About Candace Keener

Candace Keener is a history editor at HowStuffWorks.com. She studied literature as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia and as a graduate student at Wake Forest University. She's an avid reader and loves historical novels, nonfiction historical accounts and biographies, especially ones about Victorian England, Thomas Jefferson, the Kennedy White House, Jonestown and the Astor family. Her husband has promised her new built-in bookshelves for all her tomes. It takes her a long time to get through her books because she rarely sits still. She's happiest when she's training for a marathon, walking her Jack Russell terrier, Jupiter, or blending running tights and an animal-print accessory into an eye-catching ensemble.

Most Recent: Candace Keener Postings

At the risk of coming across as someone who loves food and PBS a little too much, I’ll chance my reputation as a foodie-public-televison purist and tell you all about the wonderful article that Jane McGrath sent me. Chef Walter Staib, of Philadelphia’s City Tavern Restaurant, made history when he prepared a Jeffersonian meal in Monticello’s kitchen. The kitchen hadn’t seen any action since the 1860s (save a bit of casual use, here and there), and, in fact, it had been damaged by fire and not repaired until 2005.

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It’s a dreary Friday, and I’d really prefer to be reading on my chaise at home than worrying about whether the rain will subside before my lunch hour. If I were with a good book right now, it would be Gore Vidal’s “Burr” (which has been neglected on my nightstand since the DVR captured nearly 20 episodes of “The Nanny”).

Perhaps you’re in the mood for Burr, too, after hearing this week’s podcast on the famous Burr-Hamilton duel. We’d gotten several requests for a podcast about Alexander Hamilton, so we opted to do a biographical overview of him, then hone in on the duel. Several of you suspected that I wouldn’t be able to discuss Hamilton’s contributions to history fairly, given my affinity for Thomas Jefferson. I hope I proved you wrong! Hamilton is truly one of the most fascinating figures in our nation’s history. And whether or not you agree with his political ideologies, governmental initiatives and philandering, you at least recognize that his vision for the future of America did, in fact, pan out in many ways.

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Who isn’t excited to see “Julie & Julia” next week? This will be the sort of movie for which you arrange a divine dinner date beforehand — don’t come hungry, because a tub of greasy popcorn and corn syrupy candy likely won’t satisfy your palate. It is my personal belief that Amy Adams was given a terrible hairstyle in the film so that the effervescent star wouldn’t overshadow the FOOD.

Earlier this week, The New York Times ran a piece about “Cinematic Cuisine That Would Make Even Julia Child Proud.” The article discussed the evolution of film food, from motor oil-glazed turkey and scoops of lard “ice cream” to the modern incarnation of “cinematic cuisine.” That is, real, actual food that actors can eat. While other bloggers out there are reminiscing about their favorite movie food moments (incidentally, mine is the giant slices of layer cake in Disney’s “Pollyanna”), I thought we could glance back at the highs and lows in food history.

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I can scarcely believe it was nearly two months ago that I urged everyone to visit a National Park for free. Where has the summer gone? (By the way, you’ve got just one more weekend to take advantage of the National Park Service’s offer — Aug. 15 through 16.) Well, there are a few things to look forward to as summer ends. For one, digging out the boots with the fur from the back of your closet. And for another, the premiere of Ken Burns’ latest documentary series on PBS, titled “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

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While I usually reserve Fridays for a post-podcast discussion, I thought I’d break the rules in regard to our recent podcast on the 1916 Jersey Shore shark attacks. As some of you may know, one of the most highly anticipated weeks in summer television is quickly approaching: Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, which will run from Aug. 2 through 8. So if you haven’t made it to the beach by now, get thee to the nearest strip of sand and salt water before you’re scared off!

I’m being a tad dramatic. But the 1916 shark attacks were nothing if not dramatic. Katie and I went into pretty gruesome detail about the five victims who fell prey to sharks — and we mentioned that coastal resorts were whipped into a frenzy as shark attack headlines pushed news from the war front off the front page of the papers. But how does history make sense of these sensationalized events?

