Thanksgiving: A Time to Give Thanks or Shop?

Image Source: Public Domain

Image Source: Public Domain

Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year in the U.S. It’s that time of year to gather family and friends from near and far to share in the spirit of Thanksgiving and to give thanks for all the wonders and miracles in ones’ lives over the grandest and richest meal of the year.

While there have been many accounts on the first Thanksgiving throughout American history, it wasn’t until October 1777 when a day of Thanksgiving was celebrated by all thirteen American colonies. Furthermore, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday, November 26, 1789 to be a day of “sincere and humble thanks,” but Thanksgiving as a national holiday wouldn’t be celebrated annually by the American people until 1863.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving Day in his Proclamation of Thanksgiving on the basis of Washington’s previous designation. Lincoln’s intention and hope for the national holiday was to inspire and unite the divided nation. His influence came from the writer, Sarah Josepha Hale, who had advocated for an annual celebration of Thanksgiving to brighten morale among the American people for over forty years.

Hale’s hard work would come to fruition on October 3, 1863 as Thanksgiving came to be celebrated as a national holiday on the fourth Thursday of November each year – just as Lincoln, and Washington before him, had wanted it. In 1939, however, the date for Thanksgiving would change. The national holiday would be celebrated on that fourth Thursday of November each year for nearly seventy-five years and every succeeding president thereafter would issue his annual Proclamation of Thanksgiving to the nation as the people around the country would gather around the dinner table to celebrate this historical day. It wasn’t until President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s differing outlook for the holiday that the fourth Thursday of November would no longer be Thanksgiving Day.

With the mounting pressures from retailers and the drive to turn the economy around during the Great Depression, Roosevelt changed the calendar to accommodate the forthcoming shopping season. Businesses argued that the last Thursday of November limited the amount of days before Christmas and the amount of sales to be made if Thanksgiving remained at its current date. Since most people began their Christmas shopping after the holiday, Roosevelt decided to change the date of Thanksgiving to the third Thursday of November which he designated as the 23rd in his Proclamation of Thanksgiving.

Roosevelt’s amendment to Thanksgiving Day sparked a controversy around the country because not only did this fixed date change the day of Thanksgiving , it changed the yearly calendar, altogether. As a result, the new date caused the calendars to be incorrect, affecting the natural order of society in schools, sports, and other occasions and industries. Roosevelt’s actions were criticized by the American people, who saw his act as disrupting to their way of life and disrespectful to the history and tradition of the holiday. The celebration of Thanksgiving would lose its meaning as an American holiday if it changed to represent the beginning of shopping season and not the gathering of family and friends to give thanks.

The change of the date left the country torn in half. About fifty percent of the country followed the president’s new date for Thanksgiving while the latter celebrated the original date, if not, both dates. Thanksgiving Day continued in this fashion for two years, negating Lincoln’s original intention for establishing the holiday as an annual and national day of unity. After all of the confusion and controversy Roosevelt’s act caused, Congress restored Lincoln’s original designation for Thanksgiving in 1941 and businesses continued to profit just as much they would have with or without the date change.

Learn more about Thanksgiving Day from the collections and resources at the New York State Library:

-Countdown to the Thanksgiving holiday [electronic resource] 
  United States. Food Safety and Inspection Service. 2010.

-The Thanksgiving ceremony : new traditions for America’s family feast  1st ed.
  Bleier, Edward. 2003.

-A discourse on the love of our country [microform] : delivered on a day of thanksgiving, December 15, 1774
  Williams, Samuel, 1743-1817. cn. 1992.

Remembering John F. Kennedy

Image Source: The White House Historical Society

Image Source: The White House Historical Society

November 22, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, (also known as JFK), the 35th president of the United States. At age 43, Kennedy was the youngest man and first Roman Catholic sworn into the presidential office, defeating Republican candidate and Vice President at the time, Richard Nixon in 1960.

