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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Simply Fabulous: Without a doubt, the most wonderful children's set of blocks, from antiquity, that we have ever seen.

They are from those wonderful heady days - that now seem so long ago - when Americans picked enemies they could lick, in those wild months of 1898: Filipino peasants, and the decaying Spanish Empire.

The Spanish-American War lasted barely five months and ended Spain's rule as a colonial power, just as it began America's obsession with colonial empire and shooting up non-white peoples. The US grabbed the Spanish possessions as loot fairly won in a fight...

It retains Guantanamo in Cuba from those days, as an ideal place to torture Muslim POWs, outside the reach of continental US law.

("That," said a laughing George Bush, to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, "is where we hang them up by their thumbs.!" No one else laughed!)

Similarly, the US will also NEVER leave Iraq, its most recent colonial acquisition; it is already building large permanent bases to secure US control over the world's largest oilfield reserves in perpetuity.

But there won't be block toys, anytime soon, to instruct American children to celebrate US feats of arms, say, in Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, or Iran, which is to come.

This set of blocks is phenomenal; it is in mint condition, and all the parts are there, still intact after over 100 years. And, unlike so many games, this one is huge in size - each block is 6.5 cms per side - and the entire thing boxed, not in the usual cardboard, but in a solid wood case.

US Spanish-American War Child's Blocks Game, 1898
Orig. wooden block set and chromolithographs - Size - 27.5 x 34 x 7 cm
Found - Simcoe, ON
Prov - Marjorie E Larmon Coll, Manuf'd by McLoughlin Bros. New York

The picture game features 20 wooden blocks enclosed in a lidded wooden box, and comes with 6 chromolithographs of famous American war ships of the period, to serve as guides for the child in assembling the puzzle. No easy task, this, with 120 choices to make, the first time out.

This fabulous antique was found in rural Ontario, long ago, and was a prized possession in the fabulous Marjorie E. Larmon Collection of Canadian antiques.

The wooden cover, adorned with a chromolithograph of the Oregon, has, as was intended all along, taken the most abuse, from scores of sticky fingered children through the decades, and probably more than a few adults as well.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Troop Transport, SS Valencia, 1898
Orig. photo - Size - 13 x 20 cm
Found - Milwaukee, WI
Prov -
Souvenir Photo, LB McLain
A very rare photo of a ship at the centre of one of Canada's most tragic shipwrecks, which featured acts of great heroism, as well as rank cowardice, and negligence, by men who made it to shore.

Games like this were, of course, not mere child's play at all. They were designed to make little soldiers out of children so that by the time they were in their late teens, they were eager to volunteer for service wherever they were sent by the politicians and their corporate partners.

Besides blocks like these, children were also dressed up in clothes that were clones of uniforms, and given play guns that were mock versions of the originals. By the time they were 20, young Americans were ready to shoot just about anything that moved, anywhere around the globe, in school or out...

Above, and below are two such young lads, including LB McLain, left and below, and his pal, photographed in Manila. Right is a large photo he kept as a souvenir of the SS Valencia, the troop transport which took their unit to the front in Manila.

(In January, 1906 Valencia became the centre of a famous Canadian shipwreck, at night, when she rammed ashore in the fog and scores clung to her rigging, until the surf pounded her to bits and drowned 117 men, women, and children, on the shore where Pacific Rim National Park is today. The famous hiking trail there was laid out specifically as a result of the Valencia tragedy.)

Of course all this military preparation did not mean the Americans were first off the mark to fight the bad guys; they were, after all, three years late for World War I, which was supposedly fought by the Allies to make the world safe for democracy!

And they were over two years late to fight Hitler in World War II. Before that, apparently, they considered him a good guy, just like themselves... In the end they only fought him because of the friends he kept - those dastardly nonwhite Japanese...

To be fair, Americans are first off the mark with cruise missiles, big time bombs, imprisonment, and CIA torture, against any Muslims - at home and abroad - whenever the oil interests, and stock valuations, of their governing oil lobby (Cheney, Bush, and Haliburton) are thought to be in jeopardy.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
SS Valencia, lifeboat nameplate, 1906
Orig. lifeboat nameplate - Size - 80 cm
Found - Victoria, BC, Maritime Museum of BC
All that remains of Valencia, a nameplate from a lifeboat, that heard it all: the wild blare of the foghorn signaling the distress of a ship in its final death throes, the crashing surf, the ripping tear of a metal hull being gored open by ravenous rocks, horrid shrieks of hysterical mothers as they lose their final grips on babes in arms, hoarse shouts of desperate men, wild with trying to call back a wife, a child, swept away by the raging tide...

