Bering land bridge in autumn

September 23, 2013

World and U.S. history classes should be long past this point, but the photo just recently surfaced:

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Department of Interior

From America’s Outdoors: Bering Land Bridge National Preserve – Gone are the shockingly bright pinks, yellows and purples of summer, replaced by deeper and darker reds, yellows, greens and the beginnings of brown, all of equal vibrancy and beauty. And soon, as the 34 degree weather and diminishing daylight would lead us to believe, a blanket of white will fall upon the landscape. Enjoy the change of seasons wherever you may be!

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve? Did you even know there was such a thing?  Part of our public lands, your tax dollars at work.

Not a place for a Sunday drive.  There are no roads to get to the place.  For students, this site offers a lot of photos and interesting stuff for projects in history (human migrations) and geography (land forms, lava flows, migration routes, wilderness).


Tors of Serpentine, in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska - NPS photo

Tors of Serpentine, in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska – NPS photo

History of America, or art in America, or American art, or . . .

July 9, 2013

Brilliant piece from Grant Snider — history teachers, this should be a poster in your classroom, no?  Art teachers?

Grant Snider's

Grant Snider’s “American Art, exploring a country through its paintings”

In the course of a junior-level, high school U.S. history class, students should experience each of these works, and many others.  This is one whimsical way to work with serious and uplifting material, no?

Mr. Snider has a short essay — inspiring — and the information on each of the works he portrays, at the Modern Art site (I’ve added links below, here).

Since that formative vacation, the art museum is always one my of first stops in visiting a new city. In the comic above, I’ve curated my ideal collection of 20th-century American art. Here’s a list of works in order of appearance:

Jasper Johns, “Flag”

Edward Hopper,Morning Sun

Ellsworth Kelly, “Red Blue Green”

Wayne Thiebaud, “Refrigerator Pie”

Grant Wood, “Young Corn”

Roy Lichtenstein, “Whaam!”

Stuart Davis, “Colonial Cubism”

Andy Warhol, “Campbell’s Soup Cans”

George Bellows, “Dempsey and Firpo”

Jackson Pollock, “Autumn Rhythm”

Georgia O’Keeffe, “Sky Above Clouds III”

What are your favorite American art works, and what do they portray or demonstrate that you like?


How to tell the textbook approval process is broken: Virginia’s voodoo history

October 25, 2010

4th graders in Virginia could learn from their history texts that thousands of African Americans formed battalions in the Confederate Army and fought to save the South, during the Civil War — entire battalions under Gen. Stonewall Jackson.

That’s what the book claims, anyway.  It’s fiction.  The author fell victim to a hoax.

Kevin Sieff exposed the book in The Washington Post last week.  Virginia education officials quickly moved to discourage teachers from teaching the erroneous passages.  Some education authorities pulled the books.  The incident exposes problems in the textbook approval processes popular in southern states.

If you had hoped textbook craziness was confined to Texas, you know better now.


So, on June 2, 1924, all American Indians became citizens of the U.S.

June 2, 2010

English colonists, and then citizens of the new United States of America, regarded Native Americans as foreign groups, people of other lands. It’s part of a history of bad relations and bad faith between peoples on this continent that we gloss over with the good relations and good faith.

The whole story is important.  It’s been told, and told well, at the Library of Congress:

On June 2, 1924, Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act, which granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S. The right to vote, however, was governed by state law; until 1957, some states barred Native Americans from voting. In a WPA interview from the 1930s, Henry Mitchell describes the attitude toward Native Americans in Maine, one of the last states to comply with the Indian Citizenship Act:

One of the Indians went over to Old Town once to see some official in the city hall about voting. I don’t know just what position that official had over there, but he said to the Indian, ‘We don’t want you people over here. You have your own elections over on the island, and if you want to vote, go over there.

