Reading fresh messages in old letters at fort

first_imgConnor Wier clutched a quill pen in his left hand as he carefully inked characters onto a tiny postcard. Returning the pen to a glass inkwell, he dipped and wrote, dipped and wrote, finally blotting his work with a tiny bit of sand.The 13-year-old Vancouver boy said he was no stranger to writing by hand. But in a generation where mobile text messages, e-mail and social media posts have supplanted the handwritten word, he and others paused to remember the role writing played in local history.Sunday’s program at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site was the first time the link between literacy and local history had been explored. In addition to hands-on opportunities, original letters and postcards from the fur-trading days through World War I were on display, and two short plays examined true stories about two documents with local connections.In the first days after European settlement, literacy was the dividing line between the Hudson’s Bay Co. elite and the common laborers, said Aaron Ochoa, a National Park Service ranger who helped present the program. Clerks and the managers above them could read and write. Most of their labor force could not.“Literacy was one of the things that separated the classes,” said Ochoa. With the ability to write came higher pay and a better standard of living at Fort Vancouver, then an outpost of the London-based Hudson’s Bay Co. fur trading empire.last_img

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