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Between The Lines (90)

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“‘And This Too Shall Pass Away’ – Never Fear.”

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | November 16, 2018
At an even more fraught and divisive moment in our past, Abraham Lincoln lost an epic contest - and so 160 years ago wrote this letter, whose final words, echoing King Solomon, are once more worth heeding. "'And this too shall pass away.' Never fear."
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The Assassination & Funeral of Robert F. Kennedy

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 5, 2018
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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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The Anniversary of the Founding of the State of Israel

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 17, 2018
Palestine, says President Truman in February 1948, is a “matter of considerable disturbance” to be determined by the U.N.
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The Anniversary of the United Nations Resolution Creating a Jewish State

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | November 29, 2017
President Harry Truman stands by the 1947 creation of a Jewish homeland.
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The Anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | October 31, 2017
General Edmund Allenby enters Jerusalem.
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Mark Twain in Jerusalem and the Holy Land

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | September 26, 2017
American literature, travel writing, and international tourism would never be the same.
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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 Death of Calvin Coolidge Jr.

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | July 6, 2017
A heart-broken president mourns his teenage son.
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The Anniversary of the Six-Day War

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 5, 2017
Ben-Gurion, writing as the Six-Day War begins, predicts victory.
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The John F. Kennedy Centenary

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | May 23, 2017
Kennedy's Most Famous Words: “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country”
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A New Presidency: The First 100 Days

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 29, 2017
Truman on Kennedy: inexperienced and hopeful.
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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 Anniversary of the Funeral of the Apollo I Astronauts

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | January 31, 2017
President Lyndon B. Johnson writes to the parents of astronauts killed in the Apollo I disaster.
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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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The Nuremberg Trial Executions

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | October 16, 2016
The execution of ten Nazi war criminals.
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1880 Republican National Convention

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | July 17, 2016
James A. Garfield didn't want the job, and his arguments from the convention floor to that effect were so eloquent and moving, he was nominated forthwith.
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The_Custer_Fight_Charles_Marion_Russell_1903_Library_of_Congress

Custer’s Last Stand – June 25, 1876

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 23, 2016
Custer's Last Stand - The Anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn
Days Before Leaving to Drive Out the "Indians" from the Bighorn Country, Custer Predicts Mining Fortunes To Be Made There
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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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How To Win An Election: Look Beyond Your Nose, Says Lincoln

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | May 3, 2016
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The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 17, 2016
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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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The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | January 26, 2016
Schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe Writes About Her Excitement Going into Space on the Ill-Fated Challenger.
On January 28, 1986, the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 11:38 EST and, 73 seconds into its flight, exploded nine miles above the Atlantic Ocean. All seven crew members were killed, including 37 year-old McAuliffe, who had been selected from 11,000 applicants to be a "Teacher in Space." Largely because of her presence, some 17% of Americans watched the live coverage of the launch.
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“The Union is Dissolved!”

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | December 20, 2015
The Charleston Mercury had already given warning. If the "Black Republican" party succeeded in the upcoming presidential election, it declared in the summer of 1860, "loyalty to the Union will be treason to the South."
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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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Mark Twain Eulogizes General Grant, Whose Memoirs He Would Publish

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | August 11, 2015
Twain on the heroic writing, and fantastic success, of Grant’s memoirs - Grant's fame, he predicts, will last two-thousand years.
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Mary Surratt’s daughter petitions Andrew Johnson for the return of her mother’s remains.
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Wilson wanted to ascertain all the facts; he wanted to reach a determination; he wanted, then and only then, to write the Imperial German government, a sharp letter. He was still gathering information when, on May 7th, another German U-Boat torpedoed and sank the British luxury ocean liner RMS Luisitania, killing 1,198 people, including 128 Americans. This time Wilson did voice a protest – but that was all. “Americans must have a consciousness different from the consciousness of every other nation in the world,” he declared. “There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight. There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.” Roosevelt was apoplectic.
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"My Childhood Home I See Again"
An exceptionally rare Lincoln autobiographical letter - mentioning the death of his mother and sister, and his elegiac poem "My Childhood Home I See Again, And Sadden With the View."
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Victory in Europe Day

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | May 7, 2015
Nazi Germany surrenders.
"The other day I visited a German internment camp. I never dreamed that such cruelty, bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world!" - General Eisenhower.
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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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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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(C) Shapell Manuscript Foundation. All Rights Reserved. For more information, please contact us at www.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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Lincoln in Indiana: A Rare Mention of His Childhood There

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | November 7, 2014
It was his harsh life in the wilderness of Spencer County, Indiana, that shaped Lincoln's character and beliefs.
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Herbert Hoover, the 31st President, Dies at Age 90

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | September 20, 2014
Hoover had longer than most presidents to give vent to a sentiment a great many of them felt: out-of-office, he says he is "...once of Washington D.C. - now fortunately elsewhere.”
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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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Back to School

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | August 24, 2014
Life's lessons: John F. Kennedy advises a college student what classes to take for a life in politics.
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Nixon on Watergate: He Took One for the Team

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | August 9, 2014
When the House Judiciary Committee passed Articles of Impeachment, and a tape recording revealed him ordering a cover-up, Nixon had to go - and so left, speaking vaguely of "wrong judgments" but never, his role in Watergate itself.
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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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The public's right to know versus a President's responsibility to protect. Just when, exactly, is secrecy warranted?
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The Death of Ronald Reagan

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 5, 2014
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The Death of Nathaniel Hawthorne

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | May 19, 2014
Franklin Pierce on the death of his dearest friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne.
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The First Presidential Typed Letter

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 4, 2014
Benjamin Harrison: the earliest known example of a typewritten presidential letter.
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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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George Washington’s Birthday

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | February 22, 2014
Washington, Dreading The Presidency, Feels As If He's Being Led To His Execution.
The very man who defined the American presidency was probably the only man to occupy the office who did not want the job.
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Frances Folsom Cleveland, circa 1886. Library of Congress.