Kennedy was born into a large Irish-American family on May 29, 1917. His parents, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, were from two of the wealthiest and most political families in the U.S. Kennedy followed in the footsteps of his family, studying political philosophy and graduating from HarvardUniversity with a Bachelor of Science cum laude in International Affairs in 1940.

During World War II, Kennedy enlisted in the Army, but was not accepted due to a life-long medical condition he had with chronic lower back pains. In 1941, he joined the Navy instead and eventually earned himself the rank of lieutenant, commanding a patrol torpedo boat and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his acts of heroism during his assigned duty in Panama and the Pacific theater. In 1945, he was honorably discharged and left the military decorated with several awards including the Purple Heart.

The American public soon acquainted themselves with the well-educated and military hero from Boston during his successful run for Congress in 1946 and for Senate in 1952. When Kennedy began work campaigning for the presidential office in 1960, he had well over a decade of experience in the political arena. In September and October of that election year, Kennedy appeared young and confident next to a rather nervous Richard Nixon during the first televised presidential debates in U.S. history. Still, the televised debates worked in his favor of helping his campaign and moving him ahead in the polls. On November 8, Kennedy would succeed President Eisenhower in the closet presidential election of the 20th century. Kennedy defeated Nixon by two-tenths of a percent (49.7% to 49.5%) in the popular vote and by 303 to 219 votes in the Electoral College, surpassing well-over the amount of 269 votes needed to win.

As president, Kennedy was hard at work toward a more prosperous nation by initiating domestic programs to fund education, medical care for the elderly and economic aid to rural regions through federal support. He assisted Martin Luther King, Jr. in his fight for civil equality, by signing Executive Order 11063 to prohibit racial discrimination in federally supported facilities and laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He signed into law HR5173 (PL87-423) to abolish the federal death penalty and promoted the Apollo program that would land men on the moon for the first time in world history. In the wake of the Cold War, he confronted foreign tensions with many nations, including Cuba and the Soviet Union and staunched the growth of communism in South America and Vietnam.

John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, TX was a tragedy heard around the world but his legacy remains an integral part of U.S. history for his accomplishments in social, civil, and foreign affairs.

In honor of John F. Kennedy’s memory, the New York State Library is showcasing “Dallas, 11/22/63: 50 Years Later,” an exhibit of that tragic day with newspapers, magazines, books, government documents, and political cartoons taken from the collections. See it November through December on the 7th floor of the Cultural Education Center. Learn more about the history of President John F. Kennedy at the New York State Library. Here are a few titles to get you started:

-Post JFK assassination Air Force One flight deck recording [electronic resource]
  United States. National Archives and Records Administration. 2012.

-Head shot : the science behind the JFK assassination
  Chambers, G. Paul. 2007.

-The Kennedy assassination
  Knight, Peter. 2009.

-The presidency of John F. Kennedy  2nd ed., rev.
  Giglio, James N. 2006.



Image Source: Public Domain

Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve is celebrated annually in many nations on the 31st of October. Halloween is also that time of year to dress-up in costume and paint one’s face, carve pumpkins into jack- o’-lanterns, tell ghost stories, visit haunted houses, and go trick-or-treating at nighttime. But, where and when did this tradition begin?

 Halloween is believed to have originated over 2,000 years ago with the ancient Celts in their annual festival called, Samhain (sow-in) and translated from the Old Irish as “summer’s end.” According to Celtic calendars, Samhain was celebrated on the last day of the year, October 31, which marked the end of summer and the harvest season and the beginning of the cold dark winter that often led to sickness and death. Although the Celts believed that the deceased rose from the dead on this day to cause trouble and damage crops, they also found their presence necessary in helping Druid priests prophesize the events to come in the new year. Samhain was observed by dressing in costumes of dead animal heads and skins and lighting large bonfires to offer crops and animal sacrifices to the Celtic gods.

