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Elvis! Where Are You?

Elvis Research Topic

Elvis Presley Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Unless you are well over the age of 40, you probably don’t remember when Elvis died. I remember exactly where I was when I found out about the death of “The King.” I had been hired, along with my cousin Ricky, to clean out the inside of an old Ben Franklin store in downtown Russellville, Kentucky. Part of that job was to smash through concrete blocks with sledgehammers, which we did with glee. When I got home, my mom was in the kitchen fixing dinner, and the first thing she said to me was: “Elvis Presley died today.” I remember being stunned, standing silently for a few moments, then saying something like, “No way.” I turned on the TV and waited for the 5:30 CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Sure enough, that was the lead story that night…the death of Elvis. I also recall glancing into the kitchen to confirm what Mom had already told me. I could see that my mom was wiping a tear with the back of her hand, and I never knew whether her tears were for Elvis or on account of the onions she was slicing.

Wednesday, August 16th, marks the 40th anniversary of the death of one of the icons of American music. It is difficult now, in the 21st century, to understand the impact that Elvis had on American music and culture. Many of the most well-known musical artists from the 1950s to the 1980s and beyond were influenced in some way by Presley. You doubt me? Read some of these quotes:

  • Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century.” – Leonard Bernstein
  • Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.” – Bob Dylan
  • It was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody’s ear, and somehow we all dreamed it.” – Bruce Springsteen
  • I would practice Elvis in front of the mirror when I was twelve or thirteen years old.” – K.D. Lang
  • Elvis Presley is like the ‘Big Bang’ of Rock ‘n’ Roll. It all came from there.” – Bono of U2
  • It was Elvis that got me interested in music.” – Elton John
  • Elvis is iconic; a lot of performers today look to that for inspiration.” – Beyonce
  • I doubt very much if The Beatles would have happened if it was not for Elvis.” – Paul McCartney

By now, the story of Elvis’ rise from poor kid in Tupelo, Mississippi, to “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” and his tragic death from prescription drug abuse is well known. Sadly, some people’s exposure to Elvis might be the spate of really bad movies and soundtracks he cranked out or the many Las Vegas shows he did in the 1970s, but to get a grasp of the “real Elvis,” one has to listen to some of his recordings from the mid-to-late 1950s and early 1960s where Presley was producing some very innovative music indeed.

Elvis' Graceland in Memphis, TN

Graceland via Wikimedia Commons Photo by Jan Kronsell (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Elvis purchased Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1957. It was a former church that had been converted into a 23-room mansion. He lived there for the rest of his life. I’ve been to Graceland twice, once in the mid-1980s and again in 2001. Sure, it can be kind of schmaltzy and cheesy, but there is a lot of good music history to experience in Memphis (Beale Street, the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and Sun Records Studio). In the end, I came away from Graceland both times a bit sad thinking about what was and what might have been.

Elvis was born in 1935. He died when he was just 42. Today, had he lived, he would be in his 80s. Like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe who went before him, it is hard to imagine an 80-year-old Elvis Presley.

This August would be a good opportunity for music teachers, or even history teachers with a keen interest in pop culture, to use the resources in eLibrary to introduce your students to the musical and cultural influence of “The King.”

And, as John Lennon of The Beatles noted, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”

Let others know about some of your Elvis or Graceland memories. You can tweet us using #ProQuest.

Just some of the many eLibrary articles and videos about Elvis:

The Day Elvis Died Atlanta Journal and Constitution (Newspaper)

Elvis Presley American Cultural Leaders (Reference Book)

Elvis Presley Is Drafted into the Army MPI Video

Elvis Presley Marries Priscilla MPI Video

Elvis: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Reluctant Rebel History Today (Magazine)

Stuck on Elvis: Elvis Presley: Perceptions and Legacy The World & I (Magazine)

A Few More Quotes:

  • I saw Elvis live in ’54. It was at the Big D Jamboree in Dallas and the first thing, he came out and spit on the stage…it affected me exactly the same way as when I first saw that David Lynch film. There was just no reference point in the culture to compare it to.” – Roy Orbison
  • But the [record] that really turned me on, like an explosion one night, listening to Radio Luxembourg on my little radio when I was supposed to be in bed and asleep, was “Heartbreak Hotel.” That was the stunner. I’d never heard it before, or anything like it. I’d never heard of Elvis before. It was almost as if I’d been waiting for it to happen. When I woke up the next day I was a different guy.” – Keith Richards
  • I’m sitting in the drive-through and I’ve got my three girls in the back and this station comes on and it’s playing “Jailhouse Rock,” the original version, and my girls are jumping up and down, going nuts. I’m looking around at them and they’ve heard Dad’s music all the time and I don’t see that out of them.”  – Garth Brooks
  • If life was fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.” – Johnny Carson

