Do You Have a Story to Tell?

Do you have a compelling story to share, but don’t know what to do or how to get started? Be part of a groundbreaking, three-day workshop featuring the internationally renowned Center for Digital Storytelling, and learn how to use today’s technology to preserve your personal stories and those of others.

Hosted by Charleston County Public Library from January 22-24, 2015, at the Main Library in downtown Charleston, this free workshop will teach attendees about script writing, image preparation, voice-over recording and story editing.

Due to limited space, participants will be selected through a contest. To enter, individuals or pairs must submit a video or written essay explaining why they want to participate in the workshop, why they want to share their story and how they think the workshop will help them preserve and share stories in the future.

Entries can be either:
A written essay, maximum 500 words, or a video, maximum two minutes, uploaded to YouTube or copied and sent on a DVD. Videos uploaded to YouTube should be tagged “CCPL Contest–I Want To Tell You,” with your name and the title of your entry.

Entries must be postmarked by December 31, 2014.

Video links and essays can be emailed to IWantToTellYou@ccpl.org, or
Entries can be mailed to Kimberly Bowlin, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun Street, Charleston SC 29401.

All entries MUST include signed copies of the official Entry and Release Form, which is available on the library’s website:  www.ccpl.org.

An external panel of judges will select a maximum of 10 individuals or pairs to attend the training. Winners will be announced by January 12 2015. Entrants must agree to attend the full, three-day workshop, if selected.

The final workshop product with the participants’ stories will be featured during a special premiere prior to the 2015 Charleston Tells Storytelling Festival, and their videos will be screened during the Festival set for March 13-14, 2015. Participants also will receive tickets to the Festival along with a copy of their final story, either electronically or on DVD.

Since 1998, the Center for Digital Storytelling has worked with nearly 1,000 organizations around the world and trained more than 15,000 people on how to use today’s technology to produce and preserve their personal stories. The Center discovered that people with little or no experience in multimedia can produce powerful personal stories with the modern technology they already have—like a smart phone or tablet.

This workshop is the kickoff of a 10-month project by CCPL to promote storytelling and encourage area residents to preserve stories for future generations. Additional events and activities will be announced soon.

Presented by CCPL and the Charleston Tells Storytelling Festival, the workshop is made possible by funding by a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Institute of Library and Museum Services administered by the South Carolina State Library.

Tearing Down Charleston’s Walls

Originally posted on Rediscovering Charleston's Colonial Fortifications:

In the one hundred years between the settlement of Charles Town on Oyster Point in 1680 and the American surrender of Charleston to the British Army in 1780, South Carolina’s provincial colonial legislature directed massive amounts of money, resources, and labor toward the erection of defensive fortifications for the protection of the colony’s capital and main port. During that long era, South Carolinians carefully watched the movements of our Spanish and French neighbors in St. Augustine, Havana, Biloxi, Mobile, and New Orleans, ever mindful of the treat of foreign invasion. The Treaty of Paris in 1763, signed by Britain, France, and Spain, marked the beginning of an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity in the American colonies. For the first time in our colonial history, South Carolinians no longer worried about the threat of foreign invasion, and the commerce of our ports expanded rapidly.

The rift between the colonists…

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Parade for Emancipation!

Scenes from Charleston's Emancipation Day Parade, from Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 10 February 1877.

Scenes from Charleston’s Emancipation Day Parade, from Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 10 February 1877.

Since the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the citizens of Charleston have celebrated the first day of each January with an Emancipation Day Parade. The tradition actually began with a “Grand Jubilee of Freedom” on 21 March 1865, which included a parade with a symbolic funeral cortege to commemorate the “death of slavery.” In subsequent years, the city’s black community put on a grand procession including bands, National Guard soldiers, tradesmen, social clubs, and school children. Starting in 1868 and continuing to the present day, our local newspapers have provided vivid descriptions of these annual events, providing us with interesting details about African-American life in the post-Civil War years.

