Get to the Olympics with Help from these Free U.S. Government Resources

February 21, 2014

Guest blogger and GPO Supervisory Librarian Valerie Furino writes about U.S. Government publications that can help you achieve your Olympic ambitions.

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics are wrapping up, and they have been entertaining and full of surprises.  Many people watch the Olympics and dream of the magical moment of being awarded a medal (preferably gold).   However, that dreamy medal was earned through years of training and preparation.  If you want to give living the life of an Olympian a try, you’ll need to work hard.  You need to eat like an athlete – you need to train like an athlete – and you’ll actually need to GET to the Olympics – grab that suitcase!  Think you’ve got what it takes?  Let’s find out.

us-olympic-training-center-signImage: Tourists enjoying the Olympic Rings sign at the Headquarters for the U.S. Olympic Committee administration and the Olympic Training Center programs in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Get into Competition Shape

First, let’s examine eating habits.  This should be easy – athletes are known for devouring lots of calories.  This handy chart illustrates typical calories burned, depending on a person’s weight – note that the Olympic sports ice hockey, ice skating, and skiing are all included.  (If all the activities on this chart were Olympic sports, I’d be a gold medalist shoo-in for “Operate Snow Blower” after this winter!)  However, you need to eat the right kind of calories.  You’ll need fuel to power you through those salchows and Axel jumps. Nutrition.gov provides a great starting place on various nutrition topics, including meal planning, label reading, and dietary supplements.

ChooseMyPlate_gov_Winter-Health-ChallengeImage: Winter Health Challenge from ChooseMyPlate.gov (February 2014).

Que hay en su plato- Spanish version of What's on My Plate from ChooseMyPlateFrom there, you can navigate to ChooseMyPlate.gov (or buy the What’s on Your Plate?: Choose My Plate -English Language Version or the Spanish language version, Que Hay en Su Plato?: Mi Plato) which contains helpful advice on what to eat.  No matter your circumstance – college student, vegetarian, pregnant – you’ll find great tips on nutrition and some helpful recipes.

OK, nutritional standards have been established.  Now let’s move on to physical training.  Depending on your sport preference, you’ll need to exercise specific muscles – for example, cross-country skiing requires a well-developed abdomen, arms, and lower back, while snowboarding needs a strong core and shoulders.  Health.gov is a good place to start, as it provides general information on both nutrition and activity.  It provides a helpful link to Let’s Move!, a well-known initiative supported by First Lady Michelle Obama that encourages physical activity.  The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition has a fantastic site loaded with activity and nutrition tips.  If you’d like all your information in one publication, try the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans; if you’re more a visual person, check out some videos .  All these resources are useful tools to get you in shape – or at least keep you towing the line on your fitness New Year’s resolutions.

First-Lady-Michelle-Obama-White-House-lawn-Lets-move-kidsImage: First Lady Michelle Obama exercising with kids on the White House lawn for the Let’s Move! initiative. Source: White House

Getting to the Games

Apply-for-US-passport-State-DepartmentYou’ve trained and you’ve been keeping excellent eating habits – you’re now ready to get to the games, whether as an athlete or a spectator!  (Hey, it takes a lot of climbing to get to your seat in an Olympic stadium.)   Besides the United States, the Olympics have been held in some beautiful and exotic places – London, Beijing, Athens,  Vancouver, and Torino.  If traveling out of your home country, be sure to check if any vaccinations are required.  Also check for any travel alerts.  Do you have a current passport?  Need a visa to travel to the host country? These convenient U.S. State Department sites will guide you.

world_factbook_12-13After taking care of logistics, spend some time reading up on the host nation.  The World FactBook updated annually by the CIA (you can also buy the World Factbook print edition complete with wall maps) and the Library of Congress Country Studies series (many also available in print from our Foreign Country Studies collection) are two excellent resources to help guide you through your host country.  And this handy worldwide wireless guide from the Federal Communications Commission will help you figure out how to use your phone while traveling abroad!

How can I get these publications?

  • Click on the Links: For the free resources, click on the links above in the blog post.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for one of these publications in a nearby Federal depository library. (Librarians: You can find the records for most of these titles in the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications or CGP.)
  • Shop Online Anytime: You can buy any of the eBooks or print publications mentioned above—with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide— from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov.
  • Order by Phone: You may also order print editions mentioned in this blog post by calling our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions mentioned in this blog post by visiting GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

About the Author: Valerie Furino is a Supervisory Librarian for the Government Printing Office’s Library Services & Content Management (LSCM) Division.


The Emancipation Proclamation and its Role in GPO and African American History

February 5, 2014

February is National African American History Month, also known as Black History Month in the United States. One significant event in African American history happened 151 years ago.  On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, announcing “that all persons held as slaves” in rebellious areas “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” While this Executive Order only freed slaves living in Confederate states during the Civil War, it nevertheless ultimately paved the way for the eventual abolition of slavery in America and became an important aspect of President Lincoln’s legacy.

lincoln-signs-emancipation-proclamation-on-New-Years-Day-jubilee-dayIn his proclamation of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 2013, President Barack Obama encouraged all Americans to acknowledge and celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation and “reaffirm the timeless principles it upheld.

