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24, February 2014

Otto Widmann: Missouri’s Pre-eminent Birder

When Otto Widmann was 33 years old, a chance encounter with a backyard visitor rekindled a passion for nature that had been pushed aside by the realities of tending to his business and making a living. The German-born drugstore owner and his wife, Augusta, observed a Baltimore (northern) oriole singing outside their St. Louis home in 1873. Widmann later wrote, “It came to a peach tree in my garden, when his strong whistle called my attention to him.... Read more »

21, February 2014

Civil War Love Letters: February 21, 1864

Libby Prison
Richmond Va.
Feby. 21st 1864

Mollie Dear

I expect to hear from you again about Tuesday as a mail has arrived but is not yet distributed, but I must write today or lose a week — as we are only allowed to write one letter of six lines each Monday. I am well, thank God but it has been excessively cold during the week, and much suffering is the consequence among us. It is now moderating and I suppose Spring will soon be on hand. Nothing new here. Glad to hear such a good report from St. Louis. Read more »

19, February 2014

Seed Saving and Surviving in the Gillette Family Garden

After the past few months of winter weather in St. Louis, we are all looking forward to spring. Although we had high expectations for our fall garden on the east side of the Museum, the frequency of frost and subzero temperatures prevented much from happening in our plot. So now, onward to spring we go. Read more »

17, February 2014

Francophilia, Food, and Freedom at Jefferson’s Monticello

On February 10, President Obama and French president Francois Hollande visited Monticello, the historic estate of Francophile Thomas Jefferson. For both presidents, this was their first visit to Jefferson's estate. Monticello is rich in history and, in many ways, quite telling of a relationship between France and the United States. The enslaved cooks at Monticello also left their imprint on this narrative. It was of Edith Fossett’s cooking that Daniel Webster spoke when he described the meals at Monticello as "in half Virginian, half French style, in good taste and abundance." Read more »

14, February 2014

Civil War Love Letters: February 14, 1864 (2nd letter)

Libby Prison
Richmond Va.
Feby 14th 1864

Wm. C. Wilson Esqr.

Dear Sir Read more »

14, February 2014

Civil War Love Letters: February 14, 1864

On the evening of February 9, 1864, after 47 nights of digging with clam shells and case knives, 109 prisoners escaped from Libby Prison through a tunnel 8 feet below ground, 16 inches in diameter, and 50–60 feet long. Confederate prison officials realized the prisoners were missing at roll call the next day, but did not find the tunnel until the evening. Two of the escapees drowned while trying to cross the James River, 48 were recaptured, and 59 reached the Union lines. The escape from Libby Prison was one of the most successful prison breaks during the war.   Read more »

14, February 2014

Picking My Favorite Out of 250

I’ve worked as an editor at the Missouri History Museum for over 12 years, so I know a lot about St. Louis history. I mean a lot. I read about history all day. So when I first heard about the 250 in 250 exhibition, I thought, ‘Yep, Pierre Laclède, Budweiser, the World’s Fair…I’ve heard it all before.” Read more »

12, February 2014

The Great Squirrel Invasion of 1839

Large pest infestations were not uncommon in the early years of Missouri agriculture. Swarms of hungry Rocky Mountain locusts swept western Missouri during several summers in the 1870s. Nineteenth-century sources also tell of large infestations of eastern tent caterpillars that plundered orchards and weakened valuable trees. But even the most-experienced farmers were shocked by the great furry hoards that invaded central Missouri in 1839. Read more »

10, February 2014

History Unfolds Through Conservation

In 2011 and 2012, I could often be found holed up in the document processing room in the Missouri History Museum’s Library and Research Center, going through a collection of material related to Brig. Gen. David P. Grier. In addition to being a Union soldier during the Civil War and a businessman in late 19th-century St. Louis, D. P. Grier was my great-great-great-grandfather. Read more »

7, February 2014

A Beatle and a Rabbitt

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the day the Beatles first journeyed to America as a band. They’d make their Ed Sullivan Show debut on February 9, 1964. You all know how that went down.

But did you know that George Harrison was here in St. Louis in September 1963? Read more »