Thursday, May 26, 2016


Flint Ridge: source of tools for Hopewell

As we are interested in early American Indian sites, we enjoyed our recent visit to the Flint Ridge State Memorial in Glenford, a small village in southeast Ohio. The museum, built around a restored prehistoric quarry, focuses on the importance of flint, which the Indians used to make the tools and weapons needed to keep them fed, clothed and protected from enemies.
On the 525-acre site, visitors can take trails past various quarries dug by the Indians. The first in the area to mine flint were the Paleo-Indians, who came here as long as 15,000 years ago.
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Need an accounIn addition to weapons, other items made from flint included hide scrapers and drills. One of the displays pointed out that flint tools can be recycled — you just made a smaller item by flaking off pieces to create a new shape.
As flint was not readily available in many places, tribes such as the Adena and Hopewell had a source of trading goods. They were probably among our country’s first traveling salesmen as they took their valuable flint products around the country trading for copper, sea shells, food, hides, pottery and other items of worth.
Ohio has some of the best flint in the world. One bulletin suggested that flint might have been the basis for the state’s first industry.
Displays in the small but well-organized museum, built in 1933 miles from nowhere, tell the American Indians’ story. A mannequin now sits in the open pit once used by American Indians both for mining the flint and for napping it into products — making it into a useful tool. The American Indians had an area of 6 square miles they mined for more than 12,000 years.
The immediate area is a preserve with hundreds of ancient pits where they came to quarry the flint. The volunteer guide told us the area did not produce much food, so no one lived there; they came only to get and work the flint.
Flint, a variety of quartz, was laid down from the remains of undersea creatures 300 to 400 million years ago. Some varieties are better than others, and Ohio claims its flint not only is among the best for tools and weapons, but because it comes in a range of shades including red, blue, yellow and green, is especially good for making jewelry. Later European and Americans made stone-grinding wheels for mills out of it.
Various flint items are on display in the museum, and there are several interactive programs that tell you more about the uses for flint. One particularly attractive display has a wide-ranging display of flint tools and points on a wall with chips and flint-making tools spread over the floor. Sitting in middle of this a mannequin depicting an American Indian flintnapper.
To add to our education, we watched a film in which a modern-day archaeologist demonstrated the making of a spear point using a stone tool and antelope horn. He explained archaeologists are studying the pits for what they can tell us about the lives of these people.
A local flintnapper has various arrow and spearheads for sale in the souvenirs center, based on the different periods when flint was mined and turned into tools and weapons. One of his beautiful spear heads was priced at $700.


Zane Grey Museum

As teenagers, we especially enjoyed reading Westerns and thought Zane Grey (1872-1939) was one of the best writers. Obviously, our generation agreed with us — his books outsold those of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald combined. So it was a treat for us to explore the Zane Grey Museum in Norwich, Ohio.

At Grey’s death, he was billed as the “greatest selling author of all time.”

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However, his work has lacked as much staying power as some of his rivals, and we realize that today, few people younger than 50 have heard of him.

The museum is close to Zanesville, a town named after Zane’s great-grandfather Col. Ebenezer Zane, who established one of the first roads in the area, Zane’s Trace.

A series of exhibits follow Grey’s life with the addition of artifacts indicating a full life with many adventures and the development of a range of skills.

Grey’s father, a dentist, was an overbearing, often brutal parent who wanted his son also to become a dentist. When Grey wrote his first book at age 15, his father tore it up and beat him severely.

While in college, Grey became an outstanding baseball player and played semi-pro for some years. But dentistry bored him, and he spent his evenings writing.

Several exhibits give much credit to his wife, Dolly, for his success, as she edited his work and took care of the financial accounts. He recognized this by giving her half of the earnings.

One exhibit focuses on how difficult he could be to live with. He had fits of depression and anger outbursts that today probably would get him diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

He wrote in bursts, disappearing into his study and writing in longhand continuously. He would be away from the family for weeks on the road learning about Western life for background for his novels.

His many affairs posed an added problem for his wife. She treated them as a handicap over which he had no control.

