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Blog Posts by Subject: United States History

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)

There is a myth that persists in the field of genealogy, or more accurately, in family lore, that family names were changed at Ellis Island. They were not. Read More ›

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 they 

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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 service commanding Free Batalion Mayer, 

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Surprises in the Jerome Robbins Audio Collection

Archival collections can harbor surprises — which makes the job of processing them fun!  The personal archives of artists not only document their careers and personal lives, but often contain material reflecting their interests and their times.

Jerome Robbins, a choreographer of prolific and complex genius whose work spanned ballet and musical theater, was a long-time supporter of the New York Public Library’s Dance Division. On 

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Booktalking "Black Storm Comin'" by Diane Lee Wilson

Black Storm Comin'  by Diane Lee Wilson, 2005 

12-year-old Colton first becomes entranced by the Pony Express when travelling in the 1860 westward expansion on a wagon train. A horse and clinging boy sped past him and did not look back. Got him to wonderin' 

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Inspiration in the Picture Collection: Louis Slobodkin

For the famous or for those aspring to be, for those who have a job to do, an assignment to finish, or for those just doing what they love, the Picture Collection has long been a valuable resource and source of inspiration.

On May 20, 1944 the Picture Collection received a thank-you letter from Louis Slobodkin.

Slobodkin was a sculptor, author, and illustrator and a regular user of the Picture Collection.

In 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: A Day at the (Civil War) Office

Anna Peterson, a graduate student at the University of Michigan's School of Information, recently helped us organize some correspondence of the USSC's Hospital Directory office in Philadelphia. Here are Anna's impressions of a letter she found in the collection during her internship with the Manuscripts and Archives Division:

The Hospital Directory, with offices in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Louisville, was established in 1862 to collect and record information concerning the location of sick and wounded soldiers in U.S. Army hospitals. Members of the 

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Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month: History and Resources

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. This month celebrates the contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

In 1978, Congress passed a joint congressional resolution to observe and honor Asian American Heritage week during the first week of May. Historically, Asians have played an important role in American history. The week celebrates two anniversaries: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7th, 

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Manifesting Destiny: First Person Accounts of Westward Migration

The 1840s marked a period of unfettered expansion and exploration in America. Whether inspired by the romantic nationalism of John O'Sullivan's "Manifest Destiny," or by the more material goal of striking gold at Sutter's Mill, nearly half a million Americans pushed westward by land and by sea in search of new ground, new opportunities, and new lives. Within these larger historical currents, researchers can find the stories of individual 

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Women's and Gender Studies: A Research Guide

March is Women's History Month. This year, the theme of Women's History Month is Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This blog post will explore how one can conduct research in women's and gender studies and history.

The research collections of The 

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Article and Artifact — Digitization's Dilemma: A True Story

Every librarian understands that the increased reliance on digital resources is a Faustian bargain.

While the stakes may not seem as high as in the legend, the risks are plain, clear, and much discussed in library and publishing literature. For any organization that wishes to preserve or archive its resources, digitization can be both a blessing and a curse. Easier access versus preservation concerns may not be possible to reconcile completely.

On a day-to-day level, the limitations of some digital resources are painfully evident. Particularly on a 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Army of the Potomac

The Army of the Potomac Archives, part of the United States Sanitary Commission Records, is an important resource for anyone interested in studying the USSC’s work alongside the Union armies on campaign in eastern Virginia from 1862-1865, especially during the long and bloody struggle from the battle of the Wilderness in 1864 to the fall of Petersburg and Richmond in 1865. Archivist Elizabeth Delmage shares materials explored during processing, which shed light on how the USSC geared up its systems to meet ever-growing military and humanitarian needs.

Journals 

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