 

The Total Solar Eclipse and Scientific Literacy

On August 21st, around 1:24 pm Central Standard Time, on the historical Orchard Dale Farm just outside the little hamlet of Cerulean, Kentucky, there will be a few curious humans wearing all manners of strange sunglasses staring up in the sky to witness a once-in-a-lifetime event: a total solar eclipse.

Path of Totality

Animated Video of the Path of Totality (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

Unlike the thousands of other eclipse worshipers in the nearby town of Hopkinsville, where there will be a well-planned festival with live music and parades, the few hardcore eclipse fanatics who are precise in their geographical coordinates will visit this farm because it is the spot where the eclipse’s greatest coverage, and one of the longest in duration, can be viewed. A total solar eclipse is where the earth crosses the shadow of the moon, completely obscuring the sun and cutting off all direct rays of sunlight to earth. Stars will appear, the earth will cool, and the moon’s black disk will exhibit a halo around its edge from the sun’s corona.

This spectacular eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse in the United States since 1991 and the first coast-to-coast in nearly 100 years. The path of totality will cast a shadow 70 miles wide and will first present itself on the Pacific coast of Oregon near Salem, and then proceed across the heart of the country before exiting the Atlantic coast near Charleston, South Carolina.

Events like solar eclipses are great teachable moments for educators to not only teach students about eclipses but also for students to become more science literate. Science literate students, whether or not they go on to science-related careers or not, become a more informed public, and a more informed public means better decision making.

One of the goals of science literacy (and by extension, the scientific method) is to describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena. For science educators teaching astronomy, science literacy is not not just about explaining the world around us, but also explaining and predicting the behavior of other objects in our solar system, such as the sun and our moon, and our relationship with those extraterrestrial bodies.

Today, astronomers can now easily predict such things as the precise times and places of various celestial events such as meteor showers, comet visitations, and of course solar eclipses; not only the precise time an eclipse will happen at a particular location, but also where and when the longest duration and greatest extent of an eclipse. eLibrary can assist science teachers toward the goal of helping students become science literate. It has a wealth of information on all things astronomical, including its Research Topic on solar and lunar eclipses. Be sure to check out these and other resources at the end of this blog.

So, where will you be viewing the solar eclipse? Can’t be there? Too far away from the path of totality? For those who can’t watch the eclipse live, you can visit NASA’s Total Eclipse website and view their Eclipse Live Stream page here.

Parisians, circa 1912, Viewing a Solar Eclipse

Parisians, circa 1912, Viewing a Solar Eclipse (Wikimedia Commons)

If you decide to view the total eclipse in person, there are a few safety precautions you should take before attempting it. First, if you plan on looking directly into the sun, be sure you have the proper solar filter sunglasses for viewing. Using anything else will risk severe eye damage or blindness. If you are within the path of totality you may remove your solar filtered sunglasses briefly when the moon completely covers the sun but be sure to replace your solar viewers soon after to watch the departing eclipse. An alternative method for viewing the eclipse is the pinhole projection. Simply punch a hole in an index card or a sheet of cardboard and project an image onto a nearby surface. Alternatively, hold out and cross your hands in front of you with your fingers of both hands slightly stretched open to project the sun onto the ground in front of you and watch the projection of the spaces between your fingers change as the eclipse takes place. For more indepth safety tips for viewing the solar eclipse, visit NASA’s eclipse page on viewing safety here.

Finally, for those of you who plan to view the eclipse along the path of totality: Happy sun gazing and here’s wishing for clear skies!

Here are some eLibrary Research Topics and other helpful articles that will assist you in viewing and understanding the upcoming solar eclipse:

 

Unlikely Friends: Mark Twain and Ulysses S. Grant

Last Photograph of U. S. Grant

The Last Photograph of U. S. Grant via Library of Congress [Public Domain]

On Monday, July 20, 1885, after 11 months, two volumes, 1,231 pages and 291,000 words, “he put aside his pencil and said there was nothing more to do,” Mark Twain remembered. Twain was referring to Ulysses S. Grant’s heroic task of finishing his memoirs before succumbing to throat cancer.