When he was home, she often would travel while he took care of their three children.

His study has been replicated with a wax figure of Grey writing in his chair. His cowboy saddle and equipment fill another display, and next to it the deep-sea fishing equipment he designed. He enjoyed deep-sea fishing and wrote several books about it as well as many about baseball.

His books seemed made for the big screen, and 112 movies have been made from his works. A number of famous actors got their start in these movies, among them Gary Cooper, Buster Crabbe and William Powell.

The museum includes several movie posters featuring favorite actors from our childhood, among them, Alan Ladd and Roy Rogers. The ideal Grey hero probably was Randolph Scott, who starred in 20 of Grey’s movies.

For a time, Grey was actively involved as producer in the movies because it allowed him to live in California, where he could pursue deep-sea fishing.

Many of his books are on sale at the museum, as are copies of the Zane Grey Review, the official publication of Zane Grey’s West Society. The latter suggests there continues to be a collection of interested fans.

A wax figure of Zane Grey works on manuscript

Deep Sea fishing equipment designed by Zane Grey


Death and rebirth in Varanasi India

Hindus bathe on the ghats early in the morning to cleanse themselves of sin.


Wayne Anderson /Tribune

Hindus bathe on the ghats early in the morning to cleanse themselves of sin.

Hindus bathe on the ghats early in the morning to cleanse themselves of sin.


Wayne Anderson /Tribune

Hindus bathe on the ghats early in the morning to cleanse themselves of sin.

As I have been lecturing on world wonders recently, I was recalling two memorable mornings from long ago. The first morning I watched the rising sun casting light on the stone ghats, or steps, leading down to the Ganges, considered in India as the holiest river in the world. I was with a group of mostly English travelers — Carla couldn’t fit the trip in her schedule — living on a train that crossed the country.

Our guide was rowing us along the holiest city in the world — Varanasi, also known as Benares. The ghats run about 3 miles along the riverfront, which was crowded with people bathing — a holy ritual that our guide said would cleanse them of their sins.

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I asked him if the worshippers were running a risk of getting sick, as the Ganges looked terribly unsanitary. He gave me a look that indicated I was a person of limited understanding and insisted that, as a holy river, the Ganges destroys all bacteria upon contact and dissolves bones in three days.

Early morning at the ghats of Varanasi

Above the bathers on the upper tiers, we saw some of the ever-present cows, a man on a bicycle, beggars and small sales booths. When we reached the area where we expected funeral pyres to be burning, there was only one body. I had looked forward to seeing at least one because it is such an important ritual in the Hindu religion. To get a better view of what the rituals involved, I made plans to come back the next day.

Hindus believe you will be reborn after death, and what form you will take will depend on how closely you followed the rules of the status you were born into. What a person will be reborn as is questionable, and as a result, Hindus do not always look forward to the next life. It might be bad now, but it could be even worse next time.

The possibility that they might have what was once a human soul is one of the reasons cows in particular are considered sacred. Varanasi offers a special way to avoid being reborn in any form, human or animal, for to die naturally in Varanasi is to achieve “moksha.” If the right rituals are performed, the reincarnation cycle will end.

In the Hindu faith, Varanasi is the home of Shiva, creator and destroyer. It is Shiva who whispers a sacred mantra into the ears of the dying, granting them freedom from reincarnation. I made plans to come back the next day to see if any bodies were being prepared and burning there.

After our boat trip, our group spent the rest of the day exploring Varanasi. Besides those who had come to die, the city was full of religious pilgrims who came to worship at the many shrines and temples. We found ourselves rubbing shoulders with religious men, beggars and more cows.

The town is famous for its fine silks and the saris made from them, and a number of us could not resist — after intense bargaining — buying one.

The next day, none of the people who had gone with me on the boat ride wanted to go back to Varanasi; they just didn’t like it. The narrow streets and sheer mass of humanity overwhelmed them. Two young men from Norway were interested, however, and joined me on a return visit to the burning ghats.

