A President-to-be and his Mistress

29 Jul

President Warren G. Harding died in office in 1923 (heart failure). Corruption was already unraveling his administration as the Teapot Dome Scandal broke that year. Suspicion about Harding’s personal life was also burgeoning, centered around reports of his drinking (Prohibition was federal law at the time) and relations with women other than his wife.

Warren G. Harding / Prints and Photographs Division.

Apropos the latter, the Library of Congress (LOC) is opening Harding’s letters from 1910-1920 to Carrie Fulton Phillips, his mistress until he assumed the presidency.

Carrie Fulton Phillips / Manuscript Division.

Mark Hartsell of the LOC provides an overview essay of the “affair” and explains how the Library obtained the collection and why it is being opened now: President Harding’s Letters Open to the Public | Library of Congress Blog.

A related LOC link describing some of the contents of the collection is here.

Oops–Making Books the Old-Fashioned Way, Take 2

26 Jul

My apologies for an “air” post. The more frustrated I get, the more likely I am to hit the wrong thing–which is what happened with the previous post.

Allow me to try again. Take 2.

The PBS News Hour last night had a wonderful story on the Arion Press. I wanted to send that out, since books are one of the topics in which I am interested. (Also, as a former resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, I was delighted to know about this San Francisco press, and the story reminded me of the History of Printing course I took in library school at Cal Berkeley many years ago.)

However, the embedding doesn’t seem to work–or, I can’t figure out what I am doing wrong.

So, here should be a link to the Arion Press clip.

The Irreverent and Progressive Midwesterner George Norris

24 Jul

PhD student Paul Putz, a Nebraskan, offers a nice post about a mostly-forgotten U.S. Senator from Nebraska: George Norris. Norris gained fame during his lifetime as an insurgent Republican during the Progressive Era (1900-1920). As Putz notes,

For an earlier generation of liberals, Norris was a saintly figure. His stubborn opposition to “monied interests,” his belief that the government could be a positive force for good in people’s lives, his reputation for integrity, and the fact that he remained a steadfast progressive throughout progressivism’s 1920s nadir captured the imagination of idealistic young Americans. In the 1950s, a panel of scholars put together by the U.S. Senate to determine the five most outstanding senators in American history voted Norris number one. In 1957, “John F. Kennedy” “wrote” Profiles in Courage, featuring Norris as one of his Courageous Eight U.S. senators.

Norris’s greatest hits are indeed impressive. He opposed Joe Cannon, J. Edgar Hoover, American entry into World War I, the Espionage Act, and the poll tax (this did not come until the end of his career). He championed the TVA, Norris-LaGuardia Act, 20th Amendment, Rural Electrification Act, and Nebraska’s Unicameral. And perhaps most impressive of all, he used an eight-foot spider labeled “Wall Street” as a prop for a speech on the Senate floor.

Putz is a religious historian, and he notes that Norris, while raised to know the Bible well, rejected organized Christianity but “held the ‘lowly Nazarene’ in high esteem.”

Putz interacts with some of Norris’ “editings” of an old hymnbook. He concludes:

I can’t help but think that the altered songbook, irreverent as it may seem to some Christian believers, was at least as sacred to Norris as a pristine edition would have been to anyone who merely sang along solemnly to the words. And I can’t help but think that the book represents something more — one part of Norris’s lifelong process of forming a personal, difficult-to-classify (“none”-ish?) faith of his own, a faith in which “humanity was his God” and in which, sometimes at least, the old wine skins worked just fine for the new wine.

I am struck by how Norris exemplifies some populist themes in Midwestern politics and religion (themes that arguably seem to have waned in more recent decades). Putz’s entire post is available here, at Religion in American History: Religion in American History: Take a Stand for Peanuts: Thinking Out Loud About The Irreverent George Norris.

How books change us and are changed

24 Jul

Historian Edward J. Blum offers a reflection on books and change at the Christian Century site. He also announces a new series of posts on “Books Change.” Read about it all here: How books change us and are changed | The Christian Century.

Middle West Review

24 Jul

Come September, The Middle West Review will appear, courtesy of the University of Nebraska Press. See the announcement here: Middle West Review | An interdisciplinary journal about the American Midwest.

Why Place Matters

24 Jul

Originally posted on Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies:

To say that “place” matters is, to some extent, to swim against the principal currents of our times. The globalization of commerce, and the technologies of communication and transportation that have made globalization possible, make it so easy to move people and products, ideas and styles, that it sometimes seems as if the world is in fact becoming placeless. The tenuous and fungible nature of place in our times is as evident as the phone vibrating in our hands: when we answer, our first question to the caller is likely to be, “Where are you?” and the answer the caller gives us could plausibly be almost anyplace from Manhattan to Mumbai to the house next door. What more powerful evidence is there that place doesn’t matter anymore? Isn’t stressing the importance of place in our lives just a symptom of backward-looking nostalgia?

But place does still matter. Whether we like…

View original 267 more words

The First World War, Winnipeg, and Winnie-the-Pooh

22 Jul

‘Tis the season for vacationing, and my wife and I just returned from some time in Manitoba, a day’s drive north of us here in Iowa.

While in Winnipeg, we spent much of the day in Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg’s answer to Central Park and Golden Gate Park. We did not see everything, but we enjoyed what we did see.

This bear-made-of-plants is featured at one point:

Winnie, Assiniboine Park, 7-18-14

In the building pictured behind the plant-bear (the Pavilion Gallery), we found out why.

In 1914, veterinarian Harry Colebourn purchased an orphaned bear cub and named him Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg. Colebourn was a lieutenant in the Fort Garry Horse Militia, where he practiced his veterinary profession. The unit went to Europe that year–a hundred years ago this year–to fight in the Great War, and Winnie went along as a mascot.

Winnie did not return to Canada, but instead was given to the London Zoo. There, Winnie entranced a young Christopher Robin Milne–and Christopher’s father, A.A. Milne, eventually wrote Winnie-the-Pooh.

(There is a brief YouTube clip which nicely dramatizes all this:

Thanks for the link, Sam Martin!)

Winnie, Assiniboine Park, 7-18-14 (2)So, an English classic of children’s literature has ties not only to World War I, but to Winnipeg. Neither the war nor the Manitoba metropolis are apparent in the book itself. Winnipeggians, however–indeed, Canadians in general–are quite eager to make the connections clear.

Perhaps this can remind us of at least two things. First, that the World War did entangle much of the world from the beginning, not only Europe. Second, that even out of world-encompassing death and destruction can come, by grace, some beautiful things.

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