Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Swallows of Capistrano

San Juan Capistrano, CA

Father Junipero Serra started a mission here around 1775. He convinced a Spanish Captain that a settlement was needed between the long journeys from San Diego to San Gabriel. Father Serra named his new mission after Saint John of Capistrano, Italy. Shortly after, local Indians attacked the nearby settlement of San Diego. Father Serra quickly buried the Mission’s bells to secure them from an anticipated Indian attack. A year later, Father Serra dug up the bells and friendly Indians helped build his church and other buildings for the community. San Juan Capistrano is famous for the annual return of swallows. Legend has it, that the swallows were scared off by an innkeeper who hated these birds. The swallows were known for building muddy nests. The innkeeper destroyed all of their nests and the swallows took refuge in the mission. October 23rd is San Juan Day. This is a holiday where the citizens celebrate the leaving of the swallows. The swallows return around March 19th. During this time the mission rings its bells and many visitors and local residents gather to celebrate their return.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jenny Lind, CA & Lind, WI

Jenny Lind was never an American citizen but she made such a memorable impression that both of these communities were named in her honor. Jenny Lind was a famous European opera singer who came to the United States in 1850 to do a two year tour. P.T. Barnum was her promoter and both enjoyed tremendous success to her standing room only performances. Jenny was known as the “Swedish Nightingale” and her ability to hit high F sharps drew crowds of people to her 91 American performances. When she arrived in America, there were over 40,000 people waiting to see a glimpse of her coming off the ship. It is reported that she made over 250,000 dollars while P.T. Barnum probably made 3 times as much. Unlike Barnum, Jenny Lind gave much of her fortunes to charities. She was well known for her philanthropy of funding many schools, hospitals and churches. Today, you can still find American streets named after her and the Jenny Lind beds and cribs are still popular pieces of furniture.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress