Archie and Edith Bunker’s original chairs are on display in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers, and Norman Lear were on hand at the ceremony in 1978 when those items were donated. Carroll O’Connor did not attend in person but telephoned in during the party the included the likes of Senator Barry Goldwater. As I understand it during later seasons the production unit used replicas of those originals. Everything else on set though remained essentially the same. Norman Lear originally had wanted the show to be shot in black and white, but the executives at CBS said no. Instead Lear went with the muted browns with which we are familiar. Well tomorrow the “All in the Family” original set goes on sale alongside Johnny Carson’s interview desk, the Cheers bar and much more.
I hope everyone’s Memorial Day Weekend is going well. I was up and out early yesterday to get the 7:17 train out of Moynihan Station for Philadelphia. I was there before 9:00 and got a coffee and croissant in the Old City waiting for the Betsy Ross House to open at 10:00. The more and more I visit Philadelphia the more I enjoy it. I pivoted to this era just five years ago. One of the maxims of his is: “Go there.” I made sure to walk the perimeter of Christ Church, which is where I took the photograph you see above. Philadelphia, or at least Historic Philadelphia, is much like Gettysburg in that people are visiting from across the country and world. Being the Chatty Cathy I am, I always strike up conversations with those around me. A family from Virginia, two women from California visiting the East Coast on a history road trip, and a visitor in the Museum of the American Revolution whose ancestor had served in Vermont’s Green Mountain Boys are just some of the figures I met along the way. I texted a relative with some photos and mentioned a close, late family member of ours who lived outside Philadelphia for much of her life. This person was a public school teacher for decades and took her classes to Independence Hall and the environs many times over the years.
I didn’t go in, but the line for Liberty Bell was long, which was great to see. I was especially moved by the archeological site that is now President’s House. To be there for part of Memorial Day Weekend was even more meaningful. When I got home in the early evening I texted a friend who is a retired NPS ranger here in the city and asked if he knew any of the backstory regarding that project. He did, and gave me a few insights. The memory of the Revolutionary War is fascinating and surprisingly understudied. I struck up a conversation with two of the extraordinary staff at the MOAR about the historiography of Philadelphia at the local level. They recommended a few titles, but we came to the consensus that the corpus of scholarship on Philadelphia itself is surprisingly thin.
Wherever you are, go get a little history on this weekend that kicks off the unofficial start of summer.
It is hard to believe Frank Sinatra has been gone a quarter century now. He died on this date in 1998. The late 1990s themselves feel like such a long time ago now, I suppose because they are. Here is a Sinatra’s song from one of his best and least appreciated albums, the 1967 bossa nova collaboration Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim. It is the perfect complement to this Mothers Day. Enjoy the spring day.
The Morristown National Historical Park Museum and Library has posted my article about John Glover and Loyalist William Browne. I’m not going into it here, but the hows and whys of this writing project have an interesting backstory. There was even a Brooklyn connection that I didn’t quite together until starting the work. There are many themes to discuss in the choices that Loyalists and Patriots made before and during the war. I’m going to continue with this story. Above in John Trumbull’s The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, December 26, 1776 we see Glover second from the top right. The guy got around. When the people at Morristown uploaded the article they noted that I’ll be speaking there on Saturday June 17. The talk is part of the ongoing commemoration of the park’s 90th anniversary. My talk will be based on an article I wrote for the Fall 2022 edition of The Federalist, the quarterly newsletter of the Society for History in the Federal Government. I’ll be speaking about a travel series sponsored by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in the 1910s and 1920s in which managing editor Hans von Kaltenborn annually led groups of 40-50 New Yorkers across the country, South America, North Africa, and Europe. National Park Service sites were the primary focus of the excursions. It’s a story I had always wanted to tell. I’ll tell it again in Morristown come June 17.
One thing that came up repeatedly during both the dedications and small talk at Morristown National Historical Park yesterday was the upcoming anniversaries in the next few years. 2024 will mark the 150th anniversary of the Washington Association of New Jersey, who came into being in 1874 after purchasing the Ford Mansion. It was the WANJ who gave the house to the NPS in 1933. They were present yesterday participating in the events. Next year also brings the 200th anniversary of Lafayette’s 1824-25 tour of America, which I intend to write about quite a bit over the next two years. In April 2025 comes the 250th anniversary of Lexington and Concord. And of course in July 2026 is the Big One: the semiquincentennial of the Declaration of Independence. When I was researching at the Society of the Cincinnati last July I had talks with several people saying speakers were already being lined up, there and elsewhere, for all these things. I say all this because today is the 253rd anniversary of the Redcoats’ shooting of Bostonians on King Street. As we see from the broadsheet above, people were marking the anniversary of what we today call the Boston Massacre already in the years immediately after the incident. Dr. Church’s oration was three years after the massacre and nine months before the Boston Tea Party, which took place in December 1773.
A friend was in Key West on holiday just after New Years and, knowing of my interest in both cemeteries and monuments, sent me the images below of the U.S.S. Maine Memorial. That ship sank in Havana harbor on this date in 1898, 125 years ago today. Over 250 men lost their lives. I have always had an affinity for the Maine on a number of levels. For one thing, it was built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Also, I remember taking college freshman history back in the day and our professor telling us about the study Admiral Hyman Rickover had once commissioned to get to the bottom of the sinking. Those investigators did not reach a definitive conclusion. A Historic American Buildings Report (HABS) tells us that the Maine was not memorialized at the national level until 1910, the year the ship was raised from Havana harbor. Her foremast was brought to Governor’s Island for a brief time before going to the Naval Academy. Local communities did build memorials to the Maine during and immediately following the Spanish American War. The one in Key West Cemetery was dedicated in March 1900, during which as you can see several sailors were also laid to rest. Here is a good 2015 article from the U.S. Naval Institute’s Naval History Magazine.
I hope everyone’s weekend is going well. I’ve been staying in and working on a writing project about which I will divulge more when the time comes. I’m having my coffee and gearing up for another day here in my little command center. I slept in today, which is rare for me. I ground out 500 words yesterday and am hoping to repeat that today. Writing is an exhausting process whose basic tenets never get easier. One thing I will say is that the piece I’m working on includes William Alexander, who among other things fought at the Battle of Long Island. Alexander died 240 years ago today on January 15, 1783 in the waning months of the Revolution. I don’t want to say more because I want to save some for the project I’m working on.
The week before the holidays I was having lunch with someone during which we were talking about what sites we may try to visit in the coming year. I even sent my friend a running list of venues potentially to explore. I don’t know what is there to see but I’m going to add Lord Stirling Park in New Jersey to my list.