and contacts with Hitler and his party. His only remaining connection to the Nazis were the Nazi German soldiers who guarded him and his family at his home in the Netherlands where he was living in exile. In 1940, when the Kaiser found out about atrocities the Nazis were committing against the Jews and other people, he declared that it was the first time in his life that he felt ashamed to be German.

Shortly before Wilhelm’s death in 1941, he requested that all mention of Nazis, all Nazi symbols and anything related to them be left out of his memorial service. His wish was not granted and he was given a funeral full of Nazi symbols. The funeral itself was used as propaganda by the Nazis, who used it to “show” their legitimacy in inheriting the German Reich.

While in exile, Wilhelm II could dream of nothing other than regaining the German imperial throne. He spent much of his time engaged in coming up with ways of how to re-establish himself as German Kaiser. His phase with Hitler and the Nazis were, in the end, just another part of his obsession.

For more about Kaiser Wilhelm II, his abdication and what led up to it, take a look at my series: Nineteenth Century German History.

The Role of Prince Albert in the Monarchy
Prince Albert in 1842

Prince Albert in 1842
Source: Wikipedia

In the first two decades of Queen Victoria’s reign, there was no one who played a more influential role in British affairs as Prince Albert, the Prince Consort. Upon the ascension of Queen Victoria to the throne, the state of the Monarchy was already in question.1 After his subsequent marriage to the Queen, his strength helped unify Britain behind the Crown in a way which had not been done for decades. His intelligence and political savvy helped to ensure its continuation even to this day. Although he often dealt with state affairs, the primary part he played was that of partner to the Queen and father to their children.

First and foremost, the role of the Prince was that of husband and direct supporter of the Monarch. As a husband, he served a dual purpose: he became her closest advisor and private secretary as well as a loving partner and father. The Queen, who was inclined to indolence and who rather disliked politics, plunged head first into state affairs in the wake of the eager Prince. Most mornings while having breakfast together, “the newspapers — the once hated newspapers — made their appearance, and the Prince, absorbed in their perusal, would answer no questions.”2 The Prince’s influence was so great on her that, even well after the Prince’s death, Queen Victoria often made important decisions based on what she thought he would have done.3 In between state affairs, the Prince also spent a large amount of his time with his children. He setup strict educational tracks because he emphasized the importance of education — especially for the leading roles he knew his children would play in European politics as adults.4 Most of his daughters grew up to marry future kings and emperors. The Prince, himself, also heavily influenced European politics.

Not only did he serve as advisor to one of the most powerful people in the world, but he also directly took part in the dealings of the government. One of his biggest accomplishments as a politician was helping to prevent another war between the United States and Britain at the beginning of the American Civil War.5 At home, he also encouraged social reform and programs to help the poor. After his death, the Monarchy’s influence on political affairs began to suffer severely. The Queen withdrew from public life for several years and when she finally re-emerged, she represented a Monarchy which had become “merely a camp joke.”6 Ironically, Prince Albert’s death may have been what saved the British Monarchy from the fate of so many of its continental European counterparts in the early twentieth century. Its newly found ‘modesty’ may have put it “into a position where it was not worth abolishing.”7 If Albert had lived on, the Queen would probably not have retreated from public life and political affairs and the strength may have arguably grown rather than diminish.

Although Prince Albert died only twenty-one years after Queen Victoria ascended the throne, his role was so great that his influence is felt throughout the entirety of her reign. He prevented catastrophe while promoting social reform and raised a generation of children who would marry into Europe’s most powerful royal families making his influence felt even outside of the British realm.


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