Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Collective Memory: American Treasures of the Library of Congress

United States Flag (1814)In 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote new words for a well-known drinking song, To Anacreon in Heaven, to celebrate America's recent victory over the British. However, only on March 3, 1931 (following a twenty-year effort during which more than forty bills and joint resolutions were introduced in Congress) was a law finally signed proclaiming The Star Spangled Banner to be the national anthem of the United States. Happy 81st birthday! 

The American Treasures of the Library of Congress collection contains a copy of the first printed edition of our national anthem one of only ten copies known to exist.

Star Spangled Banner sheet music

BTW, before 1931, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, whose melody is identical to the British national anthem, served as our de facto national anthem.

American Treasures
The American Treasures of the Library of Congress online exhibition contains the rarest, most interesting, or significant items relating to America's past. This includes items, such as the Original Rough Draught of the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln’s First Draft of the Gettysburg Address.

Other exhibits in the American Treasures collection are more obscure, such as the Huexotzinco Codex. The Huexotzinco Codex is an eight-sheet document on amatl, a pre-European paper made in Mesoamerica. It is part of the testimony in a legal case against representatives of the colonial government in Mexico, ten years after the Spanish conquest in 1521.

Huexotzinco Codex (click for larger image)

Historic Photos
The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress contains a huge archive of photos one of the crown jewels of the American Treasures collection. The 1930s-40s in Color exhibition is a dramatic set of color photos from the Great Depression and World War II that capture an era generally seen only in black-and-white. It’s astonishing to see how much more powerful these images are in color.

The following photo shows a family at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland (1941). Notice the girls’ homemade dresses are made from the same bolt of cloth very common and very practical in those days.

At the Vermont State Fair, Rutland (1941)The next photo shows a small store with live fish for sale in Natchitoches, Louisiana (1940).

Fish for sale in Natchitoches, Louisiana (1940)The next photo shows two men on a mule-drawn wagon fertilizing an oat field in Georgia (1940). Despite the widespread introduction of farm machines throughout the country, mules and horses were still commonly used for farm labor.

Fertilizing an oat field in Georgia (1940)And finally, the last photo shows a woman operating a hand drill on a Vengeance dive bomber in a Vultee-Nashville aircraft factory (1943). With so many men in uniform during World War II, large numbers of women worked in factories.

Woman working on a dive bomber (1943)Photographers working for the United States Farm Security Administration (FSA) and later the Office of War Information (OWI) created these images between 1939 and 1944.

Redmond Library Board

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