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Archive for July, 2011

On July 26, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln appointed General George McClellan commander of the Military Division of the Potomac, which by August included the Army of the Potomac. McClellan had previously gained national attention as commander of the Department of the Ohio, particularly through his victories while occupying Unionist regions of western Virginia that would later form part of West Virginia. As the leader of the Army of the Potomac, however, McClellan took a cautious approach that led to tensions with President Lincoln and others who wished to see greater aggression toward the Confederate Army.

Though McClellan had success in organizing the army and maintained great popularity among his troops, Lincoln ultimately removed the general from his post in November 1862. After an unsuccessful run against Lincoln in the 1864 presidential election and the conclusion of the Civil War, McClellan left for Europe, though he eventually returned and served one term as governor of New Jersey.

A photograph by well-known Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner shows President Abraham Lincoln and General George McClellan after the Battle of Antietam in 1862. Lincoln would remove McClellan from his post only a few weeks after this meeting. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

In Opening History, see the Library of Congress Civil War Photographs collection for thousands of images taken throughout the war, including portraits of McClellan.

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On July 18, 1947, the ship Exodus 1947 arrived on the Palestine shoreline after its voyage from France. The ship carried over 4,500 Jewish refugees, many of them Holocaust survivors, who were hoping to illegally immigrate to Palestine. Haganah, a paramilitary organization that preceded the Israeli Defense Forces, had bought the American-made ship for the voyage despite its poor condition in hopes that safety and public relations concerns would help immigrants gain entry to British-controlled Palestine. However, in part because of a 1939 policy that sharply limited Jewish immigration, after a skirmish British troops forcibly removed the refugees from the ship and ultimately deported them back to France and then to a displaced persons camp in Germany. This incident provoked international fury, and helped garner widespread support for the independent state of Israel, which came into existence after the British Mandate in Palestine ended in 1948.

Jewish refugees are guarded by British troops as they leave a train at Kuechnitz, Germany, before entering a displaced persons camp in July 1947. Image courtesy of Special Collections, Doheny Memorial Library, University of Southern California

Through Opening History, you can see other photos in the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, 1920-1961 from the University of Southern California that shed light on the history of Jewish immigration in the 1940s. Significant Documents Illuminating the American Jewish Experience is also an important resource available through the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

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On July 7, 1954, disk jockey Dewey Phillips in Memphis, Tennessee, helped make history when he put young Elvis Presley on the airwaves for the first time. The song, one of many Elvis would do during his famous sessions with Sun Studios, was “That’s All Right (Mama),” originally written in 1946 by blues singer/songwriter Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. Elvis had recorded it only two days before with seasoned musicians Scotty Moore and Bill Black. After it was released later that month, the record ultimately sold 20,000 copies and helped launch Elvis to regional and soon national fame.

Elvis Presley and the Jordanaires in concert at Sick's Stadium, Seattle, in 1957. Image courtesy of the Museum of Industry & History, Seattle

Opening History offers many collections related to popular music in the United States, with a particular strength in collections of sheet music from the early 20th century. The Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project by the University of California at Santa Barbara features downloadable and streaming recordings from the 1890s-1920s, while the Sam DeVincent Collection of American Sheet Music from Indiana University includes about 24,000 items from the 1790s-1980s.

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