Tag Archives: History

History of Architecture – Shotgun House


Shotgun House

The shotgun house was the popular and average style of house in the United States since the Civil War and into the Great Depression. Shotgun style homes have a unique layout. They are narrow and only about 12 feet wide. Length of houses varied as house taxes were determined by the width of your house (how much house was facing the street) and not how long or deep your house was. Also, in a shotgun house, each room is directly behind the other room. Most would be laid out with a porch and the Living/Sitting room in the front, the bedroom next, then followed by the Kitchen and small bathroom in the corner. Many of these house still survive in Louisiana, especially in the New Orleans French Quarter.

How did the shotgun house get it’s name? Well traditionally all the doors of the house align so that if you open the front door, the room doors, and the rear door, you could shoot a shotgun through the house into the front and out the rear end (or vice versa). However there are some houses that have misaligned doors and the reasoning behind this has its roots buried in superstition and folklore. At the time, the belief in ghosts were wide spread. It was believed that ghosts were attracted to shogun houses, as they could pass quickly and directly through them. (Apparently post Civil War ghost were polite and had impeccable manners, as they did not travel through walls.) Due to this belief, you can find many old shotgun houses with misaligned doors, although the oldest ones tend to have aligned doors.


Thomas Seymour (1508-1549) – House of Seymour -Lord High Admiral


Thomas Seymour Banner

Thomas Seymour and Elizabeth Tudor

Thomas Seymour, 1st Earl of Sudeley and Lord High Admiral, was the brother of Henry VIII’s Queen Consort, Jane Seymour, and thus another Uncle of King Edward VI of England.

Thomas Seymour was the son of a common knight, Sir John Seymour and Lady Margery Wentworth. His sister, Jane Seymour, died after the birth of the only male heir of England, Prince Edward Tudor. Thomas well known for his scandalous marriage to Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife (and eventually his widow). Before marrying the King, Katherine was also married and widowed to two other elder Lords. After the death of her second husband, and being assigned to Mary Tudor’s (Henry VIII’s daughter with Catherine of Aragon) household, she and Thomas Seymour struck up a flirtation/romance. It was snuffed out abruptly when Henry VIII became interested in Katherine as his next wife.

As the brother of Henry VIII’s favorite Queen and uncle of his only heir, Thomas Seymour was favored by the king, and continued to be favored after his sister’s death. He went on several diplomatic missions for the King, and was often the King’s chosen companion. It must have been known by Henry VIII that Thomas had proposed once to Katherine, because he was made ambassador of the Netherlands after the King married her, probably to remove him from court. Like his brother, Edward, Thomas was also a successful military leader. Weeks after the King’s death, Thomas and Katherine secretly married. When it became known, it was a great scandal.

When Henry VIII died, Thomas’s elder brother, Edward Seymour, sized power by naming himself Lord Protector, Guardian of the King’s Person, and giving himself the title of 1st Duke of Somerset. Even though Henry VIII’s will named a council of men to govern until Edward VI’s majority, he managed this because the young king was just nine years old. He also bribed all the other powerful Lord’s of realm with titles, lands, and money.

Thomas Seymour became his brother’s most significant opponent. Not only did Edward Seymour disregard the will of the previous king, but he also tried to consolidate all the power with himself. At no time in History was it prudent for a Lord Protector to also be Guardian of the King. Edward was as powerful as a regent and Thomas was jealous of this power. Thomas demanded that he be made Guardian of the King, if he brother assumed the role of Lord Protector. Edward refused to share power with Thomas, and instead tried to placate him with a Barony and making him Lord High Admiral. This was not enough.

Thomas first attempted to befriend young Edward VI. It was known that Edward Seymour kept a tight leash on the young king and even limited his pocket money. Uncle Thomas started slipping him some, which when discovered looked as though Thomas was trying to bribe or buy Edward’s favor. Another scandal erupted when Thomas was found in the compromising position with Princess Elizabeth. Princess Elizabeth had been living with Katherine Parr, her step-mother, after her father’s death. Katherine and Elizabeth had always been close. It was Katherine’s intervention that restored Elizabeth and her sister Mary to the succession, as they had both been removed when Henry VIII discarded their mothers.

Some suspect that Thomas had been romancing the Princess for some time and that he intended to marry her one day in order to gain power. It was believed that his wife Katherine Parr was not in the best of health, and should she die, Thomas wanted to use the opportunity to marry the Princess. Elizabeth seems to have been pretty infatuated and welcoming of the Baron’s attentions. Rumors intensified when Katherine Parr became pregnant and sent Elizabeth away from her house. Katherine gave birth to a daughter, Mary Seymour, but succumbed to childbirth fever. She left all her possessions to Thomas in her will, making him one of the richest men in England.

