Posts tagged ‘tasty tidbits’

Doing Some Hardcore Research at UVa.

Last Thursday, I was flipping through a few of my sources looking for more tasty tidbits to include in my time line when I stumbled across a footnote in H.S. Randall’s biography of TJ that pointed to a memoir written by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. This had instantaneously sparked my curiosity, as TJ Randolph was to some extent raised by ol’ grandpa TJ back in the day.

So I had set off to Google books to find a copy  of this work, but to no avail. I then tried various other means to see if it might be in print somewhere, but again no such luck. Was it just me? Was there something that I was missing? I referred back to the endnote, and sure enough it was not a published book but a manuscript deep within the Special Collections library at the University of Virginia. Awesome. Since I had made this discovery fairly late in the day on Thursday, my research had to be put on hold until Monday.

Monday began with a surge of excitement, as I absolutely LOVE going to the special collections section of libraries. I love everything about it – I love the strict procedures for viewing materials, the musty, finely aged smell of the old documents, and that feeling of scholarly officialness when I’m doing my research in these places. It just feels awesome.

As soon as I had checked in, made my requests, and sat down in the chair closest to the bust of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Awesome! 🙂 ), the friendly librarian brought me my first box of documents to have a look at. As I was leafing through, I couldn’t help but read what TJR had written as a fragmented book of hilariously awesome and sometimes random anecdotes. One story that had caught my eye in particular was the one about the Bishop James Madison (president of William and Mary College, and cousin to the US President, I think) not being able to receive Thomas Jefferson in Staunton at some point, so Bishop Madison’s father received him instead and apparently there were a few others at the place engaged in a heated round of cards in one of the rooms. While those people were playing, the Bishop’s father walked around the room while very discretely leaving a trail of black powder behind him. No sooner than when TJ  and the father left the room that someone inside had said something about sinning and hell, and the father lit the trail on fire with all of the now very alarmed card players  surrounded by a thick cloud of smoke and fire. I found that both hilarious but also very dangerous at the same time, as building fires were a huge problem back in those days.

After I had finished up at UVa,  I unfortunately had to leave immediately due to parking in the Central garage and not having enough cash on hand to stay for another hour to explore the grounds. So I don’t have any good photos of campus to post here just yet, but perhaps I will return before I leave for Massachusetts next week to see the Rotunda and the academic village. However, I am happy to say that I had a good time at UVa and gathered many tasty tidbits to include in my essay, which was pretty awesome since my last visit to a Special Collections yielded nothing that wasn’t available to me via databases already. スゴイ!

Picture of the Day:

Ah! A cute lil cicada outside my window this morning.

Ah! A cute lil' cicada outside my window this morning.

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July 28, 2009 at 11:00 am 1 comment

Colonial Williamsburg = Pure Awesome.

Today started out like usual.  I woke up, did my daily routine, and walked out the door five minutes later than I should have. But today, I broke from the norm. Instead of heading up the mountain to Jefferson Library for some quality research time, I packed up my lil’ car and gunned it all the way to fabulous, Colonial Williamsburg.

Of course, the real reason that I was there was to check out the Special Collections archive at the College of William and Mary’s Swem Library for any tasty TJ tidbits and to have a look at the infamous Sir Christopher Wren building – the very same in which TJ attended his college classes. Talk about an “Oh my god!” moment for me – I have spent the past month or so digging into research about TJ and this very building, so it was amazing to finally see it in person. The interior reminded me a lot of Hogwarts, which was pretty cool.

The only thing (okay things) about today that I was sad about was 1) the places where the foundations for the TJ designed expansion weren’t marked and 2) I couldn’t go into the crypt where TJ mentor Peyton Randolph’s (and his misses and several other prominent people from W&M in the 18th century) remains are kept, and 3) I didn’t really find anything that I didn’t already know from another source in the Special Collections archives. However, I would like to note that the Librarians at Swem Library are fantastic, and were willing to help me in any way they could. I also learned how to use a microfilm to PC scanner for the first time today, so that can be added to the list of pluses. 🙂