Image: Illustration of President Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, in Washington. Source: AP 

As we honor African American heritage this month, I’m reminded of the Emancipation Proclamation and the “timeless principles” President Obama was speaking of.

A symbol of equality and justice

The significance of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Proclamation during the Civil War was two-fold for African Americans. As mentioned earlier, not only did it lay the foundation for the eventual freedom of all slaves, it also allowed black men to enlist in the Union Army and Navy. This strategic Presidential “war measure” provided African Americans the opportunity to join in the fight for their freedom, in effect enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

As history teaches, the Civil War was initially about preserving the Union; however, the Emancipation Proclamation also made it about freeing the slaves– “an act of justice” that would grant African Americans, and generations to come, equal citizenship in the U.S.

For this reason, the Emancipation Proclamation remains a widely recognized symbol of freedom in American History that will forever be revered in Black History.

Fancy-Emancipation-ProclamationImage: Engraving by W. Roberts with the text of the Emancipation Proclamation. Source: Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID pga.04067.

GPO’s role in the Emancipation Proclamation

But the Emancipation Proclamation also played a significant role in GPO’s own history. Did you know… the then newly established Government Printing Office printed the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation for President Lincoln as one of its first major tasks? The original printer’s proof version was displayed for six months at GPO’s 150th History Anniversary exhibit that opened in June of 2011. I (along with many other GPO employees and visitors) was given an extraordinary opportunity to personally view the original historic document, which contained the printer’s actual proofing marks with requested changes!

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERImage: Former Public Printer William Boarman views original GPO printer’s proof copy of the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation with Washington DC Mayor Vincent Gray at the GPO history exhibit. In 1862, GPO printed the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation in general orders format, issued as an Executive Order from President Lincoln in his role as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. GPO printed 15,000 copies for the War Department, which were distributed to military commanders and their troops and diplomats in foreign countries. The copy displayed at GPO contained proofing marks; those corrections were made in the final version of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Source: GPO

The GPO history exhibit is currently open to the public with free admission, Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm at GPO’s Washington, DC, headquarters at 732 North Capitol Street NW. Unfortunately, the landmark document, which was on loan for six months from the Library of Congress, is no longer available for viewing, but many more historic exhibits are on view for free.

Visitor at GPO History Exhibit carrying Keeping America Informed: The United States Government Printing Office 150 Years of Service to the Nation ISBN: 9780160887048Image: Visitor who has just purchased the GPO history book “Keeping America Informed” views the GPO 150th Anniversary History Exhibit. Source: GPO

To learn more about GPO’s role in the printing of this historic document and other important Federal publications, read GPO’s 150th anniversary history book, Keeping America Informed: The United States Government Printing Office 150 Years of Service to the Nation.

However, you can view and/or read the entire Emancipation Proclamation online at the National Archives website or visit the National Archives in Washington, DC, to see the original signed document.

Teaching the Next Generation about the Emancipation Proclamation

To help parents and educators teach children about the importance of the Emancipation Proclamation and its role in Black History, the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) published the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: Commemorative Coloring Book: Forever Free.

National Archives 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: Commemorative Children's Book: Forever Free ISBN: 9780160916342Image:  Buy the family friendly 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: Commemorative Coloring Book: Forever Free.

This 150th anniversary commemorative publication about the Emancipation Proclamation is not a typical children’s coloring book. The wealth of information contained within this great little read makes it useful as a history book for the entire family, not just for kids. For example, I learned about the origins of “Watch Night”:

On December 31, 1862, many enslaved African Americans gathered in churches and prayed. Throughout the night, they waited for the moment when the Emancipation Proclamation would take effect. This special night became known as “Watch Night,” and continues to be celebrated today in many African American churches on New Year’s Eve.

The publication opens with a brief history about President Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It also provides portraits and short biographies describing historical events involving African Americans, such as Harriet Tubman, a former slave and Union spy who also helped recruit black troops, and Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist who helped Abraham Lincoln recruit black troops during the Civil War. It even includes a reference to this famous image:

reading-emancipation-proclamation-torchlightImage: By torchlight, a Union soldier reads the ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ to a room of slaves and their children, 1860s. The image was published as part of the ‘Life of Lincoln: Additional View’ series by the C.W. Briggs Company. Photo credit: George Eastman House/Getty Images

Other short biographies of important figures in black history covered in this book include Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and President Barack Obama.

National Park Service Discovering the Underground Railroad: Junior Ranger Activity Book ISBN: 9780160900181The National Park Service also has produced another children’s publication focusing on black history and mentioning the Emancipation Proclamation: Discovering the Underground Railroad: Junior Ranger Activity Book. Young children ranging from ages 5 to 10 and older are taught about the history of the Underground Railroad and the struggles African Americans endured in their quest for freedom. Activities include a wordsearch of terms related to the Civil War; a maze routing the journey to freedom; and a timeline highlighting significant events in Black History, such as the Emancipation Proclamation and much more. Upon completion of the activities, children are encouraged to send in their completed booklet for an official Jr. Ranger Badge. [Read about this and other Underground Railroad publications in our blog post: "The Underground Railroad Leaves its Tracks in History".]

How can you get these publications?

About the author: Guest blogger Trudy Hawkins is a writer and marketing specialist in GPO’s Publication & Information Sales Division supporting the U.S. Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov).