1 - USS Maine - Capt. Sigsbee

Early in 1898, Cuban patriots rebelling against Spanish colonial rule, led to growing civil unrest in Cuba. To safeguard American interests, the US sent the Battleship USS Maine to Santiago harbour.

During the night of Feb. 15, she mysteriously blew up, killing nearly 300 US sailors.

The US Board of Inquiry declared a mine to be the cause, but did not say who triggered it, a mystery that remains unsolved to this day.

But the jingoist American Press - spear-headed by William Randolph Hearst, the CNN propagandist of his day - made the patriotic connections it wanted, and soon had Americans boiling for a fight against Spain.

The Spanish fleet was old, rickety - the Cristobal Colon even lacked its guns - short of coal, and in no mood, or condition, for a fight against the modern US fleet that lay in wait once war was declared.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
USS Maine, 1898
Orig. spoon
Size - 11.5 cm
Found - Burlington, ON
Souvenir spoons of the Sinking of the Maine were probably in most households and often featured Captain Sigsbee, who was one of the survivors of the blast, since he and his officers were quartered in the rear of the ship while the blast was forward, where the crew was sleeping
USS Maine, 1898
Orig. candy dish - Size - 36 cm
Found - Aberfoyle, ON
This wonderfully huge souvenir dish once was a proud possession of a Canadian household. Sadly it has a crack! Could it be as a result of the terrific explosion? It would make it even more valuable...

It is not uncommon to find Spanish-American War memorabilia in Canada including a variety of Maine spoons, Maine and Olympia candy dishes, as well as celebrity pinbacks, EAPG "Gridley you may fire" water jugs, and jam jars.

It allowed Canadians to participate - vicariously - in the biggest news event of the decade.

Within a year, though, Canadians would have their own war, that would last much longer, and result in far more casualties than those suffered by the Americans.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Candy Dish, Remember the Maine, 1898
Orig. glass - Size - 20 cm
Found - Napanee, ON

Insight America

A century later, in an eerie repeat of history, another attack on a US ship launched a sequence of events that would lead to wars that would kill scores of thousands of innocent civilians - though admittedly, these were only Muslims, and non-white at that.

In 2002, an attack by Yemeni patriots blew a hole in the American destroyer USS Cole, in Yemen, killing 17 US seamen. It was impossible for Bill Clinton to find out who was responsible - and so who to attack in retaliation - because Yemen was pro-US and not involved, obviously, with the plotters. Weak links to Al Queda in Afghanistan were unearthed later, as George Bush became President. After 9/11 Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld found connections with more plotters in Afghanistan and so immediately pushed for - according to US Counter Terrorist Chief Richard Clarke, who was at the meeting - to attack Iraq in retaliation - which had, lest the rational connection escape you, not the slightest connection to any of the plotters of the Cole or 9/11 incidents whatsoever. None, nada, nix! Now is this nuts or what?

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Candy Dish, Remember the Maine, 1898
Orig. milk glass - Size - 20 cm
Found - Dundas, ON
Not to oilmen Cheney, Bush, and Rummy, who had no interest at all in attacking the poverty-stricken and rocky wasteland that is Afghanistan, but were irked beyond belief that petty tyrant Saddam Hussein was sitting on the world's largest oil reserves, and thumbing his nose at them - and this after all they had done for him in the past.

(Why there were even photos of a gleeful Rummy - he was younger then, and personal envoy for Ronny Reagan and the special interest groups - read oil - that had put him there - warmly shaking hands with mass murderer Saddam Hussein, though it is not clear if this was immediately before, or after, Rummy delivered him the cheque for hundreds of millions of dollars so he could buy poison gas to kill Kurds and Iranians. Gassing them was something Rummy could go along with - those backward Kurds were creating civil unrest and instability, and this would also be payback for those damn Iranians who had never been punished for humiliating the US when they held those US prisoners hostage and ended Jimmy Carter's days in the White House. Two decades later, alas! Sometimes the best of friends must part.)

Now Rummy and his pals saw a chance for revenge. They wanted the Haliburton family, not the Hussein family, to be in control of Saddam's oilfields. The oily trio reasoned - if that's the word - "Let's go for the oil! They's all A-rabs over there, and all guilty by association anyway." Colin Powell brought the mad trio back to momentary sanity and carried the day by demanding an attack was moraly justifiable only on the country to which the trail of collusion really led, to the Taliban rulers sheltering the plotters in Afghanistan. "Ok, then,' agreed Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, according to Richard Clarke, "Afghanistan first, and then Iraq."

