Two Black seamstresses have left their mark on White House fashion history, as Elizabeth Keckley and Ann Lowe designed dresses for two of the nation’s most famous first ladies, Mary Todd Lincoln and Jacqueline Kennedy, respectively. Both designers developed their craft despite the brutal influences of slavery and Jim Crow segregation. This piece tells their stories.
Here's a handy guide to holiday stories that readers frequently turn to at the Library. Favorites include the tale of who invented Christmas tree lights, how Truman Capote wrote "A Christmas Memory" (the Library has his handwritten first draft) and how a Central American flowering plant became the favorite Christmas flower around the world.
Carl Sagan's dreams of space flight took root as a child as some of his enthusiastic artwork shows, particularly a drawing he called “The Evolution of Interstellar Flight.” It's in the Library's Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive, composed of more than 595,000 items from throughout the astrophysicist's life.
Ernest Hemingway recorded more than four hours of personal stories, dictation and friends playing music at his home in Cuba during 1949-50 for his friend and future biographer A.E. Hotchner. Those recordings, part of the Library's Hotchner collection, show Hemingway at home with friends, but also how uncomfortable he was with the technology. The tapes have been used by multiple Hemingway biographers.
One of the first picture books for children was "Orbis Sensualium Pictus" ("Visible World in Pictures"), published by Johann Amos Comenius in 1658. Born in the present-day Czech republic, Comenius was a theologian and education reformer who believed in teaching children from a Christian perspective. His book, with 150 woodcut images, was popular across Europe for centuries. The Library has a 1664 edition published in London.
Hans Christian Andersen created wrote timeless fairy tales ("The Little Mermaid," "The Ugly Duckling") but also created handmade picture books as gifts for children of a few acquaintances.The Library holds one of them, assembled by Andersen and his friend Adolph Drewsen in 1862 for Drewsen’s 8-year-old grandson, Jonas. The picture book is part of a collection of first editions, manuscripts, letters and presentation copies gathered over a 30-year span by Danish actor Jean Hersholt — probably the most comprehensive collection of Andersen material in America.
“The ‘Canary’ Murder Case,” by S. S. Van Dine, is the latest in the Library’s Crime Classics series. The publication gives readers a new look at an influential 1927 detective novel featuring the urbane detective Philo Vance.
Louise Glück, the poet whose often personal, always searching work won the Nobel Prize in 2020 and who served as the U.S. poet laureate for the Library in 2003-2004, has died at the age of 80. Here, we remember a night at the LIbrary in the spring of 1975, when she was a nervous young poet reading her work in an event at the Coolidge Auditorium.
The Library recently put online some 230 histortic manuscripts, some of them more than a thousand years old, in Hebrew and similar languages, such as Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian and Yiddish. The collection, available online for researchers and the public for the first time, includes a 14th-century collection of responsa, or rabbinic decisions and commentary, by Solomon ibn Adret of Barcelona, considered one of the most prominent authorities on Jewish law.