Friday, September 30, 2022

Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin, considered to be one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood, lived an interesting life both in his films and behind the camera. He is most recognized as an icon of the silent film era, often associated with his popular "Little Tramp" character; the man with the toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane, and a funny walk.

Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin's last 'silent' film, was filled with sound effects and was made when everyone else was making 'talkies.' Charlie turns against modern society, the machine age, (The use of sound in films ?) and progress.

Firstly we see him frantically trying to keep up with a production line, tightening bolts. Then he is selected for an experiment with an automatic feeding machine, but various mishaps leads his boss to believe he has gone mad.

The idea of the film was apparently given to Chaplin by a young reporter, who told him about the production line system in Detroit, which was turning its workers into nervous wrecks. In the film, Charlie becomes literally trapped in the machine.

This was one of the films which, because of its political sentiments, convinced the House Un-American Activities Committee that Charles Chaplin was a Communist, a charge he adamantly denied. He left to live in Switzerland, vowing never to return to America.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Peculiar Patents

The U.S. Constitution states in Article 1, section 8, clause 8 that one purpose of the legislature is:

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries

This is known as the "patent and copyright clause" and states the rationale for a patent system. The government is counting on commerce involving successful inventions, and the infectious inspiration which hopefully will encourage other inventors.

A great many inventions that receive patents never earn their inventors anything. We're not worried about that now. What we want to know is: what makes an invention patentable over those that aren't according to U.S. law?

In short your invention will qualify if it fits one of these five criteria:

1)Process: doing something?
example: toasting bread

2)Machine: something that can do something
example: a pop up toaster

3)Manufactured: something made by man
example: a Pop tart

4)Composition of Matter: substance made by man
example: snozzberry Pop tart filling

5)New Use: doing something new with something that isn't new.
example: Pop tart as body fragrance?  Toaster as musical instrument?

Now take a look at these peculiar patents and you decide whether they 'cut the mustard.'

Have a great idea for an invention you think would make our lives here at school easier?

Think it could get patented?

Founded in 1973, The National Inventors Hall of Fame meets every year to honor a new group of inventors. To be considered for induction, an inventor must hold a US patent and the invention must have benefited society and advanced science and technology. Inventors in the Hall of Fame include Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright for the airplane, Rudolf Diesel for the internal combustion engine, and more recently Les Paul for the solid body electric guitar. Click here to see the complete list.

Who in our class would we induct?

Monday, September 26, 2022

Edison vs. Tesla

Sure you know about Thomas Edison the Ohio entrepreneur and inventor. But who was the real genius behind many of his inventions?

Starting in the late 1880s, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla were embroiled in a battle now known as the War of the Currents.

Edison developed direct current -- current that runs continually in a single direction, like in a battery or a fuel cell. During the early years of electricity, direct current (shorthanded as DC) was the standard in the U.S.

But there was one problem. Direct current is not easily converted to higher or lower voltages.

Tesla believed that alternating current (or AC) was the solution to this problem. Alternating current reverses direction a certain number of times per second -- 60 in the U.S. -- and can be converted to different voltages relatively easily using a transformer.

Edison, not wanting to lose the royalties he was earning from his direct current patents, began a campaign to discredit alternating current. He spread misinformation saying that alternating current was more dangerous, even going so far as to publicly electrocute stray animals using alternating current to prove his point.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Little House On the Prarie

Little House on the Prairie, a series of eight mostly autobiographical books about Laura Ingalls Wilder's life as a white settler on the American prairie, has been a perennial favorite ever since it was first published in 1935.  My second grade teacher started reading it to us.  In the 1970s the TV series with Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon came onto the scene. I watched it as a child, and watched it again with my own children.

Pa, Ma Wilder and the children, Laura and Mary of the prairie. We went with them through all their obstacles, the sickness of Mary, the birth of children, moving to their own farm, the store owner and his family, the teacher at the school, all of the issues and problems that the family, the children and Ma and Pa had together. This was a time in our history when the West was young, the earth was new, the farming good. New lives, new adventures, to share, and this series gives us hope. So much love and kindness in this family, and that won the day, every time.