Valentine’s Day: 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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California Earthquakes: “The Spirit of Humanity” and Mark Twain

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | January 17, 2014
The shock of the earthquake which struck San Francisco on the morning of April 18, 1906 - leveling countless buildings, starting a fire that lasted three days, and taking hundreds of lives - was felt all across the country.
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Holiday Merry Making in the White House

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | December 30, 2013
The Hayes’ White House, famously, was a bastion of Temperance – earning Mrs. Hayes the sobriquet “Lemonade Lucy” – although it was rumored that the disapproving staff served oranges infused with a rum-based Roman Punch.
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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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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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Kristallnacht

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | November 9, 2013
An Assistant Secretary of the Interior tries to stop the annihilation of German Jews.
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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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The Battle of Gettysburg

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | July 1, 2013
170,000 men fought for three days, often hand-to-hand, in encounters so epic they are known by name.
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Presidential Enmity and Amity

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 25, 2013
Theodore Roosevelt hated William Howard Taft; Taft hated Roosevelt; Roosevelt hated Woodrow Wilson. Wilson hated...
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Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 8, 2013
Ben-Gurion painfully acknowledges that if the Jewish state had been founded in 1937, millions of Jews would not have died in the Holocaust.
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Portrait of President Harry S. Truman. Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Accession Number: 58-766-09.
No one has ever taken history, or algebra, or Latin, and not at some point asked, querulously, “when am I ever going to need to use this?”  The answer, according to Harry S. Truman, is when you are struck by lightning one day and wake up to find yourself president of the United States.
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Casts_of_Abraham_Lincoln's_hands,_taken_by_Leonard_Volk_on_May_20,_1860._National_Museum_of_American_History.

“In Our Hands”: A Look at Lincoln’s Use of a Phrase

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | February 12, 2013
"In Our Hands" - Two letters by Lincoln at hard-won, and long-sought moments.
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President for a Day

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | January 21, 2013
Who is in charge, when the presidential term ends on noon on the Sunday, but the Oath isn't taken, until Monday?
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The Wright Brothers: Inventing the First Successful Airplane

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | December 17, 2012
The Wright Brothers: Inventing the First Successful Airplane
An Extraordinary Orville Wright Letter: How Watching Birds Led to Manned Flight at Kitty Hawk.
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The UN General Assembly Adopts the Partition Plan

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | November 27, 2012
Truman's aide battled the entire State Department to ensure Truman's support for the Jewish State
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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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The Death of President Franklin Pierce

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | October 8, 2012
Former President Pierce defends himself against treason charges.
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The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | October 3, 2012
Lincoln, in a prelude to the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, shadows Douglas around the Illinois.
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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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Dark Horse Candidate James K. Polk Receives the Democratic Nomination

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | August 28, 2012
Polk, surprised to be nominated, says that the presidency is too important an office to be sought or declined.
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Samuel Clemens – Mark Twain – Arrives in Nevada

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | August 12, 2012
Arriving in Nevada Territory, Mark Twain began one of the greatest careers in the history of literature.
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John Tyler Becomes the First Vice President to Assume the Presidency

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | August 11, 2012
Tyler, the first vice president to inherit the presidency, jokes about his being "an accident"
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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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In 1956, Israel's Prime Minister looks to George Washington's army for inspiration.
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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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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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Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” Speech

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 12, 2012
The Cold War may have began the day the Second World War ended, but its greatest battle did not start until the morning of August 13, 1961, when Berliners from both the Western and Soviet sectors awoke to find their city divided by a barbed wire barrier – soon to become a concrete wall 16 feet high and some 96 miles long – which, for the next 28 years would virtually imprison those unlucky enough to be on the Eastern side of the divide.
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Lincoln Assassination at Ford’s Theatre: First Responder Reports

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 6, 2012
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Theodore Roosevelt: the First President to Ride in an Automobile

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | May 27, 2012
Theodore Roosevelt, horseman, disparages the motor car.
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The Beginning of the Peace Corps

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | May 27, 2012
When President Kennedy famously challenged Americans “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country”, thousands of young Americans responded by signing up for the Peace Corps – established just six weeks into his presidency, on March 1, 1961, by executive order.
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"All that I am or hope ever to be,” Abraham Lincoln famously said, “I get from my mother – God bless her.”
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©Shapell Manuscript Foundation. All Rights Reserved. For more information, please contact us at www.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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Running for President, Grant tries to lose the antisemite label engendered by his infamous “Jew Order” during the Civil War.
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Mark Twain, 1907. A.F. Bradley. Library of Congress.
It’s noble to teach oneself, Mark Twain once remarked, but still nobler to teach others - and less trouble.
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Abraham Lincoln Photograph, platinum print from wet plate collodion glass negative. 1860. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Lincoln was fifty-one years old, and in his own eyes, a common man, running for president against those infinitely more likely, and better favored, than himself. Lincoln’s identification of himself as unexceptional in any way reflected his intrinsic egalitarianism .
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The conundrum of the President who is at once both the most common and the rarest in manuscript material, is solved.
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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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The Electric Light Bulb is Invented

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | October 22, 2011
Thomas Edison: "I am busily engaged on the electric light."
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