Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Legend of Robin Hood

Throughout the years, there have been multiple tellings and re-tellings of the story of Robin Hood in Sherwood forest with his band of Merry Men, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. The references of Robin Hood begin in the year 1261. From 1261 onward, the name "Robin Hood" (sometimes spelled as Robinhood, Robehod, Robyn Hude) was used as a name for malefactors. 

Sightings of Robin Hood have been reported from all over England, however, according to legend, Robin Hood lived in Sherwood Forest. Sherwood Forest is a royal forest in Nottinghamshire in east England. The forest attracts between 360,000 to 1 million tourists annually and is home to the Major Oak, the oak tree that supposedly served as shelter for Robin Hood and his Merry Men. It weighs 23 tons and has a girth of 33 feet and a canopy of 92 feet. 

To this day, nobody knows if the legend of Robin Hood was based off of a real person or not. There are accounts of men who share shocking similarities. For example, Roger Godberd served under Simon de Monfort, just like Robin Hood. He was also exiled in 1267 after fighting King Henry III, just like Robin Hood. He then lived in Sherwood Forest for 5 years before being captured in 1272. During his time, he called upon other outlaws to help him avoid the authorities. It has also been hypothesized that "Robin Hood" may have been an alias used by many thieves. 

The story of Robin Hood has been told through the ages with the use of ballads, stories, books, plays and movies. Throughout time, people have forgotten that there was any truth to the story. When I think of Robin Hood, I don't think about a real-life outlaw, I think of a cute red fox in a tiny hat. Oftentimes, when people walk through the key room and see the key to the gates of Sherwood Forest, they immediately assume the key is fake and ask why we even display it. The truth is, nobody can prove that Robin Hood didn't exist. Furthermore, regardless of Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest exists. 

The key we have in our collection is not accompanied by much information. All we know is that it is a key to a gate of Sherwood Forest. According to the note, the wood that is attached is from one of the trees where Robin Hood stored his arrows. Although we don't know if The One And Only Robin Hood existed, we know that outlaws lived in Sherwood Forest and his their winnings and their supplies all over the area. For all we know, the attached bark could be from the Major Oak. 

Although we don't know all the facts about Robin Hood and his Merry Men, I like to think that this bark really did come from one of Robin Hood's trees. Because how incredible would it be if it did? 

Until next time!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Key That Failed a City

After finishing my book Devil in the White City yesterday (a book about the Columbia Exposition in Chicago) I was inspired to take a closer look at a key that I often point out to visitors - The Chicago Fire Box Key. Thanks to my History of Chicago professor, Chris Folk, I know a good deal about the affair.

The letter with the key reads:
At the time of the Chicago Fire, 1871, the fire alarm box stood at the corner of DeCoven and Desplaines Streets. This key is said to be the key that was chained on the inside of the box, behind the glass cover. After the Great Fire, the glass door type fire alarm boxes were replaced with the more modern type having a handle outside to be turned in case of fire.
Of course there were many factors that lead to the fire's "great" destruction. Several smaller fires occurred the week leading up to the great fire leaving behind dry, damaged debris that would later fuel even greater inferno. On top of this, the city struggled to keep water supplies clean and accessible.

At 9:00pm on Sunday the 8th of October, first reports of a fire are made. The Great Chicago Fire was in fact several smaller fires sparking and joining together. The fire burned through Sunday until early Tuesday morning.

Immediately after the fire, the Chicago Tribune ran a story blaming poor Mrs. O'Leary, an Irish Immigrant and farmer on the southwest side of the city otherwise known as the "Back of the Yards," for the start of the fire. As the legend goes, Mrs. O'Leary was out milking her cow late at night when the cow suddenly kicked over the lantern, thus setting the barn and surrounding area aflame. 

Chicago Tribune journalist, Michael Ahern, later admitted the story was entirely made up, but the damage was already done. Years later, people still talk and sing nursery rhymes about poor Mrs. O'Leary. 

...But perhaps this little key hidden away in our collections is more to blame?

Until next time, 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Keys to the Future - Encryption Keys

Greetings!  Today's key is perhaps one of the most high-tech ones we have in our collection, and fully understanding it has been quite a challenge for me, so I'll be simplifying this significantly from all of the more specific technical terms.  I'm certainly no expert in the field of cyber security, but I'll do my best to make sure this makes sense.

