Dolly Parton Reads Free Bedtime Stories to Kids: Watch Readings from Goodnight with Dolly

How­ev­er old you may be, you’re nev­er too old to have a chil­dren’s book read aloud to you by a paja­ma clad Dol­ly Par­ton.

So snug­gle up!

Every episode of Good­night with Dol­ly finds the coun­try music icon in bed, glam­orous­ly made up as ever, read­ing glass­es perched on her nose.

She intro­duces her­self not as Dol­ly Par­ton, but the Book Lady, an hon­orif­ic bestowed by the child ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the Imag­i­na­tion Library, the non-prof­it she found­ed in 1995 to fos­ter children’s love of books and read­ing.

The selec­tions are all titles that Imag­i­na­tion Library par­tic­i­pants have received free in the mail, with the Book Lady’s com­pli­ments.

Once things get rolling, the cam­era shifts to the illus­tra­tions, with Dol­ly’s zesty nar­ra­tion as voice over.

She low­ers her voice to play Grand­pa in the late Floyd Cooper’s Max and the Tag-Along Moon and the freight train in the 90th anniver­sary edi­tion of Wat­ty Piper’s The Lit­tle Engine That Could.

If her dra­mat­ic recita­tions occa­sion­al­ly include a bun­gled prepo­si­tion, we can’t imag­ine authors tak­ing umbrage.

In addi­tion to the mil­lions of chil­dren who ben­e­fit from Imag­i­na­tion Library mem­ber­ship, authors and illus­tra­tors whose titles select­ed for inclu­sion reap incred­i­ble rewards in the form of increased vis­i­bil­i­ty, sales, sta­tus, and of course, the good feel­ing that comes from being part of such a wor­thy project.

And we sin­cere­ly hope even the prick­li­est gram­mar stick­lers won’t blow a gas­ket over the odd “ain’t” and region­alisms born of Dolly’s East Ten­nessee moun­tain roots. In addi­tion to com­ing from an authen­tic place, they’re deliv­ered with a lot of heart and zero affect.

Though a word of cau­tion to par­ents plan­ning to let Dol­ly take over tonight: the series may be billed as bed­time sto­ries, but Parton’s mis­chie­vous sense of humor is liable to have a non-soporif­ic effect.

“Are you still awake?” she crows direct­ly into the cam­era after There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bot­tom of the Lake, author-illus­tra­tor Loren Long’s crowd pleas­ing com­ic spin on the cumu­la­tive camp song sta­ple. “I want to throw you in a lake if you don’t get in bed!”

The Book Lady is also fond of shar­ing a high ener­gy snip­pet of what­ev­er song the evening’s tale has put her in mind of.

Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Mar­ket Street, with award win­ning illus­tra­tions by Chris­t­ian Robin­son, inspires a few lines from Poor Folks Town, from 1972.

Come on down

Have a look around

Rich folks livin’ in a poor folks town

We got no mon­ey but we’re rich in love

That’s one thing that we’ve got a‑plenty of

So come on down have a look around

At rich folks livin’ in a poor folks town

(“If that won’t put you to sleep, I don’t know what will,” she teas­es, after.)

After Dol­ly bids her lis­ten­ers good­night, the book’s author or illus­tra­tor is usu­al­ly giv­en a chance to have a word with the par­ents or care­givers, to stress how read­ing aloud deep­ens famil­ial bonds and share child­hood mem­o­ries of being read to.

De la Peña, whose book fea­tures a grand­moth­er point­ing out the sort of non-mon­e­tary rich­es Dol­ly’s moth­er also val­ued, takes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to thank the self-effac­ing star’s efforts to “reach work­ing class com­mu­ni­ties” — pre­sum­ably through rep­re­sen­ta­tion, as well as books intend­ed to cul­ti­vate a life­long love of read­ing.

Enjoy a playlist of Good­night with Dol­ly episodes here.

Learn more about the Imag­i­na­tion Library here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Dol­ly Parton’s Imag­i­na­tion Library Has Giv­en Away 186 Mil­lion Free Books to Kids, Boost­ing Lit­er­a­cy World­wide

Dol­ly Parton’s “Jolene” Slowed Down to 33RPM Sounds Great and Takes on New, Unex­pect­ed Mean­ings

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.


Hear the World’s Oldest Known Song, “Hurrian Hymn No. 6” Written 3,400 Years Ago

Do you like old timey music?


You can’t get more old timey than Hur­ri­an Hymn No. 6, which was dis­cov­ered on a clay tablet in the ancient Syr­i­an port city of Ugar­it in the 1950s, and is over 3400 year old.

Actu­al­ly, you can — a sim­i­lar tablet mak­ing ref­er­ence to Lip­it-Ishtar, a hymn glo­ri­fy­ing the 5th king of the First Dynasty of Isin, in what is now Iraq, is old­er by some 600 years, but as CMUSE reports, it “con­tains lit­tle more than tun­ing instruc­tions for the lyre.”

