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Blog Posts by Subject: History

United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Department of the Gulf

Our archival processing staff continues to follow the U.S. Sanitary Commission on campaign during the Civil War, this time along the Gulf Coast. Melissa Haley reports on one man's journey in their service:

Based in New Orleans, the USSC’s Department of the Gulf was founded in the spring of 1862, soon after that city came under Union control. Its scope of operations coincided with the territory covered by the Union’s Department of the Gulf — eventually including the entire Gulf Coast, from Brownsville, Texas on the Mexican border to Key West and the 

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The Great Obituary Hunt: A Genealogy Research Guide

Like all good detective work, genealogy research benefits from organization, patience, and procedure. One of many tools in the researchers toolbox is the obituary. Obituaries are small articles in a newspaper that offer a posthumous piece of the story of a person’s life. They can also be very useful to those who are researching genealogy, adding details that would otherwise be unknown. The names of relatives, location of birth, final resting place, occupation, religious affiliation, volunteer work, and other 

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Finding a Life at The New York Public Library

This last week of October, 2011 is Magic Week. Perhaps it's a good time to tell this true story about how I found a life at The New York Public Library:

In the spring of 1923, my grandfather, a magician, disappeared. This well practiced man of magic had pulled off his greatest trick of all. He was never seen again — at least not by my family. His love for the circus could not hold him to a small town, a young wife, and a three-year-old son. He left, and the memory of him was put aside. Occasionally my grandmother would 

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The Book of Khalid Turns 100!

Deep inside the NYPL’s Bryant Park Stack Extension (known as BPSE to insiders — pronounced as “Bip-See”) lay many literary treasures and secrets; some are academically obscure and rare while others are widely known and read. The Book of Khalid by Ameen Rihani fits in 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: What’s My Line?

Picture an archival version of those 1950s quiz shows — “I’ve Got a Secret” or “What’s My Line” — where panelists try to guess the identity, occupation or special talent of the contestant. This is an episode in the ongoing United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) series, where project staff members do their best to analyze and accurately describe the volumes and documents at hand, asking the usual questions: who, what, where, when? What activities do these materials reflect?

Some background: During the USSC’s 

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Haiti's Patent Law of 1826 ...or? Help Solve the Mystery

Frederic loves a paradox. Me, I like to read detective and suspense fiction every once in a while, but abhor a real mystery — at least one that isn't easy for me to solve. With this one I've hit a dead end and can't think of a better way to find someone to carry this forward than to post it here. This document is in one of the Patent Pamphlet Volumes in SIBL's collection. Its title says: Republique D'Hayti : Loi Sur les Patentes. But I don't believe it's about patents (patents for inventions, at any rate). Can anyone tell me what this document is?

Rather 

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The Farriers' Wish: Historical Trade Journals at SIBL

This May is a month of celebration here at NYPL. A 100 year birthday for the Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, and here at SIBL, we mark 15 years of operation. As appropriate for 100 years, NYPL will focus on many of its incredible research collections in the new exhibition Celebrating 100 Years, which 

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Hold the Applause! Testimonial Menus

Perhaps you’ve noticed a few more people joining the menu party lately. The Buncombe County Medical Association is here. As are our friends from the National Life Insurance Company. We’ve even extended an invite to our canine crew (and their owners) from the Philadelphia Dog Show Association.

Clubs, organizations, companies, and associations often hosted an 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Accounts and Vouchers

Project archivist Elizabeth Delmage has tackled the job of making sense of the U.S. Sanitary Commission’s financial records, beginning with boxes of bundled documents and volumes. The richness of information in these materials provides a window into 19th-century commerce, the history of technology in America and, of course, the world of military supplies and humanitarian relief.

Elizabeth shares her work and discoveries in the record group known as Accounts and Vouchers to date: Daunting stack of USSC bundlesWhen I first started surveying these records, it 

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Can One Person Change History? A Soldier's Dream

William Doyle, a writer in residence in the Library's Allen Room, thinks so.  His new book A Soldier's Dream explores the question of whether one young American soldier helped change the course of the Iraq War? 

For six months in 2006, a charismatic U.S. Army captain and Arabic linguist named Travis Patriquin unleashed a diplomatic and cultural charm offensive upon the Sunni sheiks of Anbar province, the heart of darkness of the Iraqi insurgency. Through his striking personality and passion 

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Freedom of Information Day at SIBL - March 16, 2011

March 16th is the birthday of James Madison, and because of his role as advocate for openness in government that date is celebrated by many different organizations, including the New York Public Library at SIBL, as Freedom of Information Day.

This year, SIBL is fortunate to have as guest presenter at our

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: A Sense of History

The various “relief” activities of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, whether “general relief,” “field relief,” or “special relief,” are reflected throughout its own records, now held in the NYPL's Manuscripts and Archives Division. The group of material known as the “Special Relief Archives,” however, is not quite what you would expect to find from its name. Project archivist Melissa Haley discusses her 

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Contemplating the Sabbath in the Digital Age

How many times have you vowed to build more downtime into your weekend schedule? How often have you done it?

So many things get in the way—deadlines, e-mails, children, chores. And although we long for unstructured time, in some other part of ourselves, we're also proud of how much we work and revel in our inability to stop doing so.

The question of whether to rest or not on the weekend didn't use to be so tortured. Only during the past half a century did Americans become free to disregard the ancient commandment not to work one day a week.  

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Researching Patents of African American Inventors

In recognition of Black History Month, I thought I would take this opportunity to suggest U.S. Patents as an available primary resource that can be used to do historical and biographical research on African American Inventors.

NYPL has a strong collection of resources on African American inventors, both in our research collections (Schomburg and

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President's Day Biography Reading List

Presidents' lives have always been favorite subjects for biographers. Here is a list of the some of the latest examples at the NYPL branches.

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Spencer Collection Book of the Month: A Wotton Binding

Volume bound for Thomas Wotton (Detail)After I'd spent four Sunday evenings in January engrossed in the doings of the Earl of Grantham and his household on the PBS "Masterpiece Classic" series Downton Abbey, this month's choice for Spencer Collection Book of the Month was obvious: a book that lingered for more than three centuries in the company of barons and earls, before being exiled from their presence in exchange for cold, hard cash.

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WOW @ The Library: Women of the Month

Wonders Of Women (WOW) presents the notable life and amazing accomplishments of three courageous women.

Amelia Earhart: the turbulent life of an American icon

by Kathleen C. Winters

Amelia Earhart Day is commemorated on January 11th. This book offers a fascinating look at the life of the courageous aviatrix, Amelia Mary Earhart—the first person to fly solo across the Pacific and first woman to perform a nonstop solo ... Read More ›

Elements of Cartography

The title of this post comes from an important textbook that every formally trained student of cartography will recognize. Arthur Robinson (1915-2004), a towering figure in the world of cartography and geography, first published Elements of Cartography in 1953. Now in it sixth edition, Elements remains an essential teaching tool in both cartographic literacy and the basics of mapmaking.

In Elements, the reader is reminded that every 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Giving

A colorful USSC emblemIt may seem surprising to learn that even though the United States Sanitary Commission was officially endorsed by the U.S. government in June 1861, by mutual agreement this civilian organization did not receive federal funding for its work. The USSC's extensive activities—camp and hospital inspections, medical studies and publications, and especially, a wide variety of relief efforts for soldiers—were bankrolled entirely by the private sector.

Project archivists Melissa Haley, working on the records of the California Branch and 

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