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Strasburg once Central Valley center for pottery



European Settlers began residing in the enchanting Northern Shenandoah Valley during the 1730s. Peter Stover migrated to the Shenandoah Valley in 1739 and eventually purchased 483 acres of land from Jacob Funk. Stover divided the land into smaller plots for sale to other settlers and a village was informally established. Stover then applied for a town charter from Virginia’s Colonial General Assembly in November 1761 giving the fledgling community the official name of Strasburg after Strasbourg, the capital of the German-speaking French province of Alsace. Some settlers originally called the area Staufferstadt, the German name for Stoverstown.

Unlike English society found east of the Blue Ridge, Strasburg was settled with family farms and villages rather than large estates and was greatly influenced by Germanic values, customs and languages. The prosperous agricultural community that developed in the bountiful low lying land along a large bend of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River featured scenic views of the Massanutten Ridge to the east and Allegheny Mountains to the west.

Strasburg would gradually boast a strong mercantile base that supported blacksmiths, doctors, carpenters, potters, coopers, weavers, hatters, shoemakers, tavern keepers, stonemasons, millers, tanners and potters. However it was for the pottery industry that Strasburg would increasingly be recognized. A Sabbatarian commune trekked to Strasburg from the Ephrata Cloister in Pennsylvania with a desire to reproduce rural folk art pottery. This Christian group of celibate men and women migrated to the Valley about 1757 and in 1761 established the first cottage industry pottery production.

Attached Photo courtesy Mark Gunderman. The Strasburg Museum, once operated as a Steam Pottery, also known then as the Strasburg Stone and Earthenware Manufacturing Company from 1891-1909.

In the early nineteenth century potters from other colonial locations were arriving and establishing small shops. Shops accepting apprenticeships were primarily limited to family members. The agrarian society had great needs for pottery products. Potteries were built for making utilitarian devices used in cooking meals and food storage. Rich Valley earthen and stoneware clay deposits were readily accessible and abundant which enticed potters to Strasburg to take advantage of owning a shop with a cheap clay source in close proximity. Earthenware was used for cooking and stoneware was suitable for storing liquids. Salt-glazed stoneware became very available during this time and potters made serviceable household products like cream pitchers, lard crocks, whiskey jugs and chamber pots.

Philip Grim was most likely Strasburg’s first commercial potter. Phillip began producing pottery in 1783 and continued here until 1811. Adam Keister began making pottery in Strasburg in 1805 and produced his first stoneware during the 1820s. His sons Adam Jr. and Henry continued the business from 1847 until after the Civil War. Samuel Bell moved to Strasburg from Winchester to make pottery in 1843 and his brother Solomon Bell joined him in 1845. Pottery continued to be a commercially viable industry prior to the Civil War, with local clay being used to make both utilitarian items and decorative pieces.

The ravages of the Civil War brought lean years to the Shenandoah Valley, thus diminishing the pottery industry. Many potteries severely cut production during the war years and financing to increase production after the war was difficult. Skilled Potters were abundant but salaries were below normal standards for the years 1865-1875. Competition was intense during this period and the phrase “poor as a potter” was widely used.

The most successful period for the Strasburg pottery trade came a decade after the war during what has been called the “Golden Age” of Valley pottery production (1875-1895). This Golden Age was the result of voluminous stoneware production when many partnerships were formed and dissolved. The Potters were able to transport their stoneware throughout the southeast and mid-Atlantic states via the Manassas Gap Railroad which connected Strasburg to Manassas Junction and Alexandria and the new Winchester and Strasburg Railroad which connected Strasburg to Harpers Ferry, enabling a connection to northern destinations.

It was during the Golden Age that a number of small potteries were distinguished here and Strasburg became a potter’s paradise earning its signature nickname of Pot Town. Pot Town became the Central Valley headquarters for the production of both utilitarian and fancy earthenware and stoneware pottery. Commonly produced stoneware forms of the late nineteenth century include jars, crocks, jugs, pitchers, butter and cake crocks, milk pans (shallow, tapering crocks with spouts) and spittoons.

Samuel H. Sonner produced ware from 1870 to 1883. His son John Henry Sonner assumed the business and continued making stoneware and drain tile into the early 1900s. George W. Miller produced pottery from 1880-1901. James M. Hickerson managed his pottery in Strasburg, Virginia from 1884-1898. Jacob J. Eberly & Company opened in 1874. Eberly acquired Keister Pottery in 1880. Eberly’s brother Joseph and son Letcher joined him later, producing stoneware and fancy ware until the early 1900s. Letcher is recognized for creating the poly-chrome glaze used in earthenware products in Strasburg. Samuel and Solomon Bell’s business continued to grow producing various saleable items with Samuel Bell’s potter sons, Richard Franklin “Polk” Bell, Charles Forrest Bell, and Turner Ashby Bell. Ashby became the last surviving potter working, by producing lavishly decorated commercial products in Strasburg as late as 1915.

