Monday, June 24, 2019

S.S. Selma, A Concrete Ship

Did you know concrete ships were once a thing? Neither did I. Let's investigate.

These ships were built of a combination of steel and ferrocement, or reinforced concrete. Several were built by the U.S. in World War I due to steel shortages. The war ended before any were used, but such ships and barges were built and deployed by the U.S. and Great Britain during World War II. The U.S. alone built 104 of the vessels. The concrete boat actually dates to 1848 in France; vessels with concrete hulls have been launched even in recent years. A website dedicated to the history of these vessels is here.

The largest of the twelve concrete ships constructed by the U.S. during the First World War was the S.S. Selma and its twin the S.S. Latham. These ships were not entirely concrete, of course, only the hulls. The S.S. Selma weighed 7500 tons, was 434 feet in length, and could make about 12 miles per hour. 

F.F. Ley and Company built the S.S. Selma in Mobile, and she was launched on June 28, 1919. That same day the Treaty of Versailles was signed, long after hostilities had ended in November 1918. Since the government no longer needed her, she was sold to a private company and began working several ports along the Gulf Coast as an oil tanker. 

In May 1920 she struck a jetty in Tampico, Mexico; the accident put a long gash in the hull. Temporary repairs allowed the shipped to be towed to Galveston, but no permanent repairs could be made. The owners then partially sank her near Pelican Island in a specially dug channel on March 9, 1922. The wreck has been visible ever since and has become a tourist attraction.

A recent article from the Associated Press describes the current status and probable future of the SS Selma. The wreck has been a state archaeological landmark since 1993 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, but the president of the corporation that owns her noted rapid deterioration and the possibility she could be under water in fifteen years. That would be a sad fate indeed for a vessel just now reaching 100 years after launch.

An appreciation of the SS Selma by Richard W. Steiger can be found here. A web site devoted to all the concrete ships of World Wars I and II is here. More about the SS Selma can be found in Dorothy Anne Rowland's 2018 thesis, "The History of Galveston's Concrete Ships" [Texas A&M University, PDF file]. 

You can find a gallery of photos of the wreck here.

Source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Today's Alabama Book: Stand Up for Alabama!

I was roaming around in my book collection recently, just randomly pulling stuff off the shelves to see what I could find. This item popped up, so here we are. These things happen.

I'm not going to linger on George Wallace's life or career. You can find long entries on his life and political career at both the Encyclopedia of Alabama and Wikipedia. I have put some comments below many of the photos here.

In 1958 Wallace, who had been a circuit judge since 1952, ran against John Patterson for governor and lost by over 34,000 votes. Patterson had been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, Wallace by the NAACP--as the lesser of two evils, no doubt. As Wikipedia notes, "...aide Seymore Trammell recalled Wallace saying, "Seymore, you know why I lost that governor's race? ... I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I'll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again." Whether Wallace put it quite that way has been disputed, but he did make sure it came to pass. 

Wallace won decisively in both the Democratic primary and the November 1962
gubernatorial election. This program was issued to commemorate that win. The
book contains some text and many photos, but the bulk of it is advertising of a 
special sort.

I bet Wallace, "The Fighting Little Judge", struck this pose a few times on that campaign and those that followed.

Of course, the Wallace family story is told.

One word in that Allis-Chalmers ad ironically stands out, doesn't it?

Many photos, such as this one of Wallace and his brothers, are framed by congratulatory advertisements.

Aronov Realty continues to operate today.

You can see some of this dairy's products here. In 1967 the business was 52 years old, but is no longer operating. 

More family history

Another typical Wallace pose

I guess when you go see the farmer you gotta wear a suit.

Ah, Lurleen...I wonder what she thought of all this...really...deep down....

The inauguration book is filled with pages and parts of pages containing ads.

This program is massive; it has 296 pages. I did not find a single black 
face within it. 

Wallace would recycle his 1962 campaign slogan for a presidential run later in the decade. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Oops! I Missed an Anniversary!

They say time passes fast when you're having fun, and I guess that's what happened here. I realized the other day that I have been posting on this blog since March 2014. That means I've reached and am now beyond the fifth anniversary.

Why do I do this? Good question; maybe I'll have that figured out by the 10th anniversary. But I am having fun, and learning a lot about the state's history that I didn't know despite seriously reading and studying it since high school. I guess that Alabama history we studied in the fourth grade back in my day eventually took root. Of course, it also helped to have a dad with his own interest in history. He thought about becoming a history teacher but felt he wouldn't be able to support a family and took industrial engineering at Auburn instead. 

I've covered a wide range of topics on this blog that reflect my own interests. I'm a retired librarian, so that accounts for the number of library history posts. I've always been a film and TV buff, so Alabama connections in those areas is a natural topic. I've been writing and publishing poetry since the late 1960's and non-fiction articles almost as long, so I've explored a number of writers and books in posts on this blog. I'm especially interested in once popular but now forgotten or always little-known authors; Harper Lee and Rick Bragg get plenty of coverage without me. I also enjoy doing the posts on individual old photos. 

I've also done a number of pieces on various aspects of my family's history. We are fortunate to have a lot of old photographs, letters and other ephemera not only my immediate family's but from my parents and paternal grandparents. I've also written posts related to a general theme of "history in unexpected places." 

So I've been doing this thing for over five years now, posting more than 475 items. I guess I'll top 500 before the year is out. Five years, 500 posts--might be a good time to take a break. But why would I do that? After all, the pay is so good....

In 1959 Alabama Power completed Weiss Dam, which created Weiss Lake in Cherokee County. Sometime in the mid-1960's my parents and grandparents bought a cabin there. You can read about it here. This photo shows my younger brother Richard and I exploring the shore. In those days there was not yet much development along the lake; I'll bet that's changed!

