An Unexplained Death and an Unacceptable System

“Power to the People!” Young Lords Puerto Rican activist Julio Roldan chanted from his holding cell in Manhattan’s infamous “Tombs” prison in 1970. A few hours later he was found dead, having hanged himself according to an official investigation, murdered by guards according to his supporters. In this press conference, civil rights attorney William vanden Heuvel answers questions and summarizes the findings of a committee appointed by Mayor Lindsay in the aftermath of Roldan’s death and the subsequent riot that eventually resulted in the closing of the facility. Calling the events “sad and tragic,” vanden Heuvel nevertheless maintains that evidence indicated Roldan did, in fact, commit suicide. He saves his wrath for the criminal justice system itself, which suffers from overcrowding and under-funding. The Manhattan House of Detention, as it is officially called, is operating at 151% capacity. Prisoners are doubled and tripled up. At Roldan’s arraignment, during which he yelled, “This is not justice! I have not seen my lawyer! You are doing this to me because I am a Puerto Rican!”, the judge, working straight through the day with no break, had less than two minutes to hear each case. The courtroom itself resembled “a crowded subway.”

Vanden Heuvel’s chief recommendation is the construction of a minimum security prison in Manhattan to both alleviate overcrowding and provide medical and psychiatric services for inmates who are either drug addicts or mentally ill. Indicating that the language of the report has been watered down, he urges that members of the City Planning Commission visit the Tombs or, if he had his way, be locked in a cell for a day. As an immediate fix, he presses for teams of lawyers and social workers to go from floor to floor in the jail, speaking directly to the prisoners, listening to their grievances, trying to give legal or humanitarian aid whenever possible. More Spanish-speaking personnel are also needed, considering the large Puerto Rican jail population. In addition, the prison guards are over-worked. Unless these conditions are addressed, he calls another riot “inevitable.”

Vanden Heuvel’s dire warnings proved all too true, though not perhaps in a way he could have foreseen. Mayor Lindsay had promised not to punish the leaders of the riot (they were holding five prison guards hostage) but after regaining control he had all the identified “troublemakers” shipped upstate…to the Attica Correctional Facility.

Julio Roldan’s case is still a matter of controversy. After a second examination of the body, the pathologist called in by Roldan’s family, Dr. David Spain, reversed his initial finding (reported in this press conference) of suicide, citing possible evidence of a beating. A grand jury empaneled to investigate charges of brutality against several guards after four other prisoners died in similar circumstances did not return an indictment. But, as the New York Times reported:

Mr. Vanden Heuvel…said the report of the grand jury was “neither complete nor useful in a public understanding of what happened” in the death of Mr. Moore. He said testimony presented to the jury was in conflict on several major points: on whether there had been “false official reports” and “the use of excessive force, including black jacks on prisoners.”

Roldan is still regarded as a martyr by the Puerto Rican nationalist movement. In a 2009 interview on Democracy Now! Juan Gonzalez, at one time the Young Lords Minister of Education, recalls the group taking over the First Spanish Methodist Church:

…when one of our members who had been arrested on a minor charge, Julio Roldan, was found hanged in his cell in the Tombs, and mysteriously hanged, because supposedly he should have had his belt removed before he was put into this particular wing. And this had been after a period when about, I think it was fifteen or sixteen blacks and Latinos had been found hanged in their cells in a variety of jails in New York City. It was a rash that many suspected were actually guards actually hanging black and Latino inmates. So we then did a second takeover or occupation of the People’s Church. This time it was an armed takeover of the church, and it lasted for several days, and demanding justice in the case of Julio Roldan. 

The fate of The Tombs itself was sealed by the negative publicity that came out after the riots. The New York City Legal Aid Society filed a suit on behalf of detained inmates. The trial revealed conditions which the judge found to be unconstitutional. The city closed the facility, although it is still argued if the treatment of inmates at their new address, Rikers Island, was any better.

This at times chaotic and refreshingly unscripted press conference, with Vanden Heuvel passionately calling for prison reform, complete with wailing police sirens in the background, provides a fascinating, if melancholy, portrait of New York City during one its most difficult times.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 151473Municipal archives id: T7687

Scottish History and Witchcraft: The Dr. George Fraser Black Collection

Dr. George Fraser Black, a librarian for the New York Public Library and later the Associate Director of the Scottish National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, was a distinguished researcher who was active in the late 1800s until his retirement in 1931. During this time, he researched and published on several topics, most notably Scottish history. His works include a history of Scottish Clans, several bibliographies on Scottish history, and an examination of the Romani language.

Dr. Black
Dr. George Fraser Black

Much of Dr. Black’s research is devoted to looking at how modern Scotland formed and the influence of the Scottish people. A huge topic of interest within the realm of Scottish history was the poet Robert Burns. Among the materials are copies of Burns’s work, photo references, and images inspired by Burns’s poems.

Burns Images
Images inspired by Robert Burns’s works.

Dr. Black compiled most of his research in a series of scrapbooks that included newspaper articles, photocopied book excerpts, and handwritten notes that he found relevant. The collection contains over 30 of these scrapbooks on a variety of topics from folklore to the history of Scottish Clans arranged alphabetically. Perhaps his most intriguing research involved witchcraft. Seven of the scrapbooks in the collection contains detailed information on trials, rumors, and myths surrounding witches and mythical creatures. These scrapbooks hold newspaper articles detailing witchcraft trials as late as the 1920s in the United States while also covering famous accounts from the Spanish Inquisition.

The Witches
Image found in the Witchcraft Scrapbooks of the George Black Collection

This collection is currently still being processed by the Special Collections & Archives team, but it will be available for the public to view soon.

The Panama Canal: Riots, Treaties, Elections, and a Little Military Madness

The National Declassification Center’s newest special project release concerns U.S. and Panamanian foreign relations: The Panama Canal: Riots, Treaties, Elections, and a Little Military Madness, 1959 – 1973.

NDC Panama Canal Records Release Poster

2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the official celebration of the completed construction of the Panama Canal by the United States. Although the Canal was officially opened to shipping on August 15, 1914, few realize that the official celebration had to be postponed due to the start of World War I a few weeks later. The official recognition of its completed construction was not celebrated until March 1915 at the San Francisco Exposition.

To celebrate this official recognition, the National Declassification Center (NDC) focused on recently declassified records in our custody that celebrate what the American Society of Civil Engineers has named the Seventh Civil Engineering Wonder of the World, the Panama Canal. The majority of Americans may have heard of the Panama Canal but few may know the United States’ role in its construction and maintenance, let alone the part that it played in our foreign relations with Panama. Debate continues to swirl around issues of why the U.S. turned the Canal over to Panama, Panamanian distrust of the U.S. Government in general, and the imperialistic image associated with U.S. employees that administered and lived in the Canal Zone.

Many historians have examined our early pre and post construction relations with Panama but not many have examined the period just prior to the Canal turnover. The records that have been recently declassified focus on that pre turnover era and may assist U.S. citizens as well as scholars in understanding the story that led to one of the biggest changes in U.S. foreign policy since the Canal was built.

Learn more and view images from this project on our website: The Panama Canal: Riots, Treaties, Elections, and a little Military Madness, 1959­-1973

The images selected and scanned for this release are a sampling of the records, 255 pages from a total of 229,160 pages. The records give insight and perspective into treaty negotiations, interactions between the American Embassy and U.S. government agencies on the Canal, the impact of Panamanian politics and elections on treaty negotiations, and the general unrest caused by the U.S. presence on the Canal Zone. The newly released records are from the Department of State.

I am very proud of this work done by our National Declassification Center, as well as the assistance from our office of Research Services and the Office of Innovation to make the release of these important records happen.

Naturalization Ceremony

As part of the celebrations for Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, 30 new citizens from 22 nations were sworn in last week as new U.S. citizens in front of the Constitution in the Rotunda of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC.

The new citizens are from Benin, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Guyana, India, Italy, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Togo, and Vietnam.

Pledge of Allegiance. Photo by Jeffrey Reed of the National Archives.

As Archivist of the United States, I was honored to welcome these new citizens to the National Archives and hear remarks from Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and Acting Director U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services James McCament. The Honorable Beryl A. Howell, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, presided as the petitioners took the oath of citizenship.

On this same day, several National Archives locations around the country also hosted naturalization ceremonies to coincide with Constitution Day, including the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

It is a privilege to host this ceremony and witness these new citizens pledge an oath of allegiance to the United States and to honor the Constitution in front of this country’s founding documents.

Congratulations to our new citizens!

