Celebrations Today – April 28
Holidays and observances
- Christian feast day:
- Lawyers’ Day (Odisha, India)
- Mujahideen Victory Day (Afghanistan)
- National Day (Sardinia, Italy)
- National Heroes Day (Barbados)
- Restoration of Sovereignty Day (Japan)
- Workers’ Memorial Day and World Day for Safety and Health at Work (international)
- National Day of Mourning (Canada)
Celebrations Today – USA: April 28
National Blueberry Pie Day
National BraveHearts Day
National Great Poetry Reading Day
Workers’ Memorial Day
National Superhero Day
National Arbor Day – Last Friday in April
National Hairball Awareness Day – Last Friday in April
National Teach Children to Save Day – Changes Annually
National Matanzas Mule Day
National Morse Code Day
Today in US History: April 28
Henry Reed was the narrow neck in the hourglass of tradition,
through which tunes were guided
back out into the wider currents of circulation.
Josh and Henry Reed, circa 1903.
Henry Reed, age 19, plays banjo; his older brother Josh plays fiddle.
From the collection of James Reed, with permission.
Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection
James Henry Neel Reed, known as Henry Reed, was born on April 28, 1884, in the Appalachian Mountains of Monroe County, West Virginia. Reed was a master fiddler, banjoist, and harmonica player whose amazing repertoire consisted of hundreds of tunes, as well as multiple performance styles. His music conveyed tradition while setting new directions, and became a touchstone for academic research into the history of U.S. fiddle music.
Henry Reed learned the overwhelming majority of his tunes by ear and retained them by memory. He learned from elderly musicians such as Quince Dillion, who was born around 1810 and served as a fifer in the Mexican War and the Civil War. As a youngster, Reed learned to read music, played alto horn in a local band, and picked up a few additional tunes from sheet music. Though he never played professionally, he played occa sionally for local dances and in countless home music sessions. Musical talent ran in his family; several of Reed’s children accompanied him.
Henry Reed Playing the Fiddle, Accompanied by Bobbie Thompson on Guitar,
Kit Olson, photographer, Narrows, Virginia, Summer 1967.
From the collection of Jessica Thompson Eustice, with permission.
Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection
Reed’s musical influence broadened significantly after 1966 when Karen and Alan Jabbour, graduate students at Duke University, began to audio tape his fiddling. Although he originally recorded Henry Reed for academic purposes, Alan Jabbour, an accomplished fiddler himself, also introduced members of the Hollow Rock String Band to the tapes. Tunes such as “Over the Waterfall,” “Kitchen Girl,” and “George Booker” soon became core elements of the band’s repertoire, and Reed’s name was credited. Since the band was at the epicenter of an old-time instrumental music revival that emerged in the Durham/Chapel Hill, North Carolina area in the late 1960s, Reed’s music was passed from musician to musician at fiddlers’ conventions, festivals, and jam sessions, and through the Jabbours’ audiotapes. At the age of eighty-three, Reed began to enjoy wider recognition for a lifetime’s labor of love.
The titles of Henry Reed’s fiddle tunes are redolent of the old Appalachian frontier. Tunes such as “Cabin Creek” and “Shooting Creek” commemorate the arterial network of Appalachian rivers and creeks. “Forked Deer,” “Ducks in the Pond,” and “Hell Among the Yearlings” evoke the woods and countryside. “Santa Ana’s Retreat” and “British Field March” conjure up episodes in American military history.
Henry Reed Playing the Fiddle in His Living Room,
Karen Singer Jabbour, photographer,
Glen Lyn, Virginia, circa 1967.
From the collection of Karen and Alan Jabbour, with permission.
Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection
Henry Reed’s recordings and Alan Jabbour’s transcriptions reveal a complex syncopated bowing style used by fiddlers from Virginia to Texas in twentieth-century recordings. This style of fiddling represents an important feature of American culture. It appears to have evolved in the Upper South in the early nineteenth century and diffused from this area with westward migration. Its syncopated patterns possess an African-American influence that first appeared during the Early Republic, when perhaps half the fiddlers in the Upper South were African American. These patterns have influenced the shape of American music ever since—from the minstrel stage of the 1840s through ragtime, blues, jazz, country music, and rock-and-roll. “Georgia Camp Meeting,” for example, was intended originally for the “cakewalk,” a popular dance of the ragtime era.
The melodic style of many of Reed’s tunes such as “Shady Grove,” “Cluck Old Hen,” or “Betty Likens” also suggests the influence of Native American music (from the Eastern Woodlands and Plains). In contrast to the typical European tonal pattern, these tunes begin in a high pitch and cascade to a lower pitch. Henry Reed’s music descends directly from the early fiddlers of the Upper South, both black and white, who achieved a dramatic cultural synthesis of European, African and, perhaps, Native American musical forms and concepts. These musicians helped to launch and shape the character of what some claim is America’s greatest cultural contribution to the world—American music. Reed, who died on February 8, 1968, embodied that music’s varied vitality and ensured its continuance.
- Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection is a field collection of traditional fiddle tunes performed by Henry Reed. Browse by Musical Genres for tunes that evoke the history and spirit of Virginia’s Appalachian frontier. Some strains lay dormant, in the repertory of a few elder musicians until their rediscovery and wider circulation by the next generation. Listen to Reed’s version of “Salt River,” a tune recorded by Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys in 1964 under the title “Salt Creek,” and the piece “Breakdown in A” which joined the modern bluegrass repertory after Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys recorded it as “Clinch Mountain Backstep.”
- Uncover the historical and musicological dimensions of Henry Reed’s tunes by reading the “NOTES” written in Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection. For example, the bibliographic records for “Santa Anna’s Retreat” and “West Virginia Gals” contain fascinating details about each piece.
- Get “goin’ down to Cripple Creek and have some fun” by comparing Henry Reed’s version of “Cripple Creek” in Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection with a vocal version by the King Family in Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941. Compare Henry Reed’s version of “Barbara Allen” with accompanied and unaccompanied vocal versions by:
- Lois and Nathan Judd in Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941
- Hule “Queen” Hines in Southern Mosaic: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip
- Virginia Meade in California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell.
- Many people use sheet music to learn tunes that Reed most likely acquired by attentive listening. View the sheet music for nineteenth and early twentieth-century tunes such as “My Little Girl,” “Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder,” and “Arkansas Traveler” in Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920. Then, search on these same titles in Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection to hear Reed’s uniquely rendered versions.
- The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress has contributed more than one dozen collections to American Memory. Some of the music collections are:
- Hispano Music & Culture from the Northern Rio Grande: The Juan B. Rael Collection
- Omaha Indian Music
- Woody Guthrie and the Archive of American Folk Song: Correspondence, 1940-1950
- Captain Pearl R. Nye: Life on the Ohio and Erie Canal
- California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell
- Southern Mosaic: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip
- Search on Monroe County, West Virginia, in Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey, 1933-Present for black-and-white photographs and data pages for a variety of buildings.
Billy Bitzer and the Biograph
Stealing a Dinner,
American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1903.
American Variety Stage, 1870-1920: Motion Pictures
Cameraman G. W. “Billy” Bitzer filmed Professor Leonidas and his troupe of dogs and cats in the film short Stealing a Dinner on April 28, 1899. The film was shot on the rooftop of the Biograph Studio at 841 Broadway in New York City.
Advertisement for the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, The New York Clipper,
September 7, 1901, page 601.
Content and Historical Context in Variety Stage Motion Pictures.
Three years earlier, Billy Bitzer assisted as newly formed American Mutoscope Company founder and former Edison associate, W. K. L. Dickson, developed a camera to rival the Edison Company’s Kinetograph (and its kinetoscope viewer). One of only a few who understood the camera’s operation, Bitzer filmed 1896 presidential candidate William McKinley, whose brother Abner was an investor in Biograph. He also filmed the actor Joseph Jefferson, another investor, doing scenes from Rip Van Winkle in 1896, aspects of the Spanish-American War in 1898, and the Jeffries-Sharkey championship fight in 1899. Although the company entered the commercial entertainment field with an offering of only six films, by 1902 their catalog listed 2,500 motion pictures, many shot by Bitzer.
Bitzer also photographed dramas enacted by the Biograph’s stock company which included Mary Pickford, Blanche Sweet, Mack Sennett, Dorothy and Lillian Gish, Henry Walthall, Lionel Barrymore and D. W. Griffith. In the summer of 1908, Griffith moved to directing for Biograph and over the next 16 years one of his closest collaborators was Bitzer.
Together, Bitzer and Griffith forged the grammar and syntax of film. Bitzer pioneered lighting effects and developed camera innovations. Griffith enthusiastically encouraged actors to move from the histrionics of the Victorian stage to more subtle expressions before the camera. They perfected or introduced techniques including the iris effect and mattes, traveling and tracking shots, extreme long distance shots, and close ups. Griffith also edited for continuity, realized cross cutting, and developed multiple story lines.
When Griffith left the Biograph in 1913, he recruited Bitzer to shoot his historically flawed and profoundly controversial epic about Reconstruction, The Birth of a Nation.. Although the Bitzer-Griffith collaboration continued for many years, the Biograph lost momentum and by 1917 was a part of the American memory.
- Stealing a Dinner is just one of 61 motion pictures available online in Variety Stage Motion Pictures, part of The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920. The majority of the films in this collection are drawn from the Library’s extensive Paper Print Film Collection. The remaining films were produced by Hans A. Spanuth in Chicago from 1919 to 1920 for the series “Spanuth’s Original Vod-A-Vil Movies.” Browse the title list of motion pictures in this collection to find films featuring animal acts, burlesque, dance, comic sketches, dramatic excerpts, dramatic sketches, physical culture acts, and tableaus. See the Special Presentation on Content and Historical Context to learn more about the production of motion pictures of vaudeville acts.
