Today in History – September 30

On September 30, 1847, Congressman George Perkins Marsh delivered a speech on agricultural conditions in New England to the Agricultural Society of Rutland County, Vermont. This powerful address gave voice to ideas that would become a catalytic force in the movement to conserve America’s natural resources. Marsh recognized the human capacity for destruction of the environment and advocated better management of resources and active efforts toward restoration of the land—innovative ideas for the period.

But though man cannot at his pleasure command the rain and the sunshine, the wind and frost and snow, yet it is certain that climate itself has in many instances been gradually changed and ameliorated or deteriorated by human action.

Address Delivered Before the Agricultural Society of Rutland County, Sept. 30, 1847,” by George Perkins Marsh. Rutland, Vt.: printed at the Herald Office, 1848. p. 11. The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920.

George Perkins Marsh, Half-length portrait, head three-quarters to right, with spectacles. Mathew B. Brady, ca. 1850. Daguerreotypes. Prints & Photographs Division

Born in Woodstock, Vermont, Marsh was a lifelong spokesman for the preservation and care of natural resources. A successful lawyer deeply learned in several fields, he read some twenty languages fluently and became an acclaimed philologist. Marsh also studied silviculture (the development and care of forests) and soil conservation. In 1842, he was elected to Congress, where he served four terms. In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Marsh to serve as U.S. minister to Italy, a post he happily occupied for the rest of his life. While in Italy in 1864, Marsh published his pioneering book Man and Nature: or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action, analyzing the destructive impact of human activity on the natural world and arguing for the necessity of mitigating it. “[M]an is everywhere a disturbing agent,” Marsh wrote:

Wherever he plants his foot, the harmonies of nature are turned to discords. The proportions and accommodations which insured the stability of existing arrangements are overthrown. Indigenous vegetable and animal species are extirpated, and supplanted by others of foreign origin, spontaneous production is forbidden or restricted, and the face of the earth is either laid bare or covered with a new and reluctant growth of vegetable forms, and with alien tribes of animal life.

Man and nature; or, Physical geography as modified by human action. By George P. Marsh. New York: Charles Scribner, 1864. The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920.

Marsh’s book prophetically established some of the major themes of environmental thought into the twenty-first century and added to the momentum that the conservation movement was gaining in the United States. The writings of American Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau promoted the idea that contact with nature, especially in its wildest state, was beneficial to the human spirit. Naturalist John Muir settled in California and began speaking out for the protection of wild lands, especially the Yosemite Valley. In 1872, Congress declared the Yellowstone region of Wyoming the world’s first national park.

Grand Cañon of the Yellowstone [Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming]. Haines Photo Co., c1908. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division


Facing state pressure, Miami schools OK reopening next week

MIAMI (AP) — Faced with a state ultimatum, the Miami-Dade school board agreed unanimously to reopen schools for classroom instruction next week despite looming fears that they’re unprepared to prevent another spike in coronavirus infections.

It was either share classroom air again or lose millions in state funding by scratching a reopening plan approved by Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. He ordered the board in a letter last week to follow through on Monday, and said the state would allow only case-by-case exceptions for certain schools.

Corcoran’s letter objected to a previous board decision to postpone classroom instruction, perhaps until late October, so that more safety measures could be implemented and personal protective equipment obtained for teachers and staff.

Miami-Dade has both the largest school district in Florida, and the state’s worst coronavirus caseload.

Both President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis have pushed for classroom instruction to begin again. State officials granted flexibility to South Florida districts to continue with online learning because of their high virus caseloads.

Florida’s health department has since begun releasing statistics on coronavirus cases “associated with” individual schools. The vast majority showed total caseloads in the single digits.

Two high schools in the Florida Panhandle where some parents have complained about repeated quarantines of students who sat next to asymptomatic infected classmates had the highest number of confirmed cases, at 31 and 22. In Miami-Dade, where schools have struggled to successfully implement remote instruction this school year, no school has more than four infections, the numbers show.

Still, the teacher’s union condemned the board’s decision to restart physical classes next Monday, saying it was done “too quickly and without preparation.”