Nikita Khrushchev Bids New York Farewell

Nikita Khrushchev bids New York farewell. In this 1959 recording of a brief airport ceremony, the Soviet Premier is addressed by Mayor Wagner’s representative, Russell W. Patterson, who gives him a book about the city to peruse while he flies to the West Coast, as well as flowers for Mrs. Khrushchev. Khrushchev, in his remarks, is polite but noticeably more blunt, pronouncing that “The conviction we found was the leaders of this city and especially its people do not want war.” He regrets he was not permitted to meet ordinary citizens. Being an old miner he finds it “pleasing to be surrounded by working men.” But he was told that such a meeting could be used for “provocation.” He points out that working people provide “the core of the city, creating its wealth.” He justifies his meeting with business leaders by pointing out that in a socialist state the Premier represents the “business world” of his country. Robert W. Dowling then thanks Khrushchev for permitting the many recent cultural exchanges including a visit by the Bolshoi Ballet. Khrushchev ignores him, returning to the subject world tension, insisting that his proposals made to the UN General Assembly mark a real effort on the part of the Soviet Union towards “disarmament and peace.” Finally, Henry Cabot Lodge, who will accompany Khrushchev on his trip, thanks to the police for their efforts to maintain security.

Khrushchev’s visit to the United States was not seen as a success for either side. Each party regarded the other with suspicion. No major initiatives resulted from his two days of talks with Eisenhower. His visit to New York was rushed, its major event being the address to the General Assembly, of which reports:

…He ends his speech with a plea for universal disarmament: “Let us compete in who builds more homes, schools and hospitals for the people; produces more grain, milk, meat, clothing and other consumer goods; and not in who has more hydrogen bombs and rockets. This will be welcomed by all the peoples of the world.” After Khrushchev’s UN speech, governor Nelson Rockefeller visits the Soviet premier at the Waldorf-Astoria to welcome him to New York. [In] early evening Khrushchev tours Manhattan with Lodge by car. He would later reflect on his unenthusiastic impressions of the Empire State Building: “If you’ve seen one skyscraper, you’ve seen them all.”

The trip is probably most remembered for the unlikely diplomatic incident over a proposed visit to Disneyland. It was argued that securing the site in advance would be too difficult. The Soviets were aware of this but, as Foreign Service officer Richard Townsend Davies remembers on The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training website:

…Khrushchev made great publicity about this, and he was attempting, in what I regard as typical Soviet fashion, to put the Americans on the defensive, and Henry Cabot Lodge – whom I had met and gotten to know a little bit during the few days when he visited Afghanistan and was a very nice man — in this kind of head-to-head confrontation with this very shrewd peasant, this very rough infighter, it took [Lodge] a while to figure out that he was being attacked, but he was, you know. Initially, he thought, well, he really wants to go to Disneyland. And maybe for all I know he did. However, my perception of it was that this had been worked out rather carefully, and it was a ploy. “Let’s say that you want to go to Disneyland. They of course will say, “No, it’s impossible,” and then you have already established your position as a demandeur, whose reasonable request, so far as the American people — the American people will say, why sure, of course, everybody wants to go to Disneyland…It’s a free country.”

However, his much-publicized travels to some extent demystified the Soviet Union’s leader who, in contrast to the more sinister Stalin, appeared accessible and down-to-earth. He ate a hot dog, met movie stars, and stayed with an Iowa farmer. Unfortunately, this thaw in the Cold War proved to be temporary. As recalls:

On returning to Moscow, Khrushchev insisted to his skeptical colleagues in the Politburo that Eisenhower was a reasonable man and that he could continue to deal with him through personal diplomacy. Another summit was set for the near future. Eisenhower also announced he would visit the Soviet Union in 1960. But it was not to be. On May 1, 1960, a Soviet surface-to-air missile shot down an American U-2 spy plane over Sverdlovsk, deep in Soviet territory, and the Soviets captured the pilot, Gary Powers.

Eisenhower initially disclaimed knowledge of espionage flight, thus compounding the problem. The scheduled summit meeting in Paris was scrapped, as was Eisenhower’s planned visit to Moscow.

The following year saw Khrushchev’s famous shoe-banging performance at the United Nations, which for most Americans supplanted the more positive images of this visit. 


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150249Municipal archives id: LT8643

Discovering the Path: The National Institutes of Health in the Claude Pepper Papers

U.S. Senator and House of Representative Claude Pepper was an exemplary public servant who was solely committed to unifying healthcare opportunities for all Americans regardless of socioeconomic status or ethnicity. Throughout his career, he became a fierce advocator of health care reform in strengthening social security funding and Medicare/Medicaid benefits. Thus, creating provisions for at risk populations to receive equal medical coverage.

Claude Pepper maintained a rare awareness of the hardship that many Americans faced in obtaining efficient healthcare. Pepper used his voice to spark change in the U.S. healthcare system to dispense sufficient resources that would generate affordable care and enhance medical treatment. For years, Pepper worked tirelessly to lobby legislators to develop strategies that would allocate funding to provide public health services that would improve health outcomes. Because of his concern for medical care, Pepper established thirteen National Institutes of Health to support innovative endeavors in treating or curing chronic diseases through research. In 1937, during his term as Senator, he co-authored legislation establishing the National Cancer Institute to support cancer research. Subsequently, he helped to establish ten research centers for the cure and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Later in the 1940s, he sponsored legislation to create a national health insurance program to enforce equal healthcare opportunities. Pepper’s legislative efforts have served as a compass for many who are interested in improving health care policies and those who seek to learn the process of how legislators present bills to be passed into law to improve our society.


The Claude Pepper Library & Museum offers insight into the establishment of the National Institutes of Health on behalf of Senator Pepper’s instrumental legislative work on varied Health Institutes. These materials are available for researchers and can be discovered online through the collection’s finding aid.

Bess Myerson Starts Her Career in Government

“This is the greatest city in the United States,” Bess Myerson Grant (as she is then called) declares at her swearing-in as New York’s first Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, “but it can also be the most difficult. Right, Mr. Lindsay?” …a sentiment to which Mayor John Lindsay can be heard echoing an emphatic agreement.


“This is the greatest city in the United States,” Bess Myerson Grant (as she is then called) declares at her swearing-in as New York’s first Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, “but it can also be the most difficult. Right, Mr. Lindsay?” …a sentiment to which Mayor John Lindsay can be heard echoing an emphatic agreement. 


This 1969 press conference captures the city government at its most condescendingly genteel, with Lindsay praising her “eleemosynary” work while at the same time paying tribute to her “beauty” and “winning smile.” Myerson, in contrast, sounds determined to lay her glamorous past to rest, reading a prepared statement promising to “exorcize from this city the persistent cancer created by greed and advantage-seeking…” She points out that consumer fraud has a particularly devastating effect on the poor who are often the victims of illegal installment contracts, are unable or unwilling to take law-breaking merchants to court, and have no lobbying power. On the other hand, she seems aware that the Consumer Affairs Department must compensate for its relatively weak enforcement tools by functioning forcefully in the area public relations, by pointing out unscrupulous business practices and shaming those who rely on such deception. The office’s aim, she concludes, will be warning consumers “not so much what to look for as what to look out for.”

Bess Myerson in 1957.
(Unknown photographer/Wikimedia Commons)

In 1945, at the age of 21, Bess Myerson (1924-2015) became the first Jew to be crowned Miss America. For the next forty years she was rarely out of the public spotlight. As a beauty queen, television personality, fund-raiser for various charities, public servant, politician, and finally the focus of a bizarre scandal, Myerson had an extraordinarily eventful ride on the roller-coaster of American celebrity.

Although it might seem a minor milestone now, Myerson’s being crowned Miss America was a major news story, and not all of it positive. As Susan Dworkin, who wrote about the event and its aftermath, reminisced:

…when Bess won, she went on this tour and expected to be loved and applauded. Instead, everywhere she went, she was met with terrible bigotry. People didn’t want her at their country clubs. People didn’t want her at their hotels. There was a horrible incident with the parent of a World War II veteran at a hospital who screamed at Bess that it was because of the Jews that her son was dead. After a couple of months, she had to go home. She had nothing left to do.”

Myerson was more than a pretty face. Driven, articulate, musically talented, and ambitious, she was faced with the dilemma of how to parlay her dubious fame into something more significant and long-lasting. Television provided an initial career. She was a longtime panelist on I’ve Got a Secret and regularly substituted on The Today Show. Her 1969 appointment to the Department of Consumer Affairs was a surprise. But it turned out that an agency whose clout depended a great deal on publicity was a good fit for Myerson, who had developed a professional’s command of the media. Though derided within the Lindsay administration as something of a loose cannon, she was one its most recognizable and, as the financial crisis tainted almost every other branch of government, most beloved representatives. The New York Times, in its obituary, noted how:

Some Lindsay critics initially called her appointment “window dressing.” But she became highly visible in the job, issuing the first city regulation in the nation requiring retailers to post unit prices on a wide variety of products to make comparison shopping easier. She pushed through consumer-protection laws against deceptive trade practices, chastised restaurants selling hamburgers that were less than 100 percent beef — she called them “shamburgers”— and criticized manufacturers for putting too many peanuts in jars labeled “mixed nuts.”

