american history

    

  Last week in our Ideas Matter segment we learned about an exciting national program, Created Equal, which uses documentary films to encourage public conversations about the changing meanings of freedom and equality in America. This week, we learn about how one local organization is using these films to discuss these ideas in the Capital Region.

Lincoln’s official secretaries John Hay and John Nicolay enjoyed more access, witnessed more history, and knew Lincoln better than anyone outside of the president’s immediate family. Hay and Nicolay were the gatekeepers of the Lincoln legacy. They read poetry and attendeded the theater with the president, commiserated with him over Union army setbacks, and plotted electoral strategy.

They were present at every seminal event, from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address—and they wrote about it after his death.

    The Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith, NY is having their annual Ice Harvest Festival on February 1st from 10am to 4pm.

Ice harvests were once an essential part of winter in rural communities. Before there was refrigeration, ice was needed to preserve agricultural products and to keep food cold in the warmer months. Ice Festival attendees can take part in a traditional ice harvest! They’ll walk out on the frozen mill pond to help cut and maneuver blocks of ice using historic tools. The ice will be transported by sled and then packed in the Museum’s traditional ice house.

Nearly 300 rare items from a vast private collection of historical papers are being put up for auction in New York City. They include a document celebrating Sir Francis Drake's circumnavigation of the globe in the 16th century and a book considered one of the earliest printed in America.

The artifacts are from the collection known as the Caren Archive, owned by Eric Caren of suburban Westchester County. The items being auctioned April 7 at Bonham's in Manhattan include rare Revolutionary War newspapers and a Butch Cassidy mug shot.

   Historians generally portray the 1950s as a conservative era when anticommunism and the Cold War subverted domestic reform, crushed political dissent, and ended liberal dreams of social democracy. These years, historians tell us, represented a turn to the right, a negation of New Deal liberalism, an end to reform.

Jennifer Delton argues that, far from subverting the New Deal state, anticommunism and the Cold War enabled, fulfilled, and even surpassed the New Deal's reform agenda. Anticommunism solidified liberal political power and the Cold War justified liberal goals such as jobs creation, corporate regulation, economic redevelopment, and civil rights.

In her book, Rethinking the 1950s: How Anticommunism and the Cold War Made America Liberal, Skidmore College History Professor Jennifer Delton shows how despite President Eisenhower's professed conservatism, he maintained the highest tax rates in U.S. history, expanded New Deal programs, and supported major civil rights reforms.

    The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of American history from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through these women: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage.

At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians--many of them young women from small towns across the South--were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the true nature of the tasks they performed each day in the hulking factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. That is, until the end of the war--when Oak Ridge's secret was revealed.

 At the turn of the twentieth century, innovations in photographic technology and an American culture of optimism and self-celebration helped create panoramic group photography. Organizations famed and obscure commissioned images that sometimes encompassed a full 360 degrees. No public event, be it circus, train wreck, or Army-Navy football game, was too grand or too humble to deserve its own wide-angle commemoration.

When Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” debuted in 1942, no one imagined that a holiday song would top the charts year after year. One of the best-selling singles ever released, it remains on rotation at tree lighting ceremonies across the country, in crowded shopping malls on Black Friday, and at warm diners on lonely Christmas Eve nights.

Resting just beneath the surface of familiar melodies and words, jolly Santas, winter wonderlands, and roasting chestnuts both mask and represent an intricate cultural landscape crowded with the meanings of a modern American Christmas.

Ronald D. Lankford Jr. explores all this holiday history in his book, Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, and Silent Nights: A Cultural History of American Christmas Songs.

    In Days Of Fire: Bush And Cheney In The White House, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, takes us on a gripping and intimate journey through the eight years of the Bush and Cheney administration in a tour-de-force narrative of a dramatic and controversial presidency.

    Wendell Minor is considered one of our nation’s premier historical illustrators. He travels throughout the United States to research, draw and paint on location, and immerse himself in the subject at hand.

The Norman Rockwell Museum is celebrating the artist’s four-decade career, highlighting his many cover illustrations and 25th anniversary illustrating children’s books, each inspired by his love of history, art, science, and the natural world. Wendell Minor’s America is on view at the museum through May 26, 2014.

The exhibit traces the Minor’s artistic journey through original artwork, artifacts, and references from his expansive visual chronicles, as well as commentary about his collaborations with our nation’s most prominent authors, scientists, and historians.

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