Welcome (Céad Míle Fáilte!) to Small-leaved Shamrock

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My take on the madness: The banning of vintage children's books

As a children's book lover myself and a mother of children who love to read, I am appalled by the recent events occurring in response to a ridiculous portion of a recent law: the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) and its ban on children's books printed before 1985. Supposedly a health concern to children because of the lead content in their ink, these books are being taken out of circulation (by libraries, used book sellers, etc.) in response to CPSIA. (The law took effect on February 10, 2009.)

Personally, my library is filled with these very items and I have often been on the lookout for more treasures like them. I am a junkie for used book sales at local libraries. My shelves are pretty much filled at this time, but I was making plans to soon part with some of my old treasures and purchase new ones. Now it looks like there will be no market for these books, and I will be hard-pressed to find "new" used ones to purchase, with the exception of those that now command a higher price and are marketed as "adult collectibles".

I was saddened this week when I visited my local library's book sale room to browse the children's used book section only to read the following sign: "We will no longer accept children's books." Sure enough, the former children's shelves (which my children had often enjoyed browsing) were now occupied with popular fiction. Sadly, the library's booksellers decided that it would be too difficult to separate the pre-1985 and post-1985 children's books, and therefore decided to avoid selling any books for children.

As a personal response to these new developments (which appear to be happening nationwide), I've chosen to participate in an "illegal book meme" and am posting the list below: a handful of the many books I own that have suddenly become contraband. (I'll add photos when I have the chance to photograph the covers.) My collection of pre-1985 children's books includes many covering various topics: fiction and nonfiction, picture books and novels, classics and just plain fun reading.

I've chosen here to include a few books that are actually personal family heirlooms. Yes, they could certainly fall under the "adult collectible" category, but one of the joys of owning them is to see my children turning the pages of these books just as one of their ancestors did when she was a girl.

Lead content, bahhh!

What are the proponents of this law worried about? Brain damage?

I personally have never been injured by the reading of a good book - certainly not because of the ink in which it is was printed. In fact, more damage can be done to children's brains by taking these literary treasures out of their reach.

Here is a tiny sampling of my suddenly "illegal" book collection, all owned at one time by Anna Cowhey:

The Bobbsey Twins in the Country
by Laura Lee Hope

published 1907 by Chatterton-Peck Company

The Bobbsey Twins on Blueberry Island
by Laura Lee Hope

published 1917 by Grosset & Dunlap

The Blythe Girls Three on a Vacation (or) The Mystery at Peach Farm
by Laura Lee Hope

published 1925 by Grosset & Dunlap

The Little Maid of Naragansett Bay
by Alice Turner Curtis

(title page missing)

by Johanna Spyri

published by Saalfield Publishing Company
(title page missing)

As Walter Olson of Overlawyered wrote so eloquently in his article for City Journal:
"...ours will be a poorer world if we begin to lose (or 'sequester' from children) the millions of books published before our own era. They serve as a path into history, literature, and imagination for kids everywhere. They link the generations by enabling parents to pass on the stories and discoveries in which they delighted as children. Their illustrations open up worlds far removed from what kids are likely to see on the video or TV screen. Could we really be on the verge of losing all of this? And if this is what government protection of our kids means, shouldn’t we be thinking instead about protecting our kids from the government?"

For an brief overview of CPSIA visit The New Book Banning: Children's books burn, courtesy of the federal government or Warning! Eating books could seriously damage your health. For more current news related to CPSIA visit the American Library Association website or Overlawyered. (By the way, don't trust Snopes for details on this issue.)

To view the "illegal" children's books in others' collections, visit this Flickr group.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The best of 2008: Small-leaved Shamrock iGene Awards

It's that time of year again...time for the second annual Academy of Genealogy and Family History iGene Awards at the Carnival of Genealogy! Chosen by the author from the blog articles published over the past year, I have awarded "prizes" for the following categories:

Best Picture
- Best old family photo that appeared on this blog

Best Screen Play
- The family story that would make the best movie

Best Documentary
- The best informational article about a place, thing, or event involving my family's history

Best Biography
- The best biographical article

Best Comedy
- The best funny story, poem, joke, photo, or video

Special Mention - Other articles of note

"What a beautiful proverb and a beautiful picture of your ancestor! Thanks for sharing." ~ Taylortales-Genealogy

This little babe has a very special place in my heart and I'm so thankful to have a copy of this portrait of her as an infant. Little Anne Cowhey must have been a true joy to her parents.

