Monday, August 26, 2013

Ever Wonder Where the Word Boycott Came From?

During the past week I ran across a post on Facebook that talked about the origin of the word "boycott" and I thought it would be interesting to share it here as it certainly is something that applies to our everyday life with a history of its own.  The word actually originated in Ireland in the 1880s after locals set about to shun Captain Charles Boycott for his eviction of Irish tenant farmers during the last main Irish famine which began in 1879.  In contrast to the Great Famines of 1740-1741 and 1845-1849, the result of this famine was for the most part hunger that was not life threatening and it was mainly concentrated in the west of Ireland.  While a series of food shortages and crop failures swept through Ireland during the 1870s and into the early 1890s, a larger scale crop shortage during 1879 led it to be called a famine and it is sometimes referred to as "An Gorta Beag" meaning mini-famine.

Woman Gathering a Meal
From The Graphic
January 24, 1880
Both the English and American press covered the famine and there exists many stories and sketches from that particular era.  To the left is the sketch of a woman gathering a meal in the field from an article entitled "The Distress in the West" from The Graphic on January 24, 1880.

The state of the tenant farmer was poor at best.  Most lived in small thatched houses which were really nothing more than hovels.  A description of which was printed in the article "The Distress in the West of Ireland" in Harper's Weekly on February 14, 1880:

Tenant Thatched "House"
From Harper's Weekly
February 14, 1880

"At present the miserable constructions on Irish farms area a source of amazement to a visitor who knows that he is among a people that pretend to live by agriculture.  In vain he looks for specimens of the quadrangle straw yard, with surrounding buildings, which distinguishes most English farms. Except on the few large holding, there are no straw yards at all, and no farm premises beyond the small thatched houses or hovels which are here honored with the designation of barns, cow-houses, and stables--usually joined on to the farmer's dwelling-house..."

According to Harper's Weekly "the vast majority of Irish farm land (97% in 1870) was owned by men who rented the land to tenant farmers, not by those who cultivated the land themselves.  Land ownership was also concentrated in the hands of a few; in 1870, only 750 families owned 50% of the land in Ireland."  The population of the time was 5,000,000.  With impending hunger and threat of another widespread famine, a social movement in the form of The Irish National Land League, also known as the Land League, was formed in 1879.  Harper's Weekly goes on to explain that "The Land League organized agitation throughout Ireland for an end to evictions and a radical change in the land system to allow tenants to become landowners.  To enforce uniform compliance with their goals, the Land League convinced people to shun those tenants, land agents, and landlords who failed to cooperate."  The first such use of this tactic was against the landlord and agent named Charles Boycott.

Captain Charles Boycott c 1880

Charles Boycott was both a landlord and an agent who collected rents for a landlord.  He himself having entered into a 31-year lease for 300 acres in the town of Ballinrobe was a landlord.  He also worked for the landlord, Lord Erne, in the management of 1000 acres.  Lord Erne's estates had 38 tenant farmers of which Boycott was responsible for.  Due to the 1879 Famine, Lorde Erne was allowing for a 10% reduction in collecting the rents.  The tenant farmers demanded a 25% reduction.  When the tenants were unable to pay their rents, mass evictions by Captain Boycott were ordered.  In response, the implementation of shunning Captain Boycott was put into place by the Land League.  Captain Boycott's shunning was so complete that even the person delivering mail refused after being threatened with bodily harm if mail was delivered to the Boycotts.

With the implementation of the shunning, Captain Boycott could not even harvest the crops in his field.  The British state attempted to harvest his crop by calling on all Orangeman to come and assist when local labourers refused to do the same.  In the end it took the protection of 2000 drafted into the area by the British state to bring in the harvest.  According to a post from The Irish History Podcast entitled "An Introduction to the Land War 1879-1882":   "While the league did not attempt to oppose such a large force, the entire operation cost the British state 10,000 pounds to harvest a crop worth a few hundred pounds.  This was a massive victory for the League as the state authorities could not carry out similar actions across the country--the boycott was born."

Boycott Family Harvesting Their Crops
From Harper's Weekly
December 18, 1880

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
--An Old Irish Blessing

Marian McCoy Boveri
Historic Homes Specialist

Monday, August 19, 2013

"A Home in a Prairie Town"

1036 S. Third St., St. Charles, IL, painting

The story begins...c 1910 in St. Charles, IL.  This home, located at 1036 S. Third Street, was built in the Prairie style evidenced by the low-pitched roof and large overhanging eaves.  In fact, the eaves measure 40" wide according to the most recent owner of the home who purchased it in 1956.  Underneath the aluminum sheathing of the eaves can be found the original tongue and groove oak panels. Other elements of the Prairie style are seen in the square masonry that support the porch roof; the window placements and double hung original windows of which some still remain; the one-story wing; and the facade detailing of  banding which emphasizes horizontal lines.