History teachers know Grant as the general who saved the Union during the Civil War and as the 18th President of the United States. Teachers of Literature know Mark Twain as the author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and other great works.  What many may not know is that the two men were friends, and Twain was the publisher of Grant’s memoirs. Both Huck Finn and The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant were published in 1885, and neither book has gone out of print since that time.

A little background: After leaving the presidency in 1877, Grant made a series of financial miscues. It seems he was a much better general than financier. He became a partner in and invested a substantial sum in a Wall Street firm called Grant and Ward. The firm collapsed, leaving Grant and his wife Julia with $130 Julia had stored in a cookie jar and Grant with only $80 in his pocket. Desperate for funds, Ulysses agreed to write his memoirs to be published in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. Century offered Grant only a 10% royalty for the book, a sum much smaller than even a novice author would have received.  Mark Twain, knowing that his friend was being cheated, contacted Grant and asked him to not sign a contract with Century. Twain convinced Grant to sign with Twain’s own publishing outfit, Charles L. Webster & Co. Twain offered Grant 75% of the sales and a small advance which enabled Grant to write without worrying about money.

Mark Twain Research Topic

Mark Twain Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Shortly after beginning the book, however, Grant was diagnosed with advanced, terminal throat cancer. Grant knew he was in a race against time to finish his project, hoping that it might sell enough to provide for Julia and his family after he was gone. Doctors moved Grant and his family to a resort on Mount McGregor in the Adirondacks, hoping the fresh air would prolong his life. He suffered terribly during the writing of his memoirs. Working against the clock, he sometimes hammered out 25 to 50 pages per day. As his condition worsened, he wrote propped up in his chair by pillows, too weak to walk or even talk above a whisper.  “I am sure I will never leave Mt. McGregor alive,” he confided to Julia. “I pray God however that I may be spared to complete the necessary work upon my book.”

Grant Writing His Memoirs at Mt. McGregor 1885

Grant Writing His Memoirs at Mt. McGregor, 1885 Library of Congress [Public Domain]

 

Grant finished the book on July 20, 1885, and he died just 3 days later. Twain himself worked furiously during that Summer and Fall following Grant’s death to get the two-volume autobiography/memoir published.

 

Grant could not have known that his memoirs would sell enough for Twain to give some $450,000 to Julia (over $10 million today), making her one of the wealthiest women in the country.

 

Today, Grant’s autobiography is still considered by many scholars to be one of the greatest military memoirs ever written.  According to his friend Mark Twain, “General Grant’s book is a great, unique and unapproachable literary masterpiece.”

History and literature teachers should let their students spend some time searching eLibrary for more information on these two great figures from America’s past.

If you do not have a subscription to ProQuest products, you can request a free trial here.

EXTRA:

*Grant dedicated his memoirs to “the American soldier and sailor” – both Northern and Southern. “As it is, the dedication is to those we fought against as well as those we fought with. It may serve a purpose in restoring harmony.”

*A quote from General William Tecumseh Sherman: “Other books of the war will be forgotten, mislaid, dismissed. Millions will read Grant’s Memoirs and remember them.”

*Among the last words in Grant’s memoirs were the words that would eventually be engraved on his tomb: “Let us have peace.”

*Twain visited Grant on several occasions in the months prior to his death. After one such visit, Twain noted: “One marked feature of General Grant’s character is his exceeding gentleness, goodness, sweetness. Every time I have been in his presence–lately and formerly–my mind was drawn to that feature. I wonder it has not been more spoken of.”

I Used ProQuest Products to Enrich My Summer Vacation — in Amsterdam!

One of the things I love about working for ProQuest is how much I learn and how I have been able to incorporate some of what I’ve learned into my personal life, including, most recently, my summer vacation.

Last summer, I blogged about the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), and while researching RAGBRAI, I learned how local libraries helped make lives easier for the cyclists.

Hearing the enthusiastic responses from the librarians in Iowa about the RAGBRAI summer cycling event inspired me to plan and partake in my own bicycle adventure.

From Inspiration to Reality

This summer, I took my son to Amsterdam, a city famous for cycling. There, we spent eight days biking around the city and getting in touch with our Dutch roots — our ancestors immigrated from Holland to New York, some 300 years ago, when it was called New Amsterdam. (And, yes, I even learned a bit about New Amsterdam via a ProQuest eLibrary Research Topic page called Dutch Colonies in America!)

House Boat Living

House Boat Interior

View from my bedroom window on our house boat on the Amstel River in Amsterdam. The boat had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, dining area and stocked kitchen. (Credit: Amy Shaw)

Before our trip, I remembered something else I had learned at work. From ProQuest’s CultureGrams, I had read about how some Dutch people live in house boats (CultureGrams has a neat slideshow and video on house boats in the Netherlands.) So, for our grand adventure, my son and I decided to do as the Dutch do and stayed in our very own house boat. (And, it even came with bikes!)

I was told by an Amsterdammer (or Mokummer, the nickname for a person born in Amsterdam) that the weather in their city can be quite unpredictable and that you must always have these four things with you: an umbrella, a rain jacket, a sweatshirt (or sweater) and comfortable shoes that can handle getting wet. But I already knew all that from my ProQuest research.

That said, as prepared as we were, we still managed to get drenched one day while boating in Giethoorn, a charming village of thatched-roof homes near Amsterdam. (Giethoorn is mostly car-free as the locals get around by boat instead.)

We had gotten caught in a downpour like the ones we’ve experienced in our hometown in South Florida, only the weather in Holland was much colder. But, no worries, because some restaurants will give you nice, fluffy blankets to warm up in while you eat!

Cycling in Amsterdam

Every time we parked our bikes in the city, we took a picture of our bikes and the location so we wouldn’t forget where to find them. (Credit: Amy Shaw)

As for the cycling in Amsterdam, if you’ve never done it before, you are in for a shock at the sheer numbers of bicycles (more than 800,000)! Nearly everyone rides bikes there, no matter the weather or the season. I asked a local if she even biked in the winter and she said yes, through snow or rain.

With all those cyclists, it is important to be careful and always look in all directions and especially keep an eye out for mopeds, which also share the roads and paths (fietspaden) designated for bikes.

Babboe Cargo Bike

Cargo bikes are common in the Netherlands. Some have seat belts in them for hauling children. (Credit: Amy Shaw)

Our biggest regret about Amsterdam is that our trip ended too quickly, but we will be sure to return. In the meantime, we really miss the food there, so we are making plans to try some of the Dutch recipes on CultureGrams.

RAGBRAI 2017

Oh, and coincidentally, this year’s RAGBRAI in Iowa opens on July 22nd in Orange City, Iowa, with the theme Dutch til’ Dawn, reflecting the city’s Dutch heritage.

More Pictures


Clockwise from left: Supermarket purchase, Unusual house boat on the Amstel River, Marsh land outside Giethoorn (Credit: Amy Shaw)

Epic Video

After our trip, I found this cool music video created by a Silicon Valley family that is moving to Amsterdam. Check it out here: http://www.sfgate.com/travel/article/family-leaves-SF-epic-video-11275244.php

What Inspires You?

Learning from librarians about a cycling adventure and reading about different cultures at work inspired me to take a trip of a lifetime. What have you learned in the classroom or at work that has enriched your life in some way? Tweet us at #ProQuest.

Nelson Mandela’s Birthday: eLibrary Resources for the Classroom

On this day 99 years ago (July 18, 1918), Rolihlahla Mandela was born to the Thembu royal family in the South African village of Mvezo. The world would come to know him as Nelson Mandela, opponent of racialist policies, 27-year prisoner and eventually the first black president of South Africa.

While he is undoubtedly a hero for his pursuit of equality for all South Africans, history is complicated, and Mandela’s life and career provide the opportunity to examine justice, freedom and the moral considerations of revolution. Early protests against apartheid were largely unsuccessful and resulted in retaliation by the white-minority government. Mandela and others in the African National Congress came to the conclusion that armed resistance was necessary. This brings up some questions. “What is the difference between a struggle against an unjust government and a terrorist movement (which is what some called the ANC’s efforts)?” “Can the same question be asked in relation to the American Revolution?” “How did the West view Mandela and the situation in South Africa at the time?”

Mandela and President F. W. de Klerk negotiated a new constitution that would ensure rights for all and agreed on elections that would enfranchise the country’s majority black population–efforts that won them a Nobel Peace Prize. What cements Mandela’s legacy is his insistence on uniting his country in a climate of fairness. After the apartheid system was defeated and Mandela became president, he rejected a course of retribution against whites and made efforts to bring all of his countrymen together, much to the dissatisfaction of more militant voices. He helped form the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated crimes committed by both the government and the African National Congress.

Nelson Mandela Research Topic

Nelson Mandela Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

ProQuest’s eLibrary can supplement your classes’ discussions of Mandela, African history, human rights and matters of justice. Besides all of the great articles, websites and other resources available in eLibrary that can be discovered while searching, also look for relevant Research Topics that can provide background, context and points of view. Here is a sampling:

Nelson Mandela

Apartheid in South Africa

F. W. de Klerk

South Africa

Human Rights

Imperialism

Breaking News: Vice President Shoots Former Treasury Secretary!

Dueling Pistol

Dueling Pistol Photo via Pixabay [CCO Public Domain]

If you find yourself teaching U.S. History in summer school classes, you might want to rip a page from the headlines of July 11, 1804, and share it with your students. In what has to be one of the wackiest acts of political animosity in United States history, a sitting vice president fought a duel with and fatally wounded a hero of the Constitutional Convention and former Secretary of the Treasury. If it sounds convoluted, it is.

Your students are probably familiar with Alexander Hamilton either via textbooks or the wildly popular “Hamilton” Broadway musical. If not, here is a brief primer. Hamilton was born on Nevis, an island in the Caribbean. He arrived in the Colonies in the 1770s and joined the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He was noticed by General George Washington who used him as an aid. Fast-forward to the Constitutional Convention, where Hamilton was instrumental in winning ratification of the Constitution. He was appointed the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury by President George Washington. Hamilton developed a monetary policy that saved the young country from financial ruin. He later became leader of the political party known as the Federalists.

Aaron Burr may be the lesser known of the two figures, but he was an accomplished person in his own right. Burr, born in 1756, was from a wealthy New Jersey family. He graduated college at the age of 17. Like Hamilton, he joined the Continental Army and served for a while under General Washington. Burr was elected to the New State Assembly and later served as a state attorney. In 1790, he defeated Hamilton’s father in a bid for the U.S. Senate. Burr eventually became vice president under Thomas Jefferson in 1800.

Now, here is where things get a bit ugly.

Aaron Burr Research Topic

Aaron Burr Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Alexander Hamilton Research Topic

Alexander Hamilton Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long before the advent of social media, politicians were bad-mouthing each other either in a public forum or in print. Hamilton detested Burr. Hamilton once said of Burr: “I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career.” Hamilton began his first series of public attacks on Burr when Burr first ran for the vice presidency in 1796. Hamilton considered Burr to be “dangerous” and an “opportunist” and spoke against him on many occasions. Burr later ran as an independent for governor of New York. During the election, his character was attacked so viciously by Hamilton that he challenged him to a duel, or an “Affair of Honor.”

These so-called affairs of honor were somewhat commonplace in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and they usually ended peacefully enough, but not this time. Burr demanded satisfaction. The combatants met at seven o’clock in the morning at a spot near Weehawken, New Jersey. There are conflicting reports about what happened next.

Even though some pundits say we live in the era of “Fake News,” we have nothing on the media of the time of the Burr/Hamilton duel. Hamilton’s assistant said that Hamilton decided that the duel was immoral and deliberately fired his pistol into the air. Burr’s assistant, however, claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed. Many newspapers of the time tended to print the version of the story associated with the political party they supported. Some praised Hamilton and declared Burr to be a murderer. Burr’s supporters, however, attacked the newspaper campaigns aimed at him.

What is known for sure is that Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in the stomach, and the bullet stopped near Hamilton’s spine. He died the next day.

Historical marker of Hamilton-Burr duel in Weehawken, NJ

Historical marker of Hamilton-Burr duel in Weehawken, NJ via Wikimedia Commons by Billy Hathorn (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Burr was charged with murder, but because he was a sitting vice president living in Washington, D.C., he was immune from prosecution. His reputation, however, was forever tarnished. In 1805, Burr led a half-baked scheme to take over the Louisiana Territory and establish himself as the leader of a new empire. He even went so far as to lead armed citizens down to New Orleans, but he was captured and tried for treason. He, again, avoided prison and promptly left the country. In later life, he returned to the U.S. to practice law. He died in 1836.

This Summer, instead of challenging your students to a duel, challenge them to explore the many historical Research Topics available in eLibrary.

Dueling Trivia:

*The dueling ground in Weehawken, New Jersey, where Alexander Hamilton was fatally wounded was the same spot where Hamilton’s own son was killed in 1801 defending his father’s honor.