This "key" that I'm talking about comes printed on a piece of paper in a frame.  Labeled as a "1024 bit Public Encryption Key", it contains several lines of randomized letters and numbers.  While we don't have a tag for it, the paper has at the bottom an author listed as Craig Robinson, who generated the key on June 10th, 2008, though it was a 2010 donation.

Of course, such an unusual key requires some explanation.  Why would we print a key on a piece of paper like this?  Well, there's actually no need for the physically printed key to exist.  The purpose of it is to be a digital key.  It's used in both sending and receiving information over the internet.  A simple similarity would be sending emails.  In order to send an email, you first have to use a password to log into your email.  Likewise, the person you send your email to has to use their password to log in and receive the sent email.  Encryption keys are fairly similar, on a more complex process.

This is all essentially based on pre-internet forms of encryption.  Think about espionage.  Spies that have to exchange information with each other without anyone else knowing about it may write a letter in code.  They would both have a key so that the sender could properly write it in code and the recipient could properly decode the message.  The same principle applies to internet security.  The message (such as the theoretical email you sent earlier) would be encoded so no one else would be able to read it.  This level of encryption keeps other people out.  While you may or may not care about people snooping in your email, encryption is much more appreciated in internet purchases, where the encryption keeps details about your credit card safe from people who would want to steal your card information.

An example of asymmetrical cryptography

Now, we need to establish the difference between a public key, like this one, and a private key.  This is part of a process known as "asymmetric cryptography".  The reason that it's asymmetric is because of the existence of the two keys.  The public key is only used to encrypt the information.  The access to that is much more extensive.  As shown in the diagram above, the public key would be used by the other party.  Your key, in this situation, would be the private key, which is the only way to decrypt the information.  The security depends on your private key remaining private.  The asymmetric system is frequently used in SSL security, also known as TLS, and keeps everything properly locked.  In fact, if you're using Chrome right now, you can click the lock button on the web address and view the "details" portion to see that your connection is secure via one of these asymmetric keys.

With that in mind, the definition of a 1024-bit key can be given.  Essentially, the 1024 bits refers to how long the key is.  Generally, the more bits in a key, the more secure it is.  Back when this key was written in 2008, 1024 bits was the standard for encryption keys.  Now, 8 years later, the new standard is 2048 bits, with options for 4096.  These longer keys are significantly harder to hack into, making them more secure than the old 1024 bit keys.

At this point, hopefully you understand more about internet security and the "keys" that go with them.  I've certainly learned quite a bit from researching this key.  Thank you (presumably) to Mr. Robinson for this key, and, as always, you can see this (and many others) when you visit the Key Room!


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Keys to the Past - Denver's Albany Hotel

Greetings!  Today's key comes straight from our "Orphan Key" collection.  Our orphan keys contain keys donated to us that have lost tags, or have tags that have faded so badly that they're illegible.  Today's key didn't come with a paper tag, but fortunately, we do have some documentation of where it came from.

This is the key to room 622 in the Albany Hotel in Denver, as noted by the front side of the tag.  As with most old hotel keys, it could be dropped in any mailbox to be returned to the hotel.  On the back of the tag is an advertisement for Continental Rent-a-Car, offering rates of 5 dollars a day, 5 cents a mile.  Wouldn't those prices be fantastic to have today?

The Albany Hotel was first built in 1885, as the product of architect E. P. Brink and financier W. H. Cox.  The vision for the hotel at the time was to provide Denver with an elegant hotel that combined elements of American hotels with French style.  Originally, the hotel featured 155 rooms, in addition to it being one of the few hotels in the city to have electricity in every room.  In 1912, the continued success of the hotel led to the addition of a new annex.  The Salida Mail remarked that the annex held an additional 120 rooms, each with a private bath of its own, which was a big deal at the time.

The original Albany Hotel

The hotel was one of Denver's more notable ones in the early 1900s, with additions adding more features, like a trout pond and continued bathroom renovations.  Large-scale events, including the 1908 Democratic National Convention and the 1906 National Elks Convention, were hosted, and the hotel boasted plenty of famous guests, including Buffalo Bill.  The popularity of the National Western Stock Show also meant that many cowboys and cowgirls would frequent the establishment as well.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the Albany Hotel was its instability in ownership.  The hotel frequently changed owners, usually every few years.  In the 1930s, the newest owners decided to tear down much of the hotel and rebuild it, re-opening in 1938.  The rebuilt portion of the hotel was designed to better match the earlier annex.  Unfortunately, the continued ownership changes helped contribute to the decline of the hotel.  In 1976, after years of slow business, the Albany Hotel shut its doors for good.  It was demolished on November 17th, 1976, to be replaced by a new office building.

