Skip to Content

Found 103 Resources

Picturing Hemingway: A Writer in His Times

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Online exhibition extensively retelling the narrative of Ernest Hemingway's life, with pictures and branching links throughout.

Cats in Literature? It’s a Long Tail

Smithsonian Magazine

Cats reign supreme in the internet age, but humans’ fascination with fluffy felines is nothing new. Long before the dawn of memes and Grumpy Cat, the aloof creatures popped up in books, poems and illustrations, rendered as everything from loveable companions to sinister agents of witchcraft. Now, as Mark Brown reports for the Guardian, a new exhibition at the British Library explores the rich literary history of cats through, ahem, a purr-fect display of books, manuscripts and artwork.

Titled Cats on the Page, the new show features relics that span from the 16th century to the modern era. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the works on display originate from children’s literature. There are, for instance, illustrations of Cat in the Hat, Mog (the feline protagonist of a beloved series by Judith Kerr) and a rendering of Beatrix Potter’s Kitty-in-Boots by Quentin Blake, the British artist best known for illustrating the books of Roald Dahl.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is Lewis Carroll’s personal copy of the third edition of Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, in which the author scrawled his displeasure at a drawing of Alice holding her pet kitten. “Much over printed,” Carroll fumed. “Very bad.” According to Brown, Carroll was so angered by what he saw as the poor quality of the printing that he demanded his publisher destroy all 940 copies of the edition that it still held. (The publisher, mercifully, did not heed his orders.)

The works of T.S. Eliot also feature prominently in the exhibition—the show is, in fact, timed to overlap with the 80th anniversary of his whimsical poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, according to Ailis Brennan of the Evening Standard.

Eliot loved cats and owned many of them throughout his life, giving them names like Jellylorum, Pettipaws, Wiscus and George Pushdragon. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was made up of poems that Eliot wrote for his friends’ children; the exhibition includes a draft of one of those poems, “Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer,” which Eliot sent in a letter to a girl named Alison, the daughter of his friend Geoffrey Tandy. Cats on the Page also displays Alison’s reply to the poet, which includes drawings of the two cats.

Not all of the items on view, however, are quite so fuzzy in nature. Visitors can see a late 16th century pamphlet describing the alleged misdeeds of four women accused of witchcraft. A woodcut illustration in the pamphlet depicts a black cat purported to be one of the witches’ “familiars”—wicked spirits that took the form of animals and fed on the witches’ blood.

“The range in which [cats] have been used is just astonishing,” Alison Bailey, lead curator of the exhibition, tells Brown. In a statement, Bailey notes that the show was able to feature only some “of the hundreds of paws prowling the pages of [the British Library’s] books and manuscripts.”

So the next time you find yourself stuck in an endless loop of cat videos, why not consider yourself part of a robust cultural tradition? As Bailey says, “[c]ats have inspired our imagination and creativity for many years.”

How the Paperback Novel Changed Popular Literature

Smithsonian Magazine

The story about the first Penguin paperbacks may be apocryphal, but it is a good one. In 1935, Allen Lane, chairman of the eminent British publishing house Bodley Head, spent a weekend in the country with Agatha Christie. Bodley Head, like many other publishers, was faring poorly during the Depression, and Lane was worrying about how to keep the business afloat. While he was in Exeter station waiting for his train back to London, he browsed shops looking for something good to read. He struck out. All he could find were trendy magazines and junky pulp fiction. And then he had a “Eureka!” moment: What if quality books were available at places like train stations and sold for reasonable prices—the price of a pack of cigarettes, say?

Lane went back to Bodley Head and proposed a new imprint to do just that. Bodley Head did not want to finance his endeavor, so Lane used his own capital. He called his new house Penguin, apparently upon the suggestion of a secretary, and sent a young colleague to the zoo to sketch the bird. He then acquired the rights to ten reprints of serious literary titles and went knocking on non-bookstore doors. When Woolworth’s placed an order for 63,500 copies, Lane realized he had a viable financial model.

Lane’s paperbacks were cheap. They cost two and a half pence, the same as ten cigarettes, the publisher touted. Volume was key to profitability; Penguin had to sell 17,000 copies of each book to break even.

The first ten Penguin titles, including The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers, were wildly successful, and after just one year in existence, Penguin had sold over three million copies.

Penguin’s graphic design played a large part in the company’s success. Unlike other publishers, whose covers emphasized the title and author of the book, Penguin emphasized the brand. The covers contained simple, clean fonts, color-coding (orange for fiction, dark blue for biography) and that cute, recognizable bird. The look helped gain headlines. The Sunday Referee declared “the production is magnificent” and novelist J. B. Priestley raved about the “perfect marvels of beauty and cheapness.” Other publishing houses followed Penguin’s lead; one, Hutchinson, launched a line called Toucan Books.

Image by Robert Estall / Corbis. The first ten Penguin titles included The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers. (original image)

Image by Central Press / Getty Images. Using his own capital, Allen Lane started the Penguin publishing house. His plan was to sell quality books for the price of a pack of cigarettes. (original image)

Image by Hulton-Deutsch Collection / Corbis. In order to be profitable, Penguin had to sell 17,000 copies of each book to break even. (original image)

With its quality fare and fine design, Penguin revolutionized paperback publishing, but these were not the first soft-cover books. The Venetian printer and publisher Aldus Manutius had tried unsuccessfully to publish some in the 16th century, and dime novels, or “penny dreadfuls” –lurid romances published in double columns and considered trashy by the respectable houses, were sold in Britain before the Penguins. Until Penguin, quality books, and books whose ink did not stain one's hands, were available only in hardcover.

In 1937, Penguin expanded, adding a nonfiction imprint called Pelican, and publishing original titles. Pelican’s first original nonfiction title was George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism & Fascism. It also published left-leaning Penguin Specials such as Why Britain Is at War and What Hitler Wants that sold widely. As these titles reveal, Penguin played a role in politics as well as in literature and design, and its left-leaning stance figured into Britain’s war and postwar efforts. After the Labour Party came to office in 1945, one of the party leaders declared that the accessibility of left-leaning reading during the war helped his party succeed: “After the WEA [Workers’ Educational Association] it was Lane and his Penguins which did most to get us into office at the end of the war.” The ousted Conservative Party opened an exhibition on the unfortunate spread of Socialism and included photographs of those responsible, including one of Lane.

During World War II, Penguins, which were small enough to be stowed in the pocket of a uniform, were carried by soldiers, and they were chosen for the Services Central and the Forces Book Clubs. In 1940, Lane launched an imprint for youngsters, Puffin Picture Books, which children facing evacuation could carry with them to their new, uncertain homes. During the times of paper rationing, Penguin fared better than its competitors, and the books’ simple design allowed Penguin to easily accommodate the typographic restrictions. Author and professor Richard Hoggart, who served in the war, noted that the books “became a signal: if the back trouser pocket bulged in that way that usually indicated a reader.” They were also carried in the bag in which gas masks were carried and above the left knee of battle dress.