Around 1890 the two story structure that now houses the Strasburg Museum was built by the Strasburg Stone and Earthenware Manufacturing Company as a factory intended to place the Shenandoah Valley’s long tradition of pottery making on a high-volume industrial basis. The factory idea was conceived by Dr. G. A. Brown and a group of investors from Lynchburg and Strasburg.

The plan was to make Strasburg an important manufacturing center elevating the city’s status to the level of more modern Trenton, New Jersey and Zanesville, Ohio. The company began operating the large steam pottery plant on the site beginning in February 1891. The project coincided with the brief economic boom experienced during the city’s Golden Age.

Many of the Strasburg area independent potters became employees of the company and local laborers sought permanent employment at 50 cents a day. Unfortunately the organization did not have the necessary experience for operating in a large factory environment. There were many delays getting the operations component running smoothly as management had difficulty with the various technological phases and challenges of the new industrial era.

By 1894, large amounts of inventory remained unsold. In 1895 and 1896, the factory mostly produced brick and tile. The company officers recognized glass jars and tin cans were rapidly replacing pottery for food storage. Efforts to diversify the product line with additional items like flower pots and brightly-glazed tableware were not enough to sustain the steam pottery plant. The short-lived venture (1891-1897) into specialized industrial and technological advancement represents an unsuccessful attempt to convert a small production industry into one of innovative mass production. Between 1898 and 1900 the company wholesaled all of their machinery and pottery related equipment.

Strasburg pottery production went into decline because of competition from large, well-managed Ohio-based factories, the transition of food storage from ceramic vessels to the use of lighter-weight glass jars and new canning devices. The gradual mass production of glass jars and tin cans as more efficient types of containers ultimately led to the rapid end of salt-glazed stoneware and the pottery industry. By 1910, virtually all remaining commercially productive potters in the Valley area sought out new means of employment.

Strasburg stoneware is admired today for its folk art charm and Southern legacy. It is believed that no other community of similar size is as well-known as Strasburg among nationwide pottery collectors.

Mark P. Gunderman
Stephens City, Virginia

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Scientists create liquid terminator robot (on a small, non-murderous scale)



In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the heroes flee from the T-1000 terminator, a liquid metal murder-bot, in a psychiatric prison.

As the T-1000 pursues them down a hall, it’s seemingly stopped by barred gates. Except the terminator melts straight through the bars, barely losing a step.

Go figure.

Scientists at China’s Sun Yat-Sen University have made a small robot that, like the T-1000, can turn liquid and then reform back as a solid. They even recreated the eerie through-the-bars scene, jailbreaking a Lego-shaped bot from a barred cell.

How? Scientists created a Lego figurine made of liquid metal. Then, using magnets, they melted the figurine down, allowing the tiny robot to slip through a set of bars. This was achieved using a metal called gallium, which has a melting temperature of just 86 degrees F. They then embedded magnetic metals within the liquid metal, allowing them to heat up the gallium with magnetic fields, turning it into liquid. After that, the liquid was moved using magnets, and the original Lego-shaped robot was reformed. Scientists have labeled the bot a magnetoactive solid-liquid phase transitional machine.

Mind you, the current liquid robot is far from a sentient killing machine.

Scientists think this may have more benign uses, such as using the liquids to encapsulate objects, say a sharp piece of metal, in the body. Once encapsulated, the objects can be more safely evacuated from the body.

Interestingly enough, the biggest inspiration for the liquid robot was not science fiction but instead science-fact. Real-life sea cucumbers can alter their own rigidity to reduce physical damage and increase their weight-bearing capabilities. Meanwhile, octopuses aren’t quite liquid but can change their rigidity to squeeze through tight spaces, among other things.

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How to prepare for the 2023 golf season



Spring is in the air, so golf season is just around the corner! Here are a few tips to make your transition back to the green as seamless as possible.

1. Strengthen your muscles. Develop a consistent workout routine to help you improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury. Look up golf-specific exercises and stretches to make the most of your time.

2. Practice your short game. Set up an area in your home, like your basement or garage, where you can work on putting and perfecting your golf swing. Your goal should be to practice at least half an hour a week.

3. Invest in a golf club fitting. Using custom-fit equipment for your golf game can significantly improve your experience. A professional can help you find the right clubs for your swing, body type, and ability level.

4. Re-grip your golf clubs. Slick or worn grips can cause control and accuracy problems. Therefore, hiring a golf retailer or qualified club fitter to re-grip your worn-out clubs is an excellent idea.