Hur­ri­an Hymn No. 6 offers meati­er con­tent, and unlike five oth­er tablets dis­cov­ered in the same loca­tion, is suf­fi­cient­ly well pre­served to allow arche­ol­o­gists, and oth­ers, to take a crack at recon­struct­ing its song, though it was by no means easy.

Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of Assyri­ol­o­gy Anne Kilmer spent 15 years research­ing the tablet, before tran­scrib­ing it into mod­ern musi­cal nota­tion in 1972.

Hers is one of sev­er­al inter­pre­ta­tions YouTu­ber hochela­ga sam­ples in the above video.

While the orig­i­nal tablet gives spe­cif­ic details on how the musi­cian should place their fin­gers on the lyre, oth­er ele­ments, like tun­ing or how long notes should be held, are absent, giv­ing mod­ern arrangers some room for cre­ativ­i­ty.

Below archaeo­mu­si­col­o­gist Richard Dum­b­rill explains his inter­pre­ta­tion from 1998, in which vocal­ist Lara Jokhad­er assumes the part of a young woman pri­vate­ly appeal­ing to the god­dess Nikkal to make her fer­tile:

Here’s a par­tic­u­lar­ly love­ly clas­si­cal gui­tar spin, cour­tesy of Syr­i­an musi­col­o­gist Raoul Vitale and com­pos­er Feras Rada

And a haunt­ing piano ver­sion, by Syr­i­an-Amer­i­can com­pos­er Malek Jan­dali, founder of Pianos for Peace:

And who can resist a chance to hear Hur­ri­an Hymn No. 6 on a repli­ca of an ancient lyre by “new ances­tral” com­pos­er Michael Levy, who con­sid­ers it his musi­cal mis­sion to “open a por­tal to a time that has been all but for­got­ten:”

 I dream to rekin­dle the very spir­it of our ancient ances­tors. To cap­ture, for just a few moments, a time when peo­ple imag­ined the fab­ric of the uni­verse was woven from har­monies and notes. To lux­u­ri­ate in a gen­tler time when the fragili­ty of life was tru­ly appre­ci­at­ed and its every action was per­formed in the almighty sense of awe felt for the ancient gods.

Samu­rai Gui­tarist Steve Onotera chan­nels the mys­tery of antiq­ui­ty too, by com­bin­ing Dr. Dumbrill’s melody with Dr. Kilmer’s, try­ing and dis­card­ing a num­ber of approach­es — syn­th­wave, lo-fi hip hop, reg­gae dub (“an absolute dis­as­ter”) — before decid­ing it was best ren­dered as a solo for his Fend­er elec­tric.

Ama­ranth Pub­lish­ing has sev­er­al MIDI files of Hur­ri­an Hymn No 6, includ­ing Dr. Kilmer’s, that you can down­load for free here.

Open them in the music nota­tion soft­ware pro­gram of your choice, and should it please the god­dess, per­haps yours will be the next inter­pre­ta­tion of Hur­ri­an Hymn No. 6 to be fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture

Relat­ed Con­tent 

What Ancient Greek Music Sound­ed Like: Hear a Recon­struc­tion That is ‘100% Accu­rate’

The Evo­lu­tion of Music: 40,000 Years of Music His­to­ry Cov­ered in 8 Min­utes

Watch an Archae­ol­o­gist Play the “Litho­phone,” a Pre­his­toric Instru­ment That Let Ancient Musi­cians Play Real Clas­sic Rock

A Mod­ern Drum­mer Plays a Rock Gong, a Per­cus­sion Instru­ment from Pre­his­toric Times

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Has Given Away 186 Million Free Books to Kids, Boosting Literacy Worldwide

Dol­ly Par­ton cre­at­ed her Imag­i­na­tion Library, a non-prof­it which gives books to mil­lions of chil­dren every month, with her father, Robert Lee Par­ton, in mind.

“I always thought that if Dad­dy had an edu­ca­tion, there’s no telling what he could have been,” she mused in her 2020 book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics:

Because he knew how to barter, he knew how to bar­gain. He knew how to make every­thing work, and he knew how to count mon­ey. He knew exact­ly what every­thing was worth, how much he was going to make from that tobac­co crop, what he could trade, and how he could make it all work

Despite his busi­ness acu­men, Parton’s father nev­er learned to read or write, a source of shame.

Par­ton explains how there was a time when school­ing was nev­er con­sid­ered a giv­en for chil­dren in the moun­tains of East Ten­nessee, par­tic­u­lar­ly for those like her father, who came from a fam­i­ly of 15:

Kids had to go to work in the fields to help feed the fam­i­ly. Because of the weath­er and because of con­di­tions, a lot of kids couldn’t go to school.

I told him, “Dad­dy, there are prob­a­bly mil­lions of peo­ple in this world who don’t know how to read and write, who didn’t get the oppor­tu­ni­ty. Don’t be ashamed of that. Let’s do some­thing spe­cial.”

Par­ton is con­vinced that her father, whose pride in her musi­cal accom­plish­ments was so great he drove over with a buck­et of soapy water to clean the bronze stat­ue her home­town erect­ed in her hon­or, was proud­er still of a nick­name bestowed on her by the Imag­i­na­tion Library’s child ben­e­fi­cia­ries — the Book Lady.