The United States adopted the Penguin model in 1938 with the creation of Pocket Books. The first Pocket Book title was The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, and it was sold in Macy’s. Unlike Penguin, Pocket Books were lavishly illustrated with bright covers. Other U.S. paperback companies followed Pocket’s lead, and like Penguin, the books were carried by soldiers. One soldier, who had been shot and was waiting in a foxhole for help, “spent the hours before help came reading Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop, the Saturday Evening Post reported in 1945. “He grabbed it the day before under the delusion that it was a murder mystery, but he discovered, to his amazement, that he liked it anyway.” Avon, Dell, Ace and Harlequin published genre fiction and new literary titles, including novels by Henry Miller and John Steinbeck.

Allen Lane stated that he “believed in the existence…of a vast reading public for intelligent books at a low price, and staked everything on it.” Seventy-five years later, we find ourselves in a situation not unlike Lane’s in 1935. Publishers are facing plummeting sales, and many are attempting to launch new models, chasing the dream to be the next Penguin. New e-readers have been unveiled recently, including the iPad, Kindle and Nook. Digital editions are cheaper than paperbacks—you can buy the latest literary fiction for $9.99—but they come with a hefty start-up price. The basic iPad costs $499, and the two versions of the Kindle are priced at $259 and $489. Not exactly the price of a pack of cigarettes—or, to use a healthier analogy, a pack of gum.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the cost of Penguin paperbacks. It was two and a half pence, not six pence.

Great Road Trips in American Literature

Smithsonian Magazine

John Steinbeck declares in Travels With Charley that Americans descended from those who moved: those who left Europe, those who were forced to leave Africa, and those who came in search of a better life. It makes sense that we would be travelers. “Every American hungers to move,” he writes. But most of us can’t just pack up and leave, so here are 11 books about American road trips for those who can’t break away from life’s commitments.

Roughing It and Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain, 1872 and 1883, respectively

Perhaps the standard-bearer for translating the American spirit to paper, Mark Twain wrote two separate accounts of traveling through the country. First, in 1872, he provides a fictionalized account of when he went West to ostensibly be personal secretary to his brother, who had been appointed secretary of the Nevada Territory. Twain’s ulterior motive? Searching for fabled gold. In a somewhat fictionalized account of this period, Twain recounts his time as a frontier newspaper reporter, a prospector, and a writer.

Twain’s second memoir recounts his career as a steamboat captain on the Mississippi River in the years before the Civil War. Twain used his rambunctious childhood in Missouri as the basis for many novels, but this book tells his personal biography in more detail. Years later, Twain returns to navigate the same river, and is struck by how industrialization has changed the cities along the river.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac, 1957
When this semi-autobiographical work was published, the New York Times hailed it as the “most important utterance” by anyone from the Beat Generation. Though he changed the names, the characters in the novel have real life counterparts. Salvatore “Sal” Paradise (Kerouac) from New York City meets Dean Moriarty (fellow beatnik Neal Cassady) on a cross-country journey fueled by drugs, sex and poetry The novel’s protagonists crisscross the United States and venture into Mexico on three separate trips that reveal much about the character of the epic hero, Moriarty, and the narrator.

Black Like Me John Howard Griffin, 1961
To document the African American experience in the South during the 1950s, John Howard Griffin, a white journalist, artificially darkened his skin using medication and UV lamps. He spoke as little as possible and maintained his name and biography. The only thing that has changed was the color of his skin. He traveled through Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia discovering the nuances of race relations in the segregated South. The reaction was varied: Griffin was hanged in effigy in his Texas hometown, but many recognized the book, which sold 10 million copies and was translated into 14 languages, as an important step in human rights activism.

Travels With Charley John Steinbeck, 1962
Near the end of his career, John Steinbeck set out to rediscover the country he had made a living writing about. With only his French poodle Charley as company, he embarked on a three-month journey across most of the continental United States. On his way, he meets the terse residents of Maine, falls in love with Montana and watches desegregation protests in New Orleans. Although Steinbeck certainly came to his own conclusions on his journey, he respects individual experience: He saw what he saw and knows that anyone else would have seen something different.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, 1968
Young writer Ken Kesey led a group of LSD-using hippies called the Merry Pranksters around the country in a painted bus in the 1960s. Wolfe combines original reporting with creative writing techniques to both cover the reality of the journey and the hallucinogenic experiences of the characters. The cast reads like a who’s who of counter-culture: Bob Dylan, Neal Cassady, Hunter S. Thompson, Doctor Strange and Jerry Garcia. The book remains one of the most intimate and well-respected testaments to hippie subculture.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson, 1971
What many consider the quintessential drug-induced book of the 1970s was an amalgam of two magazine assignments, one from Rolling Stone and the other from Sports Illustrated. Reporting on the Los Angeles murder of journalist Ruben Salazar, Thompson decided that the best way to mine good material out of his source, political activist Oscar Zeta Acosta, was to take to the open road and drive to Las Vegas. But when they got there, their intentions turned to drugs, alcohol and gambling. Ever the enterprising reporter, Thompson also took a respite from his highs to take on a caption-writing assignment to cover an off-road desert race for Sports Illustrated. Although the loose narrative blurs the line between reality and what the characters are merely imagining, a sharp critique of American culture permeates the pages.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig, 1974
A deep, philosophical book that masquerades as a simple story of a father-and-son motorcycle trip, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is Pirsig’s first foray into philosophy writing. Their motorcycle trip from Minneapolis to San Francisco is also a trip through Eastern and Western philosophical traditions. His friend, a romantic, lives by the principle of Zen and relies on mechanics to fix his motorcycle. Pirisg, on the other hand, leaves nothing up to chance and knows the ins and outs of maintaining his bike.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon, 1982
After losing his wife and job as a professor, William Least Heat-Moon sets out on a soul-searching journey across the United States. He avoids large cities and interstates, choosing to travel only on “blue” highways—so called for their color in the Rand McNally Road Atlas. Along the way, he meets and records conversations with a born-again Christian hitchhiker, an Appalachian log cabin restorer, a Nevada prostitute and a Hopi Native American medical student.

Mississippi Solo by Eddy L. Harris, 1988
Harris was 30 years old when he wrote his memoir of a journey down the length of the Mississippi River, from Minnesota to New Orleans, in a canoe. His discussion of racial issues, a focus of the book, is shaped by his experience of moving from Harlem to suburban St. Louis 20 years earlier. Along the way Harris meets a spectrum of people, forcing him to reassess his preconceived ideas about whom he would encounter on the trip.

The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson, 1989
Prolific travel writer Bill Bryson returns to the United States after two decades in England to search for the perfect American small town. But Bryson finds an America unlike the place he idealizes. In a Chevy Chevette he borrows from his mother, Bryson drives through 38 states eschewing the big city and luxury hotels befitting this famed journalist.

Maple leaves, 1894 : Canadian history, literature, ornithology / J.M. LeMoine

Smithsonian Libraries
Includes: A biographical sketch of the author of "Maple leaves" / by Wm. Kirby.

Cover title: History, Literature, Ornithology.

Include index.

Decision for youth [sound recording] : integrating the study of memorable selections from literature / by Morris Schreiber

Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
Cover design by Ronald Clyne.

Script by Morris Schrieber in booklet (12 p.) inserted in original cover.

"Guidance Units in Literature, Series 2" -- text from cover.

