John Quincy Adams, Media Darling
Apologies for the long post, but I wanted to take a chance to round up some of the major media coverage John Quincy Adams has been getting this week, provide a little more background (and offer up the perspective that his wife had on the trip to Russia), and answer some questions we've been getting since the project launched:
When I announced that we'd be launching a Twitter feed of John Quincy Adams' line-a-day diary entries, I wrote "We certainly hope others will find JQA's journey as fascinating as we do." I think I speak for all of us here at MHS when I say that we never expected the wave of attention that this story has gotten - the last few days seem almost unreal. We began getting some local blog and press attention last Friday (Boston Globe Brainiac blog, Bostonist, Universal Hub). On Tuesday afternoon, the Associated Press went live with a story about the project (long version; short version), which was picked up by literally hundreds of media outlets around the world. Various versions of that soon appeared in Computerworld, Switched, CNET, Tippingpointlabs, and many other technology-oriented sites. I was interviewed for WBZ, the local CBS affiliate (video) and our Librarian, Peter Drummey, talked to Fox 25's Sarah Underwood (video).
On Wednesday I spoke with Robin Young from WBUR's "Here and Now" (audio), and Thursday the project was featured in the New York Times, NPR's "Morning Edition" (audio), CNN's Political Ticker blog, ABC's "World News Tonight" (video) and by MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show (video). We got anecdotal reports from around the country that the story was covered widely on local television and radio broadcasts.
And the followers, oh the followers! The number of people who have taken the time to reach out and follow the Twitter feed has been increasing by leaps and bounds all week, with sometimes hundreds of new folks following in any given hour. On Tuesday afternoon we had just a few hundred (600 around 4 p.m.); on Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. it was 2,682; at 6 a.m. on Thursday it stood at 5,467, and as I write on Friday morning we've just passed 9.000. We intend to follow back all those who followed JQA. At first we simply couldn't keep up, and then Twitter's follow limits stymied us, but we're trying - if you are following JQA and aren't being followed back yet, don't take it personally - we hope to be able to follow you soon!
The reaction on Twitter has been positive and really fun to watch. A sampling: "extremely geeky but a great use of twitter; former prez john quincy adams to begin tweeting his original daily journal entries"; "Following celebrity tweets is soooo 19th Century! John Quincy Adams was tweeting 200 years ago"; "John Quincy Adams may be the best thing to happen to Twitter. This just made my day"; "Excellent idea to get people engaged with history- thank you and great work!"; "Now THIS is interesting, entertaining, informative, and BRILLIANT! way to go MHS!" You can follow the reaction at http://twitter.com/#search?q=JQAdams_MHS.
You can follow JQA's diary entries here, and subscribe via RSS using the URL here. Remember, the line-a-day entries we've posted are supplemented by longer entries in JQA's other diaries; if you search by date, you'll be able to read digitized versions of the expanded entries.
Now, amidst all the excitement and turmoil of leaving for Russia, there was another side to the story. John Quincy Adams' wife Louisa Catherine was not a fan of the idea, and even less a fan of leaving two of their young children behind in America. Remembering the events in an 1840 memoir, Louisa wrote:
"This day the news arrived of Mr Adams’s appointment to Russia and I do not know which was the most stuned with the shock my Father or myself— I had been so grosly deceived every apprehension lulled—and now to come on me with such a shock!— O it was too hard! not a soul entered into my feelings and all laughed to scorn my suffering at crying out that it was affectation— Every preparation was made without the slightest consultation with me and even the disposal of my Children and my Sister was fixed without my knowledge until it was too late to Change—
Judge Adams [JQA's brother Thomas Boylston Adams] was commissioned to inform me of all this as it admited of no change and on the 4 of August we sailed for Boston I having been taken to Quincy to see my two boys and not being permited to speak with the old gentleman [John Adams] alone least I should excite his pity and he allow me to take my boys with me—
Oh this agony of agonies! can ambition repay such sacrifices? never!!— And from that hour to the end of time life to me will be a susession of miseries only to cease with existence—
Adieu to America—"
You can read more about the Adamses and their time in Russia in "The First Ambassador: John Quincy Adams in St. Petersburg, 1809-1815," an article by two of my Adams Papers colleagues (Mary Claffey and Sara Sikes) which appeared in the September/October 2008 issue of Russian Life. The article is available in PDF form here, courtesy of Russian Life.
Finally, since we've received several calls and emails about how readers and followers of JQA can support the MHS and the JQA project, I will point out our Support MHS website, which offers several options for contributing to the Society's programs. We never intended for this to be a way to raise money, and we truly appreciate the interest.
It's been quite a week - acting as John Quincy Adams' impromptu publicist has been a new experience for me, and seeing the great feedback has been very exhilarating for all of us at MHS. We're thrilled, and we hope you will all stick with us as we go forward! To Russia, with tweets!
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