A Recent Honor

People who have followed this site for some time know that I am very interested in history. I love taking road trips to experience it, and I especially love getting to share history with others – both in-person, and through the medium of the Internet.

To that end, I’ve been a great admirer of the Historical Marker Database since its inception. Their mission of cataloging all the outdoor history markers that we come across in our daily lives always struck me as being very worthwhile. I’ve used it as a reference when planning my own trips (or when I was in a hurry and was really curious what was on that sign I passed earlier in the day). For almost a decade, I have been a “Contributing Correspondent” to the database, submitting markers that I had found that were not yet included. Recently, I’d become a lot more active, submitting well over 100 markers so far in 2024.

Because of that increased activity, a couple of days ago, I got an unexpected email from the publisher of the website:

Nomination to Contributing Editor


I am pleased to announce that the Board of Editors here at the Historical Marker Database have nominated you to become a Contributing Editor. Your entries are complete, well-illustrated, well-edited entries that are always ready-to-publish….

J.J. Prats

Almost immediately, I very happily accepted the nomination.

I can’t really put into words how much it means to me to be trusted to be so involved with a project that has meant so much to me, and that I think is important as a resource on the Internet. Obviously, it is a big responsibility, and I hope that I am equal to it. And it is an absolute thrill to see my name on the About Us page. I’m not sure if I’ll get over that for some time.

I may start posting more content here that is explicitly related to historical markers, or my journey in discovering them. I’m sure that it is work that we will never be finished with.

Battlefield Visits, Revolutionary War Edition: The Battle of Brandywine

A couple of weeks ago, the boys and I went up to Brandywine Battlefield State Park because they were opening their season with a celebration of the 343rd birthday of Pennsylvania. There were going to be living history demonstrations, and free admission – can’t beat that!

We’ve been to Brandywine a few times before, but we’ve only just visited the park – which does hold the house that George Washington used as his headquarters during the battle – but I’ve never actually been out on the field where the fighting of the Battle of Brandywine actually happened. These days, most of it is either neighborhoods, or still privately-held farm land. That seems to be slowly changing with organizations like the American Battlefield Trust picking up more property there and setting up some interpretation.

It took us about an hour to drive up, and along the way I had John read a battle overview out loud from one of my books. We discussed what was going on with the war at the time, and I let the boys look at a few maps, too. I think it really helped with getting them engaged in what we were about to see.

We started our tour at Jefferis’ Ford where Gen. Sir William Howe’s British troops crossed the Brandywine and started the move to turn the American right flank. I had to explain to the boys what a ford was – maybe we need to play more Oregon Trail. Seeing the boys get a little spark as I explained that the British marched right along this road we were standing next to – that’s the reason I love doing things like this with them. There are a few cool markers down there – including two relatively new ones that I was able to add to the HMDB!

The view of Jefferis' Ford. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The view of Jefferis’ Ford. – Photo by the author

Continuing on, we followed the route of the British and made our way to Osborne’s Hill where we got out to see the view and imagine the battle lines forming for the assault. Luckily for the Americans, Howe gave his men some time to rest after their all-day march, so there was some time for a defense to be put up. It wouldn’t be enough, though.

Our next stop was at the Birmingham Lafayette Cemetery where we saw some more monuments, as well as the Friends Meeting House. Across the street at the Birmingham Hill Preserve, we got to add another new marker.

The Lafayette Memorial near Sandy Hollow. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The Lafayette Memorial near Sandy Hollow. – Photo by the author

My most exciting monument addition of the day came next: The Lafayette Memorial near the site of his wounding. This has been here since 1895 – how had it not been added to the database yet? Lafayette came back to visit the site after the battle and spoke fondly of his experiences there, despite the wound.

Around the corner from there, we came to the Sandy Hollow Heritage Park. This park preserves the American right flank, and I have to say – the position seems remarkably defensible. I’m going to have to do some deeper reading on the Battle of Brandywine, because I have no idea how this position could have fallen – especially with some artillery support.

My crew mans a very fake wooden 3-pounder at Sandy Hollow. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
My crew mans a very fake wooden 3-pounder at Sandy Hollow. – Photo by the author

It was a quick drive over to the crossroads of Dillworthtown and past the site of the British camp after the battle. Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene’s last line of defense was also in this area, allowing the American army to escape mostly intact. This was the second-largest battle of the Revolution and I don’t think it gets the attention it deserves – probably because the preservation of the field is so spotty. Maybe that will get better.