Myerson’s political journey then took a wildly unpredictable turn when she was enlisted by Ed Koch’s mayoral campaign to appear with him as a kind of surrogate wife to counteract rumors of his homosexuality. This led to her own unsuccessful campaign for Senate in 1980 and to her appointment as Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs in 1983. However, her involvement with Carl Capasso, a sewer contractor involved in a contentious divorce proceeding being overseen by a judge whose troubled daughter Myerson appeared to have hired with an eye towards influencing the judge’s rulings, led to widespread unflattering news coverage and a corruption inquiry. Myerson’s imperious behavior was gleefully reported and shortly before she was to stand trial she was convicted of shoplifting. Although she was eventually acquitted of bribery, the “Bess Mess,” as it was known, effectively ended her public career. She was forced to resign her position and went from being one of the city’s most prominent figures to near-invisibility, the self-imposed obscurity providing a strange coda to such a public life.

This press conference captures Myerson at what must have seemed like the beginning of yet another triumphal chapter: the poor girl growing up in the Sholem Aleichem Houses in the South Bronx rising to a high-profile job in city government. A few years later, New York Magazine captured her at her zenith, the way she would probably most likely want to be remembered:

A tall, elegant brunet steps out of the car. She’s attired in a classic Jerry Silverman blazer, skirt, and turtleneck sweater, low-heeled black boots, and green sunglasses. She is nearly six feet tall; she looks men in the eye and towers above women. The congressman puts his arm around her so that it appears that he is guiding her, but it is the other way around. 

Over seventy years later, Myerson remains the only Jewish woman ever to be crowned Miss America.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 151726Municipal archives id: T4118-T4119

The Evolution of the Florida State Administration Building

Florida State administration building has changed often since the founding of the University in 1851. Originally, the administration building was known as “College Hall” and was built in the same spot where the current administration building is today.

college hall FSU 1901.jpg

College Hall at Florida State College – Tallahassee, Florida. 1901. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

However, in 1910, because “College hall” was deemed structurally unsafe, it was knocked down and rebuilt into the administration building we know today and named “Florida State College’s Administration building” until 1936, where it was named after James D. Westcott, Jr. Westcott was a former student and Florida Supreme Court justice who left a large sum of his estate to the university and declared that the profits only be used towards teacher’s salaries.

james d westcott jr

Harper, Alvan S., 1847-1911. Portrait of Supreme Court Justice James D. Westcott, III – Tallahassee, Florida. Between 1868 and 1885. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

In 1969, the Westcott administration building suffered severe interior damage, due to a fire. Although much of the interior was destroyed, the university was able to preserve the original collegiate gothic exterior that we know today. Renovations on the building were not completed until 1973 and Westcott is now deemed as an exemplary element of the university.

Westcott fire 2

View showing TFD personnel fighting fire at the Westcott Building from an aerial ladder – Tallahassee, Florida. 1969. Black & white photonegative. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

Animals in the Archives

How about some cute animals to kick off the start of the school year? We in the Archives noticed the National Archives’ new social media campaign – the Archives Hashtag Party! Each month follows a differently themed hashtag (you can follow @USNatArchives to see the themes). Last month was #ArchivesSquadGoals. This month’s theme is #ArchivesCute, and in the Amherst College Archives we’ve decided to join the party.

We’ve found animals in a variety of different archival collections, from our rare books stacks to the College Archives to the manuscript collections. Hopefully these examples will give you a sense for the breadth of the Archives’ holdings. Let’s get started!

In our rare book stacks, we have a lovely 1883 folio edition of Monograph of the Felidae or Family of the Cats, by Daniel Giraud Elliot.


Elliot, a zoologist, was a founder of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He produced a number of this type of work, commissioning artists to produce plates to accompany his text. Other works in this same vein include Monograph of the Paradisae and Review of the Primates. These large volumes were made possible by subscription; future owners would pledge money for the production of the book and in the end receive a copy. The artist for Monograph of the Felidae was Joseph Wolf, a German artist who specialized in natural history illustration. This plate depicts the Snow Leopard, native to the mountains of Central and South Asia.


For something completely different, we turn to the College Photographer’s Records, part of Amherst College’s institutional archives. Since the 1960s the College has employed an official photographer to record important events and daily life on campus. On at least two occasions in the 1990s, the photographer captured a series of faculty dogs on campus. Here’s one example:


Look at that old-school desktop technology in the background!

The College’s Scrapbook Collection also offers a variety of cute animals. These examples come from the scrapbook of Edson Alexander McRae, a graduate of the class of 1906. His scrapbook shows that he was a member of the baseball team – and includes many photographs of this fine pup:


Apologies for the poor image quality! But you can see in the background the Amherst Town Hall.

Also a sketch of cats on a calling card:


Calling cards, a precursor to the business card, were left when visiting a home while the residents were absent.

The Lincoln Barnes Negatives Collection also yielded cuteness. Lincoln Wade Barnes was a photographer in the town of Amherst for many years during the first half of the twentieth century; he was also photographer to the College for some of that time. A collection of Barnes photography is also available at the Jones Library.


We truly hit the jackpot in Lucius Manly Boltwood’s photograph albums. These albums were compiled in the late 19th and/or early 20th century and include images of friends, family, pets, and views of Amherst. Boltwood was very involved in the College and local communities. A graduate of the class of 1843, Boltwood went on to become the librarian at Amherst College and the town’s postmaster.





And last but not least, look who we found hanging out in the Archives’ Objects Collection:


Musical roots: creating a guide to family history resources in the Musicians’ Union Archive

During the summer of 2017 Henry Carden, a postgraduate Communications, Media & Culture student, carried out a research placement in the University Archives funded by the Musicians’ Union. Here he writes about his work opening up the family history resources contained within the Musicians’ Union Archive.

Marbled edges of MU membership registers (Musicians’ Union Archive)

For the past 8 weeks, I’ve been hiding away in the Musicians’ Union archives putting together a guide to family history resources as part of a graduate trainee programme entitled ‘Musical Roots’. The guide aims to provide an overview of the resources available within the Musicians’ Union archive which may be of interest to people researching their musical ancestors.

As a young-at-heart mature student, I certainly had mixed emotions at discovering that I myself have been archived:

In spite of my ‘illustrious’ musical career, my details in an old branch membership guide were the only mention. So, if my great, great, great grandson is reading this, unfortunately you’ll have to look elsewhere to locate information about my short-lived mid-2000s indie-rock career

As part of the Musical Roots project, I created a database of over 500 obituaries spanning over a hundred years, from the early days of the Amalgamated Musicians’ Union right up to the relatively recent past. It’s worth noting that quite often, tributes and reports weren’t actually described as obituaries, but they featured the kind of information which you would expect to find in an obituary. It’s also worth mentioning that the inclusion of updates about members (both in life and death) was at the beck and call of Branch Secretaries as this article from The Musicians’ Journal demonstrates:

Furthermore, I also included some retirement tributes in the database as they presented a lot of similar information to obituaries. Unfortunately, not all deceased members of the Union received obituaries (understandable given the sheer volume of members) and more often than not, obituaries were reserved for “good union men” who had played active roles in the organisation – and also for more famous members such as John Lennon.

 In addition to the obituaries document, I also created databases of photographs and membership cards which are available to consult in the University Archives. The membership cards database doesn’t include the Edinburgh and Glasgow branches as they were too numerous to document, although highlights there included a few familiar names such as Shirley Manson, Gerry Rafferty and Edwyn Collins.

Glasgow Branch membership cards (Musicians’ Union Archive)

The Musicians’ Union Archive contains a huge amount of historical information on its members and this material is of great interest to people researching their family history.

Whilst some people might have a romantic notion of discovering personal information about one of their musical ancestors, it should be noted that a lot of the resources contained are predominantly administrative. That said, if your relative was an active member of the Union or held an official role, such as Branch Secretary or member of the Executive Committee, for example, then that increases the likelihood of finding more personal information.

Unfortunately, for most members, the only things you’re likely to discover are membership numbers, addresses, the instrument they played and in some cases, their reason for leaving the Union – most likely for falling into arrears with their subscriptions. But don’t let that put you off! You never know what you might discover.

A detailed guide to the family history resources contained in the Musicians’ Union Archive is available here.


