All About the Benjamins: The Art of Money

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When one thinks of Ben Franklin, one thing that comes to mind is the fact that his face is on the United States $100 bill. Hence, the slang term for $100 bills is Benjamins (thanks to a track by Puff Daddy). But how did he end up there? What about the other faces on US and World currency? And what’s with all those colors?

The Art of Money: The History and Design of Paper Currency From Around the World is a beautiful book by David Standish. Those bank notes that pay your monthly bills are rich in history. The author discusses the history of money, and touches on money’s relation to Queen Liz, industry, agriculture, trains, and war. The book is easy to follow and is chock full of colorful images of various paper money, which is the focal point of the art side of money.

As for Benjamin Franklin… He created many things, but he did not create the first paper money. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1723, at the age of seventeen, the first year paper money was used there. As his career progressed, he ended up designing and printing paper money for various colonies over a long period of time. His face didn’t appear on the $100 bill until 1914. The first $100 bill had an image of a bald eagle, which was then followed by a version featuring Abraham Lincoln.

A new $100 bill was set to be released in April of this year, with slight changes to the bill, but problems with the printing have delayed the release.

To learn more about Ben Franklin and see what else is happening with Ben around AADL, including the BIG exhibit and special programming, see here.

Literacy Series -- Be a Renaissance Kid

Ben Franklin caricature by Donkey Hotey, Flickr.comBen Franklin caricature by Donkey Hotey, Flickr.com
You may have noticed that here at the library we are crazy for Ben Franklin. In honor of Ben's 300th birthday, we are going to party all summer long, and the literacy series is getting into the act.

Why was Ben Franklin famous? Because he was a true "Renaissance Man" -- someone who has many different talents. If you would like follow Ben's lead and be a Renaissance Kid, just take a look at these suggestions below:

1. Music -- Ben Franklin was a talented musician who played the guitar, violin and harp, and invented an instrument called the glass armonica. Be like Ben by exploring music.
Check out this interactive glass armonica.
Dallas Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony webpages.
Renaissance Kid - Music

2. Reading -- Ben Franklin created the first American library. Be like Ben by enjoying some books!
Ben Franklin for Children
Renaissance Kid - Reading

3. Sports and Games -- Ben Franklin was an avid swimmer and a chess fan. Be like Ben by cultivating your physical and mental health!
Parent Child Education -- Colonial American games, crafts and activities.
Renaissance Kid - Sports and Games

4. History -- Ben Franklin lived during an exciting time in history, the founding of our nation! Learn all about this tumultuous period in our history.
Colonial Williamsburg's kids' page
Liberty! -- A page by PBS on the American Revolution.
Renaissance Kid - History

5. Science and Invention -- Ben Franklin's curiosity and constant exploration of his world led him to make inventions that are still used today. Be like Ben by exploring and inventing!
Ology -- The American Museum of Natural History's website for kids.
Inventive Kids
Renaissance Kid - Science

6. Spycraft -- Ben Franklin was part of the exciting world of Revolutionary War spies. Learn more about espionage of the past...and the present!
International Spy Museum's kids' page
Renaissance Kid - Spycraft

Of course, don't forget to come to our Ben Franklin events! Concerts, Spy School, Crafts -- we have it all. Hope to see you there!

Author Jerry Weinberger Discusses His Book "Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought"

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Think of all the ways you could define Benjamin Franklin: founding father, printer, inventor, public servant and even the unsavory titles of scoundrel and womanizing phony. So, who was the real Ben Franklin? Well, MSU Professor, Jerry Weinberger, looks behind the many masks of this historical figure and proves that the man was far more remarkable than anyone has yet discovered!

This event includes a book signing and copies of Weinburger's book 'Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought' will be on sale. This lecture is held in conjunction with the Downtown Library May 4 - July 8 exhibit, Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World

Tuesday May 17, 2011: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

National Train Day

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Today is National Train Day, a celebration of national rail travel sponsored by Amtrak.

Locally, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers will celebrate National Train Day with coffee and donuts. Mayor Hieftje will read a proclamation from the City in support of train travel and present it to the conductor of Amtrak train #351 heading to Chicago.

The Ann Arbor District Library has a wonderful collection of materials train-related. Here is a small sampling to help you celebrate:

The Train set in Paris 1944, starring Burt Lancaster, is an exciting film about the French Resistance and a German colonel trying to steal a vast art collection.

Strangers on a Train is the film noir Alfred Hitchcock classic.

Orient Express: the Life and Times of the World's Most Famous Train is about the luxurious European train operated by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits.

Blood, Iron, & Gold : How the Railroads Transformed the World chronicles one of the greatest technological feats of the 19th century.

China’s Great Train is about the building of the great “Sky Train” the world’s highest railway that goes to Tibet.

Author Birthdays: Leroux, Jarrell, White

May 6th marks the birthday of authors Gaston Leroux, Randall Jarrell, and Theodore White.

Gaston Leroux was a French author most known for his novel The Phantom of the Opera, which has been made into both a musical and a few films.

Leroux also wrote detective novels, two of which have been translated into English: The Mystery of the Yellow Room and The Perfume of the Lady in Black, which are both part of the series on the character Joseph Rouletabille.

Randall Jarrell was an American writer of poetry, children's books, and essays. We have his Complete Poems here at AADL; his collection The Woman at the Washington Zoo won the National Book Award for poetry is within it.

Among Jarrell's works for children, we have The Animal Family, a Newbery Honor Book, and The Bat-Poet, which was illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are).