“The pressure from President Trump and Governor DeSantis proved to be far greater a force on our school board than our pleas for public health and safety,” said United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats in a statement. “When it came to our teachers, children and families in Miami-Dade, our board succumbed to the pressures.”

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Today in History – September 29

In October 1941, John F. Kennedy was appointed an ensign in the United States Naval Reserve, joining the staff of the Office of Naval Intelligence. After entering the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training Center in Melville, Rhode Island, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant (junior grade) in October 1942, and shortly thereafter ordered to report for duty as commanding officer of a motor torpedo boat in Panama. Prior to his departure, playwright Clare Boothe Luce, a close friend of the Kennedy family, sent the young naval officer a good luck coin that once belonged to her mother. On September 29, 1942, Kennedy wrote to Luce thanking her for sharing such an important token with him.

[John F. Kennedy, head-and-shoulders portrait,…] [between 1960-1970]. Prints & Photographs Division

I came home yesterday and Dad gave me your letter with the gold coin. The coin is now fastened to my identification tag and will be there, I hope, for the duration. I couldn’t have been more pleased. Good luck is a commodity in rather large demand these days and I feel you have given me a particularly potent bit of it.

Letter, John F. Kennedy to Clare Boothe Luce thanking the congresswoman for a good luck coin, 29 September [1942]. (Clare Boothe Luce Papers). Manuscript Division

Kennedy transferred to the Pacific theater in February 1943 and became commanding officer of PT109 in April, operating against the Japanese near the island of New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. On the night of August 1-2, Kennedy’s boat was rammed and cut in two by a Japanese destroyer. Although he was injured during the attack, Kennedy managed to locate one of his injured crew and lead him to safety; most of his crew survived. He later received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism.

A few months later, Kennedy again wrote to Luce. With his note, he enclosed a gadget, originally intended to be a letter opener, made “from a Jap 51 cal. bullet and the steel from a fitting on my boat, part of which drifted onto an island.” He concluded his message with a word of thanks for Luce’s earlier gift:

With it goes my sincere thanks for your good-luck piece, which did service above and beyond its routine duties during a rather busy period.

John F. Kennedy to Clare Boothe Luce, October 20, 1943. Clare Boothe Luce Papers (correspondence, box 116). Manuscript Division

No stranger to the front line herself, Luce covered World War II as a journalist. She published Europe in the Spring, an anti-isolationist account of her experiences in embattled Europe, in 1940—in the early days of World War II.

Portrait of Clare Boothe Luce. Carl Van Vechten, photographer, Dec. 9, 1932. Van Vechten Collection. Prints & Photographs Division


Today in History – September 28

On Saturday, September 28, 1912, William Christopher (W. C.) Handy’s “Mister Crump,” retitled “The Memphis Blues External,” went on sale at Bry’s Department Store in Memphis. Although the first 1,000 copies sold out in three days, Handy was told that the song had flopped. When the publisher offered to buy the rights for just fifty dollars, the composer agreed.

Born in Alabama in 1873, Handy attended Teachers Agricultural and Mechanical College in Huntsville. After a short stint teaching school, he began playing cornet with dance bands that traveled the Mississippi Delta. Handy transcribed and collected blues songs that he had heard on the road in the 1890s, but continued to play the ragtime dance tunes that audiences demanded. To identify recordings of W.C. Handy performing, search the American Folklife Center’s Traditional Music and Spoken Word Catalog.

[Portrait of William Christopher Handy]. Carl Van Vechten, photographer. July 17, 1941. Van Vechten Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

By 1909, Handy had settled in Memphis, Tennessee, a Delta city with a cosmopolitan population and a limitless appetite for music. In Memphis, even mayoral races warranted musical accompaniment. As one of the top bandleaders in town, Handy was hired by aspiring mayor E. H. Crump. To attract attention to his candidate, Handy wrote an original tune entitled “Mister Crump” which merged the blues sound with popular ragtime style by slightly flattening the third tone of the scale. Overwhelmingly popular, the song contributed to electoral success for Crump and musical success for Handy.