 By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic land and spread its culture and traditions on the people. In spite of the Roman conquest, the Celts continued to celebrate the annual festival at the end of October. Eventually, the Romans adopted this Celtic tradition as their own, but sanctified the day in order to justify its place in the Christian Church. Later, Samhain would no longer represent the end of summer; it would mark the beginning of three consecutive holidays to honor the Roman Saints and the dead: All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. Collectively, these three holidays are known as Hallowmas, from the Old English words “halig” (saints) and “mass.”

The Halloween holiday that our nation has come to know and celebrate today, began in the early 19th century when many Irish immigrants came over to the United States, bringing with them the good nature and tradition of All Hallows’ Eve. Happy Halloween!

You can learn more about Halloween with these helpful recources from the New York State Library:

-Halloween : from pagan ritual to party night
  Rogers, Nicholas. 2002.

-Dressed for thrills : 100 years of Halloween costumes & masquerade
  Galembo, Phyllis. 2002.

-Halloween Night
  Semowich, Charles J. 2001.


Apple Picking

Image Source: The Graphics Fairy

Image Source: The Graphics Fairy

Autumn is that time in New York for many changes and transitions: the trees replace their green shades for oranges, reds, and yellows; the days become a little shorter; the nights last a little longer; and the weather turns a little colder, but before the temperature drops to a chilling, brisker level, and a frost bites the earth; a warm and distant breeze blows out from the departed summer season to make its last passage of the year throughout the region. From the high mountaintops, the breeze descends rapidly down the low foothills to chase miles of nestled valleys, and cross countless fields of countryside and farmland; when suddenly, it slows its pace to quietly saunter through rows of orchards and stir the vibrant leaves and fruit on the various apple trees; until finally, it gently wakes the last slumbering scarlet apple with a light touch, just in time for warm and wanting hands to pick it for the taking, and its wind blows cold.

Apple picking is a cultural event for New Yorkers, who have participated in its festivities since childhood. In essence, people of all ages can enjoy the excitement there is in going to a local farm and choosing through the wide variety of apples among the many kinds of apple trees: cortland, empire, fuji, gala, golden delicious, honeycrisp, macintosh, red delicious, and many more. There are many great joys to bringing home that half or full bushel of apples besides in the ciders, pies or sauces that are made from them, but also in the total knowledge from where that fruit came. No matter if you go out to pick one of a kind or a little bit of everything, the end result will be equally satisfactory. Happy Picking!

Learn a little more about the apple with these sources at the New York State Library:

The story of the apple
  Juniper, B. E. (Barrie Edward), 2006.

Apples : botany, production, and uses
  Ferree, David C. (David Curtis), 2003.

Biology of apples and pears
  Jackson, John, 2003

The new book of apples, Rev. and updated ed.
  Morgan, Joan, 2002.

George Gershwin

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-54231]

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-54231]

George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist, most notably known for his compositional pieces including Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American in Paris (1928). He was born into a family of Russian parents, named Moishe Gershowitz and Rosa Bruski. His parents left Russia to move to the United States and changed their names to sound more American not long after their arrival. Rosa, who had moved to New York before Moishe, changed her name to Rose and when he joined her later; she had him take the name, Morris. In addition to the change of their first names, Morris soon changed his family name from Gershowitz to Gershwin.

On September 26, 1898, George Gershwin, the second oldest of four children, was born in Brooklyn, New York. George, who was named after his grandfather, Jacob, was often only called George growing up, which influenced him to legally change his name to George later on. Surprisingly, young George didn’t show an immediate interest in music. That is, not until age ten, when he was entranced by the sounds that played from his childhood friend, Maxie Rosenzweig’s violin. After experiencing this musical epiphany, the sound of music would change for him from that day on. He would play it and create it, but first, he needed to learn it. To his parents’ delight, he began with the piano that was given to his older brother, Ira.