Roethke and Bellow Headline 1965 National Book Awards

Roethke and Bellow headline 1965 National Book Awards…even though one of them is dead. Ted Roethke’s widow accepts the award for her late husband’s collection The Far Field, and his friend, fellow poet Stanley Kunitz, converts the usual speech of thanks into a eulogy. Noting that Roethke was so talented “he could afford to praise,” Kunitz reveals that among his papers were “twelve hundred poems by other poets written out in his hand. He said he didn’t know what was in a poem until he had transcribed it.” He goes on to describe the various sections of The Far Field, reciting some passages, including one that eerily presages the poet’s death. (Roethke suffered a heart attack while swimming.) He ends by using Roethke’s own description of their craft, praising him “in this matter of making noise that rhymes.”

In the field of History and Biography, the winner is The Life of Lenin by Henry Fischer. Fischer laments how Lenin has become a “mummified idol” of the Revolution and tells how he tried to humanize the man. At the end of his speech, he contrasts Lenin with Gandhi (another biographical subject) and then veers into current events by calling Martin Luther King “the Gandhi of America.”

The winner for Science, Philosophy, and Religion is Norbert Weiner for God & Golem, Inc. He too, sadly, has died and so is eulogized by Dr. Jerome Wiesner (a future president of MIT), who struggles to summarize his colleague’s argument. A founder, indeed coiner of the term, cybernetics (the scientific study of how people, animals, and machines control and communicate information), towards the end of his life Weiner was increasingly concerned about the relationship between Man and machines. His final, perhaps wanly optimistic conclusion, as expressed here, is, “since God cannot be threatened by his creation (Man), Man cannot be threatened by the machine.”

The award for Arts and Letters goes to Eleanor Clark for her book The Oysters of Locmariaquer, part memoir, part investigation of the oystering industry in France’s Brittany region. Clark adds an appreciated note of levity to the proceedings, reading from a “review” of the book written by her ten-year-old daughter. When she does get around to addressing this ostensibly more prestigious honor she hopes it “may help get this book of mine off the Food and Cooking shelves.” She then makes a plea for a new area of bookstores, the Scavengers Shelf, for books of personal inquiry such and hers and, if one gazes into the future, John McPhee, in relation to whom she now appears a natural precursor.

The award for Fiction goes to Saul Bellow for Herzog. Tellingly, Bellow promises that as “the clean-up man” he won’t take up much of their time. (In fact he is the fifth, not the fourth speaker, but clearly, sees himself as the prized slugger of this literary team.) He then launches into a coruscating attack on today’s “rebellious writers,” noting that “polymorphous sexuality and vehement declarations of alienation are not going to produce great works of art.” Isolating one’s self from Society so as to keep one’s hands clean leaves Literature “enfeebled.” In the end, “there is nothing left for us novelists to do but think.” He urges writers to engage with the political, social, and business world. If today’s artist regards his fashionable alienation is significant, “…he is wrong. It is 90 percent cant.”

Theodore Roethke (1908–1963) was perhaps the most extreme of the poets who broke out of the Eliot-Auden mode to create a uniquely American poetry harkening back to Whitman. The Poetry Foundation website recounts his unusual upbringing, which provided much material for his poems:

Born in Saginaw, Michigan, his father was a German immigrant who owned and ran a 25-acre greenhouse. He attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he adopted a tough, bear-like image (weighing over 225 pounds) and even developed a fascination with gangsters. His difficult childhood, his bouts with manic depression, and his ceaseless search for truth through his poetry writing led to a difficult life, but also helped to produce a remarkable body of work that would influence future generations of American poets to pursue the mysteries of one’s inner self.

After a long apprenticeship, Roethke finally achieved recognition with his “greenhouse poems” which struck an ominous, ecstatic, deeply mystical note. Adam Kirsch, writing in the New Yorker, claims:

Nearly a century and a half after Wordsworth, Roethke manages to invent an entirely new kind of nature poetry, in which the earth is not reassuringly earthy but teeming and alien. At times, Roethke’s greenhouse even becomes surreally menacing: “So many devouring infants! / Soft luminescent fingers, / Lips neither dead nor alive, / Loose ghostly mouths / Breathing.”

Saul Bellow (1915-2005) was the preeminent American novelist of his day. In addition to three National Book Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1976. Bellow’s dismissal of “alienation” and “polymorphous sexuality” are part of the gruff yet academically informed heartland sensibility he liked to cultivate. The New York Times, in its obituary, points out that:

The center of his fictional universe was Chicago, where he grew up and spent most of his life, and which he made into the first city of American letters. Many of his works are set there, and almost all of them have a Midwestern earthiness and brashness. Like their creator, Mr. Bellow’s heroes were all head and all body both. They tended to be dreamers, questers or bookish intellectuals, but they lived in a lovingly depicted world of cranks, con men, fast-talking salesmen and wheeler-dealers.

Bellow’s battle against the what he saw as the snide East Coast intelligentsia on one side and the morally incoherent anti-intellectualism of “rebellious” writers on the other,  clearly struck a chord with the reading public. He is that rare combination: a serious literary artist who also garnered serious sales. About this, as about so much else, he was unapologetic. Questioned by the Paris Review, he stated:

I don’t like to agree with the going view that if you write a bestseller it’s because you betrayed an important principle or sold your soul. I know that sophisticated opinion believes this. And although I don’t take much stock in sophisticated opinion, I have examined my conscience. I’ve tried to find out whether I had unwittingly done wrong. But I haven’t yet discovered the sin.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150023Municipal archives id: T1081-T1082

A Brief History of Athletics at Florida State University

For most individuals, when they think of Florida State University, they think of Florida State Football. Although football is a paramount addition to Florida State University, it used to be just a minor team at Florida State, with only fourteen official members on the football team in 1903

Football FSU 2

Football captains from Florida State University and Stetson University meet on the football field – Tallahassee, Florida. 1947. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

For the seasons of 1902, 1903, and 1904, the Florida State football team sported the colors of a yellow-gold and purple and in 1904, the Florida State football team claimed championships against Stetson University and the University of Florida. In 1905, Florida College (now Florida State) was named Florida State College for Women, the student body selected crimson as the University’s official colors. The Administration then combined the color of crimson with purple and achieved the garnet color that Florida State is officially known for and when football was re-established with the co-ed university that is now FSU in 1947, they sported the garnet and gold colors that we still use today.

During the years of the Florida State College for Women (FSCW), football was unfortunately disregarded and substituted with other tradition and intramural teams. A physical education program was developed and supervised by Katherine Montgomery, a former FSCW student graduating in 1918, returned to start her campaign for a physical education program at FSCW. This program included volleyball, gymnastics, and various other athletic clubs that pushed the boundaries for women in sports in an age where it was widely deemed unlikely.

FSU Football 1947

F.S.U. football squad – Tallahassee, Florida. 1947. Black & white photonegative. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

Labor Day

Happy Labor Day, or the unofficial end of summer in the US. Here in the South, students have been back to school since mid-August in some cases but we have had a few pleasant mornings so maybe a north Florida fall is coming earlier than usual? We can only hope!

In celebration of Labor Day, Special Collections & Archives is closed Monday, September 4th. We will resume our normal operating hours on Tuesday, September 5th. We wish everyone a safe and happy Labor Day weekend!

In looking for an appropriate image to accompany this post, we found the below image. It made us wonder, is there a union for circus workers? While we couldn’t find a dedicated one, the American Guild of Variety Artists does include circus performers as part of their family. You learn something new every day! No word on whether those poor souls unloading a lion are covered though.

Workers unloading a lion
Photograph of circus workers unloading a lion in its cage from the back of a truck at the Cole Brothers-Clyde Beatty Circus. Bystanders watch close by as the lion is unloaded, 1988. [Original Image here]

Skin Vision in the Soviet Union

How would you describe the physical feeling of a color? Warm? Cold? Slippery? Coarse? Sticky? Would you be able to distinguish between colored objects without looking at them? This 1960s episode of Science and Engineering reported that several young women in the Soviet Union were able to correctly identify colors based on touch alone, a phenomenon called “dermo-optical perception.”

Science and Engineering was a production of Radio Moscow’s English language news service and the program with perhaps the best theme music. Typical of Cold War era nationalist grandstanding, the 10-minute news feature boasted Soviet advancements in the Space Race, medical treatments, and infrastructure projects. This episode treats reports of dermo-optical perception as breaking news, acknowledging the skeptics, but countering with a multitude of research studies which posit that the subjects couldn’t possibly have cheated and that the phenomenon is “an established fact.”