William Christopher Handy’s “Memphis Blues” was published. From “Jump Back in Time (Progressive Era 1890-1913)” in America’s Story from America’s Library.

A Lasting Impact

Swindled out of his first big hit, W.C. Handy went on to produce “St. Louis Blues External” in 1914, “Beale Street Blues External” in 1916, and other popular works. By the time of his death in 1958, W. C. Handy was recognized across the world as the “Father of the Blues.”

Cake Walk . [ca, 1905]. Prints & Photographs Division

In the 1910s and 1920s, songs like “Memphis Blues” and “Beale Street Blues” were considered ragtime dance tunes. The emergence of ragtime music changed popular dance. Search on ragtime in the Library’s digital collection An American Ballroom Companion: Dance Instruction Manuals, ca. 1490 to 1920. Five dance manuals in this collection were published in 1914, including Modern Dancing by the famous exhibition ballroom dancers, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Castle. One of the first dances developed for ragtime, the Cake Walk is one of the short films available in Variety Stage Sound Recordings and Motion Pictures. Also be sure to visit the Library of Congress YouTube page to view a recording of dancers doing the cake walk External, as well as a comedy cake walk External.

Black Cinderella Cake Walk. Florence Wood, composer; Peter McCormick, 1900. Ragtime. Music Division


Today in History – September 27

One of professional golf’s leading tournament winners Kathy Whitworth was born on September 27, 1939, in Monahans, Texas. Whitworth started playing golf at the age of fifteen. At nineteen she joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour. Over the next fifteen years, she received the LPGA Player of the Year Award seven times.

[3[Three] Women Playing Golf-“Jackson Sanitorium]. ca. 1890. Johnston(Frances Benjamin) Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Whitworth won her first tournament, the Kelly Girls Open, in 1962. Three years later, she was named the Associated Press Athlete of the Year. She received the award again in 1967. For her outstanding performance between 1968 and 1977, Golf Magazine named Whitworth “Golfer of the Decade.”

Whitworth was inducted into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame in 1975, but didn’t rest on her laurels. By 1982, she had captured eighty-two LPGA titles. Whitworth won her eighty-eighth title in 1985, setting the tournament victory record for a professional golfer—man or woman.

Women’s Metropolitan Golf Championship, Nassau Country Club. W H Wallace, 1913. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division

Golf first became popular among American women in the mid-1890s when the growing leisure class adopted it as one of its new amusements. Magazines such as Ladies Home Journal urged women to try the sport, a sixteenth-century favorite of Mary, Queen of Scots.

“The Golf Girls” in The Clover Trio: A High Class Singing Act for the Vaudeville Stage Arranged for Ladies Voices. Samuel H. Speck, 1898. The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920. Rare Book & Special Collections Division

For many women of privilege, golf provided the adventure and challenge missing from their restricted everyday lives. The sport’s popularity grew, and by the 1920s, women’s amateur golf tournaments were attracting a range of players and large crowds.

Golf. Woman with Clubs on Golf Course II. Theodor Horydczak, photographer, ca. 1920-ca. 1950. Horydczak Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

In the 1940s and 1950s, golfing greats Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Patty Berg, and others worked to firmly establish the LPGA Tour, the first professional tour for women, and to make their sport more accessible to women of all races and social classes.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Kathy Whitworth and her peers, including golfing legend Mickey Wright, further developed the LPGA, helping female golfers gain greater acceptance and opportunities for lucrative financial rewards.


Today in History – September 26

Jonathan Chapman, born in Leominster, Massachusetts, on September 26, 1775, came to be known as “Johnny Appleseed.” Chapman earned his nickname because he planted nurseries and individual apple trees across 100,000 square miles of midwestern wilderness and prairie—resulting in settlers’ planting their own orchards.

[Johnny Appleseed]. William Gropper, artist, 1941. Fine Prints. Prints & Photograph Division

The first record of Chapman’s presence in the Midwest dates to 1801 when he was known to be on the Ohio River transporting bushels of apple seeds from western Pennsylvania for his nurseries. Chapman’s first apple-tree nursery was along the Allegheny Valley in northwestern Pennsylvania; he then ventured into central and northwestern Ohio and to eastern Indiana. Chapman scouted routes that he thought pioneers would settle and planted his seedlings ahead of the new settlements.

