Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Washington Whirlwind #6: Columbian Puzzle


Washington Whirlwind #6
Columbian Puzzle by Denniele Bohannon

Columbian Puzzle recalls the District of Columbia where
the Lincolns lived for the four years of Civil War.
One puzzle:
Why does it have such a shape?

Washington, often called Washington City in the 19th century, lies within the almost rectangular District of Columbia. This district, once 100 square miles (10 miles by 10), was created from parts of Maryland & Virginia on either side of the Potomac to become the U.S. Capitol. In 1846 Virginia reclaimed its land donation west of the Potomac, which explains the missing area of the original square Territory of Columbia. The yellow star is the White House in Washington City.

The flat roof of the Executive Mansion with a parapet, a protective
railing, was the play space for the Taft & Lincoln boys.

Columbian Puzzle also recalls the Lincoln's youngest son.
There was something wrong.

Thomas Lincoln (1853-1871)
He may be 3 or 4 in this photograph.

Their youngest was born when Mary Todd Lincoln was about 35. They'd lost 3-year-old Edward to disease a few years earlier and this last child was much indulged and well-loved.

Columbian Puzzle by Jeanne Arnieri

His nickname was Tad, supposedly given shortly after birth by his father who noted his unusually large head and thought he looked like a tadpole. We special education teachers say, "Uh-Oh." He may have been hydrocephalic, a condition that puts pressure on the brain from an abnormality in the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid. Today a shunt would be inserted to relieve the pressure. 

His mother indicated she suffered from giving birth to Tad with his large head, later seeking cures in European spas for never named gynecological problems. She alluded to this last child's birth as the cause of her "headaches" and water-cure visits.

Tad at about 16

Tad's brain fluid problem seems to have eventually eased, but there is evidence of other cranio-facial abnormalities and learning problems that may have been the result of pre- and post-natal hydrocephalus. Portraits also show him with a cleft lip, a common abnormality with about 1 of every 1,600 American infants born today having lip and palate anomalies, more common in boys than girls. Today plastic surgery repairs both lip and palate (roof of the mouth) problems. 

Tad at 18

A cleft lip can cause speech pronunciation problems, which afflicted Tad. White House observers noted his unintelligible speech. The cleft palate was a more serious problem with teeth growing in askew  causing chewing and swallowing problems (also recorded by White House observers who noted he required a special easy-to-ingest diet.) A cleft palate can allow food to enter sinus passages and airways causing infection. Tad died at 18 of some kind of a lung problem, the kind of thing one might worry about with a boy whose food processing was a problem. 

Columbian Puzzle by Becky Brown

We have noted Tad's mischievousness, which might be more clinically described as hyperactivity and an attention deficit disorder, commonly accompanied by learning disabilities. Tad did not learn to read until he was 13 years old, a milestone noted by his mother in 1866. 
"Taddie ...Can now read....he did not know his letters when he came here."
(Beyond learning his letters did he ever actually learn to read?)

Lincoln and Tad looking at a catalog, photographed by
the Brady Studios.

Columbian Puzzle by Elsie Ridgley

His reading and other academic deficiencies were the despair of White House tutors who noted his inability to pay attention. There was also the problem of parental indulgence with his father preferring to watch him play rather than suffer with lessons.

John M. Hutchinson, a speech pathologist by training and Lincoln historian, addresses the puzzle of Tad Lincoln's speech and related problems here:
"Given the is probable that Tad Lincoln had a complex speech and language disorder that today would have necessitated early and extensive intervention by a speech/language pathologist to address, at a minimum, a delay in language development and the developmental articulation problem."
The Block

The Columbian Puzzles: "Why is the District of Columbia such an odd shape?" is more easily explained than Tad Lincoln's learning and physical problems.

During the years after 1880 when the Drunkard's Path block with its curved pieces was popular the pattern industry publishing under the name Clara Stone gave an alternative variation---all straight line piecing. It's BlockBase+ #2196.

Turkey red and white solids, inscribed 1896

Columbian Puzzle by Elsie Ridgley who is doing two sets.

Elsie's Blocks 1-6 in Mary Lincoln's favorite color.

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