10 great Scots who shaped U.S. history

A Scottish vote for independence this week brings to mind Scotland’s global influence in the three centuries the country has been part of the United Kingdom. One realm of Scottish impact OCLC highlights in a 2013 report, Not Scotch, but Rum: The Scope and Diffusion of the Scottish Presence in the Published Record, is materials published in Scotland, by Scottish people, and about Scotland. Authors Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson and are just two of the many popular literary figures to shape Scotland’s national identity.

Scottish influence in the history of North America is also particularly strong. As Scots decide the future of their country, here are 10 figures in U.S. history with Scottish ties:

Andrew Carnegie – A  benevolent Scottish immigrant from Dunfermline, Carnegie’s wealth from the steel industry funded libraries and research groups which still operate today. Fittingly, a seven-box collection of materials related to the philanthropist is at Carnegie Mellon University.

Andrew Mellon – Another industrialist whose philanthropic work continues today as the Mellon Foundation, Andrew Mellon’s father was a Scots-Irish immigrant. One of Mellon’s positions was U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and he later established the National Gallery of Art with his own collection.

John Muir – A California namesake, Muir was born in Dunbar, East Lothian, and is perhaps best know for his exploration of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains during the 19th century. He founded the Sierra Club and devoted his life to wilderness preservation, including the Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park. An extensive collection of Muir correspondence and papers are at University of California, Berkeley and University of the Pacific.

Alexander Graham Bell – Inventor of the telephone, Bell was born in Edinburgh and was one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society. He became its second president. Library of Congress holds a large collection about the Bell family, however various repositories hold letters to and from Bell. In one at Brigham Young University, Bell is nominated for membership to the National Geographic Society.

The "real" Uncle Sam was Samuel Wilson, a Scottish-American meatpacker from Troy, NY. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Uncle Sam – Born in Massachusetts, Samuel Wilson’s Scottish ethnicity goes back to his grandfather. Wilson acquired the nickname “Uncle Sam” as he became more involved in settling the Troy, NY, community. During the war of 1812, his meatpacking business supplied fresh, inspected meat to the Northern Army. Soldiers from Troy recognized his barrels, which had a U.S. stamp on them so over time he became associated with U.S. Army property. His eventual personification as the American patriot “Uncle Sam” is especially reflected in music.

Alexander Winton – From Grangemouth, Winton designed and raced automobiles and is credited for inventing the semi-truck. He founded the Winton Motor Carriage Company, whose records can be found at The Henry Ford.

James Monroe – The fifth president of the United States and one of the founding fathers, Monroe’s great-grandfather was from Scotland.

Samuel Houston – Houston, Texas, is named after Sam Houston, who was of Irish-Scottish descent and brought the land which would become Texas into the United States. A large collection of his papers are at Stephen F. Austin State University.

David Dunbar Buick – Founder of the Buick Motor Company, he was born in Arbroath, Angus, and moved to Detroit with his parents at age two.

Johnny Cash – Musician Johnny Cash traced his ancestry to Scottish families. Styles of gospel and folk music, which Cash was known for, also have roots in Scottish musical tradition.

Please mention other influential Scots in the comments below. Thank you!

Fashion history names nod new school year, fashion week

A new academic year has started at most schools and the semiannual New York Fashion Week is happening through September 11. In the spirit of those who associate the back-to-school season with new apparel or a new look, or who research fashion history, here are five collections worth checking out.

As children in Berlin, Albert Einstein and renowned fashion designer Irene Saltern Salinger were friends and next-door neighbors. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Irene Saltern Salinger, a World War II-era Hollywood fashion designer who grew up in Berlin and lived next door to Albert Einstein. In the 1950s after her career turned toward commercial fashion design, she was the “originator of coordinated women’s sportswear separates in the 1950s,” according to her collection’s finding aid at the University of California Irvine.

Here are the papers at the New York Public Library of a New York Fashion Week regular: Diana Vreeland, former editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine.

New York Fashion Week started in 1943 as “Press Week” and was organized by fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert. She had also launched the Couture Group of the New York Dress Institute to draw attention to American fashion design. It later disbanded but there is a collection of its press clippings at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Mildred Levine Albert’s family provided Harvard University funding to process her collection of papers spanning nearly a century of life. She was an international fashion consultant, educator, lecturer, columnist, fashion shows producer, and media personality.

Anyone who makes their own apparel will appreciate this 19th century collection at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library of fashion plates and a sketchbook depicting garments available in patterns by the E. Butterick and Company.

Do you house or know of any fashion-related collections? Please nominate them in the comments below.

These 10 men and women paved ways in U.S. nature conservation

Fifty years ago on Sept. 3, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Wilderness Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, which set aside a protected 9.1 million acres of federal land and designated September as National Wilderness Month. According to President Barack Obama in this year’s proclamation, “I invite all Americans to visit and enjoy our wilderness areas, to learn about their vast history, and to aid in the protection of our precious national treasures.”

Red Mountain reflected in Crater Lake in Oregon's Wallowa Mountains. Image courtesy of Carol Braman.

With the fall equinox approaching on Tuesday, Sept. 23, there aren’t many more warm-season weekends left to be in nature before mud, precipitation, lower temperatures, and longer nights make outdoor recreation less appealing. However, learning about the history and conservation of nature can be done year-round. In lieu of the outdoors, here are the archives of 10 wilderness conservationists to research.

Lorrie Otto – A natural landscaping advocate, she was involved in Wisconsin’s 1970 DDT ban.

Ted Trueblood – An award-winning Idaho conservationist who was associate editor of Field and Stream magazine.

Margaret Black – In 1967 when she retired from teaching at Drake University, she was named conservation educator of the year by the Iowa Wildlife Federation.

William K. Wyant – A prominent environmental reporter in the 1960s and 1970s, he wrote “Westward in Eden: The Public Lands and the Conservation Movement.”

Cora Call Whitley – Having represented women’s conservation clubs nationally, the Whitley Forest at Lake Ahquaki State Park near Indianola, Iowa, was named after her.

Edward Marx Franey – He was involved in wildlife conservation issues in Minnesota including the discontinuance of fox bounties and a ban on tagged fishing contests.

Margaret Wentworth Owings – The only woman on the California State Park Commission in the 1960s, she put aside a career in art in order to advocate for sea otters, mountain lions, California redwoods, and other wildlife.

Harvey H. Manning – A Washington state-based conservationist who had an interesting career in publishing for conservation groups.

Gertrude Glutsch Jensen – Was one of Oregon’s leading conservation activists in the mid-twentieth century.

Irving Brant – Speechwriter for Franklin D. Roosevelt and conservation consultant for U.S. secretary of the interior Harold L. Ickes, his involvement with the Emergency Conservation Committee helped establish Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.