No bottle babies for Carroll

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January 20, 2008|By LAURA VOZZELLA

We all know Charles Carroll, lone Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. History has overlooked his other role, as in-law buttinsky.

For one of Maryland's most famous sons, it wasn't enough to help birth a nation. He also had to direct his grandchildren's upbringing - and feeding.

"Give my love to Harriet," Carroll wrote July 26, 1801, to his son, Charles Jr., then living with his pregnant wife at Homewood. "If her health will permit, I hope she will suckle her child. I need not urge any reasons in support of this wish and advice because I am persuaded Harriet cannot be ignorant of them."

That's hardly the only time Carroll wrote to his son on the subject of nursing his grandchildren. In the course of assembling a new exhibit on pregnancy, childbirth and family in early Maryland, Homewood Museum curator Catherine Rogers Arthur came across letters that read like La Leche League pamphlets.

"He's fixated on breast-feeding," said Arthur, who is expecting her first child next month.

(And no, Arthur did not get in the family way just to bring the exhibit to life, even though she did bring a real canary, Apollo, to live at Homewood last year for an exhibit on pets in early America. If you must know, that didn't work out real well. "Poor Apollo must have read the publicity," Arthur said. "We closed [the exhibit] on a Sunday. On a Monday he was feet up in his cage." But I digress.)

In one letter, Carroll refers to a colicky grandchild and suggests that Harriet's milk disagrees with the baby. In another, Carroll congratulates the couple on the birth of a daughter, but says he wished it had been a boy.

"Take care not to bring the children up too tenderly," he advises another time.

The exhibit, which runs through March 20, examines the "practices, traditions and politics" of childbirth and child rearing in early 19th-century Maryland. Among the period items on display: medical books, forceps, silver baby bottle nipples - even ads for wet nurses, no doubt placed by somebody's fed-up daughter-in-law.

Forget the dicta; leave the cannoli

A bit of legal (and bathroom) humor in Baltimore Del. Sandy Rosenberg's legislative diary, on the dismissal of a Republican-backed lawsuit seeking to throw out special session taxes.

The judge kept the tax hikes in place but, Rosenberg wrote, "he could not resist calling the legislature's conduct `reprehensible.'

"The legal term for that is dicta - extraneous language in a judge's opinion that is not binding on the parties to the lawsuit nor precedent for future cases," Rosenberg wrote. "To paraphrase Sonny Corleone, who wanted assurances that a gun would be hidden in a restaurant bathroom for his brother, Michael, to use:

"The Republicans came out of the courtroom with only dicta in their hands."

With liberty and hot dogs for all

Senate President Mike Miller was asked to swear in some folks at the American Legion hall in Annapolis last week. He was also asked to supply the oath, so Miller came up with something about God and country.

Everybody looked at him like he was crazy, but he kept going.

"Then I said, `Will you do your duty to support the American Legion?'"

Um, we're not Legionnaires, they told Miller later. The swearing-in was for officers of the Ravens Roost, a team fan club.

No wonder they were all dressed in purple!

Miller was really red-faced. He's a Redskins fan.

Gilchrest gets the big guy's nod

President Bush endorsed Wayne Gilchrest for re-election Friday. Given the president's dismal approval ratings, is that actually a good thing for Gilchrest?

Chris Meekins, campaign manager for Republican rival Andy Harris, conceded that it is. He also said the news came as a surprise, even though "the president, 999 times out of 1,000, endorses the incumbent Republican."

"When someone told me `Bush,' I said, `Wow, Mike Busch?'"

Connect the dots

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