“Did You Know?” are a series of articles published in the Ocean Springs Record written by OSMH Registrar, Dennis Walker

hand grenadeSMDid you know that in the late nineteenth century, both businesses and private homes in Ocean Springs burned to the ground quite frequently? Fires were much more common than now, with buildings and interiors being made mostly of flammable substances and fire fighting technology consisting of volunteer brigades armed with buckets of water.

Another way citizens dealt with fire was by using a device called fire hand grenades. These grenades were advertised as “essential household items for women in peril”. Theses glass containers were commonly filled with carbon tetrachloride. Carbon tetrachloride, when breathed can damage the lungs and kidneys. What’s more, it is easily converted in the presence of heat to phosgene gas, commonly known as mustard gas a major chemical weapon used in World War I. The Ocean Springs History Museum has such a grenade in its permanent collection and recently had it on display. Fortunately it no longer contains any fluids.


walterSMDid you know where the Isle of Capri Casino on Beach Boulevard in Biloxi got its name? It was named after a predecessor casino that was originally located on a barrier island off the Mississippi Gulf Coast eighty two years ago. That island and its casino have long since been completely submerged. From1920 to1925, Colonel Jack Apperson, builder of Biloxi’s famed Buena Vista Hotel, noted a sharp decline in the tourist industry here on the Gulf Coast. He blamed this financial decline on the 1919 enactment of the 18th amendment prohibiting the sale of alcohol. He deduced that vacationists would seek out other sunny destinations such as the Isle of Cuba where they could legally obtain alcohol. He sought a solution to evading this law and finally envisioned building a hotel and resort far enough offshore that it would legally evade the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. When he approached fellow Biloxi entrepreneurs, Walter Hunt and Arbeau Caillavet with his idea they enthusiastically agreed to pool their financial resources and build a”Monte Carlo of the South”.

After careful consideration of offshore barrier island locations to build their visionary resort they settled on Dog Key Island. Dog Key Island was an ideal site for several reasons. Foremost, it was located twelve miles off the coast, which made it legally outside the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. Secondly, it had artesian springs which would provide an ample water supply. Lastly, it was 3.5 three miles long and contained 487 acres, which gave them ample space to build on. These three immediately purchased this island from the American government and renamed it the Isle a Caprice to symbolize a notion of whimsical entertainment. On May 30th 1926, The Isle of Caprice held its grand opening. Tourist from all over the region and country were encouraged, through blanket advertising to journey to the fun filled land of capriciousness.

Four excursion boats, that charged a fee of 75 cents per passenger, left the mainland each day and reached the island after a journey of thirty minutes. Once the boat docked at the pier the passengers disembarked and were directed to check into the luxurious hotel. There the guest had several options, they could bath in the sunlit warm waters of the gulf within sight of colorful cabanas for modest changing. For fast paced entertainment they could always listen to the jazz bands that played popular music in the dance hall such as the ‘Charleston” or try their luck at the casino where there was roulette, dice and other gaming devices available as cocktails were served whenever they wanted.

Unfortunately, as popular as this offshore casino and resort were, the financiers of this endeavor only enjoyed success for a very brief period of time. The Great Depression stuck in 1929, only three years after the resort was built and tourist dollars quickly began drying up. Then a hurricane hit and cut the island in two. Finally, a continuous series of storms in the Gulf eroded what was left of the Island. By 1932, the island was completely submerged beneath the waves of the gulf. The only thing that remained of its existence was a pipe that rose from the sea bed of the Gulf of Mexico.Thirsty Fishermen often sought this pipe when they were far from shore, because they could drink sweet artesian water that still flowed up to the surface through this relic of the past. The Pipe no longer exist, however the Photograph pictured here is thought to be of Walter Inglis Anderson in in his infamous boat consuming a fresh drink of water from the pipe that marked the spot of a now underwater casino. It was donated to the Ocean Springs Museum of History by Mitchell Parker

telephone2SMDo you know how restrictive it was to use a telephone in the 1940s? Today, children, teenagers and adults alike place and receive phone calls whenever and wherever they like. In the 1940s this was not the case; telephones back then were considered luxury items by most families. In rural areas only 30 percent of homes had a telephone. Even if you were fortunate enough to own one, it might not be used for weeks on end. Back then people preferred to talk to their relatives and friends in person because they were usually within walking distance from each other.

In addition, private telephone conversations were virtually nonexistent because the family had only one phone in the entire house. It was always set up in a fixed position which was usually in the hallway or kitchen to provide the easiest access from every room. Consequently, whatever you were discussing with someone on the telephone could be heard by everyone else in the house. To make matters worse, in small towns, telephones were all connected to a party line which were lines that were shared by several households in a given area. When someone would place a call, every telephone in that area would ring. But each family’s telephone had a specific ring pattern so they would know if the phone call was for them.

