Woman holding flag with shield and eagle behind her
Woman holding flag with shield and eagle behind her
“Liberty and Independence,” 1816, needlework from the collections of The Henry Ford.

Like so many others, I am distraught over the insurrectionists who forced their way into the U.S. Capitol this afternoon: January 6, 2021. Today’s events clearly owe their lineage to a president (perhaps our first of this kind) who has never had faith in the American government, and has shared this lack of faith consistently, vehemently, and without remorse, with any American who will listen. So while in a way, I can’t say I am shocked — I am still shocked. And I am heartbroken.

Seeking an alternative to social media doomscrolling, I put together some quotes and longer excerpts…


“There may be setbacks and disappointments, but I believe we are on our way to a better place.” —John Lewis, foreword, Barack Obama: The Official Inaugural Book, 2009

In John Lewis’s March trilogy of graphic novels, he brought the story of the Civil Rights Movement to a new generation.

Representative John Lewis (1940–2020) is being widely remembered and mourned today. My voice is by far not the most prestigious one in that chorus, nor will it be the most eloquent. But I can’t let this day pass without paying my respects to someone I have so long and so deeply respected.

John Lewis organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. He was a Freedom Rider, putting himself at risk to challenge segregation…


Black man’s face with red & white stripes/blue stars painted on it; excerpts from the Pledge of Allegiance at top of poster.
Black man’s face with red & white stripes/blue stars painted on it; excerpts from the Pledge of Allegiance at top of poster.
“I Pledge Allegiance…,” 1970. Poster from the collections of The Henry Ford.

It’s hard to reckon with the Fourth of July this year. More than any other time in my lifetime, we feel not like a country united, but a country radically divided — divided by ideology, by skin color, by income — and also physically divided by a worldwide pandemic that requires us to keep a literal distance from other people.

Listening to NPR’s annual reading of the Declaration of Independence, I was struck by the contradictions to the high principles expressed there that exist within that brief document itself. There is a reference to representative houses opposing the British Crown…


“I’m doing the best I can,” he says, “but there are just too many of them. And even if it was just one or two, there’s not much I can do for them. Do you understand me?”

“I understand,” you say….

“I know you know, Jacob,” he says, and yawns hard, rubs his face with both hands so it goes red. “It’s just hard to watch it happen.”

Novels and movies about pandemics and epidemics are enjoying a resurgence right now, as large swaths of the American public stay inside to avoid spreading the coronavirus COVID-19. For movies, Contagion seems…


Maybe *You’re* the Jerk: A List of Hypotheticals of Use in Working with Humans

Movie Poster Showing Two Boxers, circa 1905. From the collections of The Henry Ford.

It happened again. Your totally reasonable request to a coworker was rejected with an unwarranted degree of malice, and perhaps a choice dig or two at you as well.

Wow, you think. What a jerk.

But are they?

Maybe they misinterpreted your request.

Maybe they misinterpreted your intent.

Maybe they have a loved one in the hospital.

Maybe they are having car trouble.

Maybe there is an issue with their partner.

Maybe there is an issue with your delivery.

Maybe you are shooting the messenger.

Maybe…


Last night, I was fortunate enough to see Mavis Staples perform at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor.

If you don’t know who Mavis Staples is, you have been deprived. Just a few lines from her website’s biography give you a sense of the scope and impact of her career:

“She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., performed at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, and sang in Barack Obama’s White House. She’s collaborated with everyone from Prince and Bob Dylan to Arcade Fire and Hozier, blown away countless festivalgoers from Newport Folk and Glastonbury to Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, performed with…


“American Works,” circa 1860. From the collections of The Henry Ford.

My sister and I throw around the acronym DPPWE: “It’s 6:30 and I’m still at work, cause DPPWE,” or “I’m technically off today but finishing this report from home — thanks, DPPWE.”

DPPWE stands for “Damn Parents’ Protestant* Work Ethic,” part of the set of values our parents instilled in us as children. This specific grouping includes the understanding that you should always do the best job you can, that just skating by is not acceptable, and that when you make a commitment to someone, you should meet it, no matter what challenges you encounter along the way.

In my…


Small building at right with silver letters spelling “Hope’s Diner”; sign with same words to left. White car parked in front.
Small building at right with silver letters spelling “Hope’s Diner”; sign with same words to left. White car parked in front.
Hope’s Diner, Plaistow, New Hampshire, 1970–1980. Slide from the collections of The Henry Ford.

I read a lot, and as I go, I collect quotes that strike me — whether because they so closely match my view of the world, they introduce interesting new ideas, or they are just so exceptionally phrased. During 2019, I saved over 500 quotations from books, articles, and poems I read, and as the year winds down, I’ve culled those to 140 of my favorites. Since that’s still an awful lot of quotes, I then divided them up topically, and have shared them out in a number of posts. This last post could be considered the miscellaneous quotes that…


Crowd on Beach near Heinz Ocean Pier, Atlantic City, New Jersey, circa 1907. Photo from the collections of The Henry Ford.

I read a lot, and as I go, I collect quotes that strike me — whether because they so closely match my view of the world, they introduce interesting new ideas, or they are just so exceptionally phrased. During 2019, I saved over 500 quotations from books, articles, and poems I read, and as the year winds down, I’ve culled those to 140 of my favorites. Since that’s still an awful lot of quotes, I then divided them up topically, and shared them out in a number of posts. …


Oval painting of a gravestone with a young woman leaning against it; trees in the foreground & mountains or hills behind.
Oval painting of a gravestone with a young woman leaning against it; trees in the foreground & mountains or hills behind.
Watercolor Painting, Memorial for Mehitable Bradley Wingate, by her daughter Mehetabel Wingate, 1796. From the collections of The Henry Ford.

I read a lot, and as I go, I collect quotes that strike me — whether because they so closely match my view of the world, they introduce interesting new ideas, or they are just so exceptionally phrased. During 2019, I saved over 500 quotations from books, articles, and poems I read, and as the year winds down, I’ve culled those to 140 of my favorites. Since that’s still an awful lot of quotes, I then divided them up topically, and shared them out in a number of posts. This third post covers topics related to death and dying; grief…

Ellice Engdahl

I work with collections data and content in a large history museum. I also have other interests.

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