The parades and associated events of the late 1860s and 1870s were robust and complex, but the tradition contracted a bit in the 1880s and beyond. The cause of this apparent “decline” wasn’t necessary a diminution of enthusiasm within the black community, however. Rather, the shrinking of Charleston’s Emancipation Day celebrations after 1880 was directly related to the erosion of civil rights during the “Jim Crow” era of American politics.

Nevertheless, the black community persevered,  and the tradition has survived into the twenty-first century. The 2015 Emancipation Day parade is still a few weeks away, but this is a good time to mark your calendar and be prepared to celebrate the day. If you’d like to learn more about this fascinating topic, please join me for a lecture titled

“Emancipation Day Parades in

Post-Civil-War Charleston”

Friday, December 12th at 10:30 a.m.
John L. Dart Library, 1067 King Street, Charleston SC, 29403
For more information, please contact Dr. Nic Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.

Charleston’s Christmas Treasure of 1744

The month of December is traditionally a time of festivities and feasts, gift-giving and merry-making. Other historians may wax nostalgic about holiday traditions from bygone eras, but this year I want to raise awareness of a different kind of December story. Let’s commemorate the anniversary of Charleston’s Christmas treasure of 1744, a swashbuckling story of adventure and violence on the high seas that brought a mountain of Spanish treasure into the port of Charleston.

A British frigate of the mid-eighteenth century.

A British frigate of the mid-eighteenth century, similar to the HMS Rose.

The setting for this story is the Carolina coastline and the Caribbean Sea. The time is 1744, shortly after France joined forces with Spain to contest Britain’s territorial possessions in North America and the West Indies (the War of Jenkins’ Ear, 1739-48) . Spanish and French privateers harassing British trading vessels throughout the Atlantic are having a devastating effect on our economy, and British vessels leaving the port of Charleston tread with fear beyond our coastline. To counter these threats, the British Navy has assigned a number of “station” vessels to guard the major port towns, from Boston to Jamaica, and to capture or disable the enemy privateers. From Charleston, the captains of His Majesty’s Ships Rose, Flamborough, Rye, and Aldborough ply their 20-gun frigates between the Carolina coast and the Bahamas, searching for French and Spanish vessels to capture and bring back to Charleston as prizes.

Capt. Thomas Frankland

Thomas Frankland, captain of the HMS Rose in 1744.

While cruising along the west coast of Cuba on December 1st 1744, Capt. Thomas Frankland (1718–1784) of the HMS Rose spied a suspicious vessel on the horizon and gave chase. Ninety minutes later he was within cannon range, and the unknown 20-gun vessel hoisted a French flag and fired a warning shot. The Rose immediately unleashed a 10-gun broadside that raked men off the enemy’s deck, “and then began as desperate an engagement as (perhaps) was ever fought between two 20 gun ships” (saith the South-Carolina Gazette, 24 December 1744). After several hours of furious cannon fire and hand-to-hand combat, the 400-ton ship, called La Conception, was torn to splinters and surrendered. The French lost approximately 120 of its 326 men in the fight, while the Rose lost but five of its 177 men. After securing the prize, Capt. Frankland and the injured Rose and Conception limped toward Charleston. Arriving in the dark evening of December 16th, the captain sent news of his victory to Governor James Glen, and the story of the Rose and Conception spread throughout Charleston like wildfire.

The details of the ensuing events are a bit fuzzy, owing to a paucity of primary sources, but the general outline of the story survives in numerous printed sources from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Conception was not a Spanish privateer, but rather a French ship bound from Cartagena (Colombia) for Cadiz (Spain) with a large cargo of Spanish treasure from South America. The South-Carolina Gazette described the booty as “one of the richest Prizes taken since the Commencement of the present War with Spain.” Six months earlier, London had welcomed Admiral George Anson (formerly of Charleston) home from his adventures in the Pacific Ocean, from which he brought an astounding haul of Spanish treasure back to England. News of Anson’s success in the Pacific reached Charleston in October 1744, eight weeks before Capt. Frankland’s capture of La Conception, and the citizens of South Carolina couldn’t have been more proud of these naval triumphs. The early, unofficial report of the French prize appears in the South-Carolina Gazette of 24 December 1744, and merits a sample of the description of the cargo captured by the Rose:

