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Historical Perspectives (42)

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The 60th Anniversary of the Assassination of John F. Kennedy

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | November 22, 2023
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Arthur surprised everyone. In an America torn by Garfield’s assassination and party politics, he immediately set to work proving he was above partisan squabbles.

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Theodore Roosevelt and the 1912 Election: What Happened & Why Did Roosevelt Run?

October 5, 2020
LEVEL: 11th Grade U.S. History or 12th grade U.S. Government
LESSON LENGTH: One 90-minute period or two 45-minute periods.

COMPELLING QUESTION: What qualities did Teddy Roosevelt possess that made his third party campaign appealing to voters

Description: It’s October of 1912 and Theodore Roosevelt is in the hospital after being shot while giving a campaign speech. Students will play the role of campaign advisors and work in groups to better understand Roosevelt and the election by analyzing primary sources. Then each group will create a campaign poster promoting Roosevelt’s candidacy. Students will consider what the key issues are in the election and how their poster will attract voters to Roosevelt’s campaign.

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©Shapell Manuscript Foundation. All Rights Reserved. For more information, please contact us at shapell.org.

From deep within the stress and tension of the violent Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln sought an unusual military appointment: “I believe we have not yet appointed a Hebrew,” Lincoln wrote, and requested that the son of a well-known Orthodox rabbi from New York receive a position. In an era rife with both casual and state-sanctioned anti-Semitism, Lincoln’s notice and support of Jewish citizens was bold and noteworthy.

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The Assassination & Funeral of Robert F. Kennedy

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 5, 2018
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February 2011 - August 2011, Beverly Hills Public Library.

This exhibition features letters, manuscripts and signed photos that celebrate various aspects of the remarkable life and character of Ronald Reagan, the 40th U.S. President. There are examples of his optimism and his pessimism; letters about his fierce presumption of racial equality, and manuscripts decrying riots, lawlessness, and a coercive state.

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Picture of President Kennedy in the limousine in Dallas, Texas, on Main Street, minutes before the assassination. Also in the presidential limousine are Jackie Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connally, and his wife, Nellie. Photographer: Walt Cisco, Dallas Morning News.

The Mortal Presidency Exhibition

January 15, 2018
May 10, 2010 - February 28, 2011
Beverly Hills Public Library, Beverly Hills, CA

The most dangerous job in America is not, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced, fishing. Nor is it logging, flying, or steel manufacturing. The job with the worst mortality rate is the hardest one to get: President of the United States.

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2 Years 1 Month: Lincoln’s Legacy

January 15, 2018
April 2014 - October 2014
April 2014 - October 2014, Oregon Historical Society

An in-depth look at Lincoln’s monumental presidency between two historic points: the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Congressional passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Through rare documents and artifacts, look at Lincoln’s legacy through the lens of slavery and the end of the Civil War.

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The Idea of Lincoln: Man and Memory

January 1, 2018
May 2008 - December 2009; April 2012 - October 2012

This exhibition features letters in Lincoln’s hand, some of which testify to the mythic idea of him – his kindness, honesty, and mercy; and some reflecting the gritty reality of his life – law cases about hogs, choosing pragmatism over principle, crafting an image.

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With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial

December 14, 2017
February 2009 - April 2011
Library of Congress, February 2009 - April 2011

The exhibition reveals Lincoln the man, whose thoughts, words, and actions were deeply affected by personal experiences and pivotal historic events. This virtual exhibit includes some select items on display at the traveling exhibition.

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With Firmness in the Right – Lincoln and the Jews

December 13, 2017
March 2015 - November 2015
March 2015 - June 2015, New-York Historical Society. August 2015 - November 2015, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

In 1858, when Abraham Lincoln emerged onto the national stage, Jews made up less than one-half of one percent of the American population. Many Americans of that time did not know Jews personally, yet Lincoln did, and these relationships stood out amid the stereotyping and anti-Semitism of mid-19th-century America. The bonds Lincoln formed with Jewish individuals during his lifetime, and the interventions he made as president on behalf of all Jews, reflected his deepest values and helped promote Jewish equality in the United States.

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The Fading Light of Camelot

December 4, 2017
Novermber 15, 2013 - February 17, 2014
Oregon Historical Society.

It might have been the very instant that the newly sworn-in President declared “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans” that the legend was born. For an electrifying 1000 days, the administration of John F. Kennedy would try to confront new challenges and right old wrongs – and with such verve and vigor, that it gave the country, indeed the world, a lift. But as no light burns forever, so in turn the shining moment that was Camelot, began to fade. War abroad, unrest at home, even privately, the death of an infant son – darkness edged in, until noon, in Dallas, on November 22, 1963, when it all turned black.

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John_F._Kennedy,_White_House_photo_portrait,_looking_up._White House_Press Office_February_20_1961

High Hopes: The Journey of John F. Kennedy

November 28, 2017
March 25, 2017 - November 12, 2017
March 25, 2017 - November 12, 2017. Oregon Historical Society, Portland, Oregon

John F. Kennedy powered into the White House on the energy of a country seeking change. Stuck in a recession and dismayed by perceived political stagnation, voters embraced the vibrancy and wit of Kennedy and his young family, emboldening the president to edge toward a new frontier, both on the homefront and internationally – and even to outer space. The fervent hope that Kennedy brought to the White House and to the United States was quickly confronted by broad geopolitical threats, as well as by personal challenges.