‘”The Life of Henry Mitchell,”
Old Town, Maine,
Robert Grady, interviewer,
circa 1938-1939.
American Life Histories, 1936-1940

Native Americans During Mathematics Class

Native Americans During Mathematics Class at Indian School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Native Americans During Mathematics Class, (detail)
Indian School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania,
Frances Benjamin Johnston, photographer, 1903.
Prints and Photographs Division

Previously, the Dawes Severalty Act (1887) had shaped U.S. policy towards Native Americans. In accordance with its terms, and hoping to turn Indians into farmers, the federal government redistributed tribal lands to heads of families in 160-acre allotments. Unclaimed or “surplus” land was sold, and the proceeds used to establish Indian schools where Native-American children learned reading, writing, and the domestic and social systems of white America. By 1932, the sale of both unclaimed land and allotted acreage resulted in the loss of two-thirds of the 138 million acres that Native Americans had held prior to the Dawes Act.

In addition to the extension of voting rights to Native Americans, the Secretary of the Interior commission created the Meriam Commission to assess the impact of the Dawes Act. Completed in 1928, the Meriam Report described how government policy oppressed Native Americans and destroyed their culture and society.

The poverty and exploitation resulting from the paternalistic Dawes Act spurred passage of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. This legislation promoted Native-American autonomy by prohibiting allotment of tribal lands, returning some surplus land, and urging tribes to engage in active self-government. Rather than imposing the legislation on Native Americans, individual tribes were allowed to accept or reject the Indian Reorganization Act. From 1934 to 1953, the U.S. government invested in the development of infrastructure, health care, and education, and the quality of life on Indian lands improved. With the aid of federal courts and the government, over two million acres of land were returned to various tribes.

American Indians of the Pacific Northwest

Salish man
Salish Man Named Paul Challae and Small Child,
date unknown.

Salish couple

Salish Man and Woman Sitting on Rocks, Montana (?) (date unknown.)

Salish Man and Woman Sitting on Rocks,
Montana [?],
date unknown. 

Salish Woman and Children

Salish Woman and Children

Salish Woman and Children,
St. Ignatius Mission, Montana.

American Indians of the Pacific Northwest integrates over 2,300 photographs and 7,700 pages of text relating to Native Americans of two cultural areas of the Pacific Northwest. Many aspects of life and work — including housing, clothing, crafts, transportation, education, and employment, are illustrated in this collection drawn from the extensive holdings of the University of Washington Libraries, the Cheney Cowles Museum/Eastern Washington State Historical Society, and the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.

And doesn’t that just frost the tar out of the birthers?  Herbert Hoover just five years later chose Charles Curtis to be  his vice presidential candidate, and Curtis served for four years.  Curtis, born in the Kansas Territory before it was a state, came from Native American ancestry.

Shakiest states — geologically, that is

March 4, 2010

USGS map of states with the most quakes

Quake rankings of states

Which states shake the most?  Here are the top 20.

Surprised that Maine makes the list?

Much more from the US Geological Survey here, “Top Earthquake States.”

The debt the U.S. owes to Haiti: The Louisiana Purchase

January 24, 2010

Every Texas school kid learns that the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 created one of the great turning points in American history.  Parts or all of 15 different states came out of the land acquired from Napoleon in that deal.  Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery spent more than two years mapping the newly-acquired territory, and didn’t really scratch the surface of the riches to be found.

Why was Napoleon so willing to deal Louisiana, so cheaply?

What else happened in 1803?  Haiti’s slaves rose up and cast off French rule. Haiti had been the jewel of France’s overseas colonies.   Napoleon became convinced that holding and ruling North American territories could be more pain and trouble than it was worth

So, along came John Jay to secure navigation rights in the territory . . .

CBS Sunday Morning featured a good story on the event, and on Haiti, on January 17.  You can read the transcript here.

Encore post: Rosa Parks, December 1, 1955

December 1, 2009

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted, Library of Congress

Rosa Parks: “Why do you push us around?”

Officer: “I don’t know but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.”

From Rosa Parks with Gregory J. Reed, Quiet Strength
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1994), page 23.

