Monday, May 9, 2011

Thoreau's Trip West

May 11 will be the sesquicentennial of the start of Henry David Thoreau's 3,000 mile plus trip from Concord, Massachusetts to Minnesota and back which ended on July 11, 1861. Although not directly applicable to library history, I thought the trip was worth a post. I became aware of the anniversary of Thoreau's journey through Corinne H. Smith, a writer and librarian in Massachusetts who has written a book about the journey which will be published this summer. Smith also maintains a website with a great deal of information about the trip including its exact route. Thoreau and his young traveling companion Horace Mann, Jr., son of the famous educator Horace Mann, came through Middleton, WI where I live at about 1:15 p.m. on June 27, 1861 on the return leg of their trip.  The occasion of Thoreau's journey West seems like a good opportunity for libraries in communities along the route to do some special events related to the trip.  Indeed, some have already scheduled events. Smith will be giving a program about the trip at the Palmer Public Library (MA) on May 11 and there will be a Wisconsin program at the Stoughton Public Library on June 20, among others.  Thoreau died on May 6, 1862 just short of a year after the start of his journey West. Thoreau was an abolitionist and was active in the fight against slavery.  It is an interesting historical footnote that the last year of Thoreau's life was also the first year of a war which resulted in the end of slavery. The United States commemorated Thoreau on a postage stamp in 1967 (shown above). Corinne H. Smith is a lover of Carnegie libraries and maintains a great website on New England Carnegies

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