Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not Just Cookbooks

Dad's German Dictionary
Not only cookbooks, but a dictionary or two have turned up in the family archives. My sister found Dad's old red German-English dictionary from his college days in one of her bookcases. This was a fortuitous find, since I am taking a short course in German this winter. My classmates found the old dictionary interesting, but pretty much unreadable, for reasons which are explained below.

The book was published in Chicago in 1938 by the Follett Publishing Company; it bears an inscription with Dad's signature, "Union College 1943." That must have been his senior year in college. Upon graduating  --  his class was graduated a few months early because the country was at war  --  he went to work immediately for the Sterling Winthrop Research Institute in Rensselaer, NY. With his degree in Chemistry, he was put to work helping develop and produce a synthetic anti-malaria medication for the soldiers who were fighting in the South Pacific.

But back to the dictionary: It is very difficult for us today to read the German words, since they are written in the old blackletter Gothic typeface known as Fraktur.

Dad's dictionary was printed at a transitional moment when the Fraktur script would soon be abandoned in Germany in 1941, in favor of a Latin typescript. It is believed that this changeover was carried out, "because the Third Reich wanted a form of writing which was more like the writing of the rest of the modern Western World." (1)

Mom's Dutch Dictionary
Dad's dictionary is not the only old one I have; I also have Mom's Cassell's Dutch-English/English-Dutch Dictionary. Published in 1967 by Funk & Wagnalls, it is not as old as Dad's, but the original copyright goes back to 1923. Mom purchased it in order to make sure she used the correct Dutch word when writing to her cousins in the Netherlands. Being the careful person she was, Mom covered the book in a colorful flowered wrapping paper when the dust jacket wore out from use. She was also very meticulous in the way she used to write her letters in English, and then, using the dictionary as needed, translate them and carefully re-write the letter in her impeccable Palmer Method handwriting before posting the letter or aerogram off to Holland.

My French Dictionary
Newer yet is my own Cassell's French-English Dictionary from my college days. My Petit Robert has gone missing, but Cassell's has turned up. This one is also published by Funk & Wagnalls, with a copyright date of 1962. My college years were somewhat later than that, but I can see that this old standby has suffered some wear and tear since then.

And so you can see that we have been a trilingual family.

     - Auf Wiedersehen!
     - Tot ziens!
     - A bientot!

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(1) Hensher, Philip. The Missing Ink. New York: Faber and Faber, Inc. 2012; page 100.

For more information about Fraktur, see the following Web page on the German language and type fonts at:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Daams Windmill

Daams Windmill in Vaassen

During my last trip to the Netherlands in 2011, I had an opportunity to visit Zaanse Schans, which is an open-air museum where one can visit a number of typical Dutch windmills. I have since learned that there is a Daams windmill in the town of Vaassen, in the province of Gelderland, that may have belonged at one time to an early forebear of Grandma Elizabeth Daams. We have no proof that it belonged to a family member, but according to information provided to me by a Daams relative, since Vaassen is only 27 kilometers from Stroe, Gelderland, where our early Daams ancestors came from, it is quite possible.

There are several categories of windmills, based on their structure. The Daams windmill is an octagonal smock mill. This type consists of a six- or eight-sided tower, topped by a cap that rotates to bring the sails into the wind. In English, it is called a smock mill, after the smocks worn by farmers in earlier times. In Dutch, it is called a stellingmolen; stelling indicating the scaffold or platform constructed around the tower so that the miller can adjust the sails and turn them into the wind.

This style of construction was developed for use in areas where obstacles such as trees or buildings obstructed the mill’s direct contact with the wind; it had to be tall enough for the wind to reach it, thus the addition of the platform for easier access to the wings and sails.

The Daams mill in Vaassen was built in 1870 for Derk Poll Jonker, who passed it on to his brother-in-law Herman Daams in 1883. It was first used to grind grain. During the early twentieth century, it changed hands several times, and in later years, as other sources of energy became more widely available, the mill fell out of use. Due to neglect, its condition eventually deteriorated to the point where the municipality considered demolishing it.

Fortunately for preservationists and dévotés of windmills, a group of local citizens came to the rescue. They formed a non-profit organization, and thanks to a fundraising campaign which resulted in donations from individuals and businesses, and eventually a government grant, the mill was restored in 1989. It opened to the public on National Windmill Day in 1990 (the second Saturday in May) and has become one of the nicest attractions in Vaassen. 

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List of windmills in Gelderland: Wikipedia. ; accessed 3/16/ 2014

Molens in Nederland. C.P. Braaij; Kooiman Souvenirs & Gifts; Koog a/d Zaan, Netherlands.

Molendatabase entry (in Dutch): ; accessed 3/16/2014. (With several photographs)

Smock mill: Wikipedia. ; accessed 2/9/2014.

Photo credit: Wikipedia - Creative Commons: Quistnix at nl.wikipedia