After our tour of the field, we stopped at the park visitors center and checked out the museum and their cool 20-minute film. Isaac in particular told me that the movie helped him understand things a bit better. We got a quick photo at the Benjamin Ring House to re-create one we had taken a few years ago (and we added another surprising historical marker in the process).

Then, it was living history time! Over at the Gilpin House, there were interpreters discussing surveying, cooking, and weapons, but we gravitated to the blacksmith demo. The boys even got to participate by working the bellows and stoking the fire up to around 2000 degrees so the blacksmith could show how nails were made in the 18th century. For their efforts, the boys got to keep two of the nails they helped make. They were both really proud of them.

The boys with the nails that they helped make. Very cool! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The boys with the nails that they helped make. Very cool! – Photo by the author

It was a really great outing. With just a couple of hours, we got to see, experience, and learn so much. I’m glad that we went, and that we went a little off the beaten path as well. I’m hopeful that the boys will treasure these memories as much as I do.

Overnight Trip to Philadelphia

From my travels, January 13 & 14, 2024

One of the things we’ve done with the boys the last few years is give “experiences” rather than “big gifts” for various holidays. This year, we decided to go in with their grandparents on an overnight trip to Philadelphia. Neither the boys, nor Emily, nor “Nene” and “Baba” had ever seen the sights of Independence National Historical Park, so this would be a good opportunity for that.

We went up on Saturday morning, and started with the new visitors center. This is jointly-run by the NPS and the city. We had lunch at the little cafe there (which was honestly, pretty disappointing) and then checked out the small museum exhibits, the orientation film, and got maps and Junior Ranger activity sheets.

John stands by as Isaac presides over the signing of the Constitution. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
John stands by as Isaac presides over the signing of the Constitution. – Photo by the author

They do Junior Rangers a little differently here. Instead of an activity book, they give out kind of a cartoon map of the park that has suggestions for activities and questions to ponder on it. I think the idea is that it gets the whole family involved. Once you’ve done your tour, I think you just need to convince a ranger that you’ve seen and learned a few new things and you’re all set.

With the introductory things out of the way, we walked across the street to the site of the old President’s House. The structure has been gone for a long time, but it has been partially re-created, and there are some cut-outs in the ground to show the archaeological work that was done at the site. It’s a pretty interesting presentation. From there, we got in line to go through security for the Liberty Bell.

The boys pose in front of the Liberty Bell. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The boys pose in front of the Liberty Bell. – Photo by the author

The boys were excited for this, as it is a symbol of modern Philadelphia – it even plays a role at the baseball games – but I think it didn’t have quite as much historical significance at the time of the founding.

“Baba” didn’t feel up to doing much more walking, so he headed back to the visitors center while the rest of us went over to see Benjamin Franklin’s house a few blocks away. The house itself no longer stands, but there is a large frame outline of where it would have stood. His print shop is still there, and the NPS does a great job of running demonstrations of the techniques that Franklin and his associates would have used. They even sell items that have been printed there, but we didn’t buy any.

Next to his house, there is an underground museum that walks through the many accomplishments that Franklin had in his life. He was certainly a renaissance man with a huge variety of life experiences. I think he knack for invention really resonated with my guys.

We met back up with “Baba” and drove over to our hotel to get checked in. We got dinner at the Reading Terminal Market so that we had plenty of variety to choose from. “Nene”, John, and I ended up getting cheesesteaks from Spataros. After such a hearty dinner, we had an evening swim at the pool, and got to bed to rest up for the next day.

We got some pretty good cheesesteaks at Reading Terminal Market. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
We got some pretty good cheesesteaks at Reading Terminal Market. – Photo by the author

Keeping it simple, we got up in the morning and met up for the hotel breakfast. We got checked out, and then made our way back over to Independence Hall for a 10:30am tour.

It was really cool to stand in the room where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and – ultimately – adopted. It’s awe-inspiring to contemplate the weight of the decisions that were made here. The story of George Washington’s chair – it’s actually still there in that room, by the way – with sort of a half-sun motif near the top, and Franklin’s open rhetorical question as to whether the sun was rising or setting as they talked through the founding of our nation: that was a favorite moment for me.

Standing in the room where it actually happened. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Standing in the room where it actually happened. – Photo by the author

We didn’t end up finishing the Junior Ranger program on this trip. But you can probably guess, that’s only an excuse to go back.

