Weekend Reading

This week: why the 2012 election isn’t anywhere near the worst in U.S. history; plus a message in a century-old bottle, the Dust Bowl, and a history major-turned-late night talk show host interviews a popular biographer of presidents.

• The history of American military uniforms, as summarized by a former Army officer.

• Has a second picture of reclusive poet Emily Dickinson been authenticated?

• Enjoy the story of “Father Waldo,” the Congregationalist pastor and one-time chaplain of the U.S. House of Representative who fought in the Revolutionary War and died a year before the end of the Civil War; he cast his first presidential ballot for George Washington and his last one for Abraham Lincoln.

• Are you viewing the rest of this election season with positive dread? Then read up on the election of 1876 and realize that everything could be much, much worse — unless, as in 1876, Republicans in 2012 start calling the Democratic candidate a “drunk syphilitic” and “heavily armed and marauding white supremacist Democrats” decide to roam the countryside.

Dust storm in Texas, 1935
Dust storm in Texas, 1935 – NOAA

• The “living history” of 19th century laundry.

• If the idea of watching Conan O’Brien interview presidential biographer Edmund Morris (Theodore Rex; Dutch) for 47 minutes sounds appealing, then chances are you’re a former History major — like Conan O’Brien.

• The world’s oldest message in a bottle was recently found; it was set adrift in 1914 with 1879 others (over 1500 still haven’t turned up) as part of an oceanographic experiment.

• This October 17th, the Smithsonian will host a nationwide webcast that lets high school students interact with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns about his new film on The Dust Bowl. Get a preview from a Maryland teacher who helped with the planning.

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