As a graduate history student, one of
my favorite textbooks—for an undergraduate
survey course taught by
the professor I worked for—was Red,
White, and Black, by Gary Nash. In it
he explored the interactions among
Native Americans, enslaved Africans,
and white European settlers besides the English and the
roles they played in establishing our nation.
Although it mostly neglected the contributions of
women, the book offered a wider perspective than traditional
histories written by the (usually white, male) victors.
Fortunately, modern scholars of diverse genders, ethnicities,
and experiences continue to broaden our understanding
of the contributions made by all those who settled here.
We strive to play a part in that effort. In this issue,
for instance, the two homes we feature owe much of their
design as well as their decorating style to women of vision
Gail Reeder grew up in southern Kentucky admiring
the craftsmanship of her father, who built houses and
furniture based on time-tested methods. When life circumstances
mandated she find a smaller home, she tapped
into those memories to design a classic Cape while still
satisfying the architectural guidelines of her neighborhood
development. Naturally she filled it with antique
cupboards and crocks, textiles and wooden ware that further
speak of her reverence for the past.
In Ohio, the Fergusons bought their first and only
home when they married in 1979, and Gayle set out to
take its interior back to the early 1800s, going so far as to
knock out a wall and redesign the
kitchen. During husband Don’s
absences with Navy Reserve
duty, she taught herself to paint,
glaze, and stencil walls, stitch
curtains, and craft floorcloths.
We can thank the ingenuity
of America’s First Peoples
for designing a method to
travel through the mounds of
snow unfamiliar to Europeans
emigrating from more temperate
climes. What early settlers
called a sledge—a flat-bottomed
vehicle without runners that
could glide atop the drifts—helped establish the
that drew them to the continent. Voyageurs quickly
adopted the new method of transport and a version
Native name, calling it the “toboggan.”
The Natives also gave us nasaump, the North American
version of grain boiled in liquid&mash;soup—that sustained
people around the world for millennia, especially
after someone invented the pot. We offer a bit of
and recipes drawn from various cultures to warm
table when the cold weather arrives.
Much as we might like to think Levi Strauss
blue jeans, historian Kimberly Alexander tells us
cloth we call denim has been around since at least
1600s. Despite its murky origins, what we do know
its durable weave made it the first choice for heavy-
working wear in Europe and later America—worn servants
and the enslaved, sailors and soldiers.
Not to neglect the contributions of our British
forebears, we explore the carronade—a shorter cannon
developed by Scottish engineers to increase the
of ships battling at close range. Ships outfitted with carronades
helped the American Navy win the Battle
Erie during the War of 1812.
Whatever the origins of America’s inventions traditions,
we want to give credit where credit is due—especially
when we can highlight the work of people
often find their way into the pages of history.