Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Milk and a Pierce

No matter what is going on in my household each particular week two items always make the top ten list for the grocery store – milk and bread. Bread has an important role in this particular post.

I’ve been on another one of my wild goose chases for the last several weeks, but unfortunately the golden loaf of bread I’ve been searching for has eluded me for now. No, I’m not searching for sourdough, wheat or rye….my golden loaf involves a little fact I ran across regarding President Franklin Pierce.

When reading biographies of former presidents it’s always interesting to see how they spent their “after President years”. Some devote their time to their papers and official libraries, some write their memoirs and give speeches. Others become partners in prestigious law firms, serve as diplomats, or in other key government positions.

And then there is President Franklin Pierce – with just a few Internet clicks I’m reading he owned the Darkhorse Bakery in Manchester, New Hampshire during the years following his time as president. Well, rumor has it even today the citizens in Manchester still refer to a loaf of bread as a “pierce”. See the blurb here and several weeks ago there was a mention about the bakery here, but it was recently removed (see the last entry in the discussion here).

Hmmm…..sounds like someone doesn’t have a full baker’s dozen, does it?

The fact that Wikipedia finally removed the bakery blurb pointed me further down the road that the whole thing was bunk.

Franklin Pierce has been described as one of the most disliked presidents in United States history. He also is a man who had his fair share of personal tragedy, but to claim he left the White House only to embark on a career of baking bread? Methinks that is just a little farfetched.

So, I first decided to check out some of the more reputable sites on the web like this one and this one. No luck. No mention of President Pierce being up to his elbows in flour and yeast. The sites I reference did mention Franklin Pierce did some touring around Europe, got a bunch of folks riled up with his support of the Confederacy during the Civil War, and then died alone of cirrhosis of the liver in 1869.

I found zilch, nothing, nada concerning Pierce’s career as a baker. Even his homestead site and even these guys don’t have my interesting baker tidbit. So, my next step was my own personal library. Let’s just say my inventory on Pierce is a bit low, which prompted me to head off in the direction of my public library.

Unfortunately, my local branch had no biographies of Pierce on the shelf. This sent me back to my car and down the road to the local mall where a very large and trendy bookstore awaited me. You know, one of those places with lots of books, comfy couches and chairs, and a coffee bar that invites you peruse the shelves and sit for a spell leafing through all sorts of books in the hopes you might buy one. Again….no Pierce biographies on the shelf even though a few have been written. Just goes to show he really is one of the least favored presidents….even in the South.

So, I’m sure you are saying by now what’s the point Elementaryhistoryteacher? Why does it matter that the bakery fact might be lurking somewhere on the Internet?

Well, I firmly believe that to a certain point we should be free to write and publish whatever we want on the Internet as long as you aren’t harming someone else. Where the harm comes in regarding the Pierce bakery story is I wonder how many school children and their parents hit on the little factoid that was up at Wikipedia before its removal or the New Hampshire site and included it in a report believing that they had hit on a gem of a fact to impress classmates and unknowing teachers.

I want my students to be Internet savvy…to understand that just because something is printed in a book or on the Internet it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true. I want my students to understand they must verify sources and there are simple steps they can take to check out a website to know if it's a proper site for them as stated here.

I have to tell you that I’m a little disappointed the story is false from what I have examined so far.

I was looking forward to visiting Manchester some day and visiting a local grocery for a gallon of milk and a pierce.

Alas, that will never be...apparently.


Jennie W said...

Great story! I actually include web skills in all my classes because of things like this!

Elementaryhistoryteacher said...

I do as well. I'll be posting something in the next few days at History Is Elementary that expands upon this a bit.

Joyce said...

Thank you very much for the story of your search for information, as well as the helpful tips on wisely using the internet. I'm passing on that info to the teachers with whom I work as a para educator.

Chance said...

Love it; I agree wholeheartedly about caution with the billions of facts and "facts" we all have at our fingertips now.

David H. said...

I had never heard that Pierce myth before. He's so easy to spin stories around. We do that a bit on our site. Thanks for providing a link!

David C. said...

Sorry, Teacher. When I posted my initial comment, I missed the bit about no links, which I guess is why it didn't get approved. Like David H., I am a fan of Franklin Pierce arcana, and the bakery myth is a new one on me too. Another one that is prevalent is that Pierce ran over a woman during his presidency. As far as I can tell, that one has no basis in fact. He is also credited with putting up the first White House Christmas tree. Maybe, maybe not. Interested readers can click on my name to go to my blog. There, clicking on "Franklin Pierce" in the label cloud will lead to many posts about our obscure 14th President.