Category Archives: American Culture

Posts to do with American culture, places, and history excluding WW2 history

Uncle Sam’s Roots in Eastern England

By Danielle Prostrollo

9781898015284

East Anglia’s Norfolk connections to America are well documented, and the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library maintains a blog devoted to exactly that. Some of the most famous are facts such as, Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, Heacham’s John Rolfe married Native American Pocahontas, and Abraham Lincoln’s ancestral home is in Hingham. But these are only the start of Colonial America’s reliance on the area for its good… and bad!

In the book Uncle Sam’s Roots in Eastern England: From Colonial Times Onwards by Roger Pugh, many of the lesser-known connections are discussed including the following:

Ancestral home of President Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge’s ancestors John and Mary were from Cottonham, Cambridgeshire. John Coolidge employed an economy of words similar to that which his famous descendant, Calvin, is known for. In the book, Pugh says that John once replied to an invitation: “Dear Gentlemen.  Can’t come. Thank you.” The Coolidges travelled to Massachusetts in 1630.

Harley-Davidson Motorbikes
William S. Harley, one half of the famous motorcycle brand, was born to parents William and Mary of Littleport, Cambridgeshire. So while Milwaukee, Wisconsin lays claim to being the home of Harley-Davidson, it is from Littleport that the Harley family came!

The Girls from Great Yarmouth and the Witches of Salem
Mary and Rebecca Towne, born in Great Yarmouth to William and Joanna Towne, are two of the many women who were tried for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. Their sister Sarah, also born to William and Joanna, was born in Salem and eventually tried for witchcraft. Mary and Rebecca would be found guilty and eventually executed while Sarah eventually gained her freedom after the guilty verdict.

 

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To find out more about the East Anglia connection to America, check out Roger Pugh’s book at the Memorial Library or visit our (other) blog!

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Filed under American Culture, American History, Books, Memorial Library, Online Resources

Surprising facts about Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

By Danielle Prostrollo

 

With the snowy weather around Norwich, it seems more and more appropriate to break out the Christmas tunes. And while we may not get enough snow to merit a fort or even a substantial snow angel, one of my favorite tunes is the classic, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

But the rosy nose has an interesting history that most people don’t know.

rudolph book

the Little Golden Book publication came out in 1958

The concept of Rudolph was first published in a 1939 booklet by Robert Lewis May for Montgomery Ward. May was a secular Jew from Upstate New York and the story was reworked into song-format in 1949 by May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks (the man behind many of our Christmas hits – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, and Holly Jolly Christmas, for example) and recorded by Gene Autry.

 

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER

still featuring Hermey the elf and Rudolph in the 1964 TV special

In the 1964 stop-motion TV special, Rudolph is a social outcast born to Donner (or Donder, if you prefer) and goes through many travails until he finds the elf who will become his close confidante – if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend searching it out on TV or streaming service!

But not everyone agrees that Donner is Rudolph’s father. Another retelling of the story places Rudolph directly under Blitzen in the family tree.

This TV special, made for America’s NBC network was filmed in Japan and other post-filming work done in Toronto, Canada. So it was a truly international undertaking.

The special veers away from the original 1939 book by May – and this is because the filmmakers didn’t have a copy of the original book to go off of, so they instead had to glean a story line from the song.

 

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Filed under American Culture, American History

Thanksgiving Baking

By Danielle Prostrollo

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe

In preparation for the Thanksgiving talk happening in the library on 20 November, I have been sifting through recipes and childhood memories of pies, cakes, and all manner of autumnal desserts. For the event, American Scholar Don Allen is going to give a short talk about the cultural significance of Thanksgiving, and a quick history lesson about the relevance of the holiday in America. My role is to whip up some timely and traditional desserts.

The afternoon will include pumpkin and sweet potato pies, a gingerbread quick bread, and candied pecans. Pumpkin pie, unarguably the star of the Thanksgiving dessert table. A cup of coffee and a slice of pie, with a dollop of whipped cream on top, is a standard method of winding down after the big feast. Sweet potato pie is very similar, both in preparation and in some ways in flavor, but definitely a more retro option. For both of these bakes you can find endless advice online about the best pie crust, whether or not to use fresh or canned for the filling, and so much more. The afternoon’s pies will be baked with consideration of many sources and a little bit of home knowledge!

A gingerbread quick bread sounds strange, but this quick bread is more like a cake. There is no yeast, so it rises up with a cake-like consistency and is popular in America for making zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, and banana bread. This gingerbread variety will hopefully help set people into an autumnal mood.

And lastly, the candied pecans come into the picture as a play on the pecan pie. For anyone who may prefer something a bit lighter than cakes and pies there will be candied pecans available with your coffee and tea. Pecan pie is a popular dish across America and certainly so in the South where pecan trees are plentiful.

If you would like to explore some of these American desserts (and many, many others) here are a few books you can find at the Memorial Library:

Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook

The New Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving 101

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well

Thanksgiving: Recipes for a Holiday Meal

Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving Entertaining

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Filed under American Culture, american food

From gold mine to laboratory

By Danielle Prostrollo

To commemorate the Norwich Science Festival next week, I wanted to very quickly highlight one of America’s lesser-known scientific institutions in my own home state of South Dakota, the Sanford Lab Homestake.

old homestake mine

The Homestake Mine By Detroit Publishing Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The South Dakota gold rush may be less famous than the one in California but its effects continue today. The Homestake Mine was, for many years, the largest continuously running gold mine in America. In total, the mine supplied over 50 million ounces of gold and silver. After its closure in 2001, negotiations to allow a permanent research space began and resulted in the Sanford Lab. The lab is home to a number of experiments from several disciplines but some of the most fascinating (in my opinion) focus on neutrino and dark matter research. These experiments are only possible because of the mine’s incredible depth and size.

The Homestake deposit was discovered in 1876 and bought up for $70,000 (roughly equal to $1.5M in today’s money) the following year by a small group of entrepreneurs (that included George Hearst – newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst’s father). They clearly knew the investment would pay off, but did they know the mine would become an important site for scientific advancement?

The following diagram illustrates the initial plans for the Homestake Mine and shows the incredible usefulness of the mine toward scientific discovery in many disciplines.

Dusel_diagram

By Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation (NSF.gov news) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

To learn more about some of the science being studied at the Sanford Lab, South Dakota, or gold mining in America be sure to check out the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, some suggestions to start out with:

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Dakotas: A Guide to Unique Places, by Lisa Meyers McClintick

Gold Dust & Gun Smoke: tales of gold rush outlaws, gunfighters, lawmen and vigilantes, by John Boessenecker

 

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Filed under American Culture, American History