The Newsletter of the Herbert Hoover
Presidential Library Association
"Because History is Now...and Forever"
of Spring 2005 Newsletter
MAN RIVER: HISTORY ALONG THE MISSISSIPPI
New Exhibit Features America’s Greatest River!
April 19 – November 2, 2003 only at the Hoover Library
you will be swept away on a journey of discovery down the
"Father of Waters" - the Mississippi. The Hoover
Library will offer a spectacular and original exhibit entitled
"Old Man River: History along the Mississippi."
It is the story of our nation told through the life and
times of its greatest river.
It begins in Minnesota and flows south nearly 2,350 miles,
draining water from 31 states from Montana to New York,
and discharging 612,000 cubic feet of water every second
into the Gulf of Mexico. But the mighty Mississippi is so
much more than statistics.
Home to fish, mussels, amphibians, and mammals, the river
system also serves as the main flyway for much of the continent's
migratory birds. The flood plain supports thick hardwood
forests, prairie grasslands, rich farmlands, and cypress
The river was
our first "interstate" linking farflung communities
from a dozen states. More important, the Mississippi formed
pathways to exploration, settlement, and freedom. For generations
men have fought to control the river even as it periodically
proved to be uncontrollable. Floods, epidemics, and earthquakes
have threatened life along the riverbanks, yet industry
flourished as millions of tons of freight traverse its waters
Millions of Americans of Native American, European, and
African heritage lived along the river. The mighty Mississippi
provided the setting for a spectacular literary heritage
as well as a rhythmic blues highway from Memphis to St.
Louis to St. Paul. It nurtured American genius, artists
with names such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, William
Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Louis Armstrong, B.B. King,
John James Audubon, Charles Schultz, and Elvis Presley.
lithograph of Burlington, Iowa, comes from an illustrated
book, “Das Illustrirte Mississippithal,”
printed in Germany between 1854 and 1857. Henry Lewis,
the author, was an English artist living in America
in 1848. He travelled the Mississippi River from Fort
Snelling to St. Louis, making sketches along the way.
The original of this drawing is colored. Louis described
his visit to Burlington: “It is beautifully
situated on a gradually rising slope surrounded by
very picturesque hills.” Only twenty copies
of the book survive today. This illustration is reprinted
courtesy of the State Historical Society of Iowa.
flatboatmen, steamboat pilots, voodoo priestesses, ghosts,
and even cartoon characters gained depth from the river's
rich culture and history, full of human emotions ranging
from utter despair to soaring hope. The Mississippi River
truly is the heartland and heartbeat of our nation.
"Old Man River" is divided into a number of themes.
The opening section will explore the contrast of cultures
between the upper Mississippi (from Lake Itasca to Cairo)
and the lower Mississippi (from Cairo to the Delta). The
featured element in this section will be a raft that you
can "ride" down the river!
The second theme is "exploration and trade," a
detailed discussion of the life of the river from the 1500s
to the 1800s. The mound builders, the traders, the explorers
and the early soldiers will hold court. The featured elements
will be an old fashioned trading post and an authentic birchbark
"River Days" is the centerpiece of this imaginative
exhibit. Here you will find the life of the river as influenced
by the river boats from flatboats to steam and tow boats.
Mark Twain memorabilia, including the pen he used to write
his famous books, will be displayed in showboat-style cases
with authentic Victorian accents. There will be models of
costumes, whistles, lanterns and other artifacts. The next
theme is "Riverfront Property." Highlighting river
towns and industrial development, this section will include
the flour milling industry, timber and lumber, clamming
and the pearl button industry, John Deere, Rock Island Arsenal,
and Anheuser Busch in St. Louis. Also featured will be the
river as a gateway to the west, and the cotton and sugar
plantations of the South.
"Man vs. Man" focuses on the historical events
and man's struggles along the river: the Lincoln-Douglas
Debates, The Mormon Trek, The Dred Scott Decision, Slavery,
the Vicksburg Campaign during the Civil War, and assassination
of Martin Luther King Jr. Among the items on exhibit will
be slave shackles and indentured servant documents, pamphlets
from the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, a saddle used by U.S.
Grant, and special items honoring Martin Luther King.
"Man vs. Nature" focuses on natural disasters
such as floods and earthquakes, as well as engineering and
the building of locks and dams in man's attempt to control
the River. Here also will be told the stories of epidemics
such as cholera and smallpox and environmental concerns
of pollution and loss of wildlife habitats. An original
painting by James J. Audubon will be on display.
The next theme is "Arts and Inspiration." The
creative output of artists along the Mississippi is oftentimes
shaded, multi-leveled, even dark. The arts of literature,
music, visual arts, and entertainment are incredibly rich
in this area of the country, and strongly based in the region's
frequently unhappy history. From "A Streetcar Named
Desire" by Tennessee Williams to "Crossroads Blues"
sung by Robert Johnson, these dark undercurrents of life
transformed the American arts. Among the special items here
will be Louis Armstrong's trumpet and B.B. King's guitar.
"Legends and Spirits" will round out this rich
history and more that you will experience when you come
to the Hoover Library in April. It is a journey of seven
hundred years and a thousand miles that you can make in
just one afternoon. You will be glad you did!
of Spring 2005 Newsletter
of Spring 2004 Newsletter
Contents of Winter 2003 Newsletter
Presidential Library Association
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West Branch, IA 52358
Phone: (319) 643-5327
Fax: (319) 643-2391