America’s First Known African American Scientist and Mathematician

At the beginning of February, Black History Month, the former slave Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was much in the news. The most prominent African American of the 19th century, he first moved to Washington, D.C. in the early 1870s after his home in Rochester, New York burned down. Here he published his newspaper, The New National Era. From 1877 until his death in 1895, Douglass lived and worked in a stately Victorian house, more »

The Wondrous Winter Wonderland that was 16th-Century Sweden

An entry into this magical season can be gained through the Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (History of the Northern Peoples) by Olaus Magnus, first published in Rome in 1555. It is a work greatly valued by Smithsonian curators and researchers and other scholars, since the author – a true Renaissance man – wrote down his geographical, anthropological and naturalistic observations of a land unknown to much of Europe of the time. In more »

Joe Froggers: The Weight of the Past in a Cookie

Interested in culinary history and books? Join us on Wednesday, November 16th for our Annual Adopt-a-Book Evening, featuring a food and drink theme! Slavery and freedom, the Revolutionary War, New England’s maritime culture and life, Colonial revivalism, trade, women’s role in the economy, the development of regional cuisines, the not-fully-explored history of African Americans in the North. More than just molasses, spices and rum, there is a heady mix of history in the Joe Frogger. Can all these ingredients of America’s past be found in a cookie?

The End of the Tour – and Still No Hard Feelings

The Sailing Club of the Chesapeake, to commemorate the American Bicentennial, invited members of England’s Royal Yachting Association to journey to the Eastern Seaboard for the “No Hard Feelings Cruise.” Sixty-two British sailors took up the offer, and with more than 300 others, embarked on eighty-nine yachts to race and explore the waters of the Chesapeake Bay in 1976.

Computers and Washington

Last fall, I marked the season for the harvesting of grapes to honor John Adlum, the little-known “Father of American Viticulture.” The origins of the first commercially viable vine in the American wine industry can be traced to the District of Columbia. Now, with the great interest in Alan Turing, the recent auction sale of this English mathematician’s 56-page notebook for more than a million dollars, and the success of the movie, more »

Boethius Manuscript Added to Transcription Center

The Smithsonian Libraries has been contributing manuscripts from our collections to the Smithsonian Transcription Center for digital volunteers (or Volunpeers) to transcribe for over a year now. We’ve featured a variety of materials, from a vocabulary of the Potawatomi language, to shipboard diaries, to natural history field books and aeronautical scrapbooks. These works have all been quickly and enthusiastically transcribed, and now we’re offering up a much more challenging item, sure to more »

Vauban’s Treatise on Seiges added to Transcription Center

Sébastien Vauban (1633-1707) was the premier military engineer of his age and revolutionized siege warfare. Vauban was a Marshal of France as well as a Marquis. He is best known for his engineering and theoretical approach to fortifications, both on the design and attack fronts. One of his fascinating manuscripts on the fortification of cities was recently uploaded to the Smithsonian Transcription Center where you can help uncover its secrets.  

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