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Archive for July, 2012

Plucked from our records: Pasquale Taraffo and the Harp Guitar

 

“Attachments,” the current exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, DC, tells the stories of some of the millions of people who have entered and left the United States.

One visitor, Pasquale Taraffo, came to the United States three times—once for a concert tour of New York City and California in 1928–29, once as a crew member of a ship that docked in New York in 1933, and once for a concert stop in New York in 1935.

Born in Genoa, Italy, in 1887, the musician began giving guitar concerts at age nine. He eventually switched from the traditional guitar to the harp guitar, a 14-string instrument mounted on a pedestal. Taraffo started touring abroad in 1910, performing on his own and with other musicians. Known as “the Paganini of the guitar”—a reference to the legendary Italian violinist—he was wildly popular around the world and especially in South America.

When he came to the United States, he applied for a visa based on artistic abilities, and probably had to submit evidence of his exceptional talent in order to enter the country. Photo postcards of Taraffo with his harp guitar, along with a handbill for his 1926 concert in Corregio, Italy, were found, but these documents were separated from any of his other documents, mixed into what appears to be a dead letter file. It … [ Read all ]

In their own words: Franklin, Adams, and Vergennes (part IIb)

John Adams arrived in Paris arrived to find Benjamin Franklin being showered with attention (Ben Franklin at the Court of Versailles, ARC 518217)

This is part of a series, written by Jim Zeender, devoted to letters written by the Founding Fathers in their own words and often in their own hand. Jim is a senior registrar in Exhibits.

In the last post, we introduced the story of Adams and Franklin coming into conflict over the handling of U.S. relations with France. More specifically, Adams’s unsubtle and sometimes contentious conversations and correspondence with the French Foreign Minister, the Count de Vergennes, who was dealing with problems with his own government and a troublesome Spain.

Vergennes had little time for advice and questions, but Adams’s commission authorized him to enter upon peace and trade talks with Great Britain, and he felt it was within his authority to do so on his own. Vergennes argued the time would not be right until the military position of the U.S. and France was stronger. The Adams-Vergennes correspondence from February to July of 1780 came to an abrupt halt with this crushing letter from Vergennes:

I have received, sir, the letter which you did me the honor to write on the 27th of this month. When I took upon myself to give you a mark of my confidence by informing you

[ Read all ]

In their own words: Thomas Jefferson and the Storming of the Bastille

This post is part of a series, written by Jim Zeender, devoted to letters written by the Founding Fathers in their own words and often in their own hand. Jim is a senior registrar in Exhibits.

On July 14, 1789, the U.S. Ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson, was a witness to the events of  a day in Paris that is commonly associated with the beginning of the French Revolution. Jefferson recorded the events of the day in a lengthy and detailed letter to John Jay, then Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

The American Revolutionary War began as a conflict between the colonies and England. In time, what began as a civil disturbance turned into a world war drawing France, Spain, and the Netherlands into the hostilities. France would send troops, ships, and treasure to support the American effort.   During the war, one of the first priorities of the French government and its allies was to raise funds to fight the war.

When the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, France was virtually broke and on the edge of social catastrophe, the result of decades of war with England and other countries. The poor suffered hunger and privation. By 1789, revolution would come to France.

In 1785, Thomas Jefferson arrived in Paris to replace Benjamin Franklin, who was retiring as ambassador to France. At the age … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest: July 12

It’s been hot here in Washington, DC.

So hot that a plane got stuck in “soft spot” in the asphalt of the runway at Reagan National Airport just across the river in Alexandria, Virginia.

So hot that our brains melted and we could not choose a winner from last week’s caption contest. So we turned to the freshest, youngest brain we could find in the office. Our new intern, YouTube whiz and future Pieces of History blogger Nikita Buley, agreed to pick the winner.

Congratulations to Tom! Check your email for a discount code for 15% off in our eStore.

So were these men hauling a plane off an overheated runway? Well, although it looks hot, the answer is no. Instead, it turns out that life does imitate art. These men are the actual crew of the place, and they are imitating the images of themselves on the plane!

According to the original caption: “B-29 Men bombed Tokyo. The crew of ‘Waddy’s Wagon,’ fifth B-29 to take off on the initial Tokyo mission from Saipan, and first to land after bombing the target. Crew members, posing here to duplicate their caricatures on the plane, are : Plane C. O., Capt. Walter R. ‘Waddy’ Young, Ponca City, Okla., former All-American end; Lt. Jack H. Vetters, Corpus Christi, Texas, pilot; Lt. John F. Ellis, Moberly, Mo., bombardier; … [ Read all ]

Take me out to the ballgame (and then to court)

Today’s post is written by Kimberlee Ried, public programs specialist at the National Archives in Kansas City.

“Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd . . .” 

These words, written by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer in 1908, are still heard every night at  baseball parks across America, usually during the seventh-inning stretch. Even in the midst of summer heat, fans watch their favorite baseball players throw another strike, hit a homerun, or catch a foul—always in the hopes of winning the game.

On Tuesday, July 10, the city of Kansas City, Missouri, will host the All-Star Game. This exhibition game is played by the best players in the league midway through the baseball season. But there’s another piece of baseball history at Kansas City: a patent court case found in the holdings of the National Archives at Kansas City.

Victor Sporting Goods Co. v. Rawlings Manufacturing Co. was filed in 1909 in the U.S. Circuit Court in St. Louis, Missouri. Victor was suing Rawlings over the patent rights for a catcher’s mitt—specifically how catchers achieved “pocket” in their mitts.

Victor Sporting Goods was founded by Charles Whitney and Elroy L. Rogers in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1898. Elroy and his brother Burt were the two inventors at Victor Sporting Goods, and they specialized in creating catcher’s mitts.… [ Read all ]