Images and additional content provided by Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram. Bartram is Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore and promoting Federal government content to the public.


The Constitution Annotated: The Pursuit of App-iness

September 17, 2013

follow-the-founding-fathers-david-bowman_computerIn preparing for this Constitution Day blog post, not only did I retake the civics quiz from last year’s Constitution Day post (see Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?), I also scrolled through my tablet last night, reading the Preamble to the Constitution and looking up related quotes. Then it occurred to me: if Founding Father George Washington had been alive today, would he have been a PC or an Apple guy? I’m betting our pragmatic First President would be a PC guy. I’m pretty sure innovator Thomas Jefferson would have been a stylish iPad man, and Benjamin Franklin, inventor of the bifocals, would probably be sporting Google Glasses now and tinkering with them.

Image: Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington. Original Illustration by David Bowman from his book “What Would the Founding Fathers Think?”

constitution-annotated-printWhat is clear is that our Founding Fathers were strategic thinkers who realized that a fully functioning republic needed a clear but flexible code of law that evolved with the Nation. Thus, they wrote the Constitution of the United States, which has stood the test of time with over two centuries of amendments and interpretations by all branches of the U.S. Federal Government.

CONAN for the Librarian (and Lawyers)

Since 1913, the Senate has directed that a publication be issued summarizing the current state of the Constitution to date, with all the amendments and the official interpretations, with the analysis today provided by the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service. This publication is called The Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation, popularly known as the Constitution Annotated or “CONAN” among the real insiders.

Constitution-of-the-US-Pocket-GuideIn addition, many Americans, including Members of Congress, buy a pocket print edition of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to carry around with them at all times. (Click on image to the left.)

Constitution Goes Mobile and Online

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Constitution Annotated publication, and to celebrate it and Constitution Day, the Government Printing Office (GPO) not only issued the Centennial Edition in print, but has also worked with the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the Library of Congress to develop and launch both a new mobile app as well as a web publication that make analysis and interpretation of constitutional case law by Library experts accessible for free to anyone with a computer or mobile device.

The new resources, which include analysis of Supreme Court cases through June 26, 2013, will be updated multiple times each year as new court decisions are issued.  Legal professionals, teachers, students and anyone researching the constitutional implications of a particular topic can easily locate constitutional amendments, federal and state laws that were held unconstitutional, and tables of recent cases with corresponding topics and constitutional implications.

The new app and improved web publication will make the nearly 3,000-page “Constitution Annotated” more accessible to more people and enable updates of new case analysis three or four times each year.

Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks said,

“Through this collaborative project, the Library of Congress and GPO are providing the public with timely access to an enhanced, authenticated version of the “Constitution Annotated” through GPO’s Federal Digital System. This is another example of how GPO works with Congress, the Library and other agencies to meet the information needs of the American people in the digital age.”

Keeping our “Complex Machinery” in Working Order

On May 19, 1821, years after the Constitution was adopted, John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson that:

“A free government is a complicated piece of machinery, the nice and exact adjustment of whose springs, wheels, and weights, is not yet well comprehended by the artists of the age, and still less by the people.”

Even though our Founding Fathers could not have envisioned a digital future complete with the Internet and smartphones, the framework they put in place has been able to roll with the times. Americans know that our system is indeed a “complicated piece of machinery,” with our laws serving as the user manual, but tools like the Constitution Annotated– in print or now online or on your mobile device– now exist to help keep our machinery of democracy well oiled.

George-Washingtons-Annotated-Copy-of-a-Draft-of-the-U.S.-ConstitutionImage: Even George Washington annotated his copy of the Constitution! (seen left). Source: National Archives

How can I obtain The Constitution Annotated?

1) Buy the Print Edition of The Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation, Centennial Edition

2) Mobile app version of the Constitution Annotated

  • For Apple iOS Devices: Download the new Constitution Annotated app for iOS devices for free from Apple’s iTunes Store or via this direct link: http://beta.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/.
  • ·        For Android Devices: An Android version of this app is under development.

3) Constitution Annotated web publication on FDsys.gov

The Constitution Annotated web publication will be available on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) www.fdsys.gov as a digitally-signed, searchable PDF that includes a linked table of contents, a linked table of cases, a linked index and GPO’s Seal of Authenticity on every page.

The new Constitution Annotated and a suite of constitutional resources can be viewed at http://beta.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/. The page features links to the app stores, an interactive table listing recent cases of high interest, a bibliography of Constitution-related primary documents in American history and tips for searching the Constitution Annotated on GPO’s website at www.gpo.gov/constitutionannotated.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


You Scream, I Scream for National Ice Cream Month

July 15, 2013

fruit-sorbetIce cream, long beloved by Americans, has a long, even pre-colonial history in the Americas. Some of my Mexican friends have told me that the Aztec emperor Moctezuma (popularly referred to today as Montezuma) had servants climb the snow-capped volcanic mountains for snow to mix with fruit juices as a hot-weather treat.

Image: Could this have been how the Aztec emperor was served his favorite icy dessert made of and served in natural fruit? Source. Cool Stuff Sorbet.

The United States got in on the game early, too. In 1744 Barbara Janssen Bladen, daughter of Lord Baltimore and wife of Proprietary Colonial Governor of Maryland Sir Thomas Bladen, first served ice cream in the American colonies. Ice cream, at that time, was a fashion of the well-heeled.

