Author Archives: Karen Shea

USMA Library Reads!

Have you ever read a book that you loved so much you wanted to tell everyone  you know about it? Or maybe you’ve read something great based on a friend’s recommendation. It seems that word-of-mouth is often the best way to find a good book.

Here at the USMA Library we literally have thousands of books to choose from, so deciding which ones to read can sometimes be bewildering. To help alleviate the guess work, we are starting a series that will highlight some of our favorites. With reviews written by library staff members, the books featured here are not necessarily the “best books” – just books we have read and loved.

All the items featured will be available for checkout at the USMA Library.

We will begin with a title that has gotten a lot of attention lately, as its movie adaptation opened June 6th.

jacketThe Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS)
By John Green
Published: 1/10/12 by Dutton Books

You’ve probably already heard about this book (especially with the film of the same name coming out this summer), but you thought that reading a book about teenagers with cancer would be too depressing, sappy, or saccharine. You might’ve even decided the book was too “young,” considering it is technically YA (Young Adult) fiction. TFIOS will obliterate all of your preconceived notions. John Green does not shy away from the realities of illness and death, but at its core, the book is an incredibly intelligent celebration of everything beautiful in life, and what it means to be alive. Trust your librarian, and go read it now. You can even come visit the circulation desk and tell me what you thought. Tissues and moral support will be provided.

Lauren Hall, Access Services, West Point, NY

More Reviews
Good Reads



Lauren Dodd Hall Hired As Circulation Librarian

laurenIf you’ve noticed a fresh face behind the circulation desk of the Library, then the likely suspect is Ms. Lauren Dodd Hall, who was recently hired as Circulation Librarian for the Access Services Division. Lauren comes to USMA from the Maxwell Air Force Base and Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center in Alabama, where she worked as an Assistant Systems Librarian. While at Maxwell, Lauren was largely responsible for digitizing material like student papers, rare books, and Air Force speeches that made them accessible through the library catalog. She also provided reference services to students and held the title of Assistant Editor of the Air University Library Index to Military Periodicals.

Prior to Maxwell, Lauren worked as a project manager and instructor for an outreach program affiliated with the University of Alabama, offering computer training for persons with intellectual disabilities. She has also worked at the Bevill State Community College Library in Fayette, Alabama, providing circulation and reference services to students and faculty.

Lauren holds a Master of Library and Information Studies from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (where she received the Florine Oltman Scholarship Award for Excellence in Special Librarianship in 2011), and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi.

When she is not working at the circulation desk, Lauren will assist Deborah DiSalvo, the Library’s Associate Director of Access Services, with various projects. Other duties at USMA will include working at the reference desk and acting as a liaison to the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering.

On behalf of the entire USMA Library staff, we would like to say welcome, Lauren!

Let’s get to know Lauren a little better with some questions!

You’ve just moved here from Alabama. How do you like the Hudson Valley so far?

I love it! I moved to Beacon, which is an awesome little city with a lot going on. Between Hudson Valley and NYC happenings, I will never run out of things to do here. I’m also greatly enjoying the weather so far. Alabama has approximately 8 months of 90-100 degree heat and 100% humidity. Yes, I know I moved here just in time to miss winter–but I’ve lived in Canada before, so I think I can handle it (she says naively).

Why did you choose to become a librarian?

While many people come to librarianship as a second career, it has always been on my radar of career choices. My elementary school librarian was such an inspiration to me that I decided to be a librarian while I was still in elementary school. This made perfect sense to everyone who bumped into me while I was reading a book and walking down the hallway at the same time. Of course, sometimes plans/ideas get derailed, and due to some encouragement from my favorite professor, I thought I wanted to be an English teacher or professor….but while pursuing a master’s degree in English, I realized that not only did I not want to specialize and narrow my interests, but I also enjoyed helping others with research (I was a research assistant) more than writing my own papers. Now I get to have the best of both worlds – since I’m a liaison (to the department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering, who hasn’t met me yet – hi!), I get to help with all kinds of research, and learn things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Aside from the research aspect of things, I also just really enjoy helping people, so it’s a perfect fit.

Can you describe some of your favorite past projects?