Performed by the University Players (Patricia Gardner, Lillian Gell, Lillian Schreiber, Albert Ackel, Kenneth Buckridge, Wallace House, Morris Schreiber), directed by Wallace House.

Related materials may be found in the Moses and Frances Asch Collection, also held by this repository. Related materials may include correspondence between the studio, producers, and/or performers; original cover art designs; original production materials; business records; and audiotapes from studio production.

Siddhartha Mukherjee Follows Up Biography of Cancer With “An Intimate History” of Genetics

Smithsonian Magazine

Siddhartha Mukherjee’s oncology fellowship more than a decade ago left him with more questions than answers, so he researched, reported, and wrote the book Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which went on to win the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. In it, Mukherjee detailed the history of the fight against cancer with a sensitivity that is rare in science writing and an authority that could only come from years of studying and fighting the disease.

And so when his work on Emperor of All Maladies raised even more questions, Mukherjee realized he had another book to write. “If cancer is a distortion of genetic normalcy, then what does genetic normalcy mean?” he recalls wondering. Six years after his non-fiction debut, Mukherjee is back with what he’s calling a prequel, rather than a sequel to his first book, The Gene: An Intimate History. Like Emperor, it’s a genre-defying tour de force. “It is memoir, it is family history, it is science, it is medicine,” said Mukherjee to Smithsonian.com.

While his first book dealt with a disease that has, in some way or another, touched all of our lives, Mukherjee might argue that The Gene hits even closer to home. “I did feel that although I was writing about my family, it could really be about anyone's family,” he says. And this book isn’t purely about history and ancestry. It sets the stage for the breakthroughs in the genetics that will enable us to read and write the human genome. “This is actually required information. We need to know,” says Mukherjee.

In a conversation with Smithsonian.com, Mukherjee described the process behind his second book, the hallmarks of his writing style, and how our present moment fits into – and will shape – the course of human history.

41hgIFE-U%2BL._SL160_.jpg

The Gene: An Intimate History

Product by Scribner ~ Siddhartha Mukherjee (author) More about this product
List Price: $32.00
Price: $21.51
You Save: $10.49 (33%)

Let’s start at end of the book. In the acknowledgements you write that The Gene is a prequel to Emperor of All Maladies. It seems that as you wrote Emperor, you must have circled back to the field of genetics over and over again. At what point did you realize you were going to write this second book?

While I was writing Emperor, the centrality of genetics became clearer to me. How do our cells and our bodies keep making versions of our cells that are not distorted? How does a code become a code? That's what motivated much of the book. It's interesting because in Emperor, we visit [Gregor] Mendel, we visit [Thomas Hunt] Morgan, we visit all of the main characters in this book, sort of in the background I realized that in writing about cancer, you cannot not write about genetics. 

Interestingly, you chose to frame Emperor with the story of one of your patients, Carla, but you chose to frame The Gene with the story of your father's family and the mental illnesses that have plagued his brothers and some of your cousins. Was your family history a major motivation to researching and writing about genetics?

This book was in conception, right from the start, as a book about family. You cannot write about heredity without writing about family. Whether it’s resemblance, whether it’s illness, whether it’s whatever happens across generations, it's the questions, "What aspects of me resemble them? Which aspects of me are not the same?" The topics demand that kind of intimacy, that's why [the book] is called an intimate history. It's very distinct, I think, from what I’ve read other people writing about genetics. It’s not an abstraction, it's very real. And it's [all] becoming even more real today as we begin to change the genome, or read and write the genome as I call it. The idea that this would be told through my family’s history came in very early. It was in the very conception of the book.

Your books begin each chapter with powerful quotes from history, literature, art and poetry. How do you find these quotes and how do you work them into the text?

Sometimes they come in flashes from other reading I've done. They could be borrowed from a poem that I've read. Sometimes they're from the actual text that is in that chapter. To give you a couple of examples: In the chapter “A Village of Dancers, an Atlas of Moles,” there are two quotes there. One of them was from George Huntington, from his original paper describing Huntington's disease. He says, "We suddenly came upon two women, mother and daughter, both tall, thin, almost cadaverous, bowing, twisting, grimacing.”

It's there reminding us exactly what it looked like to witness the first patient suffer and decline from Huntington's disease, the bizarre image of it. There’s this idea of suddenly coming across, on a darkening road, these two people that are dancing together, but the word dances probably isn't the right word, it’s such a macabre feeling.

The quote that precedes it says, "Glory be to God for dappled things." So you say to yourself, "Why are these two quotes here together?" But then you realize, you begin to understand, it's the freckles in the genome, it's the small little pieces that are different between you and me, which allow us to have different traits. But also to have Huntington’s disease.

There’s also a chapter that begins with my father's illness and there is a quote from King Lear, "How have you known the miseries of your father?" "By nursing them, my boy." Lear and Shakespeare were also obsessed with heredity and inheritance. The idea of the miseries of your father: How do you know the miseries of your father? Is it because you inherit them by fate? Is it because you inherit them because of genes? Do you have to nurse them to inherit them? All of these ideas are central to the book. This book is about a very universal theme, a very universal search.

Those quotations also humanize the topics, which in The Gene, often have names that might intimidate a casual reader: transgenic, mitochondrial lineages. Family history and historical narratives bring the abstract science of genetics to life, as well. How do you balance the science with the narrative?

Readers are never casual. They come into books extremely informed. Just like you and I can sit in a musical performance, and while we may not be musicians ourselves, we can detect a false note immediately. I think readers detect false notes very quickly. I believe that we are hungry for this information. We need to be able to have a language that is not simplistic but is clear enough, simple enough.

I like this quote form one of my mentors: "If you can't describe what you're doing in science to a fifth grader using language that is easily understandable, it's probably not worth the effort of what you're doing.” Even if you're working in string theory, you can basically describe why you're doing what you're doing, what the basic method is, and why it's important. You may not be able to get to all the details, but I think striking the right balance is important.

Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Gene: An Intimate History (Deborah Feingold)

Were there twists and turns in the narrative of genetics that surprised you?

Two moments come to mind. Obviously Mendel's story is one that needs to be told. He was a monk sitting in Moravia, he had never published any scientific paper. By himself, he creates the founding discovery of modern biology. Nothing will be the same again after Mendel is done, after that paper is published. Mendel is totally forgotten. People could not believe in the 1890s, in the early 1900s, that all this epic variance we have in human beings, you know, different temperaments, different bodies, different forms, are all being transmitted in these unitary, atom-like bits of information. Of all people, it wasn’t the great biologists working with massive experimental equipment or teams of people, it was an outsider looking in. The tenderness of that labor was incredibly surprising. 

But also moving forward, the other story that surprises me is the story of the first gene therapy trial, Jesse Gelsinger's story. On the eve of the great revolution in genetics, a child's death reminds us that we can be moving forward, but there might be things that will surprise us. We may not have predicted everything. Just like in Emperor, we need to be reminded of what happens when the enthusiasm for a particular kind of radical therapy became too much.

The history of eugenics has, in cases like how the Nazis used it, given genetics a bad rap. Can you talk about the evolution of the way we’re embraced and also been repulsed by genetic research? 