Williamsburg-Ice-Cream-MakingClick image to watch this Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, video of how ice cream was made during the colonial era.

The French connectionjeffersonicecream

The sweet treat did not become popular in this country until after the American Revolution, when the Americans had continued contact with the French.

Thomas Jefferson learned how to make ice cream during his tenure in Paris as the United States’ Ambassador to France. He collected many recipes while in France, but ice cream was one of his favorites. In fact, the Library of Congress possesses a copy of a recipe for vanilla ice cream used by Thomas Jefferson written in Jefferson’s own hand.

Many visitors to Monticello, Jefferson’s home in Virginia, recorded enjoying ice cream during their meals there, probably fueling the dessert’s increasing national popularity.

Monticello-Garden-PartyImage: Monticello summer garden party where ice cream was sure to be served. Photo Credit: Jacob J. Gayer, National Geographic, December 1928

Ice cream gets added to the American “melting pot”

Americans’ fondness for ice cream has only increased over the years. Mary Todd Lincoln held berry parties which featured seasonal strawberries and ice cream served on the side.

An American named Abe Doumar is attributed by some as creating the first ice cream cone on July 23, 1904, at the World’s Fair at St. Louis, because the vendor ran out of ice cream dishes to use to serve it and resorted to rolled-up thin waffles. Having a cool container to keep our sweet treats in has certainly helped with our consumption of it.

Ice-cream-cones-Chicago-Worlds-fair

Image: Children and their mother enjoying the new sensation of ice cream cones at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. Source: Aworldaffair blog.

According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service’s monthly publication Dairy Products, Americans consumed 163,544 pounds of ice cream (that’s hard and soft, full fat and low-fat combined) in May 2013.  It seems like we just can’t get enough of the sweet stuff.

I do declare…  It’s National Ice Cream Month

Ice cream is such a national institution that Congress passed a Joint Resolution favoring President Reagan’s declaration of July 15, 1984, as National Ice Cream Day and July as National Ice Cream Month. Presidential ice cream promotion continues to the present day.

Reagan-ice-cream-proclamation

Image: President Ronald Reagan conceived of National Ice Cream Month. Source: SubZero Ice Cream & Yogurt.

The Senate Inauguration Committee provided the recipe for the sour cream ice cream the White House chefs served at President Obama’s second inauguration. Whether it’s a result of the presidential lead, or simply ice cream’s yummy factor, hungry Americans and the dairy industry continue to celebrate every July as National Ice Cream Month.

Get the scoop and read all about ice cream

If you want to read more about American ice cream production, you can check out the aforementioned Dairy Products title, which reviews American dairy production, including all types of ice cream and frozen yogurt. Find the details of the American ice cream industry in 1997 Economic Census. Manufacturing. Industry series. Ice cream and frozen dessert manufacturing. To do some research about the history of ice cream in America, read some of the many excellent books and electronic resources recommended in this Library of Congress pathfinder.

choosemyplateAfter all that consumption of ice cream related knowledge (and hopefully, some ice cream), you may find yourself worried about fitting into your trousers. Pick up a poster from the GPO Bookstore of What’s on Your Plate?: Choose My Plate  or Que Hay en Su Plato?: Mi Plato. They’ll inspire you to maintain your dietary goals of keeping healthy foods in balance with rich indulgences, such as ice cream.

quehayensuplatoI’m ready to get a copy of the poster for my office to keep my ice cream fixation in check. But first, if you’ll excuse me, it’s a hot summer day –I have an appointment with a double-scoop cone of Fear the Turtle.

How can I obtain these ice cream-related publications?

Federal Depository Librarians: You can find Dairy Products, Ice Cream and Frozen Dessert Manufacturing, and What’s On Your Plate? at your local Federal Depository library via the cataloging records in GPO’s Catalog of Government Publications, or buy them at the GPO Bookstore. You’re likely to find yourself hungry.

*Source: Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford, Oxford University Press, c1999.

About the author(s): Our guest blogger is Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). Additional content provided by Government Book Talk Editor-in-Chief and , GPO Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, Michele Bartram.


Gettysburg, America’s Bloodiest Battle

July 2, 2013

Maybe you’ve been to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to tour the battlefield and visitor’s center. Maybe you’ve even gone to one of the annual battle anniversaries, where men and women with Civil War-era clothes and weaponry reenact the battle details with great verve. Lasting three days in 1863, from July 1-3, Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil, with up to 10,000 Union and Confederate troops dead and another 30,000 wounded. But surprisingly, this tremendous battle was a purely unplanned accident that grew out of a desperate need for soldiers’ shoes!

Gettysburg-Reenactment

Image: Battle of Gettysburg Reenactors at “the Wall”. Image source: Breitbart.com

Visiting the Gettysburg National Military Park

Having witnessed the activities of scores of reenactors who visited the park during the years I lived near the town, I know that people invest themselves very deeply in the Civil War in general, and in the Gettysburg battle in particular. You don’t have to be an extreme fan to appreciate the silence of the rolling battlefield landscape. Imagining the July heat, the stench of sweat, horse, wool clothing and blood, the cries of pain and death, is easy to do when you’re standing there on that “consecrated ground” as Lincoln said in his famous Gettysburg Address after the battle.