Honeymoon in Key West, Part 5: Sails to Rails Museum

November 22, 2023

We had one thing booked for our final full day in Key West, and it was going to be happening up by the old seaport. So we hopped on the bus and got up to that side of the island early.

I had wanted to check out the Sails to Rails Museum, as someone we ran into had good things to say about it. It is a small, but well put together museum that tells the story of life in Key West from the days of the turtle, sponge, and wrecking industries. There is also a good bit about Henry Flagler and how he made Florida what it is today with the railroads. The route of modern US-1 follows what was originally a long rail line through the Keys.

They even had a large model of Fort Jefferson, and an exhibit about Dr. Mudd. It was well worth the visit.

Snorkeling off Cottrell Key

Our one planned activity was a snorkeling excursion aboard a catamaran. Emily had booked this in advance, and since I now had some practice from snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas, we were looking forward to this.

Emily and I aboard the catamaran. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Emily and I aboard the catamaran. – Photo by the author

The cruise out to the island of Cottrell Key and back was fun – the crew of the boat definitely had some personality. We got to snorkel for a while, but honestly, it wasn’t as nice as the snorkeling at Fort Jefferson was. Things seemed less lively at this spot – probably because it get so many tourists day in and day out.

Trivia Night

After grabbing some dinner, we went back to the hotel and played trivia. Neither of us had done this before, but we lucked out in that some of the questions were about football, and none of the other teams seemed to have much knowledge in that area. We ended up coming in second place!

Trivia at the resort. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Trivia at the resort. – Photo by the author

Flying Home

As we flew back to PHL, I took the window seat. I was really happy to pass right over Fort Macon – hopefully I’ll get to visit on the ground soon!

Fort Macon from ~30,000 feet. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Fort Macon from ~30,000 feet. – Photo by the author

Honeymoon in Key West, Part 4: Fort Jefferson

November 20, 2023

Even though I was nervous, I had been waiting for this for a long time.

We had booked ourselves on a seaplane to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Regular readers probably know that I have aviophobia, but that I’ve been getting better through more and more exposure to flight. After all, we had flown down to Key West in the first place. This would be about a 35 minute flight, and relatively low altitude, to a place that I really wanted to visit. Emily also helped keep me together.

Waiting to board the plane. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Waiting to board the plane. – Photo by the author

The short story is: I’m SO glad we did this! It was probably the most incredible trip I’ve ever been on.

Our pilot, Britt, did a quick safety overview with us and helped us get our gear loaded. We brought a bag with a change of clothes and some snorkeling equipment. The company also provided a cooler with some drinks.

I was in the very back of the plane. All set for take-off! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
I was in the very back of the plane. All set for take-off! – Photo by the author

We took off in the de Havilland DHC-3 from Key West International Airport and turned west, flying just off the southern part of Key West. This was the smallest plane I’ve ever flown in, and the first with a turboprop. We all had headsets on that piped in some music and allowed Britt to play tour guide along the way, describing the various outlying keys that we were passing over, as well as a few shipwrecks. He did his best to point out marine life, but I had a hard time spotting it, though I did see some turtles on the way back.

We flew over the wreck of the <i>Arbutus</i>. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
We flew over the wreck of the Arbutus. – Photo by the author
The best part about taking the seaplane is beating the ferry boat! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The best part about taking the seaplane is beating the ferry boat! – Photo by the author

Britt brought us in for an expert landing on the lagoon, and we taxied over the the beach where the seaplanes back in to drop us off. We managed to get a few cool photos there thanks to Britt.

Emily attempts to be as cool as our pilot. - <i>Photo by Captain Britt</i>
Emily attempts to be as cool as our pilot. – Photo by Captain Britt

Once we got on the island, Emily and I toured Fort Jefferson – in my eyes, the main attraction here. This is another Third System fort, and it was never fully completed. It is huge – certainly larger than Fort Delaware. Several of the structures inside – the barracks and officers’ quarters come to mind specifically – are now just foundations, as they were deemed to be too unsafe for the public and torn down years ago. The hot shot furnace has been restored and is in really good shape. That was cool to see.

There were a few large seacoast guns – I saw Parrotts and Rodmans – along the ramparts. The most famous part of the tour is the cell where Dr. Samuel Mudd was held after the Civil War for his role in the Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy. He was pardoned a few years later by President Andrew Johnson, largely because of the medical help he provided to the garrison here during an outbreak of yellow fever in 1867.