Photo: Mrs. Parks being fingerprinted in Montgomery, Alabama; photo from New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, Library of Congress

Today in History at the Library of Congress states the simple facts:

On the evening of December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, an African American, was arrested for disobeying an Alabama law requiring black passengers to relinquish seats to white passengers when the bus was full. Blacks were also required to sit at the back of the bus. Her arrest sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system and led to a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation.

Rosa Parks made a nearly perfect subject for a protest on racism. College-educated, trained in peaceful protest at the famous Highlander Folk School, Parks was known as a peaceful and respected person. The sight of such a proper woman being arrested and jailed would provide a schocking image to most Americans. Americans jolted awake.

Often lost in the retelling of the story are the threads that tie together the events of the civil rights movement through the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. As noted, Parks was a trained civil rights activist. Such training in peaceful and nonviolent protest provided a moral power to the movement probably unattainable any other way. Parks’ arrest was not planned, however. Parks wrote that as she sat on the bus, she was thinking of the tragedy of Emmet Till, the young African American man from Chicago, brutally murdered in Mississippi early in 1955. She was thinking that someone had to take a stand for civil rights, at about the time the bus driver told her to move to allow a white man to take her seat. To take a stand, she remained seated. [More below the fold]

Read the rest of this entry »

What books and papers literally turned history around?

November 6, 2009

Debating the effects  of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring got me wondering about the true influence of that book.  That quickly turned into wondering about the true influence of other writings, books and papers that might be credited with having turned around history in a given field, or in the United States (I’m focusing on U.S. history this year since that’s what I’m teaching).

What books and writings — not events, not inventions — literally changed U.S. history?

I have a quick list, not in chronological order, nor any other order, really:

  1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
  2. Common Sense,” Tom Paine’s broadside
  3. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations
  4. Federalist Papers and Antifederalist Papers
  5. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriett Beecher Stowe
  6. Das Kapital, by Karl Marx
  7. On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin
  8. Perhaps The Bible, at least after 1880 during the rise of fundamentalism
  9. Einstein’s five papers in 1905 (which led to a cascade of events to nuclear weapons, and more)
  10. John Maynard Keynes’ General Theory on Employment, Interest and Money (or would his Treatise on Money be the one to look at?)
  11. Ludwig von Mises (which writing?)
  12. Crick’s and Watson’s paper on DNA in 1953
  13. Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
  14. Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” in the way it recast the Declaration of Independence

What about Profiles in Courage? Did it have so much influence?  Any influence at all?

I didn’t include Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but I wonder if it should be there.  I regard it as the novel in which America came of age, when Huck decides he’ll go ahead and burn in hell by not turning Jim in as an escaped slave, because Jim is a man and a good friend.  (I don’t think a discussion of the validity of Huck’s religious beliefs gets at the issue here, where he does what is right assuming bad consequences, but maybe that’s a greater influence later on.)

Oh, surely I’ve overlooked some very important contribution by someone.  De Tocqueville perhaps?  Were there other books that were greatly influential in their time, that we now generally don’t consider?  Ida Tarbell’s work, perhaps?  Did Edwin Hubble have a fundamental publication we can point to?  How about Alpher, Herman and Gamow and Big Bang?

A follow-on question might be music, plays and movies that had similar results —  not sure of any that qualify, though I wonder about the influence of “Show Boat” in the campaign for desegregation and civil rights, and I wonder about the influence of “Our Town” on our view of civic government and small town life especially given that so many thousands of people participated in local and school productions of the thing over the years.  “Hair!?”

I’m looking for sources to use to provide genuine light to a high school student in U.S. history.  Some of these sources we touch on, but others are completely ignored in all current U.S. history texts for public schools.

What do you think?

Typewriter of the moment: Hemingway’s, at Key West

June 18, 2009

The man wrote, wherever he was.

Hemingways typewriter at Key West, Florida - Stefan Möding, copyright

Hemingway's typewriter at Key West, Florida - Stefan Möding, copyright

Ernest Hemingway often wrote standing up at his typewriter.  Obviously, here in Key West, he wrote sitting down.  At every home, it appears, he had a typewriter.