When we arrived, we saw four bodies on pyres and another three were being prepared. Four men accompanied by drummers and pipers carried a body with a bright pink covering down the street. The body was ritually placed in the Ganges along the shore. After proper prayers and splashes of water, it was placed on a wood pyre, and the fire was started.

As we watched, a man poked the bodies that had been burning for a while with a stick and at one point smashed them with something like a baseball bat to break them up so they would burn more completely.

It takes three hours for a body to be consumed, after which the ashes and anything left over are thrown into the Ganges to be further purified. It is said that at this point the person’s soul is thus freed from reincarnation.

I checked for recent information on the burning ghats and found that the practice has changed little since my visit, but the government has some concern about pollution from the ashes of 80 bodies a day being dumped into the Ganges. A burning also takes a lot of wood and adds to the air pollution in the area. For now, however, the practice continues.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

National Museum of Toys


A collection of Victorian-era figures, including one of Queen Victoria of England, are on display at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus.

In last week’s column, we discussed the amazing miniatures at the recently renovated National Museum of Toys and Miniatures on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus. This week, we would like to share with you our visit to the museum’s collection of more than 46,000 toys — one of the largest collections in the United States.

Mary Harris Francis, who in 1982 co-founded the museum and provided the original toy collection, was attracted to toys that had been handmade and cherished. More than 2,000 people approached her with their own childhood toys, which allowed her to assemble the largest toy collection in the Midwest.

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So, in a sense, this part of the museum became a community project.

We were able to explore not only memories of our childhood toys but also those of long-past and recent generations: dolls, stuffed animals, trains, pedal cars, airplanes, games, soldiers and more. Individual stories were attached in many displays. Even poor kids like Wayne managed to get some toys that added to the joys of his childhood.

The Buck Rogers pistol brought Wayne memories of playing interplanetary war games long before the arrival of “Star Wars” films or “Star Trek” TV shows.

The carpenter tool kit reminded him of the best Christmas present he ever got as a child: a tool kit — similar to an adult’s tool kit — with a real saw, hammer, level, planer and other working tools with which he could make real objects.

Carla, moved by the Raggedy Ann doll display, discovered that the Raggedy Ann stories were based on a rag doll belonging to Marcella Gruelle. Her father wrote and illustrated books based on stories he had told her when she was ill — sadly, she died at the age of 13.

The videos and written commentary throughout the museum stressed how toys give children the opportunity to learn adult skills and behavior.

Jimmy Stewart, narrating a film about pedal cars, explained how schools were using the cars to teach children how to obey motorist and pedestrian traffic rules.

The film was made at a time when you stuck your arm out the window to give the driver behind you a clue as to where you were going to turn.

He suggested that as children learned the rules, the parents tended to pay even more attention to the rules.

Other displays illustrated how dolls and doll houses allowed girls to try out the roles and responsibilities they eventually would assume as adults.

Modern toys, however, suggest many other possibilities to girls, and they now can explore scientific occupations and a broad range of other opportunities that are open to them.

The doll houses covered a range of years and cultures.

Looking at the older Victorian home, we could see the servants, the fancy dress of the home owners and the military uniforms of the visitors along with the overstuffed furniture and lack of modern appliances.

Comfort dolls such as Teddy bears are on display alongside Barbie and G.I. Joe.

The cast of “Star Wars” has its own display case, as does Teddy Roosevelt on a hunting expedition in Africa.

In 1971, the microchip revolutionized the toy industry by introducing toys that could walk and talk.

Science kits allowed children to solve complicated problems and learn new skills while having fun. Nowadays, iPads and iPhones allow kids to play a wide variety of games.

When we visit our 14-year-old granddaughters, we often notice they are playing games on their iPads in bed before breakfast.

Raggedy Ann and Andy

A range of doll houses

National Museum of Miniatures


A series of intricately detailed miniatures, such as this scene depicting a couple at a jewelry showroom, is on display at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus.

We were pleasantly surprised to discover the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures in a magnificent 38-room mansion on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus.

In 1982, the original museum combined the toy collection of Mary Harris Francis with the miniatures collection of Barbara Hall Marshall. A capital campaign beginning in 2012 resulted in an $11 million renovation, and the museum reopened last August.

