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German Handwriting in Rockingham County, Virginia

Literacy was power, and those who could read and write were able to hold political office, interpret legal documents, participate more readily in the marketplace, and stay informed of news from beyond the valley. Periodical subscriptions in the valley were limited to an elite audience, and the “nonsubscribing masses” were therefore dependent on these elites […]

Historic Inscriptions in the Shenandoah Valley

In the thousands of names and dates inscribed on the walls of Virginia’s Grand Caverns I see a giant puzzle, a sort of tapestry of American culture, two hundred years in the making. Some names, dating as early as 1808, were engraved in the form of type-set letters, the red walls carefully scarred to reveal […]

On Female Vikings and Voynich Translations

(I know what you are thinking: what an unoriginal article for a blog post. There must be hundreds of articles online with the same title.) The internet has the potential to magnify new historical discoveries. A new piece of evidence or a new theory can quickly leap from historical journals and magazines into popular social […]

A doorway to the past

When  I bought my house a year ago, I inherited a barn full of old materials. Some of these I suspect came from a house that stood on the neighboring property from between circa 1840 and 1920. The house is a bit of a mystery because there is almost no sign of its existence. The […]

Reading a Veneklasen Photograph

It is now twelve years since I published my first book, Veneklasen Brick, and I’m excited to still receive questions and comments about the book a few times a year. This week, a man in Michigan contacted me to ask for more information about a house that he has recently purchased. For some reason that […]

When you’ve read too much old-fashioned prose and have a new (old) typewriter

How to Find the Perfect Antique Store

In about 2011, I became interested in using antiques for group discussions in my history classrooms. I was living in central Illinois at the time, and since I didn’t have much else to do, I began to make long antique-hunting trips across the plains. I began to devise strategies to find the perfect antique store, […]