In the Collections of the World’s Largest Library, We Find the World’s Largest . . .

This post is by Lee Ann Potter, Director of Educational Outreach at the Library of Congress.

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting the keynote address at the 35th History and Social Science Teachers’ Conference at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Il.  On my way there, after flying into Indianapolis, I was driving west on I-70, and saw a sign promoting the World’s Largest Wind Chimes in the community of Casey, IL.  Had it not been getting dark and starting to rain, I would have stopped to see them.  I enjoy such attractions and appreciate the way communities differentiate themselves with them.

Because the Library of Congress is The Largest Library in the World, just for fun, I did a search on “world’s largest” on loc.gov and was tickled to find a photograph of the World’s Largest Bike, in Sparta, Wisconsin, a WPA poster for Buckingham Fountain on Chicago’s lake front, described as the “world’s largest and most beautiful illuminated fountain,” a photograph of Vulcan, the world’s largest cast iron statue in Birmingham, Alabama, and many others.

If you are looking for a primary source analysis activity that presents many possibilities for speculation, and may inspire research projects related to local history, you might use these images or others from the collection!  Share them with students and lead a class discussion with questions such as: What do these items have in common?  Why do you think individuals or communities chose to promote them?  Are you aware of other, similar attractions?  Do such attractions always feature over-sized items?  If not, what other superlatives capture attention and imagination?

The Library’s primary source analysis tool includes prompts specifically for photographs and prints that can help your students look for details and refine their questions about these larger-than-life constructions.

We’d love to hear about more of these!  If you live in a community that boasts of being home to the “largest,” “greatest,” “most,” or other superlative attraction, please tell us about it!  And we’d love to hear how and when the attraction came to be!

7 Comments

  1. Margaret Fredericksen
    October 21, 2014 at 11:27 am

    The world’s largest catsup/ketchup bottle is in Collinsville, Illinois!

  2. John Sayers
    October 21, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Those of us hearkening from the northern panhandle of West Virginia know well the World’s Largest Teapot in Chester. Sadly, no photo of it in the Library’s collections (yet).

  3. Sue Wise
    October 21, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Kids are fascinated by extreme sizes of ordinary objects! How about the smallest…?

    Smallest Post Office in NC.

    Smallest passenger locomotive

    Smallest waists in the world

    The world’s smallest “doughboy

  4. Forrest Uppendahl
    October 21, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    How about the “world’s largest swimming pool” and the “world’s largest hair ball”, both in Garden City, KS! Also, the “world’s largest hand dug well” in Greensburg, KS?

  5. Byron Holdiman
    October 21, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    During our TPS Train-the-Trainers session this past summer, we came across another big bicycle statue in Port Byron, IL. The bicycle statue in Sparta is 32 feet tall and is called “Ben Bikin”. A brother statues was also created in Sparta for Port Byron, IL, is 30 feet tall, and is called “Will B. Rolling.” We had to stop a take a picture of me (Byron) by the Port Byron bicyclist.

  6. Tom Bober
    October 22, 2014 at 9:21 am

    St. Louis holds the world’s largest bowling pins and world’s largest chess piece, at the Bowling Hall of Fame and World Chess Hall of Fame respectively. Shamelessly, our City Museum also has on display the world’s largest men’s underpants.

  7. Michelle Zupan
    October 23, 2014 at 9:31 am

    @John — you should donate a photo of the World’s Largest Teapot! The Library may not have ever been offered one and would probably love to add it to their collection!

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