Hidden Treasures at the Library of Congress
By Library of Congress
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Watch videos highlighting fascinating artifacts from our treasured collections as presented by Library of Congress curators. In partnership with HISTORY.
|1||VideoThe Man Who Discovered an Icon||These two letters written by baseball's Branch Rickey illustrate his incredible instincts when it came to evaluating talent and the close relationship he developed with Jackie Robinson.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|2||VideoA Picture of Humanity||The photograph popularly known as "Migrant Mother" has become an icon of the Great Depression. The compelling image of a mother and her children is actually one of a series of photographs that Dorothea Lange made in February or March 1936 in Nipomo, California. Seeing the photograph in the context of related images, understanding the purpose for which it was made, and knowing something of the photographer's and subject's views of the occasion amplify our perspectives on the image, and, at the same time, suggest that no single meaning can be assigned to it.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|3||VideoA Legend is Born||The character of Spider-Man first appeared in Marvel Comics' Amazing Fantasy #15 in August, 1962. The chemistry of Stan Lee's script and Steve Ditko's art made the tale of a high school outcast accidentally bitten by a radioactive spider an instant success. An anonymous donor gave the first Spider-Man drawings—an icon of comic book literature—to the Library in 2008. The Prints and Photographs Division collects, preserves and makes accessible tens of thousands of examples of original cartoon art, among other achievements of American visual creativity, and offers an annual fellowship to graduate students studying cartoon art in any academic field.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|4||VideoThe Book That Saved a Life||Maurice Hamonneau, a French legionnaire and the last survivor of an artillery attack near Verdun in the First World War, lay wounded and unconscious for hours after the battle. When he regained his senses, he found that a copy of the 1913 French pocket edition of Kim by Rudyard Kipling had deflected a bullet and saved his life by a mere twenty pages.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|5||Video273 Words to a New America||President Lincoln gave a copy of the Gettysburg Address to each of his two private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. According to Nicolay, Lincoln had written the first part of the speech on Executive Mansion stationery, and the second page in pencil on lined paper right before the dedication on November 19, 1863. Matching folds are still evident on the two pages of the Nicolay draft, supporting the eyewitness' argument that Lincoln kept it in his coat pocket before the ceremony.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|6||VideoThe Most Wanted Man in America||The suspicion that John Wilkes Booth had acted as part of a conspiracy of Southern sympathizers in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln reignited Northern rancor and helped doom Lincoln's plans for a relatively generous peace. This was one of the earliest "Wanted" posters to bear a fugitive's photograph. Hastily assembled and issued during the few days that Booth was at large, this poster incorporated carte-de-visite photographs of the conspirators, including one of Booth that had been produced as a publicity shot for the actor.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|7||VideoWhat Hath God Wrought?||Morse's first telegram marked the beginning of the telecommunications revolution. When decoded, this paper tape recording of the historic message transmitted by Samuel F. B. Morse reads, "What hath God wrought?" Morse sent it from the Supreme Court room in the U.S. Capitol in Washington to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore. Morse's early system produced a paper copy with raised dots and dashes, which were translated later by an operator. Across the top of this artifact Morse has given credit to Annie Ellsworth, the young daughter of a good friend, for suggesting the message he sent. She found it in the Bible, Numbers 23:23.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|8||VideoTwo Brothers and a Dream||The first powered flight was made by Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on December 17, 1903. It was the result of years of experiments and design by the Wright brothers, who were operators of a bicycle repair shop and factory in Dayton, Ohio. The brothers continued their flying experiments in Ohio and in Fort Myer, Va., and were granted a patent for the plane in 1906. Wilbur died of typhoid fever in 1912 and Orville sold his interest in the Wright airplane company in 1915. After Orville's death in 1948, the majority of the Wright brothers papers were given by the estate to the Library of Congress.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|9||VideoHow a President Learned To Write||Abraham Lincoln considered his formal education to be "defective" from an early age, and he compensated by devoting intense effort to self-education through reading. In his twenties, while serving as New Salem Postmaster and a member of the Illinois State Assembly, Lincoln studied the law and taught himself surveying. After mastering Kirkham's Grammar, he gave his copy of the book to Ann Rutledge, in whom some believe Lincoln had a romantic interest, inscribing it: "Ann M. Rutledge is now learning grammar." Ann died tragically a short time later from typhoid fever.