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Category: Manuscripts

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Researcher Story: Julie Centofanti

Posted by: Neely Tucker

Julie Centofanti, a biology student at Youngstown State University, started a club at her university in 2020 to transcribe historical documents included in the Library’s By the People  project. A longer version of this interview appears on the Signal blog.  How did you find out about By the People? I’m a member of the Youngstown …

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Amelia Earhart, in History’s Hands

Posted by: Mark Hartsell

A shorter version of this story appeared in the July/August edition of the Library of Congress Magazine.  The best clues to a person’s character lie right in the palms of their hands. That, at least, is what Nellie Simmons Meier believed. Meier, you see, was one of the world’s foremost practitioners of the “science” of …

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Hair! At the Library? Yes, and Lots of It

Posted by: Neely Tucker

One of the Library's most unusual holdings is hair -- lots of it. The Library has locks and tresses and strands from people in the arts such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Walt Whitman and Edna St. Vincent Millay; presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, James Madison and Ulysses S. Grant; and any number of famous women, including Lucy Webb Hayes (first lady and spouse of President Rutherford B. Hayes); Confederate spy Antonia Ford Willard; Clare Boothe Luce and unidentified hair from Clara Barton’s diary. Nearly all of the hair stems from the 18th and 19th centuries, in the era before photographs were common and lockets of hair were seen as tokens that could be anything from romantic to momentous.

Image of an ornate clock showing 2:05 with sculpted male figures sitting on each side of the clock face

Len Downie: The Washington Post Papers

Posted by: Neely Tucker

The papers of Leonard Downie Jr., who started as an intern at The Washington Post in the 1960s concluded his career with a 17-year run as executive editor, are now available for researchers in the Library's Manuscript Division. They offer insight on the Post's inner workings on such stories as Watergate, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, the Valerie Plame affair, 9/11, the Unabomber and much more.

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Letters Straight to Your Heart: The Library’s Centuries of Correspondence

Posted by: Neely Tucker

Letters in the Library’s stunning collection of correspondence that has helped shape the world as we know it, stretching back more than a thousand years. Written by the famous and the forgotten in any number of languages and dialects from all over the world the letters are on everything from ancient vellum to dime store postcards. It includes letters from Wolfgang Mozart, Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, George Washington and thousands of others. One of the most significant is a papal bull from Pope Alexander VI, giving Spain title to any "new lands" they might discover in the "new world," setting the stage for hundreds of years of colonialism.

Image of an ornate clock showing 2:05 with sculpted male figures sitting on each side of the clock face

The (Very Polite) Letters Behind “Double Indemnity”

Posted by: Neely Tucker

“Double Indemnity” is one of Hollywood’s classic films, the standard-bearer for noir cinema and a career highlight for stars Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. The Library has a fascinating exchange of letters between the “Double” stars and novelist James M. Cain, whose book was the basis for the film. The letters give us a glimpse into Hollywood history, how scandalous the movie was at the time and at the manners of a bygone era. It’s almost impossible to imagine this exchange taking place today.

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Madeleine Albright: A Life of Courage and Commitment

Posted by: Neely Tucker

Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. Secretary of State, died today in Washington at the age of 84. The cause was cancer, her family said.. Albright, who donated her papers to the Library in 2014, was a key figure in the administration of Bill Clinton, serving both as ambassador to the United Nations and then as Secretary of State during his second term. Outspoken to the end, she wrote an essay for the New York Times in late February warning about the effects of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. She included her notes from her first meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, more than two decades ago: "Putin is small and pale...so cold as to be almost reptilian."

Image of an ornate clock showing 2:05 with sculpted male figures sitting on each side of the clock face

Researcher Stories: Walter Stahr

Posted by: Wendi Maloney

In this segment of a regular feature on authors who use the Library's collections, we interview Walter Stahr, a lawyer turned historian. His latest biography, published in 2022, is "Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln's Vital Rival," a look at the influential treasury secretary and later chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court during the mid 19th century.