*Future president Andrew Jackson fought a duel with Charles Dickinson in 1806. Dickinson accused Jackson of cheating on a horse racing bet, so the two met near the Red River in Kentucky for a 19th-century throw-down. Dickinson fired first and hit Jackson in the ribs. Jackson returned fire, killing Dickinson. Doctors judged the musket ball lodged in Jackson’s chest to be too close to his heart to remove, so the bullet stayed in his body for the rest of his life.

*In 1826, Senator John Randolph accused Secretary of State Henry Clay of “crucifying the Constitution and cheating at cards.” Randolph, of course, found himself challenged to a duel. Randolph, a crack shot, decided that it would be unwise and unmanly to kill Clay, so he determined to aim high and let Clay live. When both men met for the duel, Randolph accidentally fired his gun into the ground. Clay, accepting that it was a misfire, allowed Randolph to reload his pistol. Randolph, still not wanting to kill Clay, fired first and nicked Henry Clay’s coat. Clay fired back and missed his target. They decided to have a do-over. This time, Clay fired first, missing his opponent yet again. Randolph then fired his weapon into the air. Moved by the gesture, Clay met Randolph at mid-field and shook his hand, thus ending the duel.

If you do not have a subscription to ProQuest products, you can request a free trial here.

 

Happy Birthday, P.T. Barnum!

Today marks the 207th birthday of Phineas Taylor “P.T.” Barnum. The legendary showman is best remembered for his elaborate hoaxes and founding the circus he called “The Greatest Show on Earth.” He entertained the public by promoting human curiosities, animal attractions, and music concerts.

P.T. Barnum Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

P.T. Barnum Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Early Life

P.T. Barnum was born in Bethel, Connecticut on July 5, 1810. He started his journey as an entrepreneur at a young age. At 12-years-old, he was selling cherry-rum to soldiers. His various jobs included working as a store-keeper, running a lottery business, and editing his own newspaper called the “Herald of Freedom.”

The “Great American Showman”

Barnum moved to New York City in 1834. A year later, he launched his entertainment career when he purchased and exhibited Joice Heth, a blind African-American slave. Heth was touted as being George Washington’s 161-year-old former nurse. After Heth’s death in February of 1836, Barnum staged a public autopsy that revealed Heth was probably not older than 80.

In December of 1841, Barnum bought Scudder’s American Museum and relaunched it as Barnum’s American Museum on January 1, 1842. The museum’s collections included historic exhibitions, taxidermied animals, live animals, wax figures, and oddities–such as the “Feejee Mermaid.”

In 1842, Barnum met a 4-year-old dwarf named Charles Sherwood Stratton in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Stratton weighed 15 pounds and was 25 inches tall. Barnum hired Stratton for $3.00 a week and introduced him to audiences as “General Tom Thumb.” Barnum told the public that Stratton was 11-years-old to avoid accusations that he was exhibiting a child somewhat smaller than average. The exhibit’s massive popularity led to a tour of Europe, which included a performance for Queen Victoria.

One of Barnum’s most successful ventures was his promotion of Swedish opera performer Jenny Lind. Barnum brought the “Swedish Nightingale” from Europe to the United States in 1850 for a triumphant tour that set astounding box-office records. Barnum reportedly earned over $500,000 for the tour.

Bridgeport, Connecticut

In addition to being a promoter, Barnum was interested in transforming Bridgeport, Connecticut into a booming metropolis. He suffered bankruptcy after trying to lure the ill-fated Jerome Clock Company to his adopted hometown. Barnum restored his monetary standing by touring with General Tom Thumb and through a lecture tour. He was Bridgeport’s mayor for one term and served two terms in the Connecticut legislature.

Circus Pioneer

On July 13, 1865, Barnum’s American Museum was destroyed by a fire. He opened a second museum that also burned down in 1868. In 1870, Barnum agreed to collaborate with circus managers W.C. Coup and Dan Castello on a gigantic circus venture. P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Circus opened in Brooklyn on April 10, 1871. Many of Barnum’s old performers were recruited for what he referred to as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” In 1874, Barnum’s spectacular show found a permanent home at the New York Hippodrome, now known as Madison Square Garden.

In 1881, Barnum combined forces with his chief rival James Bailey to form the Barnum & London Circus. Barnum and Bailey experienced great success the following season with the purchase of Jumbo. The legendary elephant weighed 6 ½ tons and stood over 11 ½ feet tall. Jumbo delighted audiences until his accidental death in 1885.

