Category Archives: American 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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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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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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Book review: Hope in the Dark

By Danielle Prostrollo

hope in the dark

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

Solnit is perhaps most famous for her book Men Explain Things to Me which birthed the phrase “mansplaining” to describe a man that speaks condescendingly to someone (usually a woman) about a topic he does not necessarily know a great deal about (see: Merriam-Webster’s history of mansplaining). And because of this, I have come to know Solnit as an activist, feminist, and essayists.

Hope in the Dark was written in 2003 shortly after the start of the Iraq war, when the 9/11 attacks were still very fresh and tender in the mind of America, but covers several events from the (relatively) recent past: Zapatistas in Mexico, the Central Park protests for nuclear disarmament, the Berlin Wall. The thread that binds all of these events and essays together is an underlying reason to believe in the human spirit which makes this a great read for anyone fatigued by the news each night and finds themselves in a place of unease.

Our copy is a 2016 edition with a new forward written by Solnit and even just within the first few pages there is fuel for a realistic hope dotted throughout:

“It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings” (p. xi-xii).

“Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. But there are good reasons” (p. ix).

“Hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal…” (p. 4).

To reserve Hope in the Dark and to explore our stock of social action and American history books of an array of topics, visit us in the Memorial Library!

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