Library Helped Finger Another 'Would-Be Assassin' Named Booth

Letter from Junius Brutus Booth to Andrew JacksonYou know how some of the best jobs are the ones where you learn something new every day? I definitely have one of those.

I was watching a new episode of History Detectives last night on PBS (one of the few shows to which I am hopelessly addicted). Tukufu Zuberi did a segment about a letter purportedly written by the father of John Wilkes Booth to President Andrew Jackson threatening to assassinate Old Hickory.

The piece turned up some interesting tidbits supporting the notion that at least thoughts of assassination ran in the Booth family, such as what appears to be a contemporaneous apology for the letter from Booth the elder to Jackson in a Philadelphia newspaper.

The Library of Congress in the past had done some pretty exhaustive work of which I was unaware that signals our letter’s authenticity. Quoting Barbara Bair of the Library’s Manuscript Division:

[A]ccording to research by an LC conservator who specializes in manuscripts [Mary Elizabeth (Betsy) Haude], and who has examined the letter, the paper used in the Junius Booth to Andrew Jackson letter of July 4, 1835, as evidenced by the watermarks (dove, and A KELTY), was that of the paper maker Anthony Kelty. He operated a paper mill from 1830-1840 on Buck Run, near Coatesville in East Fallowfield Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. [The letter was dated July 4, 1835, and addressed from Philadelphia.]

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Is a Bad Economy Ever 'Good'?

It’s sometimes said that if you want a really steady income, become an undertaker. There’s no doubt right now that times are tough all over.  The news media is among the industries that have been hit especially hard–in this case, by factors including changing technology and news-consumption habits, but also by lower ad revenues from […]

Life in a Library 'Theme Park'

The Library of Congress acquires some 10,000 items a day for its collections. But many of our finest acquisitions are not bound between leather covers or captured on a reel of celluloid: They are the people who make our collections come alive, who unearth meaning and inspiration among our 653 miles of stacks. One such […]

Hey U, Tune In: The Library Is Now on iTunes U

Blog. Twitter. YouTube.  iTunes.  Yeah, we speak Web 2.0. You nation’s Library has millions of stories to tell, so we’re trying to tell them as many places and to as many people as possible–whether on our own website or elsewhere.  And now you can add another biggie to the list: iTunes U. For those who […]

New Teachers Site Is All 'Class'

Starting about two decades ago, the Library of Congress–under the direction of Librarian of Congress James Billington–began moving more ambitiously into the K-12 education space than it had previously. In 1990 the Library began a pilot program to distribute digital primary-source materials on CD-ROM to classrooms. The program, known as American Memory, has today blossomed […]

Souped-Up Chassis, More Horsepower

If you’ve visited this blog before, you might be doing a double-take. The Web Services team here at the Library (who are doing some simply amazing things) has given the blog a fresher look and new functionality. First, there’s a cleaner, more aesthetic look to it, and I like how the collections are now highlighted […]

Portraits — and Pot-Shots — in Song

Long before we were being sold something (through advertising jingles) or somebody (through campaign ads), presidential campaign seasons brought out the songwriter in many a partisan.  This unique niche of Americana is celebrated in a new Library of Congress exhibition on the web, titled “Voices, Votes, Victory: Presidential Campaign Songs.” The tradition of writing songs […]

Read All About It: Magnificent Milestone

Front page of Call-Chronicle-Examiner after 1906 San Francisco earthquakeMy capacity for metaphors is somewhat limited, so forgive me if I repeat a word I tweeted recently (“tweet-peat”?): Yesterday the Library and the NEH held a news conference celebrating the “odometer” of the Chronicling America program’s surpassing 1 million digitized pages from historic newspapers. Seven new partner states have been added, bringing the total to 22.

This past Friday morning, the site hosted more than 975,000 pages. That same day, the system was updated, bringing the total to 1,249,747 pages. Not to be too specific.

A text-heavy page of this morning’s Washington Post took me about 14 minutes to read, top to bottom. At that rate, I could read day and night for the next 33 years and still not get through every page on Chronicling America.

As I reported last week, the site itself has also been upgraded and enhanced for users.

If you haven’t taken the time to explore Chronicling America, give it a shot — but beware: If you love history, or if you delight in the quaint prose of American journalism circa 1900, you might find several hours elapse seemingly in minutes. As the media have reported (here and here, for instance), there are many great discoveries to be made.

As participants in the event noted, even though the pages are digitized from microfilm, searching them is a far cry from the days of hunching over a microfilm reader and turning a crank in (often vain) hopes of spotting the right article. The database is fully text-searchable, and searches can be restricted by a variety of variables such as date, state and newspaper. It also includes a sprawling listing of 140,000 newspapers published in America since 1690 with details on where to find those that don’t yet exist in digital form.

High-resolution images can be saved and printed, along with basic PDFs, and each page has its own permalink. Wouldn’t it be great to see some of them start showing up on sites like Wikipedia — for instance, the page above linked to the entry about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake?

A few months back, I speculated about what the 1 millionth page might be. Turns out it was too hard to pick just one, especially when so many partners are contributing so much. Instead, the partners picked 11 ceremonial “1 millionth pages” [PDF link], each with an interesting story to tell.

After the jump is an excerpt from remarks made at the news conference by Associate Librarian for Library Services Deanna Marcum. (Below she is pictured at the podium with Acting NEH Chairman Carole Watson in the background. Photo courtesy of NEH by

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