Some interesting posts this week from the history-related blogosphere…

• A brief history of the book “blurb” takes us all the way back to ancient Rome. (H/T Ralph Luker)

• Did you know that well into the Civil War, African-American slaves were forced to help build and maintain Confederate railroads? Or that, for many of these workers (up to 10,000 in one week in 1862), those (not-so-underground) railroads became a convenient way to escape to the North?

• The American Antiquarian Society presents an illustrated history of football in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (H/T John Fea)

• Frank Gehry’s design for the new Dwight Eisenhower memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC (scheduled to be completed in 2015) is drawing criticism from the former president’s family. That prompted our own Chris Gehrz to put on his amateur U.S. historian hat and investigate the history of presidential memorials in the nation’s capital.

John Tyler
Pres. John Tyler - Library of Congress

• Speaking of presidential history… Barry Landau, a “memorabilia collector and self-styled expert on presidential history,” pleaded guilty to conspiring to “collect” thousands of documents from the archives where they’re housed. Some of the more notable items stolen: a land grant signed by Abraham Lincoln ($300,000 value) and half a million dollars worth of presidential inauguration mementos.

Robert Krulwich of NPR on “human wormholes” — that is, “people who live long enough to create a link — a one-generation link — to figures from what feels like a distant past, and their presence among us shrinks history.” Examples from this post: long-lived Confederate war widows, and President John Tyler’s two living grandchildren. (Quick American Civ review: John Tyler was born in 1790 and left the White House in 1845.)

• But another such “wormhole” closed last Saturday when the last surviving veteran of World War I died at the age of 110. She was an Englishwoman named Florence Green, who joined the Women’s Royal Air Force near the end of the war in 1918.

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