Togeth­er with the com­mu­ni­ty part­ners who secure fund­ing for postage and non-admin­is­tra­tive costs, the Book Lady has giv­en away some 186,680,000 books since the project launched in 1995.

Orig­i­nal­ly lim­it­ed to chil­dren resid­ing in Sevi­er Coun­ty, Ten­nessee, the pro­gram has expand­ed to serve over 2,000,000 kids in the US, UK, Aus­tralia, Cana­da and the Repub­lic of Ire­land.

Par­tic­i­pa­tion can start well before a child is old enough to attempt their ABCs. Par­ents and guardians are encour­aged to enroll them at birth.

The Imag­i­na­tion Library’s lit­tlest par­tic­i­pants’ love of books is fos­tered with col­or­ful illus­tra­tions and sim­ple texts, often rhymes hav­ing to do with ani­mals or bed­time.

By the time a read­er hits their final year of the pro­gram at age 5, the focus will have shift­ed to school readi­ness, with sub­jects includ­ing sci­ence, folk­tales, and poet­ry.

The books — all Pen­guin Ran­dom House titles — are cho­sen by a pan­el of ear­ly child­hood lit­er­a­cy experts. 

This year’s selec­tion includes such old favorites as The Tale of Peter Rab­bit, Good Night, Goril­la, and The Snowy Day, as well as Parton’s own Coat of Many Col­ors, based on the song in which she famous­ly paid trib­ute to her moth­er’s ten­der resource­ful­ness:

Back through the years

I go won­derin’ once again

Back to the sea­sons of my youth

I recall a box of rags that some­one gave us

And how my mom­ma put the rags to use

There were rags of many col­ors

Every piece was small

And I did­n’t have a coat

And it was way down in the fall

Mom­ma sewed the rags togeth­er

Sewin’ every piece with love

She made my coat of many col­ors

That I was so proud of

The Imag­i­na­tion Library is clear­ly a boon to chil­dren liv­ing, as Par­ton once did, in pover­ty, but par­tic­i­pa­tion is open to any­one under age 5 liv­ing in an area served by an Imag­i­na­tion Library affil­i­ate.

Pro­mot­ing ear­ly engage­ment with books in such a sig­nif­i­cant way has also helped Par­ton to reduce some of the stig­ma sur­round­ing illit­er­a­cy:

You don’t real­ly real­ize how many peo­ple can’t read and write. Me telling the sto­ry about my dad­dy instilled some pride in peo­ple who felt like they had to keep it hid­den like a secret. I get so many let­ters from peo­ple say­ing, “I would nev­er had admit­ted it’ or “I was always ashamed.”

Learn more about Dol­ly Parton’s Imag­i­na­tion Library, which wel­comes dona­tions and inquiries from those who would like to start an affil­i­ate pro­gram in their area, here.

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Behold a Secret Gallery of Art Created Using Discarded Gum on London’s Millennium Bridge

Through­out his­to­ry, deter­mined artists have worked on avail­able sur­faces — scrap wood, card­board, walls…

Ben Wil­son has cre­at­ed thou­sands of works using chew­ing gum as his can­vas.

Specif­i­cal­ly, chew­ing gum spat out by care­less strangers.

His work has become a defin­ing fea­tur­ing of London’s Mil­len­ni­um Bridge, a mod­ern struc­ture span­ning the Thames, and con­nect­ing such South Bank attrac­tions as Tate Mod­ern and the Shake­speare’s Globe with St. Paul’s Cathe­dral to the north.

A 2021 pro­file in The Guardian doc­u­ments the cre­ation process:

The tech­nique is very pre­cise. He first soft­ens the oval of flat­tened gum a lit­tle with a blow­torch, sprays it with lac­quer and then applies three coats of acrylic enam­el, usu­al­ly to a design from his lat­est book of requests that come from peo­ple who stop and crouch and talk. He uses tiny mod­el­ers’ brush­es, quick-dry­ing his work with a lighter flame as he goes along, and then seals it with more lac­quer. Each paint­ing takes a few hours and can last for many years.

Unsur­pris­ing­ly, Wil­son works very, very small.

For every Mil­len­ni­um Bridge pedes­tri­an who’s hip to the ever-evolv­ing solo exhi­bi­tion under­foot, there are sev­er­al hun­dred who remain com­plete­ly obliv­i­ous.

Stoop to admire a minia­ture por­trait, abstract, or com­mem­o­ra­tive work, and the bulk of your fel­low pedes­tri­ans will give you a wide berth, though every now and then a con­cerned or curi­ous par­ty will stop to see what the deal is.

Wil­son, who works sprawled on the bridge’s met­al treads, his nose close to touch­ing his tiny, untra­di­tion­al can­vas, receives a sim­i­lar response, as described in Zachary Den­man’s short doc­u­men­tary, Chew­ing Gum Man:

They make think I’ve fall­en over and they may think I’ve had a car­diac arrest or some­thing, so I’ve had lots of ambu­lances turn­ing up…I’ve had loads of police.

