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President Harding’s Letters Open to the Public

8 hours 52 min ago

(The following is an article written by Mark Hartsell for The Gazette, the Library of Congress staff newsletter.)

Warren G. Harding / Prints and Photographs Division.

For most of two decades, a future president carried on an affair with a family friend. For 50 years, the love letters they wrote each other – discovered in a closet, sealed by a court order and, finally, locked in a vault at the Library of Congress for safekeeping – have been closed to the public.

Today, the Library opens the letters Warren G. Harding wrote to his mistress, Carrie Fulton Phillips, to the public for the first time since they were sealed by a probate judge in 1964 and later donated to the Library by the Harding family. The Library also has recently obtained a separate collection of material, such as photos and letters, from Phillips’ descendants.

An Affair Between Friends

Harding and Phillips began their affair in 1905 in Marion, Ohio, where both lived. He was the lieutenant governor of Ohio. She was the thirtysomething wife of a prominent dry-goods merchant and mother of a little girl.

The families were close enough to even vacation together in Europe. All the while, Harding and Phillips carried on their intimate relationship.

Harding and Phillips exchanged letters when either was away from Marion, sometimes writing dozens of pages at a time. While Phillips lived in Germany for several years and after Harding was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1914, the affair – and the letters – continued, long distance.

“They talk about their relationship,” said Karen Linn Femia, Library archivist who organized and described the material. “They talk about family things, hometown things, political things, the war in Europe.”

The Harding-Phillips collection at the Library includes about 240 items: drafts, empty envelopes indicating letters not saved, letter fragments and about 100 full letters that total about 1,000 pages.

The letters date between 1910 and 1920. Most were written by Harding, many while he served in the Senate. The affair ended just before he was inaugurated as president in1921.

“It was a 15-year relationship,” Femia said. “We just see the last 10 years. It’s almost sort of like looking in on a marriage, at some point, because it was such a long-term thing.”

Carrie Fulton Phillips / Manuscript Division.

Harding and Phillips remained on cordial terms after the affair ended, as did the families – even though Harding’s wife and Phillips’ husband had earlier discovered the relationship. Indeed, Phillips, her husband and her mother in 1922 visited President Harding at the White House.

Harding’s presidency ended early and tragically: He died of heart failure in 1923 after only two years in office.

Discovery in a Closet

Phillips over the decades became something of a town eccentric, living in Marion in a neglected house overrun with German shepherds. Her health failed, and in 1956 her lawyer and court-appointed guardian moved her to a nursing home.

While preparing for the move, the lawyer discovered a box hidden in the back of a closet. Inside, he found a surprise: a stash of letters from Harding. Not knowing what to do with them, he took them home for safekeeping.

Phillips died in 1960 and, three years later, the lawyer made the letters available to a potential Harding biographer.

Word of the letters’ existence spread and the New York Times eventually wrote a story about them, drawing the attention of the Harding family and Phillips’ daughter, Isabelle Phillips Mathée.

“That’s when Isabelle, the daughter, finds out these letters exist,” Femia said. “That’s when the legal proceedings begin, when the Hardings find out these letters exist.”

                                                                                          A Tangled Web

Warren G. Harding with his wife, Florence, in 1920 / Prints and Photographs Division.

Harding’s nephew, George Harding, brought a lawsuit, thwarting the use of the letters by the biographer. An Ohio probate judge closed the papers on July 29, 1964, as the court tried to determine who, exactly, owned the letters.

Finally, after extended litigation, Harding agreed to purchase the letters from Phillips’ daughter – a settlement that included a 50-year closure, dating from the probate judge’s original sealing in 1964. In 1972, Harding donated the letters to the Library of Congress for safekeeping, with the stipulation that it keep the papers closed for the remainder of the 50 years. The letters have been locked in a Manuscript Division vault ever since. Other copies, however, do exist.

Ohio archivist Kenneth Duckett microfilmed the collection during its temporary storage at the Ohio Historical Society in 1963. Author and historian James D. Robenalt discovered the microfilm in Duckett’s papers at the Western Reserve Historical Society and in 2009 published a book on the subject, “The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War,” that contends Phillips may have been a German spy.

“There are aspects of presidents’ personal lives that lead them in a certain direction as far as decisions they make in a political realm,” Femia said. “Scholars may find things here that led Harding in certain ways. There’s importance to that.”

See It Now: Historians Discuss Significance of President Harding’s Letters

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 9:22am

The Library of Congress will open a collection of approximately 1,000 pages of love letters between 29th U.S. President Warren G. Harding and his mistress, Carrie Fulton Phillips, on Tuesday, July 29. The collection has been locked in a vault in the Manuscript Division since its donation in 1972.

The letters were written between 1910 and 1920 during an affair that began in 1905 between then-Ohio Lt. Gov. Warren Harding and family friend Carrie Fulton Phillips. The vast majority of the letters were written by Harding—many while he served in the U.S. Senate (1915-1921). Additional material from the Phillips/Mathée family will also be accessible to the public on July 29.

On July 22, the Library hosted a symposium on the historical significance of the Harding/Phillips correspondence. The following is a webcast of the program.

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Manuscript Division Chief James Hutson moderated the panel, which included Library of Congress archivist Karen Linn Femia, Ohio lawyer and historian James D. Robenalt and Dr. Richard Harding, a grandnephew of President Harding, who made this statement on behalf of the Harding family. Members of the Mathée family provided a statement that can be read here.

Slammin’ those Books OPEN!

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 4:43pm

This year’s Library of Congress National Book Festival is going to segue from a big day of authors for all ages to an evening of excitement – starting with a poetry slam titled “Page [Hearts] Stage” at 6 p.m. in the Poetry & Prose Pavilion.

The festival will be held from 10 a.m.–10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.  It is free and open to the public.

The 2014 National Book Festival poster by Bob Staake

The slam—a contest in which poets read or recite their poems, which are then judged by a panel—will include the District of Columbia’s top youth slam groups: the DC Youth Slam Team and Louder Than a Bomb DMV.  Champion delegates from both groups will compete to be named the city’s top youth slammer, by performing new works on the subject of books and reading. The event is a collaboration among the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center, The National Endowment for the Arts and the poetry organization Split This Rock. Judges will include national and international slam champion Gayle Danley, Tanuja Desai Hidier, author of “Born Confused,” and Maryland State Sen. Jamie Raskin. The emcee for the slam will be Beltway Grand Slam champion Elizabeth Acevedo.

The poetry slam is among this year’s first-ever nighttime activities in the 14-year history of the Library of Congress National Book Festival. This year’s festival theme is “Stay Up With a Good Book.”  The event will take place in the Poetry & Prose Pavilion sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.

And that’s not all! Evening activities will include a Graphic Novels Super-Session with Michael Cavna, author of The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs blog, as master of ceremonies, ­presented with the assistance of the Small Press Expo. The Washington Post is a charter sponsor of the festival.

Other festival events between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. will include a session featuring “Great Books to Great Movies” moderated by Ann Hornaday, film critic for The Washington Post, with panelists E.L. Doctorow, Alice McDermott, Paul Auster and Lisa See.

There will also be a session celebrating the 100th anniversaries of the births of three literary giants of Mexico—Octavio Paz, Efraín Huerta and José Revueltas—in collaboration with the Mexican Cultural Institute.

The festival will feature more than 100 authors of all genres for readers of all ages. The Walter E. Washington Convention Center is accessible via Metro on the Red Line (Gallery Place) and the Green and Yellow Lines (Mount Vernon Square/7th Street/Convention Center).

 

Letters About Literature: Dear Ray Bradbury

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 9:28am

In this fourth installment of our Letters About Literature series, we highlight the Level 2 (grades 7-8) National Honor Winner Jane Wang of Chandler, Ariz., who wrote to Ray Bradbury, author of “Fahrenheit 451.”

Dear Ray Bradbury,

                  “Fahrenheit 451 the temperature at which books burn.” A title that would kindle any curious eighth grader’s interest. Its simplistic, plain back cover showed only a small picture of an ancient, smoldering tome to hint at the plot. It bore the distinct appearance of being one of those antiquated, perplexing novels with a profound theme that would probably make my language arts teacher grow all warm and fuzzy inside but leave my head pounding. But your book was so much more than even that. It was a story of ignorance and knowledge, illusions and reality, misery and happiness. It was a story that changed my perspective of something that had once troubled me very much.

                  Controversy and debate; I have never liked either of them. It was previously my belief that they had only ever been a nuisance to me and overcomplicated my life. You see, I am a naturally cautious person. I do not enjoy taking risks, and I hate having to make decisions or pick sides for fear that I will regret it later. It has always been a huge burden to me and in my mind; I used to tentatively entertain the notion of a much easier life where only one opinion, one belief, and one answer existed for everything. There would be no more test questions asking “why,” no more arguments with Mom about possibilities for the future, no more discord between countries regarding controversial government programs or questionable laws. After all the absence of furious debates and nasty disputes should lead to a happier, more peaceful, and ultimately better world, right? Wrong. Your novel showed me just how wrong I was.

                  “Fahrenheit 451″ told the tale of a world where the controversy and debate that had troubled me so much did not exist. But I quickly realized that your book did not tell a happy story. That controversy and debate had been eliminated at the cost of something much more important: free, individual thought. Montag’s wife, Mildred, and the rest of her friends cared about nothing more than their own immediate pleasures. Anything that required even the slightest bit of time or concentration was believed to interfere with the advanced technology, loud music, and fast cars they enjoyed in their fast-paced lives. Literature, self-reflection, and even the simple act of thinking had no place in their world, though they play important roles in mine. I read to learn and grow. I reflect to make myself a better person. And thinking, wondering about the ways of the world as Clarisse did, is something I take for granted. The books that Beatty, Montag, and the rest of the firemen sought to burn have shaped me into who I am today. All my life, I have surrounded myself with books to promote my learning and knowledge of the world; I would be miserable without them. Montag and many others in your novel never had that opportunity to experience such a form of genuine happiness. They never had the chance to spend that time on their own simply sitting in a rocking chair at their own front porch and quietly reflecting. And without that special moment to think and wonder, Montag and everyone else’s mind slowly faded away as they were continually stifled and restrained, their individual thoughts and ideas burned away with books they couldn’t even remember. No wonder all that controversy and debate disappeared; how could there have been any argument regarding any matter if no one knew of any problems to discuss?

                  Your novel did not change me in a particularly noticeable way. I did not take on a radical new personality or come to any unexpected epiphanies. My peers and others around me still saw the same careful, perfectionist girl they had known before. But underneath all the layers of invisible yellow caution tape that I had wrapped myself up in was a girl with a new perspective. Suddenly, the words controversy and debate did not seem like the very nemeses of my cautious nature. What was once a burden now seems like a wonderful gift to be cherished. “Fahrenheit 451″ showed me what a life without argument would entail. Your novel allowed me to understand that where there are no disagreements, there are no personal opinions, and where there are no personal opinions, there are no individual thoughts.

                  Furthermore, I realized after reading your book that the events in your novel were not all fictional. Censorship exists in today’s society just as it did in the world of “Fahrenheit 451″; burning books is just a rather extreme version of it. I recognize the fact that there are people who live in places very similar to Montag’s world, where individual thoughts that don’t align with the purported ideals are forbidden. I know now that I am very fortunate to be able to experience the occasional disagreement, because controversy and debate are proof that my thoughts are well and truly my own.

                  Thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for writing “the novel of firemen who are paid to set books ablaze.”

Jane Wang

Letters About Literature, a national reading and writing program that asks young people in grades 4 through 12 to write to an author (living or deceased) about how his or her book affected their lives, announced its 2014 winners in June. More than 50,000 young readers from across the country participated in this year’s initiative, a reading-promotion program of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

National and honor winners were chosen from three competition levels: Level 1 (grades 4-6), Level 2 (grades 7-8) and Level 3 (grades 9-12). You can read the letters from the Level 1 winners here and here and the Level 2 National Winner here. In addition, winning letters from previous years are available to read online.

America’s Other Anthem

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 6:40am

O beautiful for spacious skies,

“Sea to Shining Sea,” by L. Stovall, 2008. Prints and Photographs Division.

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

Pikes Peak is one of America’s most famous mountains. Rising more than 14,000 feet, the mountain has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The views from the summit have inspired many, including Katharine Lee Bates, who penned the iconic anthem “America, the Beautiful” following a visit to the top in July 1893.

Bates was an English literature professor at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and had traveled west to Colorado to teach a summer course. As she told it, “We strangers celebrated the close of the session by a merry expedition to the top of Pike’s Peak.”

She and her band of fellow educators traveled to the top by prairie wagons pulled by horses and mules.

“It was then and there, as I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind,” Bates later wrote.

She finished the poem before she left Colorado but would not publish it until two years later. Her words appeared in The Congregationalist in commemoration of Independence Day. She went on to revise the poem in 1904 and again in 1913.

Pike’s Peak, Colo. 1899. Prints and Photographs Division.

Bates’ poem was first set to music in 1904 and was typically sung to almost any popular tune, with “Auld Lang Syne” being the most common. In 1910, her words were published as “America, the Beautiful” and set to the tune we know today, which is by Samuel Augustus Ward, a Newark, N.J., church organist and choirmaster. He originally composed the melody in 1882 (also titled “Materna”) to accompany the words of the 16th century hymn “O Mother Dear, Jerusalem.”

A plaque commemorating the words to the song was placed at the summit of Pikes Peak in 1993.

You can read more about “America, the Beautiful” in a special feature as part of The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America collection. Included are audio recordings and notated music.

The Library’s National Jukebox, an online collection of historical sound recordings from Victor Records, also includes two recordings of “America, the Beautiful.”

Letters About Literature: Dear Anne Frank

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 1:23pm

For the last two weeks, we’ve been featuring the winning letters  from the Letters About Literature initiative, a national reading and writing program that asks young people in grades 4 through 12 to write to an author (living or deceased) about how his or her book affected their lives. Winners were announced last month. National and honor winners were chosen from three competition levels: Level 1 (grades 4-6), Level 2 (grades 7-8) and Level 3 (grades 9-12). You can read the letters from the Level 1 winners here and here.

Following is the Level 2 National Prize winning letter from Jisoo Choi of Ellicott City, Md., who wrote to Anne Frank, author of “The Diary of a Young Girl.”

Dear Anne,

I hold your diary in my hands, and I feel as if you are speaking to me from years past. You are telling me how much it annoys you that the van Daans are always quarreling. You’re whispering sadly that you think you will never become close with your mother. Your scream rings in my ear, and the echo tells me you’re tired of crying yourself to sleep. And it tears my heart in half. Thank you for speaking to me. Thank you for your diary. Thank you for your legacy you have left for the world; for me.

I am thirteen years old, the same age you were when you first went into hiding. The same age you were when you set foot into the solitary world you would know for over two years. And at such a young age, your dreams have inspired so many all over the world. And because of you, I have learned not to wait until I am older to achieve my dreams, not to think about “when I grow up, I will…” but to strive to inspire at my age, just as you have. The fact that you have become an amazing, worldwide inspiration both comforts and challenges me.

Reading your account of the two years you spent in hiding, I cried with you, learned with you, dreamed with you. I came to know you and came to appreciate you for who you were. You cried to me so many times about how your family can’t love you for being you. If only you had known that your diary would be published for the world to be inspired by … If only you had known that the “musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl” that you thought nobody would want to read made such a difference on another thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.  Anne, in the beginning of your diary, you wrote that you did not have your one true friend. And throughout the progression of your diary, you continuously wished that you could have a friend to confide all your sorrows and aspirations in. That was Kitty.

You thought that the only person reading your letters would be you. Your letters so filled with fantasies one day and frustrations the next.  But, Anne, the world has become your Kitty. I have become your Kitty. And I am so grateful.

Every time there’s a disagreement or commotion in the Secret Annex, you always come back to your diary.  You’ve even wrote once, “When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!” As an inspiring writer, just like you, I also find solace in writing. I have school notebooks filled with fragments of ideas for stories, planners with a poem on every other page. But, like you again, I also wonder if I really have talent, worry if I’ll ever be able to write something great. I worry about the same things as you, and although you may have thought they were petty concerns, they’re everything I challenge myself to overcome. And reading your unabashedly honest and real narrative, I found a real friend in you.

As a girl reading your diary over a half a century since you penned them, I know the ending to your story. To the absolutely amazing and inspiring story of your life. And I’m sorry you had to face such injustice.  Those who live the most deserving lives always seem to be silenced so unfairly and so brutally. You dreamed so ardently of the days after the war. You wrote yourself to freedom in the space which confined your body but not your soul.  I am grateful, for although the world never heard your voice, you have left your words as your story. I’ve gone through hardships in my life as well, though none have been as trying as your years in the Annex, and I’ve gone through them by writing and dreaming my way out, just as you have those long two years. You dared to dream, in spite of the reality that threatened you daily, and you have allowed me to dream as well. “There are no walls, no bolts, no locks that anyone can put on your mind.” You are truly a role model to me. You have shown me the subtle beauties in life. You have let me experience the sheer power of words, the words that connect generations across the globe. 

You have left a spark in my heart that will kindle the flames of hope in my darkest days. Whenever I despair, or consider giving up, your voice will be whispering your dreams and hopes, because they are mine also.  Anne, you needn’t worry those times when you felt no one understood. Because, dearest Anne, because your Kitty understands.

Jisoo Choi 

Letters About Literature: Dear Sharon Draper

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 11:23am

We continue our spotlight of letters from the Letters About Literature initiative, a national reading and writing program that asks young people in grades 4 through 12 to write to an author (living or deceased) about how his or her book affected their lives. Winners were announced last month.

There was a tie for the national prize for Level 1. Following is one of the winning letters written by Jayanth Uppaluri of Clayton, Mo., to Sharon Draper, author of “Out of My Mind.” You can read the other Level 1 winning letter here.

Dear Sharon Draper,

                 I don’t have cerebral palsy. I don’t need a device to communicate. I don’t even have a photographic memory. My life is so different from Melody’s life. I can use all of my fingers to type on a computer. I can walk around the block. I can take part in a regular conversation about the St. Louis Cardinals. I don’t need an aide to help me. I have two siblings, a brother and a sister. My sister is about as free of disabilities as you can get. My brother is a different story.

                  My brother has difficulty in expressing his words because he has a form of autism. Like Melody, he tries to tell people many things, and like Melody he gets frustrated when people don’t understand him. Similar to Melody, he has a device to communicate, but unlike Melody’s, my brother’s device is quite complicated to use. On top of this, he does not always have his device when he needs it the most because the battery can fail at any time.