Although Thomas proclaimed his remorse at his wife’s death, his pursuit of Elizabeth continued. But for some reason she cooled toward him. Perhaps she found his attentions so soon after his wife’s death distasteful.

Thomas’s continued schemes to undermine his brother’s authority and usurp his position led to his downfall. He used his position as High Lord Admiral (his command of the Navy) to consort with pirates and rebels in what seemed to be an attempt to revolt against his brother. Edward asked his brother to defend himself and make clear his motives before the council, but he never showed. Instead he was caught trying to breach the King’s apartments (perhaps to kidnap him). Thomas was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. He was tried, found guilty of treason, and then executed.

Thomas Seymour had one daughter with his wife Katherine Parr:

Mary Seymour (1548-c.1550)

*As her mother’s wealth was left entirely to her father and later confiscated by the Crown, Mary was left a destitute orphan in the care of Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, who appears to have resented this imposition. After 1550 Mary disappears from historical record completely, and no claim was ever made on her father’s meager estate, leading to the conclusion that she did not live past the age of two. (PBS Documentary: The Six Wives of Henry VIII.)

Lord Edward Seymour (c.1500-1552) – House of Seymour – The Regent Uncle


Edward Seymour Banner

Edward Seymour

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, received his power when his nephew ascended the throne as King Edward VI of England. Edward was the son of Henry VIII and his 3rd wife, Jane Seymour. Edward Seymour was the young king’s uncle, as he was Queen Jane’s eldest brother.

Before the death of Henry VIII, Edward Seymour was the Earl of Hertford and Viscount of Beauchamp. He enjoyed favor with Henry VIII as the brother of his wife, and continued to remain in favor and close to the King after Jane’s death (she died after childbirth). This favor lasted the whole of Henry VIII’s reign.

Edward married two times. His first wife, was heiress Catherine Fillol. She bore two children, but if was public knowledge that she had an affair. For this reason Edward disinherited the children from this marriage, and made the children of his second wife, heiress Ann Stanhope, his heirs. Ann gave birth to ten of Edward’s children.

It is said that Edward was named Lord Protector in the will of Henry VIII, as who would better guide and protect the nine year old king, but the king’s mother’s own eldest brother? Seems like as good as choice as any, however, this is not even remotely true. The fact is, Edward Seymour, with the backing of bribed powerful nobles, named himself Lord Protector. It is recorded that many titles, lands, and monies were distributed to Edward Seymour’s supporters. Henry VIII’s will actually named sixteen executors that were supposed to act as King Edward’s council. Well… that did not happen.

One of the first things that Uncle Edward did was Lord Protector, was give himself the high and mighty title of Duke. Duke of Somerset to be precise. He also got the young king to decree that he could make important decisions for the realm. Pretty much he obtained the monarchical power of a king regent. He could even appoint privy council members.

One person who was against him was his own brother, Thomas Seymour, who felt that he should be Lord Protector, or protector of the kings person. One should not be both, as Edward was doing. Edward tried to bribe/placate his brother with a barony, by making him Lord Admiral, and giving him a seat on the privy council. This still was not enough for Edward’s brother, who went behind his back and tried to befriend and influence the young king. When his brother went to far in planning to marry Princess Elizabeth, the king’s half sister, Edward had Thomas arrested and eventually executed.

Edward Seymour was a skilled military leader. What he lacked in governing, he made up for on the battlefield, keeping the ever problematic Scots at bay. Also, a few rebellions surfaced that Edward put down.

As time went on, the powerful nobles began to resent Edward’s power. When it was suspected there would be a possible power struggle, Edward took possession of the King (really took him hostage), but power lasts only as long as the powerful nobles allow it. Every King learns that in order to protect his throne, that he must keep his nobles happy, something that the Lord Protector had forgotten.

Edward found himself arrested and the King was freed. The King himself accused him of mismanagement and abuse of power, as he was just a little bit upset that he was taken prisoner. Edward Seymour was forgiven and released, but eventually, Edward Seymour would be executed when he attempted to take power from the King’s new man who led the council, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick.

Edward had two wives and twelve children. With his first wife, Catherine Fillol, there were two sons whose paternity was questioned.

