Tag Archives: Anne Arundel County

I voted.

This morning, I voted.  It was actually the first time I have not voted by an absentee ballot.  As a result, it was a much better experience–which is to say, it was an experience.  Our polling station opened at 7 am.  We were just inside the school’s double-doors by 7:05.  There were 7 electronic polling stations (1 clearly handicapped accessible) and, after checking in a getting our electronic voter card, we went through the lines fairly quickly.  We had walked home before the clock ticked 8 am.  My daughter, too young to vote, participated by standing outside with a sign while we waited in line and voted.

I spent most of yesterday studying, and studying.  In my state, Maryland, we had 7 questions to vote on, and in my county, Anne Arundel County, we also had a large number of questions (up to Question N, I believe, but I am not interested enough to count it out).  As a historian, I am always, always, cognizant of the limitations of my sources.  For some of the questions under review I had changed my mind in the last 24 hours after doing more research, but I still worry that I may not have had all the information I needed to make the best decision.

For a moment, though, I did not care about the outcome of the elections.  For a blissful moment–after long hours of frustration, yesterday, sifting through candidate platforms and rival analyses of the questions on the ballot–I was thrilling in what I was doing.  I was voting, participating in the democratic-republic as a citizen of my county, state and country.  My whole household was participating as each was able.  I know there will be charges of foul-play with the votes and ballots after the election; I know that Maryland is gerrymandered and the votes for candidates are fairly predictable; I know I will be disappointed with some of the results; and is all going to come later, but for that moment, that moment which was so powerful I am still a little high on it, I was proud and grateful to cast my ballot.

I’m luckier than many this election day and I know that, too.  I was raised by parents who believed in an active citizenry and raised me to fully understand the importance of my vote, the importance of lobbying my representative government at the state and national level, and the importance of being aware of political current events.  I also vote at a polling station that is not easily overwhelmed by volume–people will undoubtedly have to wait in chilly lines running into the school parking lot, but no one will wait hours on election day as happens in some polling stations (though, the early voting polling stations did have long waits this year).  And, I also work at home and do not need to jump through any special hoops to accommodate my work schedule to voting hours.  This makes me fortunate and I am keenly aware of that, but the knowledge that people will overcome some of these very obstacles that  I do not face inspires me even as I hope we gradually work to eliminate such difficulties and even though (or, especially?) I know I undoubtedly do not agree with all of the voters who are overcoming these challenges.

I have never had the same feeling in casting my absentee ballot–except for that very first time when I was in college, perhaps–as I had, today, waiting in line with my neighbors and those coordinating the process at the polling station.  It is good to wait in line with people whom you do not know, alongside those you do, and who may not agree with you when they cast their ballot in peace.  There is a certain solidarity of having participated in the great (if at times flawed) civic process that exists in our country.  This solidarity, this participation that gives me my euphoria also makes me reflect gratefully on the many pioneers who opened up the vote to those who were for so long disenfranchised.  It makes me grateful for the efforts made by so many participating and active citizens who helped improve the civic process and those who will continue to do so.  It was easy to look around at just the folks who attended my polling station this morning while I was there and who voted, today, only because we improved upon the original conceptions that were written into the founding of our nation.

So, for right now, from that moment that hasn’t quite worn off yet, I am still happy.  Later, I will certainly go through a much wider array of emotions, but for right now I am inclined to grin like a fool if I don’t catch myself.  I voted.


I would love to hear others’ experiences and emotions, too!  Please, share in the comments, below.


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Filed under Historian's Journal

The discovery of mom and daughter volunteer archaeologists

The discovery we made

This is clearly one of the advantages of homeschooling: field trips whenever and however you please.  Today, we visited London Town in Edgewater, MD.  This town is being excavated by Anne Arundel County’s (MD) Lost Towns Project, an archaeological project to uncover the lost towns of MD.  London Town was a town thrown together over night as an official weighing station and quality control for colonial Maryland’s tobacco exportation.  Politics would eventually intervene and transplant the operation to Annapolis, leaving the city to evaporate after only a couple of decades.  The only structure to survive was a brick mansion built to be an inn.  It was inexplicably and foolishly built after the town had clearly lost the purpose for existence; this would become an almshouse and orphanage operating from the 1820s through the 1960s.  The rest of the town, built from wood, decomposed and was lost to time’s forward march.

We went as volunteers, today.  Such opportunities exist Monday through Friday and are announced through a weekly e-mail.  Our visit coincided with an elementary school group, so there was only one sifter available–but what a gold mine it was!  If you have ever visited an archaeological dig in this country, than you have witnessed the carefully laid out grid over the site that is labeled and numbered.  From this, dirt is taken with careful attention being paid to the stratigraphy (layers in the earth) and grid square so the provenance is known (giving us physical location and an earthen layer for chronology–the stratigraphy).  We were sifting through the last batch of dirt from a unit–literally sifting it using a wooden box with a wire-grid bottom hanging from a tripod of plastic piping.  Beneath it, a soft, fine mountain of moist dirt gradually grew.

