current info

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween in Washington,DC 1890 - The Evening Star


How it is Celebrated by the Boys and Young Girls.


                 Tomorrow is All Saints' day and tonight being All Halloween the young folks will no doubt do their celebrating as usual.

                 All Halloween is the evening preceding All Hallow day – – properly called All Saints' day. Hallow–tide is a comprehensive name for both days. There is scarcely any time more distinguished than this by the common people throughout the British Files. This is probably owing to the fact of November 1 having been one of the four great festivals of their pagan ancestors. It was formally celebrated by the immense bonfires in Wales, Ireland, the Scotch Highlands and even in England; in the latter place up to a very recent. And occasionally at the present time. The custom also prevails at present among the Welsh people who still practice superstitious rites for defining the future.

                 In Ireland particularly st1 November is regarded as the proper time to offer thanks for the realize fruits of the earth. The Irish in this regard call it La Mas Ubhal - that is, the day of the Apple fruit, and celebrated with seat of roasted apples mixed in – AL or milk. Chas. Graydon, the Irish poet, very aptly describes one favorite practice thus:
These glowing nuts are emblems true
Of what in human life review:
The mismatched couple fret and fume,
And thus in strife themselves costume.
Or see the happy, happy pair.
Of generous love and truth sincere.
With mutual fondness whole they burn,
Still to each other totally turn:
Till life fears or deal being passed,
Their mingled ashes rest at last.
                 Halloween has always been the occasion of an enjoyable time in Christian countries. The performance of spells by young people to discover their future partners for life has been one of the most popular usages, as well as fireside reveries, such as cracking nuts, dunking for apples and other enjoyments. It is the night when witches, evil spirits and other mischief making been our abroad on their midnight journeys, and when the fairies are supposed to hold their grand anniversary. The custom of celebrating Halloween's night is still kept up and the evil-spirited boys, as well as the fair maidens, take part in the celebration.   


                 Whether witches, devils in other evil spirits go about on their baneful errands or not is probably a question of belief for those who study such things; but certainly if they do not the small boys take their place on earth, while the maidens take the places of the fairies and give parties and social gatherings for their friends. The mischievous boys were among the foremost of the merrymakers, but as boys will they generally carried [sic] their amusement so far as to make them objectionable. Bonfires was [six] the general order of the occasion when the city streets were not concreted and when large vacant lots were more numerous than they are now. When their material became exhausted and the fires could no longer be kept up the little demons turned their attention to their favorite pastime of the occasion, which was to annoy their neighbors in various ways, such as to tie the dead bodies of small animals on front doors, or ring doorbells and help persons answering the Bell with cabbages or some other objectionable article. Sometimes live animals were used, when dead ones were scarce, and it was not an unusual happening to be awakened after midnight by the helping dog that the boys had tied to the door bell.


                 In these days the boys consider themselves as boys no longer, and they turned their attention to the social gatherings, while some of the older young men have gone back to some of the pranks that were formerly played by young America. Particularly does this apply to the throwing of flour about the street. During the past few years in the city this form of amusement has them lighted many parties of young men and cause merriment to persons on the street other than those who happen to fall victims [sic].

                 In the first place some preparation is made as a security against the police, and that is often done by turning the coat inside out and wearing a slouch hat turned in the same manner. There are some who do not care to risk this, and they used burnt cork on their faces. When once disguised in this manner each of the party takes a bag of flour and they start out to turn black into white, and before the night is over they generally succeed, even if they also succeed in getting in the lock-up. Colored persons are generally the victims selected, because the flower shows more plainly and with better affect on their faces, while a well-dressed white man would not get slighted should he in his travels meet the crowd that is out for a night's enjoyment.


                 Some of the smaller boys seem to find enjoyment in serenading pedestrians with dead animals or soft vegetable matter, such as decayed apples, tomatoes and potatoes. The changing of signs from one place of business to another was also indulged in to a great extent, and on the morning of All Saints' day many persons, from outward appearances were unable to tell whether they were keeping a drugstore, a barbershop or a liquor saloon.

                 Another, and one of the most annoying, pranks of the boys was to take a shutter from a house and put it against the front door of the same house, or of one of the neighboring dwellings, and then ring the bell, so that the person who opened the door would either get the weight of that section of the house upon them or would be put to the trouble of removing the obstacles in order to close the door.


                 is probably one of the oldest customs in connection with the celebration and it still plays a part in the day festivities attending and All Halloween party. The apples, placed in a time of water, must all have stems, as it is by the stem alone that the apple is permitted to be taken from the water,

                 A trick, amusing to all except one of the party, is played with two plates and the peculiar in doing requires it to be performed in a dark room. A basin of water, a piece of soap and a towel are also required at the ending. Two rooms are also needed. In one there must be no light, while in the other a dim light is all that is required. The fortuneteller takes his or her position in the room where the light is dimmed and the person who is anxious to learn something of their future partner goes into the other room. A plate is on a table in either room, the one in the dark room being black and over a gas jet or smeared with such from the stove pipe. The maneuvering of the fortuneteller has to be followed by the one who is endeavoring to peer into the future. The result is shown by a glance in the looking glass.


                 chestnuts are named and roasted, and the one that "pops" first is the name of the lucky or unlucky one, as the case may be.