Rosa Kuleshova in a July 1963 issue of Fate Magazine (page 26).
(Fate Magazine)

A particular test subject, 22-year-old Rosa Kuleshova, allegedly exhibited this ability while blindfolded, with a finger placed over the eyepiece of an anomaloscope, a device used to verify color blindness. The narrator (most likely Joe Adamov) announces triumphantly, “[Kuleshova] was able to determine the colors as precisely as the average person does with his eyes; the fingers of her right hand gave the correct answers in all six tests.”  News of Kuleshova’s ability reached American press and even earned her a 1964 profile in Life Magazine.1

The author Albert Rosenfeld and Life Magazine Correspondent Bob Brigham also seemed convinced of Kuleshova’s ability and described similar research conducted by American psychologists. Dr. Richard P. Youtz, a professor of psychology at Barnard College, claimed that he identified a 42-year-old housewife in Flint Michigan who possessed the ability. Rosenfeld reported that “She [Patricia Stanley] had been tested for some 60 hours and Dr. Youtz was quite certain that his test conditions were rigorous enough to rule out any possibility of a hoax.” Dr. Gregory Razran, a psychologist at Queens College participated in experiments in the Soviet Union and became an enthusiastic believer in this supposed scientific breakthrough. He claims that he observed a Russian scientist who could teach the ability to one student for every six that tried. Rosenfeld writes,

Yellow, they said, felt slippery, soft and lightweight. Blue, while not so slippery as yellow, was smoother and the hand could move more freely over it. Red was sticky and clinging. Green was stickier than red but not so course. Indigo was very sticky but harder than red and green. Orange was hard and rough, and inhibited movement. Violet was even rougher and more inhibiting than orange. Black was very inhibiting and clinging, almost gluey, while white was quite smooth, though coarser than Yellow.

A 1966 article by Martin Gardner in Science, explains this supposed ability is a simple magic trick that trained mentalists have been performing for decades: a peek down the nose.2 According to Gardner, there is no way to fully block a person’s sight with a blindfold. There will always be a small gap to peek through, especially if the person lifts their head in a “sniff posture.” Without divulging all the secrets of the performance, Gardner says that,

Practiced performers avoid the sniff posture by tilting the head slightly under cover of some gesture, such as nodding in reply to a question, scratching the neck, and other common gestures. One of the great secrets of successful blindfold work is to obtain a peek in advance, covered by a gesture, quickly memorize whatever information is in view, then later-perhaps many minutes later-to exploit this information under the pretense that it is just then being obtained. Who could expect observers to remember exactly what happened 5 minutes earlier? Indeed, only a trained mentalist, serving as an observer, would know exactly what to look for.

He describes the initial tests conducted by Dr. Youtz with Patricia Stanley as “so poorly designed to eliminate visual clues that they cannot be taken seriously.” According to a New York Times reporter who witnessed the tests, Mrs. Stanley needed several minutes to provide an answer and kept “a steady flow of conversation” with Youtz, asking for hints on her performance.3,4 After Youtz consulted with Gardner for a second, more rigorous round of tests, her odds of correctly identifying colors and patterns on cards was just above that of chance.5 According to Gardner, Soviet Scientists experienced the same drop in results with Rosa, and her equally hyped contemporary Nina Kulagina, when more precautions were taken to account for mentalist tricks. Scientific inquiry into the alleged phenomenon waned after the 1960s.

In 2007 Paranormal investigator Joe Nickell wrote, “To date, no one has demonstrated convincingly, under suitably controlled conditions, the existence of X-ray sight or any other form of clairvoyance or ESP.”6 However, if you suspect you may possess the ability, Rosa Kuleshova insisted in her Life Magazine article, “Anyone who really tries can do it.”


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150287Municipal archives id: T4057

[1] Rosenfeld, Albert. Seeing Color with the Fingers. Life Magazine. Vol. 56 No. 24. 12 June 1964, pp. 102-113.

[2] Gardner, Martin. Dermo-optical Perception: A Peek Down the Nose. Science. 11 February 1966: Vol. 151, Issue 3711, pp. 654-657.

[3] Plumb, Robert K. “Woman Who Tells Colors by Touch Mystifies Psychologist.” New York Times, 8 January 1964.

[4] Plumb, Robert K. “6th Sense Is Hinted in Ability to ‘See’ With Fingers.” New York Times, 26 January 1964.

[5] “Housewife Is Unable to Repeat Color ‘Readings’ With Fingers.” New York Times, 2 February 1964.

[6] Nickell, Joe. “Second Sight: The Phenomenon of Eyeless Vision.” Adventures in Paranormal Investigation. 2007. University Press of Kentucky, pp. 211-218.


Bad Children of History #33: Struwwelpeter in Russia

Today we were deep in a pile of uncataloged Russian children’s books and found… another version of Struwwelpeter, published in Moscow and illustrated by Boris Zvorykin!


So slovenly! Look at that droopy sock!

Here’s Struwwelpeter refusing to let his grandmother sponge off his shirt cuffs…


…leading him to weep silently alongside some semi-domesticated boars.


This book doesn’t contain all of the stories from the original, although it does have a few select favorites, including the sad story of the thumb-sucker accompanied by a thumb-removal illustration so ghastly that we will not include it here.

Instead, look at these sweet before-and-after vignettes from The Dreadful Story of the Matches:

A Web Facelift

Special Collections & Archives has needed a web facelift for several years now, however, we were waiting on the overall Libraries’ web redesign project to be completed. Since that project completed with its new look, Special Collections & Archives staff started a complete reimagining and rewrite of all our information on the web. The result was a new set of web pages which launched just in time for the start of fall semester.

SCA Landing Page
Our new landing page at

The new landing page uses an image navigation menu that draws the interest of a user and hopefully makes it clear where they can navigate to find out information about our collections, how to do research, visiting information and other areas of our division such as Heritage & University Archives and the Claude Pepper Library. It also allows for the blog to be highlighted with a running feed and puts our hours, often crucial information for our users, front and center.

Collection Highlights
Collections Highlights page

All the content on our pages has been rewritten to make it clearer, more useful and less overwhelming for users. For example, we added a page to highlight our major collections from Manuscripts, Rare Books, Political Collections and Heritage & University Archives. We do this in sections now rather than using one long page of text. This page will update often allowing our area curators to highlight new and exciting collections as they become available.

Other new pages include icon navigation pages for Research and Collections, a revamped Catalogs & Databases page, a better-organized Visit page that gets our users answers quickly for common visiting questions.  The Exhibits & Events page now links to the FSU Calendar so it’s always up to date with current exhibits and upcoming events in our spaces.

SCA Reproduction Form
A form for requesting copies of materials in Special Collections & Archives

Perhaps most exciting to our staff are three new forms to help us better get the information we need to help our patrons. The new Class Visits and Research Consultations forms will help better organize instruction sessions and research appointments in Special Collections & Archives. The Reproduction Request Form puts online a form we’ve used on paper for years. This form especially is often needed by patrons unable to visit our Reading Room so putting it online will help not only staff but our long distance patrons who use it the most.

This is our “phase 1” finish line. We will work in the future to update and enhance the pages for the Heritage & University Archives and the Claude Pepper Library. We’d also like to update the Catalogs & Databases page more; allowing a user to search our materials directly from that page. Most web pages are always works-in-progress but we’re happy to share our latest edition of Special Collections & Archives online.


Draft National Archives Strategic Plan

The National Archives, like all other Federal agencies, is required to produce a new Strategic Plan every four years. Our Strategic Plan establishes our Mission, Strategic Goals, and Objectives, and describes how NARA will meet our ambitious vision. We have posted a new, draft Strategic Plan and invite feedback from public and government customers, stakeholders, and colleagues in the archival, historical, and records management communities.

This draft Plan was first shared with National Archives employees on August 17. We have a tradition of engaging staff in the development of our Strategic Plan and feel strongly that every voice should have the opportunity to be heard and be involved in the process. After a week of employee feedback the National Archives is now sharing the plan with stakeholders and the public for comment.

Options for viewing the draft Plan and submitting feedback include:

The draft plan reaffirms the current Mission, Vision, Values, Transformational Outcomes and Strategic Goals (see Strategic Plan (FY 2014-FY 2018). The plan updates the agency’s Strategic Objectives to reflect its ongoing commitment to digitization and increased access, setting specific target dates for completion of initiatives. Notably the plan provides federal agencies, already moving toward digital records storage and transfer, with a deadline for submitting analog records: “By December 31, 2022, NARA will no longer accept transfers of permanent or temporary records in analog formats and will accept records only in electronic format and with appropriate metadata.”

Please submit your comments by September 1, 2017. Feedback will be collected and considered, and the draft Plan will be revised, and then shared with the Office of Management and Budget by September 11, 2017. The final Strategic Plan will be published in February 2018, and will become the agency’s official plan for Fiscal Years 2018 through 2022.