In Key West, early on in an apartment near the Ford dealership, where they awaited the delivery of the Ford purchased for Hemingway and his wife Pauline, by Pauline’s Uncle Gus, Hemingway wrote most of A Farewell to Arms, published in 1929.

The house was purchased later.  I can’t tell — some say he used here a Royal Quiet DeLuxe.

Pauline and Hemingway divorced in 1939.

In Key West, visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.

Gambling to make government work, in Cave Creek, Arizona

June 17, 2009

It helps that it happened in a small Arizona town, in the desert, with a colorful name.  You cannot imagine such a thing happening in Yonkers, New York, nor in West Bend, Wisconsin.

A deadlocked election for the Cave Creek city council came down to a draw from a deck of cards, a poker deck carefully shuffled by a robed judge.

Cave Creek, Arizona, Judge George Preston, shuffles cards to breal a deadlock between Thomas McGuire, left, and Adam Trenk.  New York Times photo by Joshua Trent

Cave Creek, Arizona, Judge George Preston, shuffles cards to breal a deadlock between Thomas McGuire, left, and Adam Trenk. New York Times photo by Joshua Trent

We get the story from The New York Times:

Adam Trenk and Thomas McGuire, both in blue jeans and open-collar shirts, strode nervously into Town Hall with their posses. There stood the town judge. He selected a deck of cards from a Stetson hat and shuffled it — having removed the jokers — six times.

Mr. McGuire, 64, a retired science teacher and two-term incumbent on the Town Council, selected a card, the six of hearts, drawing approving oos and aws from his supporters.

Mr. Trenk, 25, a law student and newcomer to town, stepped forward. He lifted a card — a king of hearts — and the crowd roared. Cave Creek had finally selected its newest Council member.

“It’s a hell of a way to win — or lose — an election,” Mr. McGuire said. Still, it was only fitting, Mr. McGuire and others here said, that a town of 5,000 that prides itself on, and sometimes fights over, preserving its horse trails, ranches and other emblems of the Old West would cut cards to decide things. A transplant of 10 years from Yorktown Heights, N.Y., north of New York City, Mr. McGuire said he knew things were different here when not long after arriving he walked into a bar and found a horse inside.

Marshall Trimble, a cowboy singer, folklorist and community college professor who serves as Arizona’s official historian, said, “We are pretty tied to our roots here, at least we like to think so.”

Hans Zinnser, in the venerable Rats, Lice and History,  relates the story of an eastern European town where such ties are broken by lice — the two candidates put their beards on a table, and a louse is placed between the men.  The man whose beard the louse chooses is the winner.

Of course, this makes it difficult for women to participate in government fully.

Cave Creek is a typical cowboy, American town.  Deadlocks in government can be resolved by a game of chance.

Government teachers, history teachers, go get this story and clip it — it’s a good bell ringer, if not a full lesson in democratic republican government.

So, as the state’s Constitution allows, a game of chance was called to break the deadlock. The two candidates agreed on a card game (alternatives from the past have included rolling dice and, on rare occasions, gunfights).

Mr. Trimble said a cutting of the cards or roll of the dice had decided ties a handful of times in Arizona local elections. Tie-breakers have also been tried in other states, including in recent years in Alaska and Minnesota, said Paul Fidalgo, a spokesman for FairVote, a Washington group that monitors and advocates for fair elections.

Mr. Fidalgo said the group objected to random chance as the decider of election outcomes.

“Definitely not a democratic ideal, to say the least,” he said, suggesting, among other ideas, that the tied candidates engage in one more runoff.

That was ruled out here as too expensive, and besides, this was much more fun, as Mayor Vincent Francia made clear, clutching a microphone and serving as M.C.

“Originally we thought of settling this with a paintball fight but that involves skill, and skill is not allowed in this,” Mr. Francia said to laughter.