                 At such gatherings it is customary for the host to bake a cake and have a gold ring placed in it. When refreshments are served the person doing the honors cup the cake and passes and about the table. The ring has to be in one of the slices, and the one who gets it, tradition has it, be the first in the party to wed.


                 There are many other interesting method of telling Fortune on such occasions and the final scene is done when the male members of the party have gone to their homes and the and the maidens prepare to their rooms. When the light is extinguished they are supposed to fold one of their garments and repeat the following:

"Hallee'n night I go to bed,
I put my petticoat under my head,
To dream of the living and not of the dead,
And dream of the one who I am to wed."

                 Sunday is All Souls' day, which, is a day set aside to commemorate all the faithful departed. It is a holiday that is observed in the Roman Catholic churches in this country, while in some other countries it is observed by other denominations, who remember the dead by strewing flowers on their grades. This service follows All Saints day, when festivities are held in honor of the saints and angels in heaven.[1]


[1] The Evening Star.; Date: 10-31-1890Washington (DC), District of Columbia

Transcribed by John Peter Thompson, October 31, 2014.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"Go ahead — and do not tarry" - Poetry from The Planters' Advocate, Upper Marlboro, Prince George's County Oct 26, 1853

Go ahead — and do not tarry,
Nought [sic] is gained by standing still;
When though you at times miscarry,
Let not fears your bosom fill.
Search the causes of your errors,
Gather wisdom from the past,
To the win give the terrorists,
And you'll get ahead at last.

Go ahead — it useful doings
Let your motto be "I'll try;"
He who ever is despairing,
Bankrupt hearts and hopes are nigh.
What know you and wealth be strangers —
Onward, upward be your aim,
And that those real or fancied dangers,
Soon you'll put to flight or shame.

 Go ahead — the world reforming,
In civil, moral, freedom's name,
All those forts and outposts storming,
Which your enemies they claim.
You know bulwarks, take no quarter,
Compromise no cherished right,
Freedoms treasure never barter,
Stand for them with all your might.

Go ahead, then Go ahead — don't defer it,
Lifes short span soon flips away;
If you to finish aught of merit,
You must supply your task to-day.
Sent the ball in instant motion,
To keep it going, strains each nerve,
Nor doubt that ultimate promotion
Will yield the laurels you deserve.[1]

[1] Planters' Advocate, Upper Marlboro, Maryland, October 26, 1853.
Maryland State Archives. Planters' Advocate Collection. MSA SC 3415.

Transcribed by John Peter Thompson, October 25, 2014.

Elections in Prince George's County Can be Contentious and Deadly in September 1820

Daily National Intelligencer; Date: 09-26-1820

            The Electioneering contest is very warm in some of the counties in the state of Maryland; and the public meetings for discussing the merits of the candidates, and the political questions on which the election hinges, are frequent, and numerous Lee attended. Sometimes, as will happen when people are excited by the occasion, and a little heated by what they have drank [sic], quarrels ensue. One of these took place at a muster of Col. Crauford's regiment in Prince George's county {sic], last Thursday; when a person of the name of Richardson was killed by a kick or a blow from another man.[1]

[1] Colonel David Crauford, III  Kingston in Upper Marlboro, Maryland

Kingston, or Sasscer's House, is a 1 1⁄2-story historic home located in Upper Marlboro, Prince George's County, Marylands. It is believed to be the oldest building remaining in the town of Upper Marlboro and may have been built, at least in part, before 1730. Many alterations and additions made to it in the Victorian era, including "gingerbread" details typical of this era. The Craufurd family cemetery is located in the woods northwest of the house. Kingston was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Article transcribed from: Daily National Intelligencer; Date: 09-26-1820; Volume: 8; Issue: 2404; Page: [3]; Location: Washington (DC), District of Columbia by John Peter Thompson, October 25, 2014

6. GENERAL VIEW PERSPECTIVE, FROM NORTH - Sasscer's House,Old Crain Highway Upper Marlboro, Prince George's County, MD

  • Digital ID: (None) hhh
  • Reproduction Number: HABS MD,17-MARBU,7--6
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Prince George's Philharmonic Interview with soloist Mariam Adam - Concert follows Beyond the Battle Symposium Oct 11 2014

In partnership with the Beyond the Battle Symposium (see more below the interview with the evening's clarinet soloist from the Philharmonic's newsletter) our very own Prince George's Philharmonic will be offering the following program;

 Saturday, October 11, 2014 - 8:00 p.m.

