Odd Bits

Don’t be evil-eying my guns!

Many Americans see government regulation of guns as a curse. There was a time when they thought witches controlled their weapons with curses.

Thomas Mellon, father of Andrew Mellon, explains such peculiar habits of German farmers  in his 1885 memoirs, “Thomas Mellon and His Times”:


9780822955726_l“The old and wise men among our Dutch (Deutsch) neighbors possessed abiding confidence in the folk-lore of their ancestors. They would admit that the active practice of witchcraft had generally ceased, but most of them claimed having had, at one time or another, personal experience of its effects.

Many of them in their youth had been great hunters; even in our day, Peter Hill and other old Germans were accustomed to make their annual winter excursion into the then wilderness of Clarion and Forest counties, and would each bring home a sled load of venison.

And they all expressed undoubting belief that no matter how unerring the aim, if some one with an evil eye or possessed of the power of sorcery should happen to put a spell on their gun, no game could be killed until the spell is taken off.

This was done by marking a human figure on a tree to represent the witch, and shooting a silver bullet into it with the gun supposed to be affected.

The bullet was usually the smallest silver coin battered into the proper shape.

Old Philip Drum and our neighbor Peter, who were great hunters, usually took the precaution of ridding their guns of these sorceries before setting out on the hunt; taking it for granted that if the gun was not affected, the purification would do no harm.

Hex sign to ward off  "evil eye."

Hex sign to ward off evil eye.


Thomas Mellon:

“. . . The signs of the Zodiac in the Dutch (Deutsch) almanac afforded an indispensable guide for farm work . . . Our neighbors generally entertained these beliefs and only pitied the presumptuous ignorance of such as ourselves who disregarded them. Science had not as yet greatly disturbed their thoughts . . .”

Zoom In, Zoom Back

This week we stroll down the alley of Pittsburgh's past, picking up a few odd bits. This is Banner Way in Lawrenceville in 1908 as it gets paved in brick. Asphalt covers it now, but the buildings remain. See photo below.

Click on this 1907 photo to zoom into the past of Banner Way in Lawrenceville. My money says the man under the derby in foreground is a salesman. Note the bi-racial crew paving the alley in brick. Also check out the flame in the gas street light, the lack of telephone lines and poles, and the girl in the window with the best view.  Asphalt covers over their work now,  but the buildings remain largely intact 110 years later. Google provides a modern view of Banner Way below. This old photo and thousands of others can be seen at:

Historic Pittsburgh Images Collection

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