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Glimpse into the lives and passions of the diverse group of women who comprise today’s DAR membership.
Take a step inside the DAR Museum for a closer look at its fascinating collection.
Learn about the interesting historical articles from this issue.
Details on exciting stories that will be featured in upcoming issues of American Spirit.
Patriotism on Parade
By Lena Anthony
Photograph courtesy of Kitty Bowers
Volume 147, Number 6, November/December 2013, Page 5
As a volunteer balloon handler for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the past decade, Katherine “Kitty” Bowers knows which balloons draw the most cheers from the crowds of children watching from New York City’s sidewalks. She has handled some of the most popular balloons, including Hello Kitty and Kermit the Frog, which alone requires 70 handlers to navigate through the 2.65-mile route.
“You can’t imagine the emotion when you’re walking down Broadway in front of all these children,” says the member of the Francis Hopkinson-Monmouth Court House Chapter, Freehold, N.J. “By the end of the day, your face hurts from smiling so much.”
Your legs hurt, too, Mrs. Bowers says. But the exhaustion doesn’t stop her from enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving meal with her sister, Barbara Eckert, a fellow DAR member, and their brother, Charles Eckert, a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. Both also are balloon handlers in the parade. “We let the crowds disperse and find somewhere to get a turkey sandwich,” she says. “We always make sure to have turkey.”
Some years have left Mrs. Bowers more sore than others. In fact, one year she was actually injured on the job. It was particularly windy that year, and Mrs. Bowers was knocked down by an out-of-control candy cane balloon.
“True to show business, I thought the show must go on, so I rolled over and I managed to get myself up and onto the next balloon,” Mrs. Bowers says. “I was walking, but I have to say I wasn’t walking very well. I didn’t realize I was hurt.”
When she was assigned to the Uncle Sam balloon in 2004—her second year on the job—she was unprepared for what an emotional experience it would turn out to be.
“Uncle Sam is not usually a balloon kids get excited about, but what a thrill that year was,” Mrs. Bowers recalls.
That’s because she was holding Uncle Sam balloon with active duty U.S. Marines who had just returned from Iraq.
“At one point we passed a National Guard station on the parade route, and they came out to salute the Marines,” she says. “That’s when tears just started streaming down my face.”
It was an especially touching experience for Mrs. Bowers, who comes from a long line of U.S. servicemen, including her father, who was a submariner killed in World War II. Her husband, who died in 2000, was a Vietnam War veteran. And through her work in the DAR, she volunteers at a veteran’s nursing home, where she plays miniature golf with the wheelchair-bound veterans.
“We have a theme each month, and I always take my costume over the top because I think it’s important to put a smile on their faces,” she says.
Mrs. Bowers joined the DAR because of her love of history, as well as to honor her mother. “She had been working on her application, but we didn’t know that until after she died,” says Mrs. Bowers, who says her own application process was a “true labor of love.”
“I never looked at it as work,” she says, even though acquiring her father’s death certificate from the Department of the Navy proved time-consuming. “It took me 18 months, but I never dreamed where it would take me and the doors it would open. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Mrs. Bowers also is an avid traveler. She’s been to six continents, including Antarctica. She hopes to make it to Africa someday soon.
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To the Rescue
Photography by Mark Gulezian (fire engine) and DAR Museum (toy ship)
Volume 147, Number 6, November/December 2013, Page 6
Based on the toy horses, carriages and carts that appear in early boys' portraits, it seems that boys have always loved transportation-themed toys. If these two examples are any indication, the added element of heroism only increased the appeal.
By the late 1800s, mass production of affordable cast iron, and even cheaper tin, put colorful, durable and boy-proof toys such as fire engines and other horse-drawn vehicles within the reach of almost every household. Though simply designed, most were made so that the horses moved in an apparent gallop, hurrying to the scene of the imaginary fire. Horse-drawn fire engines remained in use well into the 1900s. This early 20th-century toy fire engine was donated to the DAR Museum by Byron U. Richards Jr., who played with it as a child.
The wood and printed tin toy ship represents the USS Oregon, which in 1898 undertook a historic voyage from San Francisco around South America after the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbor. Its two-month journey highlighted the need for a rapid response to such emergencies and helped increase support for the idea of a canal through Panama. The Oregon arrived in Cuba in time to assist in the primary naval battle of the Spanish-American War, the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, in July 1898. The Spanish-American War lasted only a few months, but patriotic fervor ran high, and toys such as this reflected a nationwide awareness of America's fight with Spain. Gift of Jacqueline Ernest Merritt.
For more National Treasures, please visit the DAR Museum's Featured Objects.
The Role of Another Lifetime by Nancy Mann Jackson
Historical interpreters don't just dress like important figures of the past; with a commitment to research and a flair for theater, they inhabit and illuminate the lives of these memorable characters.
First Responders: How Fire Was Tamed in Early America by Nancy Mann Jackson
To fight fires, early Americans relied on the diligence and bravery of community volunteers. These old-fashioned bucket brigades gradually gave way to more organized and professional fire safety and prevention.
Espionage in the Revolution by Sharon McDonnell
Revolutionary spies used invisible ink, mask letters, covert clotheslines and other ingenious techniques to elude detection and move their crucial messages across enemy lines.
Changing Faces by Olive Graffam
Female portraiture in the DAR Museum collection gives insight into the elusive lives of late 18th- and early 19th-century women.
The Creek War: Clash of Civilizations by Bill Hudgins
The Creek War of 1813—1814 was largely a conflict over land, with American Indians facing overwhelming pressure to give up their ancestral homes.
Spirited Adventures: Oklahoma City by Natalie Dietz Raines
As the endpoint of the Trail of Tears and the prize of land-run homesteaders, Oklahoma's capital city has been at the crossroads of many journeys.
Historic Homes: Belmont Hall by Courtney Peter
This circa-1773 Georgian mansion played host to Revolutionary meetings, served as the home of an early State Regent of Delaware and is now preserved as a historic property.
Plus: President General's Message, Letters to the Editor, Whatnot
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To Come in the November/December Issue of American Spirit
Unusual Colonial Inventions
Alexander Hamilton, First Secretary of the Treasury
King Philip's War
Spirited Adventures: Ste. Genevieve, Mo.