Bowie Center for the Performing Arts, Bowie, MD 

Charles Ellis, conductor - Mariam Adam, clarinet

Rossini                   Overture to Tancredi
Mozart                   Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622
Wagner                  Siegfried’s Rhine Journey from Götterdämmerung
Rodgers                 Victory at Sea: Symphonic Scenario for Orchestra
Beethoven             Wellington’s Victory

A concert commemorating the War of 1812. Sponsored in part by the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area, Inc.

Single Ticket General Admission: $20, Seniors: $18, Age 18 and under free (ticket required). Single Tickets go on sale the night of the concert beginning at 7 pm, cash or check only. Tickets can be purchased in advance

MARIAM ADAM, clarinet

Mariam Adam, a native of Monterey, California is an internationally distinguished soloist and chamber musician. As one of the last students of legendary clarinetist, Rosario Mazzeo, she developed a colorful career on the west coast soloing with the Sacramento Symphony, Monterey County Symphony amongst others while still an undergraduate. Ms. Adam appeared as soloist with the Eastman Music Summer Festival, toured with Monterey Jazz Festival jazz ensembles (sometimes as the drummer) in Japan and North America, and received such awards such as the Hans Wildau Young Musicians Award, Sacramento Concerto Competition Winner, AFS Scholar, and Bank of America Artists Scholar before moving to the east coast for graduate studies at the Manhattan School of Music. She has since performed with Chamber Music Lincoln Center, Prussia Cove Festival in England, 92nd St. Y, Rockport Music Festival, Chenango Music Festival, Carmel Bach Festival, La Jolla Music Festival, Skaneateles Festival, Chamber Music Northwest as well as collaborations with such artists as Paquito D'Rivera and David Shifrin. 
As a founding member of the internationally acclaimed, TransAtlantic Ensemble (Clar, Vn, Pno) she has performed in Europe and the U.S., performing a wide range of music including that of Imani Winds' Jeff Scott and Valerie Coleman. As a soloist she has been invited to give recitals in Spain, Switzerland, and London, and she continues to collaborate with several international pianists celebrating music from different regions of the world. []

Interview from Quarter Notes 

Quarter Notes:  Thanks so much, Ms. Adam, for taking the time to talk to us today.  We can hardly wait to play the wonderful Mozart Clarinet Concerto with you!  Can you start out by telling us a little about your training and your current career?

Mariam Adam:  I grew up in the Monterey area in California, an area very rich in cultural events and potentials.  I did my undergraduate work at University of the Pacific, and then entered the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  I was very fortunate to be one of the last students of Rosario Mazzeo, who was then retired from the Boston Symphony and living in California.  After spending some time at the Aspen Music Festival, I headed for the East Coast and enrolled in the Manhattan School of Music.  That was about the time that Imani Winds was forming and I’ve been part of that quintet ever since.   It was also at that time that I knew that I would make my career as soloist and chamber musician rather than in a full orchestra.

QN:  And how did you make the connection with the Prince George’s Philharmonic?
MA:  The Imani Winds were playing in the Washington area a year or so ago, and Maestro Charles Ellis was in the audience.  I think he liked what he heard, and he contacted me afterwards, and asked me to consider playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with the Prince George’s Philharmonic.  I was delighted to accept the invitation!   I enjoy coming to Washington – we’ve played at the Library of Congress, Wolf Trap, and other places, and we’ll be playing at the Kennedy Center next spring. 

QN: And the Mozart Concerto?
MA: I love this concerto!  I hadn’t played it for a few years, so I was happy to get reacquainted with it.  I think that every true clarinetist has this concerto deep in his/her blood and bones, and it means more and more as one matures on the clarinet.  The first and third movements are like Mozart’s operatic conversations, and the second movement is just too beautiful to be described.

QN: And we can hardly wait to play it with you!  Do you have any other comments that might specially interest our audience and supporters?
MA: Well, I have to admit one rather amusing experience I had with the Mozart concerto.  I played it when I was in high school, and entered a competition, at which I was to play it with piano rather than orchestra.  I was then playing a B-flat clarinet, and had not yet performed on an A-clarinet.  The concerto was written in A, and that was what the pianist was playing.  For a moment before I realized what was happening, I was surprised by the dissonance, and marveled at Mozart’s modernity – but I was happily introduced to the A-clarinet, which I have fallen in love with.  Now I play both the B-flat and the A clarinet.