The Ingalls family were people of their time and place. In the words of Laura June Topolsky writing for The Awl, that meant they were “Manifest Destiny personified.” Even Pa, the adult character who is most sympathetic to the Osage Indians on whose land the Ingalls family are squatting, sees white people as having a right to the land, writes Laura Ingalls scholar Amy Fatzinger. She quotes Laura’s Pa from the text:

Portrayals of Native American characters in this book and throughout this series have led to some calls for the series to not be taught in schools.  Do you agree?  Why or why not?

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

OK Land Rush

At precisely twelve noon on September 16, 1893 a cannon's boom unleashed the largest land rush America ever saw. Carried by all kinds of transportation - horses, wagons, trains, bicycles or on foot - an estimated 100,000 raced to claim plots of free land in an area of northern Oklahoma Territory known as the Cherokee Strip. There had been a number of previous land rushes in the Territory - but this was the big one.

'As the expectant home-seekers waited with restless patience, the clear, sweet notes of a cavalry bugle rose and hung a moment upon the startled air. It was noon. The last barrier of savagery in the United States was broken down. Moved by the same impulse, each driver lashed his horses furiously; each rider dug his spurs into his willing steed, and each man on foot caught his breath hard and darted forward. A cloud of dust rose where the home-seekers had stood in line, and when it had drifted away before the gentle breeze, the horses and wagons and men were tearing across the open country like fiends. The horsemen had the best of it from the start. It was a fine race for a few minutes, but soon the riders began to spread out like a fan, and by the time they had reached the horizon they were scattered about as far as eye could see. Even the fleetest of the horsemen found upon reaching their chosen localities that men in wagons and men on foot were there before them. As it was clearly impossible for a man on foot to outrun a horseman, the inference is plain that Oklahoma had been entered hours before the appointed time.'    -Harper's Weekly 33 (May 18, 1889): 391-94.

How did the Homestead Act encourage settlement of the new Western frontier?

Who were the real Sooners and why should the Oklahoma football team change their name?

What was appealing about Oklahoma?  Would you want to live there?  Why?

In 1890 the national census concluded there was no longer a square mile of the US that wasn't settled.  According to Historian Frederick Jackson Turner's  'Frontier Thesis' the closing of the American Frontier means the gradual decline of our Democracy.  Do you think the United States needs to continue to expand?  If not why? If so where?

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Real All Americans

Pennsylvania's Carlisle Indian School, founded by Richard Pratt, may have failed to assimilate Native Americans  in society but the school's football team proved their respectability by challenging — and beating — their counterparts in the Ivy Leagues and Military Academies. Although the school shut its doors in 1918, the winning team established Jim Thorpe and coach Glenn "Pop" Warner as two of the best-known names in American sports. It also introduced plays, including the forward pass, that are standard in the game today.

Hear author Sally Jenkins read from her book: The Real All Americans

Pop Warners playbook included more than just the forward pass. His 'hidden ball play' and other 'trick plays' became legendary in football lore.

Watch these 'Trick Plays' and then design one of your own.

Who knows? If its good enough maybe the Braves can use it Friday night.

How did Football, in many ways, became a substitute for war?

Friday, September 16, 2022

THS: Home of the Brave?!

The "Braves," an American Indian warrior, became the symbol of the Talawanda Schools in the 50s after a contest was held to name the newly consolidated district formed by Sommerville, Hanover, Milford, and Oxford.  Hannover 5th grader Karen Irwin won with the name 'Tallawanda' because Tallawanda Creek (aka 4 Mile Creek) flowed through the three newly merged townships.  After some discussion the second 'l' was dropped and the new High School on Chestnut Street opened in 1956 where it remained for then next half century.

But who was Talawanda?  What did the name mean?


In 2018 the Talawanda school board voted 3-2 to change the high school’s mascot from “Braves” to “Brave” after a meeting lasting more than three hours.