As a library school student, I worked with one of my mentors and fellow graduate assistants on a poster session that we presented at a few different local conferences, and eventually turned into a journal article for Internet Reference Services Quarterly. It’s called “The Web Beyond Google: Innovative Search Tools and Their Implications for Reference Services.”  This past fall, we revisited the topic and a few new free search tools for a presentation at the Mississippi State University eResource and Emerging Technologies Summit. I’m also really proud of my involvement with the Hack Library School blog. I was one of the founding writers, and became an editor/mentor for the blog for a time after I graduated from my MLIS program. It’s become a really robust resource for both current and potential library school students, and the posts continue to be incredibly interesting and insightful.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My husband, Tim, my puppy, Zelda, and I like to go on long walks/hikes around Beacon and Cold Spring, and we’re hoping to visit many NY state parks with our Empire Pass. I’ve run 3 half marathons this year, but I haven’t run much since I moved here. Oops. I enjoy riding a bike when I have one (I currently don’t – I am accepting free bikes). We are always on the lookout for concerts, plays, and food/drink festivals. I also enjoy a great many TV shows (probably too many) – all TV show discussions are welcome and encouraged.






Discover a Database! World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society

WorldatwarThis week we continue to look at information about the USMA Library’s subscription databases.

Today’s featured database, Word at War, is a rich collection of resources dedicated to looking at War with the goal of developing a greater understanding of conflict and the societies affected by this phenomenon throughout recorded history. The database covers 13 periods from Ancient Greece to the present, providing unique insights into the military conflicts that have defined the world’s identity.

• Provides complete overviews of more than 40 wars, with timelines, causes and consequences, portraits of opponents, and links to supporting facts, figures, primary sources, and audiovisual content
• The Idea Exchange tab supports student inquiry into historical dilemmas posed by Enduring Questions like “Did the Paris Peace Settlement that officially ended World War I make World War II inevitable?” and “Was the United States justified in dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?”
• Includes 9,000 authoritative reference entries, including biographies and discussions of important places, events, movements, ideas, artifacts, and organizations
• More than 10,000 primary sources, including photos, maps, personal accounts, and video and audio clips for analyses or enhancing lectures

Who should use this collection?

Cadets who are taking classes in Sociology, American Politics, American History, International Relations, Comparative Politics.

Users will be able to:
• Research and find detailed collections of documents relating to geographical, political, and historical coverage of world conflict along with analysis of individual societies during specific time periods and conflicts.
• Access content with question and analysis through the Idea Exchange tab to provoke deeper thought on subject matter related to conflict and society.
• Use basic and advanced search queries as well as options to search by categories, wars, and regions.

Tips for searching World at War

• Search by categories, wars and regions by selecting one or more at a time.
• Use quick search box to get started with keyword searching of content
• Use the click here for time saving tips link to expand search capabilities.
As always, ask a Librarian for help if you have any questions about any of our research products!

Contents contributed by Reference Librarian, Darrell Hankins

Cadets Learn about Rare Books and Life at the Academy in the 19th Century

elaine checkOn 28 and 30 April, cadets enrolled in the EN102 plebe (freshman) English course visited the Library to see a selection of rare books and manuscripts. On display were such disparate treasures as De civitate dei (Venice, 1485), the earliest printed book in Special Collections; Londinopolis (London, 1657), a guidebook to London just before the Great Fire of 1667; Ben Jonson’s Plays (London, 1667); Cadet George S. Patton’s annotated copy of the textbook Elements of Strategy; period reproductions of the Kelmscott Chaucer and Morte d’Arthur; and fine editions of more recent classics like A Farewell to Arms, Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Ed A second table illustrated the role literature played in the lives of cadets in the nineteenth century, when diversions were few and news from the outside world was limited, especially after the last boat went down the Hudson in late autumn. The Library was only open to cadets once a week, on Saturday afternoons; books that were borrowed had to be returned on Monday. Circulation records, which begin in 1824, show cadets checking out the same book for weeks on end in order to finish it. Many of these books are still part of today’s library, held now in Special Collections.

EN102 cadets who visited were able to examine well-thumbed biographies like first Chief Justice John Marshall’s Life of Washington (1822), the Langhorne translation of Plutarch’s Lives (1822) and Hazlitt’s Life of Napoleon (1848). Nineteenth century cadets also devoured poetry: the works of Lord Byron and other British poets and, not surprisingly, Edgar Allen Poe. Histories and travel books like A Year in Spain by a Young American (1830) were heavily read, as were magazines like the Edinburgh Review, the Westminster Review and Harper’s Weekly with its serialized chapters by Charles Dickens. As the library grew, so did its fiction collection; at mid-century by far the most popular were Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley novels, followed closely by those of Washington Irving, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and James Fenimore Cooper. Some examples from each of these categories were on show.

