On the Homefront


Just noodling around, looking for historical pictures of California for a possible project, I came across the Library of Congress stream on Flickr. Soon, I came across a series of slick, posed images of women at work during World War II in Los Angeles-area aircraft plants. I’m captivated by how much is going on here: high (for its time) technology, the serious industrial setting, the artful setup and shot, the costume, the war-on-the-homefront theme, the intensity of the worker as she does her job (not to mention the conceit that the man in the shot is instructing the little lady on what to do).

The caption: “Women are trained to do precise and vital engine installation detail in Douglas Aircraft Company plants, Long Beach, Calif.” It was shot in October 1942 for the Office of War Information, our domestic propaganda agency, and credited to Alfred T. Palmer, the agency’s chief photographer. Click for larger image.

Nellie Bly and Me

Here’s the book I was contributing to in late 2007 and through May 2008: “Irish American Chronicle.” (Me, I would have called it “The Irish American Chronicle”; but I’m hung up on articles, I guess.)


Anyway, UPS deposited a heavy box on the porch on Friday. Part of my payment, in addition to a writing credit and that old standby, cash, was nine copies of the book. It’s a coffee table number, and definitely in the popular/pictorial history vein.

I could go into my many quibbles with this kind of book, starting with the suspicions stirred upon encountering a foreword by the noted scholar Maureen O’Hara. But I won’t. It was a nice surprise to get the book, which I’d long ago stopped thinking about. For the most part, it’s well written and edited. I got a chance to research and write about a lot of fascinating subjects: Nellie Bly, for instance, who was both a pioneering (Irish-American) journalist and inventor of the 55-gallon oil drum (check out this article — a PDF file — from the American Oil & Gas Historical Society).

Besides, the book’s got lots of nice pictures. Now I have an entry in the Library of Congress database. And eight books to give away.

Air Lines and A. Lincoln

The Library of Congress site–a dangerous place to explore. I actually started out with a purpose when I began searching the its collection of broadsides last night. Among knowledge nuggets gleamed: American railroads of yesteryear often called themselves “air lines.” Why? Were they towing zeppelins ‘cross the prairie? No. “Air line” (or “air-line”) described the shortest route between two points

I also happened across the item below: apparently a clever piece of Democratic campaign ephemera from 1864 that purports to be an Abraham Lincoln business card. March 4 refers to the date in 1865 that Lincoln would have left office had he lost the election. (Click the image for a larger, legible version of it. The library’s page on the item is here.

And the text says:

“To Whom It May Concern:

“My old customers, and others, are no doubt aware of the terrible time I have had in crossing the stream, and will be glad to know that I will be back, on the same side from which I started, on or before the Fourth of March next, when I will be ready to swap horses, dispense law, make jokes, split rails, and perform other matters in a small way.”)


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