- Learn more about the Biograph’s rival in the early film industry. See Edison Motion Pictures, a section of the collection Inventing Entertainment: The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies.
- In 1898, Edison cameraman William Paley and the Biograph’s Billy Bitzer and Arthur Marvin filmed the first war-related actualities. To learn more, see the online presentation The Motion Picture Camera Goes to War in the collection The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures.
Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, (frame detail),
American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, April 1898.
The Spanish American War in Motion Pictures
From the Biograph Picture Catalogue: “A charge full of cowboy enthusiasm by Troop ‘I,’ the famous regiment, at Tampa, before its departure for the front.”
- The collection Inside an American Factory: Films of the Westinghouse Works, 1904 features a series of 21 industrial films, among the world’s first, filmed by Bitzer.
- Life in turn-of-the-century America is depicted by Bitzer and other cameramen in the American Memory collections The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906 and America at Work, America at Leisure, Motion Pictures from 1894-1915.
Billy the Kid
Jail Interior, McDermitt, Nevada,
Carl Fleischhauer, photographer, May 1981.
Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982
Billy the Kid escaped from the Lincoln County, New Mexico jail house on April 28, 1881, killing two deputies on guard. He avoided capture until July 14, when he was ambushed and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett at the ranch home of Pete Maxwell. Billy the Kid is buried in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
Although he has become synonymous with the legendary Wild West, Billy the Kid was probably born on New York City’s East Side, in 1859 or 1860. By the time he was a young teenager, he had moved with his family to New Mexico, by way of Kansas and Colorado.
While still a boy, Billy the Kid became involved in petty thievery, and later horse theft. In an August 1877 altercation at a saloon in Camp Grant, Arizona, he shot and killed a man for the first time. Reputed to have been responsible for the murder of 21 men by the time he was 21 years old (the actual total was between four and ten men), he had been convicted of murder and sentenced to hang when he made his dramatic escape from the Lincoln County jail.
Jose Garcia y Trujillo recounts his memories of Billy the Kid and expresses his belief in the myth of Billy the Kid’s survival in a 1936 interview taken in New Mexico:
You think Billy The Keed let himself be shot in the dark like that? No Senora — Billy The Keed — never. I see Billy The Keed with these eyes. Many times, with these eyes. That Billy, tenia un’ agilesa en su mente — en su menta aqui…” I understood that he meant that Billy The Keed had an extraordinary quickness of mind. Again he pointed to his forehead and then with a quick motion to the sky. “Una funcion electrica”, he said. Something that worked like lightning… “I don’t want to dispute against you Senora, but in my mind which is the picture of my soul, I know it is not true… Everybody like Billy The Keed — su vista penetraba el corazon de toda la gente… his face went to everybody’s heart.. Muy generoso hombre, Billy The Keed — a very generous man. All the Mexican people, they like him. He give money, horses, drinks — what he have. To whom was good to Billy The Keed, he was good to them. Siempre muy caballero, muy senor — always very polite, very much of a gentleman.”Interview with Jose Garcia y Trujillo,” August 26, 1936.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940
There are many more stories about this legendary outlaw in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940. Most, however, do not portray him in such a positive light. To find them, search the collection on Billy the Kid.
Billy the Kid’s true identity is still a matter of speculation. Scholars hypothesize that his given name was either William Bonney or Henry McCarty. There are those who believe that after he escaped, he became a performer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Parade under the name of “Brushy Bill” Roberts.
Questa, Taos County, New Mexico,
photographer, John Collier, Spring 1943.
America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA and OWI, ca. 1935-1945 (Color Photographs)
- To see more images of Billy the Kid’s stomping grounds, search on New Mexico, or a Southwestern state of your choice, in these collections:
- To sample the rich musical heritage and cultural traditions of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, browse the title index in Hispano Music & Culture from the Northern Rio Grande: The Juan B. Rael Collection, an American Memory collection documenting the religious and secular music of the Spanish-speaking residents of this region.
- Also, don’t miss the Today in History features on western novelist Owen Wister, outlaw Jesse James, and legendary frontiersman “Wild Bill” Hickock.
Today in History – April 28-External Links
Today’s Weather in History
Today in Earthquake History
This Day in Naval History
Today’s Document from the National Archives
Today’s Events, Births & Deaths –Wikipedia
Today in History by AP
On this Day -1950 to 2005 – Today’s Story–BBC
On This Day: The New York Times
This Day in History –History.com
Today in Canadian History – Canada Channel
History of Britain that took place On This Day
Russia in History –Russiapedia