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Blog Posts by Subject: United States History

Ben Franklin on Cooking Turkey... with Electricity

The options for cooking a turkey are seemingly endless, but leave it to founding father Benjamin Franklin to invent one more — electrocution.Read More ›

Evacuation Day: New York's Former November Holiday

A once-annual holiday local to New York City, Evacuation Day was formerly equal in importance to the Fourth of July. Referring to the evacuation of British troops from New York City following the Revolutionary War, the celebration of the troops’ departure was observed yearly throughout the early 20th century. Read More ›

Classroom Connections: Reconstructing Reconstruction (Gr. 11-12)

This Unit, for Grades 11-12, is a historical analysis of how school textbooks tell the story of the Post-Civil War Era, focusing on the evolution of how U.S. History textbooks interpret the history of Reconstruction.Read More ›

Classroom Connections: World War II and the Double V Campaign (Gr. 10-12)

"The Pittsburgh Courier drew its inspiration for the Double V campaign from a letter by James G. Thompson of Wichita, Kansas, published in the January 31, 1942 issue. Thompson, in his letter titled 'Should I Sacrifice to Live 'Half American?',' advocated for a 'double VV' for a dual victory over enemies to the country and enemies—opposed to equality, justice, and democracy—at home. In its next issue, on February 7, the Courier displayed Double V drawings emphasizing the theme 'Democracy, At Home, Abroad.' The paper announced the Double V campaign the next week, declaring 

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September Author @ the Library Programs at Mid-Manhattan

The centrality of sunshine… the most fascinating New York Times obits of the year… the riddle of the

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Classroom Connections: Lists for Lesson Planning (Gr. 6-12)

Aguilar Library, 1938 - Librarian w/ students. Want to know more about our current educational initiatives? See The ABC of Education: Why Libraries Matter by Maggie Jacobs, Director of Educational ProgramsWe have just shuttered the doors on our first Education Innovation @ NYPL Summer Institute. During this three week Institute, master teachers from NYC (and further afar) met curators from our Research 

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Classroom Connections: The Underground Railroad to Canada (Gr. 6-8)

"I left the States for Canada, for rights, freedom, liberty. I came to Buxton [Ontario] to educate my children" —Henry Johnson (pp. 307 A North-side View of Slavery: The Refugee, Or, The Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada)

Additional Resources for Further Reading Expanded Text List - Slavery ... Read More ›

From Sanitary Fairs to "The Settlement": Early Charity Cookbooks

One hundred and fifty years ago, as the Civil War raged, the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) was busy raising money to improve conditions for Union soldiers. Early on in the war, people realized that, in addition to the terrible loss of life during the battles, an appalling number of casualties occurred because of poor sanitation and inadequate medical care. One very successful method of fundraising by the USSC was "Sanitary Fairs"—exhibitions and festivals held throughout the Northern states. Merchandise for sale at the fairs might include clothing, toys, tobacco, 

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USSC Processing Project: The United States Sanitary Commission Records Open for Research on July 16, 2013

We are delighted to announce that archival processing of the records of this important Civil War humanitarian organization has been completed. The collection will be available for research in the Manuscripts and Archives Division reading room beginning on July 16, following usual procedures. A draft guide to the collection will be made available at that time.

A snapshot of USSC shelvingThe project marks the first comprehensive arrangement of the entire collection since 1878, made possible by 

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Why They Visit

Yesterday, more than 7,500 people waited outside my office here in the main building of the Library. Today looks just as busy. They are not waiting for the latest blockbuster movie or even, as is often the case, in smaller numbers, to use our computers. This is something entirely different.

We have on public display, together, for the first time in decades, one of two surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson's hand and one of the original copies of the Bill of Rights drawn up by George Washington to send to the states for ratification. 

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Landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decisions: A Book List

Last week, the United States Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

In 1996 DOMA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages for purposes such as Social Security survivors' benefits, insurance benefits, immigration and tax filing.

Section 3 of the law defines marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband 

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Why Your Family Name Was Not Changed at Ellis Island (and One That Was)

Between 1892 and 1954, over twelve million people entered the United States through the immigration inspection station at Ellis Island, a small island located in the upper bay off the New Jersey coast. There is a myth that persists in the field of genealogy, or more accurately, in family lore, that family names were changed there. They were not. Numerous blogs, essays, and books have proven this. Yet the myth persists; a story in a recent issue of The New Yorker suggests that it happened. This post will explore how and why names were not changed. It will then tell the story of Frank 

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Celebrating America: A Book List for Kids

In college, I studied American History and Politics, but my interest in these subjects was sparked long before that, when as a child, I was exposed to several books, movies and TV shows that celebrated American history.

Three items in particular had a tremendous impact on me, and made me want to learn more about my country. Schoolhouse Rock was a series of educational shorts that ran in between the cartoons on Saturday mornings. Almost anyone of my generation will tell you that 

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Booktalking "Which Side Are You On?" by George Ella Lyon

This book is the story of a song written by Florence Reece in 1931. Florence's son tells how his father is a miner, their family resides in a company house, and his father gets paid in money that is only good at the company store.

The boy's father says that this is why they need a union. The workers ask for better 

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Catching the 7 Line: The International Express to NYPL!

7 Train by Scott Beale on FlickrApril is Immigrant Heritage Month. In New York City, April 17th to 24th is Immigrant Heritage Week. In honor of both celebrations of Immigrant Heritage, this blog will focus on the multiculturalism of the 7 train.

If you live in Queens, New York, and you work in midtown like me, there might be a possibility that you often take the MTA train to work, particularly the

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Playboy: A Seductive Periodical or Champion of Sexual Liberalism?

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is intended for mature readers onlyRecognize the icon above? Perhaps you may not realize this but Playboy the publication, historically speaking, has been a leading magazine devoted to freedom of expression and human rights (to a certain extent). Founded in 1953 in Chicago by Hugh Hefner, Playboy has often been perceived as a "taboo" 

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James A. Hamilton: Mousetraps, Memory and a Forgotten Secretary of State

In 1869, James Alexander Hamilton published a memoir. The third son of Alexander Hamilton was a Columbia-educated district attorney, colonel, writer and diplomat who addressed many aspects of his "varied life" in The Reminiscences of James A. Hamilton.i But while The Reminiscences have often been used as a source in the biographies of the father, they have never been used to tell the story of the son. A selection of Hamilton's papers and correspondence made it into the published work but the

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: After Antietam

September 17, 2012 marked the 150th anniversary of the battle of Antietam, often called "the bloodiest day in American history." With Alexander Gardner's images before us, we can easily imagine the horrific strife of those few hours that left behind over 23,000 casualties. Other contemporary materials can show us what it was like for a soldier to experience that single day within the context of a long and grueling campaign. Project staff member Joseph Lapinski describes such an item encountered in the USSC's 

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The Emperor of the United States

Some people are already tired of hearing about the 2012 election campaign. But they should be grateful for our election process, because our democratically-elected government was once a monarchy. No, I'm not referring to the British royal family. I'm talking about Joshua Abraham Norton, the self-styled "Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico" — and surely one of the most eccentric American Jews of the nineteenth century. You can read about his exploits in books from the Dorot Jewish 

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The Drillmaster: Biography of Baron de Steuben

Von Steuben has been a figure of pop Revolutionary War mythology for too long. This excellent 2008 bio places him firmly within the context of the 1700s. With family connections close to the Hohenzollern Monarchy, Steuben should have been placed to rise pretty high in the Prussian officer hierarchy. He saw active service in the beginning of the Seven Years War and witnessed the bloodshed of the first heavy battles of the war at Prague in 1756. He saw further 

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