Theodore H. White was an American historian. His book The Making of the President, 1960 won the Pulitzer for General Nonfiction in 1962. It details the election of JFK, and is the first in a "series" of books about elections.

White's other works include Breach of Faith: The Fall of Richard Nixon, about the Watergate scandal, and his autobiography, In Search of History: A Personal Adventure.

Spielberg to tackle a Team of Rivals

Last year I finally got around to reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005) by Doris Kearns Goodwin and it was surprisingly thrilling to see how our great president brilliantly juggled arrogant generals, jealous cabinet members, a moody wife and personal tragedy against the backdrop of the Civil War. Yesterday I heard that Steven Spielberg is basing his upcoming film about Lincoln on Goodwin's book, and if Spielberg's pedigree isn't enough to excite you about the prospects of this film, consider that he's cast two-time Oscar winner, Daniel Day Lewis to play the president (yay!) and two-time Oscar winner Sally Field to play Mary Lincoln. Other major talent, such as Kevin Spacey and Sean Penn, are also rumored to have roles. I'm nearly as geeked to find out who ends up playing William Seward and Salmon Chase as I was ten years ago when they were casting Gandalf and Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings.

Author Birthdays: James, ten Boom, Archer

April 15th marks the birthday of authors Henry James, Corrie ten Boom, and Jeffrey Archer.

Henry James was an American writer, probably best known for his novella The Turn of the Screw, often spoken of in terms of its ambiguity; (it is uncertain whether the main character is experiencing ghosts, or psychological repression.)

James has many other stories worth mentioning. The Portrait Of A Lady and The Bostonians are both well-known. Lesser known, James also published travel writings, like Italian Hours.

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch author and Holocaust survivor; her autobiography, The Hiding Place tells the story of how she aided and hid Jews from the Nazis. It was also made into a movie in 1975.

Ten Boom's family was arrested in 1944, and Corrie spent time in a Dutch prison and two concentration camps. The second concentration camp killed its women prisoners only one week after she was released. Her last book, I Stand at the Door and Knock, is full of Christian devotionals.

Jeffrey Archer is an English author and life peer. He has a novel coming out this year, Only Time Will Tell, set in the 1920s-40s, which will be the first book in series. Last year he published a book of short stories, And Thereby Hangs A Tale.

Archer's first novel was the mystery Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less, of which Library Journal said "anyone with any interest in money will find entertaining."

Author Birthdays: Hersh, Kingsolver, Okorafor-Mbachu

April 8th marks the birthday of authors Seymour Hersh, Barbara Kingsolver, and Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu.

Seymour Hersh is an American award-winning journalist and author. Many of his articles were written for The New Yorker. He won a Pulitzer in journalism for his writing on the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War.

Hersh's books include a biography of JFK, called The Dark Side of Camelot, which portrays the late president as reckless, and was very controversial after its publication. He also wrote Chain Of Command: The Road From 9/11 To Abu Ghraib, which discusses topics like the torture and mistreatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

Barbara Kingsolver is a multi-award-winning American author, whose latest novel was the popular The Lacuna, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010.

Kingsolver's best known work might be The Poisonwood Bible, which is about a missionary family who moves to the Belgian Congo in the mid-20th century. Her most interesting book, in my opinion, might be her non-fiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year Of Food Life, which outlines Kingsolver and her family as they attempt to eat solely locally-grown food for one year.

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is a Nigerian-American fantasy writer. Her newest book, Who Fears Death, was nominated for the Nebula Award in 2010.

Okorafor-Mbachu has written some young adult novels, which may be of interest to many teens in world literature classes who are looking for something a bit more modern than the classics. Her novel The Shadow Speaker is set in a futuristic West Africa and relays the tale of a girl with magical powers who is seeking vengeance.

Triangle Waist Factory Fire of 1911

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Today (March 25) marks the 100-year anniversary of the deadly Triangle Waist Factory Fire in New York City which claimed 146 lives, mostly of young immigrant workers; and to this day, ranks as one of the worst disasters in labor history.

Located in the Asch Building, at northern corner of Washington Square,The Triangle Waist Company was in many ways a typical sweatshop - low wages, excessively long hours, and unsanitary and dangerous working conditions. Check out the story at the Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations archival and research resources that include eyewitness accounts, victim list, and photo images.

Over the years, the fire has been the subject for documentary filmmakers, historians and novelists. Best among them is award-winning author Katharine Weber's Triangle* * (2007).

Esther Gottesfeld is the last living survivor of the fire where 150 workers died in the sweatshop inferno. Even though she has told her story countless time, her death at the age of 106 leaves unanswered many questions about what happened that fateful day - the day she lost her sister and her fiance, the day her life changed forever.

Esther's granddaughter, Rebecca, and George, her partner, a prizewinning composer, seek to unravel the facts of the matter, while at the same time Ruth Zion, a zealous Triangle fire historian, bores in on them with her own mole-like agenda.

"As in a symphony, the true story of what happened at the Triangle factory is declared in the first notes - yet it is fully revealed only when we've heard it all the way through to its find chords."

* * = Starred reviews

U-M Taubman College Presents "The Future of History"

A conference organized by the U-M Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning is coming up April 1-2 in Rackham Amphitheater, 915 E. Washington St. "The Future of History" will bring together theorists, designers, practitioners and historians to discuss how architecture has played a role in history, and also how history interprets architecture. The gathering begins April 1 at 4:30 pm, with doors open at 4:15 pm. On April 2, doors open at 8 am. Presentations and hosted conversations are free and public.

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