MSS Table

The use of our Special Collections in direct support of the Academy’s
curriculum is both educational and fun. If past history holds, the cadets
who visited during EN 102 will return to us in the future.

 Contents contributed by Susan Lintelmann, Manuscripts Curator

Discover a Database! JSTOR

jstoreHere’s another entry in our continuing series of brief articles featuring information about the USMA Library’s subscription databases.

It’s a safe bet that most of our patrons have at least a passing acquaintance with today’s featured database, JSTOR. Patrons encounter JSTOR content in a variety of ways:

  • Articles from JSTOR are included in results found when patrons use our new search tool SCOUT.
  • Articles that are in JSTOR collections are indexed by Google, so performing a search in Google Scholar and clicking on an article title will often lead a searcher right back to the USMA Library’s JSTOR interface.
  • Savvy patrons find and use the links to JSTOR provided in our lists of databases or in the Research Guides that USMA Librarians prepare for specific discipline areas.

Why is JSTOR so popular, and why do we librarians advise our patrons to use it so often? Two big reasons: All articles are available in full text, and all are from scholarly (per reviewed) journals. The third big reason? You are almost guaranteed to find something on any topic taught in classes here at West Point.. Another great aspect of JSTOR is the fact that the entire run of the journals they carry is included (up to the last 3 or 5 years – more on this in a moment). So, if a journal which is part of our subscription began publishing in 1898…our patrons have access to every issue back to the beginning. Note that since JSTOR includes the entire run of the journals it carries, there is generally a 3-5 year “moving wall” that covers the most recently published issues; this period gives the original journal publisher time to recoup their investment with subscription and single-copy sales before the issues become part of the JSTOR archive. So – the only reason not to go to JSTOR is if you’re looking for the very latest issues of a particular journal.

  • Who should use this collection: Pretty much everyone!

What those users will find: Scholarly articles and reviews about pretty much everything! Well…let’s just say: a LOT. The USMA Library’s JSTOR subscription includes collections that cover:

  • Economics
  • History
  • Geography
  • Religious studies
  • Area studies
  • Biology
  • Medicine
  • Political science
  • International relations
  • Mathematics
  • Public administration
  • Management
  • Literature, law…you get the picture.

Tips for searching JSTOR:

  • Follow the link to the JSTOR under the “General” heading of the USMA Library’s “Databases by Topic” page.
  • There’s a quick search box right on the front page, but to be a power searcher, click on “Advanced Search” to get to an expanded page of search options – where you can use “AND,” “OR,” and “NOT” to narrow or broaden your results, and proximity operators to make sure your results bring back items that include your keywords within 5, 10 or 25 words of each other.
  • You can also narrow by item type; since many journals include book reviews, if you are looking only for articles, you can indicate that. However, there are times when a book review will point you to a book that the USMA Library owns, and that you might not have found otherwise – so take advantage of serendipity when you can!
  • In the Advanced Search form, you can also narrow by discipline, if you like. However – beware of limiting by date. Scholarly articles can be published anytime on anything, so limiting by date won’t restrict results to the time of your event or topic, but to the time an article was published.
  • We advise not using the date range limiter unless you’re trying to find a very specific article.

As always, ask a Librarian for help if you have any questions about any of our research products!

Contents contributed by Laura Mosher, Reference & Liaison Librarian

Words as Waving Poppies – War Poetry Anthologies and Criticism in the USMA Library Collection


April is National Poetry Month…and since much of our focus here at West Point is on war, taking a look at war poetry resources in our collection is a good way to close out the month that celebrates poetry. War has long been a source of inspiration for writers, prompting recognition of the bravery and patriotism involved in service to a cause, or reacting to the damage and destruction to life and property that often result from such conflicts. Poems about war often reflect both points of view, as can be seen in the poem quoted to introduce this article. That’s part of what makes war poetry – and in fact, all poetry – so difficult and rewarding to read: the conflict between the head and the heart, the ideas of duty and the fear of death, the thoughts of victory and the reality of loss are often all wrapped up in one poem, capturing the range of human emotion in an economy of words, and making the experiences of the individual universal.

