Category Archives: History
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
It’s Leif Erikson Day! Hinga Dinga Durgen Everyone! Turns out this what Spongebob Squarepants wishes everyone on Leif Erikson Day. It’s his second favorite holiday, after April Fool’s… He even has a costume!
Leif Erikson (pronounced Layf, like some of us of a certain age remember the actor Leif Garrett) was a Norwegian traveler, voyager, explorer and sailor who is considered the leader of the first boat of explorers to visit North America. It’s generally considered that he landed at Newfoundland and later Labrador. Leif had a very adventurous father, Erik the Red, who established a colony on Greenland, after being kicked out of Iceland—but that’s another story.
There was no place for Leif there, since Erik the Red was a larger than life person himself, so he set his eyes on the West. There had been rumors of a far-away land full of wonders, (specifically from Bjarni Herjólfsson, another Viking explorer who some believe is the true first discover of North America.) He decided to go exploring, heading west across a great body of water. Artifacts excavated at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland have been dated to around 1000 A.D., which is considered the only confirmed Viking settlement in North America. According to sagas, the Norse called the area Vinland, because they found grapes growing there.
It wasn’t until 1924 that President Calvin Coolidge, after learning of the research done by Norwegian-American researchers, recognized Erikson as the “Discoverer of America,” even though the first book written about the Norse having discovered America was published in the late 1800s. Wisconsin was the first state to make Leif Erikson day an official holiday—not surprising since it was mostly settled by Scandinavians. Over the years, other states made the day an official holiday. In 1963, a U. S. Congressman from Duluth introduced a bill to observe Leif Erikson day across the nation. In 1964, L B J started the tradition of proclaiming October the 9th as Leif Erikson Day. Every year, it’s at least one thing Congress can agree on!
Why is it October 9? Since there were no records available from the Viking visitation in 1000, any date could have been chosen for Leif Erikson Day. How was October 9th chosen? The Norwegian ship Restauration, bearing the first official waive of Norwegian immigrants, arrived in New York on October 9, 1825.
So have a happy holiday, and remember that it’s because of Leif Erikson and the Restauration that Congress is actually agreeing once a year. Hinga Dinga Durgen Everyone!
(As always, the opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and in no way reflect upon the beliefs and principles of Williamson County Public Library, its employees, or the Norwegians.)
This year Williamson County Public Library is having a program on Saturday, August 15 in conjunction with Spirit of ’45 to commemorate the end of World War II and the soldiers who fought, served, returned or died during the war.
Why August 15th? The Greatest Generation, as Tom Brokaw so eloquently named them, would know immediately. Japan surrendered on august 14, and August 15 immediately began to be celebrated as V-J Day (as June 6th was V – E Day.) 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. As those who served in World War II and those who lived during it pass away, many people began to realize that as they pass away, so does our connection to World War II and remembering the cost and sorrow of the war.
Led by Susan Collins, Senator from Maine, supported by Senators Daniel Inouye and Frank Lautenberg, who co-sponsored this resolution, Congress in 2010 voted unanimously to create a national day to preserve and honor those who served in World War II. Spirit of ’45 Day is observed on the second Friday of August this year, aligning with August 14, 1945, when spontaneous celebrations broke out across America at the news that the most destructive war in history was over. The purpose of Spirit of ’45 Day is to renew the sense of community, national unity, shared sacrifice and “can do” attitude that were the hallmarks of the generation that endured the difficult times of the Great Depression, fought to defend democracy in the largest mobilization of manpower since the building of the pyramids, and led an unprecedented effort to assure a better future for their children and their children’s children, for both former ally and foe alike.
Spirit of ’45 Day has been steadily gaining traction each year, and is now being celebrated throughout the country with events and activities organized by museums and community history associations, WWII heritage groups, senior living communities and care providers, veterans’ organizations, youth leadership organizations, and others. This year, Scarlett Johansson and Elton John both are stepping up in a big way to help commemorate this generation. John’s mother manned an anti-aircraft gun during the Battle of Britain, and Johansson’s great uncle was the last soldier to die in combat on August 15, 1945.
WWII in Images: Remembrance and Reflection
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Library
Music and movies were two of the best and least expensive forms of entertainment during World War II. Ballrooms were packed as people got together to listen to music, dance, and forget about the Depression and the War for a while. Music pulled communities and nations together, and could be used symbolically to remind everyone what the soldiers and armies were fighting for.