In 1887, Barnum agreed to relinquish control of the circus, which became the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth.

Legacy

Barnum died on April 7, 1891. After Barnum’s death, Bailey managed the show for many years. In 1907, Bailey’s competitors, the Ringling brothers bought the Barnum & Bailey show. The two shows were combined in 1919, becoming known as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, The Greatest Show on Earth. As someone who grew up with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and loved the extravaganza, it is with a heavy heart that I write that “The Greatest Show on Earth” no longer exists. The iconic circus gave its final performance on May 21, 2017 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Resources

P.T. Barnum is remembered as a brilliant promoter who transformed entertainment. Educators, have your students learn more about his life and career through these websites available in SIRS Issues Researcher and these ProQuest Research Topics available in eLibrary:

The Barnum Museum

Circus Research Topic

Circuses and Sideshows

The Lost Museum

P.T. Barnum and the Management of Spectacle

P.T. Barnum Research Topic

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Independence Day! 10 Official Symbols of the USA

It’s the Fourth of July! And thoughts of this holiday can, of course, take one in many directions: the Founding Fathers, family gatherings, the struggles over the years to maintain peace and prosperity, etc. But today, let’s take a look at 10 iconic symbols that have become synonymous with the U.S. over its 240-plus years of existence.

U.S. National Symbols Research Topic

U.S. National Symbols Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

  1. Liberty Bell  Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this iconic symbol of American independence was originally commissioned in 1752.
  2. The Great Seal  The seal was created by the Founding Fathers to reflect the beliefs and values they attached to the new nation.
  3. Old Glory  Betsy Ross was reported to have sewn the first American flag in May of 1776.
  4. Bald Eagle  The American bald eagle was chosen as the National Bird in 1782, chiefly for its majestic beauty and strength.
  5. Uncle Sam  The U.S. got this nickname in 1813. The name is linked to Samuel Wilson, who supplied food to the US Army during the War of 1812.
  6. Statue of Liberty  This gift from France was dedicated in New York City in 1886, and was declared a National Monument by President Coolidge in 1924.
  7. The Pledge of Allegiance  This Oath of Loyalty was originally written in 1892 by clergyman Francis Bellamy. It was amended in 1954 to include the words “under God.”
  8. “In God We Trust”  This became the nation’s official motto in July 1956 after President Eisenhower signed it into law.
  9. The Mighty Oak  The oak tree became the national tree of the U.S. in 2004 after Americans voted for it via the National Arbor Day Foundation.
  10. Bison  In 2016, President Obama signed into law the National Bison Legacy Act, marking the bison as the country’s official mammal.
Independence Day Research Topic

Independence Day Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

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“Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote.”

Many young people may not realize it wasn’t until 46 years ago that teenagers gained the right to vote. The voting age started to become a controversy during World War II when President Franklin D. Roosevelt lowered the minimum age for the military draft to 18. Many young people felt it was unfair to be required to fight in the war without the right to have a say in the policies of the nation through voting. The youth voting rights movement began with the slogan, “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”

From 1942 to 1971, Rudolph Jennings of West Virginia, as a congressman and later as a senator, brought 11 pieces of legislation to Congress to lower the voting age to 18 but was unsuccessful. Only a handful of states lowered the voting below 21 and only Georgia and Kentucky allowed voting at age 18.

The 1960s brought the issue to a head at a time when young people were at the center of civic involvement. They often participated in marches, sit-ins, and other forms of protest on civil rights issues for blacks, women, and to end the war in Vietnam. Again a war was the impetus to fuel the movement.

On June 22, 1970, Congress voted to extend the Voting Rights Act to apply to age and allow voting at age 18. After challenges to the law and a ruling at the Supreme Court in Oregon v. Mitchell that Congress could only regulate the age in federal elections not State or local, support swelled for an amendment that would set a uniform voting age of 18 in all elections.

On March 10, 1971, the U.S. Senate unanimously voted in favor of the 26th Amendment and it went to the states for ratification. On June 30, 1971, the amendment was considered officially ratified. On July 5, 2017 the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was certified and signed into law by President Richard Nixon.

The youth turnout was 55.4% in 1972 but then declined over the years reaching 36% in the 1988 election. The tide dramatically turned in the 2008 election of Barack Obama with a youth vote turnout of 49% which is the second highest in history.