QN: A wonderful story!  Thank you so much – we very much look forward to playing this marvelous concerto with you on October 11th!

Bladensburg was more than a battlefield in the War of 1812.  What kind of place was Bladensburg during this era?  What was life like for its townspeople?  How did Bladensburg's residents, white and black, native born and foreign, interact in a time of dramatic political, social and economic change?  Find answers to these questions and more at the "Beyond the Battle: Bladensburg’s History in Context” symposium Saturday, October 11, 2014, 8:30am - 4:30pm at R. Lee Hornbake Library, University of Maryland, College Park.  Registration is $15 per person and includes lunch.
Register at
For more information please contact, or
Scholars, community researchers and artists will share their work on Bladensburg in the era of the War of 1812.  Panel topics and speakers include: 
African Americans: Maya Davis, Mark Leone, Dennis Pogue
Archaeology: Richard Ervin, Donald Creveling, Noel Broadbent
Art and Interpretation: Peter Brice, Joanna Blake, Mark Hildebrand
Bladensburg in Detail: John Peter Thompson, Susan Pearl, Doug McElrath
Keynote Speaker: Alan Virta
A reception   will immediately follow the symposium at the new exhibit, Beyond the Batttle: Bladensburg Rediscovered, in the Hornbake Library Gallery.
This event is sponsored by Prince George's Heritage, Inc. with support from the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area.   Please visit our blog at
Prince George's Heritage, Inc. is located at the Magruder House, 4703 Annapolis Road, Bladensburg, Md.  20710
Following the symposium, the Prince George's Philharmonic will perform music of the War of 1812 era on Saturday, October 11, 2014 - 8:00pm at the 
Bowie Center for the Performing Arts, Bowie, MD. at 8pm. Single price tickets are $20.  For more information 

please visit their website at

Monday, October 06, 2014

Planters' Advocate - Upper Marlboro, Maryland October 4, 1854

Selections from 
The Planters' Advocate 
Upper Marlboro, Maryland 
October 4, 1854[1]
The Platform Announced!
            There was a grand No Nothing demonstration in front of the City Hall, in Washington on Wednesday last, whereat, among others, this VESPASIAN ELLIS, Esq., made a speech, defining the doctrines of his party, which of course are authoritative, in view of the position he is shortly to fill.
            "Judge Ellis, as the selected editor of the contemplated 'American Organ,' explained the principles which he intends to advocate, including opposition to the election of any man of foreign birth, or of an American Roman Catholic, to office. He was, he said, in favor of forever excluding men not born in this country from exercising the elective franchise, but, in deference to his friend, he would agree to fix the naturalization probation at 21 years. The meeting heartily endorsed his sentiments."
Tab Mr. Ellis formally represented Accomack County in the Virginia Legislature; subsequently he was appointed Judge of a Circuit Court in that State, and during Pres. Tyler's administration was sent aS cHARGE [SIC] to Nicaragua. He has always been considered a Democrat.
Shooting Case Near Bladensburg. —
            We are informed that on Saturday morning last two German from Washington, Christian and Henry Gantz, went on a gunning excursion near Bladensburg, where they trespassed upon the land of EDWARD W. DUVALL, Esq., by whom they were politely requested to leave; that they refused to do so, when he said something to the effect "that he would see if they could not be made to go," and turning towards his house, was deliberately shot in the left side by one of the intruders. They then marched off to Washington, where, in the afternoon, they were tracked to a larger[sic]-beer shop and arrested by officer GEO. W. NEWMAN, a blatant morgue, an officer TIMS, of the city. The wound was considered exceedingly dangerous, and Mr. Duvall was considered hopeless. He was still alive on Monday. Washington rowdies are beginning to be great test to the contiguous portions of this and other counties.          
$300 Reward
            RANAWAY from the subscriber, living near Upper Marlboro', Prince George's County, Maryland, on Monday, 28 August, 1854, Negro boy Alan who calls himself
he is about 19 or 20 years of age; a bright mulatto: freckled face; straight hair; as a large scar on one of his wrists, caused by a cut; about 5 feet five or 6 inches in heighth.
            He has relations living in the Washington City. He has also a brother belonging to Richard B. B. Chew, Esq., a sister belonging to Thomas Talbertt, Esq., and his father belongs to Col. William D. Bowie, and stays at his "Bellfield Farm." I have reason to believe he is endeavoring to pass himself off as a white boy.
I will give the above reward for his apprehension, if taken out of Prince George's County —   or 180 Dollars, if taken in the said County — in either case he must be brought home, secured in jail, so that I get possession of him again.
                                                            CHARLES CLAGETT.
September 13, 1854 - tf 
"Gen. Cass Overheard."
            It is said that GEN. CASS[2], and a late gathering in Michigan, made a speech, wherein he affirmed his delight at his residence was in a free state, and "he did not, and never had, like consisting of Southern slavery," and made other declarations indicating sympathy with ultra northern in them and not much in keeping with his former profession. This has given rise to much comment, and the Richmond Enquirer, the leading Democratic Journal of Virginia, and thus lets into the veteran general:
            GEN. CASS might have moderated his language to suit the temper of his constituents, but it was scarcely allowable in him to sacrifice his principles even to the necessities of his position. At any rate he cannot expect the South to recollect only the brave words which he uttered in Washington, and to take for not the treacherous we can Tatian at Detroit. If his language be correctly given in the report of his speech, he has severed the last chord that bound him to the democracy of the South. Henceforth he must rank with Benton and Van Buren; as one who has insulted our feelings and betrayed our confidence. The weak attempt to serve two masters, to reconcile devotion to the Constitution with submission to abolitionism — an attempt to which he has persuaded by the suggestion of an undying ambition — has placed in with these illustrious apostates, in the limbo of lost and dishonored politicians.  
            Duration of the War. — A letter in the National Intelligencer speaking of the European War says, that "the policy of the Emperor Nicholas will be to protract this war; for the expense of carrying it on by the Allies is enormous. The English journals say that the British Government have already paid £4,000,000,($20,000,000) for transportation alone, and everything for both armies has to be sent to them. One item that they are shipping from France, is ten thousand head of cattle. If the czar will only draw himself within his shell like a terrapin, and let them bang their bootless blows upon him, they will soon get tired of the unprofitable and inglorious contest."[3]