We need to revisit the history of eugenics several times in order to be careful with what we're doing now, now that we can do astonishingly dexterous things with the human genome. In the book, I try to provide a framework for how we might think about it.

We're all struggling right now to think about it. What should be allowed? What should not be allowed? Should we allow parents to screen for mutations that might cause devastating diseases? What if it's a devastating disease where there isn't one gene that is predictive, but many genes, and the prediction might not be accurate, but on the other hand, the suffering is devastating? Should we intervene? In what way should we intervene? These are questions that are not going to be abstract. These are going to be very personal questions very soon. You can't answer those questions in an ahistorical context. You have to answer them with a full knowledge of human history, understanding what happened, what went wrong and what went right in the past, and what the really terrifying history of eugenics teaches us about the past. 

At the end of the book, you describe three breakthroughs in genetics that we seem to be on the brink of. Could you discuss those, and also update these predictions if they’ve changed since you finished writing the book? 

We have to know what exactly the genome encodes. We've been talking about genes a lot, but one future area is what does a [single] gene mean? We now know that beyond genes there are things in the genome, for instance, RNAs that will not be made into proteins. There are parts of the genome that allow it to exist three dimensionally in space and change the function of a gene. The way the gene is packaged using histones can change if genes are active or inactive. One project is to figure out what is the nature of the information in the human genome? How complex is it?

The second is to figure out, with the information [we have], how do we use it in a predictive manner? Can we predict, based on your genome, what diseases you're going to get? What your personality is going to be like? What your temper might be like? To what extent is the human genome predictive of the future, and how much of it is random, how much of it is chance, fate? Those are big words, but we're talking about a template in which those big words come into play. So that's what I call reading the genome. 

The third one is writing the genome. If we really understand it, we now have the technologies to begin to change the genome. We are now beginning to possess technologies that have the capacity to change the human genome in a deliberate manner. Those technologies are coming. They’re being invented, they're becoming more and more sophisticated, they're having greater and greater fidelity and efficiency. In fact, while I was finishing the book, every week there was a new finding that has made it more and more possible to manipulate the human genome in a directional manner. Which means you can go into a human genome, potentially in the future, and you can change the qualities of the human genome, change one gene to another kind of gene, etc. These technologies demand that we take a step back and ask the question: What do we know about the past, to understand the future.

Your book explores the achievements of many of the rock stars in the history of genetics: Gregor Mendel, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Frederick Griffith. Is there anyone working today who is on that rock star level?

It's nice to think of a Moravian monk as a rock star. I think the work of Jennifer Doudna on CRISPR stands out as being a new direction in the manipulation of genes. There are incredible new gene therapy trials that we will witness in our lifetimes. The great gene decoders will come up. The one person whose name comes to mind is Fred Sanger who really showed us how to read genetic information. CCGGTCCC, how do you know that's the sequence? Fred Sanger figured out how to understand the sequence of genes. This story is littered with rock stars. 

Maple leaves : a budget of legendary, historical, critical, and sporting intelligence. [1st-7th ser.] By J. M. Le Moine, esq

Smithsonian Libraries
Title varies : [1st]-2d ser., Maple leaves : a budget of legendary, historical, critical, and sporting intelligence. 3d ser., Maple leaves : Canadian history and Quebec scenery. [4th ser.] Maple leaves : Canadian history--literature--sport. [5th ser.] Maple leaves : The explorations of Jonathan Oldbuck ... in eastern latitudes. Canadian history--legends-- scenery--sport. [6th ser.] Maple leaves, 1894. Canadian history--literature-- ornithology. 7th ser., Maple leaves. History, biography, legend, literature, memoirs, etc.

Imprint varies : [1st]-3d ser., Quebec, Printed for the author by Hunter, Rose & co.; [4th ser.] Quebec, Printed by A. Coté & co.; [6th] ser., Quebec, Printed by L.J. Demers & frère; 7th ser., Quebec, F. Carrel. 5th and 7th ser. wanting in L.C. set.

How Hebrews Became Jews

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A paper pamphlet written by José V. Malcioln. The front cover is white with black type that reads: [How the Hebrews Became Jews / José V. Malcioln]. The interior of the pamphlet, thirty-six pages in total, is on white paper with black type. There are black and white photographs throughout the interior pages and some of them are attributed to Lloyd Yearwood. The back of the pamphlet has a photograph and biography of the author.

All the Stories Are True: African American Writers Speak

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Online supplement to the exhibition includes brief biographical information on featured African American authors and video interviews with them.

Nigerian artists : a who's who and bibliography / compiled by Bernice M. Kelly ; edited by Janet L. Stanley

Smithsonian Libraries
Includes indexes.

Also available online.

Reviewed by Babatunde Lawal in African arts (Los Angeles) 27 (4) autumn 1994, pages 24, 90-91. (N1.A258 AFA)

Reviewed by Kaye Whiteman, "A true labour of love," West Africa (London) no. 3947, May 17-23, 1993, page 840. (qDT491.W516 AFA)

Reviewed by Kate Ezra in African studies review (Atlanta) 38 (2), September 1995, pages 129-132. (DT1.A1A26 AFA)

Reviewed in Nigerian field (Ibadan) 59 (1-2) April 1994, page 84. (QH195.N5A15X AFA)

Reviewed by Christopher Olubunmi Adejumo in Research in African literatures (Bloomington) 27 (3) fall 1996, pages 169-170. (PL8010.R46X AFA)

Elecresource

Understanding and appreciation of the short story [sound recording] / by Morris Schreiber

Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
Cover designed by Ronald Clyne.

Script by Morris Schreiber in booklet (8 p.) inserted in original cover.

Performed by the University Players, directed by Wallace House.

Related materials may be found in the Moses and Frances Asch Collection, also held by this repository. Related materials may include correspondence between the studio, producers, and/or performers; original cover art designs; original production materials; business records; and audiotapes from studio production.

Pearl S. Buck

National Portrait Gallery
Born Hillsboro, West Virginia

The greatest influence on writer Pearl Buck’s career was the time she spent in China, first as a child with her missionary parents and later with her husband. The experiences of more than thirty years’ residence in that country served as subject-matter for her best work, including her second novel, The Good Earth, which became an instant best-seller at its publication in 1931 and won a Pulitzer Prize. Her subsequent fictional explorations of China also drew much attention and praise. Yet it was the pair of biographies of her parents—The Exile and Fighting Angel—that were decisive in her being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938. The author of more than seventy books, Buck engaged in a variety of humanitarian endeavors, placing particular emphasis on fostering better understanding between East and West.

Oral history interview with Harold Rosenberg, 1970 December 17-1973 January 28

Archives of American Art
Transcript: 244 pages.

An interview of Harold Rosenberg conducted 1970 December 17-1973 January 28, by Paul Cummings for the Archives of American Art over nine sessions.

Rosenberg speaks on a wide variety of topics including Marxism and Communism; art criticism; teaching and the philosopy of art; how his interest in art developed over the years; getting his writings published and starting a magazine; what intrigues him about the avant-garde; when and why he started painting; action painting; the inaccuracies in art history about Avant-gardism and Surrealism; working as a mural painter for the College Art Association; moving from the WPA's art project to the writer's project, and becoming an art editor; what happened to the works of art done under the WPA after it ended; and moving to the Hamptons.