                  Because of his talking complications, people don’t understand him, and sadly he gets frustrated.  What’s so hard to understand about this?  If I had trouble expressing myself, I would be frustrated, too. For example, if I couldn’t tell my parents that I hated peas, and they kept giving me peas, or if I couldn’t tell them that I love eggnog and they kept offering me carrot juice…I think you get the picture. When my brother gets frustrated, he might tear paper or throw things. Sometimes, to get attention, he has even hurt himself by hitting his head or banging his chin. Before I read your book, I never understood how he could survive or how to help him.

                  Then, I read your book. Though cerebral palsy is different from autism, there are some things in common. People with cerebral palsy or autism are held back by symptoms whether it’s lack of mobility or lack of expression. Also people with autism are not dumb and the same goes for people with cerebral palsy. Reading ”Out of My Mind” gave me a different perspective on things. It is the only book I have read that was from the impaired person’s perspective. I never thought “What is she crying about?” because I could vividly see what Melody was thinking.

                  Your book made me think differently about my brother and begin to put myself in his shoes. I began to help him express his feelings. For example, when I ask him a question, I give him time to respond rather than ask him over and over again like I used to. I also have learned how to interact with my brother. We wrestle together and chase each other around the house instead of doing things separately. Before I read your book, I didn’t make the effort to play with him. That was a big mistake, because seeing my brother’s winning smile when we played for the first time has made me realize that we have a very special bond that no one can break.

                  It is important for Melody to feel confident in order to succeed, and that’s very important for my brother too, just as it is for any of us. When Melody participated in the Whiz-Kids competition, her family and caregiver, Ms. Violet, supported her and helped her study, which gave her the confidence to win. It is also vital for my brother to experience success. When he brings my mom the iPad when she wants him to watch videos, we don’t overlook it. We praise him for doing it. This gives him the confidence to do better and progress. If he hides in the closet and stuffs his face with Lindt chocolate truffles without asking, we don’t scream at him. Instead, we take the bag away, tell him to ask us first…then we stuff our faces with chocolate. This doesn’t make him afraid of us, instead it makes him laugh, and it makes us happy because we get to eat chocolate (chocolate equals treasure in our house). When he flashes his million dollar smile at us as we are eating chocolate, it sends an unspoken message that words could never express.

                  Now I know that my brother can survive. When Melody was in Mr. Dimmwit’s class and everyone thought it was a mistake that she got 100% on the preliminary Whiz-Kids test, she didn’t give up. She studied very hard with Ms. Violet and then aced the final test to get into the Whiz-Kids competition. This made me think that my brother could survive all that he was going through and that people around him would realize how intelligent he is. If Melody could endure all the taunts and insults given by Molly and Claire, my brother can endure the ignorant people who don’t understand him. If Melody can tolerate not making it to the national Whiz-Kids competition, my brother can tolerate his challenges. He works so hard in his therapies, and I am confident it will pay off.

                  Before I read your book, I thought my brother didn’t understand me. Because he couldn’t talk that well, I didn’t think he could understand anyone. After I read your book, I realized something. I was wrong. He understood me. The only person who didn’t understand anything was me. Thanks for writing this amazing book that helped me to understand my brother.

Jayanth Uppaluri 

InRetrospect: June 2014 Blogging Edition

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 8:55am

The Library of Congress blogosphere helped beat the heat in June with a variety of engaging posts. Here are a sampling:

In the Muse: Performing Arts Blog

Music Division intern Rachael Sanguinetti talks about her appreciation of the composer’s works.

Inside Adams: Science, Technology and Business

Read about the cars various U.S. presidents cruised in.

In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress

The historic cemetery was founded June 15, 1864.

The Signal: Digital Preservation

The Library is currently working on a project to preserve performing arts websites.

Teaching with the Library of Congress

Teacher-in-Residence Rebecca Newland examines the relationship between the novel and legislation.

Picture This: Library of Congress Prints and Photos

How close is to close when documenting an erupting volcano?

From the Catbird Seat: Poetry and Literature at the Library of Congress

The Library welcomes new Poet Laureate Charles Wright.

Folklife Today

June is National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month

Now See Hear!

Mike Mashon remembers the actress noted for her role as Alice, the Brady Bunch housekeeper.

NLS Music Notes 

Katie Rodda takes a look at the history of braille music.

LC in the News: June 2014 Edition

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 7:40am

The Library of Congress welcomed Charles Wright as the institution’s 20th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2014-2015. Several major news outlets ran stories.

“Our next poet laureate may end up speaking on behalf of the more private duties of the poet — contemplation, wisdom, searching — rather than public ones,” said reporter Craig Morgan Teicher for NPR. “While he might not be planning to pound the national pavement during his laureate year, Wright has plenty to tell us if he lets his poems do the talking.”

“Mr. Wright, who along with his wife, Holly, a photographer, spends part of every summer at a remote cabin in northwest Montana without a telephone, said he would devote some time over the next few months to pondering his new public role,” wrote the New York Times’ Jennifer Schuessler.

Washington Post reporter Ron Charles spoke with Librarian of Congress James H. Billington on his selecting Wright as Poet Laureate. “As I was reading through the finalists, I always kept returning to this man who wrote so beautifully and movingly about important things without self-importance but with extraordinary skill and beauty.”

In other literary news, the Library also announced in June that approximately 1,000 pages of love letters between 29th U.S. President Warren G. Harding and his mistress, Carrie Fulton Phillips, will be opened July 29 with an event July 22.

Running stories were Politico and USA Today.

Continuing the make headlines are the Library’s audio-visual initiatives and preservation efforts.

The institution recently acquired a video archive of thousands of hours of interviews—The HistoryMakers—that captures African-American life, history and culture as well as the struggles and achievements of the black experience.

“Julieanna Richardson, the founder and executive director of The HistoryMakers, said the Library of Congress was the ideal home for the project,” wrote Tanzina Vega of the New York Times. “‘The slaves will now be joined with their progeny,”’ Ms. Richardson added, in reference to the library’s slave narratives archives, which include more than 2,300 first-person accounts that the Works Progress Administration collected in the 1930s.”

CBS Evening and Morning News also ran a story.

The Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Preservation makes regular appearances in the news. CNN reported on its efforts to convert historical analog sound recordings and moving images into digital format in order to preserve them for the future.

