Friday, April 30, 2010

Founders Round-Up

It seems that Thomas Jefferson has catalogued his personal library on LibraryThing, complete with 'reviews' extracted from his correspondence.

There's a hip-hop video on YouTube (actually from, but YouTube is trendier) on the early life of Alexander Hamilton - about a year old now, but still worth watching.

John Quincy Adams has a Twitter feed, derived from his diary entries for 1810.

And there's a new strategy game in the works, Founding Fathers, about the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Once known primarily as political wonks, the Founders are fast becoming Web 2.0 and boardgame geeks.

Friday, April 16, 2010

You Mean They Ate Each Other Up?

Probably not, Danny! An archaeological team investigating the winter camp of the Donner Party subjected the bones that the settlers discarded to intense microscopic scrutiny and determined that none of them were from human beings. Instead, the survivors ate cattle which died of starvation, horses brought by one of the relief parties, deer (which they were able to hunt despite 30 feet of snow), and one family's pet dog. They also tried to preserve "civilized" decorum during the winter; their midden includes pieces of slate, used for children's school lessons, and of chinaware, used for their meager meals of boot-and-bone soup. The survivors themselves denied that they had resorted to cannibalism, and no-one was ever able to prove the charge. The conventional story of the Donner Party, however appealing it may be (even to the extent of inspiring an excellent Western/horror movie), appears, like so much of the West's history, to have been a myth.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Historical Humor: A Small Example

For a change of pace I decided to wear my Declaration of Independence tie - a red silk tie bearing the facsimile signatures of the members of the Continental Congress - to school today. In my upper-level Colonial History class, one of my students, after asking me what was on my tie, said - completely deadpan - "It must have taken you a while to collect all those signatures." I'm not used to my students making good jokes, but it's a pleasant surprise when they do.