History

What Was Christmas Like During the Civil War?

Present-day Christmas conjures memories of snow, lighted trees, cinnamon, gifts, parties, and music. If we lived during the Civil War, what kinds of memories would we have? Would they be of family, food, warmth, and parties, or would they be of just trying to survive and stave off hunger? Would there be presents under the tree, or would we be happy just to be present with our loved ones. To learn a bit more about Christmas during the years 1861-1864, explore the items in the library and the Web sites listed below.

In the Library:

CRRL Presents: Clayton Ray, A Man of Many Interests

This interview airs beginning November 30.
Clayton Ray has the impressive title of Curator Emeritus in the Department of Paleobiology at the Smithsonian Institution. He also studies, collects, and writes about wagons. Debby Klein meets with this fascinating man to explore his many interests.
Find out more about CRRL Presents.

An American Thanksgiving

Everybody knows that the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving, right? Well, probably not, but it was the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving that gave us our Thanksgiving holiday as we know it today.

The Pilgrims came to the New World looking for a way to worship God as they wished. They were not Puritans. Puritans wanted to change the Church of England to do away with its bishops but keep its ties to the government. The Puritans went on to settle the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Pilgrims at the Plymouth Colony were Separatists.

Hollywood in Blue and Gray: The Civil War in Film

Thursday, October 6, 7:00-9:00, Headquarters Library Theater   

Peter Carmichael of Gettysburg College and Brian Luskey of West Virginia University will discuss the ways in which Civil War films use the themes of family and home to shape the meaning of the nation for audiences. Co-sponsored with the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Hollywood in Blue and Gray

CRRL Presents: William B. Crawley, Jr.

CRRL Presents: William B. Crawley, Jr.

This interview airs beginning October 5.
Dr. Crawley is the Distinguished Professor of History who brings the story of the university to life. He is the author of author of University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908 to 2008. With fascinating anecdotes and an insider’s perspective, he talks with Debby Klein.

Find out more about CRRL Presents.

Stage a Puppet Show

There are all kinds of puppets: marionettes on strings, hand puppets that fit like a glove, and tiny finger puppets. They can be made with so many things: paper plates, index cards, straws and yarn, and even old socks! Puppets have been around for ages throughout the world. Read on to learn more about the world of puppets and how to make your own.

Land Ho! Explorers and the Age of Discovery

To the Europeans, the West was a great unknown. Many people believed that over the western sea there was nothing but darkness and danger. Yet throughout the past, travelers tried to find out what was on the other side of the water. There are very few traces of those first explorers. They lived in times when most people could not write, so stories of their discoveries were passed down as tales told around hearth fires. Sometimes they were believed, sometimes not. Russell Freedman’s Who Was First? Discovering the Americas looks at the evidence behind this puzzle.

Mysteries of Ancient Egypt

Ancient cities grew up around rivers, for the rivers were the source of life for all the people and animals who lived there. The waters of the Nile were no different. They flooded every year, making the soil rich for growing crops.

In time, a civilization arose by the Nile whose wonders can still be seen today. From the Valley of the Kings to the great pyramids and the Sphinx, the almighty kings of Egypt left monuments to celebrate their glory for eternity.

You needn't take a boat, an airplane, or even a camel to discover this ancient place. You can discover lots about Egypt on the Web and in the library. Unearth the Nile's secrets with our Ancient Egypt Book List to guide you.

Dig This!

Wouldn't it be cool if even a few of the old stories were true? Legends say that giants walked the Earth, Atlantis vanished under the sea, and Greece and Troy fought a devastating war over a beautiful woman. Amazing, but true: all these stories are based on facts.

Archaeologists digging in China discovered the fossils of Gigantopithecus, a giant ape standing 9 or 10 feet tall. These huge but probably gentle apes died off 500,000 years ago. Traditionally, villagers collected their bones and made them into medicines. They called their finds dragon bones. Some have wondered whether pockets of the animals may have survived into later centuries, giving rise to the legend of Big Foot.

Columbus Day: A Day of Discovery

Columbus Day is sometimes called Discoverers' Day. In the spirit of discovery, take some time to learn about the world as it was in the days of the European explorers. You can make a compass, learn about the stars, read about other explorers and discoverers, and find how even our way of eating has changed since the Europeans came to the Americas looking for gold, glory, and, yes, tasty cooking spices.

Pizza Without Tomato Sauce?

The explorers who came to the Americas found the food enjoyed by the native people to be very different from what they knew at home. They had never seen tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize (corn), pineapples, chili peppers, or even cocoa. The vegetable dishes from the Europe they knew relied on parsnips, cabbages, peas, carrots, turnips, and onions. After being at sea and living off of a diet of lentil soup, salt beef from a barrel, salted sardines, hardtack, and other delights, the fresh, new foods of the islands would have been an astonishing change.