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A red and white roller coaster ride.
Roller Coaster at the Family Kingdom Amusement Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. (Carol M. Highsmith Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress).

Celebrating Summer Fun with the Library of Congress’ Collections

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We’re coming to the end of June, which means summer days are fully upon us. School is out, and ice cream, summer camp, baseball, and vacations are in. As the temperature started rising over the last few weeks, I began thinking about what summer meant to me. If I had to choose one activity or image that exemplified summer, what would I pick? I extended the question to my fellow team members in the Informal Learning Office, asking them to describe what summer meant to them. And then I asked a follow up: can you find something in the Library of Congress’ collections that represents that feeling? Keep reading to see what we found!

A Refreshing Drink From Monica Valentine:

One of the things I appreciate most about summer are relaxed moments with family and friends enjoying a cool and refreshing beverage. The fancier and fruitier, the better. While exploring the Library’s digital collections I stumbled upon this booklet, “Receipts For The Most Approved Summer Beverages ETC.” The document is a collection of recipes for beverages ranging from Ginger Beer to Raspberry Vinegar. I found the drink recipes intriguing and quickly decided to try a few this summer. I was also left with several questions. Who was L.A. Godey and what led him to collect these recipes? Did “most approved” simply mean most popular? Were people polled door to door or were these the most frequently ordered at eating establishments? Primary sources can provide answers about a distant time, but often they raise more questions.

What do you see in the pamphlet that makes helps you know it’s from the past? What does it make you wonder about summer in Pennsylvania during the 1850s? Do you have a favorite summer beverage?

A Trip to the Beach From Alli Hartley-Kong:

Black and White image of a streetlight on a boardwalk overlooking a beach.
Pavilion, General View Looking North Down Boardwalk…Avon-by-the-Sea. Historic American Building Survey, date unknown. (Historic American Buildings Survey, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress).

I grew up in New Jersey, so summer means going “down the shore”—a term used regardless of what geographic direction you drove to get to the beach. When I saw this photograph, I shouted “I know that boardwalk!” I hadn’t realized that the Historic American Building Survey, a project organized by the National Park Service and preserved at the Library, documented the signature boardwalk, streetlights and pavilions of Avon-by-the-Sea in Monmouth County. As these photos were undated, I immediately zoomed in to see if my 1990s-era family was lurking somewhere in the background. This sums up the question that drives my work in the Informal Learning Office: can you find yourself in the Library of Congress? When I find my happy memories of summer captured in a photograph to be saved in perpetuity, I think I can.

A Frozen Treat From Dianne Choie:

A colorful sign advertising custard frozen yogurt.
Dairy Custard Cup. John Margolies, 1986. (John Margolies Roadside America, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress).

Imagine it’s the end of a hot summer day. Maybe you’re returning from a day at the beach, you’ve enjoyed hours in the sun at camp, or you’re commuting home at the end of the workday. What’s the sight you’d most like to see on your (probably sweaty) journey? For me, a sign like this one would be an absolute delight. Nothing beats a frozen treat on a hot day, and after spending several summers in the Midwest, I know that the tastiest of those treats is a creamy frozen custard. While this photo wasn’t taken in Wisconsin (America’s Dairyland and, in my opinion, the capital of both cheese and custard), I trust the Midwest to do their desserts right. Grab a cone with me, and don’t miss the Library’s absolute treasure trove of other photos by John Margolies of signs and roadside attractions all over America!

A Sunny Advertisement From Jennifer Ezell:

A newspaper clipping advertising Skolex sunscreen.
Evening Star, June 10, 1951, Page 36. Chronicling America.

When I think of summer, I think of the bright shining sun and the many times I had to apply and reapply sunscreen so I didn’t get a sunburn. During the summer, I spent hours outside of my house, playing with friends, swimming, and enjoying the freedom of being off from school. However, I also remember several very painful sunburns. In order to provide my skin some protection, I lathered up with sunscreen and took breaks in the shade. As I explored the Library’s collections, I found this advertisement for Skolex Sun Allergy Cream in the Chronicling America newspaper collections. The advertisement reminds me of some ads I see today. It features a spokesperson talking about the product and highlights that it was “scientifically developed” and an “exclusive new formula.” It even tells you where you can purchase the cream. What do you do to protect yourself from the elements in your area? Do you use parasols, long sleeves and pants, or something else?