One way to approach reading the poetry of war is to choose a specific conflict and find an anthology or collection of poems that arose from that particular war. Here in the USMA Library, we have several excellent anthologies covering various wars, and the first one we’ll feature collects works that arose from a conflict we spend a lot of time studying here at West Point: the Civil War.

wordsWords for the Hour: a New Anthology of American Civil War Poetry edited by Faith Barrett and Christanne Miller, brings together poems from the entire Civil War era, highlighting antebellum poetry, writings leading up to the war, poems from the years of battle, and poetry written during the aftermath of the conflict. In addition, the editors have provided a section for collections of poems by individual authors, including Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, John Greenleaf Whittier and Walt Whitman. Their arrangement of poetry in chronological order, along with a Civil War timeline and a list of source collections from which they obtained many of the included poems, helps the reader understand the context and impact of the works showcased in this excellent collection.

PenguinWith The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry, editor George Walter has collected poems by both well-known and unknown writers and arranged them together in themes to provide readers with differing perspectives on common experiences. Women writing about the home front and anonymous soldiers’ songs round out the collection. The introduction discusses the role and scope of First World War poetry anthologies and looks at how these works have been viewed and understood over time. With a notes section that includes context and explanations for the poems, Walter has prepared a collection that provides an excellent overview of the genre.

cambridgeIn the Cambridge Poets of the Great War: An Anthology, editor Michael Copp has arranged selected poetry of the First World War era into sections such as “Early Days,” “Over There,” “Comradeship,” and “Loss and Remembrance,” to highlight the themes explored by the writers of the time. The volume includes a lengthy introduction, in which Copp provides biographical information about the authors, details of the incidents described in many of the poems, and commentary and criticism of several of the featured poems. The balance of the book is given over to the poems themselves, thematically grouped, and includes indexes of authors, titles and first lines for ease of reference.

In The War Poets: an Anthology of the War Poetry of the 20th Century edited by Oscar Williams, in addition to poetry by well-known poets (some of whom served in the military), a large section of the book is devoted to the poems of soldiers of the armed forces of England and America. Thus, the experiences of those who served – in the trenches, in the planes, in the ranks – during both the First and Second World Wars, are represented with poems about daily life in the service, memories of home, and the consequences of battle. The book also includes a section of “Comments by the Poets,” in which various authors provide their observations on war and poetry, and the connection between the two.

PoetryofwoldwarsPoetry of the World Wars, edited by Michael Foss, includes but a brief introduction, and lets the poems of two World Wars stand on their own, interspersed with small but affecting illustrations (most without credit). Poems from each conflict are gathered into thematic chapters, and many well-known poets are represented in this volume.

Of course, readers often have favorite poets, or poets who they know have written about a specific topic, and that’s a great starting point for reading poetry – and in the USMA Library, looking up a poet using the “Author” search option in Scout or in our catalog is the easiest way to find books written by poets whose work you admire. The USMA Library has countless books of poetry by a wide variety of poets; here we’ll look at just one that is relevant to our current topic.

tapsonthewallTaps on the Walls: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton   by John Borling MAJ GEN USAF, Ret. is an example of a collection of poems by a single author in a single volume. Borling was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for over six years, and the poetry in this book is a record of the way he survived, and helped others to do the same, under brutal and often hopeless conditions. Tapping in code on the walls of their cells, he and his fellow prisoners tapped out their own names and the names of their family members, messages of hope and strength, jokes and prayers…and poems. The poems he has set forth in this book are his memories and experiences from that time, forty years ago, when poetry helped keep him and his comrades alive. With an introduction by his fellow POW (and now Senator) John McCain, this book is a testament to the ways that poetry can help and heal.

Another way to explore the poetry of war is to take an academic approach, and read literary criticism written about either a single poet’s work or about a selection of thematically-related poems by different authors. As with any academic library, the USMA library collection includes probably thousands of volumes that provide literary criticism of prose and poetry; what follows is a small selection of criticism on the poems of war.

surviivorssongsSurvivors’ Songs: from Maldon to the Somme by Jon Stallworthy – this book is an exploration of poetic encounters with war, including essays on such writers as Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Stallworthy, a poet himself and a Fellow of the British Academy, sets the poetry and prose of the First World War in a wider context, examining the meaning these poems have for survivors of warfare – both past and future.