“800 Serons [bales or packages] of Cocoa, in each of which ‘tis said is deposited as customary a Bar of Gold, 68 Chests of Silver Coins, (already found) containing 310,000 Pieces of Eight; private Adventures in Gold and Silver Coins, and wrought Plate of equivalent Value, besides which there has been also found a compleat [sic] Set of Church Plate, a large Quantity of Gold Buckles and Snuff-Boxes, a curious Two-wheel’d Chaise of Silver, the Wheels, Axle, &c. all of the same Metal; a large Quantity of Diamonds, Pearl, and other precious Stones, upwards of 600 Weight of Gold, &c. and fresh Discoveries are daily made of more Treasure. ‘Tis impossible to give an exact Account of what is on board this Prize, some Gold having been secreted even in the Knees, Barricado, &c. the Heels of the Prisoners Shoes having been made hollow, were also full of Gold.”

As was customary with naval prizes taken during times of war, the Conception was condemned at South Carolina’s Court of Vice-Admiralty, and its treasure divided among its crew. The “curious two-wheel’d chaise of silver” was made a gift to Capt. Frankland’s wife, Sarah Rhett Frankland (1722–1808), who was the granddaughter of Col. William Rhett of pirate-capturing fame. The extensive battle damage to both the HMS Rose and La Conception required months of repairs, during which time the enemy officers and crew were held as prisoners of war in urban Charleston. Departing on June 1st 1745, the HMS Rose led a convoy of British merchant vessels and La Conception back to England, where the news of Capt. Frankland’s success again caught the public’s attention. Since the treasure was divided among the crew in South Carolina, the English press had to rely on information from Charleston about the value of Frankland’s prize. Nevertheless, it appears that during the decade of war between Britain and Spain, 1739-1748, the value of the booty captured aboard La Conception was second only to Admiral Anson’s 1743 capture of the Manila galleon. In retrospect, the South-Carolina Gazette of 1 June 1745 was quite justified in reporting “the Rose Man of War is reckon’d to be the richest English Ship (with Gold and Silver, &c.) that has sail’d from America.”

If you’d like to hear more details about Capt. Frankland’s adventure, please join me for a program titled:

“The Rose and La Conception:

Charleston’s Christmas Treasure of 1744″

Wednesday, December 10th at 6 p.m.

2nd Floor Classroom, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun Street, 29401.

For more information, please contact Dr. Nic Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.

The Feast Day of St. Cecilia

St. Cecilia window, church of St. Mary The Virgin in Little Wymondley, Hertfordshire.

St. Cecilia window, church of St. Mary the Virgin, Little Wymondley, Hertfordshire.

The 22nd of November is the traditional feast day of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, musicians, orchestras, and bands. For many centuries, this day has been celebrated with concerts, poetry, and songs both sacred and secular. In Charleston, this traditional began in 1737, when German-born musician Charles Theodore Pachelbel offered a feast-day anthem at the small theater in Queen Street (ex-Dock-Street). A generation later, a group of local gentlemen formed our St. Cecilia Society, the first subscription concert organization in British America, and celebrated the saint’s feast day as their anniversary. Such celebrations continued locally well into the twentieth century, but most modern Charlestonians have never heard of this musical tradition. In preparation for the coming anniversary, therefore, I offer the following primer on the saint and her votaries in Charleston.

According to hagiographic legend, Cecilia was a young Roman lady who was martyred around the year 500 C.E. for her monotheistic Christian beliefs. Early reports of her veneration as a saint mention nothing about her association with music, but by the time of the Italian Renaissance she was routinely depicted with an organ, lute, violin, or some other musical instrument. The facts surrounding her transformation into the patron saint of music have been largely obscured by the sands of time, but the story itself has remained consistent over the centuries: Cecilia was a beautiful, chaste young lady whose religious devotion and musical skills drew angels down from heaven to admire her performances. This story provided inspiration to hundreds of visual artists over the years, and a simple Internet search for images of St. Cecilia provides ample examples of such works.

