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Posts Tagged ‘history’


The Road to Jonestown

by Candice Smith on April 19th, 2017
The Road to Jonestown Cover Image

A couple days ago, I found myself uttering a sentence that seemed impossible, not only to say, but to believe: “Jim Jones did a lot of really good things!” Amazingly, it’s true; as a pastor in Indianapolis, IN, he served for many years and helped a great number people in various ways. Much of that gets overshadowed, though, by that one really bad thing he did. Jeff Guinn’s book The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple sets out to tell the whole story, the good and the bad.

I was six years old when Jonestown happened, and for most of my life, pretty much all I knew about the whole situation was that ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ meant that you’d fallen victim to the words and ideas of someone, most likely not a good someone. I knew nothing about Jim Jones the person, what he did, who followed him, why they were in Guyana (for a while, even the location of Guyana was a mystery to me). What happened in Jonestown is, of course, interesting in its own, horrific way, for many reasons: you’ve got a cult and its charismatic leader, some poison, meddling politicians, guns, and a very bad ending. Just as interesting, though, is how Jim Jones became that leader, and how he and his followers ended up the way they did. Read the rest of this entry »

This just in: St. Patrick, not actually Irish.

by Candice Smith on March 3rd, 2017
This just in: St. Patrick, not actually Irish. Cover Image

Is that a load of blarney?? No. Okay, many of you probably knew that, but I confess that I did not, or that I had forgotten. St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, was born in some part of Britain while it was under Roman occupation. It’s not known for sure whether his parents, Calpornius and Concessa, were also born in Britain, or Italy. Little is known about his family and upbringing; his biography, Confession, gives some details, but for the most part is pretty vague about locations and dates.

So, what do we know about this very popular (especially in March) and beloved saint? Read the rest of this entry »

Inauguration history

by Melody Dworak on January 20th, 2017

inauguration-quarrelWhen major historical events happen before our eyes, it can be fun to turn to the wayback machine and explore what it was like in the past. Thanks to the Historical New York Times database, I can take this trip down the collective memory lane. Read the rest of this entry »

A holiday for everyone

by Candice Smith on December 9th, 2016
A holiday for everyone Cover Image

I grew up with a Christmas experience that I think will be familiar to many in one way or another. I was raised Catholic, so for the first 18 years of my life I did attend mass; this was usually on Christmas Eve, and it was very exciting to me as a child because the church lights would be turned off as the priest walked down the aisle, swinging a thurible filled with smoky incense. It seemed very exotic, not the regular day at church. We would hear the story of the birth of Christ and the three wise men, sing songs, and depending on which mass we were at, there would be a children’s pageant. After, we would go home and have a meal together, and my sister and I would head to bed while my parents stayed up a little longer. In the morning, we would be led from our rooms to the kitchen, eyes covered so that we couldn’t peek at the presents under the tree. Only after breakfast were we allowed to go open the presents; one person was designated to pass out the gifts, and they were opened one at a time. In this way, a good hour or two was spent opening presents and watching others do the same, eventually covering our living room floor with colored paper. Read the rest of this entry »

1846: Iowa City

by Anne Mangano on May 25th, 2016

newhallWhat was Iowa City like 170 years ago? To get an idea, we can turn to John B. Newhall, author of A Glimpse of Iowa in 1846*. In this work, he states that one couldn’t help but think of Saint-Omer in France and he “speaks as an eye-witness.” I do not believe Newhall in this. He was a noted salesman in his day and his product was Iowa. He wrote a number of books and he lectured both on the east coast and in England proclaiming the wonders of the new state (or territory depending on the publication date of the book).

Despite what Iowa diarist T.S. Parvin calls “too flowery” of language, Newhall is extremely useful in providing a directory for the city in 1846. He lists sellers of dry goods, doctors, mills, schools, churches, and newspapers. For our purposes, Iowa City had two coffee houses, one owned by Charles Frink and the other by R. C. Keathy. Lawyers included G. Folsom, M. Reno, and W. Penn Clark. There was one insurance company.

Read the rest of this entry »

“The thing that I am seeking should not be far to seek”

by Anne Mangano on May 9th, 2016

bookOver the weekend, we were reunited with a book from long ago, Aline Kilmer’s Vigils (1921). We weren’t looking for it; the book was legitimately withdrawn from the collection. But, perhaps the book was seeking a return to us. Of course, I was interested in the history of this particular book and perhaps you are too. So, to the accession records!