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|10||VideoThe Unlikely Rebel||Suffrage leader Lucy Burns (1879-1966) was imprisoned at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia, in November 1917, after she and others were arrested for picketing the White House in support of a federal amendment granting women nationally the right to vote. The authorities initially tolerated the picketing, which began in January 1917, but after the United States entered World War I, criticism became less acceptable, especially when it exposed the government's hypocrisy of supporting democracy abroad while denying voting rights to women at home. Among the first two picketers arrested on June 22, 1917, Burns served more jail time during her six sentences than any other suffrage prisoner, and she helped instigate hunger strikes to protest the suffragists' treatment and demand recognition as political prisoners. At Occoquan she was brutally restrained and forced fed. As this British poster shows, forced feeding involved inserting a tube in the prisoner's mouth or nostril, into which a solution of milk and eggs was poured. The result was often vomiting, pain, and lacerations. As one victim reported in 1909, "The drums of the ears seem to be bursting and there is a horrible pain in the throat and breast. The tube is pushed down twenty inches; [it] must go below the breastbone."||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|11||VideoThe Book Lincoln and Obama Have In Common||Chief Justice Roger B. Taney administered the oath of office to Abraham Lincoln using the Bible of a court clerk. With the brief words, "I, Abraham Lincoln, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," Lincoln was sworn in as the sixteenth President. The ceremony was witnessed by Clerk of the Supreme Court, William Thomas Carroll, who recorded the occasion in the back of this Bible. On January 20, 2009, President Barack Obama chose this same Bible for his historic inauguration ceremony.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|12||VideoColumbus's Most Prized Possession||On January 5, 1502, prior to his fourth and final voyage to America, Columbus gathered several judges and notaries in his home in Seville. The purpose? To have them authorize copies of his archival collection of original documents through which Isabel and Fernando had granted titles, revenues, powers and privileges to Columbus and his descendants. These 36 documents are popularly called "Columbus' Book of Privileges." Four copies of his "Book" existed in 1502, three written on vellum and one on paper. The Library's copy, one of the three on vellum, has a unique paper copy of the Papal Bull Dudum siquidem of September 26, 1493, which extended the Spanish claim for future explorations.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|13||VideoThe Way the World Works||Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen were oceanographers, cartographers and geologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Science Observatory of Columbia University from the late 1940s to 1977. Marie Tharp's papers in the Geography and Map Division contain more than 32,000 pieces including a handmade globe of the earth showing the ocean floor and the location of the mid-Atlantic Ocean ridge. This globe served to reveal positive data regarding the concept of continental drift and plate tectonics.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|14||VideoWatch a President Age||The first bronze casting of the life mask of Abraham Lincoln was made in Chicago by Leonard Wells Volk in the spring of 1860. The second and final life mask of Abraham Lincoln was made in Washington, DC by Clark Mills in February, 1865.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|15||VideoHow To Get into Princeton||his hand-drawn map was delivered to Generals John Cadwalader and George Washington on the eve of a surprise attack by the American Revolutionary forces on a British army at Princeton, New Jersey. Delivered by a spy to the Americans in late December 1776, the map includes vital information about the British headquarters and positions, the roads not protected by the British, the directions of mounted cannons, and other revealing details. It was essential to the success of attack on Princeton.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|16||VideoThe Union Sends a Message||During the Civil War, everyday items like paper became luxury goods. And, like several other Southern newspapers, the Vicksburg Daily Citizen eventually exhausted its stock of newsprint. J.M. Swords, publisher and editor, vowed to keep the paper alive. His solution? Print the Citizen on the back of wallpaper—floral wallpaper. When Vicksburg surrendered to the Union on July 4, 1863, Swords fled, leaving the most recent issue of the Citizen typeset in his printing press. Union forces found the abandoned newspaper, decided to print it, with one vital change: Union soldiers replaced part of the last column with a newly typeset satirical announcement of their arrival in Vicksburg, and then printed and distributed the last edition of the Vicksburg Daily Citizen.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|17||VideoThe Founding Fathers Unite||Thomas Jefferson received this first edition of The Federalist in book form while he was in Paris serving as minister to France. As the title page attests, this copy was originally a gift from Elizabeth Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton, to her sister, Angelica Church, who was a close friend of Jefferson in Paris.