Fig. 8. Sylvia’s gravestone in Vienna Center Cemetery, Vienna, Ohio. Courtesy of the author.
In addition to finding water, metal dowsing rods apparently will indicate the presence of a grave, by crossing into an X when you walk over one, holding the rods parallel before you. Even spookier, if you hold one rod perpendicular to the ground over a grave, it will move either clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on the sex of the body underneath. Unbelievably, this worked for me in a blind test. Having previously narrowed down the likely area, Sally dowsed for a grave where Sylvia ought to be, and in no time, her rods were magically crossing into an X. Gently using the trowel to pry aside the lawn, we found a flattened gravestone. Scrubbing off some mud and was


Welcome to Commonplace, a destination for exploring and exchanging ideas about early American history and culture. A bit less formal than a scholarly journal, a bit more scholarly than a popular magazine, Commonplace speaks—and listens—to scholars, museum curators, teachers, hobbyists, and just about anyone interested in American history before 1900. It is for all sorts of people to read about all sorts of things relating to early American life—from architecture to literature, from politics to parlor manners. It’s a place to find insightful analysis of early American history as it is discussed in scholarly literature, as it manifests on the evening news, as it is curated in museums, big and small; as it is performed in documentary and dramatic films and as it shows up in everyday life.

In addition to critical evaluations of books and websites (Reviews) and poetic research and fiction (Creative Writing), our articles explore material and visual culture (Objects); pedagogy, the writing of literary scholarship, and the historian’s craft (Teach); and diverse aspects of America’s past and its many peoples (Learn). For more great content, check out our other projects, (Just Teach One) and (Just Teach One African American Print).


How to cite Commonplace articles:

Author, “Title of Article,” Commonplace: the journal of early American life, date accessed, URL.

Sophie White, “Trading Looks Race, Religion and Dress in French America,” Commonplace: the journal of early American life, accessed September 30, 2019, https://commonplace.online/article/trading-looks-race-religion-dress-french-america/


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