His sub­jects are sug­gest­ed by the shape of the spat out gum, by friends, by strangers who stop to watch him work:

I’ve had to deal with peo­ple memo­ri­al­iz­ing peo­ple who have been mur­dered. Peo­ple who have been so lone­ly, or remem­ber­ing favorite pets; peo­ple who are des­ti­tute in all sorts of ways. It goes from pro­pos­al pic­tures, ‘Will you mar­ry me?’, to peo­ple who I drew when they were kids and they now have their own kids.

Like any street artist, Wilson’s had his share of run ins with the law, includ­ing a wrong­ful 2010 arrest for crim­i­nal dam­age, when a crowd of school­child­ren who’d been enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly watch­ing an itty bit­ty St. Pauls tak­ing shape on a blob of gum wit­nessed him being dragged off by his feet. (He asked if he could fin­ish the pic­ture first…)

He may not get per­mis­sion to cre­ate the pub­lic works he goes out dai­ly to cre­ate, but he con­tributes by clear­ing the area of lit­ter, and as he points out, paint­ing on dis­card­ed gum doesn’t con­sti­tute defac­ing anyone’s actu­al prop­er­ty:

Tech­ni­cal­ly in one sense, I’m work­ing with­in the law …if I paint on chew­ing gum, it’s like find­ing No Man’s Land or com­mon ground. It’s a space which is not under the juris­dic­tion of a local or nation­al gov­ern­ment.

See more of Ben Wilson’s work in his online Gum Gallery.

Pho­tos in this arti­cle tak­en by Ayun Hal­l­i­day, 2022. All rights reserved.

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Behold! A Medieval Graphic Novel Carved on an 14th Century Ivory Box

The Châte­laine de Ver­gy, a court­ly romance that was wild­ly pop­u­lar in the mid-13th cen­tu­ry, would’ve made a crowd pleas­ing graph­ic nov­el adap­ta­tion. It’s got sex, treach­ery, a trio of vio­lent deaths, and a cute pup in a sup­port­ing role.

See­ing as how the form had yet to be invent­ed, medieval audi­ences got the next best thing — a Goth­ic ivory cas­ket on which the sto­ry is ren­dered as a series of carved pic­tures that start on the lid and wrap around the sides.

In an ear­li­er video for the British Museum’s Curator’s Cor­ner series, Late Medieval Col­lec­tions Cura­tor Nao­mi Speak­man admit­ted that the pur­pose of such deluxe cas­kets is dif­fi­cult to pin down. Were they tokens from one lover to anoth­er? Wed­ding gifts? Jew­el­ry box­es? Doc­u­ment cas­es?

Unclear, but the intri­cate carv­ings’ nar­ra­tive has def­i­nite­ly been iden­ti­fied as that of The Châte­laine de Ver­gy, a steamy sec­u­lar alter­na­tive to the reli­gious scenes whose depic­tion con­sumed a fair num­ber of medieval ele­phant tusks.

In addi­tion to the ear­ly-14th cen­tu­ry exam­ple in the British Museum’s col­lec­tion, the Cour­tauld Insti­tute of Art’s Goth­ic Ivories data­base cat­a­logues a num­ber of oth­er medieval cas­kets and cas­ket frag­ments depict­ing The Châte­laine de Ver­gi, cur­rent­ly housed in muse­ums in Milan, Flo­rence, Paris, Vien­na, New York City and Kansas.

A very graph­ic nov­e­l­esque con­ceit Speak­man points to in the British Museum’s cas­ket finds the Duke of Bur­gundy break­ing the frame (to use comics ter­mi­nol­o­gy), reach­ing behind the gut­ter to help him­self to the sword the Châtelaine’s knight­ly lover has just plunged into his own breast.

Peer around to the far side of the cas­ket to find out what the Duke intends to do with that sword. It’s a shock­er that silences the trum­pets, qui­ets the danc­ing ladies, and might even have laid ground for a sequel: Chate­laine: The Duke’s Wrath.

Read Eugene Mason’s ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry trans­la­tion of The Chate­laine of Ver­gi here.

Watch more episodes of the British Museum’s Curator’s Cor­ner here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Book of St Albans, One of the Finest Medieval Man­u­scripts, Gets Dig­i­tized and Put Online

A Medieval Book That Opens Six Dif­fer­ent Ways, Reveal­ing Six Dif­fer­ent Books in One

Behold Medieval Snow­ball Fights: A Time­less Way of Hav­ing Fun

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Oldest House in New York City: Meet the Wyckoff House (1652)

Most 21st-cen­tu­ry Brook­lyn pub­lic ele­men­tary school­ers have tak­en or will take a field trip to the Wyck­off House, a mod­est wood­en cab­in sur­round­ed by tire shops and fast food out­lets.

The old­est build­ing in NYC by a long­shot, it was also the first struc­ture in the five bor­oughs to achieve his­toric land­mark sta­tus.