It may also help to watch online videos, attend a golf training seminar, or play a few casual rounds at your local golf course. You’ll improve your game and keep up with the latest rules.

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Life is short. Change from average to awesome



If you want to change your life for the better, there are a lot of things you can do. But did you know you can actually change your life by changing your mindset?

Are you ready to take control of your life? This is the ultimate goal of self-improvement. And in order to achieve it, you need to learn how to change your mindset.

We all want to change our lives from average to awesome. But how do you do it? If you’re like me, you probably just keep plugging away and hoping things will get better.

That’s a good thing to do, but what if there was another way? What if there were a simple set of steps to change your life from average to awesome in just a few days?

Are you feeling stuck in a rut with no real plan for your future? Do you feel like life just keeps throwing you curve balls that you can’t seem to catch?

This is what happens when you’re a normal person who spends too much time in front of a screen.

You get addicted to checking your phone, watching TV, browsing Reddit, and spending time on social media.

Then, you start feeling like you’re not making any progress. You’re still stuck in the same routine, and nothing seems to be changing.

So, you spend all your free time working on self-improvement projects – reading books, taking courses, and doing a lot of research.

And then you think to yourself, “Is this all I’m going to accomplish with my life? Is it possible to change my life?”

Yes, it is possible.

But it will take hard work and commitment, and it will take some effort.

Define Your Identity

Your personality isn’t something that’s determined by some random factor in your brain. Rather, it’s something that you’ve consciously chosen for yourself.

Your identity is something that you’ve built up over time. When you get to the point where you’re a bit older, you’ll notice that your identity has changed over the years.

For example, when you were young, you thought of yourself as a typical kid. You thought you’d grow up to become just like everyone else.

As you grew up, your identity started to change. You began to develop your own sense of self. You knew who you were and what you believed in.

This is why people tend to stay the same for so long, but later in life, they start changing their mindsets as they evolve.

If you want to change your mindset, you need first to define it. You’ll have to define your identity consciously, as it’s something you’ll have to work on.

Before you can define your identity, you need to know who you are, what your beliefs are, and where you stand in life. If you can do that, you’re already a step ahead of the game.

Defining your identity will be one of the most difficult things you’ll ever have to do, but it can be the most rewarding. Once you know who you are and where you stand, you’ll know what kind of person you need to be in order to succeed.

You’ll be able to see where you’re weak and where you’re strong, and you’ll be able to work on improving your weaknesses, and you’ll be able to work on creating your strengths.

It’s all about building up your strength and your identity. Don’t worry if it takes a while to get there.

Master Your Mindset

How many times have you seen a successful person do something that seemed completely random? Perhaps they were speaking to a group of people, and while talking, they suddenly picked up a pen and started writing on the back of an envelope.

When the rest of us saw this happen, we would probably think that they were crazy and would get in trouble. In fact, that’s exactly what people thought about Einstein when he began working on his theory of relativity.

Yet, Einstein was the genius we know today. He was able to turn his random acts of insanity into a breakthrough that would forever change the world.

It’s your mindset that can make or break your life. It’s your mind that decides how you view the world, whether you’re pessimistic or optimistic, whether you’re happy or not. It’s your mind that decides whether you have the courage to act and follow your dreams.

We see the world through our minds. If you don’t like the way the world is, your mind is the one that makes it so. Your mind can bring happiness and success into your life, or it can kill and destroy it.

That’s why it’s so important to have a positive mindset. It will determine everything that you do and the results you get. Even if you’re not a naturally positive person, you can still become one through sheer willpower and dedication.

Your mindset can be changed with the proper mindset and mindset training techniques. If you want to live a happy life, you need to be a happy person, and it’s just as important to be a happy person as it is to be a successful person.

That’s why there are so many different types of positive thinking programs and techniques that you can try to improve your mindset and become more successful.

The key is to make sure that you pick the right one for you and your needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all type of positive thinking program, so be sure to make sure that you choose the one that will work best for you.

Do Small Things Consistently

It’s been said that if you want to succeed at something, you should be able to do it in 10 minutes or less. If you want to accomplish something in your life, it’s best to break down the task into smaller and simpler parts.

Successful people often do this. They take a large, intimidating goal and break it down into a series of small tasks they can complete over time.

If you want to achieve anything in life, you should be able to do it in smaller chunks and make it a habit to get these small tasks done over and over consistently.

Instead of focusing on just one big goal, focus on many smaller goals. When you notice that you’re getting closer to your ultimate goal, you’ll also start to get closer to the smaller milestones you need to reach to get to it.

It can help to think of the process of achieving your goal as a marathon. You can’t run a marathon by sprinting from one-mile marker to the next. You need to take small strides and progress slowly in order to get from point A to point B.

