July 27th: The 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice

Truman's Memo at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation
Truman’s Memo at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation

Today, July 27th, is the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice. The Shapell Manuscript Foundation’s Between the Lines features a handwritten letter from President Harry Truman to his Secretary of State. The Between the Lines piece, entitled An Historic Memo: Truman Salutes Secretary of State Acheson’s Crucial Role in Going to War With Korea, explains how Truman’s memo to Dean Acheson reflects the very beginning of the Cold War conflict.

Regarding June 24 and 25 – Your initiative in immediately calling the Security Council of the UN on Saturday night and notifying me was the key to what developed afterwards,”  Truman wrote. “Had you not acted promptly in that direction, we would have had to go into Korea alone. The meeting Sunday night at the Blair House was the result of your action Saturday and the results obtained show that you are a great Secretary of State and a diplomat. Your handling of the situation since has been superb.”

The Foundation explains: “But the victory hoped for, prayed for, so seemingly at hand, did not take place. Taejon, after two days of ferocious fighting, was a cruel defeat. The American commander was captured; the shattered remnants of the Twenty-Fourth were forced to retreat. Truman later said that sending troops to fight in Korea was the most difficult decision of his presidency: Acheson, this handwritten memo attests, was the person who made that decision possible.”

traducción español

Hundreds of Thousands to Commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg This Week

gfdbgpJuly 1st, 1863, marked the beginning of the three-day war that came close to ending the United States. Now, 150 years later, more than 100,000 people will gather in Pennsylvania to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg.

One such person is Civil War re-enactor Jeff Speight, a Con Edison worker following the footsteps of his Union Army veteran great-grandfather.

“For me, it’s like coming full circle,” he said. “One hundred and fifty really is a blink of an eye,” he added. His great-grandfather, Henry Washington Speight, served on a color guard while Abraham Lincoln’s body lay in state in Baltimore. He was invited to the 75th anniversary of the battle by President Franklin Roosevelt.

“It’s not something that happened so long ago. It’s something that has a freshness to it. People are still fascinated by it,” Jeff Speight said.

The Shapell Manuscript Foundation, closely associated with The Benjamin Shapell Family Manuscript Foundation, has a collection of rare letters from the Battle of Gettysburg, including one from a young soldier to his mother. The letter offers some insight into the days following the battle:

The Battle of Gettysburg is fought and thank God The Army of the Potomac has been victorious. I took part in the battle with my Regt on the 2nd inst and it has been my good fortune to escape unharmed. I am well and so are the rest of the boys in the Co. I cannot tell yet what the loss of our Regt is. We have many missing who may be either killed, wounded or taken prisoners…. The Loss in the Regt is (as far as I know) Killed 10 Wounded 53 Missing 68…

Our Corps (the 3rd) has not started yet but we are expecting to go every minute. The Boys are all confident that we will whip Lee’s Army so that he will not be fit to do anything more for some time to come.”

traducción español

 

Remembering Abe Lincoln and his Son on Father’s Day

Today, the third Sunday of June, is Father’s Day. Established in honor of fathers and fatherhood, the day compliments Mother’s Day which is celebrated in May.

Father figures and their relationships with their children are prominent throughout history. One little-known yet poignant story in American history is the bond between President Abraham Lincoln and his youngest son, Tad.

Surrounded by war, desolation and insanity, and mourning the loss of a son, Lincoln found comfort in his free-spirited 12-year old, whom he could hardly control. The boy was notoriously known for his tricks and stubborness, but his father defended his actions, saying “Let him run.”

“There’s time enough yet for him to learn his letters and get pokey,” he would say. “It is my pleasure that my children are free – happy and unrestrained by parental tyranny. Love is the chain whereby to lock a child to its parent.”

Lincoln was known to request small gifts for his son as well. The Shapell Manuscript Foundation has a handwritten note from the president asking Chief of Engineers General Delafield to present his son with a map or two, and several other exist that request a pistol, or a wagon, or various other items.

After Lincoln’s murder, Tad revealed a level of sentiment and depth when he asked a White House visitor if he thought his father had gone to heaven. When he received an affirmative answer he said:

“I’m glad he has gone there, for he was never happy after he came here. This was not a good place for him.” He also showed true self-awareness and understanding, adding, “I must learn to take care of myself now. Yes, Pa is dead, and I am only Tad Lincoln now, little Tad, like other little boys. I’m not a president’s son now. I won’t have many presents anymore.”

