The Palladian style building you see above was designed by Chicago architect William C Jones and built in Rock Island, Illinois in 1915. Its original purpose was to serve as a Christian Science Church, but it now serves as the latest of the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums scattered across the country.
These museums, from Santa Barbara to Tacoma to Duluth to Buffalo to Charleston, to Jacksonville (and others – not to mention over 200 mini-museums), house an astounding array of historical drafts, letters, and documents. The Museum brochure mentions stuff by Napoleon, Washington, Lincoln, Henry VIII, Pope Lucius III, Wagner, Martin Luther, and others and more. Whew!
Major restoration is underway on the building in Rock Island (though the main meeting room is closed off, it is interesting to stand in its center, beneath the dome, and imagine the presence of a congregation – especially if your notion of a place of worship is more of the cruciform sort), but the narthex holds a dozen or so fascinating pieces of history.
There is a draft treaty between the USA and the people of Tripoli and the Barbary Coast which inspired the Marine Hymn and is sadly ironic to consider in light of what happened in Benghazi a few weeks ago. Nearby is a model of Lord Nelson’s flagship the HMS Victory and his handwritten battle plan for the Battle of Trafalgar. You know, the naval battle in which his outnumbered fleet defeated Napoleon’s and confirmed British Naval Supremacy.
Ya, pretty dang eclectic. There is though a cohesive group of material by and/or related to Mark Twain including a draft of a document describing the origin of Samuel Clemens’ pseudonym. Perfect. I’d been thinking about Twain during the too many torrid months of the presidential campaign. Can you imagine what he’d have had to say?
Pretty sure I know who he’d have voted for, but am also confident Mr Clemens would have had choice words for him too. “I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being and that is enough for me: he can’t be any worse.”