As a young teenager, George stopped attending public school to work at the night club, Tin Pan Alley in New York City.  While only making a meager wage, he published his first song, When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em, When You’ve Got ‘Em, You Don’t Want ‘Em (1916) at age seventeen. Over the next four years, he would make a real name for himself, publishing the local, commercial hit song, “Rialto Ripples” and the national hit song, Swanee (1919), the latter of which was sung by the famous Broadway singer of the time, Al Jolson. In the first half of the 1920s, George collaborated with songwriter and music director, William Daly, on a host of successful Broadway musicals, including Piccadilly to Broadway (1920) and Our Nell, further establishing himself in the industry.

Despite his success in the United States, George was interested in expanding his musical talents by going abroad to learn composition in a more classical fashion. He traveled to Europe, settling in Paris for a short period of time. While he stayed there, he sought out the teachings of renowned music teachers Nadia Boulanger and Maurice Ravel, both of whom rejected his apprenticeship, fearing that classical composition would derail his jazz-influenced style. Yet, their rejections certainly didn’t derail his motivation to continue writing; he wrote An American in Paris in 1928 which was based on his Parisian experiences. While popular in the U.S. and most of Europe, it was met with mixed reviews from his French listeners.

Back in the States, Gershwin began work on writing operas, his first of which was Blue Monday, followed shortly by Porgy and Bess (1935). Neither opera had gained him the commercial success he had received from previous work so he moved to Hollywood, California in pursuit of new kinds of work. In 1936, he was hired by RKO Pictures to write the music for the motion picture Shall We Dance, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The composition was over an hour in length and had taken George months to write. Although the movie didn’t meet its goal at the box office, on the whole, it was well received by the public.

The following year brought complications for George, including recurring headaches and unusual behaviors that were soon witnessed by his family, friends, and fans. He performed his popular piano piece, Piano Concerto in F with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, but his performance was disrupted by a combination of his loss of coordination and blackouts while on stage. Eventually, he checked into a hospital in Los Angeles to be examined for his recent headaches and uncharacteristic behavior. Initially, his doctors didn’t find a justifiable reason to detain him so they released him with a diagnosis of likely hysteria. However, not long after his release, he had returned to the hospital after passing out during work on what would become his last composition, Goldwyn Follies. His second bout at the hospital had revealed to his doctors that his strange behavior and pains were not caused by likely hysteria but a brain tumor in his head. The severity of his diagnosis had rushed his doctors to seek the help of leading neurosurgeon, Dr. Walter Dandy. Unfortunately, Dr. Dandy was 3,000 miles away on vacation in Maryland and didn’t make it in time for George Gershwin’s untimely death on July 11, 1937 at the age of 38.

Learn more about George Gershwin at the New York State Library. Here are a few titles to get you started:

-George Gershwin : a bio-bibliography
  Carnovale, Norbert. 2000.

-George Gershwin 
  Greenberg, Rodney. 1998.

-The music of Gershwin
  Gilbert, Steven E. 1995.

The March on Washington

Catch it while it’s available. The New York State Library presents its August 2013 Exhibit: Behind the March on Washington.

Image Source: NYSL

Image Source: NYSL

The year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that was led by a small but major group of civil rights and labor leaders and attended by supporters that numbered in the hundreds of thousands. It was a bright and sunny day in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963, spirits were energized and eager as the sound of thousands upon thousands of voices melted together from a crowd of civil rights participants that wrapped around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, filling in every nook and cranny from the Washington Monument to the marble staircase of the Lincoln Memorial. A reported 200,000 to 300,000 people were present at the National Mall on that warm late-summer day to hear the strong and moving words that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave in the unforgettable speech, “I Have a Dream.” The march and the speech were pillars in the movement for civil rights as racial equality was all but a reality one-hundred years after the historic signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. Although black people had acquired the constitutionality of freedom after the Union won the Civil War, the treatment they got from their fellow white countrymen hadn’t changed much in the way of social, political, and economic equality. Therefore, the march for civil rights was on the move.