So why would a group of Protestant men in colonial South Carolina form a concert organization and name it for this ancient Roman Catholic martyr? As I wrote in my 2007 book about this topic, Votaries of Apollo, I believe that eighteenth-century Britons regarded St. Cecilia as the epitome of idealized womanhood in the age of “sensibility.” As a young, attractive, talented, and virtuous lady, Cecilia embodied the qualities of idealized spouse; by naming their society in her honor, the founders of the Charleston’s St. Cecilia Society sought to demonstrate that their secular events would  be conducted with sufficient decorum to make any lady feel welcome. The same could not be said for the usual species of gentlemen’s music-making at home or in taverns and coffee houses, in which men would customarily drink themselves silly and sing bawdy songs. No, the St. Cecilia concerts were something entirely different: formal concerts after the latest European fashion. That is, concerts where the success of the event was determined solely by the number of ladies present rather than by the quality of the performances.

Charleston’s St. Cecilia Society presented an annual concert series, including performances on the saint’s feast day, from 1766 to 1820. The society greatly curtailed its activities after 1820, but musical celebrations of its anniversary on 22 November continued well into the twentieth century. Other traditions have come and gone over the years in Charleston, but the musical celebration of St. Cecilia’s feast day remains one of the oldest and most significant in our city’s history. I encourage everyone to carve out a musical moment on Saturday the 22nd and perhaps raise a glass to the musicians of Charleston past. If you seek a bit of inspiration, please join me for a program titled:

“The Feast Day of St. Cecilia, Patron Saint of Music”

Saturday, November 22nd at Noon.

Mt. Pleasant Region Library, 1133 Mathis Ferry Road, 29464

For more information, please contact Dr. Nic Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.

 

 

Tracing the Siege Lines of 1780

Originally posted on Rediscovering Charleston's Colonial Fortifications:

Pedestrians strolling past the swanky restaurants on Charleston’s upper King Street and promenading through the Farmers’ Market in Marion Square probably have no idea they’re treading through the heavily-fortified siege lines that once defined one of the most important battles of the American Revolution. A relatively new historical marker on the east side of King Street in the square commemorates the protracted British siege of Charleston in the spring of 1780, but it’s a minuscule reminder of a much larger scene that requires a lot of imagination to visualize. So, where were the siege lines of that historic battle, and what sorts of fortifications did the opposing forces erect? Two hundred and thirty-four years after the siege, the answers to these questions have been obscured by generations of development, but recent investigations are beginning to make the scene a bit clearer.

First, it is important to state that anyone interested in this topic should begin…

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South Carolina’s Veterans of the War of 1812

On Veterans’ Day, we commemorate the sacrifices made by all the men and women of our armed forces. Our nation remembers some wars and battles more than others, so I’d like to take this opportunity to draw attention to a few of the least-remembered veterans.

Two hundred years ago, in November 1814, the militia of South Carolina was furiously preparing for a British invasion that never came. Activated by Governor Joseph Alston (amid a hailstorm of public criticism), thousands of militiamen from across South Carolina were ordered to the lowcountry to help defend our coastline against British marauders. After several months in the field, our soldiers learned that the war was over, and they quietly returned home. South Carolina’s militiamen did not face the heat of battle as our northern brethren did, but their brief rounds of active duty did qualify them for some veterans benefits from the Federal government. Thus began a chain of paperwork that can provide useful, even unique information for genealogists in search of the stories of the ancestors.

Finding Veterans of the War of 1812 in South Carolina

If you’d like to search for your South Carolina ancestor who may have served in the War of 1812, there are five principal resources to consider. Note that some of these resources are found in Federal repositories, while others are found at our state archive in Columbia.

The microfilm index to the compiled service records of South Carolina's veterans of the War of 1812 is available at SCDAH.

The microfilm index to the compiled service records of South Carolina’s veterans of the War of 1812 is available at SCDAH.