Apples for Sale at Roadside Stand, near Berlin, Connecticut. Russell Lee, photographer, Oct. 1939. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives. Prints & Photographs Division

Chapman lived in Mansfield, Ohio, for about twenty years. Years before the Homestead Act he acquired about 1,000 acres of farmland in Mansfield through a local homestead arrangement. Chapman used the land to develop apple-tree nurseries. His reputation as a conservationist, a brave frontiersman, and as an eccentric (in dress as well as mannerisms) grew, as did stories of his kindness to animals and his heroic exploits.

Chapman was an ambulant man. Each year he traveled hundreds of miles on foot—wearing clothing made from sack cloth and carrying a cooking pot that he is said to have worn like a cap. His travels took him through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana.

As a member of the New Church, or, Church of the New Jerusalem, (Swedenborgian), he left sections of Swedenborgian tracts at cabins that he visited and preached “God has made all things for good.”

In about 1830, Chapman also acquired land in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he planted a nursery that produced thousands of seedling apple trees that he sold, traded, and planted elsewhere. Chapman passed away at the age of seventy. Every September, when apples are ripe, Fort Wayne hosts an annual festival to commemorate the life of Johnny Appleseed.

Legend and folklore has transformed Johnny Appleseed into a folk hero—the patron saint of horticulture.

Bird’s Eye View of the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana 1868. Drawn by A. Ruger; Chicago Lithographing Co., 1868. Cities and Towns. Geography & Map Division
Eve Wasn’t Modest till She Ate that Apple; We’ll Have to Pass the Apples Again External.” Words by Charles McCarron; music by Albert von Tilzer; New York: Broadway Music, 1917. Historic American Sheet MusicExternal.


Today in History – September 25

Novelist William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi, on September 25, 1897. He spent much of his youth in Oxford where his father was employed as the secretary and then business manager for the University of Mississippi.

The past is never dead. It’s not even past.

From Requiem for a Nun, Act I, Scene III, by William Faulkner

Portrait of William Faulkner. Carl Van Vechten, photographer, Dec. 11, 1954. Van Vechten Collection. Prints & Photographs Division.

Faulkner was the creator of the mythical Yoknapatawpha County External in Mississippi. He portrayed a landscape of universal themes through decayed Southern white gentry, merchants, farmers, poor whites, and persecuted blacks. In stories notable for their experimental narrative techniques, he wrote about the troubled legacy of race, the conflicts between the values of the agrarian Old South and the industrial New South, and dysfunction both within the family and within the larger community. Faulkner’s characters confront institutionalized racial violence and intimate crime while struggling to live with dignity, meaning, and compassion, often in the face of degradation and humiliation.

William Faulkner left high school before graduating and attended university only briefly, dropping out in the first semester of his sophomore year. Despondent over a love affair and inspired by aspirations for military glory, he joined the Canadian Royal Air Force but never saw active service. Upon returning to Oxford, he was appointed postmaster of the University of Mississippi, a job he was unable to maintain.

Tell about the South. What’s it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all. . . .
“Now I want you to tell me just one more thing. Why do you hate the South?”
“I dont hate it,” Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; “I dont hate it,” he said.
I dont hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark;I dont. I dont! I dont hate it! I dont hate it!

From Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

Faulkner lived for a short time in New Orleans, where he received encouragement from writer Sherwood Anderson. He also traveled to France and Italy, though he made no attempt to meet any of the Lost Generation of expatriate American artists who had settled in Europe after World War I. Aside from these ventures and stints as a Hollywood screenwriter, Faulkner spent the remainder of his life in Mississippi and Virginia, writing brilliantly and prolifically in isolation from his peers.