The interior of the Albany Hotel's 1912 annex

In the end, the failure of the Albany Hotel was a multitude of factors - an aging facility, inconsistent owners, and an overall lack of business.  The old elegance and charm of the building simply couldn't hold up as well against newer hotels.  The Windsor Hotel, one of the Albany's main competitors from the time period, also came to a similar ending when it was demolished in 1960.  Here at the Baldpate, we are especially fortunate to have made it much longer than the Albany Hotel.

Unfortunately, research into the Continental Rent-a-Car Company from the back side of the key came up with nothing but dead ends, implying the business has been long gone.  But, the low prices prove to be a sign of the times - diners could get lobster at the Albany Hotel's dining room for only 75 cents a hundred years ago.

As always, thank you for joining me on this trip through time!  Though it is regrettable that we don't have the key's paper tag, or that we don't know who provided us with this fantastic key, we remain thankful for the donation.  Bring in your keys (and the stories they tell) to the Key Room!


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Keys to Heaven

In the Gospel of Mathew 16:19, Jesus says to St. Peter, "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in heaven."

Since the creation of the Catholic Church, the image of St. Peter's keys to heaven has been seen on papal coats of arms and all over the Vatican. In fact, the keys to the Iron Door at the Vatican were modeled after the keys to heaven that Jesus gave to Peter.

In the back corner of our key room, we have a replica of the key to the Iron Door of the Vatican. Although the label states that the key is from 1950, the letter attached to the back of the key states that the key was collected by John K. Major in a 1932 trip to Rome. He was 8 years old at the time. It was attached to a ticket to the private museum of the pope (during this time Pope Pius XI). When John K. Major donated this key to heaven years later, he included this poem:

"After viewing your collection,
I've finally made up my mind. 
I'll add another to your group
Of a very peculiar kind.

This type of key I found in Rome,
It was for the Vatican,
Where I used to roam and roam,
In it were things from every lan'.

This key was on the ticket,
To the Pope's Private Museum,
It was his own insignia,
Under the tiara built for him.

This key's supposed to open heaven
The one Christ gave to St. Peter,
Two keys together form an X,
Under the Crown of the Catholic Leader.

The Crown in called the  Triple Tiara,
A tall Tiara with Three Great Rings
Of costly jewels circling it,
A Holy Thing above all Things.

Since this is all I need to tell,
I'll enclose the ticket itself I need to tell,
Then I'll just say farewell,
And not bother you anymore with terrible poetry that doesn't rhyme."

Until next time,

Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer Solstice

Happy Flip Flop Friday from the Baldpate!

Today we are celebrating summer with Summer Solstice in The Keys featuring Key Lime and Coconut Cream Pies with Corona and New Belgium Beers.While everyone is enjoying that in the dinning room, I am in the Key Room finding more and more keys to admire and share with all of you.

Today, I bring you thoughts of warmer, sunnier places as we look at hotel keys and their evolution throughout the years.

During my time in the Key Room, visitors have commented on our hotel key collections, especially the Epperson’s collection of  keys from their travels as a married couple. These keys in particular were donated in October 2006 by their son, Peter Epperson, after both John and Stella passed away. 

Although these are worth discussing, visitors’ comments usually relate to the fact metal hotel keys are rapidly approaching extinction. 

Before the invention of the plastic key cards in 1975, hotels operated using metal keys (a practice the Baldpate still uses today) with plastic key tags displaying the name of the hotel, room number and a certified stamp guaranteeing postage if returned. Because changing locks was expensive and required a lot of work, if someone found a lost key, or forgot to return their key at check out - all they had to do was drop the key in a mailbox and it would be returned to the hotel. 

When the plastic key came about, it operated through different combinations of thirty-two holes in the card. Later the holes were replaced with a magnetic strip. These quickly became the most popular form of key in the hotel industry around the world today. With every new guest, key cards are reprogrammed to include information like the guest’s name and room number. Another advantage of key cards is they usually deactivate after checkout, eliminating the need to track down lost keys.