Spirit Above Wars: a Study of the English Poetry of the Two World Wars by A. Banerjee takes its title from a quote in a letter from Robert Graves to Wilfred Owen in 1917 (‘For God’s sake cheer up and write more optimistically – The war’s not ended yet but a poet should have a spirit above wars.’). In keeping with that dictate, Banerjee has given us a volume in which the poems of war have been re-examined and connected to the larger traditions of poetry, showing the ways in which “war poetry” enlarges all poetic traditions.

mondernenglishModern English War Poetry by Tim Kendall focuses on a number of well-known poets who wrote on war, including Rudyard Kipling, Wilfred Owen, W. H. Auden, and Ted Hughes. Each chapter is an in-depth exploration of the poet and his or her war writing, covering many different eras, with the exception of two notable chapters. In one, “Sky-Conscious: Poetry of the Blitz,” Kendall examines the widespread references in war poetry to airborne attacks and their effects, addressing poems by a wide selection of authors; in “The Few to Profit: Poets Against War,” he again expands beyond the well-known poets covered in depth in his book to look at how many different writers have given us poems that protest against war, across a multitude of conflicts and cultures.

With Memories of a Lost War: American Poetic Responses to the Vietnam War, author and critic Subarno Chattarji introduces us to poems written during and after the conflict in Vietnam, predominantly by veterans, but including other voices as well. Beginning with “Politics and Poetry,” continuing through “Veteran Poetry: Combat Experience,” and “The Aftermath,” and ending with “The Other: Vietnamese Poetic representations,” Chattarji collects poems that address the Vietnam War from diverse perspectives, giving the reader exposure to a wide range of experiences and examining the multitude of emotions that continue to affect both those who participated and those who protested the war.

American War Poetry is a contribution to the field of war poetry criticism by USMA alumni and former Superintendent William J. Lennox, Jr. (USMA 1971). In this, the dissertation he completed to obtain his PhD, Lennox examines poetry written by Americans during and about five separate wars: the American Revolution, the Civil War, the First and Second World Wars, and the Vietnam War. Observing in his introduction that “the first extant poetic work of Western literature, the Illiad, addresses…war,” Lennox goes on to describe how poems on the different wars are an important sub-genre of American poetry, with trends and themes that relate to each other and to contemporary and traditional American culture and thought – even over vast distances of time and geography.

You don’t need the excuse of a poetry month to pick up a book of poetry – or to delve into the world of literary criticism to help you understand and appreciate the poems of your favorite writers. Even though National Poetry Month has come to a close, all of the war poetry resources referenced in this article – and many more! – are available here in the USMA Library. Come on in and check one out!

Contents contributed by Laura Mosher, Reference & Liaison Librarian


Top 15 Most Borrowed Movies and Books Revealed

Someone recently asked us to name the most borrowed DVDs or Books in the Library. Based on our statistics, the following two lists reveal the results in descending order. We’ve included only the top 15 titles but we’ve got lots more to choose from!


Number one on the most borrowed list for DVDs.

  • Olympus Has Fallen
  •  Looper
  •  Zero Dark Thirty
  • Argo
  • The Hobbit
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Life of Pi
  • 21 Jump Street
  • 42: The Jackie Robinson Story
  •  Cloud Atlas
  •  Jack Reacher
  •  Flight
  • 21
  • Oblivion
  • GI Joe



Number one on the most borrowed list for books.

  • My share of the task : a memoir / Stanley McChrystal
  • The fault in our stars / John Green
  • Democracy’s fourth wave? : digital media and the Arab Spring
    / Philip N. Howard and Muzammil M. Hussain
  • Inside cyber warfare / Jeffrey Carr
  • The Boston Tea Party : the foundations of revolution/ James M. Volo
  • Al-Shabaab in Somalia : the history and ideology of a militant Islamist group, 2005-2012 / Stig Jarle Hansen
  • The Arab spring : new patterns for democracy and international law
    / Edited by Carlo Panara and Gary Wilson
  • The world until yesterday : what can we learn from traditional societies?/ Jared Diamond
  • Bleeding talent : how the US military mismanages great leaders and why it’s time for a revolution / Tim Kane
  • Rwanda, Inc. : how a devastated nation became an economic model for the developing world / Patricia Crisafulli and Andrea Redmond
  • Berlin on the brink : the blockade, the airlift, and the early Cold War
    / Daniel F. Harrington
  • Arab Spring in Egypt : revolution and beyond/ edited by Bahgat Korany, Rabab El-Mahdi
  • War from the ground up : twenty-first century combat as politics/ Emile Simpson
  • The ocean at the end of the lane / Neil Gaiman
  • Doctor Sleep : a novel / Stephen King

If there is a book or DVD that you would like the Library to purchase, you can visit the Library website to learn how.

