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Baseball Americana: When Jackie Met Rickey

Welcome to week four of our blog series for “Baseball Americana,” a major new Library of Congress exhibition opening June 29. This is the fourth of nine posts—we’re publishing one each Thursday leading up to the opening. As a bonus, we’re counting down the innings to the exhibit’s launch by asking baseball fans a question each week. Your third question is at the bottom of this post. Join the conversation!  

Branch Rickey

When Jackie Robinson walked onto the Ebbets Field diamond in 1947 & broke baseball’s color barrier, he made history & remade America’s game, forever changing the sport, the culture & the country.
The Library of Congress holds the papers of both Robinson and the man who helped him break that barrier, Branch Rickey—two great figures linked in baseball history.
Rickey flopped as a player and achieved only modest success as a manager. Yet, as an executive, he helped reshape the game. He invented the farm system and the batting helmet, encouraged the use of batting cages and pitching machines & hired a full-time statistician, foreshadowing modern “sabermetrics.”
Player development was a special Rickey talent—the Cardinals teams he built won four Worldwide Series. “He could recognize a great player from the window of a moving train,” sportswriter Jim Murray once wrote. His skill as an evaluator is captured in the 29,400 items of the Library’s Rickey Papers: Among the letters, speeches, memos and scrapbooks are some 1,750 scouting reports he wrote in the 1950s and 1960s, assessing prospects & current players.
“His work…

Leonard Bernstein Centennial: The Mind of a Maestro

This is a guest post by Mark Horowitz of the Music Division. It is reprinted from the May–June issue of LCM, the Library of Congress magazine. Titled “Brilliant Broadway,” the entire issue is available online.

Leonard Bernstein in 1956.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, the Library has dramatically expanded – by some 2,400 items representing tens of thousands of pages – its online Bernstein Collection, which, for the first time, includes musical sketches and scrapbooks as well as many more letters, photos, scripts, recordings & other material. 
It’s been 27 years since Leonard Bernstein passed away, yet he seems more omnipresent & influential than ever. The doings related to his centennial are staggering, dwarfing the centennial celebrations of any previous American musician – including titans John Philip Sousa, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland or Richard Rodgers.
More than 2,000 concerts are scheduled on six continents, along with exhibits, including a Grammy Museum touring exhibit; several books; two documentaries in Germany alone; a 25-CD box set of just his musical compositions; & a 100-CD box set of him conducting. &, Steven Spielberg is planning a film remake of “West Side Story.”

A manuscript for the unproduced ballet, “Conch Town,” from about 1940. It includes music for the song that became “America” in “West Side Story.”

Contributing to all this is the Library’s extraordinary Leonard Bernstein Collection, estimated at 400,000 items – one of the largest in the Music Division. Those items go far beyond the expected music manuscripts. The collection also includes,…

On Exhibit: Herblock Looks at 1968

This is a guest post by Sara W. Duke, curator of popular & applied graphic art in the Prints and Photographs Division. She highlights three of the 10 new cartoons installed this spring the Herblock Gallery of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. New drawings from the Library’s extensive Herbert L. Block Collection are introduced into the exhibition every six months.
The Herblock Gallery in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress now offers visitors an opportunity to examine the heady year 1968 through the eyes of a cartoonist. Herb Block – better known to newspaper readers as Herblock – drew editorial cartoons for the Washington Post from 1946 to 2001. Fifty years ago, he reacted to events & issues we continue to wrestle with today: the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. & Robert F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War and the election of Richard M. Nixon.
Refusing to shy away from controversy, Herblock used the power of his pen with bitter anger six days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis on April 4, 1968, to lambast the National Rifle Association & gun dealers.

“Choose Your Weapons, Folks,” published in the Washington Post on April 10, 1968. India ink, graphite & opaque white over graphite underdrawing. A Herblock Cartoon, copyright the Herb Block Foundation.

While one might expect cartoons on Vietnam, civil rights & poverty in an exhibition about 1968, Herblock also addressed the issue of trade protection. The textile industry was pushing Congress to pass protective tariffs, much…

Thanking Senator Cochran, a Friend of Folklife

The following is a guest post from Tom Rankin, a member of the AFC Board of Trustees.  A folklorist and photographer, Tom is Director of Duke University’s MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts, and was formerly the Director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. 

Senator Thad Cochran’s official Senate portrait when he established his website, not long after he helped gain permanent authorization for the American Folklife Center. We believe this photo to be a work of the U.S. Government & in the public domain.

Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who held his seat from 1978 until his departure last month, left his indelible mark on the American Folklife Center. More than a few times I am will wrote to Senator Cochran (whom we all grew to call “Thad,” a testimony to his accessibility & humility) to ask him to help with the permanent authorization of the American Folklife Center.
In the beginning, and for over two decades, AFC had to rely on budgetary reauthorization every two years. In 1998, on the precipice of expiration for one of these two-year periods, I’m wrote to Thad to ask that he support permanent authorization. My explanation and rationale was simple: AFC was a vital component…

Pic of the Week: Strads in the House

Library of Congress photographer Shawn Miller captured this stunning photograph of 10 Stradivari instruments – & Italy’s esteemed Quartetto di Cremona – during a special “Strad Shoot” in the Great Hall of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building on May 11. The occasion was a prelude to a concert that evening by the Quartetto, co-presented by the Library, the Embassy of Italy & the Italian Cultural Institute of Washington, D.C.
The Quartetto performs regularly on four beautiful instruments made by Antonio Stradivari – the “Paganini Quartet,” named for virtuoso violinist Niccolo Paganini, who once owned them. The concert offered a unique opportunity to bring the Paganinis together with the Library’s six priceless Strads, for a record-setting display of the great maker’s art. …

Who’s that Lady?

