19th century, Alternate History, Arrant Nonsense, hiking, statue

Learning All About History by Looking at Statues ~ ~ Chapter IX ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Captain J. S. Bevel-Gearing ~ Friend of Lost Hikers.

Statue IX:  J. S. Bevel-Gearing, a man with a lot of time on his hands

Most of us can all recall a time or two, when we’ve been, if not lost, at least a bit disoriented during a hike in the woods.

Sometimes, I think that’s A-OK.

Like so many situations, you can fret about it, and let it upset you, or just consider it “unstructured playtime” and no worries.  I follow the same strategy in writing these meandering posts.

 

North Point Tower, a Milwaukee landmark since the 1870’s.

 

My workdays are organized to a nicety, and scheduled to a fare-thee-well, so every so often, it feels nice to be wayfaring without much of a plan.

Go roaming, off the clock, off the grid.  If your mind is already wandering, let your feet join in, too.

 

Bevel-Gearing’s granddad, who started the clock business, made stuff like this. They were mostly given as wedding and anniversary presents, or as door prizes for good deportment, but the astronomical timepieces didn’t sell as well in the 19th century, and in Milwaukee, most people didn’t have enough room in their dens, so the company changed gears and made alarm clocks.

 

When that mood strikes, I’ve got no use for  guidebooks, pedometers, compasses, watches, maps, GPS, etc.

More fun to just strike out and follow a deer path or old logging road, or go bushwhacking cross-country.

In the Finger Lakes region, not to worry, you can’t get too lost.  If you just keep on keeping on, you’re sure to hit a lake, they’re really hard to miss.  Just ask one of the guys fishing, which lake it is, and bingo, you’re no longer lost.

 

This was made for the U.S. Capitol, where it now graces the Crypt. Some of the congressmen complained that the figures leaning on it didn’t look too industrious, and just seemed to be slouching around. So, Bevel-Gearing took it back to the shop, added weapons for both figures, stuck an angry bird on top, and everybody went home happy.

 

If you somehow manage to miss the lakes, and are still lost, you’re sure to stumble across a winery or microbrewery.  The kids they hire to pour out Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Imperial IPA’s usually don’t really know jack about wine or beer, or who won the last presidential election, or which way is North.  And mostly cannot give you coherent directions to the parking lot, much less to town, but they’re always friendly, and if you just mention you like their Phish tee-shirt, they’ll lend you a cellphone so you can call somebody for a lift.

Just keep your chin up and keep walking, there’s always locational clues.  Worst case, if you really keep wandering, eventually someone will say politely “Eh, pardon me, are you lost, do you require assistance, eh?” Or “Yo, let’s g’down ta tha WaWa and getta pork roll”  And then you’ll know where you are – southern Canada or northeast Pennsylvania, respectively.  So again, you’re no longer lost.

Anyway, it’s probably time to launch a new series, “Confused Wanderings Around Milwaukee & Wisconsin.  And Possibly eastern Minnesota?”

 

Bevel-Gearing’s “Wayfarer’s Lighthouse”  I went back to that forest with a camera, to take better pictures, but never found it again.

 

So, traipsing through the Wisconsin woods  one day, perhaps slightly unsure of my location, I was pleasantly surprised to encounter the guiding beacon in the photo, a kind of land-locked lighthouse, and find it was a Victorian innovation for lost foot walkers.  I read up a bit about the inventor and philanthropist who built it, although I’m unable to pin down exactly where this tower is located.  Somewhere north of Milwaukee, but shy of Green Bay, most likely.

 

The North Point Tower is great for navigating my way through town toward the lake.

 

Finally home that night after my hike, I looked up this lighthouse off in the woods, a hundred miles from Lake Michigan, and learned a bit about a local hero, “Captain” John Stryker Bevel-Gearing II.  (Called “The Second” by his clock-obsessed family.)  That’s his statue in my first photo, and he’s become kind of a patron saint for lost hikers.

(Travelers, sailors and mountaineers usually look to Saint Christopher, but there’s a technicality – he’s assigned to help people trying to reach a specific destination, not just gallivanting aimlessly.)  (Although I don’t know how the Vatican delegates this stuff, but I’ve always thought Chris seems like the kind of guy who’d help out anyway, even if you’re a wandering heathen.)

Bevel-Gearing was an innovative clockmaker, entrepreneur, and philanthropist – a product of an earlier, more optimistic time.  A 19th century immigrant, originally a liveryman of London’s Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, he’d traveled six time zones west to pursue his passion for bird call clocks and time-regulated poultry feeders.