John Seymour (1527-1552)
Lord Edward Seymour (1529-1593), Sheriff of Devon

With his second wife Ann Stanhope:

Edward Seymour (1537-1539), Viscount Beauchamp of Hache
Edward Seymour (1539-1621), Earl of Hertford
Lady Anne Seymour (1538-1588)
Lord Henry Seymour (1540-?)
Lady Margaret Seymour (1540-?)
Lady Jane Seymour (1541-1561)
Lady Catherine Seymour (maybe died in infancy)
Lord Edward Seymour (1548-1574)
Lady Mary Seymour (1552-?)
Lady Elizabeth Seymour (1552-1602)

Jane Seymour (1508-1537) – House of Seymour – Plain Jane


Jane Seymour Banner

Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour, Queen Consort of England, was the third wife of infamous King Henry Tudor VIII of England. Jane was raised to throne as soon as the King’s second wife, Anne Boleyn was thrown off. The King proposed marriage to her the day after Anne Boleyn was executed for treason, on trumped up charges of adultery and incest, and then married her ten days later. He wasted no time. It has been documented that the King and Jane had a romance while Jane was Lady in Waiting to Queen Ann. When Ann also failed to deliver the promised heir and prince (like the King’s first wife, whom he divorced), it is clear that the King called on his men to get rid of her, so he could take a new wife. This time, he did not want a long drawn out process of a divorce. The King’s men were swift and thorough, and several men, along with Queen Ann and her brother, the Viscount of Rochford, were put to death. All victims were innocent of all charges brought against them. One can say, that Jane’s marriage began with blood and would end with blood.

Plain Jane was not known as a great beauty, but she was very fair and demure, which were ideal qualities in women of this era (Renaissance). Jane was also the daughter of a simple knight, Sir John Seymour, and Lady Margery Wentworth. Jane’s common birth and upbringing in the countryside shaped her into the woman she was. Unlike Catherine of Aragon, (a Spanish Princess born to be Queen someday), or Anne Boleyn, daughter of a minor nobleman and niece of a Duke- she was not as educated as Henry VIII’s first two wives. In fact, plain Jane was the polar opposite of her predecessor, the witty, sharp tongued, dark beauty, Anne Boleyn. Anne was opinionated and demanding. Jane was quiet and submissive. She was not of the temperament to debate and contradict the King, especially in front of his court, like Anne was remembered for. She was the perfect wife for the volatile, arrogant, and impetuous Henry VIII. Also, she had a frailness about her that appealed to Henry’s tough, over protective, chivalrous side.

Like all women of this era, Jane was a tool to be used by her family to further their social standing at court. Surely when the King took interest in her, her mother, father, and two older brothers were right beside her, pushing her and pressuring her to welcome the King’s attentions. It made no difference that the King was married or not. Gifts and titles were to be given to the family of any King’s mistress. However, it was because that Queen Anne had not provided the desperately desired son, that Jane’s family no doubt instructed her to wait for a possible marriage with the King. Since the court watched in shock as the Catholic King divorced and set aside his first Queen and wife to marry his second, and also broke with the Catholic Church in order to do so- Many young ladies knew it was possible to be the next Queen. Anne Boleyn did not only set fashion trends at court. She also gave common ladies hope that they too can wear a crown. All they must do is make the King notice them and then remain moral and virtuous ladies, patiently awaiting a respectable marriage.

Henry VIII would declare openly on several occasions that Queen Jane was his favorite wife. Historians note that Jane was the only one to give him the son he most desperately needed, and she had the good grace to die before she became annoying or boring. Yes, Jane Seymour, gave birth to her prince Edward Tudor, who would later become Edward VI of England. Sadly though, childbirth was very dangerous at the time. Queen Jane most likely caught an infection after she gave birth and she succumbed to childbirth fever nine days later.

Henry VIII was publicly and privately mournful of her death. It was said that after her death is when Henry VIII began to put on some serious weight, becoming grotesquely obese. He did not remarry for three years, which is considerable, since Kings were supposed to stay married if possible and keep providing heirs for the Kingdom. No expense was spared for Jane’s funeral. Also, when Henry VIII commissioned a family portrait, he was married to his sixth and final wife Katherine Parr, but instead of her painted by his side, Jane was painted instead. Henry VIII decreed that he would be buried next to Jane upon his death, and he was.

Jane had two older brothers, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, and Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron of Sudeley. Both men were key figures during the Tudor era. I plan to do a piece on each of them in the future.

Harriet Tubman (c. 1822-1913), An American Hero


Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman. is one of the more famous American Heroes, ranking third to Betsy Ross and Paul Revere. Born into slavery as Araminta “Minty” Ross, she was the second generation of her line to be enslaved. It’s impossible to know for certain, but Tubman herself said that she came from the Ashanti people of Africa, from what is now Ghana. Later Araminta took her mother’s name Harriet.

Harriet became a defiant slave and would become one of America’s most important Abolitionists. She received a head injury when she refused to hold a slave down so his master could beat him. The master threw a two pound weight and struck Tubman in the head. For the rest of her life she would have epileptic seizures from time to time, which she claimed allowed her to communicate with God.

In 1849, Tubman escaped from slavery, as she made us of a secret network called the Underground Railroad, which was composed of free and enslaved men and women, and many abolitionists of all races. The Quakers were very active abolitionists at the time and many worked within the Underground Railroad. Tubman would recall the Quakers who aided her during her escape to Pennsylvania, a free state.

