Lincoln & Civil War Politics

September 20, 2010

Running the country and conducting a Civil War weren’t the only things on Abraham Lincoln’s mind. Political controversy was a daily occurrence. The Lincoln Financial Collection, housed at the Allen County Public Library, contains a vast collection of broadsides, pamphlets, booklets, maps, photographs, and cartoons that provide in-depth background on Lincoln and the politics of his time. To highlight this material, The Genealogy Center Gallery is hosting a display of facsimiles of some of these original documents. Stop in and see this fascinating display.


Musical Memories

April 20, 2010

Music is often used to call to mind a certain time, location or mood. The popular music created in the ’30s (“Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”) or 40s (“I’ll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time”) evokes the era, and we are lucky that, as time goes by, more of these songs are appearing on digital archives like the Library of Congress’s American Memory Project or Internet Archive. Some songs, though written much later, suggest an earlier event. One of the best known of these is “(Coming to) America,” released by Neil Diamond in 1980, which strongly brings to mind the great mass of immigrants of the second half of the 19th Century, traveling in steerage as they made their way to what they hoped was a better life. What’s your favorite “history” song?

Washington’s Birthday?

February 22, 2010

February 22 became a national holiday in 1880, celebrating the birth of George Washington, and it was celebrated on that date until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act moved it to the third Mondays of February. Popular tradition has combined it with the February 12 birthday celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which although observed as a holiday in many states, was not a federal holiday. There is occasional grousing about moving the holiday from the actual birthday of our first President, but Washington wasn’t actually born on February 22, 1732, but February 11, 1731.

When the Catholic countries of Europe began to change from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar, named for Pope Gregory XIII, in 1582, the Protestant countries, including England, declined to follow this new calendar, which began when Thursday October 4, 1582 was followed by Friday October 15, 1582, dropping 10 days from the calendar. Over the next 170 years, various countries adopted the changes, until finally, England, and her colonies joined in by following Wednesday February 17, 1753 with Thursday March 1, because by this time it was necessary to drop an additional day.

Also in England, the civil new year had started on March 25, making January through March 24 in England and her colonies a different year than that recognized by most of Europe. The new year switch occurred in English holdings when 1751 ended on December 31, with 282 days.

George Washington was born before these changes took place, on February 11, 1731/32. This “double dating” was common in English records of the time, where clerks and other record keepers were cognizant of the need to make the documents clear as to date. After the change, George, like many who believed that the days of his life were truly numbered, did not want to lose any bit of the life allotted to him to celestial clerical errors, adopted February 22, 1732 as his birth date.