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Candy Dish, Remember the Maine, 1898
Orig. glass - Size - 20 cm
Found - Jarvis, ON

And the rest they say is the US success in Iraq. And contrary to conventional analysis, it is a complete success for the oily trio, if not the US as a whole. They never cared for the loss of scores of thousands of Iraqui civilians, or American servicemen - hey Bush even skipped out on basic military service, let alone put himself in the line of fire - who have been killed so far; they don't even care if there is ever really a standard military victory. They have the only victory they wanted from the beginning and nothing will ever take that away from them.

The US will remain in control of Iraq in perpetuity, through huge military bases it is building, guaranteeing Haliburton black gold beyond the billions it has already siphoned off in post-war contracts. The CNN debate on when the US will withdraw is merely entertainment pablum for the plebes; the US oil cartel will NEVER again let Iraquis control their own oil production. With control over oil they can even use it to bribe the local puppet regimes to acquiesce, in perpetuity. Marvellous really, how simple it is...

As Bush said famously, he won't leave - EVER - even if only his wife and dog remain his sole supporters. No wonder Bush is so beloved by the US oil cartel; which is where this dim Good Ole Boy came in in the first place, financed - à la banana republic - by the same oil lobby that had supported and financed his Pop, not eight years before! Out of 300 million people Big Bush and Little Bush is the best American democracy can produce, in quick succession, for the country's highest office - all supposedly based on merit, no less!

Only in America!

Actually, no! Also in Haiti with Papa Doc and Baby Doc; in Iraq with Saddam and Udai; in Syria with Hafez Al Assad and Bashar; in North Korea with Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung... Most of them share membership in an exclusive club - the Axis of Evil...

No wonder Dubbya hates these guys. Too close for comfort! They remind him how he got to power himself...

Oh, but there is a difference... These guys just wish they could do evil on a global scale - we're told...

Hell, Bush is doing it!...

US Spanish-American War Child's Battleships Blocks Game - 1898 - 2

1 2 3 4 5 6

4 - USS Brooklyn - Admiral Schley's Flagship

Schley took command and chased off after the fleeing Spanish fleet, but not before his flagship Brooklyn inexplicably turned the wrong way and almost collided with the battleship USS Texas.

But he salvaged his reputation - sort of - by running Cervera's flagship ashore, and sinking most of the rest of the fleet, all while the US fleet commander, Admiral Sampson, was ashore!

3 - USS Oregon

Admiral Sampson was in charge in the Atlantic, on the Cuban front; he was determined to prevent Admiral Cervera's rickety fleet, which was steaming from Spain, from reaching safe harbour in Cuba.

He sent Admiral Schley, in the Brooklyn, to do the job, with his squadron, but Cervera outfoxed the two American Admirals who kept getting their signals crossed about where Schley was supposed to go and when. In the confusion Cervera slipped past them into Santiago harbour.

In frustration the Americans put up a blockade to keep him inside, so that Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, advancing by land, could capture him while he was anchored.

Then suddenly, on July 3, 1898, while Admiral Sampson was ashore, and out of controlling command, Cervera made a break for freedom through Schley's blockade.

The race was on...

2 - USS Olympia - Commodore Dewey's Flagship

On May 1, 1898, in Spain's Philippine colonies, Commodore George Dewey, and his flagship Olympia, at the Battle of Manila Bay, put the unprepared Spanish Far East fleet out of its misery, and destroyed it - killing some 200 hapless Spanish sailors in the process, including 80 who drowned in a sick bay, without losing anyone himself - and became the Spanish-American War's main US hero.

Dewey had started the battle with those famous words, to Olympia's Commander, "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley."

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Admiral George Dewey, 1898
Orig. chromolithograph - Size - 41 X 51 cm
Found - Miami, FL
A stunning lithograph issued to celebrate the hero of Manila, and cameos of his main ships, in full 16 x 20" size. This copy is bright, clean, and in mint condition because, instead of ending up in a hotel, bar, school, or blacksmith shop, as it was meant to, it was carefully saved in storage by a reverent collector.

5 - USS Texas

To Sampson's chagrin, Schley and the Press collaborated to make Schley - whose ship almost rammed the Texas, which would have resulted in a fearful loss of American lives, and possibly the escape of the Spanish fleet entirely as a result - the popular hero for sinking virtually the entire Spanish fleet, with the loss of some 1800 Spaniards, while losing only a single man himself.

(A similarly disastrous manoeuvre by British battleship HMS Victoria - only five years before, in 1893 - resulted in the sinking, through collision, of another battleship, HMS Victoria, in 13 minutes with the loss of 358 British seamen, and the Commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet, Sir George Tryon.)

Hence the frown on Sampson's pinbacks... It was a victory he thought Schley's repeated bungling did not deserve.