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Since Thursday, The New York Times has been running an article in its Style section about “Star Power in the White House.” Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a good share of articles about volunteerism cross my desk, including one titled How to Volunteer with the President of the United States. Actor Kalpen Modi — alias Kal Penn — could’ve written it. He didn’t (our talented HSW writer Chris Obenschain did), but he’s walking the talk, so to speak.

Modi put his acting career on hold to work for President Obama, for whom he actively campaigned last year. You’ve seen Modi’s acting chops in the Harold & Kumar movies, as well as “House” and “24.” Modi gave his “House” producer early notice that if Obama were elected, he’d be leaving the show. He kept his word and now works in the Office of Public Engagement.

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It’s a lovely morning in Atlanta. The sun is shining, there’s a gentle breeze and we’re celebrating Shorts Friday at the HowStuffWorks.com office. So let’s talk malaria and prostitution, shall we?

Malaria and yellow fever certainly impeded the progress of the Panama Canal. (It also affected the implementation of the Tennessee Valley Authority.) Aside from parasitical problems, there were other roadblocks that stood in the way of the canal. It took nearly four centuries, around 22,000 workers and the efforts of at least three countries to complete the canal — a project that seemed so simple, given France’s past success with the Suez Canal and the (relatively) narrow strip of land that would be broken through to connect the Atlantic and Pacific.

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I’m wild about figs. After a long run, I refuel with fig bars. I love to put a jar of fig preserves on the breakfast table. And I never leave the house without spritzing Un Jardin En Mediterranee, my favorite perfume, which has a hint of fig.

NPR’s “Ripe Figs: The Real Fruit of Eden?” naturally caught my eye (ear, really — it’s an audio segment). Farmer Rick Knoll grows seven varieties of figs, including brown turkey, black mission and Adriatic. He says, in the driest Ben Stein-like voice, “They’re the sexiest thing there is.” Knoll prescribes “three in the morning” as a hangover cure, and he asserts that the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden wasn’t an apple — it was a fig.

Knoll didn’t elaborate, so I struck out to determine whether this was true.

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My former SYMHC co-host Jane has been a D.C. resident now for a few months, but she still has Georgia on her mind. She sent me a link to a New York Times article titled “On a Map of Georgia, Old Words Start a New Rush for Tourists.” If you know anything about gold in the peach state, you know that Dahlonega claims to be the oldest gold rush town. As a matter of fact, you can still pan for gold in Dahlonega. If your eyes are sharp and your sifting skills are solid, you might come home with an itty-bitty nugget in a glass vial.

But now, the town of Villa Rica is getting in on the golden glory. Amateur historian Douglas C. Mabry found an old map of Georgia — circa 1826 — with “Gold Region” printed where Villa Rica stands today. To Mabry, that confirmed his suspicion that Villa Rica was the site of the United States’ first gold rush, not Dahlonega. Dahlonega’s mayor isn’t letting the news get to him: “So what? Anybody can claim anything they want. [...] We don’t pay much attention to it.”

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Brown v. Board of Education is one of the most famous court cases in U.S. history. Third-grader Linda Brown was denied admission at Sumner Elementary, a school with an all-white student body. Sumner was just seven blocks from the girl’s home, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, while the elementary school for black students, Monroe, was a one-mile walk through a dangerous railroad intersection or a one-hour bus ride away. Oliver L. Brown spearheaded the effort to gain black children admission into Sumner; in 1954, the Supreme Court heard the case and ruled against “separate but equal” educational facilities, thereby desegregating schools.

Both Sumner and Monroe became historical landmarks in 1987. Monroe is the official Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, though. Sumner, which was constructed in 1936, fell into disrepair. In 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation added the school to its list of endangered sites, citing its biggest threats as “deterioration, neglect.”

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