“It’s an exhaustive job. Between 1.5 million film, television and video items, and another 3.5 million sound recordings, the 114 staff members here have their work cut out for them” wrote John Bena for CNN. “Collecting and cataloging over 120 years of recorded American history may seem to be a daunting task. But the preservation of these deteriorating items is currently one of the most pressing missions for the library.”

Speaking of early recordings, Boise Weekly reported on the Library’s efforts to make those available online. “The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., has been ahead of the curve on this trend, placing many of its vast resources on the web, including a gorgeous collection of early video recordings, many of which are well over a century old.” The story included several video clips, including a Sioux Indian dance and Annie Oakley shooting targets.

And, thanks to IRENE, a digital-imaging device, the Library has made strides in preserving sound as well. The Atlantic delved into how the device works and the various  mediums the Library has been able to preserve.

Books Changed His Life

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 3:53pm

It is with great sadness that we convey to you, this evening, news of the passing of a great friend of the Library of Congress and all people who know the joy of reading – author Walter Dean Myers, winner of two Newbery Honors and five Coretta Scott King awards.

Walter Dean Myers

He served in 2012 and 2013 as the Library’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and his theme was “Reading Is Not Optional.”  Walter Dean Myers’ own life was an object example of how becoming literate can literally alter one’s future for the better. He not only wrote books with storylines compelling to young men of his own disadvantaged early background, but carried his message of the hope reading can bring to underserved and incarcerated Americans.

He spoke at the Library’s National Book Festivals in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2012.

This man walked his talk.  What follows is an endpaper he wrote for the September/October 2013 issue LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine:

**

Walter Dean Myers, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, believes in the power of reading to transform lives.

At a breakfast in Austin, Texas, some years ago, I was watching a group of librarians chatting over coffee and sweets when a man approached me and asked how I thought we could get more children reading. Assuming he was a librarian, I went into my usual s­­­piel about getting young parents to read to toddlers. He replied, “Well, that’s all good, but do you think it’s actually going to happen?”

I did think that it could happen. I believed it then and I believe now as I finish my stint as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

During the past decade I have spent a lot of time visiting juvenile detention centers around the country. I have continued to visit these facilities during my tenure as National Ambassador. The correlation between reading and success for these kids is clear and well-documented. I’ve spent years trying to figure out just how these young people went wrong and how we, as concerned and caring adults, could have intervened. I then asked myself how I escaped the traps they face.

Raised in a foster home by a barely literate mother and a functionally illiterate father, I was not a great candidate for National Ambassador of anything. When my mother worked, it was either in New York’s garment center or cleaning other people’s homes. However, when she wasn’t working, she would read to me. What she read were romance magazines and an occasional comic book. I didn’t understand what was going on in the magazines or much of what was going on in the comics, but I enjoyed the closeness of sitting on Mama’s lap and the sound of her voice in our small Harlem kitchen. I remember watching her finger move along the lines of type as she read and began to understand the connection between how the words looked on paper and how they sounded.

Later, I would be disappointed in my mother as alcoholism claimed much of her life and all of our closeness. After my uncle was murdered, my father plummeted into a depression that further added misery to the already angst-ridden family. I dropped out of high school, but I was already a reader. Even when I was fighting in gangs, I would spend my non-combat moments alone with the new friends I had found—Balzac, Shakespeare, Thomas Mann.

Over the last two years I’ve seen an American literacy problem that is growing. This year the high school graduation rate in New York decreased. Also decreasing is the number of young people achieving the high level of reading competency required for today’s workplace.

We are, as a nation, interested in solving the problem. The man I assumed was a librarian in Austin turned out to be Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He wanted a simple and direct solution to the problem, and I wanted to help.

I still do, and I will continue trying to spread the word about the importance of reading. I am working with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the nonprofit literacy organization Every Child a Reader to establish a neighborhood reading center in New York.

The nation has to avoid the easy path of giving up on children because their parents and communities can be difficult to involve. I believe Americans are too good, and too generous a people, to let that happen.

Letters About Literature: Dear Dr. Seuss

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 8:10am

Letters About Literature, a national reading and writing program that asks young people in grades 4 through 12 to write to an author (living or deceased) about how his or her book affected their lives, announced its 2014 winners last month.

More than 50,000 young readers from across the country participated in this year’s initiative, a reading-promotion program of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

The top letters in each competition level for each state were chosen. Then, national and national honor winners were chosen from each of the three competition levels: Level 1 (grades 4-6), Level 2 (grades 7-8) and Level 3 (grades 9-12). For the next several weeks, we’ll post the winning letters. Winners came from all parts of the country and wrote to authors as diverse as Dr. Seuss, Sharon Draper, Anne Frank, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell and Jhumpa Lahiri.

There was a tie for the national prize for Level 1. Following is one of the winning letters written by Becky Miller of Wellesley, Mass., to Dr. Seuss, author of “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”

Dear Dr. Seuss,

When I was little, I remember reading “One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish” at night before I went to bed, and being so absorbed in it I wouldn’t put it down. It would leave me with such a great feeling I wouldn’t want to stop reading; it was my favorite. Eventually, though, my mom would come in and tell me to go to sleep, and I always dreaded that point. I felt as if that visit was the moment my room came back to life, and I bounced back to reality. But sadly, I don’t get those visits anymore. About a month ago, my mother passed away with brain cancer.

My mom always had a love of reading. She would read a 200-page novel in two hours if you let her. She could read on and on and on. Most of the books she read were trashy novels, with no definite purpose except to entertain. But my mom would read me any book in the universe if l asked her to, simply because she wanted to share her love of reading with everyone. We read “One Fish Two Fish” so many times, I can’t imagine how she didn’t feel as if she had written it herself, but the funny pictures, the made-up words, the voice — it made us both escape into a place we couldn’t explain. It was wonderful and so exciting it left me with a lasting impression of books I’ll never forget. These memories were some I will always cherish. They connected me to my mom and I hope one day, if l have a family, I will share this memory with my kids and pass it on. I hope I will be just like my mother, because these memories were some I shared with her.