[1] Maryland State Archives. Planter's Advocate Collection. MSA SC 3415. msa_sc3415_scm3597-0170

Transcribed by John Peter Thompson. [October 6, 2014].
[2] General, Governor, Senator, Secretary of State: 
[3] The Crimean War (October 1853–February 1856

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bladensburg History Symposium, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Bladensburg History Symposium, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, October 11, 2014, to be held at the Hornbake Library, University of Maryland, College Park. The Symposium, highlighting Bladensburg in the period of the War of 1812, will feature panels on African Americans, Archaeology, and Art and Interpretation, as well as three presentations on historic Bladensburg in detail, and a keynote address on the Great Road to Bladensburg. (I am attaching to this e-mail a copy of the Symposium program.) The $15 registration fee will cover all sessions, coffee-break refreshments, lunch, and a reception and exhibit on "Bladensburg Rediscovered," also at the Hornbake Library. Free parking will be available in the Regents Drive Parking Structure next to Hornbake.

Registration must be received by Friday, October 3. You may register for the Symposium on-line, by going to the website :

You may register by U.S. mail by sending your information plus a check for $15 (made out to Prince George's Heritage, Inc.) to Prince George's Heritage, 4703 Annapolis Road, Bladensburg, MD 20710. Registration fees will be accepted at the door, but only if you have already pre-registered by phone before October 3, by calling Mike Arnold at 301-908-5206.

This Symposium is sponsored by Maryland Milestones/StarSpangled 200. On the same evening, and also sponsored in part by Maryland Milestones/StarSpangled 200, a concert with special effects, and commemorating the War of 1812, will be presented by the Prince George's Philharmonic. The concert will be held at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts, 15200 Annapolis Road, Bowie, at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, October 11, and will include music from the period of the War of 1812, as well as several selections illustrating the development of western music since that time. Symposium registrants may purchase half-price concert tickets at the Symposium.

We hope that you will circulate this information to members of your organization. If you have any further questions, please feel free send me an email at ipetrus1 "at" We hope to see you on October 11, both at the Symposium and at the concert that evening!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Benjamin Banneker, the Black Astronomer - The Planters' Advocate, Upper Marlborough 1856

