Friday, July 10, 2009


For lack of anything better to do right now, I've decided to bring you a very simple recipe that anyone can do. I personally use it for parties, myself, but I've found that once in a while, it just makes for a great meal.

Ingredients list(brand preference in parenthesis):
Russian Dressing(Wishbone)
Powdered Onion Soup(Lipton)
Apricot Preserves(None here, I just grab a jar)
Chicken(I like finger foods, so I tend to go for bags of wings and such)

Note: Pork or other white meats could be substituted for chicken. The sauce tends towards sweet, so I wouldn't use it for beef or other red meats.

How to prepare it:
Really, it's very easy. Set your oven to 350. Then, mix the dressing, soup and preserves together in a deep sided pan. When it's all mixed together, put in the chicken and make certain you have enough sauce to almost completely cover the meat. Set in the oven for about four hours, occasionally turning the chicken to make certain it breaks down and infuses with the flavors of the sauce. Test for temperature to make certain chicken is cooked, and eat.

Yes, it's simple, but it takes a while. Like I said, I usually get it started in the afternoon for parties or get togethers that night. The chicken will be done far earlier, but I prefer to let it stew for a while so that the flavor gets savory and the meat virtually melts off the bone when you eat it. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Another old written thing

Only about ten or so minutes before I head off for the night, so no real blog post. However, I will leave you with another one of my old papers to read should you people feel the need. This time, it's on the 19th century mill systems of New England. I know, extremely exciting, huh?

New England is known for many things, one of them being the early industrial cities. Cities like Lowell, Massachusetts, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Saco, Maine. These cities were home to the massive textile mills that drove the New England economy, politics, and life throughout the 1800’s. These mills had, and continue to have an impact of the lives of the people that live near them. Perhaps the largest impact these mills had upon American life was being a catalyst to the creation of what would become the women’s movement. These mills were this catalyst because of an idea held by the man that brought the machinery to the United States in the first place, Francis Cabot Lowell. His idea became known as the Lowell System, and it is a major factor behind the empowerment of women.

Perhaps I should begin with an explanation as to what the Lowell System was. The Lowell System, named after the industrialist Francis Cabot Lowell, was a manufacturing process that depended on standardization and mechanization of machinery run by women, who could be paid less than male laborers. The system reportedly increased efficiency, productivity, and most importantly, profit. This success made the Lowell system become the basis for which all manufactories in New England and the northeast worked off of. To keep the mills running, thousands of daughters of New England farmers moved to mill towns and lived in communities completely owned and operated by the companies. To placate the fathers of the mill girls, who found women working immoral, factory owners emphasized the maintenance of a proper environment: they enforced strict curfews, mandatory church attendance, gave their workers with a healthy diet, and kept the factories as clean as possible. The effort of the companies paid off; the mills of Lowell, Massachusetts were clean, the women’s dormitories were kept well and were superior to others, and wages were good when juxtaposed to other working wages of the day. The System was quickly successful in garnering interest from the local population. The transition from farm life to the tedium of factory work was difficult for the girls and the competition in the industry made the higher standards hard to maintain and by the 1850’s the Lowell System was done away with in favor of cheaper Irish immigrant workers.

The girls that worked at the Lowell mills ran the gamut from as young as ten and up through middle age, with the average being from sixteen to twenty-five. They came from as far away as Canada for the promise of high wages and high standard of living. The youngest and the smallest were used as doffers. A doffer, or mite, had the job of running from machine to machine, removing empty spools and the filled bobbins. A former doffer recollected on her job.

[I can see myself now, racing down the alley, between the spinning frames, carrying in front of me a bobbin box bigger than I was. These mites had to be swift…so as not to keep the spinning frames stopped long, and they worked only about fifteen minutes every hour. The rest of the time was their own, and when the overseer was kind they were allowed to read, knit or even to go outside the mill-yard to play.]