We look forward to your feedback throughout this development process.

Solar eclipse chasers: Prof. David Peck Todd and Mabel Loomis Todd

I hope everyone had a chance to glimpse the partial – or total – solar eclipse on Monday.  All this talk of our recent “Great American” eclipse got me thinking about previous eclipses and two early eclipse chasers in Amherst history: David Peck Todd (AC 1875) and Mabel Loomis Todd.  David Peck Todd, graduate of Amherst class of 1875, Professor of Astronomy, and Director of the Observatory, made his first solar eclipse expedition with the U.S. Navy to view the eclipse of 1878 in Texas.  This was just the first of many expeditions to view and study solar eclipses.  After their marriage in 1879, Mabel Loomis Todd (most famous for editing Emily Dickinson’s poetry) accompanied David Todd on many of his expeditions, including to Japan, Tripoli, and Russia.

Recent articles have been published about the Todds and their astronomical expeditions, including The Star-Crossed Astronomer by Julie Dobrow and Mabel Loomis Todd’s Poetic 19th-Century Guide to Totality by Maria Popova.  These articles document the Todds’ international travels in pursuit of the study of solar eclipses and other astronomical occurrences.

Mabel Loomis Todd later gave speeches about her experiences on these international expeditions and published several books and articles, including Total Eclipses of the Sun (1894), Corona and Coronet (1898), and A Cycle of Sunsets (1910).

While the papers of David Peck Todd and Mabel Loomis Todd are held at Yale, we do have many publications of the Todds’ astronomical research, professional papers, newsclippings, and speech announcements in their respective biographical files.And do keep these “Directions for Observing the Total Solar Eclipse” handy for the next solar eclipse coming our way in 2024.

NARA’s 2018-2022 Draft Strategic Plan

All Federal agencies are required to produce a strategic document every four years. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) invites public and government partners, stakeholders, and colleagues in the archival, historical, and records management communities to submit comments on NARA’s draft 2018-2022 Strategic Plan.

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) encourages its stakeholders to submit comments on NARA’s strategic plan by the September 1, 2017 deadline.

Instructions to provide feedback are available online or by email to  If you have any questions about the draft plan or the review process, please email or the PIDB’s email

Highlights from NARA’s Draft Strategic Plan:

The draft strategic plan establishes NARA’s mission, strategic goals, and objectives.  The plan describes how NARA will meet a vision of the agency’s future where it will be known for “cutting-edge access to extraordinary volumes of government information and unprecedented engagement to bring greater meaning to the American experience.”  Notably, the plan provides Federal agencies, already implementing electronic records management, with a deadline for the next step in the transition to fully-electronic recordkeeping:  By December 31, 2022, NARA will no longer accept transfers of permanent or temporary records in analog formats and will accept records only in electronic format and with appropriate metadata

Other select goals and objectives include:

  • By FY 2019: NARA will conduct inspections of records management practices at 10% of Federal agencies, to ensure that Federal email and other permanent electronic records are being managed in an electronic format.
  • By FY 2020: Digitize 500 million pages of records and make them available online to the public through the National Archives Catalog
  • By FY 2021: 82% of NARA holdings will be processed to enable discovery by the public
  • By FY 2025: Provide finding aids to 95 percent of the holdings described in the National Archives Catalog
  • By FY 2025: NARA’s data will be used as a primary data source by at least 15 external sources
  • By FY 2025: Will have 1 million records enhanced by citizen contributions to the National Archives Catalog

The PIDB will post its comments on NARA’s draft strategic plan in the coming weeks.

Join us for an Archives Hashtag Party!

Last month we kicked off a new social media campaign. The Archives Hashtag Party is a way for our colleagues in the archives community to highlight the diversity of their holdings around a fun topic. We invite you to bring your own collections and join in!

The new surprise theme in our Archives Hashtag Party will be announced the first Friday of each month through 2017. Visit our website or follow @USNatArchives to find each month’s new theme.

Share documents, photographs, and artifacts from your collections on Twitter or Instagram and use the designated hashtag. Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums, (GLAMs) and more are welcome–archives exist in every type of organization.

Archives Hashtag PartyWomen Making Bohemian Lace, July 1974. View in National Archives Catalog

We hosted the first “party” on August 4, with a theme that celebrated friendship, style, and history: #ArchivesSquadGoals. We received an amazing response from archives across the country, both large and small! The hashtag also caught on with new audiences and climbed onto the U.S. Twitter trends board.

On the day of the event, #ArchivesSquadGoals was used over 12,700 times on Twitter with over 11,000 contributors tweeting the hashtag. Over 200 peer organizations answered the call to action and shared items from their own holdings!

See these amazing contributions in our Storify stories on Twitter and Instagram.

One of our primary goals for this campaign is to boost the visibility of archives across the country. Our audience told us that they loved the spotlight on archives:

#ArchivesSquadGoals was undoubtedly entertaining, but it also showed the relevance of archives. The event turned the guiding principles of the National Archives Social Media Strategy into a dynamic event that delighted audiences, put a surprising twist on current trends, and boosted growth and community collaboration.

Social media collaborations such as these further NARA’s mission by creating a meaningful space to implement our Strategic Plan to make access happen, connect with customers, maximize NARA’s value to the nation, and build our future through our people by collaborating in an open, inclusive environment. They boost public awareness of cultural organizations, spark audience engagement and growth, and best of all, audiences love them.

We hope to see you at the next Archives Hashtag Party on Friday, September 1!

Drama Off Broadway

Is Aesthetic Realism “a Village cult” or a powerful force bringing new dramatic interpretations to the stage? That is the question addressed in this 1970 edition of Seminars in Theater. Host Richard Pyatt speaks with actor Ted Van Griethuysen, who is performing in the Opposite Company’s production of Hedda Gabler. A radical reinterpretation of the Ibsen classic, this version of the play is grounded in the principles of Aesthetic Realism, a world-view propounded by poet and philosopher Eli Siegel. This proselytizing note being sounded not only in the production but apparently in the accompanying press material may have led the conventional critics, led by the New York Times, to pan the show (though not the actors.) Clive Barnes offered a particularly scathing appraisal. Members of the Aesthetic Realism community responded with a letter-writing campaign. When these letters were not printed, they picketed the Times’ offices in protest. Eventually, some letters were printed, and Eli Siegel himself was invited to publish a response. Van Griethuysen, both an actor and a practitioner of Aesthetic Realism, contends that the critics’ hostility was due to their feeling “threatened because they found they could learn something.” The main bone of contention seems to be portraying the play’s heroine in a positive light, claiming that she is an “essentially good person.” Van Griethuysen connects this to Aesthetic Realism’s emphasis on self-improvement, uniting opposites to form a harmonious whole. Although there seems to have been a fair amount of acrimony, he is more interested in educating than scoring points. And selling tickets, of course. The controversy had extended the play’s run.

Eli Siegel (1902-1970) is not heard in this broadcast but provides the background against which it takes place. Originally a poet and book critic, he soon found his true calling as the proponent of a self-styled philosophical system which he expounded in thousands of lectures given at his Jane Street apartment. According to the Aesthetic Realism website, these principles can be summarized as: 

    The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.
    The greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the world and what is in it…. Contempt can be defined as the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.
    All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.

Unlike most cults (which Aesthetic Realism rejects being called, though it would seem to fit many of the criteria) Siegel’s followers did not press for rapid expansion. As the Hedda Gabler controversy illustrates, this may have had to do with an innate distrust of the media. A shroud of mystery surrounded the group and its founder, which extended even to his death. In its obituary, The New York Times reported:

Almost from the beginning of Aesthetic Realism in 1941, Mr. Siegel and his followers who prefer to be called students insisted that the philosophy was being boycotted by the press and that it was thus impossible for them to propagate their views and gain a wide following. The Aesthetic Realism Foundation, which teaches Mr. Siegel’s beliefs, refused yesterday to give the clinical cause of his death. But it said in a news release that he had “died of a broken heart, having suffered for over 50 years from injustices of the press and literary world.”

In more recent times, Aesthetic Realism has gained perhaps unwanted attention for its claims of being able to reprogram homosexuals so that they will be attracted to the opposite sex.

When one goes back to the negative review that set off this brouhaha, it seems pretty mild. Barnes notes:

“Hedda Gabler” is a difficult play to give well—indeed, in fairness, it is probably a difficult play even to give badly. At first I thought all the actors, with the ice cold and blazing exception of Rebecca Thompson as Hedda, were atrocious. But as time ticked on (the evening is in fact only three‐and‐a‐half hour long, but it contrives to seem much longer) it occurred to me that this was possibly not involuntary bad acting but the conscious imposition of a bad style. It struck me that the misguided intention was to put the histrionic spotlight on one character — here, of course, Hedda—and to permit everyone else to drag and mutter out his lines like in articulate kids testifying before a public opinion poll. Certainly Miss Thompson gets half of a chance. No one else gets a quarter as much.