In storage, we hold accession records for books we purchased dating back to January 14, 1897. In the ledger, each book was given a number, assigned in the order in which it was added to Read the rest of this entry »

Finding a record of ownership

by Jason Paulios on April 22nd, 2016

Back in November I wrote about using the City of Iowa City Housing & Inspection Services’ permit activity lookup tool for finding more information about Iowa City house history.  A coworker recently showed me another great house history link hidden at the bottom of individual accounts on the Iowa City Assessors parcel search results page.  If you are looking at a house result you can scroll to the bottom of that page and you’ll see “related information links” below the GIS map.  There are a few useful links for house hunters here including former tax information for the property as well as a quick link to the GIS map with coordinates.  The most interesting link for local history buffs is the “Old Property Report Card” in the lower right corner which will show you a past record of ownership with names and prices paid.  There’s also often pointed comments on these cards regarding the huge leap in sales prices that happened in the 1990s such as these :

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Moving House

by Anne Mangano on March 1st, 2016

It was announced last week that the United Action for Youth building at 422 Iowa Ave is moving to a new home: 623 College Street. What will it take to move the beautiful Queen Anne a few blocks? To get an idea, take a look at some of our uhouseparade1rban renewal photographs on the Digital History Project, which include several houses parading down the street to new locations.

To find these photographs, search for “house relocation.” For more photographs on urban renewal, click on “Browse Collections” and choose the collection “Urban Renewal, 1970’s-1980’s.”

 

 

Under-the-Radar Read

by Melody Dworak on February 8th, 2016
Under-the-Radar Read Cover Image

I can’t stop talking about this memoir of African American life and prison life in the 19th Century. The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict by Austin Reed is “the first known prison narrative by an African American writer,” editor Caleb Smith wrote in the Yale Alumni magazine. The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library purchased the manuscript, and Random House published it as a book this winter.

This book is a remarkable find. Perfect for history buffs, rare manuscript nerds, and African American prison researchers, this book was written by an African American man born free in the 1820s but living much of his life in confinement. Reed was a natural storyteller and his memoir reads like a novel. He documents his experiences both in prison and as a free man, the cruelties of the whip and other 19th Century torture tactics as well as adventures and opportunities he encountered while living free.

This book has not received a ton of press at this point. The New York Times highlighted the find in 2013 before the manuscript was edited for publication, and the Smithsonian Magazine picked up the story for its arts and culture section. It doesn’t have a long holds list and we’ll be buying the e-book and e-audio versions soon.

If there is one nonfiction book you read in 2016, make it Austin Reed’s groundbreaking memoir.

 

An epiphany, of sorts.

by Candice Smith on January 8th, 2016

holidaysI did not put up a Christmas tree this year, although I usually put one up around Thanksgiving and keep it around until at least New Year’s (actually, it’s always ‘around’ in the sense that it’s fake, it just spends a lot of time in the basement). I really enjoy having the tree; I love decorating it with ornaments that I’ve collected through the years, all of which are special to me for one reason or another, and as I unwrap and place each one I’m reminded of things like when I got it and why I chose it, who gave it to me, or who it used to belong to. I put multiple strands of lights on the tree, a tree skirt for the presents to sit on, and a star on top–the whole deal.

This year, however, I have two 1-year-old boy cats that like to run, jump, climb, and eat whatever they can get their little, adorable paws on. The tree was an obvious no.

Regardless of the sad state of my home and its holiday decor, I recently learned something that I can take into consideration the next time I am able to put the tree up–and that is when to take it back down. I never knew that there were traditions about this, so I may be late to this game. It seems that one should have their tree and all decorations put away by the Twelfth Night holiday. Simple, right? Sort of. January 5 is the twelfth day after Christmas Eve, while January 6 is the twelfth day after Christmas. January 6 is also the holiday of Epiphany, which marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas, and the revealing of the newborn Jesus to the three wise men. So, which night is the real Twelfth Night? It seems that you can choose whether you go with the eve before January 6, or the eve of–according to the book Holiday Symbols and Customs, most celebrate it on the night of Epiphany, the 6th. Which is the twelfth. Choose wisely, though–tradition holds that anyone with decorations still up will suffer bad luck in the coming year.

But wait…there’s more! There is also a tradition that one put away their Christmas tree and decorations on February 2, which is Candlemas–a holiday that marks the presentation of Jesus at the temple, and involves the lighting of many candles to represent the belief that he was a light for the world. The book Folklore of World Holidays states that this marks the end of the Christmas holiday. One representation of that end is that people put away their crèche–which is a Christmas decoration. Again, leaving up the decorations past this date can bring bad luck, even death. Of course, February 2 is also groundhog day, which at first seems unrelated to all of this, until you recall that the little groundhog (or bear or hedgehog, depending on your location) comes out to check his shadow, which is related to the amount of light.

So…short story made a bit long, there is definitely a date by which, according to various traditions, one should take down their Christmas tree and decorations. Three, in fact. Stop by the Information Desk to do a little research and help you pick which date you’ll use.




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