Once, when I was about eight years old, my mom and I cleaned out my bookshelf. It was overflowing with picture books, books I had gotten as presents, and the books my mom had saved since she was a little girl. We took every single book out and made three piles: the Keep pile, the Throw Out pile, and the Keep in the Attic pile. I would take the books that no one read anymore, put them in the Throw Out pile, and as soon as my mom saw what I had done, she’d say, “NO! We have to keep this one. Don’t you remember reading this before?” I’d say, “Mom, I’m never going to read that. If you really want to keep it put it in the Attic pile.” Pretty soon the Attic pile was by far the biggest one. We stored them up there, but they were soon long forgotten, isolated from small children’s hands and eagerness to read for so long. I still have those Attic books, and I haven’t looked at them in forever.  My mother cared way too much about the memories of reading books with my brother and I when we were kids, to throw them away. She and I wanted to hold on to the happy past and the fun memories. I realized that I would be okay as long as I didn’t let go of our time together, just like neither of us let go of our memories reading “One Fish Two Fish.”

One of the only books in the Keep pile was “One Fish Two Fish.” It was the memory that always made neither of us want to let it go. Whenever I miss my mom, I can read it and remember the way her voice sounded and how safe and warm we felt with each other. The way she’d fall asleep on my bed sometimes if we read late enough. Even if l can’t be with her, I can still turn to what we both held on to. I’ll always have that. 

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.” —Dr. Seuss

Becky Miller 

See It Now: Our Fourth President

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 8:00am

James Madison. Between 1836-1842. Prints and Photographs Division.

On June 28, 1836, President James Madison passed away at age 85 – the last of the nation’s Founding Fathers. His public service had a symmetry to it. He had served in several positions, each for eight years: first as a member of Congress, followed by the same span as Secretary of State, then finally eight years as President of the United States. Even after that, he served eight years as director of the University of Virginia after Thomas Jefferson’s death.

Madison was also a president of firsts – often referred to as the “Father of the Constitution,” Madison wrote the first drafts of the important document, as well as the Bill of Rights. In 1792, he and Jefferson founded the Democratic-Republican Party, which has been called America’s first opposition political party.

According to Pulitzer-prize winning historian Jack N. Rakove, Madison was an intensely private man who sought only to be known by his public deeds. In fact, in his retirement after 1817, he edited a good bit of personal material out of his papers to reinforce that message.

Rakove spoke about Madison during a special event at the Library earlier this year, and the webcast is now available here.

Madison’s papers make up part of the Library’s collection of presidential papers. Included are materials documenting his activities as a member of the Continental Congress, his role in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, his tenure as secretary of state during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson and his two terms as president. Noted correspondents include George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Noah Webster and James Monroe. Also included in this collection are a copy of Madison’s autobiography and his correspondence with his wife, Dolley.

Scattered throughout the institution’s various collections, online exhibitions and other resources are assets pertaining to Madison, all collected in this guide.

Bringing the “Banner” to Light

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 7:51am

(The following is an article written by Mark Hartsell, editor of the Library of Congress staff newsletter, The Gazette, in honor of the Star Spangled Banner, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year. To commemorate the anniversary, the Library is hosting a concert featuring baritone Thomas Hampson on July 3.)

Francis Scott Key watches the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814. Prints and Photographs Division.

The story of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” for many decades, seemed as murky as the smoky haze over Fort McHenry on the morning two centuries ago when Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics that still inspire a nation.

No one knew for sure who wrote the music. No one fully understood the circumstances of the tune’s creation (but, no, it wasn’t a bawdy English drinking song). No one fully understood how Key’s words became connected to the music or how they were disseminated.

Much of what is known about “The Star-Spangled Banner” now – at the anthem’s 200th anniversary – is known because of research conducted by Music Division librarians or with Library of Congress collections. For more than a century, the Library has served as the principal research center for the national anthem.

“We’ve been collecting, documenting, researching and making available this information since 1909,” Music Division librarian Loras Schissel said. “The piece has been printed and reprinted from 1814 to the Civil War. All the different versions that occurred during that period are here through collecting, purchasing, gift or copyright deposits.”

By Dawn’s Early Light

Key, detained aboard a British warship, watched British ships bombard Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in September 1814. The assault failed, and at dawn on the 14th, Key saw the U.S. flag still there, streaming over the fort’s ramparts. Inspired, he composed the lyrics to what 117 years later became the national anthem.

Key wrote with a particular tune in mind: “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a piece composed as the official song for an 18th-century London club of amateur musicians and, later, widely adapted for other uses.

Key’s lyrics – set to the “Anacreon” melody and soon titled “The Star-Spangled Banner” – over the decades became one of America’s most popular patriotic songs. In 1931, Congress declared the song the official anthem of the United States.

First edition of “The Anacreontic Song.” Music Division.

Library collections contain hundreds of pieces related to the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” collectively tracing its evolution from London music club anthem to national anthem of a growing, powerful country an ocean away. The Library holds, for example, the first printed lyrics of “To Anacreon in Heaven”; the first printed sheet music of that song; Key’s own copy of “Anacreon”; the first printing of Key’s lyrics, circulated in Baltimore just days after the battle; the first printed sheet music setting Key’s lyrics to the “Anacreon” tune and bearing the title “The Star-Spangled Banner”; and the lyrics handwritten by Key years later.

“Taken together, we have the whole story,” Music Division librarian Raymond White said.

An Uncertain History

That story, however, remained murky long after Key’s work became one of America’s most popular patriotic songs. Little was known about the London music club, the Anacreontic Society. The identity of the composer of “To Anacreon in Heaven” was unclear; the song frequently, it turned out, was attributed to the wrong composer. It wasn’t clear how Key became familiar with the tune or how his lyrics were spread.

Much of the scholarly work of locating, comparing and evaluating – often contradictory – information about the song was done by researchers using Library resources or by Music Division librarians examining numerous editions of music and lyrics, newspaper reports and other documents.

“What it comes down to is looking at printed sources, which are not unique but extraordinarily rare,” White said. “The story of this thing plays itself out in these printed sources.”

Composer and bandleader John Philip Sousa, conducting research at the Library, in the late 19th century produced the first serious study of the piece. (Sousa also gave “The Star-Spangled Banner” its first official status: On his recommendation, the Navy required the piece to be played each morning as the flag was raised.)

Over the next nine decades, Music Division librarians expanded on Sousa’s work and ultimately wrote the anthem’s definitive story.

A Watershed Report

The first printed edition combining the words and music of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Music Division.

Oscar Sonneck – Music Division chief from 1902 to 1917 – was perhaps America’s first great musicologist. He wrote a bibliography of American secular music, devised the music-classification system still used by many of the world’s libraries and – determined to make the Library one of the world’s great music repositories – began collecting important material.

