Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mary Hays McCauley: Revolutionary War Hero

Currier and Ives painting
of Molly Pitcher
Mary Hays McCauley was an American Revolution heroine who earned herself the nickname “Molly Pitcher” for her brave actions during the Battle of Monmouth. Her dedication and fearlessness are legendary.

Molly Pitcher was born near Trenton, New Jersey on October 13, 1754. Her parents were German immigrants, whose names are not known. Her maiden is not known for certain either, but it may have been Ludwig.

In 1769, at the age of fifteen, Mary Hays McCauley went to work for future Colonial Army colonel and Brigadier General, Dr. William Irvine. She worked in his household as a maid, but she was not happy in her position. She soon fell in love with a barber named John Casper Hays and left her place of employment to marry him. John soon enlisted in the artillery of the Continental Army. When John went off to war, Mary followed.

During the Revolutionary War, it was common for women to follow their men so that they may do chores such as washing and cooking for them. They were also handy for tending the wounded. Mary Hays McCauley was present with her husband at Valley Forge, but it was at the Battle of Monmouth that she proved that she could do far more than cook and clean. The temperature was very hot on the battlefield, so Mary decided to begin collecting pitchers of water from a nearby water source and bringing them to the men on the battlefield. This is what earned her the fond moniker Molly Pitcher.

At some point during the battle, Mary Hays McCauley’s husband collapsed beside his canon. Some reports say that he had been wounded but that Mary noticed that he would survive. The men around her watched as Molly Pitcher took up her husband’s post and began firing his canon. She supposedly did this for the remainder of the day. Joseph Plumb Martin, who had witnessed Mary’s bravery, wrote of her in his memoirs. He stated that an enemy canon ball had gone straight between Mary’s legs. She behaved as if nothing untoward had happened and continued firing her canon. She did however remark upon what would have happened had the canon ball been a little higher.

The story goes that, after the battle, brave Molly Pitcher was presented to George Washington himself, who commended her for her efforts. He supposedly also gave her a new nickname, “Sergeant.” She soon became legendary among the colonial troops.

After the war, Mary Hays McCauley and her husband moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. John Casper Hays died there in 1789. Mary remarried shortly thereafter, to a man named George McCauley. Reportedly, McCauley was not particularly kind to his wife and treated her as if she were a servant. Their union was not a happy one and they were not well off financially.

An answer to some of Mary Hays McCauley’s troubles came in 1822. The local government decided that she earned herself a lifetime annuity for her services. She collected that annuity every year until her death in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on January 22, 1832.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Vincent Price: Horror's Most Iconic Actor

Vincent Price is one of film's most legendary actors. He was beloved for his haunting performances in numerous classic and modern horror films. However, there was much more to Price than an eerie voice and an unforgettable face. He was a philanthropist, author, chef, art collector and promoter of lesbian and gay rights. Behind the characters he played was a man with many and varied interests.

Vincent Leonard Price, Jr. was born on May 27, 1911 in St. Louis, Missouri. His lineage can be traced to a baby born on the Mayflower off the coast of Massachusetts, making him as American as Thanksgiving. His immediate family was in the candy business and had done well for themselves, making it possible for young Vincent Price to attend private schools and eventually get a degree in art history from Yale. He would later collect art and donate thousands of pieces to the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College.

Price was initially a teacher, but he found his calling on the stage in London. While he is most memorable in horror roles, thanks to his distinctive features, he started out as a character actor in dramas and even a comedy or two. Horror roles did pop up early in his career. However, it wasn't until the 1950's, when he had roles in The Fly, House on Haunted Hill, House of Wax and others, that he became known for his abilities in the genre. In the 60s, he further cemented his place in horror history with a slew of Poe adaptations, including The Pit and the Pendulum and The Raven.

Even while making his mark in horror, Vincent Price branched out, landing roles on television– including the role of Egghead on Batman. He also continued to do stage roles until late in his career. Music gave him another outlet for his talent, gaining him a new generation of followers. He did a cover of Monster Mash and a voice over for Alice Coopers Welcome to My Nightmare. His most significant contribution to music was his narration of Michael Jackson's Thriller. If you didn't know him before Thriller was released, you knew his voice afterward.

Vincent Price married three times. His first wife was actress Edith Barrett. They married in 1938 and divorced about a decade later. They had one child­–a son named Vincent. The following year, he married his second wife, Mary Grant Price–a costume designer with whom he had a daughter they named Victoria. The couple also authored cookbooks together. Vincent's third wife was actress Coral Brown. They married in 1973, the year after his divorce from Mary. They stayed married until she passed away in 1991.

In 1990, Vincent Price played the role of the inventor in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. The pair worked together before on the short film Vincent in 1982. Unfortunately, the aging actor was so sick with emphysema and lung cancer by the time he did Edward Scissorhands opposite a young Johnny Depp that his work with the film was cut short. He died just a few years later at the age of 82. To this day, there is no one in horror who comes close to his reputation.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Abigail Adams: First Lady and Mother of a President

Abigail Adams by Gilbert Stuart

Abigail Adams was the wife of lawyer and politician John Adams. The couple met when Abigail was just a teenaged girl. John was ten years older than his future wife but the age difference meant little. Their 45-year marriage was apparently a very happy one, judging by the scores of letters the lovebirds sent each other. For the better part of their early married life, Abigail lived in Quincy and Boston without the company of her husband, but that did not stop them from starting a family.

Abigail Adams nee Smith married John Adams on October 25, 1764. Their first child, a daughter they named Abigail, came just shy of nine months later. Their second child and future President of the United States, John, was born in 1767. The following year, a daughter named Susanna was born to the couple. She passed away when she was two years old. Right around the time Susanna passed away, John and Abigail Adams had their second son, a boy they named Charles. A third son-Thomas- followed two years later.

Abigail Adams was well educated (by her mother). As such, she was suited for life as the wife of a lawyer, politician and eventual President of the United States. During the American Revolution, she wrote a letter to her husband that would become the first evidence of an early push for women's rights in the United States. In this letter, she wrote, ". . . in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors." During her time as First Lady, she stood up for the rights of a young African-American man to get his education in Massachusetts. She was not a pushy or aggressive woman, but her intentions were made clear and no one could question her morality.

Abigail Adams was the first First Lady to occupy the White House, if only for a few months. She was also the first First Lady to demonstrate an interest in politics and to hold something akin to political office. During the American Revolution, members of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress appointed her as one of the women sent to question female British loyalists.

Abigail Adams was as loyal, loving and dedicated as a woman can be. We know this about her through her correspondence with several individuals. She passed away on November 10, 1818 from complications of a stroke she suffered a few days prior.