History Rhymes
Nineteenth-century History
Documentary about the Yukon Passage

I have spent about the last hour watching a very interesting documentary produced in the 1970s about the Yukon Passage during the Klondike Gold Rush. The primary focus of the documentary is not the gold rush itself, but rather the way in which prospectors would have gotten to the Klondike region in the late nineteenth century. It follows a group of men who took the same route using the same means that would have been available to contemporaries. The documentary on YouTube consists of six videos which are roughly broken up into ten-minute segments. You can either watch it below or on YouTube. Either way, the videos should play in order.

While I’m at it, I thought I would share a little bit of information about the Klondike Gold Rush. Gold was first discovered in the Klondike region of north-western Canada on August 16, 1896 by American prospector George Carmack, his wife Kate Carmack, her brother Skookum Jim and their nephew Dawson Charlie. As with previous gold rushes, when news reached the United States, a race ensued to the area with prospectors going to extreme lengths to get there with the hope of getting rich quickly. As you can expect from the northern regions of Canada, the climate was not very friendly with massive snow storms, freezing temperatures and a dense, almost impenetrable wilderness presenting severe obstacles to newcomers.

The rush lasted until 1899 when news reached the region that gold had been discovered in Alaska and many prospectors packed up and moved on. Many prospectors had had a lot of success in the very gold-rich area. The Klondike Gold Rush has moved into history as one of the most famous of the nineteenth-century gold rushes through works by Jack London and several movies, among others.

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
Source: Wikipedia

A few days ago I ran into an interesting, but ambitious project online called “The Papers of Abraham Lincoln”. According to the project’s website, they are “dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating, and publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his entire lifetime (1809-1865).” It is certainly an ambitious goal, but if successful, it will provide an invaluable resource for researchers who may not otherwise have access to some of the documents.

A couple of the interesting documents featured on the site are The Gettysburg Address and the Bixby Letter (featured, although no original is known to exist, according to the website). You can also find a list of newly added documents here.

Starting Anew

There comes a time in the history of just about every blog where the author has to pen a post apologizing for an extended absence. That time for me is now. I have not made any updates to History Rhymes for the majority of the year (since January!). Much has happened in that time and it is all primarily related to my MA. The entire year has been filled with project after project related to the university and I have literally not had any time to devote to this blog. Any writings historical in nature have been produced for the university.

That being said, however, my program is finally over and I now have time and energy to devote to History Rhymes. I have a few articles in the works and many ideas for the future. I apologize for the massive delay, but I promise it will be worth the wait.

– Alex

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.

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