“He is, perhaps, the most important music librarian in the world,” Schissel said. “His ideas still are standard.”

In 1909, Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam asked Sonneck to produce a report on America’s most important patriotic songs: “Yankee Doodle,” “Hail, Columbia,” “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Sonneck’s work helped establish, among other things, how Key’s lyrics became connected to the “Anacreon” music, when and how the first editions were printed, and that Key was thinking of “Anacreon” when he wrote the lyrics.

Sonneck also helped resolve the lingering mystery of the “Anacreon” composer. Samuel Arnold, among others, had been prominently suggested as its creator. Sonneck, however, sifted the evidence and concluded that an obscure London church organist, John Stafford Smith, likely was the composer.

Later, Sonneck played a key role in establishing a definitive version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” At the request of President Woodrow Wilson, Sonneck headed a committee charged with creating a “standard” version that could be taught and performed consistently. (The original manuscript is in the Library collections.)

“That’s the big step toward 1931,” Schissel said. “Wilson’s saying, ‘When it’s appropriate to play a national anthem, I’d like it to be ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ That’s another push toward anthemhood.”

Putting it all Together

Music Division librarian Richard Hill carried on Sonneck’s work in later decades, establishing proof of the basic conjectural things Sonneck and Sousa had come up with and adding detail about the Anacreontic Society and Smith.

“He put it all together: This was printed at this time. This edition came out then. The Anacreontic song was first published at this point,” Schissel said. “And, among other things: Who was John Stafford Smith? He was a murky figure in this operation.”

Hill died relatively young, in 1961, leaving his work unfinished.

Music Division librarian William Lichtenwanger took Sonneck’s and Hill’s research, added his own and in 1977 produced the work now considered the anthem’s definitive history: “The Music of The Star-Spangled Banner: From Ludgate Hill to Capitol Hill.”

“It basically should be a three-name book: Sonneck, Hill and Lichtenwanger,” Schissel said. “We’re always looking for new information, we’re always looking for new editions, we’re always adding to our knowledge. But that book still is cited. It’s always used.”

Inquiring Minds: A Voyage of Musical Rediscovery

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 7:20am

Pianist Alex Hassan’s passion is music, but not just any music – he lives to recreate the Tin Pan Alley melodies of the 1920 and 1930s.  The classically trained musician, who says he is a pupil of pupil of a pupil of Franz Lizst, has, in his own words, “tunnel vision” for the popular musical styles and arrangements of the bygone era. But his interests lie in the discovery of what he calls “musica obscurae,” works from the time that often went unpublished. He performs them as part of the trio, Three For a Song, featuring soprano Karin Paludan and tenor Doug Bowles. In addition, Hassan is an avid collector of these works, having currently amassed some 45,000 pieces of sheet music.

“The significance of these ‘music obscurae’ allow me to quote Doug Bowles: ‘Your favorite songs were once songs you didn’t know,’” he said.

Hassan has been a fan and avid researcher of the Library of Congress collections for many years. He first began researching in the early 1970s.

“The Performing Arts Reading Room has been a second home for decades,” he said. “Happily, the greatest, most accessible library in the world is minutes away.” Hassan lives in Falls Church, Va.

Hassan recalls his experiences searching the Library’s stacks some 30 years ago. “I regularly had stack passes and can honestly state that all important piano solo collections were meticulously perused.” (The Library’s stacks have always been closed to the public, but exceptions were once made for scholars and others who verified a need to browse in designated areas.)

Working with reference librarians, Hassan discovered the Library’s “It’s Showtime” collection, which “proved a goldmine” for his performances.

“Many of the stunning finds have entered both my repertoire and those of singing friends Kari Paludan and Doug Bowles in our performances,” he said. “An early program of ours in the Coolidge Auditorium was an adjunct to [retired Music Division senior cataloging specialist] Sharon McKinley’s luncheon talk on the database.”

Most recently, Hassan has been working with the papers of American composer and film producer Arthur Schwartz and materials from the Warner-Chappell archives, a collection of manuscripts from Warner Bros. music publishing company. According to him, he’s made many discoveries, including an unpublished work by Herman Hupfeld, who wrote “As Time Goes By” in 1931 (not written for “Casablanca,” Hassan says). The score was for a show, “One More Night,” staring noted chanteuse of the time Irene Bordoni, which closed before reaching Broadway.

“The title song has one of those soaring romantic melodies that stays in the memory,” he said.

Speaking of melody, that’s why Hassan has developed such in interest in these sounds of the 1920s and 1930s. During that time, melody was in the forefront of the songs, he said. He also feels that the music of that time lends itself to his piano-playing style.

“There was such a proliferation of melody in the 1920s and 1930s that a ton of stuff of equal merit never had a chance,” he explained. “The explorer in me has always prevailed, and I’ve been a torch-bearer for the songs that didn’t make it.

“The standards will always be there: ‘Star Dust,’ ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’, ‘Summertime,’ ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,’ ‘Stormy Weather,’ ‘Over the Rainbow,’” he continued. “We’re the drum majors for the songs that, for a variety of reasons, didn’t have the snowball’s chance.”

The Library’s efforts to preserve such historical musical collections are, to him, a blessing.

“There’s no other library in the world with the quality and quantity and, importantly, accessibility of collections,” Hassan concluded. “May I continue to beg the wonderful staff’s forgiveness for my continuing gluttony.”

Let’s Get Pinning!

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 10:00am

Today the Library of Congress launched its own Pinterest account, continuing efforts to make educational, historical and cultural resources available to web users across many platforms.

With Pinterest, the Library can share visual content with a wide audience, allowing them to also curate their own collections featuring the same content by creating and managing “boards” and “pinning” items. Each pin links back to the original Library source material.

The Library is the repository to more than 158 million items of cultural and historical value, including more than 13.7 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, 6.7 million pieces of sheet music and 69 million manuscripts.

The Pinterest account joins other social-media platforms, including YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook.

Pic of the Week: Octavia Spencer

Thu, 06/19/2014 - 7:33am

 

Photo by Amanda ReynolAward-winning actress Octavia Spencer visited the Young Readers Center earlier this week to discuss her children’s book, “Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit,” with students from Roots Public Charter and Orr Elementary in the District of Columbia, and Oak View Elementary School in Fairfax, Va.