1036 S. Third St., St. Charles, IL, picture from MLS 7/2/13

The Prairie style is one of America's few indigenous architectural styles.  Developed in sympathy with the Arts and Crafts Movement out of England, the Prairie style was a deliberate attempt to develop an American architectural style.  Interestingly, the Prairie style originated in Chicago and was mostly built between 1905 and 1915 and quickly went out of fashion after World War I.  It was actually very short-lived in popularity as far as architectural styles go.  Many of its landmark examples exist in the surrounding Chicago suburbs, in particular Oak Park and River Forest.  Locally there is a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie style c 1906 home in Batavia at 637 North Batavia Avenue which can be seen in the picture below.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed Prairie Style home
637 North Batavia Avenue, Batavia
c 1906--National Landmark Home

The Prairie style earned its name after Frank Lloyd Wright's home design for the 1901 Ladies Home Journal magazine was dubbed:  "A Home in a Prairie Town".  The development of the style was ushered in by a feeling that Victorian homes were boxed in and confining and that the new industrial age with its assembly lines and mass production had lost touch with fine quality craftsmanship as well as resulting in dehumanizing workers.  Frank Lloyd Wright, along with a group of architects who called themselves "The Chicago Group" (now commonly known as the Prairie School) designed this style in relation to the prairie landscape. Low horizontal lines mimicking the prairie were evident in the low-pitched roofs and large overhanging eaves. Built-ins and custom furniture were also part of the style.  Everything about the Prairie style exuded practicality in direct opposition to the ornate Victorian home.  

The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, 
but one that makes the landscape more beautiful than before.  
--Frank Lloyd Wright.

Please stay tuned as I will be updating this blog post with more particular information about the Third Street home as it relates to the history of St. Charles.  One thing that I do know off-hand is that the builder and original owner of the home worked at the St. Charles Cable Piano Factory.  The Cable Piano Company building in St. Charles was built in 1901 and at the height of its productivity employed as many as 500 employees.

Cable Piano Company
St. Charles, IL
Photo from St. Charles Library

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(An Old Irish blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri
Historic Homes Specialist
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty


Sources:  McAlester--A Field Guide to American Houses; Wikipedia;; MRED MLS

Monday, August 12, 2013

Blog Feature

How exciting to have my blog featured in the The Beacon-News by Joy Davis.  Please know that I will be blogging weekly and posting on Mondays.  So stop back and visit to take a stroll back into history!

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(An Old Irish Blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri

National Style Front Gable House with Greek Revival Influence

248 N. May St.
Hinckley, IL
The story begins...c 1890 in Hinckley, Illinois.  This property was relocated sometime in the early 1950s from its original location on Route 30, also known as Lincoln Highway. This house is a Gable-Front Folk House built in the National style according to "A Field Guide of American Houses" by Virginia and Lee McAlester.  The simplicity of the architectural features and its front-gabled placement of entry shows some Greek Revival influence.  In essence one of the remaining Greek Revival architectural influences left as the Greek Revival style home fell out of fashion in the late 1860s was the front-gable house.  This type of house was well-suited for urban lots and impacted domesticity in a way that allowed a more private portion of the home to exist.  In the past homes were built with a side gable and center entry and public and private rooms merged together.  With the Greek Revival's front-gable entry rooms in the house could be closed off for privacy.

The tip-off to the Greek Revival influence is the cornice line of the main roof as being emphasized with a wide band of trim (the trim just below the roof line).  This type of architectural feature is really more indicative of an earlier house fashion and would commonly be found on a Greek Revival home (c 1825-1860).  The National style of house was built c 1850-1890--so this home is built at the end of the National style era with Greek Revival influence.  The windows also have a simple decorative lintel with classical features once again similar to a Greek Revival home.

Wide band of trim along the cornice line

What many people may not know about Hinckley is that it was the site of the first road game for the Harlem Globetrotters on January 7, 1927, in front of a crowd of 300 which was just about half of the population of the whole town.  (1920 census population was 663.)  One of the town residents had gone to college with the owner, Abe Saperstein, of the Harlem Globetrotters and he invited them to play in Hinckley.  Despite the name "Harlem", the team was from Chicago and arrived in Hinckley in a Model "T" Ford.  While speaking with one of the volunteers, Jerry Bahl, at the Hinckley Historical Society, I was informed that at the time the Globetrotters came to Hinckley, the players were not allowed to stay in the town's hotel which was located at May and Route 30.  It was related that a kind doctor in town took the players in and allowed them to stay in the second floor of his building.  Imagine that the now world-famous Harlem Globetrotters were once turned away from lodging!

This image from the Hinckley Historical Society is the north side of Lincoln Avenue from May Street.  The caption reads:  "This is the hotel where the Globe Trotters were refused lodging-photo taken in about 1912.  In 1928 Highway U.S. 30 was constructed through the town and the streets were paved with concrete at that time.  The three buildings to the right of the hotel are still standing.  The hotel is not."  The hotel is the building in the forefront of the left side of the picture.

Hinckley remains a small rural town with a population of 2,070.  There is an active downtown and a local grocery store.  The Hinckley Historical Society has done a wonderful job in preserving their small town's history and their museum is well worth a visit.  They are located at 145 East Lincoln Highway, Hinckley, IL, and is open on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The property at 248 N. May St. had later additions put onto it and currently has 3193 square feet of living space!  The property has been converted into a 2-flat and is currently a foreclosure and listed at $119,900.  For more information about this property please contact Marian Boveri at 847-308-2424.

Until we meet again...may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(An Old Irish Blessing)

Marian McCoy Boveri
Historic Homes Specialist
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty
St. Charles, IL