Pri­ma­ry sources place the orig­i­nal occu­pants, Pieter Clae­sen Wyck­off and his wife, Gri­et­je Van Ness-Wyck­off, in the orig­i­nal part of the house around 1652. A sin­gle room with a packed earth floor, unglazed win­dows, a large open hearth, and doors at either end, it would have been pret­ty tight quar­ters for a fam­i­ly of 13, as host Thi­js Roes of the his­to­ry series New Nether­land Now notes, dur­ing his above tour of the premis­es.

Two par­lors were added in the 18th-cen­tu­ry, and three bed­rooms in the ear­ly 19th. Typ­i­cal Dutch Colo­nial fea­tures include an H frame struc­ture, shin­gled walls, split Dutch doors, and deep, flared “spring” eaves.

Its sur­vival is a mir­a­cle in a metrop­o­lis known for its con­stant flux.

In the ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry, descen­dants of Pieter and Gri­et­je part­nered with com­mu­ni­ty activists to save the home from demo­li­tion, even­tu­al­ly donat­ing it to the New York City Parks Depart­ment.

A late 70s fire (pos­si­bly not the first) neces­si­tat­ed major ren­o­va­tions. (And last year, flood­ing from Hur­ri­cane Ida clob­bered its HVAC and elec­tri­cal sys­tem, putting a tem­po­rary kibosh on pub­lic vis­its to the inte­ri­or.)

Back in 2015, Roes’ com­pan­ion, archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­an Heleen West­er­hui­js, was invit­ed to inspect the attic, where she dis­cov­ered impres­sive orig­i­nal beams along­side 20th-cen­tu­ry rein­force­ments.

While the direc­tors of the home­stead active­ly rec­og­nize the com­mu­ni­ty that now sur­rounds it with events like an upcom­ing cel­e­bra­tion of Hait­ian cul­ture and Vodou, and hands on activ­i­ties include urban farm­ing and com­post­ing, the orig­i­nal set­tlers of New Nether­land (aka New Ams­ter­dam, aka New York City) remain a major focus.

Any Amer­i­can or Cana­di­an with the sur­name Wyck­off (or one of its more than 50 vari­ants) can and should con­sid­er it their ances­tral home, as they are almost cer­tain­ly descend­ed from Pieter and Gri­et­je. While many thou­sands now bear the name, Pieter was the first. Vol­un­teer geneal­o­gist Lynn Wyck­off explains:

After the Eng­lish assumed con­trol of New Nether­land, res­i­dents prac­tic­ing patronymics (a nam­ing sys­tem that uti­lized one’s father’s name in place of a sur­name) were required to adopt, or freeze, sur­names that could be passed down each gen­er­a­tion. Pieter Clae­sen chose the name Wykhof, which most of his descen­dants have spelled Wyck­off. Despite many unfound­ed claims over the years regard­ing both Pieter’s ances­try and choice of sur­name, there is no record of Pieter’s parent­age; but there is sub­stan­tial evi­dence that he chose the name Wykhof in recog­ni­tion of a farm by the same name out­side of Marien­hafe, Ger­many where his fam­i­ly were like­ly ten­ants.

A hand­ful of Wyck­off fam­i­ly mem­bers left com­ments on the New Nether­land Now video, includ­ing Don­ald, who wrote of his vis­it:

It was an odd  feel­ing to touch the hand-hewn sur­face of a sup­port­ing beam cut and installed by my ances­tor, hun­dreds of years ago.  Since I am a Wyck­off, I was allowed to see some of the “off tour” bits of the house.  I live over 3k miles away, so my feet will prob­a­bly nev­er touch the ground there again.  But I’m glad NY and a lot of won­der­ful peo­ple have main­tained my ances­tral home so well and for so many years.  Hope­ful­ly it has many hun­dreds of years of life remain­ing so that peo­ple can recall a time when Flat­bush was more of a farm than a city.

If you are a Wyck­off (or one of its vari­ants), you’re invit­ed to keep the Wyck­off Association’s fam­i­ly tree up to date by send­ing word of births, deaths, mar­riages, and any per­ti­nent genealog­i­cal details such as edu­ca­tion, mil­i­tary ser­vice, pro­fes­sion, places of res­i­dence and the like.

Explore a col­lec­tion of edu­ca­tion­al activ­i­ties, lessons, and col­or pages relat­ed to the Wyck­off House here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Immac­u­late­ly Restored Film Lets You Revis­it Life in New York City in 1911

New York City: A Social His­to­ry (A Free Online Course from N.Y.U

Ani­ma­tions Visu­al­ize the Evo­lu­tion of Lon­don and New York: From Their Cre­ation to the Present Day

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Her family’s trips to the Wyck­off House were includ­ed in the lat­est, NYC muse­um-themed issue of her zine, the East Vil­lage Inky. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Julia Child Shows Fred Rogers How to Make a Quick & Delicious Pasta Dish (1974)

Julia Child and Fred Rogers were titans of pub­lic tele­vi­sion, cel­e­brat­ed for their nat­ur­al warmth, the ease with which they deliv­ered impor­tant lessons to home view­ers, and, for a cer­tain sec­tor of the view­ing pub­lic, how read­i­ly their per­son­al­i­ties lent them­self to par­o­dy.