Planters Advocate July 23, 1856
Banneker - Md State Archives

Selected Miscellany
From the Southern Literary Messenger.
Bannaker [sic], the Black Astronomer.[1]
            The casual mention of this remarkable man—, in the volume entitled "Richmond in By–Gone Days," induced a literary friend to furnish the materials for an authentic notice of him.
            Like all conspicuous men of humble origin, ancestry differs in different biographies. Two memorirs [sic] of him have been read before the Maryland Historical Society: one by Mr. Latrobe in 1845, the other by Mr. Norris in 1854. The former says, his father was a native African, and his mother a child of a native of Africa. But Mr. Norris, who derives his authority from a lady among whose ancestry Banneker and his progenitors lived, and who had possession of his manuscripts, states that his maternal grandmother Molly Welsh, a native of England, came to Maryland with a ship load of emigrants, then called redemptioners, and was sold to service for seven years, to pay the expenses of her emigration.— After her term of service expired, she bought a small farm, near the present site of Baltimore, for a mayor nominal price, and subsequently purchased from a slave ship, in Chesapeake Bay, to negro men. They both prove to be valuable servants. One of them, said to have been the son of an African King, a man of industry, integrity, find disposition and dignified manners, she liberated from slavery and afterwards married. His name was Bannaker, which she assumed.— They had four children. Mary, the oldest, married a native of Africa, who was baptized by the name of Robert Banneker. Their only son, Benjamin, the subject of this memoir, was born November 9th, 1731.[2] His father, (according to Mr. Latrobe and to the record,) purchased from Robert Gist, on 10th March, 1737, for the consideration of 7000 lbs of Tobacco, a tract of 100 acres of land, called Stout, then almost in a wilderness, although within 10 miles of Baltimore, but 10 years previously Baltimore was the farm of John Hamming, and in 1740, the town was surrounded by a board fence as a protection against the Indians.

            Benjamin's grandmother taught him to read and sent him to a small school near her residence. He was very studious and devoted his play–time to reading. After his minority, he continued to reside with his mother and occupied the same farm all his life, cultivating it industriously and living comfortably. The winter months, and all other time not occupied in farming, he devoted to study, and besides books of scientific character, he read such on general literature as he could borrow, and he occasionally directed his mind with mechanical projects. In this department is wooden clock— his only time-piece when completed— was his greatest achievement, and was made long before 1772. It was a correct time–keeper and justly considered a great curiosity, as the work of an untaught black man, who had, it was said, never seen o'clock and worked out his and pension from investigating the works of a watch.

            In 1787, Mr. G. Ellicott lent him Mayer's Tables, Ferguson Astronomy and Leadbetter's Lunar Tables and some astronomical instruments, but was prevented at the time from giving him any instruction as to the use of them. Before they met, and the interval was brief, Banneker had instructed himself, and from this time the study of astronomy became the great and absorbing object of his life. He was unmarried, and the sole occupant of the log cabin on his farm. — By contracting his wants, he reduced his hours of labor, on which he depended for support, and increased his hours of study. "Is favorite time for study was night, when he could look out on the planets, the story he was reading, and whose laws he was gradually but surely watching." When not obliged to toil on his farm, he slept during the day and thus in the estimation of those who knew nothing of his celestial occupation, he lost his reputation for industry acquired in early life.

            "Soon after he had obtained the astronomical books and instruments, and had turned his attention to the science they taught, he determined to compile and Almanac. Of the labor of the work few of those can form an idea who would at this day commence such a task, with all the assistance afforded by accurate tables and well digested rules." Banneker had no such aid and it is narrated as a well-known fact that he had commenced an advanced far in the preparation of logarithms necessary for his purpose, when he was furnished with a set of tables by Mr. G. Ellicott. About this time, he commenced the record of his calculations, which is still extant, and is deposited with the Historical Society for examination." He noticed some errors in Ferguson and in Leadbetter, "who would probably have looked incredulous if told that their works had been reviewed by an uneducated Negro in the then almost unknown valley of the Patapsco."

            The first Almanac which Banneker prepared for publication, was for the year 1792. By this time his acquirements had become known, and among those who took an interest in him was James McHenry, Esq.[3]  He wrote a letter to Goddard and and Angell, publishers of Almanacs in Baltimore, and it was probably the means of procuring the publication of Bannaker's first Almanacs. It contains a short account of the author, as the most appropriate preface that could be furnished to his work, and states that it had met the approbation of the most distinguished astronomers in America, particularly the celebrated Mr. Rittenhouse.[4]

            Publishers asked the patronage and support of the public for the work, "not only for its intrinsic merits, but to draw modest merit from obscurity and controvert illiberal prejudice against the race." This almost solitary exception rather proves the rule.

            Bannaker was fifty-nine years old when he published his first Almanac, and had high respect shown to him by scientific men, as one whose colour did not exclude him from their class. In 1789, the commissions appointed to run the lines of the District of Columbia, then called the Federal territory, invited Banneker to accompany them, and they retained him till the service was performed. He used to say of them they were very civil gentlemen, who overlooked his complexion on account of his attainments, and invited him to be seated at their table; and honor which he thought fit to decline, and requested that a side-table might be provided for him. "He continued to calculate and publishes Almanacs until 1802, and the folio laid before the society, containing the calculations already copied, and the figures used by him in his work. The handwriting is very good and remarkably distinct having a practice look, although evidently that of an old man." [*This note appears in his MS. foloi. —"2nd April, 1795, sold to Butler, Edwards & Kiddy, the right of one Almanac   for 1786, for the sum of 80 dollars."]

