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Friday, May 21, 2021

Something Old and Something New

Usually the phrase "Something old and something new" is part of the planning for a wedding, but not today.  I'm excited to announce two things fitting that phrase.

My website has been around it seems like forever!  I created it back when I was still on Earthlink email.  (Remember back to that email?)  They let me create a website using simple tools and start there with my posting it.  Loved the look of it and over the years maintained it with a website builder.  Google has begun to penalize websites unable to re-size to cell phones.  It's called a "responsive site."  (I'm interested in how many read this blog on a cell phone & the difficulty of viewing it.  I know it works on templates, but am uncertain the blog needs a complete redesign after ten and a half years which might create problems with the archive.)  My website is probably mainly accessed from a desktop considering the venues hiring me, but I didn't want it being downgraded by Google Search.  

I've long believed in being able to maintain my own website, but this was definitely beyond me.  Looking around I was fortunate enough to discover a very talented web designer, Rick Dery.  He has a large number of website clients, but doubt he had worked before with performers, certainly not a storyteller.  He took my old site information and a great many photos of me in my work and Ta DAAAA, is fresh and new.  (If you still see those old blue tiles framing pages, refresh your browser to see the new version of the site.)  My work is quite varied, but a lot of those photos show my historical storytelling work or my work with puppets.  While I do a lot in schools and libraries, there's a problem showing young audiences (although one program at a school in the Dominican Republic was able to be used).  No website is ever finished.  At least annually I need to revise it, but now I'll have Rick do it.  (YES, I definitely recommend him.)

My other "Something old and something new" has me looking ahead to the U.S. Revolutionary War.  What's that, you say that's behind?  Yes, and yet America 250 is coming, bringing renewed attention to the period in 2026, the 250th anniversary.  I found a delightful woman, Sarah Matthews Reed Osborn Benjamin, who received a pension for her work during the war.  Her first husband, William Reed, died in the war.  Her second husband joined up without telling her and then insisted she travel with his military unit, cooking, sewing, and washing.  Along the way she twice talked with General Washington, first at Knightsbridge where she was standing guard wearing her husband's heavy overcoat and bearing his gun.  Later he talked with her at the Battle of Yorktown, where she additionally witnessed the crying surrender of a "portly" British general.  It wasn't Cornwallis as she saw him, too, and said he had a diminutive appearance and crossed eyes.  She also had a brief third marriage to John Benjamin before again being widowed.  There's much more, of course, to her story and I'm getting more and more excited as I gather as much information as possible from here in faraway Michigan (frontier territory she never saw) roughly 250 years later.  She lived long enough that a photo was taken of her  at well over 100 years old.

With her many last names, I have already named the program, "They called me Sarah."

I can picture keeping her story alive whenever a group looks at the Revolutionary War, but also she's a woman deserving of attention in Women's History Month.  I plan to keep her alive with the style she showed all of her years.  Her obituary article mentions how she would "relate the events of her early days with all the vivacity of youth."  Can you see why she's exciting this storyteller and I feel at home with her?



This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.
Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.

    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
         - David K. Brown -
         - Richard Martin -
         - Spirit of Trees -
         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but the late Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - World of Tales - 
           - Zalka Csenge Virag - doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

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