Our bag of still-dirty treasures

Often this process yields dirt, roots, grubs and stone or clay.  Boring, yes.  We (one of the Lost Town archaeologists, who actually made the discovery, my daughter and I) were far more lucky!  We found glass, ceramic, a large corner of brick or building block, a nail and a small, thin silver disc!  This last was the coolest!  As the students were breaking for lunch, we took our find into the lab located onsite nearby.  Once there, we showed it to the archaeologists and interns.  Everyone was puzzled, but interested.  We continued our volunteer work in the lab.  My daughter began cleaning artifacts, starting with the little disc.

As seen above, we could already make out a “C” with the Roman numeral III on one side, while on the other was a six-pointed star, which I initially thought was a Star of David.  It was exceptionally thin, so our initial hypothesis was that it might be a token of some kind.  After my daughter washed the disc.  She was able to discern thirteen stars around the C III.  The disc was viewed in angled light and a high resolution picture was taken of it to attempt to identify more, eventually yielding “United States of America” around the six-pointed star and a US shield in the star.  It was so thin that none of us present at the time could imagine it being a coin–indeed our example was slightly bent at the bottom.  Operating under the idea that it was some type of token–although, why did it say “United States of America”?–I began searching through an index of American tokens.  A few hundred pages later we were no closer.  On to the internet, where my first set of search terms brought up the answer to our questions: it was a ¢3 coin!

An 1851 Type 1, silver ¢3 coin

We found it through http://www.coinlink.com which told us that the ¢3 coin was introduced because the postal service was reducing postal rates from ¢5 to ¢3.  ¢1 coins were not considered legal tender and so could not be used to purchase postage.  Thus, the ¢3 coin was adopted.  Type 1 ¢3 coins, like the one we found, were only minted from 1851 to 1853, remaining in circulation until 1861, when gold and silver coins were hoarded.  It was designed by James Barton Longacre, had a metal content 0f 75% silver and 25% copper, and is the smallest US coin ever issued in weight and thickness.  In some Treasury records it is referred to as a “trime”.  For the first year, the coins were minted in both Philadelphia and New Orleans–those from the New Orleans mint had an “O” to the right of the III.  After 1851, they were only minted in Philadelphia.  (www.coinlink.com)

A total of 35,510,900 of the Type 1 were minted in Philadelphia–as was our sample–and another 720,000 came out of the New Orleans mint.  Subsequently, Types 2 and 3 were minted from 1853 through 1873.  As of 1865, they shared currency space with the ¢3 Nickel (1865-1889).  They were quickly tarnished and often referred to as a “fishscale,” especially as Type 2 and 3 coins were made of 90% silver to 10% copper (the weight also dropped from .80 grams to .75 grams).  The coin was worth less than the medal it was made of once the gold mines in the west depressed gold and raised the price of silver!  These later Types are also identified by added decorations to the coin, including a laurel leaf and bundle of arrows above and below the III, respectively.  (www.coin-collecting-guide-for-beginners.com)

It was a very cool learning experience!

Washing the artifacts, Xan then grouped them by type

Meanwhile, my daughter Xan became a minor expert on quartz, quartzite and “quartz conglomerate” as she washed and grouped artifacts, identifying bone, ceramics, and other artifact shards.  She got really into her work and enjoyed interacting with the staff.  While this wasn’t her first time at a dig, she found more artifacts and did more activities than in her previous experience.  She’s now asking for a homeschooling internship with the Lost Towns Project!  She could have incredible access to colonial Maryland and gain a really unique knowledge of Anne Arundel County, Maryland.  I love it!  Even if she does not grow up to be an archaeologist, she gets the experience and develops her curiosity for new things and for the past.  In other words, it goes down in my mind as a huge success!  It is a success for experiential learning and a success for homeschooling.

These sorts of opportunities are ubiquitous, though you may not know where to look for them, regardless of whether or not you are homeschooling.  My recommendation would be to check with your local and state governments–Maryland has a lot of useful resources about volunteering with archaeology on its government websites, including the state-sponsored Archaeology Month–and check local historical preservation groups and your local historical societies.  As mentioned, the Lost Towns Project is an Anne Arundel County project.  The other obvious resources are colleges and universities which frequently have classes, field digs and other projects, some of which they open to the public.  It’s a tight community based on shared knowledge acquired from similar means with common goals, so once you find one opportunity, a dozen more will reveal themselves!

Experiential learning and curiosity stimulating--homeschooling at its best!


Filed under Experiences, Experiencing History - Project Based Learning