A heated crowd filled the Performing Arts Center at Talawanda High School to listen to the recommendations made to the board by the superintendent-appointed branding committee.

The change responds to complaints that the name and logo currently used by Talawanda are offensive. Many feel that the logo is more of a “caricature,” depiction of what a Native American would look like, and others feel that they are simply honoring Native Americans with the “Braves” name.

Should we be proud to have the 'Brave' as our Mascot or change it to something else?

Is Talawanda alone in its use of Indian Mascots?

Do Indian Mascots honor or insult Native American Groups?

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Battlefield Detectives

George Armstrong Custer, the young Civil War hero turned Indian fighter, was trapped on a desolate ridge overlooking the Little Bighorn River in the territory of Montana. Swarms of well-armed Indians surrounded him. According to legend–and many historians–Custer rallied his vastly outnumbered troops. The desperate 7th Cavalry soldiers shot their horses to make barricades and fought ferociously as hundreds of Indians, led by famed Sioux war chief Crazy Horse, overran the ridge.

But because Custer's men were wiped out before reinforcements arrived, a definitive account of the Little Bighorn battle has eluded historians. The only eye witnesses were the Indians, who had conflicting recollections. And so the legend of "Custer's last stand" began to take shape. "The image of Custer blazing away till the very end with his pistols was an icon of the American West," says John Dorner, chief historian at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

The lack of reliable accounts has kept the details of the battle a hotly debated topic, and discoveries in recent years have challenged the heart of the legend. "The myth is the gallant, heroic last stand–that the Indians drove him to the killing field, where he fought to the last man and last bullet against overwhelming odds," says Richard Fox, a professor of anthropology at the University of South Dakota.

Fox, who specializes in archaeology, completed an extensive battlefield survey after a 1983 wildfire and revealed evidence that cut to the core of the Custer legend. "My research says the outcome was a function of panic and fear, a very common thing in battle. There was no last stand in the gallant, heroic sense."

Wednesday, September 14, 2022


What in the World:  The title and key of this map have been removed.  What does it show?  

Dances with Wolves is a 1990 epic western film directed, produced by, and starring Kevin Costner. It tells the story of a Union Army lieutenant who travels to the American frontier to find a military post, and his dealings with a group of Lakota Indians. In this dramatic scene we see Costner as he joins the Lakota on a Buffalo hunt.

Clearly the Plains Indians were expert horsemen and hunters. But were they always?

What was the United States government policy regarding Indians? The Buffalo?

How effective was it?

Unfortunately the number of wild buffalo herds in the United States has decreased significantly over the past two centuries. However it is still possible to view wild buffalos. The Yellowstone National Park maintains the largest number of wild buffalo in the United States and many other National Parks provide habitats for buffalos. It is estimated that there was once 60 million buffalo in North America. According to the National Bison Association there are only 350,000 buffalos in North America today.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

The Golden Spike

Can you spot the differences in these two pictures?

Completing the last link in the First Transcontinental Railroad with a spike of gold was the brainchild of David Hewes, a San Francisco financier and contractor. The spike had been manufactured earlier that year especially for the event by the William T. Garratt Foundry in San Francisco. Two of the sides were engraved with the names of the railroad officers and directors. A special tie of polished California laurel was chosen to complete the line where the spike would be driven. The ceremony was originally to be held on May 8, 1869 (the date actually engraved on the spike), but it was postponed two days because of bad weather and a labor dispute that delayed the arrival of the Union Pacific side of the rail line. On May 10, in anticipation of the ceremony, Union Pacific No. 119 and Central Pacific No. 60 (better known as the Jupiter) locomotives were drawn up face-to-face on Promontory Summit, separated only by the width of a single tie. The golden spike was made of 17.6-karat(73%) copper-alloyed gold, and weighed 14.03 ounces (436 g). It was dropped into a pre-drilled hole in the laurel ceremonial last tie, and gently tapped into place with a silver ceremonial spike maul.

Why was this Rail Road necessary for the United States?

How would it effect our nation's future?