One of the most recent innovations in key cards is the RFID (radio frequency identification) card. As the name suggests, this type of key card uses a specific radio frequency instead of a magnetic strip to open locks. This type does not have to be swiped like the magnetic strip key cards, so it is held in front of the lock instead.

Like I said, The Baldpate, as a tribute to its Key Room and commitment to tradition continues to use metal keys for its rooms. 

Signing off,

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Key to the First Atomic Bomb

  Good morning key lovers!

   It is a sort of rainy and gloomy morning here at The Baldpate Inn, so I have decided to focus on a key with a darker context- the key to the laboratory in which the first atomic bomb was worked on.

  The atomic bomb's origins go all the way back to the year 1932, when James Chadwick discovered the neutron- an atomic particle with mass but no charge.  By 1941, atomic research and work was being done in 12 American universities, one of them being the University of Chicago, where our key for the day comes from.  Enrico Fermi's team at Chicago was able to create a sustained chain reaction of fission for the first time.

  Stated on the letter below, Wayne Whittaker says, "Let's hope that this key symbolizes more than the terrifying atom bomb; that nuclear science will eventually give us a happier, healthier world."  This can be considered a very controversial statement, as nuclear science and the invention of the atomic bomb are already extremely touchy topics.  Whittaker also says that this world includes an "old-fashioned friendliness" that "reigns supreme" at the Baldpate Inn.

   We could go on all day about debates regarding the atomic bomb, but that is where I will leave the topic for today.  Come join us for some hot Baldpate soup on this gloomy day, and enjoy the rest of your afternoon!

  Signing off,



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Keys to the Past - The Ashtabula Dinor

Greetings key enthusiasts!  Today's interesting key takes us on a journey that includes mystery, good food, and urban decay.  This is all provided to us from a key donation from last season from Larry Bates and Maliah Niemuth, of Williamsfield, OH, and Estes Park, respectively.  The key is a large decorative key made of plastic with a thermometer on the front.

This key is commemorating the 15th season of the Ashtabula Dinor, located in Ashtabula, Ohio, along Lake Erie between Cleveland and Erie, PA.  There's a small sketch of the diner on the front, and the key uses two slogans - "Where Friends Meet" and "A Good Place to Eat".  I remain unsure of whether the thermometer is accurate - it claims that it's only 62 degrees here in the key room, though it doesn't quite feel that chilly in here!

Now is where the mystery begins.  Naturally, as the key is labeled with "Our 15th Year", I was curious as to what year that could possibly be.  A quick internet search revealed that the Ashtabula Dinor wasn't in existence anymore.  Judging by the complete lack of results for the Ashtabula Dinor, it hadn't been around for a very long time.  Fortunately, I found one fantastic picture from the Ashtabula Archives which showed the diner as it was in 1947.

This is a good start!  Unfortunately, it's impossible to tell from the picture what the first year of the Ashtabula Dinor really was.  All we know is that it was open on Main Avenue in 1947.  That could have been its first year in operation, or it could have been in operation significantly longer than that.  But that also means the absolute latest date we can give to this key is 1962.  Now, we have a timeframe to work with.

My investigations led me to further conclusions.  An old forum post was searching for a Clara Whelpley, who ran the Ashtabula Dinor from 1944-1971.  Assuming the start date is true, that shortens our timeline to a late date of 1959.  Along the theme of historical reliability that I talked about in my last post, I'm sure someone is wondering why I would be trusting a random internet message board.  But, a bit more digging verified Clara Whelpley as the proprietor of the diner by stumbling upon the following business card.

There's no date on the card, but since Clara Whelpley was indeed running it, we can assume that the 1944-1971 date has to be somewhat accurate.  Additionally, the picture on the key matches the business card, so all of this has to be around the same time.  With this information on the date, I think we should be able to conclude that the key comes from either the 40s or the 50s.

That brings us to the next question - why was this diner so hard to track down?  The answer to that ties into the history of Ashtabula itself.  Throughout the 20th century, Ashtabula became a manufacturing hub, taking ore and coal shipped from across Lake Erie and turning it into steel, a major product of the region.  The town peaked in the 1950s, when it was home to around 25,000 people with a bustling industrial sector and port.