The name of these islands – Dry Tortugas – comes from the fact that turtles nest here (tortugas is Spanish for “turtles”) and there is no natural fresh water source. In order to support a large fort and all the people that come with it, the structure was built with subterranean cisterns under the casemates. These were designed to collect rainwater. Unfortunately, as the fort was built ever higher, the weight of the walls caused cracks to form in the cisterns and several were flooded with seawater, making them useless. Ultimately, this is why the fort failed and was never finished. There simply wasn’t enough fresh water for the garrison that the fort required.

These days, the NPS has a small staff that lives on the island and has not only water, but weekly pizza deliveries from the seaplane, and even Starlink Internet.

Starlink comes to the Dry Tortugas. Maybe it isn't so remote after all... - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Starlink comes to the Dry Tortugas. Maybe it isn’t so remote after all… – Photo by the author

As you can imagine, views in every direction from the fort were incredible. It’s a little piece of paradise.

The scenery is <i>gorgeous</i>. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The scenery is gorgeous. – Photo by the author

When we finished in the fort, Emily and I had a bit to eat from the food we brought and walked over to the South Swim Beach and tried out some snorkeling. There was a ton of variety of sea life there, and it was really cool to swim right through huge schools of fish along the fort’s seawall.

The snorkeling beach with the fort in the background. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The snorkeling beach with the fort in the background. – Photo by the author

Before too long, it was time to get back to the seaplane and head back to Key West. I decided to shoot a video while we were taking off.

Taking off from Fort Jefferson. – Video by the author
Goodbye, Fort Jefferson! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Goodbye, Fort Jefferson! – Photo by the author

As we approached Key West, I got the chance to get some cool aerial photos of the island. It was nice to see Fort Zachary Taylor again.

Obviously, we made a safe landing at the airport, and made our way back to the hotel. It was without a doubt one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I’m so grateful that we were able to do it together!

Honeymoon in Key West, Part 3: Truman’s Little White House

November 19, 2023

Truman’s Little White House

When we were planning our trip initially, this was one of those places that jumped right out at me. We made a reservation for one of the morning tours at Truman’s Little White House and made our way up to that side of the island.

Exterior view of the "Little White House" - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Exterior view of the “Little White House” – Photo by the author

Originally built as housing for officers on the Naval base in 1890, this house ended up being associated with President Truman because of a vacation ordered by his doctor. Truman had been feeling ill and was advised to go somewhere warm in November of 1946. FADM Chester Nimitz had recently visited Naval Station Key West and knew that this house was available. Truman felt so invigorated here, that he made it a regular part of his presidency – spending something like 10% of his time in office here.

One of the things that I found interesting about the house itself is that it was originally situated on waterfront property, but over the years the island has been expanded by depositing fill from dredging operations. The west side of the island changed a lot because of this.

Our tour guide, Chet, was awesome. He had a lot of really great stories, and made us feel welcome. Many of the furnishings in the house are original to the Trumans’ time here. The whole interior decorating scheme is very 1950s. Parts of it felt like it could have been my grandmother’s house.

I swear I have seen these very chairs at my grandparents' house! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
I swear I have seen these very chairs at my grandparents’ house! – Photo by the author

One of the highlights of the tour was this custom card table, built by some of the guys on the Naval Station for Truman to use. He apparently enjoyed playing cards with guests that would come down – in fact, it seemed like the whole atmosphere here was very relaxed – I can see why Truman loved it so much. The story is that it was seen as very uncouth for the President to be seen playing cards, so a top was made to be fitted over the card playing surface for when the press was around.

Chet talks about the card table. The top cover rests behind him. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Chet talks about the card table. The top cover rests behind him. – Photo by the author

The other thing that was interesting was that a company in Miami (I believe) had heard about Truman’s frequent vacations here and send him some Hawaiian shirts they made. Truman decided that this was to be the “Key West Uniform” and all the staffers were encouraged to participate. They even have one of the original shirts that Truman wore still in their collection.

The case on the right holds a shirt that Truman actually wore in Key West. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The case on the right holds a shirt that Truman actually wore in Key West. – Photo by the author

Truman’s personal office and bedroom upstairs were pretty cool. His wife and daughter slept in the next room over – the idea being that if there was some emergency in the middle of the night, his family would not be disturbed. Mrs. Truman didn’t travel down here very often though, as she thought this was more of a hangout spot for the “boys.”

