November 30, 1835: Mark Twain Is Born
On this day in 1835, literary genius Samuel Clemens, later known as Mark Twain, was born. While working as a steamboat captain during his hiatus from writing, Clemens picked up the term “Mark Twain,” a boatman’s calling noting that the river was only two fathoms deep, the minimum depth for safe navigation.
When Clemens returned to writing in 1861, he wrote a humorous travel letter signed by “Mark Twain,” which marked the beginning of his famous pen name. Twain’s most famous novels are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Explore “Mark Twain’s Interactive Scrapbook” to experience the life story of one of American’s greatest authors.
Photo: Library of Congress
Alexandra, Empress of Russia (née Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, granddaughter of Queen Victoria)
By John Thomson
Albumen cabinet card, circa 1890
Swords in Art
- Artist: Katsukawa Shunshô
- Culture: Japanese
- Dated: 18th century, Edo period (1615-1868)
- Creation Place: Japan
- Medium: Ukiyo-e woodblock print in “hosoban” format; ink and color on paper
- Paper: H. 29.4 cm x W. 13.9 cm (11 9/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Mourning buckle, England (1698), Victoria & Albert Museum
“Jewels commemorating the dead were widely worn during the 17th century. This mourning buckle contains panels of woven hair, decorated with an elaborate inscription in gold thread and a small enamelled skull, all set behind rock crystal. The inscription, partly in latin, tells us that the piece commemorates Elizabeth Harman who died on 11 April 1698, aged 27.”
Worth ball gown, 1898
From the Metropolitan Museum of Art
September 18, 1793
George Washington Lays Cornerstone to the U.S. Capitol Building
On this day in 1793, George Washington laid the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building. The Capitol houses the Legislative Branch of the American government, which includes the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The building took nearly a century to complete due to multiple setbacks, including changes in architects, a fire set by the British and its use as a hospital and barracks during the Civil War by Union troops.
Benjamin Latrobe, who lived from 1764 to 1820, is known today mostly for his work on the central portions of the United States Capitol building. His work ultimately defined the first uniquely “American” architecture.
Watch the documentary Benjamin Latrobe: America’s First Architect, which chronicles the life and work of the early American architect.
Also check out some fun facts and interesting history about the Capitol in this Wonders of the World building biography.
Image: 1860 Photograph of Capitol with unfinished dome (National Archives).
US soldiers in a snowy ditch somewhere in Belgium during a counter offensive - January 1945
Vintage chronophotography by French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey.