Residents of America’s Gateway to the West, St. Louis, debated the city’s actual birthday but honored its founding in style; Philadelphia noted the anniversary of the nation’s first hospital opening there in 1752; and Pres. Lincoln’s birthday prompted fresh speculation on his management role as the Civil War’s chief executive officer. Over at Slate, Rebecca Onion pored over a 19th-century mother’s careful journal of her children’s health, and reflected on America’s broader, controversial history of vaccination. Elsewhere, Bookforum examined American humor as a form of cultural authority, observing that, “Debating who gets the funny franchise is in our republic’s DNA. According to the weightier tomes on the subject, once the colonial and revolutionary generations of Franklins and Jeffersons aged out of the population, the first Americans—the ones who only knew life as Americans, not as colonials—developed a uniquely rude brand of folk humor that coincided with Andrew Jackson’s ascendance.”
On a more serious note, Matthew Pratt Guterl discussed “the academic writing thing” in light of Nicholas Kristof’s recent comments in The New York Times on professors and prose. Two neighbors, the College of William & Mary and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, announced plans to explore a joint MOOC (massive online open course) venture focusing on “the relevance of the American Revolution.” Heartiest congratulations go to Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, Jeffrey L. Pasley, and Alan Taylor, the three scholars named as finalists for the George Washington Book Prize.
Google invited researchers to take a stroll through John Rocque’s 1746 London map, and also relaunched the searchable News Archive. Trinity College Dublin opened up a cache of 10,000 significant maps (c. 1650-1800) for digital access. Something to sing about: The Library of Congress has debuted “Songs of America,” an interactive database of 80,000 online items’ worth of recordings, biographies, timelines, and maps that present a history of America in music. Finally, in colonial real estate news, this historic 400-acre Virginia plantation can be yours . . . for just under $15 million.