Older women held the myriad other jobs at the mills. Carding; combing the fibers and aligning them into a string called a sliver. Spinning; Twisting and drawing out the slivers to create yarn. Warping; gathered yarn from bobbins and winding them together on a reel or a spool. Weaving; crossing the threads onto a loom to create the finished cloth. It was weaving was the possibly the most desired position in the mills. It was among the highest paid and the most well respected of the positions. It was common for weavers to pose with their shuttles when taking a photograph as a means to show their status and position.

The women in the mills had much of their time scheduled for them. Most of the time they spent working at their machines, from 6:30 in the morning until 6: 30 at night, except for Saturdays when they would ring out earlier, usually from 3:00 pm through 5:00 pm. On Sundays, church attendance was mandatory. In the summer months, some of the workers would return home to live with family or friends. Free time, when available, was spent teaching the younger child laborers, or through leisure activities such as reading and knitting. The length of the work schedule was considered tyrannical and met with resistance from the workers. One woman from Lowell wrote in 1841:

[I am going home, where I shall not be obliged to rise so early in the morning, nor be dragged about by the factory bell…Up before day at the clang of the bell…and at work in obedience to that ding-dong of a bell.]

This type of resistance is what kept the girls from remaining at one mill for very long. Most did not last more than a year of employment before leaving. Many other would come to take their place within a short period of time.

The companies using the Lowell System insisted on building company run boarding houses for their workers to live in. This made for almost entire communities populated by women. This was remarked upon by John Greenleaf Whittier, who characterized the city of Lowell as “Acres of Girlhood, beauty reckoned by the square mile.” The boarding house system was actually favored by the working women. The boardinghouse life fostered a sense of community amongst the workers. It was most likely through social pressure of living in such close quarters, rather than strict rules, which maintained order in the communities. These rules were often broken by the more independently minded workers. The rooms the women lived in were cramped, at best. A description of the inside of the large mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was written in a letter home from a worker

[Imagine to yourselves a girl just entered her twenty-fifth year seated at a small light-stand with writing utensils before her and endeavoring to write a few of her uppermost thoughts near a window that overlooks the principal street in Lawrence in the fourth story of a long brick factory boarding block, with ten beds situated on the east side of the room with a lot of old dresses & skirts hung up behind them & some where in the vicinity of six trunks on the west & south side of the room & a closet filled to overflowing say nothing about the band boxes & carpet bags these with a couple of looking glasses and a chair comprise the contents that contains your daughter & sister]

There were reasons that many girls left their homes to work under the employ of the mills. One of the most important reasons was economical. The mill girls earned, on average, between $2.50 and $3 per week. This small amount of money was the first real wage cash wage earned by females workers. The ability to purchase gave the young women a sense of empowerment that had not been felt before. The lure of making money on a person own was a great one and brought many of the independent farm girls from their homes and families.

Relocating to an industrious city like Lowell was also seen as the girls only escape from the isolated farm life and parental control exerted over them at home. The farm girls had, in reality, only one option available to them on the farms, that of a domestic servant. The city, however, offered them the opportunity and prospect of adventure and excitement. A common sentiment towards farm life is example in a letter from Sally Rice to her home in Vermont, in 1839:

[No one knows how much I suffered the ten weeks that I was at home. I never can be happy there in among so many mountains…and as for mayyring(sic) and settling in that wilderness I wont, and if a person ever expects to take comfort it is while they are young I feel so.]

Another, more open, rejection of farm life came in an 1858 article entitled “Farming in New England”.

[The most intelligent and enterprising of the farers’ daughters become school-teachers, or tenders of shops, or factory girls. They contemn the calling of their father, and will nine times out of ten, marry a mechanic in preference to a farmer. They know that marrying a farmer is serious business. They remember their worn-out mothers.]

As can be seen by the feelings of the mill girls, leaving the farm just for the sake of leaving the farm was a major influence on why they would leave to work in the city mills.