Compiled Service Records: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has a file on every soldier who has served our country. Most of this material was collected at the state level and then forwarded to Washington D.C. in generations past. Some of that locally-collected information no longer exists in South Carolina, so the NARA “compiled service records” may represent your best source for veterans’ information. These records are arranged by state, and then alphabetically, but they are not on microfilm. There is a master index on microfilm, however, and the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (SCDAH) has seven reels of microfilm containing an alphabetical index to our state’s soldiers from the War of 1812. By searching through this index for your ancestor, you can find the file number for his compiled service record and then write to NARA to obtain a copy. Alternatively, you can now browse through this index, arranged alphabetically, through FamilSearch.org.

An example of Fold3's recently-digitized War of 1812 pension applications

An example of Fold3’s recently digitized War of 1812 pension applications

Pension Applications: Veterans of the War of 1812 (and their families) were eligible for Federal pension benefits under the provisions of a number of nineteenth-century laws. In short, Congress altered the pension laws at various times to allow men who served as briefly as fourteen days to qualify for benefits, and pension applications were still being accepted as late as 1878. These applications constitute a vast number of records to which access has been limited until recently. NARA has microfilm of an alphabetical index to this material, and in 1989 Virgil D. White published a three-volume Index to War of 1812 Pension Files (Waynesboro, Tenn.: National Historical Publishing Company, 1989; SCDAH has a copy of this index). More importantly, the website Fold3 has recently mounted digital images of NARA’s War of 1812 pension applications, so now you can search for your ancestor online. In a matter of seconds, for example, I was able to find and download my 4th-great-grandmother’s 1878 application for the pension due to her late husband, Thomas Butler of Pennsylvania. These applications represent a must-have genealogical resource.

Bounty Land Warrant Applications: At the commencement of the War of 1812, the U.S. Congress passed a law granting acres of land as a bounty to every soldier who would serve in the conflict with Great Britain. In the decades after the war, many veterans (or their heirs) petitioned the Federal government to obtain a warrant directing a surveyor to admeasure their “bounty” land in the Midwest region of the country (Illinois, Arkansas, and Missouri). These applications for bounty land warrants survive at NARA, and are available there on microfilm. There is no index, but the materials are arranged alphabetically. Ancestry.com has posted a useful guide to understanding Military Bounty Land, and also has some of these records available online.

Muster Rolls: The captain of every militia company was supposed to keep monthly rolls of all the soldiers mustered under his command, and to forward copies of such rolls to his superiors. In South Carolina, like elsewhere, the state’s Adjutant General was supposed to collect and retain these muster rolls for administrative purposes. Due to various nineteenth-century fires and military accidents in our state, however, not many muster rolls survive from the War of 1812 or any other antebellum period. Nevertheless, it’s worth making an inquiry at SCDAH, once you’ve used the above-mentioned resources to determine in which company your ancestor served.

War of 1812 Payroll Receipt  card file at SCDAH

War of 1812 Payroll Receipt card file at SCDAH

Payroll Receipts: The South Carolina Department of Archives and History has a small number of the state Adjutant General’s manuscript payroll receipts from the War of 1812. Since militia service was obligatory for able-bodied white males aged 16 to 45 in antebellum America, you might wonder why payrolls exist. While  limited “voluntary” service was indeed required by law, militiamen received pay whenever the governor ordered them to perform full-time active duty, especially when such duty meant leaving your family and home for a period of time. South Carolina was very much on the periphery of the War of 1812, but in 1813 and 1814 Governor Alston did order parts of our state militia to travel from the upstate and midland regions to monitor the coastal area to protect against British raids (ships searching for supplies) and in case of a British invasion. As a result, there were claims for service pay in South Carolina after the war. Again, the records of the state adjutant-general are incomplete, but at SCDAH you’ll find an alphabetical card file index to the names of the men appearing in the surviving manuscript payroll receipts.

I hope this information is useful to anyone searching for information about ancestors who served in the often-overlooked “Second American Revolution.” If you’d like to learn more about the War of 1812 in general, you can download my selected bibliography of published sources. If you’d like to learn more about the war in South Carolina and the veterans’ records that survive, please join me for a program titled:

“Finding Veterans of the War of 1812

in South Carolina”

Saturday, November 15th at 1 p.m.