After I was finished up at the College, I went to have a poke around good ol’ Colonial Williamsburg. First thing on my list was to buy something crazy for my two sisters (Jen and Kate! Look! I mentioned you! :P) back in Massachusetts (Erin – I didn’t forget you either, but you wouldn’t want what I got the other two. You’ll have a gift too though! :)), because what I wanted to get for  them isn’t sold at the Monticello gift shop, and also because I was really antsy to get a spectacular tri-cornered hat to share with Scott. Awesome! 😀

I then made my way to the Governor’s Palace, when I noticed large crowds of families flocking onto the lawn. Then, it seemed like the earth shook as the thundering of drums and sweet fife melodies accented by the sound of colonial marching crashed through the air. A large red-coated (but not THE redcoats, there IS a difference!) corps of Williamsburg’s finest marched their way across the lawn, leaving me stunned in awe in their wake. Listening to drum and fife music is one thing, but actually EXPERIENCING it is a completely different horse. I just stood watching even after they and their hordes of tourist groupies with video cameras had gone by, and one local (I could tell because he was dressed like Ben Franklin) looked at me and nodded as if to say,  I completely understand.

I continued to poke around the historic portion of the town for a little while longer, walking by the open air market stand where one can buy deluxe hand-made (and with Napoleon-esque ribbons!) tri-cornered hats (I settled for a poor man’s plain black one though :P) and floppy-doppy sunhats for the lady. There were also plenty of games, cookware, and writing utensils; so they certainly had something to offer for everybody.

Then six o’ clock came around, and I knew that my time at Colonial Williamsburg had expired. I had a two-hour drive ahead of me, and I sadly shuffled my way back to my trusty vehicle and sped off towards the Charlottesville sunset.

Picture of the Day (and others from today available to view on Flickr):

"Oh hey TJ, whatcha writin'?"

"Oh hey TJ, whatcha writin'?"

July 14, 2009 at 9:53 pm 5 comments

The Totally Elusive Joseph W. Ballard. And Lizards.

Today has been quite the day. I dove in head first into my research today, and unearthed even more info on the legal foundations of UVa. Today I was drawn into the bill passed on January 25, 1819 that transformed the “Central College” of Virginia into it’s flagship state university. It was very interesting to read that it’s passage went through nearly unscathed – as only one amendment was proposed by a Senator Johnson (who also was on the bill’s committee) but NOT passed. The final vote in the Virginia State Senate nearly went off without a hitch as well – but in the final result of 22 Yays and 1 Nay, I wanted to find out who the jerk was that had opposed the bill, and on what grounds. With such a smooth, amazingly written bill (which I think TJ may have penned and his good friend Senator Cabell introduced to the floor) on their hands, and  with it sailing through passage almost flawlessly, why would someone stand up and be the only person to object to it?

Turns out the name of the single-nay bandit was recorded just below the vote in the 1819 Journal of the Virginia Senate – and it was one Senator Joseph W. Ballard, of Isle of Wight county. Grrr.

Now, I had COMBED over Google  and Wikipedia  several times before I realized that not every Virginia State Senator had info readily available about them. Boo. So I headed to the databases, and flipped through nearly every single book on Virginia historical figures that I (and with the databases Eric helped me out as well) could find in the stacks, but to no avail. The only few things that I did find were a few pages which mentioned his heroic fighting in the War of 1812, a PDF of a letter to The American Farmer magazine that he had written so that a “Mr Skinner” could rid his pigs of “vermin”, a few various announcements of signing up your stock with him to help dig  a canal,  some pages from his family bible,  and also an announcement sometime in the 1830’s from a newspaper’s classifieds stating that he had a letter waiting for him at the Macon, Georgia post office. All of these things collectively seem very entertaining and eclectic, but at that point it was getting down right frustrating.  Until some cute little booger (the subject of our Pictures of the Day) caught the corner of my eye.

Pictures of the Day:

The little booger! A cute juvenile striped skink scurried across the floor of the Library to provide comic relief as I was getting frustrated with my work.

The little booger! A cute juvenile striped skink scurried across the floor of the Library to provide comic relief as I was getting frustrated with my work.

It took me about 20 minutes of gentle wrangling and braving the big, hairy, and dead spiders underneath a desk to capture "Lil' Booger" in this trashcan. I then took him outside, where I picked him up and he promptly bit me before scurrying off.