The high to tyrannical pressures put upon the mill girls would not last. The communities of workers, empowered by their numbers and independence, as well as being boosted by the solidarity of their close knit society began to organize into unions for better treatment. An economic panic in 1834 brought about a twenty-five percent wage cut. This wage cut was the catalyst in the formation of the Factory Girls Association an early union for the mills. The girls of the mills immediately went on strike. One sixth of the woman workers of Lowell turned out for the mass protest. The operatives of the strikers made three demands. According to the Boston Evening Transcript, they were as follows:

[Resolved, that we will not go back into the mills to work unless our wages are continued…as they have been.
Resolved, that none of us will go back, unless they receive us all at one.
Resolved, that if any have not money enough to carry them home they shall be supplied]

The strike itself was a failure, by the next week the mills were running at near capacity. The greater impact of the strike was the fact that the operatives were women. This kind of solidarity in the face of a not only a large company, but a male dominated enterprise, would lay the foundation for later unionization and unrest.

A serious depression in 1837 put an end to the first period of labor struggle for the mills. A new labor movement grew in Lowell between 1843 and 1848 as the economy grew and the treatment of workers was seen less as a necessity for the times. A series of experiments were made by the companies to determine the maximum amount of work a single worker could handle. These experiments eventually left an individual working at four looms at the same time and making the same wages as before. Small victories against the “stretching-out” as it was called, spurred the women’s movement onward to fighting for a much greater prize, the ten hour workday. Having learned from the operatives of a decade prior, and with state-wide support from other workers seeking the same, the work day was shortened to ten hours. The shorter work day was an important immediate victory for the workers, but the other result was far more encompassing to the later lives of the women.

The solidarity of women gained by closed society living, a taste of economic independence, and the labor movements of the 1830’s and 40’s brought a change. Women were beginning to feel, and were, empowered. They, through numbers, hard work, and determination, banded together and formed a group that could get them the power that they wanted. Later decades would see the spirit of the mill girls come to light in other areas. The woman’s suffrage movement had its roots back in the strike workers in the shadows of the mills. The woman’s liberation and equality movements look back to those mill girls as their precursors. Without the Lowell System to bring them together and subsequently exploit them, the changes and reform for women would have been pushed back decades, if it would have happened at all. Truthfully, the mill yards of New England had a great impact on the country economically, but their impact on this country can be seen far more not on the dollar, but on our society itself. With the development of the mills, came the development of woman’s equality.

Public Enemies

Since the movie, which had a lot of poor history in it, came out so recently, I've decided to throw up a bit I wrote a while back on the subject. So, well, enjoy this look into the past with a small smidgen of info on the crime wave of the early part of the 1930's midwest U.S.

John Dillinger, George Nelson, Homer Van Meter, Harry Pierpont, Alvin Karpis, George Zeigler, Fred and Arthur Barker. All of these names were once constantly on the tongue of the American populace. Today, many do not recognize their names or realize the impact they had on us. These men were not important political figures, they where not the leaders of big businesses. They were thieves, murderers, kidnappers, and bank robbers. They carried nicknames like “Old Creepy”, “Babyface”, “Doc”, and “Shotgun”. In short, these were some of the most dangerous individuals to ever live in the United States. Even worse was when the grouped together and ran from one end of the country to the other, committing crimes throughout the Midwest. These men had their heyday in the early 1930s. These men were the gangsters. The effect they have had on the United States is a simple but powerful one. If not for the actions of these gangsters; the modern police force we know as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would not exist. Their history and the history of modern policing are intertwined with one another. The following stories are about two of the gangs involved in that period, and how the FBI and police forces had to change to cope with the challenges brought on by these highly mobile and exceedingly well armed gangs.