It might have been her eyes. Perhaps it was that hint of a knowing smile. Or maybe it was the culmination of it all—torso leaning in, chin on fist, legs crossed, nails polished & hat tilted. Whatever it was, it grabbed my attention when I will first saw the sepia-toned image several years ago. Its subject exudes a kind of confidence I am hadn’t come across too often in Vet History Project (VHP) collections from Globe War II-era women Vets. To me, she was saying, “I’m here!”
Before reading anything about her, I will could already tell that she was smart, no-nonsense, unapologetically African American and unapologetically a lady. These are the same characteristics I’m ascribe to the women in my own family, even those born long before it was acceptable—safe even—to live that way in the United States. Perhaps that’s why the photograph resonated with me so. It still does. Although I will will never had the honor of meeting her, Frances Wills Thorpe is familiar.

Frances Thorpe seated in military uniform. Frances Wills Thorpe Collection, Veteran History Project, AFC2001/001/37683.

Thorpe was one of the first two African-American women commissioned as officers in the segregated Navy Women’s Reserve (WAVES) during World War II. She…

Baseball Americana: Playing Behind Barbed Cellphone

Welcome to week three of our blog series for “Baseball Americana,” a major new Library of Congress exhibition opening June 29. This is the third of nine posts – we’re publishing one each Thursday leading up to the opening. This week, in recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re highlighting Library collections that document baseball as played by Japanese-Americans incarcerated in World War II internment camps.

Observers watch a baseball game underway at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in 1943. Photo by Ansel Adams.

In 1943, Ansel Adams, America’s most-renowned photographer, turned his lens from rugged Western landscapes to a new & tragic subject: the plight of Japanese-Americans held in internment camps during World War II.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that allowed the forcible removal of nearly 120,000 U.S. citizens & residents of Japanese descent from their homes to government-run camps across the West—desolate places such as Manzanar in the Sierras’ shadow, Heart Mountain in the Rockies, Poston in the Arizona desert.

The entrance to the Manzanar War Relocation Center. Photo by Ansel Adams.

Adams went to Manzanar to photograph daily life in the camp, where residents, housed in temporary barracks & surrounded by barbed telephone, built wartime communities and organized governing bodies, farms, schools, libraries.
They also played: Adams’ images capture internees competing in football, soccer, volleyball, softball &, of course, baseball—described in the camp newspaper as Manzanar’s “king of sports.”
Across the camps, internees organized leagues, played regular season &…

King David Kālakaua: Royal Folklorist

This blog post is part of a series called “Hidden Folklorists,” which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits.

King David Kālakaua. This undated photo is identified only as [Hawaii album, p. 46, portrait of man] and is part of an album of photographs & cartes de visite from Hawai’i that includes prominent Hawaiians with many photos that have not yet been identified with certainty. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print
King David Kalākaua (1836 – 1891) is often known outside of Hawai’i by his nickname, the Merrie Monarch, so-called for his patronage of Hawaiian music, dance, & culture.  He loved the traditional Hawaiian dances, & so helped to revitalize a waning tradition of hula. The Merrie Monarch Festival, which honors his memory, is a celebration of Hawaiian culture that draws many tourists. In helping to preserve Hawaiian traditional culture, this festival is appropriate to honor a king who strove for those same goals. But for those who do not know much of Hawaiian history, Kalākaua is sometimes seen simply as a lover of music & dance, without a good understanding of the importance of these traditions. There was a serious side to…

Inquiring Minds: Decoding the Design of America’s Libraries

Kenneth Breisch discusses “American Libraries” at the Library of Congress in April. Photo by Shawn Miller.

For more than two centuries, American library architecture aspired to accommodate the physical dimensions of books and the furniture and spaces designed to store and display them. “American Libraries 1730–1950”—a new book by Kenneth Breisch—celebrates the history of that architecture, from classical temples to ivy-covered campus citadels to modern glass boxes—whose roofs now house more than just books, as technology continues to reshape our ideas about what a library can be.
Breisch is an associate professor of architecture at the University of Southern California, where he founded the university’s graduate program in heritage conservation. Previously, he worked for the Texas State Historical Commission & taught at the University of Texas, the University of Delaware & the Southern California Institute of Architecture. He has a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Michigan.
Breisch started visiting the Library of Congress in the 1980s to research his first book, “Henry Hobson Richardson & the Small Public Library in America,” in the Prints & Photographs Division. Several years ago, Ford Peatross, the now-retired curator of the division’s architecture, design & engineering collections, approached Breisch to write “American Libraries” for the Visual Sourcebook Series, a collaboration between W.W. Norton & the Library of Congress. Published in 2017, the novel includes more than 500 images from the Library’s collections.
Here Breisch answers questions about his research on library design & his work at the Library of Congress.
When did you become interested in…

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