2nd Floor Classroom, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun Street, 29401

For more information, please contact Dr. Nic Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.

“Beasts of Prey” in Colonial South Carolina

A Kiawah Island Bobcat at S.C. Wildlife Magazine

A Kiawah Island Bobcat
(S.C. Wildlife Magazine)

The early colonists who settled South Carolina found here a bountiful ecosystem, complete with the natural hierarchy of predators and prey. Many historians have correctly noted that the trade in pelts—primarily of deer and beaver—was a significant part of this colony’s early economy, but far less historical attention has been paid to the natural predators of South Carolina. Although we rarely hear about such creatures invading our modern lives, South Carolina’s early colonists saw the indigenous “beasts of prey” as a significant threat to their efforts to raise crops and to husband domesticated animals. In fact, the scarcity of carnivorous mammals in modern South Carolina is directly linked to a government-sponsored policy of systematic extermination that successfully rid the Lowcountry of “beasts of prey” by the year 1750.

Between 1696 and 1744, the South Carolina General Assembly enacted a series of laws offering bounties to encourage the killing of “beasts of prey”: wolves, bears, wildcats, and “tigers.” That’s right, “tigers,” by which the early colonists undoubtedly meant the cougar or panther or puma (depending on which common name you prefer for “puma concolor“). The early colonists perceived these animals as a threat to their lives, as well as a danger to their livestock and the large numbers of Africans being imported into the colony. To protect themselves and their investments, our legislature first struck a bargain with the Native American tribes of the Lowcountry, requiring them to deliver an annual quota of carnivore skins as a kind of duty on their deliveries of profitable deer skins. As the colony matured, and the population of Indian tribes diminished, the legislature shifted their eradication incentives to the white settlers, offering outright bounties for each scalp (“with two ears”) they delivered to their local Justice of the Peace.

We can look around our communities today and bear witness to the success of these early hunting efforts. South Carolina’s population of red wolves, black bears, bobcats, and cougars has been so diminished that in recent years our Department of Natural Resources has initiated programs to boost their tiny numbers. Twentieth-century hunting, trapping, and development are usually named as the causes for the extirpation of such species, but let us not forget about our colonial government’s contribution to this story. It was the systematic efforts of early Lowcountry hunters, motivated by government incentives, that initiated the decline of “beasts of prey” in South Carolina more than three centuries ago.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, please join me for an illustrated program titled:

“Hunting ‘Beasts of Prey’ in

Colonial South Carolina”

Wednesday, November 5th at 6 p.m.

2nd Floor Classroom, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun Street, 29401

For more information, please contact Dr. Nic Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.

Reanimating “Apparently Dead” Bodies in 1790s Charleston

I’ll wager that most Charlestonians don’t realize that a 1793 law offers a reward to citizens who attempt to “restore to life” persons who are “apparently dead,” but who may actually be in a state of “suspended animation.” Not familiar with this gem of our municipal code? Well then, you’re in for a Halloween treat. This Thursday, October 30th at 6 p.m. I’m presenting an illustrated lecture at CCPL titled “Reviving ‘Apparently Dead’ Bodies in 1790s Charleston.” If you’re looking for a ghoulish, yet hilarious tale of macabre local history, you won’t want to miss this event.

Our story begins with the widespread and justifiably real fear of “premature burial.” In the centuries before the advent of modern science, history records many cases, reported from around the world, of persons being buried and then awakening to find themselves trapped six feet underground in a tight wooden box. We learn of such stories from grave diggers who report finding caskets scratched open from the inside, and from physicians reporting apparently dead persons sitting upright at their own funerals.