Today, it's a town that's been left to the same fate as many other cities in the region.  Ashtabula has declined to a population of 19,000, as many of those earlier jobs had moved on.  This left buildings abandoned, neglected, and frequently destroyed.  The Ashtabula Dinor was one property destroyed.  A Google Maps street view search reveals the former location to be a parking lot.  The Palace Theater, behind the diner in the photo, was also destroyed.  Many plots along Main Avenue are empty, having once had demolished buildings.  This phenomenon is known as "urban decay", and is most notable for hitting Detroit.  Groups in Ashtabula are trying their best to counter the process and save their main street.  Unfortunately for us, the diner is long gone, and too late to be saved.

One final issue to be addressed here is one with spelling.  You've certainly seen me spell out the word "diner" as "dinor" when referring to the Ashtabula Dinor.  This happens to be an extremely regional spelling of the word, seen only in western Pennsylvania and nearby areas.  No one exactly knows how the spelling got changed to an "o", but theories range from differentiating from the word "dinner" to someone misspelling "diner" and having everyone else copy it.

Thanks again to Larry and Maliah for this fantastic key donation!  As always, feel free to mail in your key donations to us, and they may be featured on our blog.  If you find yourself in Ashtabula, and have a time machine that can take you back to the 1950s, be sure to swing by the Dinor!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Good afternoon readers!

This morning as I began my shift in the museum, I was feeling a little nostalgic thinking about my 6 months abroad in Spain this past year so I began to look around the International Section. The key I found reminded me of the miles and miles of olive trees growing in perfect lines, waiting to be turned into delicious Spanish olive oil. Its story also shares a striking similarity to Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers.

The key was donated by Xavier Vive in 1956. According to the the tag, this key belonged to a wealthy Spanish olive grower in the 18th century. It was the key to his olive store room. Over time, the grower began to notice his fruit was disappearing. This made no sense seeing as the grower was the owner of the only key. He later discovered that each of his family of six had made duplicate keys. Just like the main character in Seven Keys to Baldpate, the olive grower thought there was only one key when in reality there were seven keys in total.

The original key belonging to the grower is right here in the key room in the International Section. Maybe someday we'll have the other six in the collection.

Until next time,

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Rocky Mountain Rocket

Good morning key lovers!

   Hunter here, and to begin with I want to wish a very happy Father's Day to all the fathers and father figures out there- you da bomb!  It's a calm morning here at the Baldpate, but soon to be bustling with the excitement of families coming to enjoy this special day in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. In the spirit of celebrating these amazing natural wonders around us, I have decided to focus on the key to the Rocky Mountain Rocket.

  The Rocky Mountain Rocket was Rock Island's first streamlined passenger train, running all the way from Rock Island, Chicago to Denver's Union Station and Colorado Springs.  The Rocky Mountain Rocket ran from 1939 to 1966, and ran on a 19.5 hour schedule from Denver to Chicago, plus an extra quarter of an hour for the Colorado Springs section.  The Rocky Mountain Rocket's success led to a series of many more long-distance Rocket trains.

  Despite The Rocky Mountain Rocket's success and many years of exceptional service, the train's run came to an end after a combination of financial problems, decreasing ridership, and competition with the Union Pacific, Burlington, and Missouri Pacific railroads.  It is apparent though that trains like The Rocky Mountain Rocket helped to pave the way for the major passenger railroads that we have today.  This key was donated to the key collection by P.W Johnston.

  As always, we are always open to new keys to improve our collection, so come in and donate a key or we are always welcome to mail-ins. Have a blessed Father's day with family and friends today, and perhaps come in and treat yourself a to a fresh slice of Baldpate pie!

  Til Next Time,

Friday, June 17, 2016

Greetings From Natalie

In the summer of 2000, at the age of 5, my family and I visited The Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Connecticut. My family browsed the building, shuffling room to room while I spent the entire day looking at one exhibit, carefully listening to everything my audio tour told me, unwilling to follow my family into the next room. Since then, I have been fascinated with museums. I can spend hours in museums, which is pretty convenient since that's what I'll be doing all summer.

My name is Natalie and I am a senior at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, working towards a double major in Business and Religion. When I'm not studying in Michigan, I'm figure skating with the Western Michigan University synchronized skating team or watching movies. I came to The Baldpate Inn because there are two things here that absolutely enchant me, mountains and museums. 

