Archive for October, 2011

Happy Halloween

The origins of Halloween may date as far back as the ancient Roman festival of Pomona or the medieval Celtic festival of Samhain, and the holiday is closely associated with the Christian holy days of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which are observed in a variety of ways around the world.  Celebrating Halloween, however, was never a traditional part of early American culture.  In fact, the holiday appears to have gained popularity as Scottish and Irish immigrants arrived in America in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, introducing local customs of “guising” on All-Hallows-Even to American children.  By the 1930s the custom of trick-or-treating in costume was widespread, and today Halloween is lavishly celebrated by adults and children alike with costume parties, parades, and haunted houses.

View of the S.Q.R. Store float in the 1957 Anaheim Halloween Festival Parade. Image courtesy of the Anaheim Public Library.

The Photograph Collection on Anaheim Local History includes dozens of photographs from Halloween parades in Anaheim, CA, and you can find more images of Halloween celebrations across the United States at Opening History.


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Statue of Liberty

On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty, designed by the French sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi, was dedicated on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. This statue has become an iconic figure in American culture.

Statue of Liberty depicted in a WWII poster
Statue of Liberty depicted in a WWII poster. Image courtesy of the University of Minnesota Libraries.

The Statue of Liberty came to represent freedom and American-style liberty. In 1901, the statue was transferred to the War Department which influenced the imagery of recruitment and bond posters during both World Wars.  Opening History has numerous examples of the Statue of Liberty’s image being used in the First and Second World War posters being used to sell Liberty War Bonds, as well as very old photographs of the statue and works in progress. These two images are courtesy of the University of Minnesota Libraries.

Statue of Liberty on an United Nations poster

Statue of Liberty on an United Nations poster. Image courtesy of the University of Minnesota Libraries.

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On October 26, 1958, Pan American World Airways inaugurated the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707.

Unveiling of Boeing's new 707 jet, Renton, 1954. Image courtesy of the Museum of History & Industry, Seattle (MOHAI).

The prototype had been unveiled four years earlier in the spring of 1954, and Pan Am placed an order for twenty planes in the fall of 1955.  After its first commercial flight, the 707 quickly gained popularity.  Its success prompted technological developments in airports, air traffic control, and other aspects of air transport infrastructure throughout the 1960s, and the jet remained in production until 1979.

View from Boeing 707 jet on Pam Am Polar Flight direct from San Francisco to London, 1961. Image courtesy of Indiana University Archives.

The history of transportation is one of the major collection strengths of Opening HistoryKing County Snapshots has many more images from the Boeing Company.  Complementary collections relating to the history of aviation include: the Wright Brothers Negatives, Arizona Aviation History: The Ruth Reinhold Collection, and the Springfield Aviation Company Collection.

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On October 23, 1925, Johnny Carson was born in a small town in Iowa.  From an early age, Carson expressed an interest in performance and entertainment, beginning with magic tricks that he performed as “The Great Carsoni.”  After a brief career in the military, he returned to the Midwest where he studied radio and speech at the University of Nebraska.  Following his graduation, he began a successful career in broadcasting that led him from Omaha, Nebraska to Los Angeles, California.  He is, of course, best remembered for hosting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for thirty years from 1962-1992. Through his work in television, he became a household name and a true American icon.

Johnny Carson and Jack Benny receive key to the city of Anaheim from Mayor Pebley on January 12, 1967. Image courtesy of the Anaheim Public Library, accessed through Calisphere.

You can find more on the history of television and broadcasting at Opening History.

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On October 18, 1773, Phillis Wheatley was emancipated from slavery in the wake of her first publication, a book of poetry entitled Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.  Wheatley was the first African-American poet and the first African-American woman ever to publish.  The broadside below is an elegiac poem in honor of George Whitefield, composed by Wheatley at age 17.

Elegiac poem, on the death of that celebrated divine, and eminent servant of Jesus Christ, the reverend and learned George Whitefield. By Phillis, a servant girl, of 17 years of age, belonging to Mr. J. Wheatley of Boston... Image courtesy of Connecticut History Online.

More poetry by Phillis Wheatley may be found through Opening History in A Celebration of Women Writers, American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera, and Connecticut History Online.

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Eugene O’Neil’s Birthday

On this day in 1888, the American playwright Eugene O’Neil was born in New York City. His plays have earned him several Pulitzer prizes for drama and a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1936. O’Neil’s plays were known for including vernacular and portraying characters on the edge of society.

WPA poster for "Emperor Jones." Image courtesy of the Library or Congress's Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943 collection.

To see more popular posters from the Great Depression, visit the The By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943 collection, which include items publicizing health and safety programs; cultural programs including art exhibitions, theatrical, and musical performances; travel and tourism; educational programs; and community activities in seventeen states and the District of Columbia.

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On October 11, 1884, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born to Elliott and Anna Hall Roosevelt at 56 West 37th Street in New York City.  She was the niece of Theodore Roosevelt and the fifth cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  She met Franklin in 1902, and the couple was married three years later.  In 1933, Eleanor became the First Lady of the United States, following her husband’s Presidential inauguration.  During that time, she set a precedent for public engagement: traveling on speaking tours, working as a newspaper columnist, and developing a presence in the media.  In 1945, President Harry Truman appointed her as a delegate to the General Assembly of the United Nations where she played an instrumental role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  She remained politically active until her death in 1962 at the age of 78.

Eleanor Roosevelt speaking in Meany Hall at University of Washington, Seattle, March 1938. Image courtesy of King County Snapshots.

Opening History documents many of Roosevelt’s speaking tours across the United States through its local history collections.  The above photograph is drawn from King County Snapshots: A Photographic Heritage of Seattle and Surrounding Communities.  Complementary items may be found in the LA Examiner Digital Archive, Connecticut History Online, and the Western Waters Digital Library, to name a few.  Correspondence between Roosevelt and Henry Lehman may also be found in the Lehman Special Correspondence Files.

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