Ellis Island, in New York harbor, once bore the name of Gibbet Island, because pirates and mutineers were hanged there in chains. During the times when it was devoted to this fell purpose there stood in Communipaw the Wild Goose tavern, where Dutch burghers resorted, to smoke, drink Hollands, and grow fat, wise, and sleepy in each others’ company. The plague of this inn was Yan Yost Vanderscamp, a nephew of the landlord, who frequently alarmed the patrons of the house by putting powder into their pipes and attaching briers beneath their horses’ tails, and who naturally turned pirate when he became older, taking with him to sea his boon companion, an ill-disposed, ill-favored blackamoor named Pluto, who had been employed about the tavern. When the landlord died, Vanderscamp possessed himself of this property, fitted it up with plunder, and at intervals he had his gang ashore,—such a crew of singing, swearing, drinking, gaming devils as Communipaw had never seen the like of; yet the residents could not summon activity enough to stop the goings-on that made the Wild Goose a disgrace to their village. The British authorities, however, caught three of the swashbucklers and strung them up on Gibbet Island, and things that went on badly in Communipaw after that went on with quiet and secrecy.
The pirate and his henchmen were returning to the tavern one night, after a visit to a rakish-looking vessel in the offing, when a squall broke in such force as to give their skiff a leeway to the place of executions. As they rounded that lonely reef a creaking noise overhead caused Vanderscamp to look up, and he could not repress a shudder as he saw the bodies of his three messmates, their rags fluttering and their chains grinding in the wind.Read More »The Party From Gibbet Island
From the dried sinews stretched across the shell of a dead tortoise to the concert-grand piano of the present day is a far flight. Yet to this primitive source, it is said, may be traced the evolution of the stringed instrument which reached its culmination in the piano. The latter has been aptly called “the household orchestra,” and in tracing its origin one must go far back into the annals of the past. If we accept the Bible as history, and it is the greatest of all histories, the stringed instrument is of very ancient date. It is recorded that the ambassadors who came to the court of Saul played upon their nebels, and that David, the sweet singer of Israel, wooed the king from his sadness by singing to his harp. We must go back to the civilization of ancient Egypt, more than five hundred years before that morning nearly two thousand years ago when, it is written, the angelic choir chanted above the historic manger the glorious message, “Peace on earth, good will to men,” and the morning stars sang together.
In the olden times the Greeks laid claim to everything which bespoke culture and progress. The pages of ancient history record no other one thing so persistently as “the glory that was Greece.” And so they tell of the time when —
“Music, heavenly maid, was young,
And yet in ancient Greece she sung!”
It is now generally conceded, however, that it was not in Greece but in ancient Egypt that art, music, and the sciences in general were born. That the Egyptians had stringed instruments is unquestionable. Away back in the year 525 B.C. Cambyses subdued the land. He overthrew the temples in the ruins of which have been found the records of musical instruments dating from the very earliest times. But the priests who guarded the temples were slain, and every vestige of what might have helped to determine the origin of the stringed instrument, out of which, later, the piano was evolved, as well as the names of those who wrought andendeavored to construct instruments which would give forth music, was forever lost.Read More »How The Piano Came To Be
A hard fate has condemned human beings to enter this mortal sphere without any natural covering, like that possessed by the lower animals to protect them from the extremes of heat and cold. Had this been otherwise, countless myriads, for untold ages, would have escaped the tyrannical sway of the goddess Fashion, and the French proverb, il faut souffrir pour être belle, need never have been written.
