Montreux, Gruyères, and the History of Swiss Chocolate

MontreuxGreetings from Switzerland!

I am once again the beneficiary of Tim’s need to travel for business.

On Thursday August 21, 2014, we arrived in Zürich. We purchased a 4-day Swiss Pass at the train station and enjoyed a 2.5-3 hour journey to Montreux.

The Swiss Pass provided us with unlimited access to the Swiss rail system and to most Swiss museums.



Montreux is a beautiful town on the shores of Lake Geneva. It may be the most beautiful place we have visited thus far and we are fortunate to have traveled a lot.

The water in the lake shifts from bright to dark blue. Depending on the time of day, you can see the local Alps and clouds reflected in its surface. Nearly all of the water in the lake comes from mountain snow melt.

After we checked into our hotel, Tim and I walked the pedestrian path around part of the Lake. The Montreux waterfront reminded us of a boardwalk-like area with restaurants, shops, and people on foot, bikes, and rollerblades along its paved paths. Statues of Charlie Chaplin and Freddie Mercury stand along the waterfront as both established homes in this scenic and relaxing town.


Chocolate Train

We visited Montreux so we could take the “Chocolate Train” into Gruyères, which we did on Friday August 22, 2014. The train featured antique rail cars pulled by a modern, electric engine. The train ride to Gruyères took about an hour, but that hour was filled with scenic vistas of the Alps, Lake Geneva, and the towns and valleys in between.

At Gruyères we disembarked our train and went inside La Maison du Gruyères, a cheese factory. The factory makes up to 12, 35 kg cheese wheels at one time. La Maison du Gruyères provides a multi-lingual audio tour that discusses the uniqueness of Gruyères cheese and how it is made. Windows above the manufacturing operations allow visitors to view the cheese makers at work.

Gruyeres 1In the United States we have a penchant for calling Swiss-made cheese “Swiss.” However, there are many different kinds of Swiss-made cheese. Gruyères is a distinct cheese because the cows graze along the slopes of the Alps and ingest many different kinds of flowers, herbs, and grasses. The scents and flavors of the flowers, herbs, and grasses pass into the cow’s milk, which provides cheese from Gruyères with a distinct taste and smell. The audio guide stated that scientists have identified at least 75 different scents and flavors in slices of Gruyères cheese.


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Wednesday Link Roundup #64: Riotous Doctors and Growing Museum Collections

Franklin RoundupWednesday Link Roundup: Links to the most interesting history, news, writing, and technology posts that passed through my RSS and Twitter feeds over the last week.



J.L. Bell spent nearly a week offering details about the 1788 New York City Doctors’ Riot: “The New York Doctors’ Riot of 1788,” “A Virginian on the Doctors’ Riot,” “Fight at the New York City Jail,” “A Child’s Memories of the Doctors’ Riot of 1788,” “Chasing Down the Obnoxious Dr. Hicks,” and “Politics of the Doctors’ Riot.”

Sunday, August 24, 2014, marked the 200th anniversary of when the British burned down the White House. The Washington Post commemorated the day with “D.C.’s Darkest Day, a War that No One Remembers” (except the Canadians and British, of course).

The New York History Blog reported the unveiling of British Lieutenant-General Hugh Percy’s battle map of Brooklyn in “Battle of Brooklyn: Rare Revolutionary War Map Being Unveiled.”

Bethany Collins offered “8 Fast Facts About Hessians.”


help wantedHistory Jobs

The staff at the History News Network investigated “What Kind of Jobs Do History Majors Land?


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Boston Historical Events for the Week of August 25, 2014

Boston Historical EventsBoston Historical Events: A list of history-related events taking place in Boston between Monday August 25 and Sunday August 31, 2014.

Boston-by-Foot.gifBoston By Foot

Sunday, August 31, 2-3:30pm, Walking Tour, End of Long Wharf, $5 Members/$15 Nonmembers, Tickets Required 

Join Boston By Foot for the August Tour of the Month: Boston and the Law. Decisions made in the courtrooms of Boston have had far-reaching and long-lasting effects. You will explore Boston’s fascinating legal history with a look at the city’s historic and contemporary courthouses. Your guide will share with you the stories of some of the city’s most famous trials, from the notorious Boston Massacre trial to the cases that have resulted in the cleanup of Boston Harbor. Meet your guide at the end of Long Wharf.