Best Picture Runner-up

Crossing the Potomac with William: a soldier’s story

Not a photograph, but an image of the actual handwritten account that my great-great-grandfather's brother wrote about an experience during their time as Union soldiers in the Civil War, this is a true treasure. I was so happy to discover this document amidst the pension file for William Cowhey. His brother Thomas tells in his own words and his own handwriting (with lots of creative spelling) about their suffering as they crossed the Potomac River, crossed back over again, and spent a miserable night in wet clothing.

"Not only is the story of Lisa’s 2nd great-grandfather’s untimely death interesting, but her post reminds us of alternate sources of information we can use to learn more about the lives (and deaths) of our ancestors." ~ Donna Pointkouski, What's Past is Prologue, Donna's Picks Week of February 24, 2008

The story of the life and death of my great-great-grandfather William Cowhey is made for the movies. A man shaped by his times, he was a Union Civil War veteran who had worked his way up to Engineer for the Reading Railroad. Riding another engineer's train home from his shift one night, he died because of a violent engine explosion, leaving his wife and twelve children behind. These articles tell the story of the accident that took his life in 1892, which sadly, occured only a few years before major changes were made in railroad safety.

Best Screen Play Runner-up

"Great post... I guess we all may find a black sheep in our lines." ~ Colleen McHugh, Orations of OMcHodoy

Many questions remain regarding the life of my great-great-grandfather John Donnelly. Was he truly the John who died in this horrible boiler explosion at the Bear Ridge Colliery mine in 1893? Is he linked with the infamous Mollie Maguires of Schuylkill County? More research remains to be done, but the story as I've unearthed it so far has the potential to make quite an exciting movie - a tragedy that speaks of the sufferings and risks that late 19th-century miners and their families faced every day.

Best Documentary Award

Black cats, lucky pennies and troublesome fairy folk

"As always, fascinating post and great links to read. Thanks. I recently freaked when my youngest tried to open an umbrella inside. LOL" ~ Colleen Johnson, CMJ Office Blog

In this article, I've introduced to you the complicated system of superstitious beliefs long held by the Irish people. "Earning a daily wage and putting bread on the table were hard for the Irish people for centuries. Added to that was the difficulty of having to avoid actions, places and dates that held superstitious warning. Don't forget the work of the fairy folk. They seemed to always be causing trouble." Want to introduce yourself to the lot of superstitions - both warnings and good luck charms - that originated in Irish tradition? This is a good place to start.

Best Documentary Special Mentions

The Celtic blessing: Food for the soul

"I am quite overwhelmed by John O'Donohue's wisdom. Yes, take some time to slow down and enjoy the beauty of life." ~ Barbara, Our Carroll Family Genealogy

The real Annie Moore remembered at last

"What an achingly beautiful tribute. It is so moving - thank you for sharing this story. This is one of the reasons why I love your blog. It is visually inviting and full of information everything Irish." ~ Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski, In My Life

"Thank you for dedicating this post to the women of Erin." ~ Barbara, Our Carroll Family Genealogy

"I am one of those who has not yet pinpointed where and when my ancestor left Eire. But, this center is symbolic for all of us. A must for my eventual first trip over to Ireland." ~ Barbara, Our Carroll Family Genealogy

"Great post, Lisa. Both sets of my ancestral grandparents were born in...the anthracite coal region." ~ Colleen McHugh, Orations of OMcHodoy

Not so much a personal biography as it is a biography of a place and a family, this article is a reminiscense of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania one hundred years ago and the many descendants of William Cowhey who lived their lives there.

Best Comedy Award: Story

"I died laughing. So funny!" ~ footnoteMaven, Shades of the Departed

"I love it. I can see a whole new book: 'Evidence Explained for the Rest of Us'.... 'Story obtained by Aunt Mary, who told it under the condition that Uncle Joe never find out the true circumstances surrounding Grandpop's death.' LOL" ~ Donna Pointkouski, What's Past is Prologue

We all have our collection of family treasures. This article tells the story of how I acquired a beautiful set that once belonged to my great-grandmother - and the struggles I faced trying to write a source citation for the items because of the way in which I had "proactively inherited" them from my mother's bathroom. This is a must-read for every treasure-seeking family history collector like myself.

Best Comedy Award: Poetry

A limerick for the love of Ireland and
A poem for Patrick

"Lisa, you do Pat Cowhey a great service with your lovely poem." ~ Janice Brown, Cow Hampshire

What would the Small-leaved Shamrock iGene Awards be without a little bit of poetry? Just for fun I responded to Terry Thornton's limerick challenge last year and wrote a few of my own: one to represent myself as the author of Small-leaved Shamrock and one to honor Patrick Cowhey, the patriarch of the Cowhey family.