Remember, there was no television yet, only radio, and people gathered around their radios to listen to news and radio programs, and the music they loved. Sometimes groups of people danced in living rooms, “cutting a rug,” others danced at school dances, in ballrooms and clubs. The famous Savoy Ballroom opened in 1926; it had a huge dance floor and a raised bandstand and was an immediate hit—that’s where the song “Stompin’ at the Savoy” came from. Prices were low; everyone was doing what they could to contribute to the war effort. It was a release to have fun and dance.
Many in Europe used Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as a secret code to show support for the Allies. The first five notes of the symphony are exactly the same at V (for victory) in Morse code – dit dit dit dah. Even though Beethoven was a German, he was known to have stood up for individual rights and was against Napoleon’s empire-building, which was enough for many Europeans. The Germans, under the leadership of Hitler, were big fans of Wagner, which made Wagner’s comeback after World War II take much longer than normal.
World War I vets had fallen in love with Paris, and the “Lost Generation “of the 1920s followed suit. Many soldiers had fond memories of Paris and wanted to remember France in better days. Starting with “As Time Goes By” (by Max Steiner) in Casablanca to “The Last Time I Saw Paris” (by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein) showed that men fighting abroad and other Allied countries mourned the Nazi occupation of France.
As for popular music, Hitler was rumored to detest jazz – perhaps because it was played (written and sung) by non-Aryans? The response to this belief was definitely to listen to more jazz, jive and swing music. Big bands and swing music were popular before World War II, and continued to be popular throughout the war. It was a nice diversion from thinking about the war and worrying if your special someone would be coming back. This was the time of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Bennie Goodman and their orchestras. Also included in this popular craze were Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman. “Swing, Swing, Swing, Swing” was a popular song, instrumental with lots of brass. “Deep Purple” (not to be confused with the band that came later!–guitarist Richie Blackmore named the band after the song because it was his grandmother’s favorite) was such a popular piano piece that words were quickly written for the song. Other popular swing music songs were “Begin the Beguine”, “In the Mood”, “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, “Sentimental Journey”, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “Midnight Serenade”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, and “Stompin’ at the Savoy”.
Big bands became less and less big as there were fewer and fewer men to play the instruments. Glenn Miller was rumored to have been a spy for the United States. He was flying over the English Channel when his plane went down in bad weather in December 1944. No one on the plane was ever found. So we’ll never know if he was a spy or just a musician going to another USO gig to remind the GIs of home. The music of the 1930s and 40s will always be remembered as a background to war, and a time when all people of the Greatest Generation were connected by music and patriotism. The fact that swing keeps coming back is a testament to its beat, its popularity and a true sense of nostalgia. Read the rest of this entry
In 2000, when Derek Arnold created International CAPS LOCK day, it was a parody, making fun of those people who insist in typing everything in ALL CAPITALS. But, as it happened, it became more and more popular, with people celebrating it just for the key itself. No parody at all. The day became so popular with internet users that it is now celebrated twice a year—on June 28 (this Sunday)and on October 22. But, WHERE DID WE GET THE CAPS LOCK KEY FROM?!?
In the beginning, before computers (GASP!) there were typewriters (ancient technology that went the way of the PHONOGRAPGH). Remington typewriters were the first to have a shift key, so you could shift to a capital letter but it was just a toggle switch–there was no way to keep that key down. In 1914, Remington added the SHIFT LOCK KEY on its Junior model, which gave the user access to more characters by keeping the key locked. Some think typewriters and computers added the CAPS LOCK KEY for businesses that needed forms typed in all caps (so anyone who hates the caps lock key, blame them). Typewriters placed the CAPS LOCK KEY where it is now, and computer designers copied the typewriter keyboard when the first put out computers, keeping the familiar QWERTY keyboard we all have become accustomed to. Even then, there were complaints when computers kept the same keyboard design (for those of you who wish the keyboard letters were alphabetical, they tried that first… there were issues, and now we’re stuck).
Early on in Internet history, Internet users had only text keys to show emphasis, no fun yet strange emoticons that can create entire conversations by themselves. They used **** and CAPS to differentiate their thoughts and emotions. Some people, holdovers from early Internet days perhaps, still type messages in all capitals. Nowadays, writing in ALL CAPS has become an etiquette NO-NO, since it is the equivalent of shouting online. Every once in a while for emphasis is considered OK, but not everything in caps. People have gotten fired for using all caps all the time. REALLY! In 2007, a woman in New Zealand was fired from her job after she sent one too many memos in all caps.