Special Events and Communications Coordinator, Patricia Jordan, organized an array of books from out of the State Library’s collections to highlight the significant figures and events behind the march. In addition to Martin Luther King, Jr., Asa Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and vice-president of the AFL-CIO; and Bayard Rustin, a prominent activist in the Freedom Ride Movement and the Civil Rights Movement; and many other labor and civil rights leaders, were active contributors in the planning and success of this monumental day. “Behind the March on Washington” inspires and educates as the State Library’s patrons get a closer, more in-depth view, both, in person and online, of a time that shaped and continues to shape American history.

Visit the New York State Library before the month is over to see the August 2013 Exhibit on the 7th floor and check out the Library’s collections on the leading figures and events behind the Civil Rights Movement. Also, visit the State Library’s online to view the exhibit and catalog. Here are some titles to get you started:

-Encyclopedia of African American history, 1896 to the present : from the age of segregation to the twenty-first century
  Finkelman, Paul. 2009

-The Civil Rights Act : background, statutes and primer
  Capozzi, Irene Y. 2006

-Massive resistance : the white response to the civil rights movement 
  Lewis, George. 2006

-Resolving racial conflict : the Community Relations Service and civil rights, 1964-1989
  Levine, Bertram J. 2005

Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball

Image Source: Public Domain

Lucille “Lucy” Ball was born on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York. Her parents, Henry Durell Ball and Desiree “DeDe” Evelyn Hunt, moved the young Ball around often for the first three years of her life. Henry was a telephone lineman for Bell Telephone Company which required his services in New York State as well as places as far away as Michigan and Montana. After DeDe became pregnant in late 1914, Henry died from typhoid fever a few months later. Frederick Henry Ball was born in the summer of 1915 and was raised along with Ball by their mother and maternal grandparents in Celeron, New York. Ball’s grandfather was an eccentric man, who was fond of the theatre and vaudeville shows. He often took Ball and the family to the shows and encouraged Ball to audition for plays at her school.

During her early adolescence, Ball began playing small roles in school and community plays, but her talents on the stage had really shone out for a person of her age. When she was 14, Ball started dating a 23-year-old man, named Johnny DeVita. Although DeDe did not approve of her relationship, Ball continued to date the nine-year older man for over a year. Since DeDe knew how passionate Ball was for show business, she gave her an ultimatum: she would enroll her in an acting school in New York Cityif she stopped dating DeVita. Ball agreed.

In 1926, Ball attended John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts and started working in the city as a model for Hattie Carnegie. She fell ill by an unknown disease which caused her to quit working for a few years. In 1932, she began working again, landing roles in small Broadway productions, under the name “Diane Belmont.” While she had it easy maintaining her modeling career, she found it difficult maintaining her acting career, but her modeling jobs enabled her to continue a living in New York City. Unfortunately for Ball, productions that were set for the stage eventually fell through or failed to draw in a crowd, which left Ball without work. In spite of her losses in New York City, she landed a small part in the film, the Roman Scandals (1933) and a bounty of other small roles which encouraged her to move to Hollywood where she would work with Fred Astaire, Katherine Hepburn, the Marx brothers, the Three Stooges and many other established actors.

In 1938, she was cast on the one-season hit show, The Wonder Show, where she met show announcer, Gale Gordon, a longtime friend and professional colleague. In 1940, Ball signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) for a number of films, but never received the recognition she worked hard to gain. Notwithstanding, she often took roles in many low-budget commercial motion pictures which eventually gained her the nickname, “Queen of B’s.” The same year, Ball met her future husband of twenty years and co-creator of the I Love Lucy show, Desi Arnaz, while shooting the film, Too Many Girls. They eloped after six months of dating. In 1943, she landed the female lead as Madame DuBarry in DuBarry was a Lady with Red Skelton and Gene Kelly. The film featured Ball with the debut of her popular and iconic fire red hair.