Because several families shared a party line, conversations were supposed to be short and to the point so that the line was not held up. However, many people often abused this rule and talked persistently. Some neighbors even quietly picked up the receiver and slyly listened to your private conversations to catch up on the latest gossip. Some teenagers overcame this lack of privacy by inventing their own language that only they understood such as saying “ag” after a each consonant in a word.

All the telephones were identical — all black and made of Bakelite (a form of plastic) and they were made in two parts, the hand set and the base unit. Phone numbers were listed by exchanges represented by a name such as “Murray Hill.” To make a phone call you would dial the first two letters of that word and then dial five remaining numbers. To make a long distance phone call you would dial “0”, and an operator would complete the long distance call for you.

During World War II, mobile telephones were invented for military commanders for use in their automobiles. In 1959, this invention caused the famous science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke to make the prediction that mobile telephones small enough to fit in your hand would be in use by the mid-1980s.

The 1940s telephone pictured here was donated to the Ocean Springs Museum of History by the estate of J.K.Lemon

Did you know that Ocean Springs once had a top class restaurant that garnered nationwide recognition as an outstanding dining establishment? When many residents of Ocean Springs reminisce about this city’s culinary past, they fondly recall the fine dining experiences they shared at Triliby’s Restaurant.

TriblyTrilby’s Restaurant first opened in Ocean Springs in 1948, where Aunt Jenny’s Catfish Restaurant is today. The proprietors were Lillian Trilby Grenet Steimer and her husband Ted Steimer. Trilby Steimer had learned how to prepare and properly serve gourmet dishes from her grandfather Honore Grenet. Honore Grenet taught Trilby gourmet recipes and fine service techniques he had learned from his father, who owned and operated one of the most celebrated Parisian restaurants of the Second French Empire. As a young adult, Trilby also traveled this country extensively with her father and dined at noted restaurants, where she was able to use her charm to acquire intimately guarded recipes from hesitant chefs.

In 1955, the Steimer’s moved Triliby’s Restaurant to 1203 Bienville Boulevard where they created an inviting ambience. Paintings by local artists were displayed on the walls of the restaurant. The gourmet specialties that were served at Trilby’s Restaurant, were always paired with carefully chosen appropriate imported and domestic wines. Dishes such as Trout Amandine Trilby or Chat Du Lac, a superbly rich cat fish dish, were a delight to discriminating diners.

Most Diners preferred to be served their candle lit meals in the sun room dining area. The view through its three walls of glass windows was relaxing to the senses with its display of oak trees and lush green foliage.

In 1963, three years after Trilby Steimer’s death the Restaurant was sold to Mr. Woody Blossman of Blossman Inc. Under his management and a dedicated staff who had been trained by Trilby’s personal guidance the restaurant continued to serve impressively excellent gourmet food. In 1987, Craig Claiborne, pre-eminent food journalist and food editor for the New York Times, visited the Gulf Coast and chose to dine at Trilby’s Restaurant. Mr. Claiborne, who was born in the Mississippi Delta, chose “Chat Du Lac “as his entrée. He was so delighted with this dish that he gave the restaurant a rave review and coaxed the recipe from the establishment to put in one of his culinary books. The Restaurant was eventually sold and was renamed Germaine’s restaurant. Today it where the Vieu Marche Antiques store is located. Surprisingly, Peter Webster. one of the owners of Vieu Marche, has a connection with the former restaurant, his mother worked at Trilby’s as a hostess. Trilby’s is an institution that is gone but not forgotten. The menu pictured her was anonymously donated to The Ocean Springs Museum of History.


canesSMDid you know that before the 1940’s, Walking Canes were carried by both men and women not as a walking aid, but as an ornament indicating their status in society? Walking canes first appeared in the 17th century, when men had just put down their swords and started carrying canes as a symbolic stick of power. If you were a gentleman or a cultured lady, your cane would have made of exotic wood with an elaborate handle made of gold, ivory, or tortoise shell. Working class people and farmers would carve their own canes. They illustrated them with animal heads such as birds or a variety of dog breeds to reflect country pursuits such as, hunting and fishing. Defense canes could turn into a sword or a mace at the click of a button. Automaton canes had animal’s heads whose mouth could open to hold the owners gloves. There were also canes that could turn into an umbrella whenever a sudden downpour occurred.