Historic-New-England-300x272.jpgHistoric New England

Saturday, August 30, 11am-1pm, Walking Tour, Otis House, $6 Members/$12 Nonmembers, Tickets Required 

Join Historic New England for a walking tour of Beacon Hill. Your knowledgeable guide will take you beyond the neighborhood’s charming brick sidewalks and gardens. On this tour you will learn about Beacon Hill’s development during the Federal era and the stories behind the fortunes, ambitions, and struggles of the neighborhood’s early residents, not all of whom had a lot of money. The program will start with a tour of the Otis House.


Old_State_House_Boston_Massachusetts2Old State House

Wednesday, August 27, 6-8pm, Beer Tasting, $10 Members/$15 Nonmembers, Tickets Required

Ben Franklin said “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Join the Bostonian Society and Battle Road Brewing Company for historic beer in a historic place! Learn about the history of pubs in Boston, play an 18th-century tavern game, and sample beef jerky.


Paul Revere HousePaul Revere House

Saturday, August 30, 1-3pm, Colonial Dance Tunes and Love Songs, Included with Admission

In the guise of itinerant musicians, Al Petty & Deirdre Sweeney will perform popular 18th-century tunes such as “Mr. Isaac’s Maggot” and “Jack’s Health” on the penny whistle, flute, fife, and other instruments.


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The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley

Jansson-Visscher_mapWhat did the world of the seventeenth-century Hudson Valley look like?

At the 35th Annual Conference on New York State History, historians Leslie Choquette, Jaap Jacobs, Paul Otto, and L.H. Roper grappled with what the region looked like from Native American, Dutch, English, and French perspectives.

In this post you will discover what these scholars had to say about life in the Hudson Valley during the seventeenth century.


Rise of English vs. Dutch Competition

Jaap Jacobs discussed how the decentralized nature of the Dutch West India Company and the Dutch East India Company worked well: Decentralization allowed investors to send Dutch ships into the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans to take advantage of new trade opportunities in an organized way.

Jacobs admitted that the Dutch benefitted from the English Civil War (1642-1651) because the English turned their attention inward while the Dutch turned their attention outward. Likewise the Spanish and Portuguese devoted their attentions to their colonies and the closing years of the Eighty Years War. By the 1640s, the Spanish no longer had the means to defend its colonies. With its main competitors distracted, the Dutch expanded their trade networks around the globe.

The Dutch began to face serious competition for global trade during the 1650s. Between 1652 and 1674, the Dutch and English engaged in three wars known as the Anglo-Dutch Wars. Jacobs succinctly expressed the outcomes of these wars:

1st Anglo-Dutch War (1652-1654): Marginal victory for the Dutch.
2nd Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667): Victory for the Dutch although the Dutch lost New Netherland.
3rd Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674): Narrow escape for the Dutch that effectively ended their activities in the Atlantic World.


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The American Revolution Comes to Albany, New York, 1756-1776

On Thursday, August 14, 2014, the Journal of the American Revolution posted “The American Revolution Comes to Albany, New York, 1756-1776.” This article began as a conference paper, which came out of my dissertation. The Albanians’ experiences with quartering will appear in much more detail in my future book AMERICA’S FIRST GATEWAY.

I wrote “The American Revolution Comes to Albany” not only to share this great story with a wider audience, but also to experiment with how an historian could re-purpose their conference papers into other formats. I incorporated some of the feedback I received on my conference paper and added a bit of explanation for a non-specialist audience to this piece.

At some point I may repurpose the story of how Albany became revolutionary for an academic article–although I also like the idea about an article on loyalism in Albany.


The American Revolution Comes to Albany, New York, 1756-1776 

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world…He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation: For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.”Declaration of Independence

On June 11, 1776, the Second Continental Congress appointed its Committee of Five to draft a declaration of independence from Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston composed a document that proclaimed why the thirteen colonies had no other recourse but to separate from the British Empire. They declared that “The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states.” The committee added weight to the colonists’ claims by providing a long list of specific examples of the king’s injustices towards them. Among the enumerated grievances: King George III had given his “assent” “For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.”

The colonists experienced the king’s unjust quartering throughout the French and Indian War (1754-1763). It all started when John Campbell, Earl of Loudoun assumed command of the British forces in 1755. Loudoun lamented how the British soldiers had lost the 1755 campaign to the French because his predecessor William Shirley could not find winter quarters for them near the front lines. Loudoun sought to rectify this situation by ordering the governors of Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania to erect barracks in Boston, New York City, Albany, and Philadelphia. The governors either refused or informed Loudoun that their colonial assembly would provide only some of the funds needed to build barracks or rent rooms in inns and public houses within those cities. Eventually, each city built at least some of the barracks Loudoun had demanded, but only in Albany, New York did Loudoun resort to forcibly quartering his troops in private homes.

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