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The collection now includes more than 72,000 items, making it one of the largest toy collections in the United States and one of the most extensive miniature collections in the world.

In an introductory film to the museum’s miniature section, Marshall discusses her collection and the joy it gave her to share it with others.

When we entered the floor of miniatures, we were greeted by a chair and desk. Next to it was a stand, which held an identical chair and desk 1/12 the size of the original. This prepared us for what we were about to see — carefully created objects and scenes that were perfect copies of the original.

The exhibits brought many smiles and occasionally a sense of awe, such as when we looked through microscopes and saw a panda painted on a grain of rice or saw a figure sculpted from a toothpick. How in the world did they do that?

We gained some insight into the work by watching several films with artists demonstrating how they created miniature objects. Taking a real ceramic plate, one artist created a miniature version in a process that included not only copying the intricate design but firing it for hours in a kiln. She also demonstrated how she made a reproduction of a master painting the size of a postage stamp using egg tempera paint.

Some of the scenic objects include Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin, a Boston Beacon Hill mansion, an art deco jewelry store with a rich-looking man, a beautiful woman and a very formal-looking sales clerk. If we had been looking at realistic paintings of the scenes, we would have been impressed, but it was even more impressive that we were looking at the scene created with intricately crafted objects in miniature.

It even struck us that we could be doing a little world-traveling as we walked through the rooms: a bedroom from a mansion in Tudor England, an Italian Renaissance studio and Louis XV’s study at the palace at Versailles were among the scenes on display.

But, of course, equally impressive were a miniature set of dueling pistols and, nearby, a violin shop recreated in the inside of a violin. We also saw works of art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on a scale of 1 inch equal to 12 inches.

We suspect some of the children visiting saw the exhibit as merely a collection of dollhouses without appreciating the meticulous detail work that was needed to create the objects and the rooms. They seemed much more interested in the toys on the second floor, an exhibition that we will discuss next week.

A violin shop within a violin

Accurate details are impressive


Kansas State History Museum

Kansas State History Museum

How do you make an impressive state history museum? In 1980, Kansas started by choosing Kansas architect Robert Schaefer to design an impressive 30,000-square-foot building in Topeka.

Thousands of artifacts were added to tell the history of Kansas from the days of the American Indians to today. It was an adventure to walk through the many rooms in the presence of wax figures of iconic Kansan figures and related objects and stories.

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We were greeted at the first exhibit, “From the Farm to the Dinner Table,” by the figure of President Dwight Eisenhower dressed in a chef’s outfit. This temporary exhibit explores the government’s effect on what Americans eat with some emphasis on posters from World War II encouraging Americans to conserve food and cut back on meat so there would be more available to keep our troops fit.

We rounded a corner and were startled by the figure of a large Indian standing in front of us. This was a chief of the Kiowa, known as the “Orator of the Plains.” We also saw a Cheyenne teepee and a grass lodge — like those built by the Wichita — surrounded by pumpkins, corn, gourds and other plants grown in this locale by American Indians. The Osage and Kansa also were among the many tribes who lived in the area at various times.

Cheyenne grass lodge surrounded by Native American foods

As we examined a covered wagon loaded with supplies and a prairie diorama, we learned about the lives of the pioneers who crossed the area on their way to Oregon or California. One quote gives some indication of what the travelers faced: “Were it not for the sick and dying that everywhere meets the eye, and the vast number of graves along the road, the journey would be a pleasant one.”

Kansas prides itself on being the nation’s breadbasket because of how of much of the land is given over to farming.

The objects that show the history of farming were well chosen: a furnished log house rescued from the banks of the Saline River, a stagecoach used by the Southwestern Stage Co., a sodbuster plow and small but evidently effective “Queen” windmill.

The farmers found the land was better for wheat than corn and other crops, and the state has become our country’s major wheat-growing state.

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway was founded in 1860. It carried passengers, often immigrants, into the state, along with manufactured goods, and it carried Kansas farm products out to the rest of the world.