The Current Debate

The current controversy with voting age is a call to reduce the age further to 16. As young people have access to more information than ever before, many teens and youth advocates are calling for lowering the voting age. Some countries, such as Austria and Nicaragua, have reduced their minimum voting age to 16.

Proponents say a lower voting age would focus attention on issues of particular interest to young adults. But some say younger teens are still learning about the democratic process and may not yet know how to be responsible citizens. These critics argue that, at 16, children are too immature to vote.

Educators, find the latest coverage of this issue in the SIRS Issues Researcher Leading Issue: Voting Age and in the eLibrary Research Topic: Voting Age.

Don’t have SIRS Issues Researcher or elibrary? Request a free trial.

Canada … You Don’t Look a Day Over 149

Canada 150 via Flikr [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

July 1, 2017, marks the 150th anniversary (the sesquicentennial) of the Canadian Confederation.  On this date, the three British colonies of the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick united to form the Dominion of Canada under the British North America Act of 1867.  What is now ten provinces and three territories sprang from these original four.

In celebration of her sesquicentennial, here are 13 interesting and fun facts about Canada.

  1. Canada’s name means “village” originating from the Iroquoian word, “kanata.” When the French explorer, Jacques Cartier, met the Iroquois chief, Donnacona, he inquired the name of the land. Whether Cartier truly understood Donnacona’s response or not, the country’s name has remained since the 16th century.
  2. While technically not a confederation, the use of the term Confederation became the go-to descriptor for Canada’s union in the 19th century. Canada is actually a federation because of its central government and partially self-governing provinces.

    National Flag of Canada via Wikimedia Commons [Created by E Pluribus Anthony]

  3. The iconic Canadian national flag, unofficially the Maple Leaf, did not become official until February 1965. That is almost 100 years after the formation of the Confederation! Until then, Canada had used about 13 different flag designs.
  4. Canada is huge in terms of area (9.9 million square km/3.8 million square mi).  It is the second largest country in the world.  Only Russia is larger.
  5. There are over 36 million people who call Canada home. Almost 21% of the Canadian population is foreign born.  Canadians claim over 200 languages, including 60 indigenous, but English and French are Canada’s official languages.  Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris.
  6. Canada’s First Nations number 1.8 million people and 634 tribal governments and bands. Canoes, hockey, corn, snowshoes, chewing gum and cough syrup are just some of their contributions to Canada and the world.
  7. Canada has 20 percent (one-fifth) of the freshwater in the world. It has more lakes than the rest of the world’s lakes combined. No other country’s surface area is covered by as much water as is Canada’s – almost 9%.
  8. Record holder: Canada has the largest polar bear population, produces the most maple syrup and has the most doughnut shops per capita. It also claims the most educated society with over half its residents having college degrees.
  9. While polar bears are populous in Canada, they are not the national animal. That would be the North American Beaver.
  10. Canada could have become part of the United States if it had wanted. According to Article XI of Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States, Canada would have been 

    Provinces of Canada, July 1867-July 1870 via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]

    automatically accepted into the union—no questions asked. Any other colony requesting admission would have required nine states to agree.
  11. Ice hockey is the most popular sport in Canada. It was invented by the Mohawks who called it “aukie.” What would surprise many is one of America’s most popular sports, basketball, was invented by a Canadian.  In an effort to keep his students active on rainy days, Dr. James Naismith created the game in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
  12. Canada vs. America: The United States invaded Canada twice – first during the American Revolutionary War in 1775, second during the War of 1812. The United States lost both times.
  13. Canadians are not Americans, and they don’t end every sentence with ‘eh.  The debate over Canadian identity has been ongoing since before Confederation.

Canada’s sesquicentennial is a year-long celebration.  For students in Canada and those in the United States who would like to learn more about their northern neighbor, eLibrary offers a multitude of resources.  Check out Research Topics on Canada’s First Nations, Canadian provinces and territories, Canadian history and Canadian identity.  Search Canadian publications to find provincial newspapers, magazines and reference works such as the Toronto Star, Canadian Geographic, and the Canadian Encyclopedia plus many others.  Canada’s official Canada 150 website offers the scoop on all the celebrations commemorating Canada’s 150th birthday.  For more facts about Canada, the CBC’s Amanda Parris shares 150 of them in this fun video.

To our Canadian friends:  How you are celebrating Canada’s 150th?  Tweet us at #ProQuest.

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