He speaks in detail on the New York art scene during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s; The Club; writing about art; politics and art; Shakespeare and literature's influence on art and vice versa; the various economic aspects of art; how the Depression affected him and the people he knew; the projects he worked on in the WPA; and working for the OWI after the WPA disbanded.

He recalls Mark Rothko, Harold Baumbach, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Peter Blume, Helen Lundberg, André Breton, Arshile Gorky, Roberto Matta, Jackson Pollock, David Smith, Lee Krasner, Fernand Léger, Joan Miró, Jim Leshay, Stuart Davis, Bruce Inverarity, Barney Newman, Mark Tobey, Gregorio Prestopino, and many others.

Olive Oatman

National Portrait Gallery
In the spring of 1851, a band of Apache men in present-day Arizona captured thirteen-year-old Olive Oatman and her younger sister. They killed or seriously injured the rest of the family during the attack. At the time, the Oatman family-originally from Illinois-was headed west to California to start their lives anew. Shortly thereafter the Apache sold the two sisters to a Mohave family. While living with this family, Oatman was tattooed on the chin, a custom common among members of the tribe. In 1856, after enduring five years in captivity and the death of her sister, Oatman had her freedom negotiated, and she was given over to authorities at Fort Yuma. Accounts of her release were published widely, and her biography became a best-seller. Though Oatman stated that her Mojave family treated her well, stories such as hers reinforced commonly held assumptions that Native Americans were violent savages.

Don DeLillo

National Portrait Gallery
Born the Bronx, New York

Known for his spare, hallucinatory treatments of contemporary society, Don DeLillo is one of America’s most important recent writers. Turning to fiction after an early career in advertising, DeLillo published six novels between 1971 and 1978. Not until White Noise (1985), however, did he reach a wide audience and satisfy his own high standards. White Noise won the National Book Award and has since been cited as a major work of postmodernism. DeLillo followed up with Libra (1988), a fictional biography of Lee Harvey Oswald. The themes of violence, terror, and paranoia that pervaded these two books coalesced in DeLillo’s monumental Underworld (1997), a multicharacter, multiplotted novel about the Cold War era. His Falling Man (2007) was one of the first novels about 9/11.

Carl Sandburg

National Portrait Gallery
Carl Sandburg's profound empathy for the experiences of ordinary people found eloquent expression in his uncluttered and accessible verse. When his best-received volume of poetry, The People, Yes, appeared in 1936, one critic proclaimed, "a foreigner will find more of America [in its pages] than in any other book." An accomplished writer of prose as well as poetry, Sandburg also won distinction as a biographer of Lincoln, and in 1940, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years earned him the Pulitzer Prize for History.

Edward Steichen and Carl Sandburg met in 1908, shortly before Steichen's sister, Lilian, became Sandburg's bride. The photographer and the poet became lifelong friends, and their mutual regard fostered a number of collaborations. Steichen found in Sandburg a rewarding subject for his camera, while Sandburg paid tribute to Steichen's genius in the biography Steichen: The Photographer, which he published in 1929.

Julia Keefe’s Jazz

Smithsonian Magazine

Nez Perce jazz singer Julia Keefe was in high school when she first became acquainted with the music of swing-era vocalist Mildred Bailey (Coeur d’Alene). Today, at age 19, Keefe has developed a musical tribute to Bailey that will be performed at the National Museum of the American Indian on Saturday, April 11.

Bailey spent her early years on the Coeur d’Alene reservation in Idaho. She later lived in Spokane, Wash., where Keefe herself attended high school, and Seattle. Eventually, Bailey moved to Los Angeles, where she sang in clubs and helped her brother Al and his friend Bing Crosby get their first L.A. gigs in the mid-1920s. When Al Bailey and Crosby joined the Paul Whiteman orchestra, they got Bailey an audition, and she became the first “girl singer” to regularly front a big band. Bailey eventually recorded with the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, Coleman Hawkins and Benny Goodman.

Keefe is currently pursuing a degree in jazz performance at University of Miami's Frost School of Music in Coral Gables, Fla., and in 2007 she won an outstanding vocal soloist award at the Lionel Hampton Festival in Moscow, Idaho. Her tribute to Bailey includes “Rocking Chair,” “I’ll Close My Eyes,” “Bluebirds in the Moonlight” and other tunes Bailey made popular.

In the liner notes for your new album, No More Blues, you mention listening to your mom’s jazz records. Can you talk about the recordings you heard that got you hooked?

One of my earliest memories is of this two-disc Billie Holiday “greatest hits” record. I remember my mom would play it and I was totally hooked on the song called “No More.” As a 4-year-old, I definitely didn’t understand the depth of the lyrics, and listening to it now, it’s a very haunting melody with very deep, empowering sentiments and lyrics. I remember how much I loved Billie Holiday’s style and the melody. Eventually we lost track of the recordings, and I just remembered a little bit of that melody.

So you tried to find that recording?

Yeah, and actually for Christmas this past year my dad got me the exact two-disc greatest hits album—the same cover and everything. It was a blast from the past. That [album is] what really got me into jazz, but also Ella Fitzgerald’s version of “Mack the Knife,” live from Berlin. That’s what really got me into improvising. I think I was maybe 13—it was just before I was supposed to start improvising in my first jazz ensemble. My mom put on this CD and it was the coolest thing I had ever heard. Even now, I remember that recording and I’m like “Yes, this is why we do jazz.”

When did you begin singing for audiences and when did you know you wanted to make a career out of singing jazz?

In the 7th grade I started singing in a jazz choir and I had my first improvisational solo over “St. Louis Blues.” We had to perform it at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and then we had another performance at the school I was attending. I remember that I walked up and grabbed the microphone and just started singing. I had so much fun being up there improvising and performing for people and seeing their faces. I had done theater before, and I loved that feeling when I was performing, but with jazz there was even more freedom to be whoever I wanted to be—to do whatever I wanted to do.

You’ll be performing songs by swing era vocalist Mildred Bailey. What drew you to Bailey and her music? Why did you want to create a tribute to her?

I was turned on to Mildred Bailey when I was in high school, and I thought “Everybody in Spokane knows about Bing Crosby, and that Bing Crosby went to my high school.” It was interesting to know that there was a female jazz singer from my area, so I started doing more research and found out that she was also Native American—another really cool thing. You think jazz and you don’t think Native American musicians. So to find someone who was one of the first female vocalists in front of a big band who’s Native American and from my hometown—I thought that was fascinating.

You’re calling the tribute “Thoroughly Modern.” Why?

I heard that her nickname was Millie and I was a musical theater major before I switched over to jazz and everyone was like “Ah! ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’!” When I decided to do a tribute to Mildred Bailey, I also wanted to pay homage to my musical theater background. But also, Mildred was definitely a modern female vocalist for her time. Someone did an interview with Mildred and said “Describe your style,” and she had the greatest answer: “Well, I didn’t have sheet music back then, it wasn’t easy to get a hold of sheet music, so I had to memorize the melodies off of recordings, and if I couldn’t remember the melody just right, I would make my own alterations to whatever felt comfortable for me and my voice. I could be totally wrong, but all of the guys really liked it and then I found out later that’s what they were calling swing.”