We may remember the phrase Magna Carta (Latin for Great Charter) from our history books, but probably few remember what it was actually about. King John was surrounded by an army of rebellious lords in the fields of Runnymede on June 15, 1215, (actually they were blocking his re-entry into London.) They forced him to agree as king and put his seal on this “great charter” to bring peace to the land. Truly, it was a way to agree to peace, so he could keep his throne. Strangely enough, he never really signed it; he died a year later in 1216. His son, Henry III, in 1225, issued a new, slimmed down version of this “great charter”, in return for the support of the barons in 1225. (Again, the barons!) Later, in 1265, he trimmed the charter down again and it to establish the first Parliament (or parlement, in French, based on the word discuss.) (If you missed the google doodle created for this anniversary, it’s cute.)
The original Magna Carta had 63 clauses. A third of this text was either cut or rewritten for the 1225 version. Today, only three of the original 63 clauses remain on the statute books. Of these three survivors one defends the liberties and rights of the English Church, another confirms the liberties and customs of London and other towns, and the third gives all English subjects the right to justice and a fair trial. This is the big one that made such an impact on English law, and therefore American law.
Here is the translation: No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell, to no-one deny or delay right or justice. (This means that for the first time in British history, and possibly world history, no one was above the law—not even the king!)
- The right to due process (Habeas Corpus) allowed free men (not serfs, slaves or women) to be judged and if needed punished by a jury of their peers.
- Justice could not delayed, bought or sold.
- All fines had to be reasonable, so no free man would lose everything paying a fine.
- Sheriffs could not take your property (presumably while you are in jail)
But that happened in England. What influence does the Magna Carta have for us, citizens of the United States of America?? Many of the founding fathers had studied English law and knew of this charter, and how it had limited the rights of the king. Since we were rebelling against the British government and the king, they wanted to use it as part of the foundation of their new nation – the United States of America. Many historians believe the founding fathers also used these statements, or at least Thomas Jefferson and James Madison did, in the writing of the Constitution as well. In 1976, for the bicentennial, Britain loaned one of the four surviving original copies to the United States for display at the Capitol. We did return the original, but kept a copy, which is still on display there.
So what started out as a peace deal between King John and the rich rebellious barons (who were angry at being overtaxed) became, in time, a foundation of one of our basics rights as put forth in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Read the rest of this entry
By Robin Ebelt, Reference Department
Women’s History Month celebrates the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. Take a moment to read about some amazing Tennessee women.
Nancy Ward from east Tennessee near Ft. Loudon was a native American who warned settlers of pending Indian attack enabling settlers to reach the safety of Ft. Watauga before an attack occurred.
Loreta Velasquez from Memphis disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Confederate army.
Ida B. Wells from Memphis was a crusader against racial discrimination. She was one of the co-founders of the NAACP in 1909.
Wilma Rudolph from Clarksville, TN overcame childhood polio to be a winner of three gold medals in the 1960 Olympic games.
Pat Head Summitt from Cheatham county was the University of Tennessee head women’s basketball coach from 1974-2012.
Dinah Shore was born in Winchester, Tennessee. She was an award-winning television personality and singer known for her string of TV shows, including Dinah!, Dinah’s Place, and Dinah and Friends.
Dolly Parton was born in Locust Ridge, Tennessee. Her literacy program, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, mails one book per month to each enrolled child from the time of their birth until they enter kindergarten. The Dollywood Foundation, funded from Parton’s net profits, has been noted for bringing jobs and tax revenues to a previously depressed region.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
- St. Patrick indeed lived in Ireland, but he was born Scottish; he was captured and sent to Ireland to be a slave
- He went back to his home after fleeing his servitude and answered God’s call, and went back to Ireland to convert the heathen
- He may have used the shamrock to teach the pagan Gaels about the trinity—triunes were very popular in Irish Gaelic/Celtic belief (and gods)
- For this holiday, the ban on drinking and eating rich foods was lifted by the church, which made it a most riotous holiday
- Even though the tradition is for everyone to wear green, it really is supposed to be the Catholics who wear green. The Protestants are supposed to wear orange on St. Patrick’s Day
- The first St. Patrick’s Day in the United States marched on March 17, 1762 by Irish soldiers serving in the English army, before the American Revolution!
- The shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade is in County Cork – it is only 100 yards, stretching from one pub to the other
- The holiday has been celebrated in space! In 2011, Catherine Coleman, who is Irish-American, played a flute and a pipe lent to her by members of The Chieftains
- Corned beef and cabbage is the traditional meal for St. Patrick’s Day
- Most people may be familiar with Dublin, Ohio, but there are several towns named for St. Patrick and Ireland in the United States:
- St. Patrick, Missouri
- Ireland, West Virginia
- Clover, South Carolina
- Shamrock, Texas
- Limerick, Maine