The two canes pictured here are currently on display at the Ocean Springs History Museum. One of them has an alligator carved into its handle. The other cane has the original owners name carved on the handle on one side and on the other side is carved an image of a human hand, two crossed sabers and the symbolic years of the American Civil War 1861 to 1865. These artifacts were loaned to the Museum by Mabelle Bowers for our newest Exhibition “Inns of Eden”

Davis brosDid you know that in 1898, Ocean Springs had a Grocery Store that was a forerunner to the super centers we have today?  If you could travel back in time to that year and walk into the Davis Brothers Grocery Store on Washington Avenue, you would be astounded at the variety of food and merchandise that filled the shelves and hung from the ceiling joists. Fresh fruits and vegetables, rice, coffee beans, cured hams, fresh beef, saddle soap, neat’s foot oil, rawhide, asbestos, horse feed, tobacco articles of clothing for both men and women, farming equipment and even sets of furniture  were obtained through this store. Close your eyes and be transported back in time as a store clerk assembles your order of denim trousers, woolen long johns, yards of calico, a 24 foot-length of rope to tether your horse or a fashionable hat and parasol to protect the ladies from the bright southern sun. Today on the site where the Davis Brothers store stood is the Manhattan Grill restaurant. The shipping invoice pictured here, is from a collection of four hundred historical documents donated to the Ocean Springs Historical Museum by the late Betty Milsted.

horn isle ticketDid you know that Horn Island proceeded Dog Island (the infamous Isle of Caprice) as the first island off the Jackson County coastline to be used for public entertainment? When most people along the Mississippi Gulf coast think of Horn Island, they think of Walter Anderson, Regatta races, fishing, camping and beachcombing However, in 1898, the Pascagoula Commercial Club, a forerunner to the Pascagoula Chamber of Commerce, used Horn Island as an entertainment destination to promote the city of Pascagoula as a place to invest in and an ideal place to live. The Pascagoula Commercial Club boasted that we have “The finest free school facilities in the State, churches of every denomination, the finest water works system in the South, an electric light plant, a low tax rate, eight miles of electric street railway, two ice plants, one canning factory,  two banks, with half million dollars deposits, twenty-three sawmills with daily capacity of 1,000,000 feet, six planning mills, seven ship and marine ways, one sugar cane mill, one brickyard, one creosoting plant, a climate and soil equal to California, unexcelled shipping facilities by rail and water, thousands of acres of undeveloped land of the best quality”.

Quoted from the Pascagoula Commercial Club publication 1903

On Thursday, August 18, 1898, the Pascagoula Commercial Club held a Grand Excursion to Horn Island. The purpose of the trip was a social gathering for business men, and their female guest, who had shown an interest in potential investment in Jackson County. The trip began as the steamer “Georgia” and a Barge left Mitchells Wharf at 8 o’ clock p.m. loaded with passengers. When the passengers reached Horn Island they disembarked and were served refreshments. A band provided music which encouraged a night of dancing on a wooden dance floor. The round trip fee for this night of entertainment under the stars was a whopping 25cents. The ticket pictured here was donated to the Ocean Springs Museum of History by Harriet Perry of Ocean Springs.

atlat_edited-1The Atlatl on display, was created by Mike Carmel, a self-taught local artist. This Atlatl is made from a young tree. The spike is between 40-45 degrees although they can be at an angle as low as 30 degrees and function fine. The handle has been grooved out and filled with a natural epoxy glue called pine pitch. Pine pitch is made from the sap of a pine tree to give it adhesion, charcoal is added to give it strength but these two components alone make a hard and brittle substance. Rabbit droppings are added because they are finely processed plant fibers creating a binder between the charcoal and sap to make the epoxy not as brittle but still strong.  Sort of how bread crumbs bind with ground meat and eggs when making meat balls.

Next a pine tree root was made into two ply reverse twist cordage and wrapped around the handle. The pine pitch hardens quickly so that the pine pitch was exposed to open flame to allow the cordage to become glued to the handle.

The atlatl dart is a 6ft piece of river cane. Dart shafts can be anywhere from 5ft to 9ft in length and from just below 1/2″ to 5/8″ in thickness at the fore shaft. The turkey feathers have been fletched with deer sinew at both ends and wrapped with two long pieces of sinew in the middle. Sinew is also wrapped around the end of the cane to prevent the fore shaft insert from splitting the cane open. Typically the fore shaft is made of a hardwood. This also adds forward weight to help push the center of balance towards the front to help the dart fly straight. The point is made from obsidian, which is volcanic glass. This substance is made from lava flows that cool rapidly with a low gas level and a high silica content. The point has been pine pitched into the hardwood insert and wrapped with sinew for added strength. Traditionally the sinew is either covered with animal hide glue or pine pitch to keep the sinew from becoming wet and unraveling.

civil war stationaryjpgDid you know that during the civil war soldiers on both sides of the conflict often used illustrated stationary to write their loved ones at home?

D.W. Halstead wrote this letter to Hannah Farnum, asking her if she would be to his future wife if he survived the war.

D.W. Halstead was a prominet business man in Ocean Springs,during the later part of the ninettenth century. The question is, did Hannah accept his proposal and share her life with him in Ocean Springs? This historical artifact was donated by Lynda Hutchinson, of  Biloxi, MSs, to the Ocean Springs Museum of History.