It took me about 20 minutes of gentle wrangling and braving the big, hairy, and dead spiders underneath a desk to capture "Lil' Booger" in this trashcan. I then took him outside, where I picked him up and he promptly bit me before scurrying off.

July 7, 2009 at 4:34 pm 1 comment

Old Virginian Recipe for Iced Tea from 1879.

While doing some research into TJ’s good friend, Virginia Senator Joseph C. Cabell, I happened to stumble upon an article for one Marion Cabel Tyree – who apparently had put into her cookbook Housekeeping in Old Virginia the oldest known recipe for  Southern Iced Sweet Tea. Aww Yeah! 🙂

July 7, 2009 at 12:27 pm Leave a comment

Happy Belated Independence Day.

Independence Day weekend was pretty awesome. I didn’t attend any fireworks displays or anything (but I did accidently sleep in for the naturalization ceremony at Monticello 😦 ), but I still had a pretty good weekend.

Saturday I finally was able to sleep in little (but also slightly to my dismay since I missed the ceremony) and did some minor grocery shopping for sushi-making supplies. I got A TON of housework done as well – namely laundry and spiffing up my otherwise disgustingly messy room.  I also put my sushi-making skills (and freshly bought supplies!) to good use by making 4 rolls (each yielding about 7-8 pieces, from my estimate) of it and sending most of it off with my housemates to a cookout. It was a very productive day.

Sunday was pretty boring, so I won’t go there.

Today so far has been pretty good. I had accidentally stayed up too late last night, so I slept in a little this morning and came to the Library around noon. I’ve been working mostly on completing the details of my thesis outline and answering a good portion of the questions that I had posed on it with tidbits from Jefferson’s letters and legislative writings. So far so good, as most of these are all in print or PDF format. Sweeet. 🙂

I haven’t really been getting as much research work done as I’d like to lately, but I’m sure that it’s alright just for today. I plan on pulling up my bootstraps and getting a lot done tomorrow, as I’ll be in at the usual time of 9 AM to begin my days studies. Apart from the lag in work output lately, overall I feel as though I’m doing quite well. I’ve gotten a lot done – I’ve taken A TON of notes, read a bajillion books and articles on the subject matter, and have spent a lot of time and effort crafting an outline and bibliography for my final essay. I’m hoping that everything will turn out just fine and that I finish the essay just before the fall semester starts. So we’ll see.

Nothing else too interesting to report, so that’s all for now, more to come later!

July 6, 2009 at 4:27 pm 2 comments

Thomas Jefferson: Forgotten Legislator

Today has been pretty fascinating. Building off of what I had unearthed yesterday in a letter to TJ from Samuel Stanhope Smith in the second volume of the former’s papers, I had, I guess, re-discovered for myself that somewhere in the ginormous list of TJ’s life accomplishments that he once wrote a few bills for revamping the educational system of Virginia. I’m not sure that this tidbit in particular is part of the grade school history curriculum nowadays (or even in my day, some 15 years ago for that matter) but after I had realized this, a certain feeling of “Wow, how could you NOT know this?” came over me like a tsunami. I mean, I had worked pretty hard last semester on an entire presentation that speculated what TJ might have thought about the recent economic stimulus package (and going as far as to bring in copies of two of the bills from the Senate Printing Office to show the class just how big and nasty those puppies were at 400+ pages a pop) , and for me NOT to have remembered that he wrote some of his own legislation dealing with some economic matters in his day just kind of made me feel like there was egg all over my face.

However, this metaphorical (?) egg was quickly mopped up from my forehead as I had the victory of FINALLY stumbling across the text of his bill on revamping the College of William and Mary into a university (and also a few bits on revenue for the College). The endnotes to Mr. Smith’s letter pointed me to TJ’s Bill no. 79 in the appendix, so I quickly flipped a few hundred pages  to that bill first. This bill does allude to William and Mary becoming a university in an outline of the proposed educational system’s structure, however, no where in the text is the word “university” used. Nor does it mention other goodies such as making the College non-denominal or revamping the board of visitors as I had read that it did in other materials. Crap.

