Posts Tagged ‘American history’

Too Soon to Write About 9/11?

September 8th, 2011 No comments

One World Trade Center, under construction. June 2011.

In the years since the horrible events of September 11, several non-fiction books recounting the tragedy, like The 9/11 Commission Report, have been bestsellers. However, as the 10th anniversary looms near, a singular work of fiction that defines the era has failed to emerge. Novelist and playwright Norman Mailer advised a fellow writer to wait a decade before addressing the attacks in print because “it will take that long for you to make sense of it.” Was he right?

“The world has changed since 9/11 and our culture has changed but I haven’t yet seen the book or the movie or the poem or the song that captures the people we are now and helps us redefine who we are in this new post 9/11 world,” says journalist Lawrence Wright in an interview with Reuters. Read more…


Ansel Adams’ Foray into Photojournalism at Manzanar

August 29th, 2011 No comments

Ansel Adams’ little known book Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans at Manzanar Relocation Center, Inyo County, California, is now the focus of an exhibit at the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum in Washington. A copy of the original book has been printed out for display at the Ansel Adams: A Portrait of Manzanar exhibit. A selection of the Manzanar photographs, some never shown publicly, are also on display through Dec. 7. Adams, who captured iconic black and white images of Yosemite National Park and the American West, took a more photojournalistic approach for the book, interviewing internees as well as documenting moments of their daily lives with pictures. Originally published in 1944, the American public received Born Free and Equal with mixed reactions. According to the Library of Congress website, the book garnered positive reviews and a spot on the Francisco Chronicle‘s bestseller list. In contrast a recent Seattle Times article reports that the book also incited protests, was publicly burned and condemned as “disloyal”. Read more…


Steve Martin Musically Inspired by Paul Revere

July 1st, 2011 No comments

Steve Martin, the multi-talented, multi-hyphenate performer and Grammy winning banjo musician is set to perform his new song Me and Paul Revere with bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers on PBS’ A Capitol Fourth television special, airing Monday, July 4th at 8pm E.T. According to an interview with USA Today, the comedian based the song on the 1994 book Paul Revere’s Ride, which gives an historical account of the Revolutionary’s midnight ride. The critically acclaimed book, written by Brandeis University history professor David Hackett Fischer, outlines the American patriot’s biography and lays out the historical facts of the battles of Lexington and Concord. Read more…


NYPL Celebrates Centennial with Washington’s Brew

May 17th, 2011 No comments

Among the many significant documents in The New York Public Library’s resources for the study of George Washington is a recipe that, while likely not historically impactful, will be of interest to history buffs and beer connoisseurs alike. A handwritten entry in a 1757 notebook, kept by Washington during his time as a colonel with the Virginia militia, notes a recipe for “small beer”. In the 18-19th centuries, “small beer” was characterized as weak bear with little alcohol content intended to be consumed immediately after brewing, and even considered appropriate for children. The recipe, now posted on the NYPL website, is as follows: Read more…


New Release: Unfamiliar Fishes

March 28th, 2011 No comments

By Sarah Vowell
Riverhead Hardcover | 256pgs
Release Date: March 22, 2011

Bestselling author and popular NPR contributor, Sarah Vowell, studies the history of Hawai’i during the 19th century in her new book Unfamiliar Fishes. The arrival of priggish New England missionaries in 1820 sets off a series of events that leads to eventual American annexation and U.S. statehood. While converting the native population to Christianity and attempting to tamp out prostitution with the visiting whalers, the missionaries also managed to nearly destroy the indigenous island way of life and begat a generation of children that would conspire with the U.S. military to overthrow the Hawaiian queen in 1893. With her rapier wit, Vowell describes the events of 1898, where in a spate of orgiastic imperialism, the U.S. annexed Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico in addition to invading Cuba and the Philippines, thus establishing the nation as an international superpower. Read more…


Librarian Contributes to “Boardwalk Empire”

October 28th, 2010 No comments
©2010 Home Box Office, Inc.

©2010 Home Box Office, Inc.

