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Cristoforo Columbo and Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr.

Scientific Identity: Portraits from the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology , 2003, Portrait of Christopher Columbus.

This portrait is part of the Libraries' digital collection, Scientific Identity: Portraits from the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology. From the website:

George Sarton, a founder of the history of science as an academic discipline, argued that scholars should pay close attention to portraits. These images, he said, can give you "the whole man at once." With a "great portrait," Sarton believed, "You are given immediately some fundamental knowledge of him, which even the longest descriptions and discussions would fail to evoke."

I'm not sure if this etching can reveal anything about Christopher Columbus, who has a more complex profile these days than when the famous rhyme, "In fourteen hundred and ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue" became familiar to every kid in the schoolyard. What is interesting to learn about that rhyme is that it is only one couplet in a very long poem, "The History of the U.S." by Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr. The poem also features other famous folks who had an impact on America, including John Smith, Paul Revere and William Penn. Winifred was considered a child prodigy and wrote many "jingles" from a young age.

Winifred was not only fluent in Esperanto and many other languages, but led quite an interesting life:

Stoner's personal life did not see the same success as her intellectual life. In 1921, at age 19, she married a 35-year-old French count, Charles de Bruche, who was supposedly killed in a car accident in Mexico City in 1922. However, de Bruche reappeared in 1930, and Stoner appealed for an annulment of the marriage. She apparently already knew before the faked death that her husband's actual name was Charles Clinton Philip Bruch, a penniless imposter with a criminal record who was a known con man and wiretapper. … In 1929, when her first husband, Charles de Bruche, reappeared several years after his supposed death, Stoner pursued an annulment, finding out that de Bruche was actually a German national with a criminal background.—Wikipedia

From Christopher Columbus to a forgotten twentieth century American poet—all fascinating parts of American history—Happy Columbus Day!

Elizabeth Periale

Related:

Child Prodigy: A Poet and Story Writer at Nine; Winfred Sackville Stoner, Jr.—New York Times 

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