Although CBS wasn’t thrilled about adding the I Love Lucy show to their line-up, it debuted on their network in 1951 as an instant hit. When Ball and Arnaz developed the concept of doing a show together, their marriage was on the mend due to such factors as working apart from one another often while on location for a job, but the show was an attempt to fix their marriage problems. The I Love Lucy was jointly created and owned by Ball and Arnaz under the name Desilu Productions company. It aired until 1957, producing six seasons with 181 episodes, and guest starring famous actors and friends of Balls, including John Wayne, Cornel Wilde, Harpo Marx, George Reeves, Bob Hope, Orson Welles and many more.

Ball and Desi had two children during the production of the I Love Lucy show. Right before Ball turned 40, she gave birth to Lucie Desiree Arnaz. A year and a half later, she gave birth to Desi Arnaz, Jr. Her second pregnancy was written into the storyline of the show, but not without sparking up a media frenzy. Her pregnancy caused a conflict with the network because plaintiffs wrote letters to the studio, expressing the controversial nature of the subject matter. Although at the time, it wasn’t considered appropriate for women to be featured pregnant on television, CBS allowed Ball’s pregnancy in the script as long as the actors referred to it as “expecting.” After the show ended, Ball, Arnaz and their costars Vivian Vance and William Frawley, who played their neighbors and landlords, the Mertzs, continued the I Love Lucy saga in a collection of one-hour specials, called the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. Also produced under the Desilu Productions company, the hour-long comedy special aired occasionally from 1957 to 1960.

In 1960, Ball and Arnaz divorced after twenty years of a strained relationship. In the latter half of Ball’s career, she bought out Arnaz’s share in Desilu Productions and continued producing and starring in shows made by her company, including The Lucy Show (1962-68); Here’s Lucy (1968-74); and Life with Lucy (1986). A year later, Ball was introduced to Gary Morton by co-star Paula Stewart of the Broadway musical Wildcats. Morton was a stand-up comedian who told Ball he had never seen one episode of her comedy shows due to his busy schedule. Ball married Morton in 1961, recruited him into her production company, and taught him the television business. Ball and Morton remained married for nearly 30 years.

On April 18, 1989 Lucille Ball was diagnosed with dissecting aortic aneurysm, after experiencing sharp pains in her chest and being rushed to the hospital. She underwent heart surgery and was on her way to recovery, showing a heightened amount of health and energy, but only a week later, Ball woke up in the middle of the night from sharp back pains and lost consciousness. The doctors were unable to revive her, claiming that she had suffered from a second aneurysm. On April 26, 1989, Lucille Ball died in Hollywood, California.

You can learn more about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz at the New York State Library:

-I Love Lucy [electronic resource]
  United States, Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2003.

-Lucille Ball [computer file] 
  United States, Federal Bureau of Investigation. 1998.

-Desi Arnaz [electronic resource]
    United States, Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2003.

Edward Hopper

“Nighthawks” (1942)
Image Source: Public Domain

Edward Hopper was born in Nyack, New York on July 22, 1882. His parents, Garrett Henry Hopper and Elizabeth Griffiths Smith, were middle class merchants in the business of dry-goods. Hopper and his only sibling Marion were raised in a strict Baptist home. Growing up in the Hopper home, the household was dominated and run by the women in Edward’s life: his grandmother, mother, sister, and housemaid. Hopper and his sister attended both private and public schools, where he showed an exceptional talent in drawing from a very young age. His parents recognized his talent and encouraged it by providing him with a variety of art supplies. As he entered adolescence, his artistic skills only progressed as he began producing beautiful oil paintings. By the age of thirteen, he made his first signed oil painting, called the Rowboat in Rocky Cove.

Later, he spent six years studying at the New York Institute of Art and Design with renowned artists and teachers, William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri, who contributed to his new outlook on art, life, and philosophy. However, his newfound outlook didn’t come without presenting challenges for the young Hopper, who had to learn how to get used to sketching nude models after growing up in a conservative home. Eventually, Hopper would be painting nudes and women as the main subject of art throughout his career in addition to still lifes, landscapes, portraits, and self-portraits.