One senses that, however genuine the outrage generated by this and other reviews, the resulting publicity was being turned to good advantage. More generally, the interview provides an interesting picture of the theater-world in 1970, with its apocalyptic sense of values being threatened—or threatened with improvement!—on all sides. As Pyatt rather surprisingly remarks:  “I think it is one of the most wonderful things of the 20th century that the Opposites Company can generate that much activity and interest in a cultural event when the world is falling apart.”


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 151298Municipal archives id: T7418

New Tarpon Club Donation to Heritage & University Archives

George Milton, a former anthropology professor here at Florida State University, was well-known not only for his southern charm but also his unique expression through his artwork. During the late 1930’s, Milton was stationed in the Washington D.C. area during his career in the Air Force in World War II and then studied painting at the prestigious Corcoran School of Art after the war. He then furthered his education by receiving a master’s degree in painting and art history from Florida State.


From a recent donor, the Heritage & University Archives was presented with an original painting from Milton on his impression of the Tarpon Club Tryouts. His dedication to his practice of art was emphasized when he wrote, “a painting is a record of an individual’s personal and vicarious experiences and sensations which he records symbolically and representatively through such media as line, color, form, and texture as they are guided by his conscious and subconscious mind.”

For more information on FSU’s Tarpon Club check out our collection here:

There are also videos and photographs in Diginole:

For more information on George Milton:

Giving more context with artifacts: the Reubin Askew Papers

Often, it is the memorabilia and ephemera of a politician or public figure that offers the most insight into that individual’s life and work. Recently, the staff of the Claude Pepper Library and Museum completed the physical processing of former Governor Reubin Askew’s personal and professional memorabilia, adding a variable trove of new material to the finding aid of the State of Florida’s 33rd governor. From his U.S. Air Force  issue belt and garrison cap(he served from 1951-53), to one of his blue collared shirts which he dutifully wore during his many press conferences as governor, these items add an invaluable layer of context to Askew’s already existing collection of manuscript materials that chronicle his time as governor, U.S. Foreign Trade Representative and runs for president in 1984 and U.S. Senate in 1987. Please visit the Claude Pepper Library and Museum website for further information on our collections and potential opportunities for learning and exploring our political collections!

Colored pencils used by Reubin Askew during the Florida Senate reapportionment of 1960.

Catalogue updates – August 2017

Lise Summers
Monday, August 21, 2017 – 14:51

Since the start of 2017, staff have been uploading new items to the online catalogue. Many of these descriptions have been created by our Work Experience Project teams over a number of years, and feature some extra details beyond merely the item title and date range.  You’ll see material from the Egg Marketing Board of WA, some new intestate files and transfers from Mental Health., for instance. In addition, we’ve uploaded the remaining fieldbooks digitised with funding from the Friends of Battye. While the original project focused on the fieldbooks of surveyors with surnames starting with A, this second tranche was based on the contribution made by certain surveyors like John Spetimus Roe, Alexander and John Forrest, the Lefroys and so on.

(Some fieldbooks equal or exceed 100MiB. To see these items, please contact so we can work with you to find the most suitable format and delivery method.)

Why not browse our catalogue to see what’s been added recently? Simply choose Archival Description on the side menu on the catalogue home page, and then use the filter to sort by Recent Updates. Choose “Show results with digital objects” for the fieldbooks.

Or save the urls to check back on a regular basis –

Paul Robeson Hosts WQXR Program

There are recordings of Paul Robeson singing, acting, narrating, testifying before Congress, and making speeches at rallies and protests. But doing a record show? Well, we wish we had a recording the of program he did on WQXR when the above photo was taken. But alas, it has yet to surface. Still, the occasion is worth noting. Keynote Record’s Eric Bernay[1] had just released an album of three discs recorded two years earlier in Spain during that country’s tragic civil war. Robeson, long a supporter and advocate for the Republican government against General Francisco Franco’s fascist military, took an opportunity to publicize the release over WQXR on the evening of September 17, 1940.  

Robeson described how the original discs were recorded by a chorus of international volunteers from the Thaelmann Battalion in 1938 as Barcelona was under siege by the fascists.

Singer and actor Ernst Busch in 1946.
Photo by Abraham Pisarek/Deutsche Fotothek

With them was the exiled German actor and singer Ernst Busch, who had joined the International Brigades in 1937 and his performances were broadcast by Radio Barcelona and Radio Madrid. Robeson recalled meeting Busch.

I remember first hearing him sing these songs in Moscow, and hearing him gave me the inspiration to sing them, and others like them. Busch was a great artist, with a magnificent feeling for the folk song. And he was one of the first artists who found that, as an artist, he had a part to play.[2]

Most of the press chose to ignore Robeson’s brief stint as a music commentator for WQXR, although the American Communist Party’s newspaper, the Daily Worker, featured the appearance three days later in its September 20th edition.

New York’s radio audience was stirred and thrilled by those same voices singing those same songs over Station WQXR, with another great people’s artist, another famed actor-singer, Paul Robeson, telling the story behind the records and avowing once again that the spirit of them is unquenchable. The Spanish people, and the International Volunteers, Robeson said in introducing the songs, “showed to all the world that the people’s will to freedom will always be greater than the fascist will to conquer.” And it was only through the betrayal of Spain by the democracies, Robeson pointed out, that Spain was defeated. And “France,” he said, “fell with Madrid.”[3]

A label attached to the album explains that defects in the recording were due power failures because of shelling by the enemy. (A. Lanset Collection)

The six songs included are The Four Generals, Song of the United Front, Song of the International Brigader, Die Thälmann Kolonne (above on audio player), Hans Beimler, and a song from the Nazi concentration camps, Song of the Peat Bog Soldiers.

Six Songs for Democracy issued by Keynote Records in 1940. Cover art by Howard Willard.
(A. Lanset Collection)

[1] Eric Bernay was the former editor of The New Masses magazine.

[2] Excerpts from: “Spain Lives in Recorded Songs, Robeson Tells Radio Audience, WQXR Broadcasts Records Made in Midst of Conflict,” The Daily Worker, September 20, 1940, pg. 7.

[3] Ibid.

Special thanks to Terrie Albano and Dr. Timothy V. Johnson for their assistance.

Vancouver’s unbuilt leisure palace

While working on rehousing some of our map collection, I recently came across drawings from one of the more interesting unrealised development projects in the city’s past: a winter swimming pool and leisure complex proposed for English Bay in 1920.

Public natatorium and concert hall, English Bay (Sharp and Thompson, in conjunction with A.S. Wootton, 1920). Reference code: VPK-S98: LEG1969.09

For over a century, English Bay beach has been one of Vancouver’s most popular playgrounds. English Bay has always attracted waterfront development, and in the early years, privately-built and operated bathing houses, as well as residences, lined the shoreline.

Private residences and bathing houses on English Bay Beach, 1899. Reference code: AM54-S4: Be P81

In 1901 City Council voted to purchase the lands along the foreshore between what is now Gilford and Bidwell streets and make improvements for a public bathing beach, and in 1902 and 1903, these properties were either purchased or expropriated by the City. These properties included the Pavilion Bathing House, which became first City-owned bathing house, located in the same spot as the current English Bay bathhouse.

Pavilion Bathing House at English Bay ~1901. Reference code: AM54-S4: SGN 302

In 1905 the beach and foreshore were placed under the administration of the Park Board (called the Board of Parks Commissioners at the time). From this point on, responsibility for developing recreational amenities at English Bay for the city’s growing population was the responsibility of the Park Commissioners.

A growing population in the West End and a desire further develop the area led to the construction of a second bathing facility. In 1907, architect E.E. Blackmore designed the second of three bath houses at English Bay (finished in 1909), and for more than 20 years  the two buildings existed side-by-side.

English Bay scene Aug. 3, 1930, showing both bath houses (Stuart Thomson). Reference code: AM1535: CVA 99-2118

But for some people, two public bath houses weren’t enough. Between 1916 and 1921, the Park Board Commissioners tried to build something grander at English Bay: a “natatorium”, a heated salt water swimming pool and baths for winter use.

In 1916, Commissioner W.R. Owen submitted to the Board the idea for a winter swimming facility to be built at English Bay. Park Board Engineer A.S. Wootton was charged with gathering information on the construction and operating costs of similar facilities in other cities, and in 1919 the Vancouver architecture firm of Sharp and Thompson was chosen to work with Wootton to develop a concept for a swimming pool building. On November 12, 1919, C.J. Thompson for Sharp and Thompson and A.S. Wootton jointly submitted a report to the Park Board, discussing various options for siting the new building.

