1900-1909

Samuel Pierpont Langley at Widewater

Samuel Pierpont Langley

1903 was a banner year for aircraft development, and Stafford County was on the bleeding edge of it. On December 17, Orville and Wilbur Wright had the first successful manned flight of a mechanical, heavier-than-air machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. But two months before that, on October 7, Samuel Pierpont Langley—with the blessings of Smithsonian—launched his design at Widewater in Stafford County. The only problem was, the well-funded flight crashed, dooming Langley’s dreams of being first in flight.

Stafford's Coal Landing: Center of Commerce

Stafford's Coal Landing: Center of Commerce

By 1900 the forests had recovered sufficiently from the ravages of the Civil War to support a lumber business again. Long boats sailed from Coal Landing to Aquia Creek, up the Potomac and on to Baltimore.

Between 1890 and World War I, wood provided one of the few available cash incomes in Stafford. The locals would cut what timber they could and haul it to Coal Landing by wagon or boat to sell for pulpwood. The stacks of logs waiting at the docks were often forty feet high. Because the docks at Coal Landing were fairly extensive, there were a number of fishing boats that worked out of here, also.

On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker

By A'Lelia Bundles

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The daughter of slaves, Madam C. J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at 14, and widowed at 20. On Her Own Ground is a comprehensive biography of an unusual entrepreneur and philanthropist. Contains personal letters, records, and rare photographs from the family collection.

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The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco

By Marilyn Chase

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San Francisco in 1900 was a Gold Rush boomtown settling into a gaudy middle age. . . . It had a pompous new skyline with skyscrapers nearly twenty stories tall, grand hotels, and Victorian mansions on Nob Hill. . . . The wharf bristled with masts and smokestacks from as many as a thousand sailing ships and steamers arriving each year. . . . But the harbor would not be safe for long. Across the Pacific came an unexpected import, bubonic plague. Sailing from China and Hawaii into the unbridged arms of the Golden Gate, it arrived aboard vessels bearing rich cargoes, hopeful immigrants, and infected vermin. The rats slipped out of their shadowy holds, scuttled down the rigging, and alighted on the wharf. Uphill they scurried, insinuating themselves into the heart of the city.

"The plague first sailed into San Francisco on the steamer Australia, on the day after New Year’s in 1900. Though the ship passed inspection, some of her stowaways—infected rats—escaped detection and made their way into the city’s sewer system. Two months later, the first human case of bubonic plague surfaced in Chinatown.

"Initially in charge of the government’s response was Quarantine Officer Dr. Joseph Kinyoun. An intellectually astute but autocratic scientist, Kinyoun lacked the diplomatic skill to manage the public health crisis successfully.  Show More He correctly diagnosed the plague, but because of his quarantine efforts, he was branded an alarmist and a racist, and was forced from his post. When a second epidemic erupted five years later, the more self-possessed and charming Dr. Rupert Blue was placed in command. He won the trust of San Franciscans by shifting the government’s attack on the plague from the cool remove of the laboratory onto the streets, among the people it affected. Blue preached sanitation to contain the disease, but it was only when he focused his attack on the newly discovered source of the plague, infected rats and their fleas, that he finally eradicated it—-truly one of the great, if little known, triumphs in American public health history."

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Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

By Erik Larson

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"In 1900, Galveston would endure a hurricane that to this day remains the nation's deadliest natural disaster. In Galveston alone at least 6,000 people, possibly as many as 10,000, would lose their lives, a number far greater than the combined death toll of the Johnstown Flood and 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. And Isaac Cline would experience his own unbearable loss. Meticulously researched and vividly written, Isaac's Storm is based on Cline's own letters, telegrams, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the hows and whys of great storms. Ultimately, however, it is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets nature's last great uncontrollable force. As such, Isaac's Storm carries a warning for our time."

Also available on audio.

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Disaster! The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906

By Dan Kurzman

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"Just after 5 A.M. on April 18, 1906, an earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale ripped through sleeping San Francisco, toppling buildings, exploding gas mains, and trapping thousands of citizens beneath tons of stone, broken wood, and twisted metal. Herds of cattle stampeded madly through the streets. The air reverberated with the panicked screams of the doomed and dying. And then came the fires: hellish, gasfueled conflagrations so hot that molten glass ran down gutters. A mother crushed the skull of her trapped son with a rock so he wouldn't burn alive. A couple defiantly went ahead with their wedding even as the flames closed in.

"Rats from boats that smuggled prostitute slaves into Chinatown began to spread bubonic plague through the city. With water mains destroyed, firemen could only stand and watch for three terrifying days as the fires consumed the remains left by the earthquake. Adding to the terror were soldiers, some drunk, who shot, bayoneted, or hanged in the street at least five hundred suspected looters and other often innocent victims. As many as ten thousand people died in the catastrophe."

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A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906

By Simon Winchester

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Winchester brings his storytelling abilities, as well as his understanding of geology, to the extraordinary San Francisco Earthquake, exploring not only what happened in northern California in 1906 that leveled a city symbolic of America's relentless western expansion, but what we have learned since about the geological underpinnings that caused the earthquake.

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97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement

By Jane Ziegelman

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"In 97 Orchard , Jane Ziegelman explores the culinary life that was the heart and soul of New York's Lower East Side around the turn of the twentieth century-a city within a city, where Germans, Irish, Italians, and Eastern European Jews attempted to forge a new life. Through the experiences of five families, all of them residents of 97 Orchard Street, she takes readers on a vivid and unforgettable tour, from impossibly cramped tenement apartments down dimly lit stairwells where children played and neighbors socialized, beyond the front stoops where immigrant housewives found respite and company, and out into the hubbub of the dirty, teeming streets. Ziegelman shows how immigrant cooks brought their ingenuity to the daily task of feeding their families, preserving traditions from home but always ready to improvise. While health officials worried that pushcarts were unsanitary and that pickles made immigrants too excitable to be good citizens, a culinary revolution was taking place in the streets of what had been culturally an English city.

"Along the East River, German immigrants founded breweries, dispensing their beloved lager in the dozens of beer gardens that opened along the Bowery. Russian Jews opened tea parlors serving blintzes and strudel next door to Romanian nightclubs that specialized in goose pastrami. On the streets, Italian peddlers hawked the cheese-and-tomato pies known as pizzarelli , while Jews sold knishes and squares of halvah. Gradually, as Americans began to explore the immigrant ghetto, they uncovered the array of comestible enticements of their foreign-born neighbors."

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Black and White Sat Down Together: The Reminiscences of an NAACP Founder

By Mary White Ovington

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In 1909, Ovington, W.E.B. Du Bois and 50 others founded the NAACP. This memoir chronicles her life, the politics of her era, the prejudice that civil rights workers faced, and what drew her - a white woman - to the struggle.

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Sailing Home: A Story of a Childhood at Sea

By Gloria Rand

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"Every morning we'd wake up far away from where we'd gond to sleep."
For Captain Madsen's wife and four kids, their four-masted boat is home as they sail around the world. Based on the family's true adventures, from 1896 to 1910.

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