One thing I have always done here on The Strawfoot is make certain that I use other’s photographs properly. Sometimes the price of doing the right thing means forgoing the ideal image for a post because it is not in the public domain. Usually I use the Library of Congress, National Archives, Wikimedia Commons and the like. Well, our work just got a little easier this week when Getty Images decided to make its catalog available for free for non-commercial use. It is surprisingly easy to do. I embedded the photograph above from the Getty Images website. This is an huge story and incredible resource. Make it part of your arsenal.
Last night I finished George Packer’s sobering new book The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. Packer consciously modeled the book on John Dos Passos’s USA Trilogy. Passos’s Trilogy depicted America as it was between 1910-1930. Packer talks about America between roughly 1970 and today. Trilogy was a series of novels; the stories told in The Unwinding are all too real.
It occurred to me when I read the book that I have never lived in a world where there was no Rust Belt. I found myself wishing my great friend Charles Hirsch were still alive. He was precisely twenty years old than I am and grew up at the tail end of Industrialized America. The loss of our manufacturing job base was something he talked about frequently. Were he still here today we would have talked about Packer’s book and broken it down.
This past November before he died we were planning a trip for this upcoming summer to his native Minnesota, where he was going to take me to some of the old mining towns and places like that. He would have been the perfect guide.
Packer does more than just discuss the collapse of American manufacturing. He tells the story of the deficit, banking crisis, political stalemate, and other ills that have plagued us in recent years. The book works because he puts a human face on the issues. He lets people from all sides tell their stories of success and/or failure in their own words.
I found myself getting older reading the farther I read along. So much of what seems like current events to me–say the energy crisis of the early 1970s–now reads as history. It is terrifying, too, to realize that the wheels aren’t on as tightly as you think they are.
I am sorry about the lack of posts recently. It may seem I have been slacking but I have actually been actively writing these past few weeks. Today I put the nearly-final touches on the third of three encyclopedia articles. Tomorrow I will give it one last proofread and then send off to the editor. It’s not something one does forever but I have written a dozen or so encyclopedia articles now and feel I always get something out of the process. I found these ones especially enjoyable and worthwhile to write. All three were related to NPS sites. I knew a fair amount about how national parks and monuments are created but I feel I now have a fresher perspective. Staring at the blank page will do that for you.
I have also been busy putting a proposal together for something about which I will comment if it transpires. Time will tell.
If you are on Facebook and have not “liked” the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site Facebook I urge you to do so if you have the desire. One of the reasons my posting has been lighter here is because I have been doing some things for the TRB. I have been there almost five months and have been enjoying it a great deal. Roosevelt is great because one can take any aspect of American history and make TR part of the story. He is an interpreter’s dream.
The Theodore Roosevelt Sr. I am writing is underway as well. I am a little concerned about finding enough primary material but I think there is enough. He is a fascinating guy in his own right. His is a story worth telling. I was in Green-Wood this past Sunday roaming around the Roosevelt and other headstones. So many great stories…
Spring got a little closer today when my MLBTV subscription turned over for the 2014 season. I don’t watch spring training games, per se, but is good to know that the exhibition season got underway this week. I remember living in Gainesville, Florida in the mid-1980s and having major league split squads come through to play the Gators. It was always very fast. You would hear at 10:30 am that the Yankees, some of them at least–maybe Mattingly if you were lucky–would be playing at 1:00. And it was all word of mouth; there was no internet as we know it in 1986. There really is something magic about spring training.
I downloaded the app to my iPhone as well. I did not the phone last year. I figure it will be ideal for listening on the radio. I am going to listen to a lot of ball this year.
Because it has been a long week we thought we would focus this Sunday morning on some lighter fare, this interview about 1970s television show Barney Miller. I have never understood why this show–which did last eight seasons–is not a greater part of our cultural memory. That it fell between genres–cop show, escapist sit com, socially relevant sit com–is the best I can come up with. One thing I think that hurt BM was being on ABC instead of CBS. The Tiffany Network, with its stable of Norman Lear shows such as All in the Family, Maude, One Day at a Time, and others, would have done a better job generating a following.
I have wanted to watch old episodes but alas BM is not available on either Amazon Prime or Streaming Netflix.
I had never thought about the idea that a show about a police precinct would itself be a statement coming after the social unrest of the 1960s. I know BM is in syndication and still watched by a large number of folks. I imagine though that its audience is primarily aging and watching for its nostalgia factor. It would be great if this show were rediscovered by a younger cohort in that “everything old is new again” vein in which popular culture operates.
As I sit here typing these words I can hear the snow and ice melting on the side of the house. Can spring be far behind? These last six weeks of cold and hibernation have gotten me thinking about summer, trying to calculate if and when were are going to go to Gettysburg. One thing I am still trying to process is last year’s Gettysburg sesquicentennial. There was so much to see, watch, and read that I’m still trying to sift through it all.
I am far from an expert on Gettysburg but I have been there at least a half dozen times and know the history and memory of the campaign fairly well. I mentioned in a post awhile back that one of my Gettysburg turning points was when I no longer saw Gettysburg as a tourist destination or historic site, but as a town. That is, as a place where people live, take their kids to Little League, cut the grass, and do all sorts of other mundane things. Ironically seeing Gettysburg in this context is what gave me a deeper understanding of the Gettysburg Campaign. It hit me hardest in the local cemetery.
One of the neat buildings on Baltimore Street is one that most tourists never see, let alone set foot in: the Gettysburg Federal Building. As it turns out, the structure is celebrating its 100th anniversary next week. Howard Taft approved the building, which locals were hoping would be done in time for the 50th anniversary in 1913. If you do the math you will see that that is not what happened. The building was many things over the years, including a post office. It’s interesting how old post offices often had that strong, assertive pose. The building is a testimony to the town’s importance. Eisenhower kept an office there as well. Today it is the Adams County Public Library.
Last night I finished Edward P. Kohn’s new book Heir to the Empire City: New York and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt. In my Interp at the TRB one of the things I stress is that it was New York City that most shaped Roosevelt. For starters he was the only president born in NYC, and his family traced traced its roots back to the original Dutch settlers of the seventeenth century. There are Roosevelts still living in New York City.
Roosevelt as New Yorker is an important point to make because the perception of him is that he is of the West. I guess when you write a four volume history called The Winning of the West that is bound to happen. And of course there was the ranching, the conservationism, and the mammoth bust carved into Mount Rushmore as well.
Part of these perceptions are the fault, if that is the right word, of Roosevelt himself, who as a national candidate had an interest in fostering a national image. Thus, he campaigned in, say, Kansas as a Westerner and in Georgia, the state of his mother’s birth, as a Southerner once removed. That’s what good candidates do.
That said, it was in New York State that TR took on Tammany Hall as an assemblyman, in New York City that he was police commissioner, and in Albany where he served in the executive mansion before becoming vice-president. As Kohn describes so well, the national policies he pursued through his Square Deal–immigration reform, the safety of our foods and drugs, labor negotiations & worker safety, government corruption–came from the challenges he faced here in the Empire State. It is something to remember.
(image/Library of Congress)