Park officials and enthusiasts always commemorate the battle days in Gettysburg, as is happening this week, and it’s a great event for those who can attend in person. When you want to actually (or mentally) place yourself in specific skirmishes in the battle on specific points on the field, you will need a guide. You can hire a guide to ride with your group and interpret the tour for you. That kind of activity is excellent, but is pricey and requires advance planning.

But if you haven’t visited the battlefield, this sesquicentennial anniversary year is a good time to make a virtual trip, if not a real one. (There are over 12,000 reenactors, with 300 foreign reenactors from 16 different countries, and tens of thousands of visitors anticipated for this year’s 150th anniversary reenactment!)

Starting with these guide and history books below is a great beginning to what could be a life-long interest.

The Best of Guides

To fully understand the Gettysburg Campaign and its significance as the pivotal point in the American Civil War, you need to learn from experts. Fortunately, GPO has publications from the two best sources: the US Army Center of Military History and the National Park Service.

The Gettysburg Campaign: June–July 1863 and Gettysburg National Military Park Handbook

   Gettysburg-Campaign-from-GPOThird in “The U.S. Army Campaigns of the Civil War” series  of campaign brochures from the U.S. Army Center of Military History that commemorate our national sacrifices during the American Civil War, The Gettysburg Campaign: June–July 1863 describes the turning point in the “Battle Between the States.” Authors Carol Reardon and Tom Vossler examine the military operations and strategies along with the somewhat accidental circumstances that culminated in the pivotal and devastating three-day Battle of Gettysburg. With many maps and illustrations, this helps provide some back story and military strategy, as it goes into the various skirmishes leading up to the battle starting back in June and up to the battle itself.

As General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army said,

“It had not been intended to fight a general battle at such a distance from our base, unless attacked by the enemy, but finding ourselves unexpectedly confronted by the Federal Army, it became a matter of difficulty to withdraw through the mountains with our large trains. . . . A battle thus became in a measure unavoidable (Campaign, p. 31).”

Gettysburg-National-Park-Handbook

The National Park Service’s publication, Gettysburg National Military Park Handbook, delves into the history of the battleground itself, that “consecrated ground” and provides a detailed guide of all the amenities of the park along with the on-field maneuvers and results, as well as insight into the personalities and anecdotes that such an epic event always generates. It also covers post-battle events, such as the establishment of a cemetery at Gettysburg and the genesis of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, as well as reproductions of 12 battle paintings by F. D. Briscoe. It’s like having a National Park ranger pointing out key aspects and giving you insights about this important national landmark.

Hooker out, Black Hats in

Through both of these excellent publications, you can come to know a bit about the personnel of the Gettysburg Campaign, such as the story of the last-minute, last-ditch replacement of General Hooker as Commander of the Federal Army of the Potomac by General George G. Meade. Commander of the U.S. Army General Halleck replaced Hooker at his own demand, and Hooker left his command in a great hurry. Meade arrived at Gettysburg knowing little of the status of his troops and even less about Lee’s troops. You can also read all the details of General Daniel Sickles’ unauthorized movements from Cemetery Hill.

Michigan-soldier-iron-brigade-Civil-WarDon’t forget to study the awe-inspiring story of the Iron Brigade, also known as the Black Hat Brigade. Some Confederates called them “them Black Hat Fellers” because of the black Hardee hats they wore that were different from the standard-issue Union blue kepi hats. Made up of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiments, the 19th Indiana, and the 24th Michigan, the Iron Brigade was famous for its fierceness on the field. The Iron Brigade made a tremendous impact during the Gettysburg Campaign, and they suffered dire casualties as a result. Their bravery in fighting on Herbst’s Woodlot and against the 26th North Carolina had a strong effect on the outcome of the Gettysburg Campaign.

Image: Gochy Charles. Company F, 24th Michigan (Iron Brigade). Image Source: WaterfordHistory.org

How can I obtain these Gettysburg publications?

The more you read about these and other stories of the battle, the more easily you can get drawn in to the story of all the human bravery, pathos and drama that was part of the Gettysburg Campaign and the American Civil War. Immerse yourself in the history of The Gettysburg Campaign: June–July 1863 and familiarize yourself with the park through the Gettysburg National Military Park Handbook. You’re likely to be endlessly fascinated.

Federal Depository Librarians: You can find the records for these titles in the CGP.

About the author(s): Our co-bloggers include: guest blogger Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP) and Government Book Talk Editor, Michele Bartram, GPO Promotions & Ecommerce Manager.


History Was Made at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park

March 26, 2013

Guest blogger Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP) writes about the Women’s Rights National Historical Park brochure in honor of National Women’s History Month. (Originally posted in the FDLP Community site on March 25, 2013.)

March is National Women’s History Month, and I am writing this posting on International Women’s Day. If I had the twelve hours–round trip– to hit the road, I’d head for the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York, and celebrate how far we have come as a nation.

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton

It would definitely be a work-related trip. The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) printed Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s most famous– and in her estimation, her best– speech in 1915. She delivered her address, Solitude of Self, before the Committee on the Judiciary on January 18, 1892. She argued why the law needs to treat women as equal citizens under the law and she argued for women to get the vote via a law that would eventually became the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Image: Susan B. Anthony (left) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (right). Source: The Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership.