Special Mentions

To be born Irish

"Very lovely Lisa. Being Irish is also something that I could not relate to 100%. With my family also, we were proud, but no one seemed to want to pass anything down to us. That makes that down the line, a part of me wants to return and discover something of my family in Ireland one day. To bridge a liitle bit this gap." ~ Barbara, Our Carroll Family Genealogy

A personal essay on my feelings about learning of my Irish heritage, this article looks at the perspective that various generations in my family may have had regarding their "Irishness". My concluding thought: "My hope is that I have inherited at least a small portion of [my ancestors'] stubborn tenacity, their undaunting hope and the joy in the very simple things in life that got them through the obstacles that they faced because God had ordained that they were to be born Irish."

Signed "Your Cousin"

"That is beautiful. I know the feeling, having found a branch last year. It is one of the rewards for a genealogist." ~ Barbara, Our Carroll Family Genealogy

A look at the joy of finding a new cousin in the family tree - particularly one who shares the joy of the genealogical search! Part "thank you", part pondering the discoveries of genealogy, this article is something that many family historians can relate to, or wish they could.

Special thanks to Jasia of Creative Gene for hosting the iGene Awards at the Carnival of Genealogy. Also, thank you to footnoteMaven for a the awards poster and a little inspiration in my presentation. See you at next year's event!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Monday, February 9, 2009

Six little girls on a summer day, 1922

In the midst of summer, June 18, 1922, six little girls posed for a photograph in Mount Carbon, Pennsylvania. All dressed in their finery for their big day, they were the first class of First Communicants in their new parish of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church.

St. Francis de Sales First Communion girls photograph,
ca. 1922; privately held by Lisa, [address for private use], 2009.

Included in this photograph are two children of John Joseph and Frances (Owens) Cowhey: eight-year-old Ann Cowhey, top left, and her sister seven-year-old Frances Cowhey, bottom middle. The girls' seven-year-old cousin Anne Cowhey (daughter of Charles & Agnes Cowhey) is also pictured at the top right. I have yet to confirm the identities of the other three girls, but I have some guesses. If you can identify them, please contact me.

I'm pretty sure that most, if not all, of the little girls in the photograph have since passed away.

St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church
49 Main Street, Mount Carbon, Pennsylvania

This past year St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church experienced its own passing, so to speak. One of thirty-two churches of the Diocese of Allentown in Schuylkill County to be closed because of a local shortage of priests, St. Francis de Sales was consolidated into St. Patrick's Church in Pottsville on July 15, 2008.

In a way it had come full circle: Mount Carbon's Catholic residents originally attended St. Patrick's before St. Francis de Sales was founded in 1921.

A small parish at its closing with two-hundred seats and seventy-five members, St. Francis de Sales had been presided over for the past nineteen years by Fr. Edward Connolly who is also pastor of St. Patrick's in Pottsville.

This little Catholic church of Mount Carbon has a very special place in my heart. It was the focal point for many a sacramental moment for my family members throughout its eighty-six year lifespan.

I can't help but wonder if the church sometimes longs for the days it once knew: when little girls in white dresses graced its steps on their First Communion day.

For more information on church closings in the Diocese of Allentown see the diocese website's announcement of June 1, 2008 entitled Initial Parish Restructuring Plans Announced or read the Republican Herald's articles: Catholics Mourn loss of 32 churches in Schuylkill County and St. Francis de Sales, Mount Carbon.

This article has been submitted to the 10th edition of the I Smile for the Camera Carnival whose theme is "Costume". For more portraits of those dressed up for all sorts of occasions, visit footnoteMaven's Shades of the Departed.


"Catholics mourn loss of 32 churches in Schuylkill County." Republican Herald 01 Jun 2008 http://www.republicanherald.com/articles/2008/06/01/news/local_news/pr_republican.20080601.a.pg1.pr01churches_s1.1717568_top2.txt : accessed 10 Feb 2009.

Kerr, Matt. "Initial Parish Restructuring Plans Announced." Diocese of Allentown 01 Jun 2008 http://www.allentowndiocese.org/news/nr060108a.html : accessed 10 Feb 2009.

"St. Francis De Sales, Mount Carbon." Republican Herald 16 Jun 2008 http://www.republicanherald.com/articles/2009/02/10/church_closings/south_schuylkill/region_1/pr_republican.20080615.a.pg3.pr15stfrancisdesales_s1.1747174_loc.txt : accessed 10 Feb 2009.

Zerbey, J.H., newspapers, Inc, and Joseph Henry Zerbey. Joseph Henry Zerbey History of Pottsville and Schuylkill County. Pennsylvania. [Pottsville]: "Republican"-"Morning paper" print, 1934.


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