Did you ever think that the ability to shuffle a deck of cards would be a job skill for a judge?  There’s a reason law students play poker in the coffee lounge, and all weekend!

There’s more.  Go read the Times. This is also why the New York Times is a great paper, and why we cannot function without “mainstream media.”  Who else could have brought us the story?

More resources:

Texas Statehood, December 29, 1845

December 29, 2008

163 years ago today: Rub your pet armadillo’s belly, slaughter the fatted longhorn, crank up the barbecue pit with the mesquite wood, put Willie Nelson and Bob Wills on the mp3 player, put the “Giant” DVD on the television, and raise your glass of Lone Star Beer (or Pearl, or Shiner Bock, or Llano Wine).

Texas was admitted to the union of the United States of America on December 29, 1845.

President Polks Authorization to Affix the Great Seal to Texas Statehood - Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas at Austin

President Polk's Authorization to Affix the Great Seal to Texas Statehood - Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas at Austin

The text reads:

I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to affix the Seal of the United States to an authenticated copy of “an act to extend the laws of the United States over the State of Texas and for other purposes” approved Dec. 29, 1845 dated this day, and signed by me and for so doing this shall be his warrant.

James K. Polk
Washington, Dec. 29, 1845

Great Seal of the United States of America - State Archives Division, Texas State Library

Great Seal of the United States of America - State Archives Division, Texas State Library


Quote of the moment: William Pitt, on the crime of being young

July 22, 2008

One of the philosophers of Rising Sun (CRS – LA Jonas Foundation) observed that it is impossible to be both young and brave, and old and wise. Age of our leaders often equates to experience. Age becomes an issue in election campaigns — Ronald Reagan, the previous record holder of the oldest person ever to run for a first term as president of the United States before John McCain, headed off arguments that he was “too old” with a zinger in a debate with Walter Mondale in Reagan’s campaign for reelection in 1984.

It was the second debate in 1984, from Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium (To confuse our foreign readers, we should note that this is in Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas City, Kansas, is on the western side of the river, and is a city of less consequence than Kansas City, Missouri, in population, and in most discussions. We confuse our foreign readers in revenge for English politics, which pertains to the Quote of the Moment, but cannot be explained by or to a person who is not intoxicated). The debate focused on foreign policy and the future of the world. Among the panel of journalists doing the questioning in this deformed type of debate, was the late Henry Trewhitt, then diplomatic correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, one of America’s historically great newspapers, and still great.

About 20 minutes into the debate, Trewhitt asked this question:

REPORTER: Mr. President, I want to raise an issue that I think has been lurking out there for two or three weeks, and cast it specifically in national security terms. You already are the oldest President in history, and some of your staff say you were tired after your most recent encounter with Mr. Mondale. I recall, yes, that President Kennedy, who had to go for days on end with very little sleep during the Cuba missile crisis. Is there any doubt in your mind that you would be able to function in such circumstances?

Reagan sealed his reputation for wit, and probably sealed the election, with this previously-scripted (we know now) zinger:

REAGAN: Not at all, Mr. Trewhitt and I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience. If I still have time, I might add, Mr. Trewhitt, I might add that it was Seneca or it was Cicero, I don’t know which, that said if it was not for the elders correcting the mistakes of the young, there would be no state.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale, a great statesman in his own right, and no youth at the time, had a solid response, but not an election-winning response: It won no laughter. (It’s interesting, in 2008, to remember that Mondale was criticizing Reagan for his failure to act to prevent a terrorist attack on U.S. forces in Lebanon, that killed more than 200 Marines.):

REPORTER [Henry Trewhitt]: Mr. Mondale, I’m going to hang in there. Should the President’s age and stamina be an issue in the political campaign?