            "Bannaker was an acute observer; many, instances of this are to be seen in the record of his calculations, which he used occasionally as a common-place book. For example,' December 23, 1790, about 3 o'clock, A. M., I heard the sound and felt the shock like heavy thunder, but could not observe any cloud above the horizon. I therefore conclude it must be a great earthquake in some part of the globe. A similar conclusion was drawn by Pliny 1800, years before!' In April 1800, he writes, "the first great locus year that I can remember, — I was then about 17 years of age, when thousands of them came and were creeping up the trees and bushes. I then imagine they came to eat and destroy the fruit of the earth, and would occasion a famine in the land; I therefore began to kill and destroy them, but soon saw that my labor was vain. Again, in 1766, which is 17 years from their first appearance, they made a second and full as numerous; I then had more sense than to destroy them, knowing they were not so pernicious. Again, in the year 1783, which was 17 years from their second appearance to me, they made their third, and they may be 1800. So that, if I may venture to express it, their periodical return is 17 years; but they, like the comments, make but a short stay with us. The female has a sting in her tail as hard and as sharp as a thorn, with which she perforate the branches of trees and in the holes lay eggs. The branch soon dies and folds. Then the egg, by some occult cause, emerges a great depth into the earth and there continues for the space of 17 years. I like to forgot to inform, that if their lives are short, they are merry. — They begin to sing or make a noise from first they come out of the earth, till they die. The hinder most part rock off and it does not appear to be any pain to them, for they still continue on singing till they die." Our philosopher seems to have overlooked their change of coats soon after exhumation.

            When he had become engrossed in his studies, he endeavored to relieve himself from the cares of his farm and have more time for the former, by renting out the land, divided into small tenements. His tenants were not punctual, if he was urgent they grew insolent, until it last, saying that "it was better to die of hunger than of anger." He determined to sell his farm for an annuity. He made a calculation of the chances of his life, upon such data as he could obtain, and the Ellicott family bought the land on the terms he proposed. An annuity of £12, Maryland currency, or $331/4, with the privileges of residing on it during his life, which was of eight years longer duration than his estimate. He died in 1804, aged 71.
             On a very bright day, then he walked out to enjoy the air. He met an acquaintance to whom he complained of feeling unwell. They returned together to his cottage, where online down, he immediately became speechless and died soon afterwards.

            He is described as kind, generous, hospitable, humane, dignified and pleasing; abounding in information on the subjects of the day, the lighting in the society of visitors at his own house. — His dress was uniformly drab broadcloth, with broad brimmed hat. His complexion was not jet black but decidedly negro.

            He was constantly in correspondence with other mathematicians in this country, with whom there was an interchange of questions of difficult solution.

            Bannaker sent a copy of his first Almanac in MS. to Mr. Jefferson, then Sec. of State, with a letter in which he feelingly alludes to the degradation of his own people. In his reply, Mr. Jefferson says, "I have taken the liberty of sending your Almanacs to M. de Condorcet,[5] Secretary of the Academy of Sciences at Paris, and member of the Philanthropic Society, because I consider it a document to which your whole color has a right for their justification against the doubts that have been entertained of them."  

[1] Planters' Advocate. July 23, 1856. Ed. Thomas J. Turner.  Upper Marlborough, Maryland. Maryland State Archives. Planter's Advocate Collection. MSA SC 3415.msa_sc3415_scm3599-0126

Transcribed by John Peter Thompson July 27th, 2014. 

The 1856 Planters' Advocate spells the name Bannaker; tpday's spelling is Banneker.

[2] Benjamin Banneker was a self-taught (1), free African-American tobacco farmer, whose brilliance in astronomy and mathematics garnered the attention of the most powerful white men in the new nation. With the approval of Thomas Jefferson,  Andrew Ellicott  enlisted Banneker to assist in surveying the territory which was to become the District of Columbia. After the survey’s completion Banneker would go on to engage in a correspondence with Jefferson about the equal abilities of men of African descent.
[3] James McHenry was born at Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland, in 1753.
During the War for Independence, McHenry served as a military surgeon. Late in 1776, while he was on the staff of the 5th Pennsylvania Battalion, the British captured him at Fort Washington, NY. He was paroled early the next year and exchanged in March 1778. Returning immediately to duty, he was assigned to Valley Forge, PA, and in May became secretary to George Washington. About this time, McHenry apparently quit the practice of medicine to devote himself to politics and administration; he apparently never needed to return to it after the war because of his excellent financial circumstances. McHenry stayed on Washington's staff until 1780, when he joined that of the Marquis de Lafayette, and he remained in that assignment until he entered the Maryland Senate (1781-86). During part of this period, he served concurrently in the Continental Congress (1783-86). In 1784 he married Margaret Allison Caldwell. McHenry missed many of the proceedings at the Philadelphia convention, in part because of the illness of his brother, and played an insubstantial part in the debates when he was present. He did, however, maintain a private journal that has been useful to posterity. He campaigned strenuously for the Constitution in Maryland and attended the state ratifying convention.