As of right now, my favorite set of keys comes from the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City, Colorado. In 1896 an inmate made seven keys from spoons in an attempt to break out. The first six keys were failures, but the seventh key worked! The escaped prisoner was never captured. 

I look forward to learning about the stories behind the rest of the keys in our collection during the remainder of the summer. 

Until next time!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Original Plaza in New York City

Plaza Hotel, 1894

Good morning readers!

   It is a warm and sunny day here at the Baldpate Inn, and I recently got back from a week trip in the Big Apple- the fabulous New York City!  In the spirit of my recent adventure, I have decided to focus on the key to the original Plaza Hotel.  If any of you have seen the popular movie Eloise at the Plaza, or have been to NYC, you have most likely heard of The Plaza Hotel.  Known as one of the world's most extravagant stays, this beautiful building stands on the corner of the infamous 5th Avenue, but the Plaza we know of today was not the original Plaza Hotel.

  The original Plaza  stood from the years 1890 to 1905, and at the time was considered one of the city's most elegant hotels. The original Plaza was built on the site of the former New York Skating Club. The builders actually ran out of funds while building, and at the same time New York Life Insurance Company foreclosed. Therefore, the architects Mckim, Mead, and White were hired to complete the design and redecorate the interior.  When the Plaza was bought by the US Realty and Construction Company in the year 1902, the new owners had goals including huge expansion.  However, the original Plaza only stood at eight stories high, so the building was destroyed and replaced with the nineteen-story masterpiece that exists today, which opened in 1907. The key to the original Plaza was donated to the Baldpate by J.B Herndon Jr., Vice President and Treasurer.

  If you ever have the chance to visit the Plaza Hotel that stands today take the opportunity.  It is a beautiful building with elegant architecture, (I also highly recommend the Lobster rolls found in the Plaza Food Court at Luke's Lobster!).

Signing off for the day,

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thoughts from the Baldpate

Happy Monday from the Baldpate!

From what the tag reads, the year was 1929. (The same year as the stock market crash that spiraled into the Great Depression.) This poem was etched on the back of a Baldpate postcard by Psyche A. Brink who visited with her husband James A. Brink in mid July. The photo of the Inn on the postcard looks virtually unchanged. 

Can you forgive this poor little key, for coming to you sans pedigree? 
Tho it cannot boast of "Royal" rust - It's been a key that I could trust. 
It has not guarded from bandits bold, That wonderful "soup" that Spaniards sold. 
Nor has it locked from curious eye - any Madurese womans valuable buy. 
Yet - small as it is, it wants to be, side by side with your mightiest key. 
And I hope that often in the days of "Mace." I may see my key in this honored place. 
God was good when he made our state And the thought that created, "Inn Baldpate"

In the poem, Mrs. Brink references the Inn's original owners, The Maces. The Inn remained in their family until the Smiths (current owners) purchased the Inn in 1986.

Your Curator,

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Greetings from Zoe!

It's my second day here at the Baldpate and I could not be more in awe of Colorado. Originally from Hanover, Pennsylvania, I moved to Chicago, Illinois to attend DePaul University with a major in Public Relations and Advertising and minor in Theatre Studies. With just one summer left before graduation I decided I would venture out to Colorado for something new.

I love to travel. My sophomore year I studied abroad in Athens, Greece for four months and traveled all over the country and islands in addition to Turkey, Spain, Belgium and Italy. Most recently, I did a road trip from Chicago to New Orleans with 11 other friends for a weekend also stopping in Memphis.

While here in the museum, I plan on leaving my own key to join the collection - "The Key to Friendship," otherwise known as the key to my shared apartment "The GalPalace" where I spent the last year with 4 of my closest girl friends.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

On the Reliability of History - The Museum's First Keys

Greetings!  Today's post isn't necessarily about one specific key.  Rather, it's about something I found while cataloging that brings up some bigger questions about not just the Baldpate Inn's history, but bigger historical challenges in general.

The key in question that brought me to this issue was an ordinary key with an aged tag.  It was donated by a Miss Mary Louise Kelly from Denver.  What caught my attention here was the date of the key.  The tag is labeled June 1st, 1920.  Now, the first part to catch my eye was the fact that it was donated on my birthday, a good 73 years before I was born.  But, the more important part of the date was the year.


