The (Very Polite) Letters Behind “Double Indemnity”

“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.

Madeleine Albright: A Life of Courage and Commitment

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.”

Black Cowboys at “Home on the Range”

Black men were among the first cowboys in the U.S. They roped, branded and saddled up for cattle drives. Some gained fame, such as Bill Pickett and Nat Love. But mostly, as time passed, pop culture erased Black cowboys from the Western milieu, creating a misleading image of the Old West as peopled by white men on horseback, riding the lonely grasslands. The Library’s collections help document a more accurate picture of what cowboy culture actually looked like in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, during the cowboy heyday.

Women’s History Month: Genealogy

During Women’s History Month, it’s good to remember that specialists in the Library’s Local History and Genealogy Section collaborate with researchers to help find female ancestors, who are often obscured in historical records. A video presentation offers help in tracking down female ancestors whose last name changed due to marriage, or whose names did not appear on home ownership and other records.

Researcher Stories: Walter Stahr

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.