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August2009
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The Dog Days of Summer

"But when the hot days come, I think they might remember that those are the dog days, and leave a little water outside in a trough, like they do for the horses," says Kid, the bull terrier protagonist in Richard Harding Davis' short story "The Bar Sinister." The tale, a true "rags to riches" story, follows the adventures of a street dog who comes into is own as a prized show dog. During this part of the story, Kid, newly adopted into a wealthy home, is thinking about his estranged mother running the hot streets, going mad with thirst.

An Old Sea Dog. 1905 Canis Major, Lepus, Columba Noachi and Cela Sculptoris. 1825

Davis was a popular writer of fiction and drama during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was also a journalist famous for his coverage of the Spanish-American War and World War I. He served as managing editor of Harper's Weekly and also worked for the New York Herald, The Times and Scribner's Magazine.

"The Nineteenth Century in Print" presentation featured in the Library's American Memory collections features more than 30 short stories written by Davis and included in Harper's, among other publications.

The term "dog days" doesn't actually derive from Harding's book, though. The ancient Romans coined the phrase, calling the hot sultry weather of early July through September "caniculares dies" or "days of the dogs" after the constellation of Canis Major, within which Sirius, the Dog Star, is found. As the hottest and most humid days of summer generally coincided with the period Sirius rose and set with the sun, the Romans believed that heat from Sirius was increasing the heat of the sun.

The Library's Science, Technology and Business Division is a rich resource for scientific research. Tools like its Tracer Bullet series offer guides to help you locate information on specific subjects, like astronomy. Offered are brief introductions to the topics, lists of resources and strategies for finding more information.

The division also offers subject-specific guides that not only provide links to corresponding Science Tracer Bullets but also Internet resources, specific bibliographies and Science Reference Guides, which are intended to help researchers navigate the Library's catalogs and introduce basic reference sources. You'll find lots of weather-related guides, such as weather and climate data, hurricanes and Earth Day.

American Memory provides online access to the Library' s vast collections in a variety of formats like written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps and sheet music that document the American experience. These materials, which also include collections from other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.


A. An Old Sea Dog. 1905. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-D4-18853 (b&w glass neg.); Call No.: LC-D4-18853 <P&P>[P&P]

B. Canis Major, Lepus, Columba Noachi and Cela Sculptoris. 1825. Prints and Photographs Division. SUMMARY: Astronomical chart showing a dog, a rabbit, Noah's dove and sculpting tools forming the constellations. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZC4-10075 (color film copy transparency); Call No.:  Illus. in QB45 .A83 (Case X) [P&P]