Truman's bed in Key West. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Truman’s bed in Key West. – Photo by the author

There were some notable historical events that took place here. In 1948, this is where the plan to consolidate the Department of the Navy and the Department of War into the Department of Defense was devised. Much later, in 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell chose to host peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan here. When asked why, he said that it was because of his tremendous respect for Truman, who had made a very personal impact on his life by desegregating the US military.

Once our tour was finished, I was able to get a photo of Emily out front with Truman’s grill. He was known to use the fine silver as a tray for hot dogs. Now I feel like I need to take her to visit Eisenhower’s house!

Emily with Truman's grill. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Emily with Truman’s grill. – Photo by the author

Lunch at DJ’s Clam Shack

My wife Emily is definitely a foodie, and the number of options for restaurants on Key West was nearly overwhelming. I think we need to make a return trip just to try out some other places.

One of the food stops that she really wanted to make on Duval Street was DJ’s Clam Shack. This place had been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, so it had something of a famous reputation.

Emily inspects the menu at DJ's Clam Shack - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Emily inspects the menu at DJ’s Clam Shack – Photo by the author

In the end, Emily chose to go with their famous fried clams. I had some chicken fingers. We split an order of sweet potato fries. It was all delicious.

Dinner at Bo’s Fish Wagon

When we told people we were going to Key West, we got a ton of recommendations. One of the loudest was from my boss – herself a frequent visitor to the island – about a little joint that she thought Emily would really like. We had to check out Bo’s Fish Wagon.

Bo's Fish Wagon, on the northern side of the island. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Bo’s Fish Wagon, on the northern side of the island. – Photo by the author

I’ll be honest, the look of the place from the outside was…interesting. I ended up getting a hotdog (because I’m boring) and some really great black beans and rice on the side. Emily got fish tacos with crispy fries, and said that the fish was some of the freshest she had ever had.

We walked around the seaport district for a while and then headed back to the hotel. The big adventure of our honeymoon was planned for the next day, and we needed to be well-rested.

Honeymoon in Key West, Part 2: Fort Zachary Taylor

November 18, 2023

Emily and I on the ramparts at Fort Zachary Taylor. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Emily and I on the ramparts at Fort Zachary Taylor. – Photo by the author

The historical highlight of today was the trip over to Fort Zachary Taylor, a third system fort on the west side of the island. Sadly, it was heavily modified during the Endicott period. It was shortened, and several of the big seacoast guns were dumped into the new concrete as fill. You can still see several of them poking out. It’s a little sad.

A panorama showing some of the old guns poking out of the concrete. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
A panorama showing some of the old guns poking out of the concrete. – Photo by the author

Luckily, there has been some preservation work done to recover some of the pieces after the fort was incorporated into a state park. Those recovered guns are on display in the fort today. It’s a cool collection of Columbiads, Rodmans, and Parrotts.

On the day we were there, a living history group was camped out with some artifacts. That was pretty cool.

After scoping out the history, we walked over to the other side of the park and enjoyed some time on the nicest beach on Key West.

A little beach time was relaxing. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
A little beach time was relaxing. – Photo by the author

Dinner that night was at an Argentinian steakhouse on Duval Street. It was really good.

I ordered Milanesa Napolitana for dinner. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
I ordered Milanesa Napolitana for dinner. – Photo by the author

Honeymoon in Key West, Part 1

November 17, 2023

One of the things that we decided in the run up to our wedding was that we weren’t going to take a honeymoon immediately after. We had wanted to go to Key West because it seemed like it was a good compromise location for us – it’s a tropical island, but it has a lot of interesting history. Since we knew that was where we were headed, Emily thought it would be good to avoid hurricane season, and have a time when we wouldn’t be with my boys for a fairly extended period. The week before Thanksgiving met all the criteria.

We flew out of PHL on November 16, and got settled in pretty easily to our resort. The next day, we would start doing some tourist things.

Our resort was lovely. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Our resort was lovely. – Photo by the author

After getting a really lovely brunch at Bagatelle, we walked over to the “Mile Marker 0” sign for US-1, and got the requisite photos.

Emily and I at "Mile Marker 0" - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Emily and I at “Mile Marker 0” – Photo by a fellow tourist

Continuing to walk south along Whitehead Street, we came to the Hemingway Home and Museum. While it didn’t necessarily light either of us up on its face, several people we had talked to had recommended checking it out. We took the leap, and the tour was much cooler than we were expecting. There were lots of stories involving alcohol and various affairs. Hemingway certainly led a tortured life.