Boardwalk Empire, the HBO series set on the Atlantic City boardwalk during the 1920′s, garnered rave reviews from its first airing and boasts some of Hollywood’s top talent. Along with the contributions of director Martin Scorsese, writer Terence Winter and actor Steve Buscemi, the valuable skills of a local librarian were called upon to help authenticate the details of Prohibition-era Atlantic City. Heather Halpin Perez, an archivist for the historical Alfred M. Heston Collection at the Atlantic City Free Public Library, was contacted by the show’s lead researcher. “I was one of the historical consultants who was working at providing details about some of the sets and costumes,” she tells American Libraries. The series, which centers around Nucky Thompson, a fictionalized version of real-life crime boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, combines fiction with historical fact, and draws on the library’s archives to accurately re-create set pieces such as newspapers and boardwalk attractions. Read more…


New Release: Washington: A Life

October 13th, 2010 No comments

51DeFBebGuL._SL160_By Ron Chernow
Penguin Press HC | 904pgs
Release Date: October 5, 2010

Award-winning author Ron Chernow delves into the life of another iconic figure of American history in Washington: A Life. George Washington, the most revered of our nation’s founders, is portrayed as a man of volatile temper, deep passions and incredible political genius. Drawing on vast amounts of historical research, Chernow goes beyond the fables of cherry trees and wooden teeth to show a living, breathing human being rather than a two-dimensional reference in a history book. The tome spans the entirety of Washington’s life, following his difficult childhood, victories as a young soldier in the French and Indian War, participation in the Constitutional Convention, and his terms as the first President of the United States. Chernow also sheds light on Washington’s personal relationships, touching on his youthful romance with Sally Fairfax, the prickly relationship with his mother, and his marriage to Martha. The author examines the first President’s interior life through all of his professional and personal challenges and triumphs and reveals him to be a man of “deep feelings” who struggles to control his emotions throughout his life. Read more…


Charlie Chan: An American Original

September 21st, 2010 No comments

51dsUKc3DUL._SL160_English professor Yunte Huang unravels the true story behind the creation of Charlie Chan, the Chinese detective of books and film who has alternately entertained and offended the American public. Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History (W.W. Norton & Co., 354pgs) follows four main story threads, the first being Chang Apana, the real man on which author E.D. Biggers based the fictional Chan. Apana was a Chinese detective who worked in Honolulu during the late 19th and early 20h centuries, catching criminals with his signature bullwhip. The second thread focuses on Biggers’ story, a small town boy from Ohio who graduated from Harvard and went on to create one of detective noir’s most prominent characters. The third thread centers around Chan’s incarnation on film and the insidious racial stereotypes that Hollywood propagated. Lastly, the author discusses “Chan’s haunting presence during the era of postmodern politics and ethnic pride in contemporary America.” Read more…


Murder and Scandal in the Gilded Age

September 10th, 2010 No comments

51R1KKsoqCL._SL160_Library of America editor in chief Geoffrey O’Brien mines a trove of historical records and documents to illustrate the real-life events surrounding the 1873 murder of Mansfield Walworth in The Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America (Henry Holt, 337 pgs). During the summer of 1873, Mansfield was shot by his 18-year old son, Frank, in a hotel room in New York city. Frank immediately surrendered to police and a murder trial followed amid a flurry of media attention. The burning interest of the press was stoked by the prominence of the Walworth family in the city of Saratoga Springs, NY. Mansfield’s father, Judge Walworth, had built his fortune and cemented the family’s elite status in the courtroom, but Mansfield’s erratic and violent behavior towards his wife and children, and the homicidal actions of his son tarnished the family name. Mansfield had long abused his wife, Ellen, and even after they divorced, wrote her letters threatening physical harm and even death. O’Brien argues that Frank killed his father in order to protect his mother from further harm.
Read more…


Library of Congress Shares Historical Photos on Flickr

September 7th, 2010 No comments
Young boy near Cincinnati, Ohio. John Vachon (1942 or 1943).

Young boy near Cincinnati, Ohio. John Vachon (1942 or 1943).

In the years following “The Greatest Generation”, the events of the Great Depression and World War II were often imagined in a series of snapshots and newsreels. The muted shades of gray or sepia dividing the facts of history from the full color present. In January 2008, the Library of Congress began a pilot program using Flickr to share thousands of color photos taken in the 1930′s and 1940′s, to bring the immediacy and vibrancy of America’s past into a modern day social network. According to the Library of Congress website, “1,600 color images from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, 1,500+ images from the George Grantham Bain News Service, selected panoramic photographs, portraits of jazz musicians and personalities by William P. Gottlieb from the Library of Congress Performing Arts Reading Room, and other photos from the Library of Congress collections” are currently available for viewing on Flickr. Possessing a Flickr account is not necessary for viewing these photos, but is required for commenting and/or tagging images. The goal of sharing these invaluable photos is to “increase awareness of these collections with the general public” and invite people to share any pertinent historical or biographical information they might have regarding the images. Read more…