Friday, September 9, 2022

Transcontinental RR

 Where did you go on your Summer Vacation? If you could have gone anywhere, where would you have traveled? How would you get there? Plane, train, automobile?

I bet that most of you did not take the train. There was a time however when the train was not only the preferred form of transportation in America; IT WAS THE ONLY FORM OF TRANSPORTATION.

As you watch this clip focus on the social and the economic factors that influenced rail travel in the United States.

What challenges did building the Transcontinental Railroad pose?

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Oregon Trail


Try taking a journey by covered wagon across 2000 miles of plains, rivers, and mountains.  Try!  On the plains, will you slosh through mud and water-filled ruts or will you plod through dust six inches deep?   How will you cross the rivers?   If you have money you might take a ferry if there is one.  Or you could ford the river and hope you and your wagon aren't swallowed alive!  What about supplies?  Well, if you're low on food you can hunt.  You might get a buffalo... you might.  And there are bears in the mountains.  At the Dalles, you can try navigating the Columbia River, but if running the rapids with a makeshift raft makes you queasy, better take the Barlow Road.  If for some reason you don't survive, your wagon burns, or thieves steal your oxen, or you run out of provisions, or you die of cholera-- don't give up!  Try again.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Home On the Range

“Home on the Range” appears to have been written in 1885 by a group of prospectors in a cabin near Leadville, Colorado. It was popular throughout the Southwest in the 1880s and 1890s and is now recognized as the state song of Kansas.
Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day

How often at night when the heavens are bright
I see the light of those flickering stars
Have I laid there amazed and asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds that of love
The red man was pressed from this part of the west
It's not likely he'll ever return
To the banks of Red River where seldom if ever
His flickering campfires still burn
Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day

1. Do you think the settlement of this region had a more positive effect or a more negative effect on the person or people who wrote this song? How can you tell?

2. Do you think the settlement of this region had the same effect on all the different groups of people who lived there? Why or why not?

Here is a picture of my Grammy Ulrey, Roy Rogers, and his famous horse Trigger circa 1943.
Giddy Up!

Manifest Destiny

2) What opportunities and conflicts emerged as Americans moved westward?

3) Which groups depicted in this image were most likely positively affected by westward expansion?

  4) Which were most likely negatively affected?

In Chapter 12 we will discover how westward expansion in the late 1800s affected several groups of people. Many of these groups saw new opportunities for jobs, prosperity, freedom, and land ownership open up before them, while others were denied these same opportunities.  Read the Introduction.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Reconstruction: Success or Failure?

During the 1870s, more than a dozen African American men, many of whom had been born into slavery, were elected to the U.S. Congress. It was a triumph of our founding ideals of equality, justice, and the pursuit of happiness!

It was a period that ended all too quickly.

When neither candidate in the 1876 presidential election secured enough votes in the Electoral College to be declared winner, a deal was struck. Southern Democrats agreed to back Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes; in exchange, the federal troops who had protected black voters were withdrawn from the South. Just a few years later, the Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Bill of 1875. Black voting rights were gradually stripped away, and black representation in Congress faded.

Reconstruction was over, and the Jim Crow era of segregation began.

Black Wall Street


In 1921, at the height of ‘Jim Crow’ America, rioters destroyed a beacon of Black prosperity and security: The Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma also known as ‘Black Wall Street.’

They killed hundreds of black Tulsans, left thousands homeless, and ransacked an entire neighborhood.

At the time, there were no prosecutions of the instigators. Almost a century later, there have been no reparations.

In fact, I had never even heard of it until I saw it on HBO’s ‘The Watchmen

100 - 300 Greenwood residents were killed. 9,000 Greenwood residents were left homeless. 1,200 Greenwood buildings destroyed $50-100 million in property damage.

NOT ONE sentence in our US history book! Why?

Read the story for yourself and then answer these questions:

1) Was Reconstruction a success or a failure? Give examples.
2) What happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921? Why?
3) How did this incident test our nation's commitment to its founding ideals?
4) Why do you suppose this event is not in our History Textbook?
5) How is our nation still healing more than 150 years after the Civil War?