It’s National Library Week!

This week, the USMA Library joins libraries in schools, campuses and communities nationwide in celebrating National Library Week.  It is a time to take note of the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. This year’s theme is “Lives change @ your library.”

In honor of National Library Week, we would like to share the American Library Association’s Declaration for the Right to Libraries, which outlines thoughts and beliefs on why libraries are essential to a democratic society.

UntitledDeclaration for the Right to Libraries

In the spirit of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we believe that libraries are essential to a democratic society. Every day, in countless communities across our nation and the world, millions of children, students and adults use libraries to learn, grow and achieve their dreams. In addition to a vast array of books, computers and other resources, library users benefit from the expert teaching and guidance of librarians and library staff to help expand their minds and open new worlds. We declare and affirm our right to quality libraries -public, school, academic, and special – and urge you to show your support by signing your name to this Declaration for the Right to Libraries.

LIBRARIES EMPOWER THE INDIVIDUAL. Whether developing skills to succeed in school, looking for a job, exploring possible careers, having a baby, or planning retirement, people of all ages turn to libraries for instruction, support, and access to computers and other resources to help them lead better lives.

LIBRARIES SUPPORT LITERACY AND LIFELONG LEARNING. Many children and adults learn to read at their school and public libraries via story times, research projects, summer reading, tutoring and other opportunities. Others come to the library to learn the technology and information skills that help them answer their questions, discover new interests, and share their ideas with others.

LIBRARIES STRENGTHEN FAMILIES. Families find a comfortable, welcoming space and a wealth of resources to help them learn, grow and play together.

LIBRARIES ARE THE GREAT EQUALIZER. Libraries serve people of every age, education level, income level, ethnicity and physical ability. For many people, libraries provide resources that they could not otherwise afford – resources they need to live, learn, work and govern.

LIBRARIES BUILD COMMUNITIES. Libraries bring people together, both in person and online, to have conversations and to learn from and help each other. Libraries provide support for seniors, immigrants and others with special needs.

LIBRARIES PROTECT OUR RIGHT TO KNOW. Our right to read, seek information, and speak freely must not be taken for granted. Libraries and librarians actively defend this most basic freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

LIBRARIES STRENGTHEN OUR NATION. The economic health and successful governance of our nation depend on people who are literate and informed. School, public, academic, and special libraries support this basic right.

LIBRARIES ADVANCE RESEARCH AND SCHOLARSHIP. Knowledge grows from knowledge. Whether doing a school assignment, seeking a cure for cancer, pursuing an academic degree, or developing a more fuel efficient engine, scholars and researchers of all ages depend on the knowledge and expertise that libraries and librarians offer.

LIBRARIES HELP US TO BETTER UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER. People from all walks of life come together at libraries to discuss issues of common concern. Libraries provide programs, collections, and meeting spaces to help us share and learn from our differences.

LIBRARIES PRESERVE OUR NATION’S CULTURAL HERITAGE. The past is key to our future. Libraries collect, digitize, and preserve original and unique historical documents that help us to better understand our past, present and future.

For more information about how libraries contribute to our American way of life visit the American Library Association webpage.

“I’ll take the Medal!” John H. B. Latrobe Designs Original Kosciusko Monument


We all know that the Thomas Jefferson statue located in the rotunda of Jefferson Hall was designed by a former member of the class of 1968, James N. Muir, but did you also know he was not the first non-graduate to design a prominent monument here at the academy?  Follow us back in time to 1824.

John H. B. Latrobe was appointed from Maryland and admitted to the United States Military Academy on September 28, 1818, at the age of fifteen years, five months.   John’s father, Benjamin H. Latrobe of Baltimore, was a prominent architect who designed many public buildings and oversaw the construction of the United States Capitol.

Sadly, Benjamin Latrobe’s untimely death from yellow fever in 1820 eventually compelled John to resign from the academy to provide for his family. On the effective date of his resignation, December 31, 1821, John was just six months shy of graduation and stood first in his class. Register records indicate that he excelled in drawing, as he was one of three cadets who acted as Assistant Teacher in Drawing.

