Archive for History

How To Find Civil War Historical Markers and Monuments

There is no comprehensive site that lists every single memorial, but there are certain sites/publications that allow one access to thousands of them:  The Landscape of Civil War Commemoration( provides an interactive map leading to hundreds of sites; The Historical Marker Database can be searched by topic or state; Save Our Sculpture database (Smithsonian) can be searched by keyword or  designated topics; The Civil War: Search for Monuments is an incomplete but growing database from the National Parks Service; and the report from the Southern Poverty Law Center – Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy – is self-explanatory.


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Additional JFK Assassination Records Released

Ask anyone of a certain age “Where were you when President Kennedy was killed”, and you will get a detailed account of where that person was. The National Archives continues to open files associated with this traumatic event; these contain CIA and FBI records.

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U.S. Army Campaigns of World War I

This new series from The Center of Military History provides 70+ page overviews of this country’s involvement in The Great War. Each monograph is supplemented by graphic content and bibliographies of recent secondary sources. Titles published so far include:

The Mexican Expedition 1916-1917 and Joining the Great War April 1917 – April 1918. Another seven volumes are listed; you can come here to see when new ones are produced.


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50 Years Ago: 1967 Newark Riots

As described in the State of New Jersey 2014 Hazard Mitigation Plan, the Newark riots were: “The worst civil disturbance incident to occur in New Jersey happened in 1967 in Newark. The event was fueled by police brutality, political exclusion of African Americans, urban renewal, inadequate housing, unemployment, and poverty.”(5.14-3)

Relevant sources include:

1967 Newark Riot Timeline; Newark: The Slow Road Back (1987 NJN documentary on the aftermath); The Lilley Commission Reports and Hearings (“The hearing transcripts of the [New Jersey] Governor’s Select Commission on Civil Disorder (Lilley Commission) offer first hand accounts from over a hundred witnesses to the events that have come to be known as the Newark riots or civil disorders.”); Newark Evening News reports on the riots (Newark Public Library); Riots, Civil and Criminal Disorders : hearings before the United States Senate Committee on Government Operations, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Ninetieth and Ninety-First Congresses (25 volumes, 1967-70); Photographs from The Star-LedgerPhotographs (Getty Images); full text dissertations on this; and The Newark Uprising of 1967 (Seton Hall University).



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Is Coffee Good For You?

If you believe the current news reports/interpretations of two studies (abstract of the first study; abstract of the second study), yes. However, this BBC article written in response to these studies presents a more nuanced approach to what is presented in the media. To say that the controversy over the benefits or drawbacks of coffee consumption is a contentious one is an understatement; a simple literature review of “coffee benefits” in a medical database yields 810 results for the past year alone!

This 1682 publication – The natural history of coffee, chocolate, thee, tobacco, in four several sections: with a tract of elder and juniper-berries, shewing how useful they may be in our coffee-houses ; and also the way of making mum, with some remarks upon that liquor –  makes some salient points supportive of both sides, giving us an indication of how long this dispute has been around:

“…As for the qualities and nature of Coffee, our own
Countryman, Dr Willis, has publilh’d a very rational
Account, whofe great Reputation and Authority are of
no fmali force; he fays, that in feveral Headachs, Diz-
zinefs. Lethargies, and Catarrhs, where there is a grofs
habit of Body, and a cold heavy Conflirution, there
Coffee may be proper, and fuccefsful; and in thefe cafes
he fent his Patients to the Coffee-Houje rather than to the
Apothecaries Shop: but where the temperament is hot
and lean, and active, there Coffee may not be very agree-
able, becaufe it may difpofe the Body to inquietudes…”(10)

That the aforementioned coffee houses were seen as less than healthful places   (on so many levels) can be found in these ballads dating from the 17th century.

A fascinating 1792 history of coffee, replete with sources (though source citation is a bit weak), is A treatise concerning the properties and effects of coffee ; beginning on page 41, you can find a list of benefits and harms of this beverage.

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Online Primary Sources: The Verney Family

This long-lived family has its roots in 13th century England and still has an impact on that country today. Its members have included the mayor of London, members of Parliament, a pirate, a Middle East trader, and opposing sides in the English civil war.

Secondary sources on this distinguished family can be found in:

Verney, Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed; History of Parliament (has numerous biographies on the various Verneys who have sat); Memoirs of the Verney Family, Edinburgh Review, 17(July-Oct., 1892): 411-430; Parishes : Middle Claydon’, in A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4, ed. William Page (1927); and a contemporary accounting is available at the August 30, 2001 obituary of Sir Ralph Verney.

Primary sources include:

Verney papers : Notes of proceedings in the long Parliament, temp. Charles I. printed from original pencil memoranda taken in the House by Sir Ralph Verney (1845).

Letters and papers of the Verney family down to the end of the year 1639.(1853).

Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, volume 7, appendix, pp. 433+ (1870).

Memoirs of the Verney family during the seventeenth century / compiled from the papers and illustrated by the portraits at Claydon house. (2d ed, 2 vols, 1907).

Numerous references will be found in British History Online, a remarkable compendium of primary and secondary sources.

BTW, this is the blog’s 2500th entry.


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How Colonists Learned of the Declaration of Independence

In this electronic age we take for granted that news, fake or not, is disseminated in the blink of an eye. But what of previous times when there was no “instant” communication, when news traveled at the pace of a galloping horse or a swiftly moving ship? How did the colonists learn that the Declaration of Independence had been drafted and signed? How was this document published? The following sites will help answer these and other questions:

Which Version is This, and Why Does it Matter? starts with the attention-grabbing statement that “There is no singular authoritative version of the Declaration of Independence”. This piece then goes on to explain the various permutations of this foundational document and how it was promulgated.

Early Printings of the Declaration of Independence lists in chronological order the first broadside and newspaper appearances in the colonies. It also includes the “first notices” or mentions of the document in its various stages of approval. The declaration was first published was by John Dunlap, the printer of the Continental Congress. Here is the first printed version of the Declaration; it was  done as a broadside.

Spreading the Word: The Declaration of Independence Makes the Papers contains a digital version of the first newspaper printing of the Declaration from the July 6, 1776 edition of the Pennsylvania Evening Post. Another copy can be viewed at the Museum of the American revolution.

How The Declaration Was Received In The Old Thirteen from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 85(#506, July 1892): 165-87 presents a narrative that discusses the spread of both the document and its reception; there is a good deal of space dealing with New Jersey. Of interest in this article is the discussion of when the Declaration was read out loud to the public.

The Deleted Passage of the Declaration of Independence (1776) highlights the anti-slavery section authored by Thomas Jefferson that was struck from the Declaration; it movingly begins: “He [King George III] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither



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