 

Sometime during 1870 – 1900, when Milwaukee’s population was quadrupling, the Captain opened a small manufactory of clocks and mechanical regulators, in an isolated clearing, deep in a forest, close by the Wisconsin Dells.

This Dells region is nothing like the pleasant dells and dales of England, and really, as I understand it, should’ve been called a dingle – – a forested gorge along the Wisconsin River.  It’s already a confusing area, topographically, and this sort of definitional sloppiness doesn’t help matters.

Bevel-Gearing had selected this unlikely spot for his business, because he valued his privacy, and sought seclusion to perfect his timepieces and mechanized poultry-feeders, far from competitor’s eyes.

Unbeknownst to him, the beautiful Dells region was becoming increasingly popular with Victorian-era artists, naturalists, and excursionists.  Their volumes of Wordsworth or Whitman in hand, the visitors anticipated uplifting walks in beauty, communing with Nature.

But the forests and glacier-carved hills, ravines, and gullies proved disorienting for many, and their outings turned into a devil of a time.

 

At his clockworks, day after day, hungry and distressed walkers emerged from the woods to ask for directions, drawn to his little factory by the smoke from his chimney, and the bells, chimes, and mechanical rooster- and crow-calls being tested for his clocks.   (He loathed cuckoos, as a silly-sounding, frivolous breed with deplorable parenting skills.)

Oftentimes the clothing of these hillwalkers was a disgrace – disheveled, filthy, stockings and bloomers torn by thorns – and they’d beg a meal, having emptied their haversacks of bully beef, prunes, and hard tack.

The visitors would have to be rested, fed, watered, brushed off and made as presentable as might be.  Those who had lost their shoes in the fens and bogs, had to be loaned a pair of clogs or carpet slippers.  The whole heedless mob was then set on the right path toward civilization, or at least, Milwaukee.

Only to have some of them return in a couple days, having gotten lost again.

 

 

The Captain was a patient and not unkindly man, but very conscious of his time, and eventually he tired of the constant interruptions.  As well as the loss of every single pair of his carpet slippers.  Even the goatskin Moroccan ones, with a matching fez.

The confusion and randomness of the visits were disturbing the precise, even-tempered organization of his days, and this also bothered him.  A mainspring was far more to him than springtime.  He spent his life designing regulators, and all this hullabaloo was highly irregular, and time-consuming.

One day, visiting various toolmakers in Milwaukee, he was taking his mid-day constitutional along the shore of Lake Michigan, timing the waves as they lapped the shore like a metronome.

He came upon a wreck –  an iron-hulled ship, driven onto the rocks by a storm.

 

Like the beam from a lighthouse, piercing the fog, an inspired thought lighted the innermost recesses of his brain.  Hitherto unused gears began turning like clockwork.

 

The vessel’s owner was at hand, surveying the damage and cursing the unlucky vessel in exaggerated terms of opprobrium.

Bevel-Gearing had never commanded a ship (the “Captain” was merely an honorific bestowed by the Independent Protective Order of Agricultural Mechanics & Breeders), but he immediately struck a bargain, and purchased the salvage rights on the spot.  The ship’s iron hull and frame were disassembled, and hauled off to his clock factory.  There, the iron was cut, bent, and then reassembled on a nearby hillock, into the metal signal tower you see in the photos.

 

Any lost tourists, watercolorists, butterfly-collectors, and rock-climbers in the area soon learned to head for the tower, which was stocked with soap, towels, ship’s biscuit and mineral water.  A teetotaler himself, he’d initially installed a cabinet with a case of medicinal brandy, but this was exhausted the first weekend of operation, when a photographer happened by, and the Captain never repeated that mistake.

A well-blazed trail led from the tower to a stagecoach landing.

With this forest beacon in place, Bevel-Gearing was able to happily return to his experiments in blessed solitude.  His crow-call clocks were never commercially successful, although a functioning example is worth a good deal to today’s collectors.  But his clockwork poultry feeder was a huge success, enabling him to retire and set out on a ’round the world peregrination.

 

B-G’s poultry-feeders, with an elaborate system of chimes to call the chickens to dinner, pre-dated Pavlov’s experiments by several years. But he was not interested in conditioning, or salivation, and just wanted fatter, less frenetic chickens, leading a more orderly life.

 

Sadly, during the first stop of his Grand Tour, he came to an untimely demise.  While inspecting, and perhaps attempting to adjust, the double three-legged gravity escapement, on the clock associated with  “Big Ben” at Westminster, his cravat became loosened and then entangled, pulling the Captain to a grisly fate amongst the clock’s gearwork.

