December 29, 2015

Secretary of State Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster (1782‒1852) was an American lawyer, politician, statesman, and orator. Born in New Hampshire to a farm family, he was educated at Dartmouth College and admitted to the bar in Massachusetts in 1805. He served as a congressman from New Hampshire in 1813‒17 and from Massachusetts in 1823‒27 and in the U.S. Senate in 1827‒41 and 1845‒50. He was secretary of state on two occasions, from 1841 to 1843 and from 1850 to 1852. His most notable achievement as secretary was the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, which settled the border between Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, thereby defusing the threat of war between the United States and Great Britain. Webster also argued many important cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Henry and Lucretia Clay

Henry Clay (1777‒1852) was an American statesman, orator, and politician, known as the “Great Pacificator” and the “Great Compromiser” for his efforts to hold together the Union at a time of growing sectional strife. He was born in Hanover County, Virginia, the son of a Baptist minister who died when he was only four. He studied law in Virginia, but moved to Kentucky where he opened a law office in Lexington. In 1803 he was elected to the Kentucky legislature and in 1806 to the U.S. Senate, even though he was younger than the constitutionally mandated age of 30. Concluding that the Senate was too sedate and dignified for the rough-and-tumble debate in which he specialized, he chose to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, which he won in August 1811. He was immediately elected Speaker of the House, and in that capacity forged the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which postponed the national conflict over slavery for a number of decades. He later served as secretary of state and ran unsuccessfully for the presidency against Andrew Jackson in 1832. In 1799 Clay married Lucretia Hart, shown here. The couple had 11 children, six of whom (all daughters) died at a young age. It was not a happy marriage, however; Lucretia hated life in Washington and remained at their home in Kentucky. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Lieutenant General Winfield Scott

Winfield Scott (1786‒1866) was one of four generals during the American Civil War to hold the post of general in chief of the armies of the United States, the others being George McClellan, Henry Halleck, and Ulysses S. Grant. Scott was born in Virginia, graduated from William and Mary College, and then studied law and was admitted to the bar. He joined the army during the War of 1812, in which he was captured by the British, released in a prisoner exchange, and then severely wounded at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane (near Niagara Falls, New York) in July 1814. He won great fame for his exploits in the Mexican War (1846‒48), which included the capture of Veracruz, the defeat of Santa Anna’s army, and a triumphal entrance into Mexico City. When the Civil War broke out, he was the logical choice to head the Union war effort, but he served only until November 1, 1861, when he retired for reasons of age and poor health. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

The Books of the Wisdom of Astronomy

The manuscript Libros del saber de astronomía (The books of the wisdom of astronomy) comprises 16 treatises on the science of the heavenly bodies and the instruments used in their study. The work contains translations from the Aramaic and the Arabic made by various people, including Yehuda ben Moshe Hakohen (also seen as Jehuda ben Moses Cohen) and Rabiçag de Toledo (also seen as Rabbi Zag and Isaac ben Sid), always with the direct input from King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon (1221‒84, called Alfonso the Wise) so as to guarantee the use of the most correct Castilian. The translators, from the Toledo school, included Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The work is divided into three broad thematic sections: astronomy (covered in Treatise 1, which describes the celestial spheres and the signs of the zodiac, constellation by constellation); the operation and manufacturing of various instruments for astronomical observations (covered in Treatises 2 through 10 as well as 16); and instruments for measuring time (Treatises 11 through 15). Toledo, Burgos, and Seville are mentioned in the codex, suggesting that these cities were places where the work might have been made. Scholars believe, however, that at the time the work was composed, in 1276‒79, the Alphonsine scriptorium was based in Seville. The codex has all of the characteristics of the books produced by King Alfonso’s scriptorium. It consists of 201 folios on thick but well-prepared parchment, as would be expected from the product of a royal scriptorium. The text was copied by one hand, in a uniform and careful textual Gothic script, in brown ink for the text and red ink for the legends in the chapters. Red paragraph signs mark the beginning of each paragraph; upper-case letters are decorated with details in red. The text is in two columns across all pages, whether or not there are illustrations. The illustrations, executed with the utmost refinement and skill, include the initials at the beginnings of books and chapters; the flourishes that mark the margins of the columns in some parts of the codex and that occur at the end of some paragraphs; various illustrative tables; and the images that illustrate the text itself. The red and blue ink initials and the cartouches, in calligraphic filigree, are especially outstanding and representative of the Gothic and Mudejar influences in the decoration. However, the most representative decorations, 162 of which are full page, are those that illustrate the text with a clear didactic purpose. The codex, originally in the library of Queen Isabella the Catholic and later sold to Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros by King Ferdinand II of Aragon, was included in the first set of works held in the library of the Complutense University. There are nine extant copies of the work, all produced later. These copies help to further knowledge of damaged or lost sections of the original manuscript.

Justice Calls Your Attention to the Tragedy of the Jew

In a nationwide publicity campaign initiated while World War I was raging, American Jewish leaders brought home to the American public the extent of the suffering abroad and the need for relief efforts of unprecedented scope. The message resonated, resulting in the raising of large sums of money and in garnering support from American Jews and others for wartime relief. The Joint Distribution Committee of American Funds for the Relief of Jewish War Sufferers (later the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, both names abbreviated as JDC) was formed in 1914 to send aid, including food, clothing, medicine, funds, and emergency supplies, to the stricken Jews of Europe during the war. The war left in its wake many additional catastrophes—pogroms, epidemics, famine, revolution, and economic ruin—and after the war the JDC continued to play a major role in rebuilding the devastated Jewish communities of Eastern Europe and in sustaining the Jews in Palestine. Posters played a vital role in informing the American Jewish public about the depth of the crisis. The poster shown here was produced by the American Jewish War Relief Committee, one of the JDC's constituent organizations, and was directed at the residents of New York City. It is from the archives of the JDC, which contain documents, photographs, film, video, oral histories, and artifacts recording the work of the organization from World War I to the present.

People in a Joint Distribution Committee Transmission Bureau to Send Money to Relatives Overseas

During World War I, Americans who had relatives living in the war zones sought ways to send help to their families. The Joint Distribution Committee of American Funds for the Relief of Jewish War Sufferers (later the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, both names abbreviated as JDC) was formed in 1914 to send aid, including food, clothing, medicine, funds, and emergency supplies, to the stricken Jews of Europe. The war left in its wake many additional catastrophes—pogroms, epidemics, famine, revolution, and economic ruin—and after the war the JDC continued to play a major role in rebuilding the devastated Jewish communities of Eastern Europe and in sustaining the Jews in Palestine. In September 1915 the JDC created a special Transmission Bureau as a vehicle through which families in America could transfer funds to their relatives trapped in the war-torn countries. This project was the work of Harriet Lowenstein, the JDC’s first comptroller, who single-handedly ran the bureau until the scale of the demand required her to hire assistants. The JDC soon opened branch bureaus nationwide to meet the growing needs of people wanting to transfer funds. This branch office for the transmission of individual remittances was located at 98 Second Avenue, New York City, a neighborhood populated by immigrants. The photograph is from the archives of the JDC, which contain documents, photographs, film, video, oral histories, and artifacts recording the work of the organization from World War I to the present.