Today in History ordinarily presents events that happened at least twenty-five years in the past, but this day is an exception.

Within hours of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Library of Congress staff began to call for and collect a vast array of original materials concerning the attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, and the fate of United Airlines Flight 93 which crashed into the earth at Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Skyline of Manhattan with smoke billowing from the Twin Towers following September 11th terrorist attack on World Trade Center, New York City. Sept 11, 2001. Prints & Photographs Division

Library staff worked in concert with many others to chronicle the events and to collect related material in a wide variety of formats related to 9/11—for example, photographs, comic book illustrations, magazines, posters, and fine art.

This array of materials forms a part of the permanent record of the reactions and responses of everyday people, the heroic resolve of firefighters and rescue workers, and the diverse views of the international community regarding the terrorist attacks. The Library’s permanent collections grew to include information on surrounding events such as the ongoing recovery efforts, the need for blood donors, television coverage, the anthrax scare, calls for peace, the bombing of Afghanistan and the relief effort, issues of security, and memorials to the victims.

On September 12, 2001, the American Folklife Center called upon folklorists and ethnographers across the nation “to document the immediate reactions of average Americans.” Listen to an October 22 interview with Heather Coffman of Norman, Oklahoma. More interviews are available in the September 11, 2001, Documentary Project.

Stop Hate/Steinweiss. Alex Steinweiss, artist, [2001]. Exit Art Gallery Reactions Collection: A Global Response to the 9/11 Attacks. Prints & Photographs Division

Learn More

  • Witness and Response: September 11 Acquisitions at the Library of Congress is an online exhibition that exposes visitors to powerful eyewitness accounts and commentaries regarding events surrounding the attacks of September 11, 2001. It also demonstrates the commitment of the Library’s staff to documenting these events. The exhibit includes works by professional photographers, amateur photographers, children, art students, and architects, and also includes comic book art and political cartoons that tell a compelling story. Among the cartoonists with works in this presentation are Ann Telnaes, Kevin Kallaugher, Jeff Danziger, and Igor Kordey. Also search on the term Superman, September 11 to see some of the cartoons that use a super-hero theme to confront the events. (Check Rights and Restrictions Information for DC Comics, Jeff Danziger, and others.)
  • The Sept. 11 Documentary Project cybercast is part of this online exhibition and addresses the American Folklife Center’s section of the exhibit and contains materials related to the first weeks after September 11, 2001.
  • Experience the roles that maps play in managing a recovery effort by looking at cartographic materials collected by the Library’s Geography & Map Division. See, for example, the September 15, 2001, Ground Zero, Aerial Imagery acquired from the New York State Office for Technology.
  • See the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger, from Northern Virginia, which focuses its coverage on the Pentagon rather than the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. Family, friends, and colleagues of 9/11 victims helped members of the Library’s Serial and Government Publications Division and its Newspaper & Current Periodical Section collect materials that chronicled the world’s response, after airports were closed and mail delayed.
  • Learn about acquisitions made by the Library’s overseas offices in light of the attacks. The Rio de Janeiro office, for example, acquired a Brazilian chapbook entitled A Guerra Contra O Terror Em Literatura de Cordel (The War Against Terror in the Chapbook Literature) by Pedro Costa.
  • See The Message, a book by reporter-artist Kitty Caparella, which was acquired by the Library’s Rare Book & Special Collections Division.
  • The Prints & Photographs Division built a visual archive for posterity. Search their collections on the terms September 11 terrorist to view images that have been cataloged. The following are examples:
    • There are documentary photographs, many of which were first displayed at the Bolivar Arellano Gallery in New York, and material from the Exit Art Gallery including, for example, the graphite drawing WTC III by artist Meryl Blinder.
    • A New World Trade Center: Design Proposals was exhibited at the Max Protech Gallery in New York and developed in collaboration with Architectural Record and 100 architects worldwide.
  • The Library Services Directorate, in cooperation with the Internet Archive, WebArchivist.org, and the Pew Internet & American Life Project, captured websites developed by individuals, groups, the press, and institutions worldwide in the aftermath of the attacks. The September 11, 2001 Web Archive may be accessed through Library of Congress Web Archives, a virtual archive of electronic resources on the Internet.
  • It had been well over 200 years since the U.S. Congress met at Federal Hall in New York City, but on September 6, 2002, 300 members of the U.S. Congress traveled there to mark the anniversary of September 11, 2001. The U.S. poet laureate Billy CollinsExternal read for the event.
  • Search Congress.gov on terms such as terrorism, homeland security, al Qaeda, Afghanistan, or National Day of Remembrance to learn more about U.S. congressional activities regarding these matters.

Jenny Lind

Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, whose purity of voice and natural singing style earned her the nickname “the Swedish nightingale,” made her American debut at the Castle Garden Theatre in New York City on September 11, 1850. The appearance inaugurated a ninety-three-stop American tour which was arranged by showman and entertainment entrepreneur Phineas T. Barnum. The tour came on the heels of a fantastically successful string of appearances in England where the large packed-in crowds gave rise to the term, “Jenny Lind crush.”

Jenny Lind/lith. by F. D’Avignon; from dag. by Brady. [1850]. Popular Graphic Arts. Prints & Photographs Division

The great event of the evening…was Jenny Lind’s appearance and her complete triumph. She has a most exquisite, powerful and really quite peculiar voice, so round, soft and flexible…

Queen Victoria’s Journal, May 4, 1847

Jenny Lind was born Johanna Maria Lind on October 6, 1820 in Stockholm, Sweden. She made her debut in the opera Der Freischütz in Stockholm in 1838. Her fame grew in the mid-1840s as she made a series of successful appearances in Germany and Austria. In May 1847 she made her first appearance on a London stage, and it was in England that her status as a “celebrity” reached full force. In 1849, Lind decided to stop performing in operas and instead continued in her career as a recitalist and an oratorio singer.

Castle Garden, New York: From the battery. N Currier, 1848. Popular Graphic Arts. Prints & Photographs Division

Nearly ninety years after Jenny Lind’s tour of the United States, Mrs. Isabell Barnwell still remembered the sensation created by the singer’s 1850-51 tour. Of growing up in Hamilton County, Florida during the Civil War period, she recalled:

Music was a delight to all of us…We four sisters used to sing a great deal…We kept up with the music of the times, having quite a stock of sheet music on hand…I have several of those old volumes now, one composed entirely of Jenny Lind’s repertoire when she made her long-remembered American appearance.

[Mrs. Isabell Barnwell]. Rose Shepherd, interviewer; Jacksonville, Florida, February 6, 1939. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division

Lind’s renditions of popular songs met with great acclaim and helped make her one of the few opera singers to earn a large popular following. Fashionable new polkas and waltzes were choreographed and given her name. The “Jenny Lind Polka”, performed by fiddler John Selleck and recorded in 1939 in Camino, California, is a testament to Lind’s enduring influence on the popular imagination.

The “Jenny Lind Polka” and “Jenny Lind’s Set of Waltz Quadrilles” are described in a popular dance manual published in 1858, Howe’s Complete Ball-room Hand Book. This is just one of the many nineteenth-century dance and ballroom etiquette manuals included in the collection, An American Ballroom Companion: Dance Instruction Manuals, ca. 1490 to 1920. Browse the Contributors list for author, title, and publication information for the 210 books included in the collection.

How to Dance, A Complete Ball-room and Party Guide. New York: Tousey & Small, 1878. An American Ballroom Companion: Dance Instruction Manuals, ca. 1490 to 1920. Music Division

Learn More

The Library’s collections are a rich resource for the study of popular entertainment from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.