Schools were from at-risk communities, and Spencer shared her own personal story growing up with dyslexia in a very small town in Alabama. The actress won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Minny in the 2011 film “The Help.”

“Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit” is the first in a series, with the second forthcoming next summer.

See It Now: Happy Bloomsday

Mon, 06/16/2014 - 8:05am

James Joyce. 1941. Prints and Photographs Division.

Several years ago I took a whirlwind tour of Ireland, which included a few days in Dublin. One of my most memorable experiences was taking a literary pub crawl through the city. Throughout the evening, the actor tour guides led us in the footsteps of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde, among others.

While I can’t quite remember all the spouted prose, I’m sure our guides likely entertained us with selections from Joyce’s most seminal work, “Ulysses.” Today, June 16, marks Bloomsday, a celebration of the early 20th century Irish author and a nod to the novel, which recounts a day in the life of protagonist Leopold Bloom on June 16, 1904.

St. Olaf College student Johnna Purchase interned at the Library last year, where she worked in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. She used her time to examine the material and cultural history of Joyce and his works, among other things. (You can read more about her internship here. Purchase delivered a lecture at the Library discussing her research, which you can see below.

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Joyce also published several books of poetry. His book, “Chamber Music,” is a collection of 36 of his poems. Noted composer Samuel Barber was much influenced and inspired by Joyce’s writing. In 1936, he composed a series of songs set to poetry from “Chamber Music”: “Rain has fallen,” “I hear an army,” and “Solitary hotel.”  Available as part of “The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America” presentation are audio and video recordings of these songs featuring baritone Thomas Hampson, who will perform at the Library July 3.

For more Joycean resources, search for “James Joyce” in the Library’s online catalog for a list of several electronic book resources.

Rare Map on Display at Library Scored Some “Firsts”

Wed, 06/11/2014 - 8:00am

(The following is a guest post by Wendi A. Maloney, writer-editor in the U.S. Copyright Office.)

Abel Buell, “A New and Correct Map of the United States of North America,” 1784. On deposit to the Library of Congress from David M. Rubenstein.

Engraver Abel Buell “came out of nowhere,” at least in terms of cartography, when he printed a United States map in 1784. “He’d never done a map before,” says Edward Redmond of the Library’s Geography and Map Division. Nonetheless, Buell set records.

He was the first U.S. citizen to print a map of the United States in the United States after the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783. The treaty formally concluded the American Revolution and recognized the United States as an independent nation. Buell was also the first person to copyright a map in the United States.

Buell’s “New and Correct Map of the United States of North America” is the centerpiece of “Mapping a New Nation,” an ongoing exhibition in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Philanthropist David M. Rubenstein purchased Buell’s map at auction in 2010 and made it available for public display at the Library.

The wall map contains no original cartographic material, Redmond says; instead, Buell combined elements of maps published earlier in Europe.

“Buell, who lived in New Haven, Connecticut, may have accessed other maps at nearby Yale University,” Redmond suggests. “That’s a supposition, however; we can’t prove it.”

Redmond worked with other Library colleagues to identify maps in the Library’s collections that Buell may have used as sources and include them in the exhibition. “As the largest map library in the world, we have in our collections the maps Buell likely would have had available to him,” Redmond says.

Buell’s map documents a unique time in U.S. history. “Before adoption of the Constitution in 1787, the federal government couldn’t establish boundaries between states or force surrender of the western lands some states claimed,” Redmond notes. “As a result, the boundaries of many states in Buell’s map extend west from the Atlantic Coast all the way to the Mississippi River.”

Buell petitioned the General Assembly of Connecticut for a copyright for his soon-to-be-printed map on October 28, 1783, nine months after Connecticut became the first U.S. state to enact a copyright law. By October 28, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey had also passed copyright laws, but none expressly protected maps, as Connecticut’s law did. Thus Buell became the first person to copyright a map in the new nation.

Lawrence Wroth, Buell’s biographer, described Buell as creative and versatile but also restless and impulsive, which perhaps explains his conviction in 1764 for counterfeiting. Buell served jail time, had the tip of his ear cut off, and had his forehead branded with the letter C, a standard penalty of the time.

His colorful life notwithstanding, Buell had the skill and wherewithal to create his own “cartographic conception of the United States,” rich in symbolism of the emerging nation, Redmond concludes.

A Book Festival for the Bird(er)s

Mon, 06/09/2014 - 8:07am

“Shirley,” the celebrated Cooper’s Hawk liberated from the cupola of the Library’s Main Reading Room early in 2011. She was identified by a Library staffer using a Sibley app.

David Allen Sibley – yes, the author of the recently updated “Sibley Guide to Birds,” that indispensable handbook on all things feathered – will appear at this year’s National Book Festival, Saturday, August 30 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

In addition to this most highly respected ornithologist, we will also welcome Sally Satel, co-author (with Scott Lilienfeld) of “Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience,” Ian Morris, author of “War! What Is It Good For? Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots” and former National Basketball Association star Derek Anderson.

Tweet it, squawk it, send it via carrier pigeon, release it from the Main Reading Room: the Library of Congress National Book Festival will bring more than 100 authors for all ages to the Washington Convention Center August 30, for a full day followed by all-new evening activities including a graphic novels “super-session,” a poetry slam and a screening titled “Great Books to Great Movies.”

It’s all free and open to the public. Don’t miss it!

InRetrospect: May 2014 Blogging Edition

Thu, 06/05/2014 - 9:42am

Inside Adams: Science, Technology and Business

Caliology and oology are the study of bird nests and eggs, respectively.

In the Muse: Performing Arts Blog

Tchaikovsky and Brahms share a birthday, among other things.

In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress

In Kentucky, lawyers are not allowed to duel.

The Signal: Digital Preservation

Kate Murray takes a look at software such as iCalendar.

Teaching with the Library of Congress

Primary sources can help you explore the history and the architecture behind D.C.’s historic buildings.

Picture This: Library of Congress Prints and Photos

The Library needs your help in identifying historic structures.

From the Catbird Seat: Poetry and Literature at the Library of Congress

Peter Armenti offers tips on how to establish a poet laureate for your state.

Folklife Today

Stephen Winick looks at May celebrations across the globe.

Now See Hear!

Little Richard talks about his early days.

NLS Music Notes

Professional musician Justin Kauflin is also an NLS patron.