The costume of our progenitors was chiefly remarkable for its extreme simplicity; and, as far as we can gather, no difference in design was made between the sexes. A few leaves entwined by the stalks, the feathers of birds, the bark of trees, or roughly-dressed skins of animals were probably regarded by beaux and belles of the Adamite period as beautiful and appropriate adornments for the body, and were followed by garments made from plaited grass, which was doubtless the origin of weaving, a process which is nothing more than the mechanical plaiting of hair, wool, flax, &c. In many remote districts these primitive fashions still prevail, as, for example, in Madras, where, at an annual religious ceremony, it is customary for the low caste natives to exchange for a short period their usual attire for an apron of leaves. In the Brazilian forests the lecythis, or “shirt tree,” is to be found, from which the people roll off the bark in short lengths, and, after making it pliable in water, cut two slits for the arm-holes and one for the neck, when their dress is complete and ready for use. The North American Indian employs feathers for purposes of the toilet, and many African tribes are noted for their deftly-woven fabrics composed of grass and other vegetable fibres, while furs and skins are essential articles of dress in Northern latitudes. Perhaps the earliest specimen of a modiste’s bill in existence has recently been found on a chalk tablet at Nippur, in Chaldea. The hieroglyphics record ninety-two robes and tunics: fourteen of these were perfumed with myrrh, aloes and cassia. The date of this curious antique cannot be less than two thousand eight hundred years before the Christian era. In ancient times it must be remembered that the principal seats of civilisation were Assyria and Egypt, and upon these countries Western nations depended for many of the luxuries of life. The Jews derived their fine fabrics from the latter place, which was particularly noted for its linen manufactures and for magnificent embroideries, of which the accompanying illustration will give some idea. Medes and Babylonians, of the highest class, partially arrayed themselves in silk, which cost its weight in gold, and about the time of Ezekiel (B.C. 594) it is known to have been used in the dress of the Persians. It is a remarkable circumstance that this animal product was brought to the West manufactured in cloth, which was only half silk; and it is said the plan was devised of unravelling the stuff, which was rewoven into cloth of entire silk. Owing to its high price, the Romans forbade its being used for the entire dress by men, complete robes of silk being reserved for women. It is numbered among the extravagant luxuries of Heliogabalus that he was the first man who wore a silken garment, and the anecdote is well known of the Emperor Aurelian, who refused, on the ground of its extravagant cost, a silk dress which his consort earnestly desired to possess.Read More »The History of Fashion
Who has not heard of the Vikings—the dauntless sea-rovers, who in the days of long ago were the dread of Northern Europe? We English should know something of them, for Viking blood flowed in the veins of many of our ancestors. And these fierce fighting men came in their ships across the North Sea from Norway on more than one occasion to invade England. But they came once too often, and were thoroughly defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, when, as will be remembered, Harald the Hard, King of Norway, was killed in attempting to turn his namesake, King Harold of England, off his throne.
Norwegian historians, however, do not say very much about this particular invasion. They prefer to dwell on the great deeds of another King Harald, who was called “Fairhair,” and who began his reign some two hundred years earlier. This Harald was only a boy of ten years of age when he came to the throne, but he determined to increase the size of his kingdom, which was then but a small one, so he trained his men to fight, built grand new ships, and then began his conquests.
Norway was at that time divided up into a number of districts or small kingdoms, each of which was ruled over by an Earl or petty King, and it was these rulers whom Harald set to work to subdue. He intended to make one united kingdom of all Norway, and he eventually succeeded in doing so. But he had many a hard fight; and if the Sagas, as the historical records of the North are called, speak truly, he fought almost continuously during twelve long years before he had accomplished his task, and even then he was only just twenty-one years of age.
They say that he did all these wonderful things because a girl, named Gyda, whom he wanted to marry, refused to have anything to say to him until he had made himself King of a really big kingdom. He made a vow that he would not comb or cut his hair until he had conquered the whole country. He led his men to victory after victory, and at length fought his last great battle at Hafrsfjord (to the south of Stavanger). The sea-fight was desperate and long, but Harald’s fleet succeeded in overpowering that of the enemy, and Sulki, King of Rogaland, as well as Erik, King of Hardanger, were slain. Then Harald cut and dressed his hair, the skalds composed poems in honour of the event, and for ever after he was known as Fairhair.Read More »The Land of The Vikings