As our records and our history would have us believe, the first key donated to our collection was from the famed lawyer Clarence Darrow in 1923.  The Clarence Darrow key has been given distinction because of this.  Plenty of visitors to the key room have heard of the famed Darrow key and are sure to seek it out in its case.

But this is where we start pushing up against those historical problems.  The Darrow key is always going to be a prominent one simply because of Darrow's historical significance.  The big question is whether or not his really was the first key, and whether or not we should consider his to be the first.  Given the existence of the key labeled 1920, we have evidence that Darrow's key isn't the first.

With this in mind, let's talk about a big concept to history - reliability.  A historian is only as reliable as their sources.  Historical sources are typically evaluated in terms of reliability.  Where did the source come from?  What purpose does the source serve?  How valuable is it to the historian?  What limitations does it have?  It's important to keep all of those questions in mind when looking at any source.  In this way, we can find value in even the most useless of sources, while also knowing how the best sources have limits of their own.

When evaluating the 1920, we come up with a few different issues with reliability and making assumptions.  The first assumption is that everything on the key tag is fully accurate.  Realistically, anyone could write anything on a key donation tag.  If they wanted to put false information on it, they would be able to.  So, there is the chance that the information isn't accurate.  On the other hand, the assumption we make as curators when cataloging the keys is that the information on the tags is accurate.  Assuming otherwise would be far too skeptical.

Another assumption is about the date.  For our catalog purposes, we assume that the date on the key was the date it was donated.  Usually, if the key is significantly older than the date, it will be noted in other writing.  The alternative explanation to the date on the tag would be the date of the visit.  If this is the case on the 1920 key, the Darrow key could still be the first donated, and the 1920 key was donated after the Darrow key.  Since the tag doesn't specify, we can't make any conclusions in that regard.

So, what conclusions can we make?  First of all, the obvious one is that the Darrow key is probably not the first key donated.  Beyond just the Kelly 1920 key, the database notes several other keys donated around the same time, about 5 in all.  Additionally, the Darrow key not being the oldest isn't an issue.  Darrow was attributed to the "idea" of donating keys.  For all we know, he could have come up with the idea years before donating a key.  All in all, there's only so much we can conclude based on this.  It's our responsibility, as historians and key enthusiasts, to make sure we're telling the most accurate story we can from the sources we have.  Without actually having a time machine and a full firsthand account of the early days of the inn, there will always be questions.  Until that day comes where we can travel effortlessly through time, we'll continue to do the best we can with the sources we have.

As always, you can visit the 1920 Kelly key, the 1923 Darrow key, and every single key donated since then, by coming to the key room!

Forever evaluating sources,

Friday, June 10, 2016

Cold Keys - A Key From Antarctica

Greetings!  Today's key came from my latest expedition cataloging the Colorado keys, where I came across one peculiar key.  A seemingly ordinary key, I got the feeling that this key was in the wrong section upon reading its tag.
This is the key to the old lock on Cos-Ray in McMurdo Station, Antarctica.  Russ Bixby, geek at large...
Though Mr. Bixby was from Denver, the key was clearly in the wrong spot.  So, before determining exactly where the key belongs, I figured it would be good to examine the significance of this key.

McMurdo Station was started as an American research base on Antarctica back in the 1950s, officially being opened for research in December of 1955.  It was the first facility built by the United States on the cold continent, during a flurry of research interest in Antarctica.  While the Americans worked on McMurdo, other countries, including Great Britain, France, Australia, and Chile, created additional research stations on the continent.  The research interest in the continent led to an unusual type of agreement between all of the countries that created bases.  In 1961, the Antarctic Treaty System officially went into effect, serving as an agreement between the Antarctic nations not to use the continent for anything other than peaceful research purposes.  This disallowed any military bases or nuclear testing.

McMurdo Station is one of America's two permanent bases on Antarctica, the other one being the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.  McMurdo is the largest of any of the bases on the continent, capable of hosting over 1000 people at any time.  It is set up as a village, featuring around 85 different structures.  In terms of function, McMurdo serves as a cargo hub for receiving shipments for both American bases, as well as a scientific facility for conducting experiments.  As with just about every facility on the continent, the summer population, when there is more daylight and "warmer" temperatures, is significantly higher than the winter population.