A Floral Find From Sarah Peet: 

A print of a thistle plant with monarch butterflies flying around it.
Thistle. F. Bridges, 1886. (Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress).

Butterflies! I love these beautiful pollinators, for their beauty and for how they play an important role in the environment. Where I live, butterflies are mainly active in the summer, either migrating from the south or emerging from their chrysalis when the weather is warm. The Library has many images of butterflies in the collection, but I chose this print because it also depicts thistle, a host plant to some types of butterflies. Host plants provide a place for specific butterfly species to lay their eggs. When the caterpillars hatch, their first meal will be the host plant. If you want a particular butterfly in your yard, the first thing you should do is research what their host plant is. If you plant it, they will come! Looking at this print, I automatically relax, imagining being in this meadow watching butterflies. Do you have a favorite summer creature?

A Lake-side Respite From Katie McCarthy: 

A black and white image of row boats and a dock on a lakeshore. There are people swimming in the water and standing on the dock.
Bathing at the Oak Spring Shore, Fox Lake, Wis. 1910. (Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress).

Whether at summer camp or on family vacations, from Connecticut to Maine to Michigan, much of my summer months were spent lakeside. Growing up I learned how to fish, swim, and sail (and avoid leeches) on lakes of varying sizes. In a funny twist of fate, on the day this blog is posted I’ll be on a lake vacation with my family, so I knew I had to find an image in the Library’s collection that represented this experience. I was excited to discover this one, from the early 20th century. Check out the array of summer clothes and swimsuits. Can you spot the bathing caps? I wonder what this group did after this photo was taken; did they continue swimming, take a boat ride around the lake, go fishing? Or did they take a break from the water and make a s’more or read a book in the shade? When I first discovered this photo, I was especially drawn in by the expressions on everyone’s faces. Even 100 years ago, people were finding joy in experiencing nature in each other’s company. However you spend your summer, I hope you find some happiness in it as well!

A Trip Across the Pond From Rachel Gordon: 

Big ben and the houses of parliament, with horses and carriages travelling by.
Houses of Parliament, London, England. Ca. 1890 – 1900. (Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress).

This photograph, along with posters from the Library’s travel poster collection, remind me of summer travel home to England. Our family visits started in London , zipping around on the Underground and iconic red buses to visit the city’s world class museums, the zoo, parks, and much more. But most of our stay was spent with my parents in my hometown of Saffron Walden, a quintessential English market town with a long history. It was the center of the English saffron trade from medieval times – hence its name. There’s a ruined 12th century castle, and a 15th century church which is still in use. The weekly bellringing practice can be heard all over town. Magnificent Audley End House was first built in Henry VIII’s time. Riding a little open train through the house’s gardens and woods and feeding the ducks were highlights of every visit for my children – and compensated somewhat for the history lessons I made them endure. We’d visit Cambridge too, sometimes punting on the River Cam. These images bring back many happy summer vacation memories and make me excited for my next visit!

A group of boys eat at wooden table outdoors.
Southfields, New York…Camp Nathan Hale. Gordon Parks, 1943. (FSA/OWI Black-and-White Negatives, Prints & Photographs Collection, Library of Congress).

Now it’s your turn! What does summer mean to you? Can you find something in the Library’s collection that represents it? In today’s post, we shared photographs, posters, and prints, but there is so much more to discover in the Library’s collections, from music to movies and much more. Happy searching, and happy summer!

Need help getting started? Check out these digital collections:

Comments (2)

  1. Awesome & many thanks to all for the creative & fun collaboration. For all the poetry fans out there, here’s hoping we’ll soon hear/see more about the recently received Mary Oliver papers. In the meantime, search online at the LOC for her lovely poem about summer. Mary’s imagery is always wonderful & perfect for the moment.

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