Jules Verne, early science fiction author and godfather of the steampunk genre was born on February 8, 1828. What better day to share the National Archives’ Steampunk board on Pinterest?
Are you following the US National Archives on Pinterest? Our photographs from the Joint Committee to Investigate Dirigible Disasters, created to investigate the cause of the USS Akron disaster and the wrecks of other Army and Navy dirigibles, were the inspiration for the steampunk board. What are you favorite things to pin on Pinterest?
January 10, 1863 - Ralph Waldo Emerson recommends Walt Whitman for public service:
“A man of his talents & dispositions will quickly make himself useful, and, if the government has work that he can do, I think it may easily find that it has called to its side more valuable aid than it bargained for.”
Walt Whitman, an influential American poet and hospital volunteer, applied for government employment during the Civil War. However, under the so-called “spoils system,” many government officials obtained their positions not because of special skills, but because of whom they knew. So, Whitman wrote to his friend, the American transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and asked him to write letters of recommendation on his behalf to the secretary of state and secretary of treasury, who were both acquaintances of Emerson. Ralph Waldo Emerson described Whitman as “a man of strong original genius, combining, with marked eccentricities, great powers & valuable traits of character & a self-relying large-hearted man, much beloved by his friends; entirely patriotic + benevolent in his theory, tastes, & practice.” The government did indeed have work that Whitman could do, and for the next eleven years, Whitman was a public servant in three different cabinet departments. During the war years, while employed by the federal government, Whitman continued his volunteer work in the Union hospitals; he estimated that he visited between eighty thousand and one hundred thousand sick and wounded soldiers.
The First Inaugural Poet: Robert Frost
Today, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Richard Blanco as the inaugural poet for Barack Obama’s upcoming ceremony. Blanco will become the fifth inaugural poet in the history of U.S. Presidents.
John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration was the first to feature a poet at the swearing-in ceremony, and he named Robert Frost for the honor.
Frost wrote an original poem for the occasion called “Dedication.” He presented a handwritten version of the poem to President Kennedy. Jacqueline Kennedy framed the poem and wrote on the backside in pencil,
“For Jack. First thing I had framed to be put in your office. First thing to be hung there.”
Frost had planned to read a typed copy of the poem during President Kennedy’s Inauguration, but due to sun glare reflecting off the snow, he was unable to read his own draft. Instead, he recited “The Gift Outright” from memory.
Image: Framed poem, “Dedication,” handwritten by Robert Frost for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy.
Happy Alaska Day & Moby-Dick Day
Color post card. “Eskimo in skin Omiak in pursuit of walrus. Caught in the act of throwing the harpoon, Alaska.”
from the Sir Henry Wellcome Collection, Photographs of the inhabitants of Metlakatla, British Columbia and Metlakatla, Alaska, ca. 1856 - 1936.
On October 18, 1867, the United States officially took possession of the territory of Alaksa, having agreed to purchase it from Russia for 7.2 Million Dollars.
A few years earlier on October 18, 1851, Herman Melville’s epic novel Moby-Dick; or, The Whale was first published in London.
Song of My Beard
(with apologies to the original Whitman poem!)
I celebrate my beard, and sing my beard,
And what I grow you shall grow
For every follicle belonging to me as good as belongs to you.
I loafe and stroke my beard
I lean and stroke my beard at my ease observing the other bushy mustaches.
My hair, every follicle of my face, form’d this beard, this ’stache
Grown here of my hair grown from hairs the
same, and their hairs the same,
I , now ageless forever in photographs begin,
Hoping to inspire more beard growing.
Walt Whitman spent many months with wounded soldiers in the hospitals of Washington, DC, while one of his brothers fought in numerous battles. Walt and his family were prolific letter writers. You can read more about his correspondence and experiences in the Civil War in this new Author on the Record interview with Robert Roper in the Summer 2010 issue of Prologue.
Whitman also worked as a clerk in the attorney general’s office during the Civil War. Recently, a researcher discovered over 3,000 documents in Whitman’s handwriting from his time as a civil servant in the holdings of the National Archives. You can read more about this fascinating discovery “Whitman, Walt, Clerk” in the Winter issue of Prologue magazine.
[This post originally appeared as a “Facial Hair Friday” post on the Pieces of History blog. We’re reposting in honor of Walt’s birthday today!]