Keefe has developed a musical tribute to Bailey that will be performed at the National Museum of the American Indian on April 11, 2009. (Don Hamilton)

What would you say about your technique is similar to Bailey’s? What have you learned from her?

I am very different vocally than Mildred Bailey, because she sings in the higher register and she has much more vibrato, which was typical for that time period. When I listen to her recordings, I do like what she does melodically. She did some really cool changes and a lot of time she would just speak the lyrics. She has this no-nonsense delivery. I think I learned the most from her about delivery and being able to make the song your own.

You spent your grade school years in Kamiah, Idaho, on the Nez Perce reservation. Bailey also spent part of her life on her tribe’s reservation in Idaho. Do you see any parallels between your life and Bailey’s?

Yes, totally. She was born in Tekoa, Wash., and few years later moved over to the Coeur d’Alene Indian reservation. I was born in Seattle, and then moved to Washington, D.C., but after living in D.C. for a little bit, I moved to Kamiah. It’s kind of creepy, the similarities, because she spent a lot of her childhood on the reservation—I spend a lot of my childhood on the reservation. When she was 12, she moved to Spokane. It was just before my 13th birthday when I moved to Spokane. She left Spokane when she was 17 and I left when I was 18.

In those early years, did you encounter much jazz on the reservation?

No. Aside from occasionally hearing it on the radio and some of those CDs, not a whole lot. I started singing on the reservation, but I was singing the National Anthem and doing that sort of thing.

Have you gone back and performed there?

I have—I went back in the summer of 2007 to do a benefit concert for the [Northwest Native American] Basketweavers Association. A lot of the elders from my tribe, a lot of my relatives had never seen me perform jazz—the last time they heard me sing was when I was 8 and had a speech impediment. It was a really great experience.

Obviously you claim your identity as a Native American. What do you know about whether Bailey was open about it during that time period? You read some of her biographies and it says nothing about her being Native.

I took a jazz history course this year and Mildred Bailey was in [the book]—there was only a short paragraph about her, which is a crime. It said that she was the first white female vocalist who performed. And I was like, “That is wrong!” I don’t think she was very open about her early years, because she left at such a young age and never came back. Her mother passed away when she was young…I don’t think she really wanted to talk about where she came from. People would see her and say that she was white, but then they would hear her and say, “No white woman can sing like that, she has to be black.”

Have you met other Native American jazz musicians?

Not a whole lot, but I am hearing about more and more. There’s the saxophonist Jim Pepper, who passed away. I would love to go and jam with a couple of Native musicians—that would be awesome.

In addition to Bailey—and Holiday and Fitzgerald--what other musicians have influenced you, and what are your favorite styles to sing?

I love Janis Joplin and the way she can sing the bluesy numbers. Her rendition of “Summertime”—I know people will disagree with me, but I think it is the greatest rendition. …I really love the blues. Another person I listen to is Bessie Smith—she was one of the really early blues singers. My parents listened to such a wide range of music, and my mom is really into Buffy Saint Marie. I’m learning a couple of her tunes on the guitar. I don’t want to limit myself.

Are you working on another album?

I’m hoping to record the Mildred Bailey tribute, which would be awesome because the sound of an eight-piece band is so cool—it sounds like a big band, but it’s not as many people so it’s not so intimidating. I’m also working on a ton of stuff here at Miami—I would like to lay down a couple of tracks.

Five Plays by Ed Bullins

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A first edition, hardcover book with dust jacket, Five Plays by Ed Bullins. The dust jacket features a full-page black-and-white photograph of Ed Bullins in front of the New Lafayette Theater. Bullins is seen from the waist up, facing the camera, wearing a black long sleeve shirt, unbuttoned at the neck. He is also wearing a thick, chain with large pendant around his neck. Behind his proper left shoulder is the sign for the theater with a black and white stylized face above black text that reads [THE NeW / LaFaYeTTE / THEaTRe]. Behind his proper right shoulder is a pair of glass doors. The lower half of the cover features the book title in red stylized text written over Bullin's shirt, [FIVE PLAYS / BY ED / BULLINS]. Along the bottom edge of the front cover in white text is [WINNER OF THE 1968 VERNON RICE AWARD]. The spine of the dust jacket is white with black, narrow, text [FIVE PLAYS BY ED BULLINS / BOBBS-MERRILL]. The back cover of the dust jacket is white with black text that features two Bullins’ play reviews by Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly. The interior front and back flaps of the dust jacket feature a review of Bullins’ plays and short biography written by Black Theatre. The book has a black cloth binding. The exterior spine of the book is embossed with metallic red text that spans the entire length of the spine, [FIVE PLAYS BY ED BULLINS / BOBBS-MERRILL]. Both the front and back covers of the book are blank. The book features five plays include Goin’ a Buffalo; In the Wine Time; A Son, Come Home; The Electronic Nigger; Clara’s Ole Man. The title pages for each play are preceded by a black-and-white image from a live performance of that play. The book is two hundred and eighty-two (282) pages long. There are inscriptions in ink and pencil on the front free endpaper.

The Surprising Ingenuity Behind “Goodnight Moon”

Smithsonian Magazine

The plot could not be simpler: A young bunny says goodnight to the objects and creatures in a green-walled bedroom, drifting gradually to sleep as the lights dim and the moon glows in a big picture window. Goodnight Moon has sold more than 48 million copies since it was published in 1947. It has been translated into at least a dozen languages, from Spanish to Hmong, and countless parents around the world have read it to their sleepy children.

Author Margaret Wise Brown, subject of a new biography, based Goodnight Moon on her own childhood ritual of saying goodnight to the toys and other objects in the nursery she shared with her sister Roberta, a memory that came back to her in a vivid dream as an adult. The text she jotted down upon waking is at once both cozy and unsettling, mimicking and inducing the unmoored feeling that comes with drifting away to sleep. Unlike so many children’s books, with their pat plots and clumsy didactics, it’s also one that parents can stand rereading—and not only for its soporific effect on their sons and daughters.

Reviewers have described the book as less a story than “an incantation,” and writers on the craft of writing have labored to tease out the strands of its genius. This exercise feels dangerous, since a close reading may raise more questions than answers (when was the bunny planning to eat that mush, anyway?). But while the book’s relationship to reality may be slightly askew, it also feels true to childhood, a period when, as Brown was quick to note, the world adults take for granted seems every bit as strange as a fairy story, and the pleasure of language lies less in what it communicates than in its sound and rhythm.

She may not be a household name like Beatrix Potter or Dr. Seuss, but with her innovative insights into what the very young really want to read about, Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952) revolutionized children’s literature. The new book, In the Great Green Room, is by author Amy Gary, who bases her account of Brown’s “brilliant and bold life” partly on a trove of unpublished manuscripts, journals and notes that she discovered in Roberta’s hayloft in 1990. Over more than 25 years, as Gary pored over reams and reams of fragile onionskin that had been left untouched since Brown’s sudden death at age 42, the biography gradually took shape—and the woman who emerged was no less charming and strange than her most famous work.