Child’s cook­ing pro­gram, The French Chef, debuted in 1963, and Roger’s much beloved children’s show, Mis­ter Rogers Neigh­bor­hood, fol­lowed five years lat­er.

Rogers occa­sion­al­ly invit­ed accom­plished celebri­ties to join him for seg­ments where­in they demon­strat­ed their par­tic­u­lar tal­ents:

With our guest’s help, I have been able to show a wide diver­si­ty of self-expres­sion, the extra­or­di­nary range of human poten­tial. I want chil­dren and their fam­i­lies to know that there are many con­struc­tive ways to express who they are and how they feel. 

In 1974, Child paid a call to the neigh­bor­hood bak­ery presided over by “Chef” Don Brock­ett  (whose lat­er cred­its includ­ed a cameo as a “Friend­ly Psy­chopath” in Silence of the Lambs…)

The easy-to-pre­pare pas­ta dish she teach­es Rogers — and, by exten­sion, his “tele­vi­sion friend” — to make takes a sur­pris­ing­ly opti­mistic view of the aver­age pre-school palate.

Red sauce gets a hard pass, in favor of a more sophis­ti­cat­ed blend of fla­vors stem­ming from tuna, black olives, and pimen­tos.

Brock­ett pro­vides an assist with both the cook­ing and, more impor­tant­ly, the child safe­ty rules that aren’t always front and cen­ter with this celebri­ty guest.

Child, who had no off­spring, comes off as a high-spir­it­ed, loosey-goosey, fun aunt, encour­ag­ing child view­ers to toss the cooked spaghet­ti “fair­ly high” after adding but­ter and oil “because it’s dra­mat­ic” and talk­ing as if they’ll be hit­ting the super­mar­ket solo, a flat­ter­ing notion to any tot whose refrain is “I do it mySELF!”

She wise­ly reframes tasks assigned to big­ger, more expe­ri­enced hand — boil­ing water, knife work — as less excit­ing than “the fan­cy busi­ness at the end”, and makes it stick by sug­gest­ing that the kids “order the grown ups to do what you want done,” a verb choice the ever-respect­ful Rogers like­ly would have avoid­ed.

As with The French Chef, her off-the-cuff remarks are a major source of delight.

Watch­ing his guest wipe a wood­en cut­ting board with olive oil, Rogers observes that some of his friends “could do this very well,” to which she replies:

It’s also good for your hands ‘coz it keeps ‘em nice and soft, so rub any excess into your hands.

She shares a bit of stage set scut­tle­butt regard­ing a let­ter from “some woman” who com­plained that the off-cam­era waste­bas­ket made it appear that Child was dis­card­ing peels and stems onto the floor.

She said, “Do you think this is a nice way to show young peo­ple how to cook, to throw things on the floor!?” And I said, “Well, I have a self clean­ing floor! …The self clean­ing is me.”

(Rogers appears both amused and relieved when the ulti­mate punch­line steers things back to the realm of good man­ners and per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty.)

Trans­fer­ring the slip­pery pre-cooked noo­dles from pot to serv­ing bowl, Child rem­i­nisces about a won­der­ful old movie in which some­one — “Char­lie Chap­lin or was it, I guess it was, uh, it wasn’t Mick­ey Rooney, maybe it was…” — eats spaghet­ti through a fun­nel.

If only the Inter­net had exist­ed in 1974 so intrigued par­ents could have Googled their way to the Noo­dle Break at the Bull Pup Cafe sequence from 1918’s The Cook, star­ring Roscoe “Fat­ty” Arbuck­le and Buster Keaton!

The fun­nel is but one of many inspired silent spaghet­ti gags in this sure­fire don’t‑try-this-at-home kid-pleas­er.

We learn that Child named her dish Spaghet­ti Mar­co Polo in a nod to a wide­ly cir­cu­lat­ed the­o­ry that pas­ta orig­i­nat­ed in Chi­na and was intro­duced to Italy by the explor­er, a bit of lore food writer Tori Avey of The His­to­ry Kitchen finds dif­fi­cult to swal­low:

A com­mon belief about pas­ta is that it was brought to Italy from Chi­na by Mar­co Polo dur­ing the 13th cen­tu­ry. In his book, The Trav­els of Mar­co Polo, there is a pas­sage that briefly men­tions his intro­duc­tion to a plant that pro­duced flour (pos­si­bly a bread­fruit tree). The Chi­nese used this plant to cre­ate a meal sim­i­lar to bar­ley flour. The bar­ley-like meal Polo men­tioned was used to make sev­er­al pas­ta-like dish­es, includ­ing one described as lagana (lasagna). Since Polo’s orig­i­nal text no longer exists, the book relies heav­i­ly on retellings by var­i­ous authors and experts. This, com­bined with the fact that pas­ta was already gain­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty in oth­er areas of Italy dur­ing the 13th-cen­tu­ry, makes it very unlike­ly that Mar­co Polo was the first to intro­duce pas­ta to Italy.

Ah well.

We’re glad Child went with the Chi­na the­o­ry as it pro­vides an excuse to eat spaghet­ti with chop­sticks.