Cohen was a very prolific novelist and short story author who lived in Birmigham in the 1920's and 1930's. Several of his tales were adapted for movies and television. I've done a blog post on a few of his book covers here. I've also done a post on one of those film adaptations, The Big Gamble. That film happens to star Dorothy Sebastian, a Birmingham native. I've written about her as well.

This photograph of Gunn's Pharmacy in downtown Birmingham was taken in 1915. Read more about it here

Friday, June 7, 2019

Alabama Photos of the Day: Two Nurses at Camp Sheridan

In late July 1917 construction began on a 4000 acre site three miles from downtown Montgomery. The facility was Camp Sheridan, one of several U.S. Army bases built in Alabama as the nation prepared to enter World War I. Between August and October 30,000 men of the 37th Infantry Division from Ohio arrived; they left for France in June 1918. The 9th Infantry Division replaced it and remained until their unit was deactivated in February 1919. F. Scott Fitzgerald, author and future husband of Zelda, was a lieutenant in the 9th. You can read more details in Martin T. Olliff's account of the camp here. The camp was named for Civil War Union cavalry commander General Phil Sheridan.

The first photo here shows two unidentified nurses at Camp Sheridan. More comments below.

You can find many photos and documents related to Camp Sheridan at Alabama Mosaic

The nurse on the left has a Red Cross pin on her lapel. Is she Florence Birch? See below.

Source: Alabama Dept. of Archives & History Digital Collections

Postcard of the base hospital. Camp Sheridan also had over 300 mess halls, 300 bath houses, a post office, 40 warehouses, a gym and a library. Four thousand tents with wood floors housed the soldiers. 

Source: Alabama Dept. of Archives & History Digital Collections

Nurse Florence Goldie Birch at Camp Sheridan ca 1918-1919. Is she the woman on the left in the first photograph?

Source: Alabama Dept. of Archives & History Digital Collections

Surgeons operating at Camp Sheridan Hospital ca. 1917-19. The anesthetist at the head of the table may have been a male nurse. Is that a can of ether sitting on the table behind him?

Source: Alabama Dept. of Archives & History Digital Collections

Wounded men reading on the porch of the hospital barracks at Camp Sheridan ca. 1917-19

Source: Alabama Dept. of Archives & History Digital Collections

Source: Alabama Dept. of Archives & History Digital Collections

Florence had her nurse training at Good Samaritan Hospital Training School in Lexington, Kentucky. Her Red Cross card is dated July 22, 1918, and misspells her middle name. 

Florence married Royal Edward Lynn sometime after the war; they settled in Oklahoma and had two children. She died in 1984 and is buried in Enid, Oklahoma.

Source: Find-A-Grave; photo by David Schram

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Birmingham Photo of the Day (70): Two Nurses at Norwood Clinic

Birmingham physician Charles Carraway opened a sixteen bed infirmary in Pratt City in 1908. Nearly a decade later he opened a larger facility in the Norwood neighborhood. By 1926 other physicians had joined him and the Norwood Clinic was incorporated. A nursing wing was added in 1949; other additions and expansions occurred in 1957, 1961 and 1974. Carraway stepped down as board chairman in 1957 and was replaced by his surgeon son Ben. At that time the name was changed to Carraway Methodist Medical Center. The elder Carraway died in 1963, his son in 1999.

Fortunately, they did not live to see the sad fate of the hospital. By 2001 the physicians' group owner began to seek a buyer, but not finding one had to file for bankruptcy in September 2006. Another group of physicians purchased the facility; it was  unable to keep it afloat. The huge 617-bed hospital closed for good on Halloween 2008. Efforts to re-purpose the site have so far been unsuccessful. 

You can visit photos of the ruin via Abandoned Southeast. A video visit is available on YouTube.

The photo below shows two nurses at what was probably Norwood Clinic in the 1940's. The park bench on the left and the visiting hours sign perhaps indicates an outdoor area at the hospital available for both patients and staff. 

Just for fun I've also included below a number of advertisements for Coca Cola that feature nurses. Most are probably from the 1950's and rely on growing popular attitudes about the competency of the nursing profession.  

A good history is Anita Smith's 1996 book Culture of Excellence: A History of Carraway Methodist Medical Center. 2 vols. 

Photo by Charles Preston

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections 

Physicians Medical Center Carraway at the time it closed in October 2008

Source: BhamWiki

Charles Carraway, M.D., about 1920

Source: Wikipedia

This article examines the use of nurses as authority figures in advertising after
World War II: 

Johnson E. "Who would know better than the girls in white?" Nurses as experts in
postwar magazine advertising, 1945-1950. Nursing History Review. 2012;20:46-71

American advertising in the period immediately following the Second World War
portrayed nurses as trusted advisers and capable professionals and frequently
pictured them performing skilled work, including dispensing medicine and
assisting in surgery. Advertisements published in a range of magazines whose
target audiences varied by gender, race, age, and class show that nurses in
postwar advertisements embodied two broad categories of representation: (a)
medical authority, scientific progress, and hospital cleanliness; and (b)
feminine expertise, especially in female and family health. Typically portrayed
as young white women--although older nurses were occasionally depicted and black 
nurses appeared in advertisements intended for black audiences-nurses were
especially prominent in advertisements for menstrual and beauty products, as well
as products related to children's health. Although previous scholarly
examinations of nurses in postwar mass media have emphasized their portrayal as
hypersexual and incompetent, this investigation posits postwar advertising as a
forum that emphasized nurses' professionalism, as well as complex expectations
surrounding women's professional and domestic roles.