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Abraham Lincoln by Gardner, February 1865. Source: Library of Congress.

Lincoln’s Last Days

August 31, 2017

A country divided, battered, exhausted – limping towards the end of the bloodiest war in American history. Abraham Lincoln, as often was the case during his presidency, is under threat. John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor and Confederate sympathizer is planning an attack with other conspirators that will change the course of the nation.

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Theodor Herzl at the first or second Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897-1898. Wikimedia Commons, Governmental Office of Press, Israel.

The Anniversary of the First Zionist Congress

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | August 29, 2017
The 120th Anniversary of the First Zionist Congress

Herzl, Envisioning the First Zionist Congress, Vows the Return of the Jews to Palestine.

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The Mortal Presidency

August 23, 2017

He is head of state, Commander-in-chief, and the country’s top legislator. The President of the United States has arguably the toughest job in America, and it turns out, the most deadly.

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The Jewish Doctor at Lincoln’s Deathbed

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 14, 2017

A recently acquired letter offers new revelations.

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Theodore Roosevelt, circa 1911. Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-36665.

The United States Enters First World War

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 6, 2017
Theodore Roosevelt Lambastes President Wilson for Refusing to Let Him Lead a Division in World War I

Theodore Roosevelt was dying to serve in World War I. He was, he reminded all who could hear, an ex-Commander in Chief of the United States Army, and ready to once again lead “his” First United States Volunteer Cavalry – the “Rough Riders” – into the fray. But President Wilson, whom Roosevelt detested, refused the appointment

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The Road to the Inauguration: 1905

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | January 12, 2017

Theodore Roosevelt has a suit made, and re-made, for his 1905 inauguration.

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Father’s Day

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 19, 2016

However much Tad vexed others, Lincoln was entirely at his service, day or night.

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The Death and Funeral of Nancy Reagan

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | March 6, 2016

“Nancy sends her love,” – Ronald Reagan, miraculously surviving an assassination attempt, is optimistic about his recovery.

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Mary Surratt’s daughter petitions Andrew Johnson for the return of her mother’s remains.

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The Anniversary of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 14, 2015
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Booth Plans Ahead

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | February 22, 2015

Rare and suspicious John Wilkes Booth letter, written just two months before Lincoln’s assassination.

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Robert Todd Lincoln, Witness to Presidential Assassinations

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | September 14, 2014

If in the annals of American history, there was ever an expert witness on Presidential assassinations, that person would be Robert Lincoln.

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The Death of Ronald Reagan

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 5, 2014
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America’s First Ladies

April 12, 2014
April 2014 - October 2014

Through over two hundred years of social upheaval, First Ladies have responded to the evolving burdens and challenges of this unofficial “office.” Some of these women became famous, but most have been forgotten. Yet we should not overlook the importance of these extraordinary women.

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The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | November 22, 2013

If it had rained that morning; if Jacqueline Kennedy had not been with him; if the crowds to greet them hadn’t been so deep…

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President Gerald R. Ford’s Birthday

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | July 14, 2013

President Gerald Ford, never elected to the office – nor, uniquely, to that of the Vice President – wanted to be remembered, he said, as a dedicated, hardworking, honest person who served constructively.

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The Death of McKinley and the Presidency of Roosevelt

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | September 14, 2012

On the day he suddenly becomes president, Roosevelt writes of his heavy and painful task.

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Election Poster fod President Wm. McKinley, Vice President Theo. Roosevelt, c.1900. Source: Library of Congress.

The McKinley Assassination

By Sara Willen, Resident Historian | September 6, 2012

The afternoon that President McKinley was shot point-blank, his Vice President was on an island, xxxxx miles away. VP Theodore Roosevelt wired for news – and predicted a recovery for McKinley who would succumb to his wounds xxxxx days later.

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Assassination of William McKinley, Sept. 6th, 1901. c.1905. Library of Congress.

The McKinley Assassination Plot

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | July 30, 2012

Assassin Czolgosz, calling himself “Fred Nobody,” writes of Buffalo – the place he will murder McKinley in 5 weeks time.

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The Garfield Assassination

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | July 2, 2012
The Ultimate Irony: Assassination Is Like Lightning, Garfield Says, And Cannot Be Guarded Against

The assassin Charles Guiteau fired, twice, into his back. “My God!” the President cried, “What is this?”

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Theodore Roosevelt in ’12

June 15, 2012
June 2012 - November 2012
June 2012 - November 2012

The Presidential election of 1912 featured old friends publicly transformed into bitter enemies; the creation of a new political party which out-polled the incumbent president; and an assassination attempt on a former president-turned-candidate, running for an unprecedented third term.

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April 2011 - July 2011

Although Tsar Alexander II and President Abraham Lincoln came from very different backgrounds, they led eerily parallel lives. The United States President proclaimed the emancipation of slaves in the territories of the Confederation in 1863. The Russian emperor signed the liberation of the serfs in 1861. Freedom, however, came at a cost. Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865 and Alexander II assassinated on March 13, 1881.

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