While in New York City, hardships compelled Hopper to seek out work with steady pay in order to maintain a living. One of his first jobs was with an advertising agency making commercial illustrations for a popular magazine. Illustration in the commercial field was a genre of art he came to resent, so he fled to Europe on occasion to escape the mainstream scene of his work. In Europe, he further developed his artistic skills by painting architecture, streets, and café scenes. While many of his contemporaries were following the popular and new art style, cubism, Hopper was creating art in the style of realism.

After returning from Europe, Hopper had struggled to find a defining artistic style that would make him stand out among other realist artists. He stayed briefly in New York City before he moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he began painting nature and landscapes as well as his first lighthouse painting, called Squam Light. Lighthouses would later become the subject for many of his future paintings. In 1913, he sold his first painting called Sailing at the Armory Show, held by the International Exhibition of Modern Art, a three-city exhibition that took place at the U.S. National Guard’s armories in New York City, Chicago, and Boston. Soon, he would move back to New York City and settle into the apartment in Greenwich Village where he lived the rest of his life.

He continued doing commercial art for work and delved into new mediums of art on the side, such as etching. Although his art hadn’t made a name for him after several years of trying and many paintings later, by 1923, Hopper finally gained the recognition he worked hard for. He met his wife Josephine Nivision, a fellow artist, while on a trip back to Gloucester; she was enamored with him and admired his work. Later, she would be the primary model he used in his paintings as well as his manager. With her help, his career was soon soaring. Many museums around New England began purchasing his old commercial watercolors in addition to his more personal oil paintings which enabled him to make a comfortable living creating the art he wanted to rather than needed to.

Many of Hopper’s most popular artworks came out of the early ‘40s, including Girlie Show (1941), Nighthawks (1942), and Morning in a City (1944). Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Hopper’s health began to decline. He underwent many surgeries for his prostate, but also suffered with other health complications. In spite of his health, he kept busy painting. In 1963, he painted the Sun in an Empty Room, which appears exactly as it is called. Four short years later, Edward Hopper died in his studio apartment in New York City on May 15, 1967. Several of his paintings are exhibited in renowned museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Learn more about the art and life of Edward Hopper at the New York State Library:

-Edward Hopper, 1st ed.
    Troyen, Carol. 2007

-Edward Hopper : the watercolors
    Mecklenburg, Virginia M. (Virginia McCord). 1999.

-Edward Hopper and the American imagination 
    Lyons, Deborah. 1995.

-Edward Hopper : an intimate biography 
    Levin, Gail. 1995.


July 4th

the first fourth

Image Source: Library of Congress

July 4th is celebrated annually in the United States of America as Independence Day. Although the official vote for independence occurred on July 2nd by the Continental Congress in 1776, July 4th became the day in which Americans celebrate their independence from British rule. The Continental Congress served as the government for the thirteen American colonies from 1774 to 1789. In June of 1776, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee had proposed the motion of separating from Great Britain before the Congress. However, debate on the topic would lead to the postponement of voting on the motion. Later, when the Congress returned to Lee’s proposition for independence, they appointed a small committee to draft a formal statement addressing their intentions for leaving the Crown. The committee was represented by five delegates from the thirteen colonies, including Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Robert R. Livingston of New York. Initially, when battles of the Revolutionary War first broke out in 1775, many colonists were not interested in separating from the Crown entirely; it wasn’t until the following year when Great Britain became more aggressive that the colonists started fighting for their freedom. On July 2, 1776 the motion for independence was passed by a landslide of votes. While nearly unanimous, New York initially voted against the separation, apprehensively remaining loyal to the Crown, but later voted in favor of independence.

John Adams was a firm believer that Independence Day should have been designated on July 2nd, considering that was when the majority vote had passed. In fact, he foresaw that July 2nd would “‘be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival’ and that the celebration should include ‘Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other’” (, 2013). Unfortunately, Adams’ wishes weren’t carried out and July 4th was chosen as the day for celebrating our nation’s independence from Great Britain. He often refused invitations to Independence Day celebrations in later years as an indirect protest against the holiday’s designation. Still, July 4th was a significant day because it was the day that the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Congress. As the war waged on, colonists began celebrating the fourth of July as our nation’s birthday in 1776 and the tradition has continued into the present date.