It was a victory he - who had planned the campaign - would have died to cap his career with...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Buggy Blanket, Admiral George Dewey, Spanish-American War, 1898
Orig. thick blanket - Size - 1.25 m x 1.45 m
Found - Jensen Beach, FL
A fabulous, thick buggy blanket, used in horse drawn wagons, in the spring and fall, and in cutters (sleighs) in winter outings.

What tales it overheard, of Dewey and Manila Bay, of the Boer War, and later, of the Great War in Europe, as this thick blanket covered couples who were on the way to a dance, or a jaunt to the neighbours, returning late Saturday night. And sometimes, overhearing conversations meant to be private...

But Dewey, was known to be proper and circumspect, and reputedly never blinked, regardless how racy the conversation or passionate the discourse.

A true officer and a gentleman.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Sheet Music,
Admiral George Dewey, 1898
Orig. sheet music - Size - 27 x 36 cm
Found - Rochester, NY
Sheet music celebrating Dewey was popular, much of which can also be found in Canada, but often so frazzled one has to go further afield to find good copies.

Admirals in Collision

Two men who were supposed to work together to first find, and then entrap the Spanish fleet, never could see eye to eye on anything.

Admiral Sampson, the commander in charge, has a permanent frown on his pinbacks. He must be thinking of Admiral Schley right who - in the beginning - could not, or would not, follow orders... And Schley has the dreamy look, pondering, "Now where should I go next to try to find where that Cervera will turn up. Sampson's orders are too foggy to follow."

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Paperweight, Admiral George Dewey & Olympia, 1898
Orig. paperweight - Size - 6 x 10 cm
Found - Waterford, ON
Another treasured rarity from an Ontario household.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Admiral George Dewey, 1898
Orig. pinback - Size - 23 cm
Found - Dundas, ON
As common as poppies are these days, to honour the dead, pinbacks, during the Spanish-American War, sprouted on lapels to celebrate the men responsible for inflicting the bloodshed.

A grateful nation created Dewey the only Admiral of the Navy in US history

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Candy Dish, USS Olympia, 1898
Orig. milk glass - Size - 20 cm
Found - St. George, ON
A fabulously rare candy dish of Admiral Dewey's flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay USS Olympia,

6 - USS New York - Admiral Sampson's Flagship

Behind the scenes, Sampson complained that without the victory Schley would have been court-martialed.

Over the years, the gossip got so bad - like the US Generals currently viciously quarrelling over the war in Iraq - that Schley demanded a full enquiry, to clear his name. He shouldn't have; the Board found him negligent, Admiral Dewey writing a dissenting minority report, that favoured him, sort of...

Great Canadian Insight

It's a good thing Canadian celebrity General Romeo Dallaire didn't ask for a military enquiry after his Congo fiasco in 1994. He was the commander of the UN force in Rwanda who was roundly criticized, around the world, for not fighting to save his men who were in peril, resulting in the massacre of 10 Belgian UN soldiers. (The Belgians have never forgiven him.)

Criticized by military experts at home and abroad, and feeling bad, he wrote a book, and cried, becoming a popular hero as the perfect Canadian general: he cares, he cries, he writes...

The Liberals - Harper's Conservatives who took office shortly after, would never have allowed it - even arranged to give him a Governor-General's Award - Canada's top literary reward - for a book which was - let's admit it - unreadable, and looked like a compilation of cribbed together daily travel logs from his car, required by the UN to validate expense claims. But he meant well; so they gave him the prize for caring so much. The perfect subject for a CBC movie; a caring, crying general, who feels...

The documentary, not really a bad effort, was sent to Sundance but received no award from filmmakers; it was not seen as a good example of their craft, any more than the General was generally considered - by his peers - of having executed his military duties with diligence in Rwanda. But the film festival audience gave it an award for caring so much... And that it and he, did... He was the perfect general for civilians to embrace in a giant feelie...

Luckily the Good General did not ask for a show of support for his judgment from his military peers, a mistake which Admiral Sampson made to his great regret. Dallaire would hardly have fared any better with a Canadian military court of enquiry, let alone a Belgian one...

Current Canadian Defence Chief General Hillier snapped - one almost believes it was a knee-jerk reaction to the popular face that Dallaire had created, world-wide, for the Canadian military - "Our job is to be able to kill people!" Not a few believe he is flattening his part of Afghanistan to try to wipe out the international military feeling - post Dallaire - that Canadian generals are crying patsies...

It's hard to avoid the censorious tone. He didn't need to add, "... not cry, write books, and make movies!"

The Belgians would have agreed...

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