Rachel Carson sketch

March 4, 2015

A Canadian artist posted a nice sketch of Rachel Carson on Twitter:

Rachel Carson sketch, by artist @moietymouse

Rachel Carson sketch, by artist @moietymouse

I’m often frustrated at how few good images of Ms. Carson exist on the internet, probably because I see them over and over again in working to stamp out the hoax claims about Carson, DDT and malaria, and environmental protection.

Maybe we can get @moietymouse to make some more? Check out her Twitter feed; maybe she’s got images for sale, and you can encourage her while improving the look of your walls.

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Millard Fillmore, live on Peachtree Street, 1854

March 4, 2015

Lower Peachtree Street, Atlanta, in 1910, 56 years after ex-President Millard Fillmore visited. Library of Congress photo via Chamblee54

Lower Peachtree Street, Atlanta, in 1910, 56 years after ex-President Millard Fillmore visited. Library of Congress photo via Chamblee54

Chamblee54, in a history of Peachtree Street studded with interesting photographs, notes Atlanta’s first-time brush with any ex-president:

In 1854, Atlanta entertained, for the first time, a man who had been President. On May 2, Millard Fillmore arrived from Augusta on a private rail car.

Two years after the Whigs refused to nominate Fillmore for a term of his own, he was out touring the country?

Several accounts explain that Fillmore and his wife Abigail wanted to tour the U.S. after his presidency.  Unfortunately, she died shortly after he left office.  He pined through the rest of 1853, but by February 1854 had decided to tour by himself, without his children, accompanied by friends he could persuade to join him.

That same month, Fillmore decided to take the trip southward that he and Abigail had not been able to take. Given the timing, some observers believed that Fillmore had a political motive in making the journey.  They suspected that he might be planning to speak out against the Nebraska Bill [proposed by Illinois’s U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas]. Others were convinced that it was a leisure tour.  But whatever Fillmore’s intentions may have been, his speeches to southern audiences were relatively neutral.  He restated his faith in the [Missouri] Compromise, but he spent mos tof his time enjoying a series of receptions, dinners, and parades in his honor throughout the region.  A marching band escorted him through the streets of Louisville, Kentucky.  Girls scattered his path with flowers in Montgomery, Alabama.  A row of trains blew their whistles in greeting in Atlanta, Georgia.  Fillmore returned home refreshed and with renewed faith in his fellow Americans.

Alison Behnke, Millard Fillmore (a child’s history of the man), 2005, page 92.

A longer description came out of Robert J. Scarry’s 1982 biography:

By late February 1854 Fillmore had resumed his plans to travel.  He perceived that a southern trip would do him good and that the journey would divert his mind from the loss of Abigail.

*******

Fillmore hoped Francis Granger, John P. Kennedy, and Washington Irving would go with him on the trip. Granger lost interest, and Irving, who had been asked by his friend Kennedy, was in no mood for politics.

*******

En route to Atlanta from Augusta on the Georgia Railroad, they stopped at Greensboro where a large crowd of teachers and students of the Female College greeted Fillmore and Kennedy.  They dined at Madison.  At Stone Mountain an escort committee from Atlanta met them.

At the Atlanta Depot a novel reception welcomed them.  A large number of locomotives were present with their steam up.  When the Augusta engineer signalled their arrival they all opened up their valves and whistled out a welcome the like of which, reported a newspaper, “no mortal man had heard before.” The shouts from the crowd and locomotive whistles were deafening to one reporter.  By carriage the party went from the depot to the Atlanta Hotel where a reception was held.

Fillmore had become hoarse. Nonetheless, he managed to say that he was impressed by the large population and that he had heard that it was a beautiful village in the center of the state. He also admonished the state legislature to to take note “of the array of female loveliness before me” seated at the reception.  If they did so, he joked, they wouldn’t hesitate to locate the state capital at Atlanta.  At that time the capital was at Milledgeville.  Atlanta became the capital in 1877.  In the evening, after dinner, a ball was held.  Fifty young ladies dressed in white with bouquets of flowers were a highlight of the occasion.

Robert J. Scarry, Millard Fillmore, 1982, pages 247-252 variously.

Any photos of Fillmore in Atlanta?

Millard Fillmore is in some ways the ultimate exemplar of American civic boosterism.  These accounts tend to be softball, even when the potential political effects of his trip to Atlanta are discussed.  One gets a sense that contemporary accounts of the trip were equally bland and uncontroversial.  Fillmore’s trip offered a lot of local chamber of commerce precursors a chance to plug their local industry, development and pride.  Fillmore seems incapable of not offering pride-stoking flattery to these group of people.  That’s not necessarily bad.

Within a dozen years the nation would be engulfed in the Civil War.  Atlanta would be burned.  The railroads Fillmore rode would be torn up by Union armies.

What a snapshot, even without photos.

A not-often seen image of Millard Fillmore.  Via Accessible Archives.

A not-often seen image of Millard Fillmore. Via Accessible Archives.


Quote of the moment: Calvin Coolidge, on building America: “Look to service, not selfishness”

March 3, 2015

Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States (elected vice president in 1920, and succeeding to the presidency upon the death of Warren G. Harding).  History.com image

Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States (elected vice president in 1920, and succeeding to the presidency upon the death of Warren G. Harding). History.com image

Referring to progress in the U.S. after World War I, Coolidge said:

With peace has come prosperity. Burdens have been great, but the strength to bear them has been greater. The condition of those who toil is higher, better, more secure than in all the ages past. Out of the darkness of a great conflict has appeared the vision, nearer, clearer than ever before, of a life on earth less and less under the deadening restraint of force, more and more under the vitalizing influence of reason. Moral power has been triumphing over physical power. With peace has come prosperity. Burdens have been great, but the strength to bear them has been greater. The condition of those who toil is higher, better, more secure than in all the ages past. Out of the darkness of a great conflict has appeared the vision of a nearer, clearer than ever before, the  [of] life on earth less and less under the deadening restraint of force, more and more under the vitalizing influence of reason. Moral power has been triumphing over physical power. Education will tend to bring reason and experience of the past into the solution of the problems of the future. We must look to service and not selfishness, for service is the foundation of progress. The greatest lesson that we have to learn is to seek ever the public welfare, to build up, to maintain our American heritage.

Candidate for vice president Calvin Coolidge, “America and the War,” 1920

Digging a little deeper, I discover that the first part of this quote also appeared in Coolidge’s Thanksgiving Proclamation on November 27, 1919, when he was  Governor of Massachusetts.  Knowing a good turn of words when he wrote it (I’m assuming he didn’t have ghost writers then), he used the same words in making phonograph recordings of speeches to be distributed in the election campaign of 1920, before radio was available to carry speeches to voters.  I have made minor corrections in the transcript, from the earlier text and the audio delivery.

According to Talking History, the 78 rpm record and audio version were saved and made available by the Library of Congress.

You may want to listen to Coolidge say the words himself. Mp3  RealPlayer


Quote of the moment: FDR on government shutdowns

February 24, 2015

One wag, who didn’t want to discuss things after all, referred me to President Franklin Roosevelt’s message to the National Federal of Federal Employees (NFFE), of August 16, 1937 (from the American Presidency Project at the University of California – Santa Barbara (UCSB)).  The wag asked me to confess that FDR was anti-union, and that Wisconsin Gov. Scott “Ahab” Walker had acted in Roosevelt’s path in Walker’s assaults on the unions of policemen, firefighters and teachers in Wisconsin.

I demurred, and pointed out instead that Walker went after the unions despite their having NOT struck, that Walker refused to bargain in good faith, or bargain at all.  I pointed out that Walker had failed in his duty, in the view of FDR.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in 1936 (Checking to see whether, when and where FDR said that; Robert Reich says he did.)

It’s a good way to send wags packing on Twitter, I’ve learned.  They don’t like to read or think, and they certainly don’t want anyone pointing out that they may have misinterpreted something. Anything.

NFFE had invited Roosevelt to speak at their Twentieth Jubilee Convention; Roosevelt sent a letter declining the invitation. In declining, Roosevelt noted he opposed strikes by government employees.  No doubt there is more history there that deserves our attention.  We can get to it later.

Here’s the meat of FDR’s letter:

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that “under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government.”

What do you think Roosevelt would have made of the current and last “do nothing” GOP blocs in Congress?  (Or should we say “blocks?”)

Doesn’t this describe Republicans in Congress today?

” . . . intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.”

Is it too much to ask Republicans in Congress to be at least as loyal to the U.S. as the unionized government employees who pledged not to shut down the government?

More:


70 years ago today, U.S. flags rose on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima

February 23, 2015

February 23, 1945. It’s a date that will live in famous heroics, war brutality, photography, and bronze.

On the morning of February 23, U.S. troops raised the U.S. flag on a hill known as Mt. Suribachi, on the island of Iwo Jima — a visual signal to U.S. troops that the high ground had been taken, and the battle turned for the U.S.

First flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on February 23, 1945.  Photograph for Leatherneck Magazine by Sgt. Lou Lowery.

First flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on February 23, 1945. Photograph for Leatherneck Magazine by Sgt. Lou Lowery.

Later in the day, an officer ordered a larger flag to be posted, to be more visible. AP photographer Joe Rosenthal caught that raising on film.

Is this the most iconic photo ever?  Wikimedia caption: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, Joe Rosenthal's historic photo depicts five United States Marines and one sailor raising an American flag over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The image above is an Associated Press photograph that won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. It was taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945.

Is this the most iconic photo ever? Wikimedia caption: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, Joe Rosenthal’s historic photo depicts five United States Marines and one sailor raising an American flag over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The image above is an Associated Press photograph that won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. It was taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945.

February 23 does not appear in the list of dates by law recommended for Americans to fly the U.S. flag.  You may want to fly yours today, anyway.

More:

Iwo Jima Memorial, near Washington, D.C.

Iwo Jima Memorial, near Washington, D.C.

Mt. Suribachi's prominence is clear in this photo of the island of Iwo To, as it is known in Japan.

Mt. Suribachi’s prominence is clear in this photo of the island of Iwo To, as it is known in Japan. Suribachi is a 546-foot (166 m) dormant volcanic cone, on the southern tip of the island. Wikipedia image


Misquote of the moment: Magellan didn’t say it, but it’s still brilliant, “shadow on the Moon”

February 21, 2015

An anonymous portrait of Ferdinand Magellan, 16th or 17th century (The Mariner's Museum Collection, Newport News, VA) Legend:

An anonymous portrait of Ferdinand Magellan, 16th or 17th century (The Mariner’s Museum Collection, Newport News, VA) Legend: “Ferdinan[dus] Magellanus superatis antarctici freti angustiis clariss.” (Fedinand Magellan, you overcame the famous, narrow, southern straits.)

From Wikiquote:

  • The Church says that the Earth is flat, but I know that it is round. For I have seen the shadow of the earth on the moon and I have more faith in the Shadow than in the Church.

    • This quotation is often found on the internet attributed to Magellan, but never with a source, and no English occurrence prior to its use by Robert Green Ingersoll in his essay “Individuality” (1873) has been located. Thus, it it most likely spurious. In that essay Ingersoll states:

It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions, — some one who had the grandeur to say his say. I believe it was Magellan who said, “The church says the earth is flat; but I have seen its shadow on the moon, and I have more confidence even in a shadow than in the church.” On the prow of his ship were disobedience, defiance, scorn, and success.

Where did Ingersoll get that thought? Wouldn’t he claim it as his own, had he invented it?

And, is it true? Can we tell anything by the Earth’s shadow on the Moon?  EarthSky.org discusses the reality, when can we really see the Earth’s shadow?  Turns out, we don’t have to wait for a lunar eclipse. More, is this false attributing perhaps the source of the old, incorrect claim that many in the days of Columbus thought the Earth to be flat, and not spherical?

Wikiquote, and the rest of us, need more sleuthing on this one.

More:


Popular music as music history, or just plain history

February 20, 2015

Old Jules rambled on about Johnny Cash and Loudon Wainright III, and their differing versions, in different eras, of “The Man Who Couldn’t Cry.” Then discussion got into Johnny Horton.

Old Jules’s blog is always a good read.  Go see for yourself.

Cover of Jimmy Driftwood's

Cover of Jimmy Driftwood’s “Wilderness Road,” the first bluegrass and/or country album I owned; my father bought it from the remainder pile at a record distributor in the 1960s. He didn’t much like it, and it took a while to grow on me. Driftwood’s music is preserved by historians in Arkansas, now.

It got me thinking.  I posted in comments there:

Nice to find someone who remembers Johnny Horton.

My oldest brother went drinking with Horton in Twin Falls, Idaho, my brother claimed, after a performance. He was a great fan ever after.

I liked Horton’s performance on “Battle of New Orleans.” Wasn’t until the 21st century that I learned that song was written by Jimmy Driftwood, who taught 8th grade history before he turned to songwriting full time. Worse, Driftwood wrote it in the 1930s.

Thank God libraries keep old music around.

Ever hear Moby’s “Natural Blues?” Turns out he cribbed (“sampled”) the vocals from tracks Alan Lomax recorded somewhere in the South much earlier, “Trouble So Hard,” by Vera Hall.

Well, there you go.

Here’s the audio from which Moby sampled, Vera Hall singing “Trouble So Hard.”

And for the record, Jimmy Driftwood’s version of “The Battle of New Orleans.”  History teachers, do you find it accurate?  Do you use it in class?

Johnny Horton’s version, done for an 8th grade history class:


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