Find useful resources about Independence Day and our forefathers at the New York State Library.

-My American Revolution, 1st ed. 
  Sullivan, Robert. 2012.

-Signing their lives away : the fame and misfortune of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.
  Kiernan, Denise. 2011.

-Patriot pirates : the privateer war for freedom and fortune in the American Revolution, 1st Vintage Books ed.
  Patton, Robert H. (Robert Holbrook). 2009.

Lou Gehrig


Image Source: Wikipedia

Lou Gehrig was born on June 19, 1903 in Yorkville, New York City, New York. He was the second oldest of four children from his German immigrant parents. Henrich, his father, was a sheet metal worker and Christina, his mother, was a maid. His mother’s earnings were the primary income for the family because his father was in and out of work due to his abuse of alcohol. At a young age, Gehrig helped support his family after his two sisters died from whooping cough and the measles and his brother died in infancy.

At the age of seventeen, Gehrig received recognition for his talents playing baseball while attending Commerce High School. Playing against Chicago’s Lane Tech High School at Cubs Park (now Wrigley Field), he hit a grand slam out of the park in front of 10,000 visitors on June 26, 1920. Commerce won the game that night with a score of 12 to 6. Gehrig graduated from high school in 1921 and enrolled in Columbia University on a football scholarship. In college, he majored in engineering and played both football and baseball. Briefly, he played on a summer professional baseball team under the false name, Henry Lewis. After a dozen games with the Hartford Senators, his identity was discovered and he was banned from playing on any college sports team during his freshman year. In his sophomore year at Columbia, he went back to sports, playing as a fullback for the football team and as first baseman and pitcher for the baseball team. Although Gehrig completed two years at Columbia, he never graduated from the university.

Yankee scout Paul Krichell had followed Gehrig’s amateur career for a while, impressed by his skills and techniques, including his powerful left-handed hitting. In June of 1923, Gehrig had signed a Yankee contract. He was introduced on the team as a pinch hitter mid-way through the season and played in 23 games, but not in the World Series of that year. Four years later, Gehrig would be renowned for the greatest season ever played by a batter with an average of .373 at bat and 218 hits, including 52 doubles, “18 triples, 47 home runs, a then-record 175 runs batted in (surpassing teammate Babe Ruth’s 171 six years earlier), and a .765 slugging percentage” (Wikipedia, 2013).

Although Gehrig was often overshadowed by his iconic teammate, Babe Ruth, he is remembered for setting many major league records during his baseball career, some of which were only broken or tied within recent years. He had hit the most career grand slams (23) until this record was tied by Alex Rodriguez in 2012 and he played the most consecutive games (2,130) until this record was beat by Cal Ripken, Jr. in 1995.

In 1934, Gehrig was struck with his first lumbago attack. Although he finished the game that day, he needed a pinch runner to take his place. The media speculated that this might have been an early sign of what was to come later. In 1937, Gehrig’s stats stood at .351 batted and .643 slugged. However, by 1938, Gehrig’s stats started to decline with his health, with an average of “.295 at bat, 114 RBIs, 170 hits, .523 slugging percentage, 689 plate appearances with only 75 strikeouts, and 29 home runs” (Wikipedia, 2013). Although his stats were still above average, they were not representative of an all-star player.

A year later, while the Yankees were playing in Chicago, Gehrig flew to Rochester where he was diagnosed with having amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (AML); a new disease at the time that became otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and, of which, there is still no known cure. In June 1939, Gehrig turned 36 and he was suffering with progressive paralysis and speaking and swallowing difficulties and facing a life expectancy of no more than three years. A month after his diagnosis, he retired from Major League Baseball and his uniform number 4 was retired by the New York Yankees. On June 2, 1941, seventeen days before his 39th birthday, Lou Gehrig died in his home in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, New York.