Sadly, it took forty-two years after Stanton and fellow suffragist Susan B. Anthony first drafted the 19th amendment in 1872 and long after their deaths for the amendment to finally be ratified and made law in 1920. Since Stanton’s house is part of the park, it’s here that you can discover a very human portion of United States history and feel a renewed sense of the privilege that all United States citizens have to vote.

Not only can you learn about Stanton at the park, you can also get a wider view of the earliest stages of the women’s rights movement in the United States. Four historical properties and a visitor’s center make up the park. You can visit the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls where the leaders of the women’s rights movement held the First Women’s Rights Convention in August 1848. Stanton’s home is open from spring through fall. You can tour the house she referred to as “the Center of the Rebellion” where she raised her large family while networking with other women on women’s rights reforms.

Another one of the four park properties, the M’Clintock House in nearby Waterloo, was the home of Mary Ann and Thomas M’Clintock.

MClintocksMrs. M’Clintock held the planning session for the First Women’s Rights Convention and drafted the Declaration of Sentiments at their home as well. (As an added bonus, the M’Clintocks were Quakers and their house was a stop on the Underground Railroad–so you can find out more about Quakers and belatedly celebrate African-American History Month while there.)

While in Waterloo, you can walk by the Hunt House, where Jane and Richard Hunt hosted Lucretia Mott and held an assembly for her where the attendees announced the plan for the First Women’s Right’s Convention. Although you can’t tour the Hunt House now as it is too fragile, the National Park Service (NPS) is making plans to restore it in the future. Visiting these locations brings home the exciting sense of purpose and activity of the American women’s rights movement of the late 1800s.

Information about all of these sites, as well as slideshows of the historical houses, the text of Stanton’s address, historical factoids, and photos of the major architects of the women’s rights movement and their supporters, are available at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park brochure online. Even if, like me, you can’t get to upstate New York to see these sites in person, you can (almost) feel like you’ve been there once you’ve given the park Web site a thorough visit.

It’s worth the time it takes to make the trip, whether actual or virtual. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come as a nation in the advancement of personal rights, and how much all of society (men and women) have done to push our mothers, sisters, aunts and daughters forward. Having that perspective is one of the many advantages of learning about the park.

Continue your self-education by reading the park brochure at your local Federal depository library. You can find it either via the title’s PURL (Permanent URL) or through the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) record that GPO cataloged for the Federal depository libraries in the March 2013 record load.

How can I access this publication, the Women’s Rights National Historical Park web brochure?

[Note from M. Bartram:] You can also purchase print publications and eBooks from GPO’s U.S. Government Online Bookstore related to the topics discussed in this article:


The Untold Story Behind the Engineering of Washington DC

January 24, 2013

Watching the many tourists visiting my hometown of Washington, DC this week for the Presidential Inauguration and enjoying the wonders of our beautiful neo-classical architecture in our monuments, buildings and museums, I was inspired to write this post on this intriguing new book by Washington, D.C. and architectural historian Pamela Scott entitled Capital Engineers: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Development of Washington, D.C. 1790-2004.

Capital Engineers: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Development of Washington, D.C. 1790-2004. ISBN-9780160795572Although best known for its “water resources and environmental work and its construction of facilities on military bases,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers played a pivotal role in the design and construction of our Nation’s capital: Washington, D.C.  Not only did Army Engineers fill the role of one of three commissioners who ran the city, they were instrumental in constructing a new and rapidly growing city on donated land, including literally creating land out of swampy terrain on the banks of the Potomac River where today National Airport, majestic monuments and sprawling public spaces can be found.

The purpose of this large, beautifully presented book is to bring to the public’s awareness the depth of involvement of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the design, development, construction, and maintenance of our Nation’s capital by effectively chronicling its history and showcasing rare images, maps, and drawings of the Corps’ work.  In the preface we learn that many of these images were in poor condition and not accessible to the public before, but the advent of digital photography and scanning has made these available to stunning impact in this high-quality publication.

The book is broken into 6 sections covering periods from 1790 to 2004:

  1. The Grand Design, 1790-1800. During this period our first President George Washington hires French engineer Peter Charles L’Enfant (who had served with him in the Continental Army) to create a grand vision to lay out the city on the land donated for the purpose from Maryland and Virginia. In addition to creating the original plan for the capital city of this new nation that was reminiscent of Paris, L’Enfant also proposed the founding of the permanent Corps of Engineers to “play a key role in the development of the country’s public as well as military infrastructure.”
  2. The Antebellum City, 1800-1865, is a period where The Smithsonian Institution is built along with the start of the Capitol, and infrastructure begins to be laid.
  3. The Victorian City, 1865-1890, marks the building of the Washington Monument and the Library of Congress.
  4. The Progressive City, 1890-1915 delivers the Government Printing Office, The Lincoln Memorial, Rock Creek Park, and Potomac River bridges.
  5. The Expanding City, 1915-1950, is the period during two world wars, and noted is the building of the Pentagon among other Federal buildings and growing infrastructure.
  6. Metropolis, 1950-2004 is the final stage covered, when the city turns into a metropolis, and requires expanded infrastructure to support this.

However, the most fascinating part of the book is the many anecdotes sprinkled throughout, giving the reader a feel for the many strong personalities involved in building the beautiful city we have today and the many controversies that surfaced throughout the over two centuries since its founding.