As you gain momentum, you’ll be able to take those small steps more quickly, and you’ll be able to do so more consistently. It might not be easy to get started on something new, but you’ll find that once you get going, it’s easier to get through each day and build up your momentum.

If you’re always on the lookout for something new to do, you won’t get anywhere. Instead, try to break down your bigger goals into smaller ones, and make sure to work on those regularly. By working on the small things, you’ll be able to build up momentum in your life.

The key is to keep yourself consistent. You can’t just work one day and then not again because you’ll lose that momentum if you do. Keep your momentum up by making sure to work on the small things every single day.

Don’t take a break from your life. There’s a reason that they call it “breaking” a habit, and if you’re breaking a habit, then you’re actually building up a new one.

Change Your Mindset To Become A Successful Person

If you are feeling frustrated with how you live now, it’s time to stop being a victim and start being a victor.

You must decide that you will never be a victim again.

You must realize that no matter how hard you try, you will never change the world.

You have to realize that you are only responsible for yourself.

So, take a step towards success and change your mindset.

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The IRS is watching digital ‘assets’



The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t consider cryptocurrency to be actual money. But it does consider it a valuable asset, and if you made dollars on bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, that money would be taxed.

On the other hand, following the $1.4 trillion crypto industry drop in value in 2022, you could get some tax relief if you had substantial losses, as many did.

Expect the IRS to pay close attention to crypto and other digital assets, such as NFTs (non-fungible tokens). The IRS now asks tax filers if: At any time during 2022, did you: (a) receive (as a reward, award, or payment for property or services); or (b) sell, exchange, gift, or otherwise dispose of a digital asset (or a financial interest in a digital asset)?

Congress also beefed up reporting requirements for exchanges and other organizations. While some reporting measures were delayed this year, expect more of a paper trail going forward.

It’s been a tough year for crypto trading, with one of the largest exchanges, FTX, imploding under the weight of alleged fraud and mismanagement. At one point, FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was considered a billionaire. Now he faces complicated legal battles and potentially long jail sentences. Many crypto traders have lost money this year, but regardless, Americans will need to report crypto income and losses to the IRS.

The crypto industry’s trillion-dollar losses in 2022 are believed to be greater than the nominal GDP of Spain in 2021, which was estimated at $1.28 trillion. Exchanges, investment funds, and others have been hit hard, with some organizations and individuals now all but bankrupt.

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Get your tackle box ready for fishing season



Are you getting eager for your first day on the lake? As you gather your rods and reels, use these lists to get your tackle box fully stocked for your first fishing trip.

Fishing essentials
Get these items from a local fishing outfitter:

• Hooks of varying sizes
• Lures and flies
• Floaters
• Weights
• Fishing line
• Line swivels
• Leaders
• Stringer
• Ruler
• Scale
• Needle nose pliers
• Utility knife

Little extras
A successful fishing trip depends on catching fish, having a good time, and staying safe. Look for these items at a nearby department store, craft shop, or drug store:

• Flashlight. Don’t forget the extra batteries.
• First-aid kit. If you already have one, ensure it’s well stocked with Band-Aids and alcohol pads.
• Insect repellant. Try a portable ultrasonic mosquito-repelling gadget if you don’t want to apply chemical repellant.
• Sunscreen. Add a lip balm for complete sun protection.
• Craft scissors. You’ll need these — or nail clippers — to cut your fishing line.
• Unscented soap. It’s best to handle bait with clean, fragrance-free hands.
• Multi-surface glue. It’ll come in handy if your rod breaks.

Remember to keep your fishing license’s photocopy in your tackle box for easy access.

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Beware the ides of March!



Forget Friday the 13th. Ignore ladders, black cats, broken mirrors, and spilled salt. But remember the ides of March (also known as March 15) and beware!

As superstitions go, being wary of March 15 is somewhat unusual. Yet the day does have its staying power. Its legend is partly a result of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In Scene 2, Act 1, the soothsayer cautions Caesar to “Beware the ides of March!” Caesar, of course, ignores the warning and is murdered.

Note that in their calendar, the ides fell on the 15th in March, May, July, and October. In other months, it fell on the 13th. If that seems odd, just remember that the Julian calendar, established by Julius Caesar, gave us the basis of our system of 365 days a year and 366 in a leap year.

The ides of March continue to be remembered as unlucky, so marked because of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C. But there is another reason all dreaded it. On March 15 of the Roman calendar, all debts from the previous year were supposed to be settled.

Caesar was assassinated in Pompey’s Theater, where the senate happened to be meeting that day. The theater was in the temple of Venus, part of the theater complex.

The foundations of that building survive to this day. It is the site of the modern Roman restaurant Da Pamcrazio, which invites passersby to dine where Caesar was slain.

The restaurant is located in what is now a wonderful part of the old city.

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