John Dillinger, born June 22, 1903, was the biggest star of them all in the world of the Midwest gangs. His trouble with authority in general started at a young age. When, as leader of a youth gang known as the Dirty Dozen, he was arrested for stealing coal. Dillinger was the only child in the group to not be intimidated by the judge in juvenile court. When the judge ordered Dillinger to take off the slouch cap he was wearing and spit out his chewing gum, Dillinger took the gum from his mouth and stuck it onto the top of his cap. Another example of his inevitable future against the law was in his childhood hero, legendary western outlaw, Jesse James. John Dillinger had one quality many of the other outlaws lacked, charisma brought on by his massive confidence. When going to prison, for the first time at only 21, for a grocery store robbery, John told the superintendent, ‘I won’t cause you any trouble except to escape’. As expected, Dillinger did not keep his word. Between the years of 1925 and 1931, he racked up such charges as gambling, fist fighting, having a razor in his cell, destroying prison property, smuggling food into his cell, defying prison regulations, and multiple escape attempts. Prison proved fruitful for Dillinger in that is where he met two men that would eventually make Dillinger the known man he was and is; Harry “Pete” Pierpont and Homer Van Meter. Both Van Meter and Pierpont were transferred to a separate prison from Dillinger, Van Meter for “degeneracy” and Pierpont for an escape attempt. In an example of either Dillingers charisma or the legal systems lackluster performance Dillinger managed to get transferred with them, under the reason that the prison had a better baseball team. In this new prison, Michigan City penitentiary, Dillinger was shown the technique of bankrobbing by the prisoners already incarcerated. In 1933, Dillinger was paroled and walked a free man again. Dillinger ran with a few other robbers and netted enough money to plan and pull off a breakout of Van Meter, Pierpont, and the other robbers that taught him the trade. This first Dillinger gang only lasted a few months before Dillinger was arrested in Tucson Arizona, for the murder of officer William Patrick O’Malley in a bank robbery in Gary, Indiana. In the well known “Wooden Gun Escape” Dillinger fled from prison and set out to create a new gang fast. The man that was chosen first was Lester Gillis. Known to the world as George “Babyface” Nelson.

Lester Gillis was known as a mental case, trigger happy, psychopath, who would kill for the fun of it. A story showcasing Gillis’ psychotic tendencies is from a bank robbery from his days with Dillinger. During the robbery, while Dillinger was busy coercing the teller to give up the money, Gillis was patrolling the people in the crowd. One man laughed out of either nervousness, or of the sight of the rather short (5’2”) and young looking Gillis carrying a shotgun. Either way, Gillis turned to the man and yelled ‘Quit laughing, you.’ before shooting him point blank in the chest. Gillis also frightened the other members of the “Nelson gang” as he called his and Dillinger’s gang. They would allow Gillis to count and divide the take so he wouldn’t feel “short changed” and possibly kill the other members. It was also Gillis’ that had a large part in the FBI’s first major blunder in their tracking of the gangsters, the battle of Little Bohemia. Little Bohemia was a small hotel in Wisconsin where the gang hid out briefly. As the gang was readying to leave, the FBI arrived to capture them. During the ensuing gun battle one agent was killed, one wounded, and one injured, all by Lester Gillis while the FBI wounded two civilians and killed another. None of the gangsters were arrested in the attempt. As the effects of Little Bohemia drove the FBI to train more and become a police force rather than an investigative one, the agents lack of training in basic raid and firearms procedure was one of the major problems with Little Bohemia, Little Bohemia would prove to be the undoing of the Nelson-Dillinger gang. After the battle the gang split ways, eventually leading to the murder of John Dillinger by FBI agents near the Biograph theatre in Chicago in 1934. I call it a murder since an unarmed Dillinger was shot four times from multiple angles. The death of Lester Gillis went less smoothly for the FBI. Gillis was run off the road into a field in Ohio by two agents, Inspectors Cowley and Hollis. Gillis and his partner, a man named John Paul Chase, opened fire on the two agents, who fired back. In a final show of his utter insanity, Gillis stepped forward and walked straight towards the two agents. While his legs and abdomen were being torn apart by the crossfire, Gillis held his aim. He ended in killing both of the agents. Chase put Gillis, who although shot seventeen times and at least several in vital organs was still alive, into the agents car and drove to a priest in the nearest town over. Lester Gillis, the man even the other gangsters feared, was dying. His last words were said to have been ‘I’m hit’. And with him, the Dillinger-Nelson gang was finally ended.