Did you know that in the late nineteenth century, both businesses and private homes in Ocean Springs burned to the ground quite frequently? Fires were much more common than now, with buildings and interiors being made mostly of flammable substances and fire fighting technology consisting of volunteer brigades armed with buckets of water.

Another way citizens dealt with fire was by using a device called fire hand grenades. These grenades were advertised as “essential household items for women in peril”. Theses glass containers were commonly filled with carbon tetrachloride. Carbon tetrachloride, when breathed can damage the lungs and kidneys. What’s more, it is easily converted in the presence of heat to phosgene gas, commonly known as mustard gas a major chemical weapon used in World War I. The Ocean Springs History Museum has such a grenade in its permanent collection and recently had it on display. Fortunately it no longer contains any fluids.


french trade hatchetsDid you know that the early Spanish, French and English colonist had three opposing viewpoints about their relationship with Native Americans? The Spanish colonist sought to conquer them, enslave them as a workforce and forcibly covert them to the Catholic faith. The English colonist wanted Native Americans removed from the land in order to repopulate it with people from Britain and northern Europe. The French colonist however sought friendly relations with the natives through trade. When the French colonist first arrived in North America they immediately became aware of the superior hunting skills of Native Americans. Therefore, they offered the Natives valuable trade goods for the furs of the beaver. Native Americans were happy to trade furs for iron tools, blankets, cloth and colorful beads brought by the French colonist. The French valued the beaver pelts and other animal skins because they could be sent back to Europe to be used to make fashionable clothing for in France, Germany and England.

As the native population grew smaller through illness they caught from the European colonist and conflict with other European settlers, the fur trading system began to collapse. The French trade hatchet head and Tommy hawk pictured here were found by Dale Greenwell, an Archeologist and historian, at The Pontivet Dig site .They are currently on loan to the Ocean Springs History Museum and can be seen on Exhibition.


clock reel yarn winderDid you know what the Children’s nursery rhyme “Pop Goes the Weasel” refers to? That nursery rhyme refers to an invention that wound yarn in measurable feet commonly called a Clock Reel. In the American Colonial period, yarn made of wool or flax was not easily obtained from a merchant’s store. Pioneer women, with the help of their children, had to make their own yarn when they needed clothes or other cloth items. Most people mistakenly assume that colonial women wove their own cloth from yarn they had spun. Most Colonial women did not own a loom, nor did they have the time to weave, with all the other physically demanding task they had to perform every day taking care of their family.

They spun their own yarn on a spinning wheel and then took it to a weaver to turn it into cloth. Before they took the yarn to a weaver they had to measure it in amounts of feet. This task was accomplished with a Clock Reel.

As yarn was spun, it was collected on a spinning wheel’s bobbin.
When the bobbin was full, one of the family’s children would tie the spun yarn to one of the arms of a clock reel. Then the yarn was wound round and round on another arm of the clock reel until the desired amount of feet of yarn was achieved. The reason this device is called a clock reel, is because its round gears have teeth similar to a clocks gears and they make a clicking sound as they turn.

As these gears turned their teeth made contact with a small piece of wood called a ‘weasel”. When the weasel pops back into place after it has been pushed it makes a popping sound. The image shown here is a handmade Clock Reel that is estimated to be over two hundred years old. It was donated to the Ocean Springs History Museum by Carol Stuart of Ocean Springs.


streetlightDid you know that in the 19th century the demand for whale oil to be used for energy almost drove some whale species to the brink of exxtinction? Fortunetly, in 1846, Dr. Abraham Gesner created the formula for kerosen. Also known as Coal Oil, keresene was inexpensive and easily produced. It smelled far better than animal-based fuels when burned and did not spoil on the shelf as whale oil did. This new energy source caused the public to abandon using whale oil allmost overnight and that had an immediate effect on the whaling industry. In 1857, Michael Dietz invented a clean-burning kerosene lamp such as the one pictured here. Street lamps that burned kerosene or acetylene gas lit the streets of Ocean Springs untill 1904 when our city was wired for electricity. The 19th century street lamp came from the Estate of J.K. Lemon and was donated to the Occean Springs Museum of History by Mrs. Elenore Lemon


pipe2Did you know that during the Early Mississippian Period, 800-1600, Easrtern Native americans belived in a mythical Corn mother? In the Natchez version version of the myth, the Corn mother tells others” kill me and burn my body. When summer comes things will springup on the place where I was burned and you must cukltivate them. They will be your food.” According to anthropologist Dale Greenwell, the figure on this pipe represents a female with child that has been bound and executed, judging by the numerous wounds on her abdomen. This artifact was found on East Beach and donated by Gayle Clark to the Ocean Springs history Museum.