51aM0WghHCL._SL160_.jpg

In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown

~ Amy Gary (author) More about this product
List Price: $26.99
Price: $16.06
You Save: $10.93 (40%)

Born into a wealthy family and raised on Long Island, Brown came to children’s literature in a roundabout way. In college, she admired Modernist writers like Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein, although she devoted more energy to the equestrian team than to academics. After breaking off an engagement with a well-bred beau (she overheard him laughing with her father over how to control her), she moved to Manhattan to pursue a vague literary ambition, living primarily on an allowance from her parents.

Brown loved the hustle and bustle of city life, but the short stories she wrote for adults failed to interest publishers. Feeling pressure from her father to either marry or start supporting herself, she eventually decided to enroll at the Bureau of Educational Experiments’ Cooperative School for Student Teachers—more usually known as Bank Street, for its Greenwich Village location. There, the school’s founder Lucy Sprague Mitchell recruited her to collaborate on a series of textbooks in a style Mitchell called “Here-and-Now.”

At the time, children’s literature still consisted largely of fairy tales and fables. Sprague, basing her ideas on the relatively new science of psychology and on observations of how children themselves told stories, believed that preschoolers were primarily interested in their own small worlds, and that fantasy actually confused and alienated them. “It is only the blind eye of the adult that finds the familiar uninteresting,” Mitchell wrote. “The attempt to amuse children by presenting them with the strange, the bizarre, the unreal, is the unhappy result of this adult blindness.”

Under Sprague’s mentorship, Brown wrote about the familiar—animals, vehicles, bedtime rituals, the sounds of city and country—testing her stories on classrooms of young children. It was important not to talk down to them, she realized, and yet still to speak to them in their own language. That would mean summoning her own keen, childlike senses to observe the world as a child does—which is how one chilly November she found herself spending the night in a friend’s barn, listening to the rumbling of cows’ bellies and the purring of farm cats.

Maintaining a childlike perspective was the key to her work, but throughout her life, Brown worried that she had failed to grow up—even as she approached 40, she was painting glow-in-the-dark stars over the bed in her New York apartment. But like the wandering protagonist of one of her other classics, Home for a Bunny, she often felt out of place. “I am stuck in my childhood,” she told a friend, “and that raises the devil when one wants to move on.” The whimsical quality she interpreted as immaturity appealed to most of her friends, but it was a constant source of stress in her longest intimate relationship.

Brown met Michael Strange (born Blanche Oelrichs) at the home of a married man with whom they were each having an affair. Brown’s love life had always been complicated, and as she watched friends settle down with husbands and families, it was a fate she both yearned for and feared. But Strange, a poet who had been married to the actor John Barrymore, seemed to offer both the coziness of family life and the adventure Brown craved. Despite the era’s strong taboo around same-sex relationships, the women moved into apartments next door to one another and lived as a couple, on and off, through most of the 1940s.

Image by Bain News Service, Publisher. Retrieved from the Library of Congress. Michael Strange. At the time this photo was taken she was married to John Barrymore. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the author. "The Only House" (pictured here, today) was Brown's island getaway in Vinalhaven, Maine. (original image)

Image by Photo by Consuelo Kanaga. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum. Margaret with quill pen, her preferred writing instrument (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the Westerly Public Library. Margaret (right) and her sister, Roberta. Part of the family menagerie included a squirrel, rabbits, guinea pig, and dog that shared their father's name, Bruce (original image)

Strange—alluring but also mercurial and narcissistic—was not an easy person to love. But even as she dismissed her partner’s “baby stories,” Brown was becoming a major force in the world of children’s publishing. Publishing dozens of titles a year under multiple names at seven publishers, she cultivated many of the best illustrators in the business and ensured that their work, an integral part of her books, was given its due at the printers. One of these was Goodnight Moon, for which she recruited her close friend Clement Hurd to provide the color-saturated paintings that have since become iconic. When it went on sale for $1.75 in the fall of 1947, the New York Times praised the combination of art and language, urging parents that the book “should prove very effective in the case of a too wide-awake youngster.”

Although she gave some of her earliest stories away for a pittance, Brown became a tough negotiator, once going so far as to mail her editor a set of dueling pistols. And as she matured, her stories grew past the simple “Here-and-Now” she had learned under Sprague, becoming more dreamlike and evocative. “The first great wonder at the world is big in me,” she wrote to Strange. “That is the real reason that I write”

Though she was grief-stricken after Strange died of leukemia in 1950, it was then that Brown fully came into her own, reconciling her disappointment at never being able to write “serious” work for adults with her success in the growing children’s publishing field (the Baby Boom had made baby books big business). Her new self-confidence led to a (thoroughly veiled) autobiography in picture book form, Mister Dog, about a pipe-smoking terrier who “belonged to himself” and “went wherever he wanted to go.”

“She was comfortable in her solitude,” Gary writes. “She belonged to herself and only herself.”

Soon after reconciling herself to life as a successful, independent woman, Brown met and fell in love with the man with whom she believed she would spend the rest of her life. James Stillman Rockefeller Jr., a handsome great-nephew of J.D. Rockefeller who was known to his friends as “Pebble,” asked her to marry him. For their honeymoon, the couple planned to sail around the world.

Before they could begin their grand adventure, Brown had to take a business trip to France, where she developed appendicitis. Her emergency surgery was successful, but the French doctor prescribed strict bed rest as she recovered. On the day scheduled for her release, a nurse asked how she felt. “Grand!” Brown declared, kicking up her feet—and dislodging a blood clot in her leg, which traveled to her brain and killed her within hours. She was 42.

Although he went on to find love and raise a family with another woman, Rockefeller never quite got over Brown. Gary, who relied on the now-elderly Pebble’s recollections for the last chapters of her biography, also persuaded him to write a moving prologue about their brief time together. “It has been sixty years since those days,” he writes, “but over half a century later, her light is burning ever brighter.”

It’s a sentiment with which any Goodnight Moon family is likely to agree.

Howdy Doody's Circus

National Museum of American History
Howdy Doody's Circus written by Edward Kean with illustrations by Liz Dauber and Don Gormely, published by Simon & Schuster, 1950.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Don Gormley created drawings for the popular Dell comic book series, Dell's Four Colors, that included Disney characters like Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Porky Pig as well as the popular cartoon character Oswald the Rabbit from 1942-1962. Additionally, he illustrated characters created by Walter Lantz, including Mr. McGoo and Andy Panda.

Liz Dauber's art career included working in several mediums, including illustrations, painting and magazine cover art. In her early years, she created colorful cover art for the popular New York women’s fashion magazine Mademoiselle. Married to Gregorio Prestopino, a painter of the Ashcan school, she and her husband were part of the planned community called Jersey Homesteads. Established by FDR during the Depression, this cooperative effort was meant to foster industrial, agricultural and artistic endeavors that served and enriched the community.

Her illustrations for Howdy Doody's Circus was her sole effort for Little Golden Books, but, she went on to illustrate a number of children and young adult books that featured topics about history, folklore and biographies. Her emphasis on juvenile literature also included books for the Scholastic Young Reader series and the Ginnie books.