Having a railroad could make or break a town. In keeping with the importance of the railroad to the state, the museum has a steam engine from the company and two passenger cars on rails inside the museum.

We were surprised to find that Wichita — with its prominent airplane manufacturing companies — in 1929 had been dubbed the “Air Capital of the World” by the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce. Kansans turned out 24,000 airplanes in World War II.

To highlight Kansas’ aircraft history, a very realistic-looking Amelia Earhart stands in front of a biplane built in 1914.

Iconic objects surround wax figures such as newspaper writer William Allen White, temperance crusader Carrie Nation and artist John Steuart Curry.

Other exhibits focus on topics such as the Civil War, blacks in Kansas and modern developments.

Printed guides are available at the entrance to help young visitors get involved in scavenger hunts — a fun way to learn about what they are seeing.

A separate but connected building contains the state archives. Outside the museum is a 2.5-mile walking trail with native plants and wildlife. A one-room school building is used for tours to illustrate what early schools were like.

Chief of the Kiowa, known as the “Orator of the Plains.”

Monday, February 22, 2016



Statues memorialize the black students who integrated the high school in Clinton, Tenn. Many museums around the country feature exhibits that shed light on struggles during the civil rights movement.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education — that school segregation was illegal — opened the door to years of protests against the civil rights movement.

Some progress has been made. Lunch counters are now open, separate water fountains no longer exist and our sports teams and movie screens are alive with black faces.

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But 61 years later, educational and employment opportunities still are biased against blacks. To understand why the battle has been so hard, we need to understand the depth of racist attitudes, and one way to do this is by visiting museums dedicated to recording this fight for equal rights.

At the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Ala., one gallery focused on the angry responses of locals to what they saw as an invasion by outsiders who didn’t understand their way of life. Their responses show they didn’t realize how prejudiced they were.

Examples in displays about the process include comments that “blacks were happy — they sang and had a good time until the northern interlopers came in and riled them up” and “blacks were a primitive people who were not fully ready to be integrated.” Particularly nerve-wracking to us were the clips of Southern governors talking about how states should be left to have their own laws, and that the national government had no right to interfere with their traditions.

In Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, one statue depicts a policeman holding the leash of a dog lunging at a black youth. A little farther on the path were three angry dogs leaping out of the sides of two walls. Even though the animals were sculptures, Wayne got cold chills when he walked between them. On the audio recordings available at the park, a woman who had been a young girl at the time talked about how the teenagers built up their nerve to face the dogs, the high pressure water hoses and the beatings.

In the Little Rock Nine Museum in Little Rock, Ark., we saw how the black students were insulted and threatened, kicked and tripped and shoved in the halls and against lockers.

One of the nine, Elizabeth Eckford, took to carrying her notebook in front of her with pins sticking slightly out, which did, after the first attack, avert further frontal attacks. The books of the nine were stolen and ripped. Pencils and spit balls were thrown at them. Ink was squirted on their clothes. Even white students who might have been sympathetic didn’t dare to do anything to protect them for fear the anger would be turned on them.

The Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Ala., put us in the presence of a real bus equipped with amazing technology. We could see and hear through the windows the people on the bus — blacks in back, whites in front. The bus stopped and an image of Rosa Parks stepped on, and we watched the situation develop that led to her arrest. The police were called and we saw her being arrested.

Even when a community accepted school integration, problems arose. In Clinton, Tenn., the white students by and large were very cooperative, especially the student leaders and members of the football team. The black students gained prestige when one of them beat the fastest white runner.

That peace did not last. Outside anti-integration activists led by New Jersey white supremacists John Kasper and Asa Cart arrived to foment violent resistance to integration. In one of the rooms, a screen shows a picture of the original high school that dissolves to then show a mess of bricks and plaster — the result of three massive explosions on Oct. 5, 1958. The school was back in operation — and still integrated — in a building near Oak Ridge a week later.

Our visits to civil rights museums have given us a feeling for the depth of the anger at the attempts to legislate for blacks — a depth that even today prevents equal opportunities for all.