Latrobe became a student of law in the practice of a family friend, but his association with the academy was not over. A few years later The National Gazette, Literary Register: Principles and Men posted the following advertisement:

United States Military Academy, West Point, October, 1824

A GOLD MEDAL, of fifty dollar’s value, will be given by the Corps of Cadets of the United States Military Academy, for the best Design of a Monument to the Memory of Gen. Thad’s Kosciusko.  The Monument is to be erected at West Point, on the spot known by the name of Kosciusko’s Garden.  This place is formed by a table rock, situated  on the bank of the Hudson 41 feet above the level of the Plain, and measuring 34 ½ feet wide.  It is a rude romantic spot, and bears the name of Kosciusko’s Garden, because it had once been his favourite retreat in his leisure moments.  Design to be exhibited by the  1st of January, 1825.

Communications addressed to

Committee of Cadets

The Kosciuszko monument was not an “official” project, as it was undertaken by a committee of cadets and funded by voluntary contribution from the Corps.

An account of Latrobe’s association with the monument is included in John E. Semmes’ John H. B. Latrobe and his times:  1803-1891 (Baltimore, Md: The Norman, Remington Co., c1917):

I cannot now fix the date, but it must have been in 1824 or 1825, that I saw an
advertisement in a New York paper, offering a prize of $50.00, or a gold medal of that value, for the best design of a monument to the memory of Kosciuszko, to be erected at  West Point.  As I had not given up my pencil, I became a competitor, and had the good fortune to succeed.  The Kosciuszko monument on the capital of the North Eastern  bastion of Fort Clinton is of my design.  But a grave question arose when I was informed of  my success,-should I take the medal or the money?  The latter was greatly needed, for my dear mother had her own troubles in making headway against narrow means.  There was considerable consultation, and we both, my mother and myself, settled the matter, saying, ‘We would have gotten along if you had failed, the medal will be an inheritance for your children.’


Latrobe’s submittal included not only the sketch of his proposed design for the monument, but also went on to propose an alternate location.  On February 28, 1825, Cadet J.S. Thompson, Chairman of the Committee, informed Latrobe that his submission had been accepted as the model for the monument.  On March 10, 1825, Latrobe wrote, “Let Kosciuszko simply be the inscription (on the Monument) and on the lowest steps in smaller character, ‘Erected by the Corps of Cadets of the USMA’, and while your river flows and your country exists, no one will be at loss to understand the Monument, its purpose, and its location.”  This illustrated letter (featured below) and other documentation of the monument is included among our Special Collections and Archives.  You will note that the featured photograph of the monument, from an 1868 Class Album, depicts the monument as originally constructed based on Latrobe’s design.  The statue of Kosciuszko was added in 1913; but that’s another story…

Contents contributed by Archives Curator Alicia Mauldin-Ware

Discover a Database! Founders Online

Slide1Here’s another in our series of articles featuring information about the USMA Library’s subscription databases.

Today’s featured database, Founders Online, is a collection of the personal writings of America’s founding fathers: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. This database provides access to diaries, letters and other primary resources, allowing you to interpret their meaning without anyone else’s filter.  Here you can read and search through over 149,000 documents, glean revelations about the individuals who shaped the beginnings of our country, and witness firsthand how the American Republic was formed.

Who should use this collection:

Cadets who are taking classes on politics and early American History.
Users will be able to:

  • Find detailed collections of all of the documents authored and received by, or   related to, individual leaders of the period.
  • Access the written record of the original thoughts, ideas, debates, and principles of our democracy.
  • Read first drafts of the Declaration of Independence, the spirited debate over the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the very beginnings of American law, government, and our national story.
  • Compare and contrast the thoughts and ideas of the six founding individuals as they discussed and debated through their letters and documents.

Tips for searching Founders Online.

  • Search by categories: Author, Recipient or Period from bottom of the homepage.
  • Search transcriptions of thousands of documents that have not yet appeared in the published volumes, provided via the Early Access program.
  • For more information on searching, consult How to use this site, where you will find details on Researching a person, Researching a time period and Researching a concept.

Additional searching hints are provided at Search Help located under Quick Links.

As always, ask a Librarian for help if you have any questions about any of our research products!

Contents contributed by Serials Librarian, Manja Yirka