But perhaps some particle of the Captain still travels through the clock’s mechanism, greasing the grooves, high in the landmark tower.  Which he might regard as a not unpleasing fate.

 

Well, Bevel-Gearing is just imaginary, of course, but I love lighthouses, and wouldn’t it be great to have them in the forests?

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Alternate History, History, Removing Statues, Sculpture, statue

Learning All About History by Looking at Statues. Chapter V ~ An Iron Curtain Descends

Fritz Pingelig   “I can do nothing about this endless war, but at least I can oppose the drafts.”

 

 

 

I’ve always revered architects, and will often come to a complete halt to admire a building.

Even if that’s frustrating to the people behind me, honking their horns.

But while I love architecture, I’ve never really cared deeply about interior design.

So I didn’t immediately identify this statue as one of the founding fathers of interior decorating, Fritz Pingelig, in his day, draped in glory, and known throughout Europe (as well as the Sultanate of Brunei, and some parts of Abyssinia), as “The Iron Curtain”  (or “Langsir Besi” in Malay, or “Yebireti Megareja” in Amharic).

He traveled the length and breadth of a war-torn continent, stitching together a more sophisticated lifestyle, advancing civilization yard by yard.  And in the process, developing valance theory.

 

The artist Pingelig in his salad days. When he ran out of windows, he’d hang curtains in the surrounding woods. Some people thought that was weird, and hampered the crossbow season.

 

Pingelig felt strongly about home décor, and nothing in his plans was more important than curtains and drapery.

The statue depicts him with a curtain rod, draped in one of his baroque creations.

“I care not a pin for putting up walls, but envision a Running Fence of Fabric, separating culture from the abyss.” 

During the endless strife during the Thirty Years War*, Pingelig somehow stayed neutral, traveling from court to court, castle to castle, on the rough corde du roi roads of the day, helping the hidebound to get over their hangups, introducing curtains and a bit of privacy to Europe.

I can do nothing about this endless war,” he declared, but at least I can oppose the drafts.”

He constantly exchanged ideas with other artists and architects of his day, through a network of messengers he called “The Silken Web.”  Whenever inspiration struck, usually in the wee hours, he would dash off a textile message.  The archive in Lisle, France preserves some of these notes, written in a tiny hand on scraps of foolscap – exhorting, self-promoting, criticizing – and they provide us a window into the past, and into Pingelig’s soul.  Essentially, he was mad as a hatter.

Somehow surviving a badly-frayed social fabric, and decades of warfare, his tragic death stemmed from his blind hatred for Venetian blinds.

“A window hanging is too good for them” he would often say.

He greeted each new acquaintance with the question You know how to make a Venetian blind?”

followed by “Poke him in the eye!”

Then he would laugh maniacally.

He never got tired of that one.

And he had a sword, so most people shuttered, but laughed along.

Finally, he trotted out this joke to a visitor named Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola.

Who did not cotton to this bit of drollery.

Andrea, better known by his professional name, Palladio, was not only one of the most famous architects of all time, but a proud citizen of the Republic of Venice.

Shortly after this, Palladio invited Pingelig to the unveiling of a grand colonnade of his design, hinting that a nice bit of chintz might be the perfect, neoclassical finishing touch.

But due to a typo in the brochures, the affair turned out to be a cannonade, and Pingelig died in an accidental crossfire.

We draw a curtain over his soon-forgotten life, a loose thread in the tapestry of history, his legacy just blowing in the breeze.

No one really pays any attention to that man behind the curtain.

Peace to thy gentle shade.

 

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

 

* Ok so technically, the Thirty Years’ War wasn’t endless, but a lot of people said it felt kind of endless, between the wholesale slaughter, burning, looting, and the Baroque music – you can only take so much harpsichord and sackbut.  A lot of folks said, you know, doesn’t it feel more endless than the Hundred Years’ War?  Which was kind of on-again-off-again, there were famines and plagues to kind of add variety, at least you got a break once in a while?

They would have laughed at the Seven Years’ War, big deal.  And in our gone-to-the-dogs modern times, talking about the 1967 Six-Day War, please, people from the 1600’s would find it pathetic.  Although the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 clocked in at under 45 minutes.  Some people describe my digressions as endless, come off it, venga ya, they’re no ways as bad as the Thirty Years’ War.

 

P.S.  I did not make up the name Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola, that’s the Palladian architecture guy’s real name.  His father wasn’t a gondolier, either, so I don’t get it.

 

P.P.S.  There’s been a lot of confusion over claims that Pingelig claimed to have designed the Louvre.

