Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Subscribe to Email Updates

Tag: american history

Facial Hair Friday: Grow West, young man!

After a brief hiatus, Facial Hair Friday is back with a special Valentine’s week post!

When Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri wanted to encourage Americans to emigrate to the west as part of the Manifest Destiny movement, he decided that eyewitness descriptions of the landscape were necessary.

So in 1842, Benton sent off his son-in-law John C. Frémont as the head of a series of expeditions to survey and map the Oregon Trail to the Rocky Mountains.

It wasn’t Frémont’s first time surveying new territory. Frémont had been in the Corps of Topographical Engineers and later explored and surveyed the Des Moines River and the area between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

But this trip called for a special guide, and  Frémont hired Kit Carson, the well-known mountain man and adventurer to lead the first expedition. After that, the men went on several expeditions into the Sierra Nevada and along the Oregan Trail.

And in a move sure to swell his father-in-law’s heart with pride and his fellow explorers’ hearts with jealousy, Lt. John C. Frémont also “discovered” Lake Tahoe on February 14, 1844, Valentine’s Day,  putting the lake on a map for the first time.

You can read pages from Frémont’s report in the “Eyewitness” online exhibit.… [ Read all ]

The OSS and the Dalai Lama

In the summer of 1942, the Allies’ war against Japan was in dire straits. China was constantly battling the occupying Japanese forces in its homeland, supplied by India via the Burma Road. Then Japan severed that supply artery. Planes were flown over the Himalayan mountains, but their payloads were too little, and too many pilots crashed in the desolate landscape to continue the flights.

The Allies were desperate to find a land route that would reconnect China and India. The task fell to two OSS men—Ilia Tolstoy, the grandson of Leo Tolstoy, and explorer Capt. Brooke Dolan. To complete the land route would require traversing Tibet, and to traverse the hidden country required the permission of a seven-year-old boy, the Dalai Lama.

When the two men arrived in Lhasa, the remote capital of Tibet, these spies were received as ambassadors. A military brass band played, and they were treated as guests of honor in a city that only a few decades earlier had forbidden Westerners to enter.

They came carrying a message from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. On December 20, at 9:20 in the morning, they were granted an audience with His Holiness. As a further sign of his respect for these two emissaries, the men were allowed to ride horses up the Potala to the quarters of the Dalai Lama. After a brief wait, they … [ Read all ]

Edgar Allan Poe’s military career? Nevermore!

“Charge 1 . . . Gross neglect of Duty.”
“Charge 2 . . . Disobedience of Orders.”

On January 28, 1831, a court-martial convened at the U.S. Military Academy found the defendant guilty of these charges and “adjudg[ed] that the Cadet E. A. Poe be dismissed.”

So ended Edgar Allan Poe’s short career at West Point. He had been admitted to the academy on July 1, 1830, and nearly seven months later, he was out.

In those months, he accumulated an impressive record—though not of the sort to which a cadet usually aspired. The Conduct Roll for July–December 1831 lists the number of offenses committed by cadets and their corresponding demerits. Poe’s name appears about midway down the list of top offenders, with 44 offenses and 106 demerits for the term. The roll for January alone shows Poe at the top of the list with 66 offenses for the month. It would appear that Poe was trying very hard to get kicked out of West Point.

As an example of his neglect of duty, the charges listed his absences from mathematics class “on the 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25 and 26 January 1831.” Just two months earlier, a weekly class report had ranked him among the best students in mathematics. The Consolidated Weekly Class Reports are quite interesting to read. They list … [ Read all ]

January 18, 1964 – Martin Luther King, Jr. & LBJ

Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been 82 on January 15, and yesterday we observed the national holiday in his honor.

The above photograph shows a January 18, 1964, White House meeting between four civil rights leaders—Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Whitney Young—and President Lyndon Johnson. A civil rights bill was stuck in the House Rules Committee, and the President was determined to get it moving.

Only five months before the photograph was taken, these same four men had spoken before nearly a quarter of a million people during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Martin Luther King, Jr., the final speaker on that day, inspired the crowd with his ringing declaration that “I have a dream.”

The House finally voted in February 1964 and sent the bill to the Senate. As the year progressed, LBJ’s legislative orchestrations, combined with actions by civil rights supporters on the streets, got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. The President signed it on July 2, and King, Wilkins, Farmer, and Young were in the East Room of the White House with him. (The story of getting the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 through Congress is told in the Summer 2004 issue of Prologue).

The Archives’ online exhibit “Documented Rights” assembles documents from our holdings across the country to chronicle the evolution of human and civil rights in the … [ Read all ]

Explore the new Digital Archives at the Kennedy Library

It’s always exciting to uncover a new piece of history, and even more exciting to discover a whole new treasure trove of thousands of pieces of history. Today the John F. Kennedy Library is launching a new Digital Archives that contains over 200,000 digitized documents; 300 reels of audiotape containing over 1,200 individual recordings of telephone conversations, speeches, and meetings; 300 museum artifacts; 72 reels of moving images; and 1,500 photos.

You can peruse the drafts of every speech delivered by the President, thousands of official White House photographs, audio of all of President Kennedy’s speeches, and video of press conferences during his years in office. And tags and categories help you find related records among all types of media.

For example, I browsed photographs of President Kennedy to find an illustration for this post, and the above picture caught my eye. After calling up the full record, I selected “Related Records” and was led to links to audio and video recordings of the September 12, 1962, speech at Rice University and to marked drafts and the reading copy of the speech.

Further clicks on the subject categories takes you to even more—you can read the memos between President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson about the space race with the Soviet Union, listen to JFK’s secretly taped conversations with the head of NASA, and … [ Read all ]