Her freedom was soon put into jeopardy however when the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed. This made free states help capture and turn over run away slaves to their owners. The runaways now made their way for Canada, where slavery was outlawed. Harriet soon began working to aide her family and other slaves to escape to Canada. It is said that she aided over 300 slaves in their escape. She received the Nickname “Moses.”

She also received the nickname “General Tubman” by Union General, Benjamin Butler, as she helped slaves escape during the Civil War and worked as a nurse for injured Union Soldiers. She also scouted and spied for the Union. One could say that she joined the Union Army and that she can also be considered a female War Hero. She also worked with other greats such as the insurgent John Brown and famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass, all of whom deeply respected Tubman.

After the Civil War, Tubman lived and pretty long life. She even survived brain surgery in an attempt to correct her ordeal she received from the head injury when she was younger. Tubman died at the age of about 93, poor but free.

Harriet Tubman is portrayed by stage actress Leslie McCurdy, in the play “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman.” HBO is in the works of creating a period film, starring Viola Davis, as Harriet Tubman.

The Neolithic Revolution (c. 10,000 – 4, 000 BCE)



early agriculture

The neolithic revolution started at the end of the Ice Age, around 10,000 BCE. The cause of this huge change, was the dramatic shift, from hunting and gathering to systematic agriculture and animal husbandry. By planting grains, vegetables, and domesticating animals, the early humans were able to provide a continuous food supply, which allowed them to give up the nomadic way of life and settle in communities.

Systematic agriculture developed independently between 9,000 and 7,000 BCE in four different areas of the world. In each of these areas different plants were cultivated:

agriculture near east

In the near east there was wheat, barely, and lentils.

southern asia agriculture

In Southern Asia there was rice and millet.

west african agriculture

In West Africa there was millet and yams.

anicent american agriculture

In the Americas there was corn (maize).


catal huyuk

The Neolithic village of Catal Huyuk, in present day Turkey, reveals how the growing of crops and the raising of animals gave rise to permanent settlements. The oldest known agriculture was wheat. People grew their own food and stored it in storerooms in their homes. Domesticated animals such as cattle, supplied meat, milk, and hides. Food surpluses also allowed the birth of culture. People were able to do other things aside from searching constantly for their next meal. Some people became artisans and made weapons and jewelry, which they were then able to trade with their neighbors.

catal huyuk goddess

Religious shrines and statues, like this Catal Huyuk goddess statue, have been found at Neolithic farming village sites. The voluptuous female form, with large breasts and hips, generally means the statute was a fertility goddess and a mother earth figure. These discoveries reveal the growing role of religion in the live of Neolithic people.

The Paleolithic Age (c. 2,500,000 – 10,000 BCE)



stone age tools

What sets the human species apart from the others, is the ability to make tools. The earliest known tools were made of stone, which is where the Stone Age gets its name from.


For hundreds and thousands of years humans were hunters and gatherers. Early humans came to know which animals to hunt and which plants to eat. Cultivation and Pastoralism came much later. They did not know how to grow crops and raise animals, but they did know how to gather wild fruits, nuts, berries, grain, and green plants. They could also hunt buffalo, horses, bison, wild goats, and reindeer. In the coastal areas, early humans could also hunt fish.

stone age spear

Due to the way humans obtained their food, they had to live by certain patterns. Archaeologist and Anthropologist assume that the Paleolithic people lived in small bands of 20 – 30, and they were nomadic, following their food sources. Hunting was a group effort and required extensive observation of the prey. Over many years,  tools became more refined and efficient, such as the invention of the spear and the bow and arrow. Eventually, there were also harpoons and fish hooks made from animal bone.

stone age woman

Both men and women were responsible for finding food, and finding food was pretty much the only main task of the Stone Age people. Since women bore and fed the children, they usually stayed close to the camps and gathered berries, nuts, and grains that had grown nearby. Men hunted far away from camp. There is speculation that men and women roles were generally equal and both made important decisions that affected their band.

stone age fire

Some Stone Age humans from colder climates, found shelter in caves. Over time they used what was available to create more efficient forms of shelter. The most common shelters were probably tents made of wooden poles (or mammoth bone poles, if there was no wood) covered with animal hides. Fire, which was believed to be used as early as 500,000 years ago, was a source of heat and light for the Stone Age humans. Fire also enabled the early humans to cook their food, making it taste better, last longer, and/or digest easier.

chauvet rhino

Making tools and creating fire were key to survival, but Paleolithic people did more than just survive. Cave paintings found in southwestern France and northern Spain reveal that these people had culture. Many of the animals in the paintings were not food sources, which means that these paintings were either religious in nature, or aesthetic.