He never said that.  It was already there, for centuries. And Cardinal Richelieu told him, they already had enough curtains.

Pingelig designed the louvre, or what we in the U.S. would call the louver.  

And when the Venetians came up with a better, adjustable version of slanted slats, that’s when the resentment started.

 

P.P.P.S.  from Carole King’s “Tapestry”

He moved with some uncertainty, as if he didn’t know
Just what he was there for, or where he ought to go…
Soon within my tapestry, along the rutted road,
He sat down on a river rock and turned into a toad
~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Chap. IV  “The Perils of the Pavement”   Dog Warden Philip Eckel 

www.waterlooseneca.com/2017/12/07/learning-all-about-history-by-looking-at-statues-chapter-iv-p-eckel-the-perils-of-the-pavement/

Chap. III “A Tale of a Forgotten Colony”   Harold, of the House of Hamburg

http://www.waterlooseneca.com/2017/12/01/learning-all-about-history-by-looking-at-statues-chapter-iii-a-tale-of-a-forgotten-colony/

Chap. II  “Giving History an Icy Reception”  Teddy Roosevelt

www.waterlooseneca.com/2017/11/22/giving-history-an-icy-reception/

Chap. I “Stumping for President”  George Washington

www.waterlooseneca.com/2017/11/17/stumping-for-president/

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Alternate History, Dogs, hiking, History, NY, Public Art, Sculpture, statue, Upstate New York

Learning All About History By Looking At Statues. Chapter IV. “P. Eckel & the Perils of the Pavement”

 

The next statue in our history tour, is of the indomitable Captain P. Eckel.

Now largely forgotten — but in the final decades of the 19th century, he was known to every resident of this city, and to kennel clubs around the nation.

A quintessential Victorian reformer, and, I am obliged to point out, a figure attracting considerable controversy.

 

 

Had he remained satisfied with his campaign to create a dog park in every neighborhood, he would, to a certainty, be better represented in the annals of American history.

 

 

His inaugural Canine Green (1876) was opened with considerable fanfare, and proved an instant success.  As reported in the Post:

   “Dog fanciers, sportsmen, and courting couples have flocked to the park.  The upper crust rubs elbows with the humbler sort, those who must toil to earn their daily crust,  and the Social Register’s pureblood hounds mix in perfect cordiality and democracy with their less-distinguished mongrel cousins…”

 

 

Based on its popularity, Eckel was appointed the city’s first Dog Warden — considered a rising political star, being groomed to run for mayor.

 

 

Eckel believed there were no bad dogs, only dogs hadn’t been properly instructed on the proper locations to relieve themselves.  His philosophy was embraced by adherents of the Aesthetic Movement, the Domestic Animal Welfare Reform societies, and all those grounded in the essential Victorian faith in Doing Your Business.

 

 

But his single-minded resolve to place his Patented Canine Sanitary Stanchions, on every street corner, without the blessing of the city council, cost him his job, and extinguished his dog park crusade.

 

The Eckel Monument today. The stanchions on the corners proved a bone of contention

 

Careful study of the Sanitary Stanchions (seen surrounding his statue in the picture above) reveals to the observant, one of the issues with his invention.

Because they so closely resembled hydrants, the fire brigades were constantly attempting to hook hoses to them.

 

 

When, as the result of this confusion, the city morgue burned to the ground, with tremendous loss of bodies, if not lives, the city fathers had had enough, and his political opponents unleashed their resentment.

Eckel, who only wanted to provide hygienic relief, was relieved of his position.  Hounded from office,  and every one of his stanchions was dismantled and destroyed.

 

 

But P. Eckel was not someone to roll over for a pack of ward heelers,  or sit idle, or take this lying down.

In his self-designed uniform, he continued to stride along the thoroughfares, up the town and down, six days a week, shouting through his speaking trumpet at miscreant curs befouling the footpath, and sometimes their dogs, too, but sadly, without the authority to collar wrong-doers.

 

 

Reading through his voluminous papers, laid down in the archives of the Eastminster Kennel Club, he comes across as well-meaning, but somewhat monomaniacal.

 

 

It’s sad to see this forgotten figure, in a park that no longer allows dog-walking.

Carved in stone, his features weathered by a century of rain, he stands forgotten, passed like water through our collective memory.

 

 

One supposes, that when this says “as supplied to Her Majesty the Queen,” they mean, for the use of her pets.