Once we reached the bottom of Whitehead Street, we were at the famous “Southernmost Point” marker, where we only had to wait in line for a few minutes to get our second tourist photo of the day. I’m very aware that this is nowhere near the actual southernmost point in the continental US, but it’s just one of those things you have to do on Key West. I found myself reading the historical marker for the underwater communications cable to Cuba while we waited in line. Apparently, this line carried the very first international phone call. Cool stuff.

Our ultra-touristy photo from the "Southernmost Point". - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Our ultra-touristy photo from the “Southernmost Point”. – Photo by a fellow tourist

Just from walking around the “downtown” area for a while, Cuba and the Navy really seem to dominate the history and culture here. Many of the buildings seem to have begun their lives as structures to support the Navy or some aspect of international trade. This was particularly evident as we had dinner that night just off Mallory Square in an old building that had been turned into a Cuban restaurant.

Cuban dinner near Mallory Square. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Cuban dinner near Mallory Square. – Photo by the author

While we were at dinner, we would experience the only rough spot of the week. The power went out on the island as we were finishing and then a hard rain storm came through. After maybe 20-30 minutes, things came back to life, we were able to settle our bill, and we made our way back to the hotel.

Curtis Paper Mill

From my travels, August 5, 2023.

Emily and I had gone up to visit her Nana at the senior living community that she moved in to. We planned to have dinner together in their dining room and just enjoy the company.

As we were waiting for our food, I noticed a series of prints hanging on the wall depicting various aspects of the papermaking process. Some of the prints were photos and maps labeled as from the “Nonantum Paper Mill”. It piqued my interest because of the excellent lecture from Scott L. Mingus that I attended a few years ago on the History of Papermaking.

The three of us got to talking about it at dinner, and the ladies told me that the old mill was nearby on the aptly-named Paper Mill Road. Emily agreed to drive over to check it out when we were finished with our visit.

A plaque with the brand of the Curtis Paper Mill is at the site today. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
A plaque with the brand of the Curtis Paper Mill is at the site today. – Photo by the author

The City of Newark converted the site into a park several years ago. The mill had closed down in 1999. None of the old buildings still exist, but I think the mill race is still there – I need to go back to investigate further. A wayside marker told the story of the mill – and I was able to add it to the HMDB during my visit.

The Curtis Paper Mill wayside marker. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The Curtis Paper Mill wayside marker. – Photo by the author

Most notably, during WWII about 50% of the output of the mill was used by the United States Federal Government or for lend-lease. In fact, the paper that the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was printed on was made right there at that now-unassuming spot in Newark, DE.

I feel like I say it all the time, but history is all around us if you give yourself the chance to stumble onto it.

Stone Harbor Museum

From my travels, July 26, 2023.

After our wedding, we spent a week as a family in Stone Harbor, NJ – mostly enjoying the beach and some great food. It is a favorite vacation spot for Emily, and the place has grown on all of us.

One of the things that I’ve wanted to do for a while is check out the local history museum. On this day, I was able to sneak down into town for an hour or so with the boys as a bit of a change of pace.

A cool old aerial photo of the town. It was not nearly as built-up as it is today. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
A cool old aerial photo of the town. It was not nearly as built-up as it is today. – Photo by the author

They have lots of maps, a timeline on the wall, and assorted artifacts. The docent there let the boys do a scavenger hunt activity. He said that much of the early history of the town involved “the mob” who had bought land there to make smuggling alcohol down from Canada by boat easier. A colorful story, for sure.

You can probably guess that I LOVE an old map! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
You can probably guess that I LOVE an old map! – Photo by the author

Railroads bringing tourists from Philadelphia also factored heavily early on. None of that infrastructure remains today, but the tracks were originally where the grass “islands” are in 2nd Ave. today. The station / yard for the railroad was between 2nd Ave. and Pennsylvania Ave.

The museum also has binders full of newspaper clippings and old photos, organized by street. It would be fun to get lost in that research library for a while.

Binders full of materials make for a cool research library. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Binders full of materials make for a cool research library. – Photo by the author

Isaac enjoyed getting a photo with the Taylor Swift cut-out they had. She is something of a local celebrity as she spent summers here as a kid. Both boys were able to talk the docent into giving them old 2010 beach tags (he didn’t put up much of a fight) as rewards for their scavenger hunt. These were prized by the boys because the design incorporates a plane on it.

Isaac hanging out with local celebrity, Taylor Swift. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Isaac hanging out with local celebrity, Taylor Swift. – Photo by the author

Not bad at all for a free museum. I plan to be back!