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|18||VideoMagical Momentos||The future "Genius of Escape Who Will Startle and Amaze" ran away from home when he was 12 years old. A postcard from "Your truant son, Ehrich Weiss," to the mother he adored is the earliest example of Harry Houdini's handwriting at the Library of Congress. Houdini was born Ehrich Weisz in Budapest, Hungary, on March 24, 1874. Throughout his life, the man who became the famed Harry Houdini fervently explored the history and practice of the illusion arts. He kept record of his own career with equal passion, and, ever the self-promoter, maintained scrapbooks of all of his promotional advertising, replete with photographs, postcards, posters, playbills and news clippings. He willed his entire collection to the Library of Congress. His autobiographical scrapbooks have posed a serious conservation challenge. His keepsakes were glued to the acidic pages of cheap, store-bought scrapbooks. In order to preserve the items, the items were removed, treated and housed in appropriate archival storage.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|19||VideoMapmaking…on Horseback||Jedediah Hotchkiss served as the official map maker and topographical engineer of the Valley District, Department of Virginia, under the command of General T. J. "Stonewall" Jackson from March 1862 to the conclusion of the Civil War. Hotchkiss produced highly detailed maps of the region, including a large map showing all points of offense and defense in the Shenandoah Valley from the Potomac River to Lexington, Virginia. His field sketchbook provides first-draft detailed maps—usually prepared while on horseback—of various sections of the Shenandoah Valley and the area around Chancellorsville. The two items are part of the Hotchkiss map collection in the Geography and Map Division.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|20||VideoA Tale of Two Books||Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau met for an afternoon on a Brooklyn esplanade in 1856, presenting each other with a copy of one of their works. Whitman recorded the event on the flyleaf of Thoreau's Concord and Merrimack: "Thoreau call'd upon me in Brooklyn 1856 and upon my giving him L of G first edition–gave me this volume–We had a two hours talk + walk. I liked him well–I think he told me he was busy at a surveying job I own on Staten Island. He was full of animation-seemed in good health-looked very well.–W.W." Over 100 years later, these same copies were reunited at the Library of Congress.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|21||VideoThe Book That Changed the World||By introducing printing with moveable metal type to Western Europe, Johann Gutenberg revolutionized books, and, in fact, the very nature of communication. Text, once scarce and complicated to produce, was now easily created in multiples that were readily distributed. Out of the explosion of text enabled by moveable type came the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution. The Bible, too, became a transformed document.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|22||VideoWhat was in Lincoln's pockets?||When Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865, he was carrying two pairs of spectacles and a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a watch fob, a linen handkerchief, a brown leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate note, and nine newspaper clippings, including several favorable to the president and his policies. Given to his son Robert Todd upon Lincoln's death, these everyday items, which through association with tragedy had become like relics, were kept in the Lincoln family for more than seventy years. Because it is quite unusual for the Library to keep personal artifacts among its holdings, they were not put on display until 1976 when then Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin thought their exposure would humanize a man who had become "mythologically engulfed."||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|23||VideoA Key To Victory||In preparation for the Normandy Invasion of early June 1944, the U.S. and British military prepared detailed maps of the coastline site in France. One was a three-dimensional model made of rubber depicting relief and showing tide lines, the slope of the beach, buildings, and locations of anti-landing craft systems, known as hedgehogs. The map was given to the Library of Congress by a participant in the invasion, Charles Lee Burwell, who as a naval intelligence officer during the conflict responsible for briefing Allied high command and troops.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
|24||VideoA Spiteful Souvenir||Just before setting fire to the Capitol Building, Admiral Cockburn searched the president's ceremonial office for a memento that would match the official mace stolen from the Parliament Building by the American forces the previous year. He chose the only item labeled as "President of the U. States," a modest printed summary of the federal government's expenses.||9/7/2010||Free||View in iTunes|
Fascinating look inside LOC collections
This iTunes U series offers an unprecedented look at original objects stored at the LOC. The videos are a collaborative effort between the LOC and the History Channel. It offers the story behind the actual objects viewed; historical objects such as a Guttenberg Bible to a rubber relief map of Omaha Beach used for the D-Day invasion. Each brief episode focuses on a specific topic and gives a view into hidden treasures of the LOC. Absolutely engrossing and educational.
This was truly an amazing series of collection pieces located at the LOC. This series indeed was itself a "Hidden Treasure" as each episode was brief (2:00-3:00 minutes long), but contained remarkable pieces of American history coupled with a corresponding story. Kudos History Channel and LOC! Hope to see more of these videos soon.