In London in 1774, a group of physicians formed an organization to combat the scourge of premature burial with science—or at least what passed for science in the eighteenth century. That organization, called the Royal Humane Society, advocated the notion that bodies that appeared to be dead might really be in a state of “suspended animation”; that is, their soul (anima) might be precariously suspended somewhere between life and death. The society’s challenge was not simply to discover techniques for identifying the true state of an “apparently dead” body, but rather to experiment and to devise methods to loosen death’s grip on the bodies and souls of “apparently dead” persons and to encourage their life force to return to a state of vitality. In addition, the Royal Humane Society sought to spread its collective knowledge by encouraging others around the world to conduct similar experiments and to save more people from the horrors of a premature burial.

News of the efforts of the Royal Humane Society soon spread throughout Europe and the United States. It was truly an age of discovery as scientists conducted bold, new experiments that swept aside old superstitions. In Italy, for example, Luigi Galvani was applying electricity to dead frogs to “reanimate” their muscles (a fact that later inspired Mary Shelley‘s classic Frankenstein).

Meanwhile in Charleston, a group of physicians in the Medical Society of South Carolina (established in 1789) learned of these experiments and embraced the scientific challenge of “suspended animation.” In the summer of 1793, they purchased an “apparatus” from the Royal Humane Society and commenced a public education campaign. Not content with merely offering the new science of “reanimation” to the citizens of Charleston, the Medical Society convinced our City Council to pass a law mandating the use of the new techniques in all cases of “apparently dead” bodies. On 19 August 1793, the City of Charleston ratified “An Ordinance for assisting the Medical Society of South Carolina, in their humane intentions, to restore to life persons under suspended animation, and for other purposes therein mentioned.” This law required all retailers of spirituous liquors to receive into their houses “the bodies of persons apparently dead” and to provide “all articles as may be necessary in restoring to life such bodies.” Furthermore, the law also mandates that all retailers of liquors must “constantly keep in public view, printed directions for restoring persons apparently dead to life, which directions, drawn up by the Medical Society of South Carolina, shall be given [to] them gratis.”

CLICK THE IMAGE FOR A PRINTABLE PDF

CLICK THE IMAGE FOR A PRINTABLE PDF

Just what did those directions say? It’s a bit of a mystery, as no copies of the 1793 directions are known to survive. Nevertheless, compelling evidence for the “reanimation” techniques used in 1790s Charleston can be found in the directions promulgated by the Royal Humane Society and other similar contemporary organizations. Suffice it to say that the principal methods involved electricity, massage, spirituous liquors poured down the throat, and tobacco smoke “thrown into the fundament.” Really.

As bizarre (and potentially hilarious) as these old methods may seem to twenty-first century readers, we must acknowledge the real scientific achievement of their experiments. In the course of the nineteenth century, the initial forays into the quasi-science of reanimation evolved in to the real and valuable science of resuscitation. Without the pioneering efforts of the Royal Humane Society, the Medical Society of South Carolina, and a host of similar organizations, mankind would not have the benefit of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), or even the miraculous pacemaker.

If you’d like to learn more about this story, please join me at CCPL on Thursday, October 30th at 6 p.m. for “Reviving ‘Apparently Dead’ Bodies in 1790s Charleston.” Click on the image above for a flyer that you can share with your friends!

Charleston’s Hampstead Square

Charleston’s Hampstead Square—actually four public squares surrounding the intersection of Columbus and America Streets—is a unique and beautiful space with a rich history dating back to the the 1760s. It was laid out in 1769 as the center point of the village of Hampstead, a real estate venture developed by the wealthy merchant, Henry Laurens. Over the past two and half centuries, Hampstead Square has weathered some of the most dramatic episodes in Charleston’s history—including several wars, a major earthquake, and Civil Rights demonstrations—and still retains much of its original character.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR PRINTABLE PDF

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR PRINTABLE PDF

If you’d like to learn more about this often-overlooked gem of Charleston’s geography, please join me and several other presenters for a community symposium titled Hampstead Square: The Heart of Charleston’s Historic Eastside Neighborhood,” on Monday, October 27th 2014, at 5 p.m. at the Palmer Campus of Trident Technical College. It’s free and open to the public, and you’re guaranteed to learn a few new things about Charleston history and see some rare images of Hampstead’s colorful past.