Today's History Highlights Archive

Strange Brew and the Last Lincoln Link in Today’s HIstory Highlights – 9.12.2013

Robert Todd Lincoln’s home in Manchester, Vermont, has made it onto the Vermont African American Heritage Trail, the 10-stop tour around the state of sites significant in African American history. It is noteworthy not just for its ties to the great emancipator, but also because Robert Lincoln was president and chairman of the Pullman Palace Car Company, a sizable and significant employer of African Americans. Lincoln, who was the president’s only child to survive beyond age 18, built the home, Hildene, in 1905, long after he emancipated his mother’s sizable fortune from her control. The house is now a museum. The last two Lincoln descendants died in 1978 and 1985. The last Lincoln to live at the house was Mary Lincoln Beckwith, apparently a lesbian who lived a somewhat reclusive lifestyle. She passed away in 1975. Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, her brother, died in 1985. Though Beckwith was sterile, one of his wives startled the world with the miraculous news that he had fathered a child and the Lincoln genes would live on. After some money was spread around, it was generally acknowledged the president’s gene pool officially snuffed out in Vermont.

Meanwhile, on the New England Drunkard’s Trail (a much longer tour), we encounter Whistle Belly Vengeance. What? Apparently, funny cocktail names like “Sex on the Beach” or “Smurf Fart” aren’t anything new. “Stewed Quaker” and “Whistle Belly Vengeance” were two early American adult beverages. The recipe for “Whistle Belly Vengeance” reflects two of our favorite Yankee traits, humor and thrift. It was invented to make use of sour beer that had gone bad. (Not that we’ve actually seen it, we hear that if beer is allowed to sit around without being consumed, it can go sour.) The streetsofsalem blog consulted the 1893 volume, Customs and Fashions of Old New England by Alice Morse Earle, for details. She wrote, “A terrible drink is said to have been made popular in Salem – a drink with a terrible name – whistle-belly-vengeance. It consisted of sour household beer simmered in a kettle, sweetened with molasses, filled with brown-bread crumbs and drunk piping hot.” (Popular? We’ll take her word for it.)

Finally, though not relevant to African American history nor drunkenness, for our Flashback Photo of the day we have a picture of a Boston police officer riding hell for leather down Tremont Street in Boston around 1920. It comes from the Boston Public Library’s Leslie Jones collection. In the background, we note, is the Zinn the Florist shop. Zinn was a brilliant and acclaimed florist. But which Zinn is this? In 1913, the husband and wife team of florists were at loggerheads over the use of the Zinn name in promoting their competing florist shops. The records reflect the disagreement was settled. We can only assume the losing partner was instructed to repent and Zinn no more.

Boston Police

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