 

The Biography of Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak Google DoodleYesterday’s Google Doodle has left people of all ages buzzing with memories of Maurice Sendak’s stories. The children’s author passed away last year, and would have just turned 85. His most famous and beloved work is Where the Wild Things Are, though he wrote over 50 books, including In the Night Kitchen and Outside Over There. Later in his career he worked on the musical Really Rosie with Carole King as well.

Born in New York City, Sendak was a sickly child. He turned to drawing to pass the time, and, once he got to high school, began working at All-American Comics. He went on to work on window displays for F.A.O. Schwartz, one of the most famous toy stores in Brooklyn. In the late 1940s, Sendak met Ursula Nordstrom, the legendary children’s book editor, who helped him get his first position as a children’s books illustrator. His works include books by Ruth Krauss and Else Holmelund Minarik.

Where_The_Wild_Things_Are_(book)_cover

Sendak wrote and illustrated his first book in 1956, titled Kenny’s Window. His 1963 Where the Wild Things Are won a Caldecott Medal and changed the world of children’s books, captivating the public with its imaginative journey of a boy in a dark, moody world of monsters. Sendak explained that the protagonist, a child named Max, acted like a real child as opposed to a light, happy, idealized version of youth.

“In plain terms, a child is a complicated creature who can drive you crazy,” Sendak said. “There’s a cruelty to childhood, there’s an anger. And I did not want to reduce Mac to the trite image of the good little boy that you find in too many books.”

Maurice Sendak passed away in a Danbury, Connecticut hospital in 2012 after suffering a stroke. His incredible contributions to children’s literature and unparalleled illustrations have left lasting impressions throughout numerous generations.

Remembering John F. Kennedy

John F. KennedyToday, May 29th, would have been President John F. Kennedy’s 96th birthday. Kennedy was elected as the United States’ 35th president in 1961 after serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. He was assassinated in Texas two years later.

Though his role as president is widely discussed, the man himself is often overlooked. Born to a tight-knit family in Brookline, Massachusetts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, nicknamed ‘Jack’, was the second son of nine siblings. His brothers and sisters were also extraordinary, and left lasting impressions on the U.S. in various ways.

JFK’s parents were unusual, taking little interest in the world of Boston socialites and focusing their attention instead on the well-being and education of their children. It was rare for a father to focus on his children during that time. In fact, a family friend once said “most fathers in those days simply weren’t that interested in what their children did. But Joe Kennedy knew what his kids were up to all the time.” He was fiercely competitive and had great expectations for his children. He taught them the importance of winning by entering them in competitions such as swimming and sailing.

Jack Kennedy adopted his father’s competitive approach, but remained mischievous and free-willed. He has been described as a man who “embodied youth and vigor,” as well as someone who lived “fearlessly, intensely, joyously” and who “wanted to do everything.” It is not so surprising, then, that the young president knew how to fly. This little-known fact is confirmed by his flight logbook, written in 1944, which is currently on display at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation. History often focuses on the political accomplishments and the untimely demise of America’s 35th president, but on the anniversary of his birthday, it is important to appreciate the man himself as well.

“50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus” to Debut on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Journalist Steven Pressman will debut his first film on HBO on April 8th, Holocaust Remembrance Day, in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Shapell Manuscript Foundation has hundreds of Holocaust-related documents, including manuscripts, letters and journals from countries across Europe. Pressman’s documentary, called “50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus”, is based on a hidden, unpublished manuscript of a woman who fought for the lives of children during the Holocaust.

Pressman first learned of the unsung Philadelphian heroes Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus when his wife, their granddaughter, discovered Eleanor’s manuscript. The text explained the Kraus’s mission: to rescue Jewish children before the outbreak of World War II. Pressman traveled through Europe, and later to archives in Jerusalem and Washington D.C., to learn more about the Kraus’s efforts. He began collecting footage in 2010, and has finally gathered enough information to reveal the full story.

The film was written, directed and produced by Steven Pressman. Mamie Gummer is the voice of Eleanor Kraus, and Alan Alda narrates. The work includes archival footage and photographs, while nine of the rescued children share their experiences with the audience first hand.