After his third novel was rejected by the publisher Horace Liveright for its “diffuse” plot and characterization, Faulkner assumed that his work would not receive public recognition, but he was determined to continue writing for his own fulfillment. In fact, he achieved notice with his very next novel, The Sound and the Fury, which was praised by most reviewers upon its publication in October 1929. He continued to publish novels and poems for the next three decades. Faulkner was awarded two Pulitzer Prizes External, in 1955 for A Fable, and in 1963 for The Reivers. He received the Nobel Prize External for Literature in 1949 “for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel.” During his brief acceptance speech, Faulkner spoke of the human condition and the writer’s duty in the nuclear era:

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.

William Faulkner, “Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech External

Two women walking along street, Natchez, Mississippi . Ben Shahn, photographer, Oct. 1935. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives. Prints & Photographs Division
Wife of Negro sharecropper, Lee County, Mississippi. Arthur Rothstein, photographer, Aug. 1935. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives. Prints & Photographs Division
Playing dominoes or cards in front of drug store in center of town, in Mississippi Delta, Mississippi. Marion Post Wolcott, photographer, Oct. 1939. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives. Prints & Photographs Division


Florida Supreme Court: $300K Total Liability Cap for School Shooting Victims

Crosses and flowers hang on a fence outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, near Parkland, Fla., in this file photo.

Crosses and flowers hang on a fence outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, near Parkland, Fla., in this file photo.
—Brynn Anderson/AP

Tallahassee, Fla.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a school district can’t be forced to pay more than $300,000 total to the victims or their families in the Parkland high school massacre that left 17 people dead and another 17 wounded

Justices unanimously sided with Broward County Public Schools, agreeing that the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was a single incident. The victims and their families had argued that each pull of the trigger was a separate occurrence for which the school district should be held liable.

After a trial judge agreed with the Broward County School Board, an appeals court asked the Supreme Court to answer the question of whether each victim represents a separate occurrence.

State law caps government agencies’ liability in civil lawsuits at $200,000 per individual and $300,000 per incident. Any jury award above that amount has to be approved by the Legislature and governor. Without that, each victim or family in the Parkland shooting would receive an average of less than $9,000.

Nikolas Cruz is awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges for the shooting and faces a possible death sentence.

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Today in History – September 24

Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, best known for his classic American novel The Great Gatsby, was born on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Named for his distant cousin Francis Scott Key, author of the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Fitzgerald was descended, on his father’s side, from a long line of Marylanders. His mother, Mary McQuillan, was the daughter of an Irish immigrant who made his fortune as a wholesale grocer in St. Paul.

Portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Carl Van Vechten, photographer, June 4, 1937. Van Vechten Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. New York, C. Scribner’s sons, 1925.

Fitzgerald achieved fame almost overnight with the 1920 publication of his first novel, This Side of Paradise. The novel, which draws heavily upon his years at Princeton, tells the story of a young man’s quest for fulfillment in love and career. The success of this novel enabled Fitzgerald to marry Zelda Sayre, whom he had met while stationed at Camp Sheridan, near Montgomery, Alabama. Over the course of the next decade and a half, while struggling to cope with the demons of his alcoholism and her emerging mental illness, the Fitzgeralds enjoyed a life of literary celebrity among the American artists and writers who had expatriated to Paris after the First World War. The American artistic community in Europe included such notable figures as Ernest Hemingway, Archibald MacLeish, John Dos Passos, and Gertrude Stein.

Panoramic view of St. Paul, Minn. Haines Photo Co., 1911. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division

In 1924, Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, considered his greatest work. Although it initially met with little commercial success, the novel about the American aspiration for material success has become one of the most popular, widely read, and critically acclaimed works of fiction in the nation’s literature.

Fitzgerald continued to publish novels and stories during the 1920s and 1930s. By 1936, however, both his marriage and his health were deteriorating. He spent the years 1936-1937 in the vicinity of Asheville, North Carolina, where his wife was receiving psychiatric treatment for recurrent schizophrenic episodes. For the last years of his life, Fitzgerald lived in Hollywood, earning his living as a screenwriter. Fitzgerald died on December 21, 1940 at the age of forty-five, leaving his final novel, The Last Tycoon, unfinished.