Noth­ing is more day-mak­ing than see­ing Julia Child pop a small bun­dle of spaghet­ti direct­ly into Fred Rogers’ mouth from the tips of her chopsticks…though after using the same imple­ments to feed some to Chef Brock­ett too, she real­izes that this wasn’t the best les­son in food hygiene.

In 2021, this sort of boo-boo would result in an auto­mat­ic reshoot.

In the wilder, wooli­er 70s, a more press­ing con­cern, at least as far as pub­lic tele­vi­sion was con­cerned, was expand­ing lit­tle Amer­i­cans’ world­view, in part by show­ing them how to get a com­mand­ing grip on their chop­sticks. It’s nev­er too late to learn.

Bon appétit!


There are a num­ber of vari­a­tions online, but this recipe, from, hews close­ly to Child’s orig­i­nal, while pro­vid­ing mea­sure­ments for her eye­balled amounts.

Serves 4–6


1 lb spaghet­ti 

2 table­spoons but­ter 

2 table­spoons olive oil 

1 tea­spoon salt black pep­per 

1 6‑ounce can tuna packed in oil, flaked, undrained 

2 table­spoons pimien­to, diced or 2 table­spoons roast­ed red pep­pers, sliced into strips 

2 table­spoons green onions with tops, sliced 

2 table­spoons black olives, sliced 

2 table­spoons wal­nuts, chopped

1 cup Swiss cheese, shred­ded 

2 table­spoons fresh pars­ley or 2 table­spoons cilantro, chopped

Cook pas­ta accord­ing to pack­age direc­tions. 

Drain pas­ta and return to pot, stir­ring in but­ter, olive oil, and salt and pep­per. 

Toss with remain­ing ingre­di­ents and serve, gar­nished with pars­ley or cilantro.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Julia Child Shows David Let­ter­man How to Cook Meat with a Blow Torch

Watch Antho­ny Bourdain’s First Food-and-Trav­el Series A Cook’s Tour Free Online (2002–03)

Tast­ing His­to­ry: A Hit YouTube Series Shows How to Cook the Foods of Ancient Greece & Rome, Medieval Europe, and Oth­er Places & Peri­ods

Sci­ence & Cook­ing: Harvard’s Free Course on Mak­ing Cakes, Pael­la & Oth­er Deli­cious Food

MIT Teach­es You How to Speak Ital­ian & Cook Ital­ian Food All at Once (Free Online Course)


- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Grandma Moses Started Painting Seriously at Age 77, and Soon Became a Famous American Artist

As an artis­tic child grow­ing up on a farm in the 1860s and ear­ly 1870s, Anna Mary Robert­son (1860–1961) used ground ochre, grass, and berry juice in place of tra­di­tion­al art sup­plies. She was so lit­tle, she referred to her efforts as “lamb­scapes.” Her father, for whom paint­ing was also a hob­by, kept her and her broth­ers sup­plied with paper:

He liked to see us draw pic­tures, it was a pen­ny a sheet and last­ed longer than can­dy.

She left home and school at 12, serv­ing as a full-time, live-in house­keep­er for the next 15 years. She so admired the Cur­ri­er & Ives prints hang­ing in one of the homes where she worked that her employ­ers set her up with wax crayons and chalk, but her duties left lit­tle time for leisure activ­i­ties.

Free time was in even short­er sup­ply after she mar­ried and gave birth to ten chil­dren — five of whom sur­vived past infan­cy. Her cre­ative impulse was con­fined to dec­o­rat­ing house­hold items, quilt­ing, and embroi­der­ing gifts for fam­i­ly and friends.

At the age of 77 (cir­ca 1937), wid­owed, retired, and suf­fer­ing from arthri­tis that kept her from her accus­tomed house­hold tasks, she again turned to paint­ing.

Set­ting up in her bed­room, she worked in oils on masonite prepped with three coats of white paint, draw­ing on such youth­ful mem­o­ries as quilt­ing bees, hay­ing, and the annu­al maple sug­ar har­vest for sub­ject mat­ter, again and again.

Thomas’ Phar­ma­cy in Hoosick Falls, New York exhib­it­ed some of her out­put, along­side oth­er local wom­en’s hand­i­crafts. It failed to attract much atten­tion, until art col­lec­tor Louis J. Cal­dor wan­dered in dur­ing a brief sojourn from Man­hat­tan and acquired them all for an aver­age price tag of $4.

The next year (1939), Mrs. Moses, as she was then known, was one of sev­er­al “house­wives” whose work was includ­ed in the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art’s exhib­it “Con­tem­po­rary Unknown Amer­i­can Painters”.  The empha­sis was def­i­nite­ly on the untaught out­sider. In addi­tion to occu­pa­tion, the cat­a­logue list­ed the non-Cau­casian artists’ race…

In short order, Anna Mary Robert­son Moses had a solo exhi­bi­tion in the same gallery that would give Gus­tav Klimt and Egon Schiele their first Amer­i­can one-per­son shows, Otto Kallir’s Galerie St. Eti­enne.

