I’ve been spending time this morning going through the collection of old newspapers that are available online at the Library of Congress' Chronicling America website. My intent is to find items of interest related to the memory of the Founding Fathers. During my search I found this curious advertisement from the February 22, 1912 issue of The Richmond Times Dispatch. The product is Washington Crisps cereal. The advertisement is a brilliant blend of patriotism and propaganda:
To the Mothers of American Boys and Girls:
The life of this great American is the best example
of wholesome, noble, truthful living in the history of
our country, and our children should be taught the value
of truthfulness, patriotism and devotion to principle.
Impressions made upon the minds of children are
lasting, and always influence their future lives.
How important then it is that we furnish them only
the best mental as well as physical food, that their
minds and bodies may be sound and wholesome.
REMEMBER: The boys and girls of to-day are the men and
women of tomorrow.
When I look at this ad, I can’t help but recognize the similarity between this consumer-driven portrayal of George Washington and the modern-day athletes on Wheaties boxes. I have no qualms with the reverence for GW (although this is overkill). If any historic figure is truly worthy of our highest admiration, it’s probably him. That said, the fact that he is exploited here to pimp kid’s cereal is quite amusing. The customer is pitched the notion that by eating Washington Crisps, they are in some way akin to the Father of our Country. It must have worked because folks back then bought a helluva lot of this cereal.
It still works today. The difference is where George Washington used to occupy this place of reverence in the public’s eye, sports stars now prevail. I wonder if you were to replace A-Rod's image on a cereal box with any president would anyone buy it?
I wanted to take a quick moment and express my gratitude for all of the wonderful support and cross-promotion that I have received for my new service All-Access Battlefield Tours. From Troy Technologies and the Civil War Trust, to the Fredericksburg Tourism Bureau, I am blessed to have so many outstanding folks in my corner. AABT is already receiving international press-coverage and the buzz is growing. After months of preparation I am beyond excited for the official launch on September 1, 2011. I am also grateful to have the participation of battlefield guides Mark Jones and John Cummings.
It’s no easy thing to start a small business in Virginia, especially a tour guide service that caters specifically to wheelchair travelers. You need to create an LLC, obtain a business license, get your NPS tour permit, and find affordable commercial liability insurance. Then you need to get accessibility expertise, petition for the proper equipment, create all of the necessary media materials and advertise with both history and disability-focused publications. Next you plot your tours, prepare client handouts, hire assistant guides, and study-study-study your material. It takes a lot of money, and time, and effort, but if you do it right, the benefits are priceless. I love hiking battlefields and giving tours, so that part of the job is not “work” in the purest sense. All of the ‘other stuff’ that goes along with being a small business owner is.
So why did I decide to open a weekend business during one of the worst economies ever, in an area that is struggling to maintain its tourism dollars, doing something that no one else is doing? I guess it was a simple case of supply and demand. I saw a need and felt that I could fill it. People immediately saw the same potential and supported me in any way they could. My goal was to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy our area’s hallowed grounds, regardless of their mobility issues. Thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of others I can now do that. Everyone with a disability should be able to visit these battlefields and have an enjoyable and safe experience, not just during the Sesquicentennial, but from here on in.
I am already looking at expansion options to include incorporating the CWT’s new Fredericksburg Battlefield Apps into the narrative of my tours. I would love to use the program’s outstanding maps and video to compliment the guide's photo book that I have already created. This capability would be especially beneficial to guests who may also have sensory or comprehension concerns. *If you know of anyone willing to donate or lend us an iPad for this purpose, please email me here.
We are also planning on working with the Wounded Warriors Program and the Paralyzed Veterans of America and will be appearing in their publications such as PN Magazine.
The next couple weeks will be filled with final preparations, but just as with my book or film projects, the end result will be a culmination of the expertise, generosity, and support of others. Tours will begin booking on September 1 for the month of October. Each wheelchair traveler will receive a special guest packet that includes historical maps, information on NPS site accessibility accommodations, travel wheelchair literature and more. I ask that you spread the word to whomever you feel may be interested. You can follow the evolution of this venture over on the AABT’s blog.
AABT is now featured on the Civil War Trust website.
This weekend I received an urgent voicemail from a gentleman in Warsaw VA who wanted to speak to me about my book The Civil War in Spotsylvania County: Confederate Campfires at the Crossroads. According to the message, his grandson had given him the book as a gift and he was bothered by a missing unit in the registry that I had included in the back. Despite the fact it was Saturday morning, I immediately returned his call.
After explaining the source of his disappointment I kindly explained to him that I had used the National Park Service’s Orders of Battle from each of the four major engagements to create the registry and that the unit he was referencing did not make the list because they did not participate in any of those battles. I also grabbed a copy of the book and read the introduction which stated:
…The challenge of pinpointing the exact geographic locations of all Confederate encampments in Spotsylvania County and the surrounding regions remains a difficult one. …Despite this difficulty, we are able to identify what troops from the Army of Northern Virginia were amassed in the Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania area from 1861-1865 and can assume with relative confidence that they were encamped there. By using the Orders of Battle from each of the four engagements, we can identify what forces from the ANV were present. This does not account for every southern unit that may have passed through the county during the course of the Civil War, but it does give a good impression of the majority of units that were represented in local camps…The following units were present during the Battle of Fredericksburg: December 1862, Battle of Chancellorsville: April-May 1863, and the Battle of The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, May 1864. All were encamped at one time or another in Spotsylvania County and the surrounding region.
Realizing his misunderstanding, the gentlemen immediately apologized. I thanked him for his interest and for having the forethought to contact me. That is what brings me to my post today…here we have a guy who literally had to seek me out. He probably read the Authors Bio in the back of the book, but then he went the extra mile by tracking down my phone number. He did this because the content of my book mattered to him. It really mattered.
As historians we can sometimes get so caught up in the pursuit of publishing that we lose sight of the fact that the material we publish really matters greatly to our audience. Whether it’s a book, or lecture, or film project, people who really and truly care about this kind of history, really and truly care about the quality of our work. Even something as simple as a listing can bring about an emotional response.
PS. We have quite a bit of press coming up on the opening of All-Access Battlefield Tours. I will compile a list of links in the coming weeks. I also have a couple of new blog pieces to post including a familiar look at flags of the Revolution and Civil War.