Archive for September, 2011

On September 27, 1908, the first Ford Model T was completed at the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Michigan.  Widely considered to be the most influential car of the twentieth century, the Model T was the first automobile manufactured on an assembly line using interchangeable parts.  Henry Ford envisioned this car for the middle-class consumer, declaring:

“I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

Workers assembling a Model T automobile in 1913. Image courtesty of the Detroit Public Library, made available through The Making of Modern Michigan project.

Opening History is rich in resources related to the history of transportation.  For more information on early automobiles, visit The Making of Modern Michigan project hosted by Michigan State University and the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library’s New York to Paris Collection.

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Happy Birthday Mickey Rooney

Mickey Rooney is 91 today, September 23, 2011. In this photo from the Louisiana State Museum Jazz Collection, he’s pictured auditioning for Sharkey Bonano, sometime in the 1940s, in front of a sign for the patented “cure-all” Hadacol vitamin elixir. Rooney was one of many celebrities featured on Hadacol’s Good Will Caravan, the U.S.’s last traveling medical show, before Hadacol’s financial collapse in the early 50s.

Sharkey Bonano auditions Mickey Rooney

Sharkey Bonano auditions Mickey Rooney (1940s), courtesy the Louisiana State Museum Jazz Collection

You can find more on this and other interesting episodes in U.S. history at Opening History.

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Old Faithful

141 years ago today — September 18, 1870 — the geyser now known as Old Faithful was first seen by the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition. In his 1871 account of the expedition, Langford wrote, “Judge, then, what must have been our astonishment, as we entered the basin at mid-afternoon of our second day’s travel, to see in the clear sunlight, at no great distance, an immense volume of clear, sparkling water projected into the air to the height of one hundred and twenty-five feet. “Geysers! geysers!” exclaimed one of our company, and, spurring our jaded horses, we soon gathered around this wonderful phenomenon. It was indeed a perfect geyser…It spouted at regular intervals nine times during our stay, the columns of boiling water being thrown from ninety to one hundred and twenty-five feet at each discharge, which lasted from fifteen to twenty minutes. We gave it the name of ‘Old Faithful.'”

Old Faithful Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

The photo above comes from the William Henry Jackson Collection at Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Library. You can find more like it, along with resources from other national parks, at Opening History.

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On September 16, 1919, the American Legion was incorporated when Congress granted the organization a national charter. The group was originally planned by twenty officers serving in France during World War I as a mutual-aid organization to benefit veterans returning from the war. Today, nearly a century later, the Legion has some 3 million members and 14,000 posts worldwide with headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Officers and committee chairman of Witbeck Post #11 of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary at the foot of the Doughboy Statue in Vernal, Utah. Image courtesy of the Uintah County Library.

Opening History is an excellent resource for exploring local history collections, and it brings together documents and images pertaining to local posts of the American Legion from across the United States. The Uintah County Library, King County Snapshots, and the Illinois Digital Archive are just a few examples of the many collections with Legion materials.

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On this day in 1879, birth control activist Margaret Sanger was born in Corning, New York.  Sanger (née Higgens) was  the sixth of eleven children, and her mother’s poor health and early death, due in part to her 18 pregnancies, influenced her attitudes toward childbirth and women’s health.  In 1912, Sanger began working as a nurse with poor women on the East Side of Manhattan who were suffering from multiple childbirths and self-induced abortions, and, as a result of these experiences, Sanger soon gave up nursing and devoted her life to advocacy for family planning and sex education.  In 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League, which later became Planned Parenthood, and she worked tirelessly throughout her life to promote its mission by establishing clinics, embarking on speaking tours, and disseminating publications.  When the birth control pill was newly available in the 1960s, Sanger (then in her 80s) was its most outspoken advocate.

Image of Margaret Sanger courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Through Opening History, images of Sanger from the George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress may be found alongside her many publications, which have been made available through the Women Working, 1800-1930 and Immigration to the United States (1789-1930) collections at Harvard University Library.

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On September 8, 1935, Senator Huey P. Long of Louisiana was assassinated at the State Capitol.  At the time, Long was actively trying to pass “House Bill Number One,” a redistricting plan that would also ensure the removal of Judge Henry Pavey, one of Long’s many opponents.  At 9:20 pm Pavey’s son-in-law, Dr. Carl Weiss, is reported to have fired a handgun at Long, fatally striking him in the abdomen. Long died 2 days later while being treated at a local hospital.  He was a controversial political figure best remembered for his “Share Our Wealth” program and “Every Man a King” campaign slogan.

View of an article written about Senator Huey P. Long after his death. Image courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection.

Opening History brings together photographs, broadsides, speeches, newspaper articles and campaign memorabilia related to Senator Huey Long.  The above image is drawn from the LOUISiana Digital Library’s Charles L. Franck and Franck-Bertacci Collection and complements the Huey P. Long Collection and the Huey P. Long Photograph Album, 1928-1935.

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Labor Day

On September 5, 1882, the Central Labor Union of New York observed the first Labor Day.  It became a federal holiday twelve years later, in the wake of the Pullman Strike of 1894.  The conflict began in Pullman, IL when 3,000 employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company went on strike in response to cut wages and long work days.  It swiftly escalated to include over 250,000 workers from 27 states with the involvement of the American Railway Union, and it was broken up when President Grover Cleveland sent in United States Marshals and 12,000 Army troops.  Several workers were killed during the military intervention, and over the course of the conflict 13 workers died and 57 were wounded.  Within six days after the end of the strike, in an effort to reconcile with the labor movement, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was signed into law.

C&A Shops

The C&A Shops in Bloomington, IL where the first Pullman sleeper car was manufactured. Image courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Through Opening History, you can read more about labor history by browsing Labor and Social Movements: A Collection of Digitized Books, where you’ll find Grover Cleveland’s 1913 account of the Pullman Strike alongside other records and reports documenting this historic event.

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