For example, this year’s Inaugural Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) organized the 2013 Inauguration ceremony around a theme commemorating the completion of the Capitol Dome 150 years prior on December 2, 1863, two years ahead of President Lincoln’s second inauguration on March 4, 1865.  Said Senator Schumer on Monday as he kicked off the second inauguration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden:

When Abraham Lincoln took office [in 1861], two years earlier the dome above us was a half-built eyesore… Conventional wisdom was that it should be left unfinished until the war ended, given the travails and financial needs of the times. But to President Lincoln the half finished dome symbolized the half divided nation. Lincoln said, ‘If people see the Capitol going on it is a sign we intend the union shall go on.’ And so, despite the conflict which engulfed the nation, and surrounded the city, the dome continued to rise.”

Unfinished Capitol dome at Lincoln;s first inaugural

Image: First Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861, beneath the unfinished Capitol dome. Source: Library of Congress

To continue Lincoln’s vision to complete the construction in spite of the Civil War, the Corps continued work on the ambitious and tricky Capitol Dome, with the book showing rare photos and drawings of the work being done, including the planned design and engineering behind this magnificent structure.

Capitol-dome-cross-section

Image: Cross-section drawing by Thomas Ustick Walter for the dome of the United States Capitol building, circa, 1859. Source: Library of Congress.

Another story from the book is that General Thomas Lincoln Casey, Chief of Engineers at the time, decided to avoid both extensive congressional debate and public criticism in the building the Library of Congress and “embarked on the Library’s decorative scheme without prior approval of Congress.”  Using the time-honored Washington tradition of masking expenditures in generalities, Casey hid the hiring of sculptors under a generic heading of “marble work” and that of fine artists under “painting” in his annual reports.  Such was the faith in his work that Congress was not fazed by this deception when it was revealed.

An interesting chapter about the Washington Monument showed the Corps identified a need to shore up the foundation in order to build the obelisk to the necessary height in accordance with ancient Egyptian proportions. Such was the respect for their findings that Congress authorized additional funds for the Corps to build a new cement foundation to provide the long-lasting support desired.

Washington-monument-base

Image:  Cement foundation under the Washington Monument in May 1880. Source:  Library of Congress

Eventually, the foundation was covered with a beautiful lawn and the entire grounds landscaped by the Corps, to the delight– and relief– of all D.C. residents, expressed by local newspaper columnist George Alfred Townsend:

“The old grounds around the Washington Monument, which the very goats disdained to frequent and truant school-boys passed through with awe… were now brought into civilization… and a sense of gratitude toward the Engineer was felt by every thoughtful visitor.”

Skeptics throughout the history of the city from Washington’s cabinet to Abraham Lincoln’s own administration, did not see the vision of the completed city that the Corps of Engineers could. In fact, shortly before President Lincoln’s First Inaugural on March 4, 1861, aide John Hay ascended to the base of the Capitol’s yet-unconstructed dome and was quoted giving a bleak portrait of the unfinished city, saying:

Why did they attempt to build a city where no city was ever intended to be reared? It will never be a capital, except only in name; never a metropolis like Rome, or London, or Paris.

Fortunately, the book shows that Corps of Engineers had a broader vision and optimism, creating a major city with stunning vistas that rival those of major capitals throughout the world. All Americans owe, as Townsend said above, “a sense of gratitude” to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for our beautiful capital city!

Capitol-at-2013-inauguration

Image: United States Capitol bedecked in red, white and blue for the Presidential Inauguration this past Monday, January 21, 2013. Note the magnificent dome with the statue of Freedom atop it, and compare it to President Lincoln’s inauguration above. Photo courtesy of MarthaStreet.com

How can I obtain a copy of Capital Engineers: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Development of Washington, D.C. 1790-2004?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a federal depository library.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


All-American Ethnic Music: Reels, Polkas, Klezmer, Cajun, and More

April 18, 2011

Several years ago, I was standing in line to pay for some books at a used book sale. A man ahead of me had one of those two-wheeled folding shopping carts full of LPs. He was explaining to another person in the line that he was a musicologist and most of the records in the cart were for his colleagues. He then said that his own specialty was Jewish music of South America. It was a revelation to me that there was such a musical niche, although I don’t know why I was so surprised. After all, I’m ethnic myself – Scottish on my father’s side and Polish on my mother’s – and all of my grandparents were born overseas. I never heard much Scottish music growing up, except bagpipes, but my hometown and surrounding areas of northern New Jersey had enough Polish-American communities to support at least some Polish-language programming, including plenty of polka music, and not just “Who Stole the Kishka?”

Maybe my own ethnic roots explain my interest in Ethnic Recordings in America: A Neglected Heritage, a Library of Congress American Folklife Center gem from the Government Book Talk out-of- print horde. This pioneering effort in the field includes an introduction to recorded ethnic music beginning in the 1920s, both major labels (Victor,Columbia, and Edison) and independents (including Gaelic [Irish], Italianstyle [Italian], Panhellion [Greek], La Patrie [French-Canadian], and Macksoud [Arabic], and many more). It also traces ethnic recording history in the U.S. After the big bust of the Great Depression, ethnic records boomed again in the later 1930s through the mid-1940s before becoming marginalized by assimilation, changing tastes, and the hard economics of the recording business. Yet pockets of traditional music, whether Tex-Mex, Cajun, or Finnish, still persist, and musicians now produce CDs or mp3s instead of vinyl records. Ethnic music even attracts non-ethnic musicians, who ring new changes on Balkan, Hawaiian, and Latino melodies – maybe even more so now than was the case in 1982, when this book was published.