So after huffing about not finding any pot ‘o golden information at the end of that rainbow, my eyes suddenly darted to the next bill – no. 80, which is titled “A Bill for Amending the Constitution  of the College of William and Mary, and Substituting More Certain Revenues for Its Support”.  DING DING DING! I knew I had a winner, but I also felt like a total idiot for not noticing it earlier. Honestly, how can several modern scholarly articles mention one “act” or “bill”, all heralding about the same magic content, and then somehow I can’t find it? Wow. Don’t get me wrong though – I’m ecstatic that I did find it, but just a little disappointed that it was in a roundabout way.  I guess we all have our off days though. 😛

So I had finally found my pot o’ gold, and I’m currently pouring over it and gobbling up all of the glittering details. One thing that I’ve noticed is that TJ’s bills are almost like legislative poetry, giving the reader a synopsis of the College’s history and the major figures involved before getting to his point –

“And, whereas the experience of near an hundred years hath proved, that the said College, thus amply endowed by the public, hath not answered their expectations…”

OH SNAP! There he abruptly ends the serene poetry and throws down the gauntlet right in the College’s face for all of the state to read (well, had the printer actually printed and distributed the bill like he was supposed to, but that’s a different story). It is especially tasty to have read that considering that the governance of the College (the board of visitors, the rector, president, trustees?, even the archbishop of London, etc. etc.) had done almost nothing but bicker at each other since the first president, James Blair, had left; and since then there was A LOT of chaos and student (and sometimes even faculty) rioting that had been going on at the College even while TJ was studying there.

Thus, it has been speculated, based on what TJ has said in his Autobiography and in his letters (I currently have a migraine and thus can’t think of any specific letters in particular at the moment, but may come back to fix it later), that a good part of the reason he wanted to revamp William and Mary was because he had so much distaste for the chaos that had occured there in his day. Delicious.

Pictures of the Day (a twofah! :)) –

Today was a pretty rainy, stormy day.

Today was a pretty rainy, stormy day.

This cute lil' booger attacked my leg today when I was putting his bed to proper DDR usage.

This cute lil' booger attacked my leg today when I was putting his "bed" to proper DDR usage.

July 1, 2009 at 4:16 pm 2 comments

Ah, Sundays.

Sundays are generally one of the best days of the week. It’s the day that I like to kick back, relax, and enjoy doing next to nothing. All day. However, today was different.

I began the day with some websurfing courtesy of a few tasty (literally) links that Lisa had sent me. They were all very interesting (and sometimes even かわいい!), and I spent a good hour or so just perusing for interesting eats and drooling at the food porn. Since TJ was reputed to be somewhat of a foodie himself, he probably would have enjoyed a few of those tasty links as well. 😛

I also did some laundry, but it was really tedious and boring.

Next on the daily agenda was something that I usually prohibit from Sundays – research. I went to the library today because it was the first opportunity that I had to dig into the resources there after I had concocted my thesis on Friday. I had been sweating bullets for quite awhile at having not thought of one by then, and then it had dawned on me as I was driving down I-64 to take Scott back to the Richmond airport (boo 😦 ). I’m pretty sure that its a solid statement/thesis/sounds like the title of a book whichmaybeabadthingactually thing. I just need to run it by Anna on Monday to see if it will be solid enough to withstand her professional critique. Wooty woot! 🙂

One thing I love about the potential of Sunday work is that there is no one there. No noisy old (and sometimes young) ladies gawking loudly at the exhibit, no one (okay, so there was ONE other person, but he didn’t bother me).  It’s closed to the public, but since I’m special AND a research intern, I can get in if I need any research-y stuff.

After I had spent about two hours at the library looking up and printing a few more articles for research reading, I made my way home just in time to treat myself to watching a few shows in Japanese. Scott got me hooked on one show called Hana Yori Dango (in English, Boys Before Flowers; but still doesn’t make much sense to the non-nihonjin because its a pun on an old Japanese saying that I’m too lazy to explain right now) and I can’t stop watching it, its so good. The story line seemed a little tacky at first, but as with most really good shows it doesn’t matter how tacky the story reads because somehow there’s more to it when one actually watches it. Or at least that’s what I think. 😛

That is all for today, more to come later!

June 28, 2009 at 8:52 pm 3 comments

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