Today's History Highlights Archive

Today’s History Highlights – 7.17.2013

The island of Nantucket last week was remembering the great Nantucket fire of 1846. What started as a spark in a stove pipe at a hat shop quickly spread, destroying 250 buildings. The fire rendered 800 people homeless. It also wrecked the island’s whale oil industry, consuming factories, warehouses and barrels of whale oil stored on the wharves. The incident helped permanently wipe out the island’s whale oil industry, ushering in a period of decay (which continues to this day, depending on your point of view of course).

Did the press cover up FDR’s wheelchair? That’s certainly the popular consensus – that there was a media conspiracy to cover for President Roosevelt. Hiding the wheelchair from public view, the story goes, helped project an image of strength and vitality and kept him in power through four elections. But the truth is not that straight ahead, observes Matthew Pressman, a Boston University doctoral student who is researching the topic. All of this poses a Hobson’s choice to media critics: Do you fault the liberal media then for covering for the president, or do you fault the liberal media today for geting it wrong. We’ll have to wait for Fox & Friends to tell us what to think.

Today’s Flashback Photo is pioneering photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston. Though she was a Washington, D.C., resident most of her life, her sizeable body of work included many New England scenes. The Library of Congress has launched an exhibit of her work, featuring her garden slides: “Guided by her formal training as a fine artist, she had 1,134 of her black-and-white photographs reproduced as lantern slides. These views on glass, most hand-tinted, illustrated Johnston’s popular lectures, which she delivered to garden club members, museum audiences, and horticultural societies from 1915 through the 1930s.” In other words, some really terrific photos with a variety of scenes from New England that are worth a look.

The Lebanon, N.H., historical society is producing an ambitious television program for residents of New Hampshire’s Upper Valley. In addition to broadcasting it locally, the society is also making it available online, and recently posted its Soldiers Memorial Building — Part 1 episode for viewing.

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Today’s Flashback Photo:

Pioneering photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston

Pioneering photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston

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