News from the Reference Desk Category: History

Tales Told by Found Photographs

The stories of our families are told through  many forms of documents.  Family photographs, however, are unique because they have visually captured moments in time that now only live as memories.  A discarded photograph album lead a writer in New York to the story of black families that lived in the Crown Heights neighborhood of New York City during the middle of the 20th Century.  This writer, Anne Correal, describes the journey she undertook to discover whose photographs they were and how the album was left forsaken on the street.  Her article “Love and Black Lives, in Pictures Found on a Brooklyn Street” appeared in the New York Times in January 2017.  It traces the paths that many African American families took from the Deep South to the North in an event known as the Great Migration. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson is a book in the Library’s collection which also illuminates this event in American history.  There are now also other books and videos on display in the Library which document African American history.  If you are interested in learning more about your own family’s history and managing your own family photographic collections, come talk to our Research Services staff who will help you get started.

 

The History of Santa Claus

The holiday season is full of traditional events and practices, many of which revolve around the figure of Santa Claus.  But who is this figure?  What is his history?  That story goes back to 280 CE in Myra, an area now in modern Turkey, where Saint Nicholas lived and worked as a bishop. After his death on December 6 in an unknown year, many stories developed about his kindness and generosity, especially to children.  These legends were adopted over the years by people in many areas of Europe where Saint Nicholas is still considered to be the source of gifts.  It is from him that Santa Claus as he is known today emerges with some help from Nordic mythology and the Protestant Reformation among other influences.  An article from National Geographic online gives a detailed description of this transition.  Additional information can be found at the Santa Claus entry on History.com and the website of the St. Nicholas Center.  This far-reaching tale reveals how many cultures have added to the legend of Santa Claus, making him one figure that belongs to everyone.

Celebrating Veterans Day

Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, was first set as a U.S. legal holiday to recognize the end of World War I.  This “armistice” took place on November 11, 1918.  In 1938 legislation was past to formally dedicate November 11 to the “cause of world peace.”  With the urging of veterans organizations, the U.S. Congress amended the Act of 1938, replacing “Armistice” with the word “Veterans.”  On June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor all American veterans.  In 1968 Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October.  This move was highly unpopular so in 1975 the annual observance of Veterans Day was moved again to November 11.  A more complete history of this holiday can be found here at the website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Many Mount Prospect natives have served in the military over the past 100 years.  There are some artifacts of this service in the online collection Dimensions of Life in Mount Prospect.  Among them are a World War I gas mask, a World War I uniform jacket and helmet, and the stole of a local World War II chaplain. 

On November 11 of this year, Mount Prospect will honor veterans in a free program to be held at Lions Park Recreation Center beginning at 10:30 AM.

Fashion books in GVRL

fashion-fadsGale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) contains a large variety of reference books available for reading online. One of the subjects we have is fashion. You can look through the complete range of titles for adults here: Gale Virtual Reference Library Primary Research.

Some individual titles are Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe, The Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion, Fashion Fads through American History: Fitting Clothes into Context, Fashion, Costume, and Culture, ed. 2: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear Through the Ages, and World Clothing and Fashion: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Social Influence.

Color Images of America in the Great Depression

In response to the economic turmoil of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt called for the creation of several assistance agencies. One of these was the Resettlement Administration (RA) created in 1935.  The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was created out of the RA in 1937. This agency was formed to help struggling farmers and sharecroppers.  It’s historical section was headed by Roy Stryker.  He organized a team of photographers who documented hardships across the country, especially in the Midwest and California.  Many of the black and white images they created such as Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” are well known.  Not so familiar are the color photographs that were taken of farmers, workers, and children.  In a new book called New Deal Photography, USA 1935-1943 author Peter Walther has created a survey of the work done by the photographers of the FSA.  These images vividly show the hard life of many ordinary people during a time of great struggle in America.  A few of the images can be seen here.  Walther’s book is can be found here at MPPL.