Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Antiques Roadshow Takes A Closer Look at American History

While aimlessly flipping the channels a few nights ago, which doesn't happen as much as it used to now that we've upgraded to DVR, I stopped on the Antiques Roadshow.

This show always intrigues me with the background and history associated with each item. The appraisers are often times extremely knowledgeable in history and will associate the piece and how it was made with the era from which it came. To me, this makes the show very much worth watching.

But this night of the Antiques Road Show became especially enjoyable when they focused on a political sign from the 1840 election brought in by a man who inherited it from his family. The story goes that his great-grandmother, had made the sign in support of James K. Polk. The banner was appraised at $5-7,000 at auction.

His father's grandmother, was related to Abraham Lincoln. "One branch of the Lincoln family produced a gentleman by the name of Abraham," he told appraiser Catherine Williamson of Bonham & Butterfields in Los Angeles. "And the other branch of the family produced me."

I find it curious that during that era women weren't allowed to vote. But in the true democratic fashion, this woman decided to take the time to hand paint letters onto a banner which was approximately 15 by 6, using stencils. This was her way of campaigning.

Her favorite, Polk eventually did win the election on his platform of territorial expansion. He favored the annexation of Texas and the acquisition of the entire Oregon Territory, which at that time was shared with Britain. He was also pro-slavery. Polk was obviously the democratic nominee.

On the other hand Clay, representing the Whigs, had lost elections in 1824 and 1832, was against expansion and was anti-slavery. I've always been a big fan of Henry Clay, mostly because he was a man of strong convictions. He was never willing to give up. Known as the Great Compromiser his skill in negotiations staved off the Civil War twice in in 1820 with the Missouri Compromise and again with the Compromise of 1850. He also ran for president 5 times.

But back to the task at hand...

You can see the whole appraisal here:

Who knew the Antiques Roadshow was so Web 2.0. They have archived every appraisal they've done on TV and created a pretty cool search engine to find them too.

I tuned out after that, but was a little upset that I didn't continue watching. What came next was from the personal archives of the White House photographer for JFK.

"I was in Dallas during the horrible assassination," he told appraiser Francis Wahlgren of Christie's in New York as he recounted the details of that day. Once he realized Kennedy had died, he got on the plane with Lyndon Johnson and Jacqueline Kennedy and photographed Johnson's swearing-in ceremony.

The value of that photograph, autographed by LBJ, was $50,000, while a signed photo of the Kennedy family was appraised at $25,000.

And apparently this was THE episode to watch for american history aficianados as a Civil War Henry Repeating rifle was also appraised.


Article about Antiques Roadshow -

Missouri Compromise -
Compromise of 1850 -


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr. -- January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968

In August of 1963, in front of thousands of supporters at the March on Washington, the great Dr. Martin Luther King proclaimed:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Would Dr. King be proud of the nation we live in today? Would Dr. King settle for the way things are now in 2008? Would things have been different had Dr. King not left us too soon?

What can be written about Dr. King that hasn't been written before? His courage, his bravery, his fight, his passion, and his conviction will continue to inspire expression.

King is respected all over this great diverse nation, but probably non-more than in the city of Atlanta. A city rich in black history and civil rights tradition. The birthplace of Martin Luther King. The city where the great, and equally "brave" Hank Aaron overcame adversity and death threats, to proudly finish his illustrious career. The city where on Stone Mountain, outside of Atlanta's city limits, the second founding of the KKK occurred in 1915. The city that was burned to the ground for spite during the Civil War. Yet still, it is the city where every year on the 3rd Monday in January, the world stops to honor the great Martin Luther King.

King is honored with an all day church service televised for all to see.

When I taught Social Studies in Atlanta, to a group of predominantly African-American students, I couldn't help but get emotional when speaking about King's bravery. The students know of his legacy. They respect his legacy. And most importantly they will carry that legacy on to their children, so that one day they can "live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Martin Luther King Jr. -- January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968

King's Legacy can not be limited to mere facts, but here are a few which you may not have known.

At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

In 1964, King became the first black American to be honored as Time magazine's Man of the Year.

King's efforts were not limited to securing civil rights; he also spoke out against poverty and the Vietnam War.