Ethnic Recordings in America also features essays on Irish records, the great Mexican-American singer Lydia Mendoza, and yes, “The Sajewski Story: Eighty Years of Polish Music in Chicago.” Each essay is illustrated by rare photos of record labels, sheet music, and musicians of many ethnicities. Checklists and discographies also provide reference resources for those interested in probing deeper into the music and record collections of the Library of Congress and other archives. I didn’t have any luck finding the text via the Internet, but you can find copies through various used book sites, or in a library. As for me, it’s time to get in touch with my roots – but which roots? – Alex Beaton or Frankie Yankovic? Only in America!


A Bibliophile’s Delight

October 25, 2010

It’s about time I tackled some of the riches of the Library of Congress (LC) here. The question: where to begin? I was talking to someone about Thomas Jefferson last week, so why not start with the man who sold his library to the Federal Government after the British burned the congressional library during the War of 1812, thus supplying the foundation for today’s LC? The 1989 edition of Thomas Jefferson’s Library: A Catalog with the Entries in His Own Order restored to public view a unique copy of Jefferson’s personal shelflist, and one with an unusual history. Jefferson had sent along a copy of his personal library’s catalog with the books he sold to the Government, but it has been lost. Later, he asked Nicholas P. Trist, his secretary and future grandson-in-law, to recreate the catalog and its unique arrangement. (Trist later had a controversial career as a diplomat – if I ever find a Government publication concerning him, you’ll hear all about it.) After Jefferson’s death, Trist’s manuscript vanished until 1917, when it turned up in the library of Camp Wheeler in Georgia (talk about gold in your attic!) and was donated to LC, which published it for the first time in this edition.

The Introduction explains the provenance of the manuscript as well as its unusual structure, based on the system developed by Francis Bacon in his The Advancement of Learning. As the editors point out, “To twentieth-century eyes, parts of Jefferson’s classification, may seem puzzling. It is no surprise to find categories such as Modern British History under the broad division of history, but such unexpected subjects as Agriculture, Surgery, and natural History also appear there.” According to Jefferson’s world view, “history” meant all of the known facts about the physical universe, so these topic headings, seemingly so disparate to us, made perfect sense to the 18th century mind.

Although Jefferson’s methods of library cataloging are of great interest and carefully explained by the editors, my real interest was in Jefferson’s reading habits. Lots of books under Politics, of course – most of the great Enlightenment theorists and reformers are represented, including Cesare Beccaria, that great foe of judicial torture, whom I hold in particular esteem (trivia: his grandson was Alessandro Manzoni, author of I Promessi Sposi, the greatest Italian novel of the 19th century). Speaking of literature, Jefferson owned works by such robust authors as Tobias Smollett (Roderick Random), that most unorthodox clergyman, Laurence Sterne (Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey), and even the somewhat shady Restif de la Bretonne. His poetry interests leaned towards the  Greeks and Romans, but he also had a place for Americans like Philip Freneau and Phyllis “Whateley.” As with the rest of his holdings, Jefferson’s collection of literature represents quintessential Enlightenment taste.

As you can tell, browsing through this remarkable catalog is great fun, even as it sheds light on the intellectual roots of our third President. It’s available online from LC and has been reprinted by a private publisher, although without the distinctive faux marbling covers (above). You can also find it in libraries.


Country Studies

October 8, 2010

I don’t know about anyone else but, for me, a new Country Studies volume is always a welcome sight. These handsome white hardbacks with the really striking black and red cover graphics are easy on the eyes and first-rate mental nourishment for fact seekers everywhere. The latest one, on Colombia, caught my eye and made me dig around a little for some background on the rest.

The Country Studies/Area Handbooks series, to give it a more official ring, has been funded over the years by the Department of the Army and, since FY 2004, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J-5 to those in the know). Since 1988, the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress has prepared these excellent books. I haven’t been able to run down how far back in time the series extends, but it’s been around for more than 30 years – first as Area Handbooks (when the volumes had green covers) and then Country Studies.

Country Studies present “a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.” They originally were intended to focus primarily on lesser-known areas of the world or regions in which U.S. forces might be deployed, so not every nation is included. For more about the series, go here.

Like all of these books, the Colombia volume presents a concise history of the country, followed by sections on geography, population, religions, education, and social movements. Economic structure, transportation and communications, financial regulations and markets, government and politics, the military and national security – you name it, and the subject is covered, and covered well. Of particular interest are a brief section on Illegal Drugs and a historical and political overview of social violence and the development of insurgencies in modern Colombia. I can’t think of a better serious introduction to the problems and prospects of this key Latin American country than this book.

Although most of the Country Studies series done in the past 25 years or so are available online only, printed copies of Colombia, North Korea, Iran, and Cuba are still available. You also can find these and other Country Studies in libraries (WorldCat is a good search tool) and via various bricks and mortar and online used book outlets.


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