The other big name at the time, although not nearly as well known now, was the Barker-Karpis gang. Forgotten today, the gang was one of the most dangerous groups the FBI ever tracked,as the following quote from J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI during those years, said. ‘Ma Barker and her sons, and Alvin Karpis and his cronies, constituted the toughest gang of hoodlums the FBI ever has been called upon to eliminate…Looking over the record of these criminals, I was repeatedly impressed by the cruelty of their depredations…murder of a policeman …murder of two policemen ….machine gun murder of an innocent citizen who got in the way during a bank robbery …kidnapping and extortion…train robbery…mail robbery ...the protection of high police officials bought with tainted money…paroles bought.’. Contrary to what Hoover said, however, “Ma” Barker did not lead the gang. In all actuality it was Alvin Karpis. Who refuted the claim of a criminal Ma in his autobiography, The Alvin Karpis Story, saying ‘The most ridiculous story in the annals of crime is that Ma Barker was the mastermind behind the Karpis-Barker gang…the legend only grew up after her death…to justify how she was slaughtered by the FBI…She wasn’t a leader of criminals or even a criminal herself. There is not one police photograph of her or set of fingerprints taken while she was alive…she knew we were criminals but her participation in our careers was limited to one function: when we traveled together, we moved as a mother and her sons. What could look more innocent?’ Even with the two conflicting reports, most criminal scholars have sided with Karpis on the issue of Ma Barkers criminal abilites. Her sons, on the other hand, were described as ‘natural killers’ by the other members of the gang, most notable Karpis, who was very vocal about his criminal activities in his later life. Karpis was a career criminal from the age of ten, his most notable features being his cold stare and photographic memory. After his release from prison in the fifties, for the last time in the total of 33 years he had spent in various prisons over his life, he took time to reflect on his “career” stating. ‘My profession was robbing banks, knocking off payrolls, and kidnapping rich men. I was good at it. Maybe the best in North America for five years from 1931-1936. In another set of circumstances, I might have turned out to be a top lawyer or a big-time businessman or made it to any high position that demanded brains and style, and a cool, hard way of handling yourself. Certainly I could have held the highest job in any line of police detection work. I out-thought and defeated enough cops and G-men to recognize that I was more knowledgeable about crime than any of them - including the number-one guy, J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI’. Karpis was clearly a man that not only knew what he was doing, he enjoyed it.

The Barker-Karpis gang started with the meeting of Karpis and Fred Barker in a Kansas prison. Upon their release in 1931 the gang started with nighttime burglaries in jewelry and clothing shops. It wasn’t long before they moved to day-time bank heists. The core group of Fred Barker and Alvin Karpis, Arthur Barker did not join until his release from prison in 1932, were present at every job. The other members were experienced thieves and hold up men that were hired for individual jobs in a sort of criminal temp agency. Barker and Karpis were meticulous in their planning and choosing the individuals for their jobs that they earned so much money and were so prolific that they lost count of a grand total. In 1932 alone, Karpis could name 11 banks they had robbed off hand, the number is expected to have been greater. The rotating cast also proved to be of great difficulty to the FBI, since the members changed so much and their aliases with them, the FBI couldn’t keep up with who was committing what robbery. In his autobiography, Karpis also points to several instances where other men were arrested and tried for crimes his gang had committed. So brash were the Barkers and Karpis that one of their key methods of acquiring their machineguns was to walk into a, usually rural, police station after midnight and ordering the officer on duty, at gunpoint, to give them the stations firearms.

Perhaps the most notorious crimes committed by the gang were the kidnappings. The first was William Hamm, heir to the Hamm brewery, which netted one hundred thousand dollars. Their second was the kidnapping of a banker named Edward Bremer which brought in two hundred thousand dollars. The money gained in just those two kidnappings is equivalent to four million, one hundred twenty-six thousand, and two hundred dollars ($4,126,200.00). The kidnapping of Ed Bremer brought the gang to the immediate attention of the FBI. One reason is that the country was still up in arms over the Lindbergh baby kidnapping in 1932. The other was the Edward Bremer’s father was a personal friend of President Franklin Roosevelt. The gang actually knew about Bremer’s political connections and still kidnapped him. Karpis had discussed this with Fred Barker and argued ‘Why are we wasting our time talking about heat (the police) – we’ve had nothing but heat since 1931’.