MONDALE: No. And I have not made it an issue nor should it be. What’s at issue here is the President’s application of his authority to understand what a President must know to lead this nation, secure our defense and make the decisions and judgments that are necessary. A minute ago, the President quoted Cicero, I believe. I want to quote somebody a little closer home, Harry Truman. He said the buck stops here. We just heard the President’s answer for the problems at the barracks in Lebanon where 241 Marines were killed. What happened? First, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the President, said don’t put those troops there. They did it. And then five days before the troops were killed, they went back to the President, through the Secretary of Defense, and said please, Mr. President, take those troops out of there because we can’t defend them. They didn’t do it. And we know what’s – what happened. After that, once again our embassy was exploded. This is the fourth time this has happened – an identical attack in the same region, despite warnings even public warnings from the terrorists. Who’s in charge? Who’s handling this matter. That’s my main point.

Which brings us to William Pitt’s remarks.

William Pitt, later Earl of Chatham, was 32 years old, and already a powerful member of the Whig opposition to England’s de facto first, and longest-serving Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, (who also was a Whig — see what I mean about English politics?). Though leading the opposition to Walpole, Pitt and a few of his colleagues were known as the Patriot Boys (Kansas City residing mostly in Missouri pales in comparison to these complexities of British politics).

Walpole, 32 years older than Pitt, leader of the House of Commons, complained at some point about Pitt’s youth. Walpole played dirty against Pitt, getting Pitt’s commission in the military cancelled. The two would dispute for a few years yet — finally, Pitt’s side prevailed, and Walpole lost a vote of confidence.

But on March 6, 1741, Pitt rose in the House of Commons and responded to Walpole’s charges:

“The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honorable gentleman [Walpole] has with such spirit and decency charged upon me, I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny; but content myself with wishing that I may be one of those whose follies may cease with their youth, and not of that number who are ignorant in spite of experience.”*

Walpole, Massachusetts, founded in 1724, is named after Robert Walpole. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is named after William Pitt (the elder), as are Pittsfield County, Virginia, Chatham County, North Carolina (remember, Pitt was later Earl of Chatham), Pittsburg, New Hampshire, Chatham, New Jersey, and Chatham University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

William Pitt, later Earl of Chatham

William Pitt, later Earl of Chatham

* Did Pitt ever actually utter these words? There was no official reporting service for debates in the House of Commons in 1741. Some speeches were written out before hand, some were carefully noted. This speech, alas, comes to us reported by the essayist and literature critic Samuel Johnson, who was famous for writing great speeches for members of the House of Commons, after the fact. Of this particular speech, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 17th ed. carries this footnote: “This was the composition of Johnson, founded on some note or statement of the actual speech. Johnson said, ‘That speech I wrote in a garret, in Exeter Street'” – Boswell, Life of Johnson [1791]. If only Walter Mondale had Samuel Johnson whispering in his ear. Barack Obama may need the whisperings of Johnson in the current campaign.

Horace Mann schools – how many?

December 29, 2007

Education majors know he had something to do with creating modern public education. Ed.D.s probably know more about Horace Mann‘s actual life, actions and philosophy. Local school boards know enough to name a school after him from time to time.

But has anyone actually kept count? How many schools in the U.S. — or anywhere else — are named after Horace Mann? Is there a registry somewhere? We know of a few:

Antioch College continues to operate in accordance with the egalitarian and humanitarian values of Horace Mann. A monument including his statue stands in lands belonging to the college in Yellow Springs, Ohio with his quote and college motto “Be Ashamed to Die Until You Have Won Some Victory for Humanity.”

There are a number of schools in the U.S. named for Mann, including ones in Arkansas, Washington, D.C., Boston, Charleston, West Virginia, Marstons Mills, Massachusetts, Salem, Massachusetts, Redmond, Washington, Fargo, North Dakota, St. Louis, Missouri, Chicago, North Bergen, New Jersey and the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, New York. The University of Northern Colorado named the gates to their campus in his dedication, a gift of the Class of 1910.[9]

Horace Mann Arts & Science Magnet Middle School, Little Rock, Ark

If you know of a Horace Mann school, would you comment? Tell us about it, where it is, and how long it’s been there.

And if you know of a list of the schools, let us know.

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