Archive for November, 2011

On November 29, 1832, Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, PA.  She shared a birthday with her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, an American educator and transcendentalist.  Her family moved to Massachusetts when she was two years old, and she spent her childhood surrounded such family friends as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  Alcott embarked upon her own literary career with a selection of stories called Flower Fables in 1849, and she gained critical recognition in 1863 for Hospital Sketches, a collection of her letters home to Massachusetts while serving as a nurse in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War.  She is, of course, best known today for her semi-autobiographical novel, Little Women, a celebrated classic of children’s literature.

Home of Louisa May Alcott in Concord, Massachusetts. Image courtesy of the J. Willard Marriott Library at The University of Utah.

In addition to her literary career, Alcott was also an outspoken abolitionist and later became an advocate for women’s suffrage.  You can learn more about Alcott’s life, philosophy and politics at Opening History where several of her lesser known works are available through University of Pennsylvania’s A Celebration of Women Writers Collection.

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Though the exact date of his birth is unknown (and presumed to be sometime during the latter half of 1867), Scott Joplin’s birthday has historically been observed and celebrated on November 24. Joplin was an American composer and pianist best known for his Ragtime compositions.  During the late 1890s and early 1900s, he composed “The Maple Leaf Rag,” “The Entertainer,” and many of his most enduring works.  Toward the end of his life, he focused on composing and producing an opera, Treemonisha, which proved a failure in 1915.  Long after Joplin’s death, however, Treemonisha was revived to critical acclaim, and he was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1976.

Cover art of sheet music for "The Maple Leaf Rag." Image courtesy of the University of Indiana.

At Opening History, you can find audio recordings and notated sheet music of Scott Joplin’s works through the Louisiana State Museum Jazz Collection and Indiana University’s Sam DeVincent Collection of American Sheet Music, respectively.

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On November 17, 1800, the United States Congress held its first session.  It was not the first time Americans would meet as a government body. The First Continental Congress was a government formed by represents from twelve of the thirteen British colonies. The Second Continental Congress formed shortly after the Declaration of Independence to represent itself as the United States of America. However this Congress was weak and lacked power to collect taxes or enforce laws.  The problems of this ineffectual Congress led to the Convention of 1787 to form the bicameral Congress that is familiar to Americans today.

The House called to order.

The House called to order. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Since its beginnings, Congress has seen two major political parties raise to dominance, passed several amendments to the Constitution, and experience several shifts in power between the three branches of government. You can see Congress in action on Opening History. The image was provided by the Library of Congress.

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial) in Arlington, Virginia on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the Marine Corps’ foundation. Inscriptions along the base of the statue read:”In honor and memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since 10 November 1775″ and “Uncommon Valor Was a Common Virtue.”  The statue itself depicts the Marines and Sailor who raised the second flag over Iwo Jima, and it was modeled after Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.

Photograph of the Iwo Jima Memorial taken by Theodor Horydczak. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Opening History has many images and documents related to the Marine Corps in World Wars I and II, along with a host of other military history resources from collections across the country.

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