Saturday, November 30, 2013
Friday, November 29, 2013
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
His name is William Strickland, and he gained reputation and wealth as a navigator for the Venetian explorer Sebastian Cabot, who hired himself out to the Spanish and English crowns in the 16th century to explore faraway lands. It is said that on a voyage to America in 1526 – nearly a century before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock – William Strickland, shrewd trader that he apparently was, acquired six turkeys from Native Americans and took them back to England, where they were then unknown.
Evidently the birds acquired quite a following. In a country where grouse, pheasant, partridge, ducks, geese and quail were the holiday game birds of choice, turkeys soon became quite popular. Strickland is said to have made a fortune in his trips to the New World, at least some of it through trading in turkeys.
So when the Pilgrims had what tradition (if not all scholars) consider the first Thanksgiving dinner in America nearly 100 years later, it is likely that they were already familiar with the gobbler with all that delicious white meat. It was an English tradition that had its origins in America.
That clever fellow Strickland, newly wealthy and able to buy a fine Yorkshire manor house in 1542 and get himself elected to Parliament, asked for and received permission from the Queen to include a turkey in his family crest. What's more, the little church near his Boynton Hall home sports numerous turkey decorations, somehow, we think, influenced by Strickland. And Boynton Hall is still in the hands of descendants. Incidentally, there is some reason to believe that Strickland may be our ancestor as well, but so far as we know we have no claim on the estate that turkeys built.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Monday, November 25, 2013
It is the birthday of composer Virgil Thomson (1896), who won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for music, the only such award ever presented. Thomson received the award for his film score for Louisiana Story, a 1948 documentary directed by Robert J. Flaherty, who produced the first commercially successful documentary, Nanook of the North (1922). Thomson borrowed themes from Cajun folk music for part of the Louisiana Story score. Here is a selection of Thomson's Acadian Songs and Dances.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
It is the birthday of 1920s singer and actress Ruth Etting (1897), who was known as America's sweetheart of song. At 17, she left her small Nebraska hometown to study art in Chicago. She designed costumes at a nightclub there and then sang and danced in the chorus, and eventually became the featured vocalist. She married a gangster named Moe the Gimp, who managed her career and got her a recording contract at Columbia. Her Broadway debut was in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927. She appeared in Hollywood movies in the 1930s. Doris Day, Jimmy Cagney and Cameron Mitchell made the 1955 film Love Me or Leave Me based on her life.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
It is the birthday of baseball-star-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday (1862), who parlayed his celebrity as a major league base-stealer into a two-decade career as a fiery conservative preacher who could draw thousands to his revivals in the days before electronic sound systems. In his day, he was the most popular preacher in America, and friends with rich and famous people. He is credited with helping to set the national mood for passage of the Eighteenth Amendment and Prohibition in 1919. Even after Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Sunday continued to preach conservative philosophy, as he does in this video of a 1929 speech.
Monday, November 18, 2013
|An image of Louis-Jacques Daguerre using his photography method.|
Saturday, November 16, 2013
It is the birthday of influential blues composer W.C. Handy (1873), who is remembered as the Father of the Blues and transforming the regional style into a national music genre. He borrowed from folk music of black musicians along the Mississippi River from the Delta to Memphis and St. Louis, capturing the subtle nuances of the performers. Among his compositions are Memphis Blues (1914), St. Louis Blues (1914), Beale Street Blues (1916), Old Miss Rag (1918), and Yellow Dog Blues (1919). Here is a playlist of Handy's music.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013
It is the birthday of French painter Claude Monet (1840), who is credited as the founder of the French impressionist painting movement. Here is an amazing multi-part BBC mini-series called The Impressionists. It begins with Monet. It is long but worth watching.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
It is the birthday of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850), who taught us the ways of pirates seeking buried treasure on tropical islands in novels such as Treasure Island (1883) and Kidnapped (1886). We learned that pirate stories required having peg-legged sailors with parrots on their shoulders, treasure maps with X marking the spot where the treasure was buried, and the guilty verdict among pirates marked with the dreaded Black Spot. Stevenson's works were adapted for movies many times. Here is a delicious rendition of Long John Silver (1954), a sequel to Treasure Island.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
It is the birthday of French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840), who is regarded as a modern-day Michelangelo, though he was both revered and reviled during his lifetime. His sensuous bronze and marble figures are considered some of the greatest in the history of sculpture, and he is one of the most widely known sculptors outside of art circles. Here is a remarkable documentary based on The Kiss, Rodin's still-controversial sculpture, that gives insight into the artist and his work.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Friday, November 8, 2013
Here's the first in a series in which we offer advice on how to go about selling your books. Mike suggests in this segment that it's a good idea to find out what you have before deciding where to go with them. Please leave your questions or comments below. You can see more Rare Book Moment episodes in the column at left or on our YouTube channel.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
It is the birthday of French writer Albert Camus (1913), recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. His absurdist themed books include The Outsider (1942), The Plague (1947), The Fall (1956), A Happy Death (1971), and The First Man (1995). Here is a British radio discussion of his life and work.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
It is the birthday of writer James Jones (1921), who is remembered for his World War II trilogy From Here to Eternity (1951), The Thin Red Line (1962), and Whistle (1978), which was published after his death. He also wrote Some Came Running (1957), The Pistol (1959), Go to the Widow-Maker (1967), The Ice-Cream Headache and Other Stories (1968), The Merry Month of May (1971), A Touch of Danger (1973), Viet Journal (1974), and WWII (1975). Here is an amazing 1967 documentary about Jones by Canadian filmmaker Allan King and his editor Peter Moseley.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
It is the birthday of Socialist activist Eugene V. Debs (1855), who ran unsuccessfully for President five times as the leader of the Socialist Party. In 1905, he helped organize the Industrial Workers of the World, the labor union bent on abolishing capitalism and wage labor. The radical group known as the Wobblies attracted anarchists and socialists as well as women, African Americans, Asians and immigrants at a time when those groups were not embraced by other labor movements. Here is a reenactment of a 1918 antiwar speech given by Debs for which he was imprisoned.
Monday, November 4, 2013
It is the birthday of humorist Will Rogers (1879), whose folksy commentary poked fun at government programs, politicians, and public figures of the 1920s and 1930s. He was beloved because he didn't offend but gently needled all sorts of institutions. "I am not member of an organized political party," he said. "I'm a Democrat." Rogers performed on stage in the Ziegfeld Follies, appeared in 71 movies and wrote more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns. He was one of the most well-known celebrities of his era.