1934 was the twilight of the gangsters. In that year alone the FBI had killed John Dillinger, Lester Gillis, the Barrow gang (Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker), Homer Van Meter, “Pretty Boy” Floyd, and George Ziegler. Harry Pierpont and W.D. Jones (A member of the Barrow gang) were captured. The Barker-Karpis gang was the only one to survive the year intact. Although within the opening months of 1935 the gang was shattered. On January 8th, Arthur “Doc” Barker was arrested and sentenced to Alcatraz Island to serve a life sentence for the kidnapping of Edward Bremer. Doc was killed by guards during an escape attempt in 1939. Fred Barker was caught up to only a week later. He was staying in a cottage in Florida with his mother when the FBI arrived on his doorstep. Fred was not willing to go down as easy as his brother and opened fire with a Browning automatic rifle. The shootout lasted for hours and miraculously the agents escaped unscathed. Fred Barker and his mother were not so lucky. Both were found dead in the bullet riddled cottage. Soon after this, the FBI made the story of a criminal Ma Barker to cover for the death of the old woman. Karpis heard of the violent death soon after it occurred and planned to go into hiding the next day. The FBI caught up with him too soon however but in a daring shootout escape, Karpis managed to flee from his Atlantic City hideout and run down the east coast. Even while being chased doggedly by the FBI, Karpis kept working. While running, Karpis managed to rob a mail truck and a train, gaining seventy and thirty thousand dollars respectively. Karpis went into 1936 the most hunted man in America, position labeling him the last public enemy.

As of 1936, Alvin Karpis’ known and suspected crimes from 1931 to 1935 were as follows, three kidnappings, three-to-fourteen murders, countless bank robberies, and the train and mail truck hold-ups. He was being followed by two intelligence agencies, several states wanted him for murder, and there were multiple bounties on his head. And with him being the last of the big names, the search was focused directly upon him. Karpis’ only source of amusement during the time was reading about the troubles happening to J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover was having trouble in Washington because of the unending chase. He was chastised for not making arrests, even though the FBI were only given the power to arrest a little more than a year earlier, mostly due to the acts of the gangsters. Karpis couldn’t run forever. On May 1st of 1936, an unarmed Karpis was walking to his car when he found himself surrounded by twenty six FBI agents, Men recruited for the sole reason that they were proficient in shootouts and had killed before, armed with according to Hoover; ‘every weapon from machine guns to those new gas shells’. They had planned to kill Karpis and Hoover was even quoted as telling him he was ‘a lucky son of a bitch to be alive’. With the arrest of Karpis the era of the gangster was over. Karpis himself would go on to serve prison time until his parole in 1969, twenty six of those years spent on Alcatraz. Karpis moved to Spain after writing his autobiography in 1971 and was found dead of an overdose of sleeping pills in his apartment in Tourmolinos, Spain in 1977. In the end the last public enemy had outlasted them all. His contemporaries were dead, the agents chasing him were dead, and even Hoover had died. Yet Karpis, arguably the most prolific of the gangsters, died in obscurity.

It was because of these gangsters the FBI developed and modern law enforcement began. At the beginning of the 1930s, the FBI had no legal right to arrest; they had no weapons training and did nothing except investigate. In the half a decade from 1931 to 1936 they became a well armed, quick moving, and efficient police force that brought down the greatest criminals at the time. Public police forces also developed greatly as a result of the gangsters. Officers began to receive better pay to lower bribery chances. The stations received better weaponry and vehicles, as well as training, to keep up with the virtual armies that were the gangs. Procedures changed as well. More informants were being used and new techniques were being developed. Even everyday security measures like surveillance cameras in banks can be tied to the rampant thefts commited by the gangsters. The gangsters on the 1930s had a major impact on the American public. And while they were the superstars of their day, they are all but forgotten now. But their impact on American law enforcement can never be undone.