 

 

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Alternate History, Colonial History, History, Pantheon, statue, Uncategorized

Learning All About History By Looking At Statues. Chapter III “A Tale of A Forgotten Colony”

Harold, of the House of Hamburg

Kammerjunker Harold, of the House of Hamburg

 

Old postcards, of a no-longer-extant statue, lead me to an interesting bit of early American history.

In college, I became interested in the study of colonial emigration to North America.  It’s a field that’s rich, complex, and often surprising.

Why would people suddenly leave the Old Country, with all the Shakespeare plays, great wines, fun accents, Eiffel towers, etc. and go live in a wilderness?

Religious wars, family squabbles, a gradual weariness with eating bread soaked in olive oil, are the usual back stories.  Escape from feudalism and blood feuds, incessant bagpipe and accordion playing, and other loud wheezing kinds of sounds, from aristocrats and their drafty castles.  But this statue tells one of the other, less-well-known motivations, and thereby hangs a tale.

One of the most powerful royal families in Europe, the Hapsburgs were a case study in inbreeding.  They suffered from an exaggerated chin (“Hapsburg jaw”), gout, depression, dropsy, and an overfondness for Bourbons.

Their cousins, the House of Hamburg, had all these hereditary problems, and more.

Including, in a few cases, and not to put too fine a point on it, tails.

The Hamburgs are usually only remembered now, because their difficulty in chewing caused them to create ground-meat patties, which became popular for a time as “hamburgers”.

 

 

Examine the portrait above – –  around this nobleman’s neck hangs a tiny dead sheep.

Now look at the pedestal in the picture below, with its goat heads.

What are the artists trying to tell us?

 

 

The pedestal was inscribed “Postremo superbia semper,” and “Last to leave the fight,” although a more literal translation would be, “Bringing up the rear with pride”

A sword hilt is visible, but in fact, the Hamburgs never carried on their persons, so much as cuticle scissors, due to a neurotic aversion to the sight of blood.

The hilt is just a prop.

Poking out from under the cape, disguised as a scabbard, but fooling no one, we see the hereditary Hamburg tail.

The family fled the Old World — which had turned it’s back on them  – – subjected to persecution, and often painfully pinched, when people were too quick to slam shut those enormous bronze doors they have on castles and churches.

Aristocrats who were destined to never sit upon a throne, because they just couldn’t sit comfortably on anything other than ottomans.

Off they went to America, back to fundamentals, to establish a new family seat, a place to rear their young.

But their New World colony “Hinterland” (near present-day Piscataway) was short-lived and tragic, and with the exception of a huge number of porcelain cats, no artifacts of any note have been unearthed at the site.   Why did they settle on that particular spot?  No one knows.  The Hamburgs, famously articulated in some ways, never clearly articulated their plans.

They left, but didn’t leave a note, and probably became extinct or something.

So there’s really no reason to talk about them anymore.

 

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Alternate History, Colonial History, Dental, George Washington, Public Art, Sculpture, statue, United States

Stumping for President (Learning All About History By Looking at Statues. Chapter I )

 

I want to achieve two goals with this post.

First.

Inaugurate a new series “Learning History By Looking At Statues, Before They’re All Taken Down”.

Second.

I don’t want my kid sister to feel badly about not having a driver’s license.

 

Geo. Washington, in the park. Sometimes stumped, often defeated, but never beaten. Carried through the Revolution by his single-minded drive, and a horse.

 

Dear Sis –

George Washington was a great man.

He fought the French, he fought the English, he fought the Hessians, and he fought the Whiskey Rebellion.

And despite all that, he isn’t seen as a hostile guy, everybody thinks he’s a great guy.

But.

Like many otherwise nice, intelligent people…

He.  Could.  Not.  Parallel.  Park.

Look at this statue.  This happened all the time.

Stuck  on  a  stump.

Because he just couldn’t parallel park.

“Martha?  Can you give me a lift?  There’s something the matter with this horse again.”

And did he give up?  I do not think so.

 

 

What is carved on the base of this statue?  A quotation from the Marquis de Lafayette:

Il est un conducteur terrible.     Mais il est toujours un grand homme”

“He is a terrible driver, but still, a great man.”

Washington was a lesson in perseverance, and overcoming all obstacles in your path.  Except granite curbs.  And light poles.  Stray shopping carts, too.

 

 

 

Now, here he’s crossing the Delaware.

Why would you do that in a little boat, standing up, when the river’s full of ice?

Because you cannot get your horse to go around the safety cones, on the bridge to New Jersey.

So you don’t give up, you take the ferry.

You just have to keep trying.  And re-taking the driving test.  I will give you driving lessons over the holidays.

But not with my car.

 

 

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