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Historical Perspectives (67)

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 josephine sarah marcus earp

Yet the connecting thread between Earp and the two men from whom he later parted ways has not been discussed much in scholarship on Earp: a Jewish woman from New York named Josephine Marcus. Like Wyatt Earp, fact and fiction are difficult to separate when it comes to understanding the life of the woman who would become his wife. On both counts, this largely is due to Josephine’s attempts to guard the Earps’ legacy. What follows is a brief sketch of her life based on verifiable facts.

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Jimmy Carter, 39th US President

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | February 27, 2023
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Visiting Jewish cemeteries is a fruitful, and more adventurous way the research team can identify new Jewish soldiers to add to the Shapell Roster. Many military men have their service proudly displayed on their tombstones, making new additions a walk in the park for our researchers. But even markers without such obvious information can yield new discoveries.

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Religion in the Civil War: The Jewish High Holidays

By Sara Willen and Ben Shapell | September 15, 2020
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The 50th Anniversary of the Shootings at Kent State

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | May 4, 2020
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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 misfortune of losing a child while serving in the country’s highest office is one shared by a surprising number of U.S. Presidents.

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The French Impressionists were a tight-knit group of artists centered in Paris in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Though there were other factors which contributed to their parting of ways, the Dreyfus Affair seemed to signal a point of no return for this once-intimate group of painters.

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Mark Twain and the Holy Land

December 11, 2019
October 25, 2019 - February 2, 2020

Of all the topics that might have engaged young Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ imagination in 1867, none was less likely or less promising than Palestine, the Holy Land. Known for his biting satire and humorous short pieces on California and the West, Clemens (1835–1910) found the subject that would propel him to national acclaim almost by accident. His serendipitous discovery of a “pleasure cruise” to Europe and the Near East, his success at inveigling his way onto the journey, and reactions to his fellow passengers and to the people and places he visited came to happy fruition in The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress. No book of his ever sold more copies in his lifetime.

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Mark Twain and the Adams Colony

By Karen Chernik | November 12, 2019

American colonists followed preacher George J. Adams from New England to Ottoman-ruled Palestine on a messianic mission to prepare the Holy Land for the return of the Jews. “We are going to become practical benefactors of the land and the people,” Adams stated, “to take the lead in developing its great resources.” A year after arriving, some of these impoverished colonists wanted a ticket home. It was at that moment that author Mark Twain came to town while on a five-month pleasure trip through Europe and the Middle East.

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Father’s Day: Mark Twain to Daughter, Jean

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 16, 2019
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Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday: JFK on Jefferson

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 13, 2019

President Kennedy laments he hasn’t time to write about Thomas Jefferson, and then carefully does so.

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The 75th Commemoration of the Death of Orde Wingate

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | March 24, 2019
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Truman Recognizes Israel: The Anniversary of Israel’s Founding

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | May 13, 2018

5 days before recognizing Israel, Truman writes to Clark Clifford, mentioning the pressure of Palestine.

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December 2010 - March 2013
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One hundred years separate the Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington. Yet, these two events are profoundly linked together in a larger story of liberty and the American experience.

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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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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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Panoramic view of encampment of Army of Potomac at Cumberland Landing on Pamunkey River May 1862. Library of Congress.

Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War

August 21, 2017
March 2013 - February 2014
March 2013 - February 2014

A crucible for American Jews, the Civil War laid the groundwork for their integration and Americanization on a large scale. It enabled the full participation of Jews in American life – militarily, politically, economically and socially – and set the stage for massive Jewish immigration decades later.

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Calvin Coolidge Jr.’s Death

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | July 6, 2017

A heart-broken president mourns his teenage son.

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The Birth of Humorist Mark Twain, Née Samuel L. Clemens

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | November 30, 2015

Young Mark Twain, in Maui, on horseback, arranges to meet shipboard friends.

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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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“We Have Not Yet Appointed a Hebrew”

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | March 17, 2015
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(C) Shapell Manuscript Foundation. All Rights Reserved. For more information, please contact us at shapell.org.

Winter Holidays

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | December 1, 2014
Winter Holidays

When young bride Jacqueline Kennedy bought her husband a paint set for Christmas 1953, all the Kennedys descended on it, competing to see who could produce the most paintings in the shortest amount of time. Jacqueline was appalled: her idea had been to allow Jack to emulate his great hero, Winston Churchill, who found in painting a serene distraction from political pressure.

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The dog days of summer are here: so warmed up, and slowed down, that even Congress has stopped doing nothing…

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Warren G. Harding, by Harris & Ewing. Circa 1920. Library of Congress.

President Harding tries to get a job for his alleged mistress, Nan Britton: excessively rare documentation of their relationship.

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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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President John F. Kennedy greets spectators as he travels in his motorcade in Patrick Street, Cork, Ireland. 28 June 1963.  Robert Knudsen.

President Kennedy’s trip to Ireland was notable, publicly, in that it marked the first visit of an Irish-American President, the first of a Catholic President, and the first of a sitting President. It was notable, privately, in that no one traveling with him – including all his staff of Irish descent, two of his sisters, and his sister-in-law – had ever seen him happier.

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Frances Folsom Cleveland, circa 1886. Library of Congress.

President Cleveland Love Letter to his Young Bride-to-Be

By Bejamin Shapell, Sara Willen | February 14, 2014
Valentine's Day: President Cleveland Writes a Love Letter to his Young Bride-to-Be

Of course it was a huge secret: everyone remembers it. The girl was 21, the President 49; almost no one in the White House had an inkling. In Washington, no one knew a thing – but enough suspected, sooner or later, it was always a possibility: women hadn’t exactly been scarce in his background. In fact, running for president, the first time, there was an absolute media riot about his intimacy with a woman to whom he was not wed. Anyone who lived through it, would never forget. But not all presidential intrigues end in scandal, for as this letter from President Cleveland to his half-his-age secret fiancée attests, his led to the altar

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Lincoln Swears to Uphold the Emancipation Proclamation

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | December 20, 2013

Abraham Lincoln swears he shall not modify the Emancipation Proclamation, nor return to slavery any person freed by it.

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March on Washington, August 28, 1963. U.S. National Archives.

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | August 28, 2013

In 1864, Governor Michael Hahn pushed through a provision authorizing the legislature to enfranchise non-whites on the basis that Lincoln suggested: military service and intellectual fitness. This was a crucial development: voting rights for Blacks were now – incrementally – possible…

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The Korean War Armistice

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | July 27, 2013

A war that ended in deadlock, starting something that would last for thirty-five years: the Cold War.

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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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March 2013 - March 2016

This exhibition deals with the relationship that developed between the United States of America and the Holy Land, starting in 1844.

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Lincoln may have been hailed, during the Civil War, as the Father of the Nation, but at home, with his eldest son Robert, Lincoln was mostly the President of the United States.

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The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | October 31, 2012

The most famous gunfight in Western history; three men had been killed, and someone, the law said, had to answer.

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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 Battle of the Little Bighorn

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 25, 2012

The Custers, of whom there were five in the 7th Cavalry, lived as a clan, fought as a clique, and died in their matching white buckskins at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on the same afternoon.

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

The Sinking of the RMS Titanic

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 15, 2012

President William Howard Taft, heartbroken at the loss on the Titanic of his military aide, writes an emotional eulogy.

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The Alfred Dreyfus Degradation Ceremony – Paris, France

By Sara Willen, Resident Historian | January 5, 2012

The Dreyfus Affair was “one of the great commotions of history. ” It began in 1894 against a backdrop of espionage and antisemitism, when Jewish French Army captain, Alfred Dreyfus, was wrongly convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment.

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