In review­ing the 1940 show, the New York Her­ald Tri­bune’s crit­ic cit­ed the folksy nick­name (“Grand­ma Moses”) favored by some of the artist’s neigh­bors. Her whole­some rur­al bonafides cre­at­ed an unex­pect­ed sen­sa­tion. The pub­lic flocked to see a table set with her home­made cakes, rolls, bread and prize-win­ning pre­serves as part of a Thanks­giv­ing-themed meet-and-greet with the artist at Gim­bels Depart­ment Store the fol­low­ing month.

As crit­ic and inde­pen­dent cura­tor Judith Stein observes in her essay “The White Haired Girl: A Fem­i­nist Read­ing”:

In gen­er­al, the New York press dis­tanced the artist from her cre­ative iden­ti­ty. They com­man­deered her from the art world, fash­ion­ing a rich pub­lic image that brimmed with human interest…Although the artist’s fam­i­ly and friends addressed her as “Moth­er Moses” and “Grand­ma Moses” inter­change­ably, the press pre­ferred the more famil­iar and endear­ing form of address. And “Grand­ma” she became, in near­ly all sub­se­quent pub­lished ref­er­ences. Only a few pub­li­ca­tions by-passed the new locu­tion: a New York Times Mag­a­zine fea­ture of April 6, 1941; a Harper’s Bazaar arti­cle; and the land­mark They Taught Them­selves: Amer­i­can Prim­i­tive Painters of the 20th Cen­tu­ry, by the respect­ed deal­er and cura­tor Sid­ney Janis, referred to the artist as “Moth­er Moses,” a title that con­veyed more dig­ni­ty than the col­lo­qui­al diminu­tive “Grand­ma.”

But “Grand­ma Moses” had tak­en hold. The avalanche of press cov­er­age that fol­lowed had lit­tle to do with the pro­bity of art com­men­tary. Jour­nal­ists found that the artist’s life made bet­ter copy than her art. For exam­ple, in a dis­cus­sion of her debut, an Art Digest reporter gave a charm­ing, if sim­pli­fied, account of the gen­e­sis of Moses’ turn to paint­ing, recount­ing her desire to give the post­man “a nice lit­tle Christ­mas gift.” Not only would the dear fel­low appre­ci­ate a paint­ing, con­clud­ed Grand­ma, but “it was eas­i­er to make than to bake a cake over a hot stove.” After quot­ing from Genauer and oth­er favor­able reviews in the New York papers, the report con­clud­ed with a folksy sup­po­si­tion: “To all of which Grand­ma Moses per­haps shakes a bewil­dered head and repeats, ‘Land’s Sakes’.” Flip­pant­ly deem­ing the artist’s achieve­ments a mark­er of social change, he not­ed: “When Grand­ma takes it up then we can be sure that art, like the bobbed head, is here to stay.”

Urban sophis­ti­cates were besot­ted with the plain­spo­ken, octo­ge­nar­i­an farm wid­ow who was scan­dal­ized by the “extor­tion prices” they paid for her work in the Galerie St. Eti­enne. As Tom Arthur writes in a blog devot­ed to New York State his­tor­i­cal mark­ers:

New York­ers found that, once wartime gaso­line rationing end­ed, Eagle Bridge made a nice excur­sion des­ti­na­tion for a week­end trip. Local res­i­dents were usu­al­ly will­ing to talk to out­siders about their local celebri­ty and give direc­tions to her farm. There they would meet the artist, who was a delight to talk to, and either buy or order paint­ings from her. Songwriter/impresario Cole Porter became a reg­u­lar cus­tomer, order­ing sev­er­al paint­ings every year to give to friends around Christ­mas. 

In the two-and‑a half decades between pick­ing her paint­brush back up and her death at the age of 101, she pro­duced over 1600 images, always start­ing with the sky and mov­ing down­ward to depict tidy fields, well kept hous­es, and tiny, hard work­ing fig­ures com­ing togeth­er as a com­mu­ni­ty. In the above doc­u­men­tary she alludes to oth­er artists known to depict­ing “trou­ble”… such as live­stock bust­ing out of their enclo­sures.

She pre­ferred to doc­u­ment scenes in which every­one was seen to be behav­ing.

Remark­ably, MoMA exhib­it­ed Grand­ma Moses’ work at the same time as Picasso’s Guer­ni­ca.

In a land and in a life where a woman can grow old with fear­less­ness and beau­ty, it is not strange that she should become an artist at the end. — poet Archibald MacLeish


Read Judith Stein’s fas­ci­nat­ing essay in its entire­ty here.

See more of Grand­ma Moses’ work here, and her por­trait on TIME mag­a­zine in 1953.

Relat­ed Con­tent

How Leo Tol­stoy Learned to Ride a Bike at 67, and Oth­er Tales of Life­long Learn­ing

The Long Game of Cre­ativ­i­ty: If You Haven’t Cre­at­ed a Mas­ter­piece at 30, You’re Not a Fail­ure

What Does It Take to Be a Great Artist?: An Aging Painter Reflects on His Cre­ative Process & Why He Will Nev­er Be a Picas­so

Free Art & Art His­to­ry Cours­es

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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