Carl Sandburg

National Portrait Gallery
Perhaps no figure in American letters has ever identified himself more readily and affectionately with grassroots America than Carl Sandburg. From his poem "Chicago," hailing that city as "Hog Butcher to the World," to his efforts to preserve American folk music and his six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln, Sandburg seemed forever dedicated to enriching popular appreciation for his country's democratic experience. In the 1930s, as the Depression steadily eroded the optimism that had always been an underpinning of that experience, he concluded that what the public most needed from him now was a reminder of the country's resilient virtues. By 1936, he had completed The People, Yes, a long discourse in free verse admitting to America's failings but, more important, celebrating its overriding strengths. "A foreigner will find more of America" in it, one critic wrote, "than in any other book."

The Woman Whose Words Inflamed the American Revolution

Smithsonian Magazine

John Adams and some of the other leaders of the American Revolution knew Mercy Otis Warren’s secret. At a time when few women could, Warren contributed her own voice to the cause for freedom. Her piercing satires of British authorities, published in Boston newspapers starting in 1772, had prepared colonists for the final break with the mother country. Adams called her the “most accomplished woman in America” – though he, too, would later feel the sting of her pen. Other Founding Fathers also celebrated her writing when she began publishing under her own name in 1790. A poet, playwright and historian, she’s one of the first American women who wrote mostly for publication. 

The younger sister of James Otis, Boston’s leading advocate for colonists’ rights in the 1760s, Mercy was a bookish girl in a time when many girls never obtained basic literacy. Her father, James Sr., encouraged her curiosity. She demanded to join in when her brothers read aloud and   took the place of her second-oldest brother during lessons with their uncle, a local minister. While James was a student at Harvard, he’d come home and tell her about his studies, especially the political theories of John Locke. She read voraciously: Shakespeare and Milton, Greek and Roman literature, Moliere’s plays in translation, Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World. At age 14, she met her future husband, James Warren, at her brother’s Harvard graduation. They married in 1754 at ages 26 and 28, respectively. While raising five children, she began writing private poems about family and nature.

In the 1760s, the Warrens’ Plymouth home became a meeting-place for like-minded patriots. Her husband joined her brother in the Massachusetts legislature—together, they opposed colonial governor Thomas Hutchinson. But James Otis’ career was cut short in 1769, when a British customs officer bashed his head with a cane in a bar brawl and the trauma pushed him into mental illness. 

After Otis went mad, his sister began answering his correspondence, including letters from radical British historian Catharine Macaulay. Encouraged by her husband, who praised her “genius” and “brilliant and busy imagination,” Warren also began writing satirical plays that attacked Hutchinson, her brother’s nemesis. Her first play, The Adulateur, published in Boston’s Massachusetts Spy newspaper in March and April 1772, portrayed a thinly disguised Hutchinson as Rapatio, the dictatorial leader of the mythical kingdom of Servia. Warren pitted Brutus, a hero based on her brother, against Rapatio. “The man who boasts his freedom,/Feels solid joy,” Brutus declared, “tho’ poor and low his state.” Three years before the Revolution, Warren’s play warned that a day might come when “murders, blood and carnage/Shall crimson all these streets.”

The Adulateur caught on with Boston’s patriots, who began to substitute its characters’ names for actual political figures in their correspondence. Then, in 1773, Boston newspapers published private letters of Hutchinson’s that confirmed patriots’ worst suspicions about him. (In one, Hutchinson called for “an abridgement of English liberties in colonial administration.”) Warren responded with The Defeat, a sequel to The Adulateur, which cast Rapatio as the “dangerous foe/Of Liberty of truth, and of mankind.” 

Leading patriots knew Warren was the play’s anonymous author. After the Boston Tea Party, John Adams asked her to write a mythical poem about it, as “a frolic among the sea-nymphs and goddesses.” Warren obliged, quickly writing “The Squabble of the Sea-Nymphs,” in which two of Neptune’s wives debate the quality of several teas, until intruders poured “delicious teas” into the water, thus “bid[ding] defiance to the servile train,/The pimps and sycophants of George’s reign.” In early 1775, as Bostonians chafed at Britain’s Intolerable Acts, Warren published poems that encouraged women to boycott British goods. Another play that mocked loyalists, The Group, was published two weeks before the battles of Lexington and Concord. 

Like other patriot writers, she insisted on anonymity to avoid British retaliation, telling one publisher not to name her “so long as the spirit of party runs so high.” Anonymity may have also helped her as a female writer, by insuring that readers judge her work on its merits, not dismiss it because of her sex.

During the war, Warren worked as her husband’s personal secretary and managed their Plymouth farm while he was away governing as president of the Massachusetts provincial congress. She kept up a frequent correspondence with John Adams, a protégé of her brother’s, and his wife, Abigail. In November 1775, as the British held Boston under siege, James Warren wrote to Adams, a friend and delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, urging him to give up on trying to reconcile with George III. “Your Congress can be no longer in any doubts, and hesitancy,” he wrote in his lawyerly style, “about taking capital and effectual strokes.” 

Mercy insisted on adding a paragraph of her own. “You should no longer piddle at the threshold,” she dictated. “It is time to leap into the theatre to unlock the bars, and open every gate that impedes the rise and growth of the American republic.”

As Americans debated the proposed new Constitution in 1787, Warren and her husband became Anti-Federalists. As part of the older generation of revolutionaries that had emerged from provincial governments, they were more loyal to their state than the federal government. Both Mercy and James penned arguments against the Constitution – published anonymously, much like the Federalist Papers. Her essay, published in 1788 under the pseudonym “A Columbian Patriot,” warned that the Constitution would lead to “an aristocratic tyranny” and an “uncontrolled despotism.” The Constitution, she warned, lacked a bill of rights – no guarantees of a free press, freedom of conscience, or trial by jury. Warren complained that the Constitution didn’t protect citizens from arbitrary warrants giving officials power to “enter our houses, search, insult, and seize at pleasure.” Her sweeping, florid essay proved more popular than her husband’s narrow, precise legal argument. It contributed to the pressure that led Congress to pass the Bill of Rights in 1789. 

Warren shed her anonymity in 1790, publishing her book Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous under her own name. It collected two decades of her work, including Revolutionary-era satires and two new plays with prominent female characters. Adams and George Washington sent congratulations; Alexander Hamilton proclaimed her a “genius” of “dramatic composition.” But the compilation was just a prelude to her masterwork.  

In 1805, Warren published a three-volume, 1,200-page history of the American Revolution. Titled History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution, it made her the U.S.’s first female historian, and the only one of her era to write about the nation’s founding from an Anti-Federalist and Jeffersonian Republican perspective. The book sold poorly—and provoked a vicious series of letters from John Adams, who had encouraged her to start the history. His Federalist politics had clashed with hers, and he didn’t come off terribly well in her telling. “History is not the province of the ladies,” Adams sniped in a letter to a mutual friend. 

History disagrees. Filled with character insights, primary sources, and footnotes, Warren’s History is still useful and insightful to modern readers. It’s “one of the earliest and most accurate histories of the independence movement,” wrote Rosemarie Zagarri in her biography of Warren. “The work conveyed a sense of grandeur, intellectual ambitiousness and moral integrity that impresses even today.”

1-24 of 103 Resources