Archive for August, 2011

On August 31, 1886 a powerful earthquake hit Charleston, South Carolina.  Though the Richter Scale would not be developed until 1935, retroactive analysis estimates a magnitude of 7.3.  To date, it is the most damaging earthquake to have occurred in the Southeast United States.  In just under a minute, 60 lives were lost and 2,000 buildings were damaged.  Scientists continue to study this event as an example of an intraplate earthquake, which occurs in the interior of a tectonic plate rather than at a plate boundary.  Intraplate earthquakes are relatively rare and their exact mechanisms have yet to be understood.

A view of the damage at the corner of Cumberland and East Bay. Image courtesy of the Medical University of South Carolina.

Last week another intraplate earthquake hit the Southeast with an epicenter in the town of Mineral, VA.  This event was shortly followed by Hurricane Irene, which traveled up the East Coast from the Carolinas.  Opening History has many collections documenting historic natural hazards and disasters that have struck the United States, including the 1886 Charleston Earthquake Photographs, the Georgetown County Hurricane Collection, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Digital Collection, 1936 Gainesville Tornado: Disaster and Recovery, Louisiana Hurricane Resources, and the Lousiana State Museum Hurricane Katrina Oral History Project.

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Happy Lefthanders Day. Perhaps this isn’t quite in the spirit of the holiday, but a historical curiosity related to left-handedness…there was once an exhibition — with more than 1,000 mid-19th-c. dollars in prizes — of lefthanded penmanship by vets who lost right arms in the Civil War. For more info, see the Library of Congress’ American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera collection.

Opening History features other curious historical resources on left-handedness, including the photo below (see more info) from the Jack L. Demmons / Bonner School Photographs collection of the Archives & Special Collections, Mansfield Library, at the University of Montana-Missoula.

Three students and two superintendents look on as a fourth student, Dick Johnson, writes left-handed at a desk with jar of ink by him.

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On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon appeared on national television to announce his resignation, effective on August 9. Nixon’s resignation stemmed from the Watergate scandal, which started when a group of men was arrested after breaking in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters in June 1972. Evidence soon implicated the president’s staff in the scandal, and now infamous recordings ultimately revealed Nixon’s own role in attempting to cover up the crime. Just a few weeks later Nixon’s successor, President Gerald Ford, sparked great controversy when he issued Nixon a full pardon.

Then Vice President Richard Nixon on a visit to Salt Lake City in October 1958. Image courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society

Opening History has some important materials related to Nixon and his political career, including numerous images taken during his time as Vice-President in the Utah State Historical Society Classified Photograph collection and the LA Examiner Digital Archive. The University of Michigan project Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States also offers Nixon’s public statements and speeches from throughout his presidency.

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On August 1, 1876, Colorado was admitted to the Union as the 28th state. Though Colorado had officially been named a U.S. Territory soon after the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush of 1859, initially resistance to statehood came from settlers unwilling to pay for the administration of the state. Even after Coloradans voted to become a state in 1865, Democratic President Andrew Johnson vetoed the statehood bill, knowing it would strengthen Republican representation in Congress and hurt his plans for Reconstruction. The battle for statehood continued until its ultimate success in 1876.

A stereograph image of Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, taken between 1870 and 1876. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Opening History has many collections related to the history of Colorado. The Western Waters repository includes six archival collections from Colorado State University, while the William Henry Jackson Collection from Brigham Young University includes over 190 photographs Jackson took in Colorado.

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