Going back to the Cos-Ray part of the key, Cos-Ray is short for Cosmic Ray.  That's been one of the longest running experiments at the base, dating back to the 1960s.  The facility is simply known as the Cos-Ray Lab or Observatory, and the key would unlock that building, assuming they haven't changed any locks.  Most of the work done there currently revolves around monitoring cosmic ray particles, which can have implications for telecommunications and satellites.  One current experiment going there is the Cosmic Ray Energetics and Mass Experiment, simply shortened to CREAM.  This year, the latest incarnation of that experiment will head to the International Space Station, or the ISS.  That, of course, leaves us with the experiment ISS-CREAM, which the scientists pronounce as "ice cream".

A huge thank you to Russ Bixby for this fantastic key and for the stories that surround it.  Be sure to check this out, and every other key, when you come to visit the key room.

Keeping it "cool",

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Key to The Old Fort House

Hello again fellow key lovers!

    It is yet another lovely morning here at The Baldpate Inn, and I happened to wake up feeling an overwhelming appreciation for the history that continues to emanate out from the Baldpate itself.  That is why today I chose to focus on yet another key that is rich in history- the key to The Old Fort House located in Sandwich, Massachusetts.

  The Old Fort House, also known as Wing Fort House, is recognized as the oldest house in New England to be continuously owned by the same family.  In 1646, Stephen Wing either purchased the home, or it was granted to him by the town around the time of his first marriage.  Wing's family and descendants continued to live in the home until around 1942, which it was then sold to the Wing Family of America Inc.  The key shown above was presented to the Baldpate by the board of directors at Wing Family of America Inc.

  The Old Fort House, according to tradition, is said to at one time had been a fort to protect early settlers from Native Americans.  The Cape Indians, which lived near Sandwich, ended up being cordial, so there was no need to use the fort for protection.  The Old Fort House is now a museum that is open to the public through the months of June-September.  The House was also added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

  As always, our key collection is always welcome to new additions, so come donate a key or just enjoy the interesting life tales of the keys already present here at The Baldpate Inn!

Til Next Time,

Friday, June 3, 2016

City Keys - The Key to Rome, Georgia

Greetings!  Today's tour of city keys takes us to Rome, Georgia, a small community nestled in the Appalachian Mountains.  Rome was named after the more famous city in Italy, but not because of any Italian connections - the Rome in Georgia, much like Italy's Rome, was situated on seven hills.

The key to Rome is a sizable one, measuring in at about 9 inches from top to bottom.  It's made out of metal, taking a bronze coloration with it.  The key has writing on both sides of it.  On the first side, "KEY TO THE CITY" is engraved on it.  The other side has "CITY OF SEVEN HILLS".  At the top of the key is a small round seal, marking it as the city of Rome, Georgia, with a small tower sitting in the middle of the seal.

Though the founding of Rome had no connections to Italy, the two Romes would later find themselves linked together.  That story begins with the synthetic material rayon, a cellulose fiber used in textiles.  It was in 1928 when the Chatillion Corporation relocated their factory from Milan, Italy, to Rome, Georgia.  Given their involvement, word got out to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini that there was a Rome, Georgia.  Mussolini decided to donate a piece of marble from the Roman Forum to be the cornerstone for the rayon factory.  He ordered an inscription for it, reading "From Old Rome to New Rome".

That wasn't the last of Mussolini's gifts to the American Rome.  Following the completion of the rayon factory, Mussolini sent along a statue of Romulus and Remus beneath the Capitoline Wolf, representing the founding myth of ancient Rome.  The bronze statue was placed outside of the city hall, where it can be found today.

Of course, the statue itself was involved with a bit of controversy.  The subject matter of the statue, two babies feeding from a wolf, was deemed offensive to many visitors and residents, leading to the babies to be placed in diapers and the wolf to be covered with a sheet during certain events.  That no longer happens to the statue in the present time.  Another issue with the statue happened in 1933, when someone stole one of the twins from it.  The stolen twin was never found, so a new one had to be imported from Italy.  And with the outbreak of the Second World War, with anti-Italian sentiment strong thanks to Italy's involvement, the statue had to be removed because of threats to destroy it.  It was finally restored in 1952 thanks to strong community support.

The key to the "City of Seven Hills" has been part of our collection since 1979.  Take a look at it, and all of our keys, when you visit the key room!