From 1789 to 1791, McHenry sat in the state assembly and in the years 1791-96 again in the senate. A staunch Federalist, he then accepted Washington's offer of the post of Secretary of War and held it into the administration of John Adams. McHenry looked to Hamilton rather than to Adams for leadership. As time passed, the latter became increasingly dissatisfied with McHenry's performance and distrustful of his political motives and in 1800 forced him to resign. Subsequently, the Democratic-Republicans accused him of maladministration, but a congressional committee vindicated him. McHenry returned to his estate near Baltimore and to semiretirement. He remained a loyal Federalist and opposed the War of 1812. He also held the office of president of a Bible society. He died in 1816 at the age of 62, survived by two of his three children. His grave is in Baltimore's Westminster Presbyterian Cemetery.

[4] David Rittenhouse was born the son of farmer Matthias Rittenhouse in Germantown, Pennsylvania. He married Eleanor Coulston, and then after her death, Hannah Jacobs. He became an astronomer, mathematician, instrument maker and one of the leading American scientists of the eighteenth century, second only to Benjamin Franklin.
Self-taught, he early showed mathematical and mechanical ability, and mastered Newton's Principia in an English translation. As a young boy Rittenhouse constructed a model of a watermill, and by the age of seventeen he had built a wooden clock, but having little opportunity to attend school, he largely educated himself from books and a box of tools inherited from his uncle David Williams, a furniture maker. At the age of nineteen he began making clocks and other mechanical and scientific devices.
Over the next thirty or forty years he made many highly-prized and innovative mathematical and astronomical instruments, most famous of which were two orreries he constructed for the Colleges of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania). These orreries show the solar and lunar eclipses and other phenomena for a period of 5,000 years either forward or backward. After moving to Philadelphia in 1770, Rittenhouse used both astronomical and terrestrial observations to survey canals and rivers and to establish the boundaries between many of the Mid-Atlantic States. He held the post of city surveyor of Philadelphia in 1774.
His scientific thinking and experimentation earned Rittenhouse considerable intellectual prestige in America and in Europe. He built his own observatory at his father's farm in Norriton, outside of Philadelphia. Rittenhouse maintained detailed records of his observations and published a number of important works on astronomy, including a paper putting forth his solution for locating the place of a planet in its orbit. He was a leader in the scientific comunity's observance of the transit of Venus in 1769, which won him broad acclaim. He also sought to solve mathematical problems, publishing his first mathematical paper in 1792, an effort to determine the period of a pendulum. He also experimented with magnetism and electricity.
Rittenhouse was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1768, serving over the years as curator, librarian, secretary, vice president and, from 1791 to 1796, its president. He was elected to its committee to observe the transits of Venus and Mercury in 1769 based on plans he had made. Over the years he received a number of honorary degrees including those from the Colleges of New Jersey and Philadelphia. In addition he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the Royal Society of London.
Rittenhouse used his scientific skills for practical purposes during the American Revolution. In 1775 he began his service on the Committee of Safety as an engineer supervising local casting of cannon, improvement of rifles, supply of ammunition and selection of sites for gunpowder mills and magazine stores. In the late 1770s Rittenhouse was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly, the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1776, and the Board of War. From 1779 to 1787 Rittenhouse was Treasurer of Pennsylvania, and from 1792 -1795 he served as Director of the United States Mint.
Rittenhouse was Penn's Professor of Astronomy at Philadelphia from 1779 to 1782 and Vice-Provost in 1780 and 1782. He also served Penn as a trustee of the University of the State of Pennsylvania (1779-1780 and 1782-1791) and then, after its 1791 union with the College of Philadelphia, as a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania (1791-1796).

[5] Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet  17 September 1743 – 28 March 1794), known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist whose Condorcet method in voting tally selects the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he advocated a liberal economy, free and equal public education, constitutionalism, and equal rights for women and people of all races. His ideas and writings were said to embody the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment and rationalism, and remain influential to this day. He died a mysterious death in prison after a period of flight from French Revolutionary authorities. from Wikipedia 2014.