Final page of report from Sharp and Thompson, and A.S. Wootton, dated Nov. 12, 1919 (Photo: Sharon Walz)

As you can see from the drawing below and the one at the top of the post the architects somewhat exceeded their brief of designing a “swimming bath” and instead designed a veritable palace of leisure which would house, beyond the swimming pool and baths, a 660-seat public lecture hall, restaurant, tea room and winter gardens.

Upper and main floor plans (Sharp and Thompson, in conjunction with A.S. Wootton, 1920). Reference code: VPK-S98: LEG1969.10

In a concession to their original brief, though, the building was designed to be built in two phases. The first would be the natatorium itself, the portion of their proposed building that would hold the swimming pool and baths.

Elevations, floor plan and cross-section of swimming baths (Sharp and Thompson, in conjunction with A.S. Wootton, 1920). Reference code: VPK-S98: LEG1969.12

Their recommendation was that the building be located west of Beach Avenue, between Chilco and Guilford Streets, as is shown in this drawing.

Site plan and lower ground floor plan (Sharp and Thompson, in conjunction with A.S. Wootton, 1920). Reference code: VPK-S98: LEG1969.11

In the end, the economic recession that occurred after World War I put an end to the dream of an English Bay leisure palace. The Park Board decided in 1921 that a by-law to raise the more than $75,000 estimated cost would be defeated by the voters. City Council had been resistant to the project from the beginning, and without their support it was doubly likely that appeals for funding would fail. The Board toyed with the idea of having the facility built and operated by a private company, but the few enquiries from local development companies in 1921 and 1922 came to nothing.

In the end, the only significant development after 1909 that took place in English Bay was the removal of the first public bathing pavilion across the street from Alexandra Park and its replacement with the current English Bay bath house.

Moss Hart, Act One

Moss Hart charms in this 1959 meeting of the Book and Author Luncheon. Hart is here to plug his new memoir, Act One. With his wife, the actress Kitty Carlisle, as well as the publisher Bennett Cerf and his wife Phyllis on the dais, he describes how a playwright and director came to write prose. His play The Climate of Eden had flopped. Licking his wounds, unable to write, he complained to fellow dramatist S.N. Behrman, who suggested he start keeping a diary. He did, more as an exercise in discipline that with any thoughts toward publication, which he then claimed to burn, because it was “very indiscreet.” (In fact, he kept it, ordering it to be kept sealed until after both his and his wife’s death.) Perhaps in counterpoint to these acid, unpublishable musings, he at the same time began to write the story of his life from his earliest artistic yearnings to his first great show business success. Hart describes the writing as therapy rather than art. He read it every night to his wife, who urged him to continue.

Kitty Carlisle in Die Fledermaus, November 1, 1933
(Carl Van Vechten,/Library of Congress)

When he had reached “the end” of those memoirs, that is to say the beginning of his life as the wildly successful man of the theater known to the public, he stopped, much to the consternation of Cerf, who felt readers would feel cheated if after journeying with him through the poverty and disappointment of his early years they did not get to hear about his subsequent fame and fortune. But Hart stuck to his guns, although he tantalizes the audience with possible material for “Act Two,” telling two theater stories, one about Gertrude Lawrence in his play Lady in the Dark and one about the nineteen-year-old Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady. Both these anecdotes, though mildly amusing, illustrate Hart’s reason for stopping Act One where he did. They are merely vignettes, not part of the achingly moving story of a child’s fairy-tale-like quest to enter the magical world of Broadway.

Moss Hart (1904-1961) grew up poor in the outer boroughs of New York City. His love of theater was early and immediate. He spent years as an entertainer in Catskills resorts, putting on skits and entertaining vacationing guests while also writing plays, none of which were produced. As the website for the American Society of Authors and Writers explains:

He wanted to write big, sprawling plays the way his idol, Eugene O’Neill, did.  But all the major producers kept turning him down, telling him that they wanted comedies.  Eventually, Hart decided to give them what they wanted and wrote the play, Once in a Lifetime.  He enlisted legendary playwright George S. Kaufman to help fine-tune the script, which the two of them worked on for months.  They showed rough versions of the play to audiences and noted what made people laugh and what didn’t.  When it was finally fully released in 1930, it was a huge success, and Moss Hart found himself rich and famous almost overnight.  He was only 25.

Hart went on to write several more hits with Kaufman as well as many successes on his own. He also became a sought-after director, bringing both My Fair Lady and Camelot to Broadway. Act One, however, had an influence far beyond that of your typical theatrical memoir. Its evocation of longing, both for material success and for the magical life of a created world, struck a chord with people all over the country, even those who had never seen a play. It was on the best-seller list for almost a year. Its power is still felt today. Frank Rich, writing in New York Magazine, notes:

…the book’s devoted fan base isn’t limited to theater nerds. Terry Gilliam has told of how Hart inspired him to bolt the Midwest for New York, where he sought out a cartoonist hero, Mad magazine co-founder Harvey Kurtzman, and started on the path to Monty Python. Graydon Carter is an Act One fanatic who discovered the book while in high school in Ottawa… Another, if unexpected, Hart devotee is the novelist Ann Patchett. After she started a second career as an independent bookseller in Nashville two years ago, she said thatAct One is one of the best things about owning a bookstore” because, as she put it, “I can sell Act One to people all day long.”

Paradoxically, Hart the dramatist is now a largely forgotten figure. His theater work seems very much of its time, reflecting popular tastes rather than challenging viewers to think or feel in new ways. Yet as seen from the rapturous reception he is given at this luncheon, he seemed the very epitome of the American Success Story. Brad Leithauser, considering this in the New York Times, asks:

What was Hart hungering for? More than anything else, perhaps, for applause — that miraculous equalizer and simplifier. In this he was united with creators and performers everywhere, great and small. However sublime and rarefied the performance enacted on stage … it ultimately resolves itself into that simple, timeless web of upraised hands, applauding. Moss Hart, who died of a heart attack at the age of 57, chased after that image and that sound his whole life. If he didn’t push his audiences very hard, he stroked them affectionately. And they responded, gratefully.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150250Municipal archives id: LT8956

V-J Day at WNYC: A Behind the Scenes Look

WNYC Program Director Nathan M. Rudich in the 1940s courtesy of Glynn Rudich.

Seventy-two years ago today WNYC program director Nathan M. Rudich arrived at the studio at 6:15 a.m. just before the AM station signed on. News and Special Events Director Lily Supove had been at her desk since 4:30 a.m. It would be another in a series of nerve-wracking days anticipating confirmation that the war was really over. We know this because Rudich had typed a  two-page single-spaced letter to station director Morris S. Novik about the events leading up to V-J Day.

Director Novik had gone overseas at the invitation of General Eisenhower, and approval from the White House, as part of a delegation of fifteen American broadcast executives. The trip was aimed at acquainting them with broadcast operations in the European theater as well as military radio in wartime. Before he left, he had told Rudich that peace just might break out on his watch and to “do what we did on V-E Day.”

Rudich’s letter, written on August 21st, confirms that they did. It also provides a rare behind-the-scenes accounting of the charged atmosphere in the city from Saturday, August 11 through Tuesday, August 14, the day World War II ended. A copy of the letter was generously made available to WNYC by Rudich’s daughter Glynn.

Note: The audio above is from Mayor La Guardia’s regular Sunday, Talk to the People on August 12, 1945 courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives. “Mike” in the letter below is WNYC newsman Mike Jablons.

Saturday into Sunday/August 11 and 12

Excerpt of August 21, 1945 letter from Nat Rudich to Morris Novik.
(Courtesy of Glynn Rudich.)

Monday/August 13

WNYC had three public address sound trucks on alert and ready to be dispatched, but nothing was happening. People all over the city were tense. They were beginning to think rumors that the war was over were a hoax. Rudich described the waiting as “most exasperating.”

Tuesday/August 14

Tokyo radio announced at 1:50 a.m. the Japanese had accepted the surrender terms and Rudich got a call from Lily Supove. Still, there was no confirmation from Washington. It was more hurry-up and wait with WNYC’s engineers following Mayor La Guardia from Gracie Mansion to City Hall in the event news broke so he could make a statement.

Excerpt of August 21, 1945 letter from Nat Rudich to Morris Novik.
(Courtesy of Glynn Rudich.)

Mayor La Guardia at 9:45 A.M. August 14, 1945.

Through it all, WNYC kept telling listeners to “go to work” and “stay on the job” and that there still was no confirmation. At 1:00 p.m. there were no doubt groans in the newsroom. Swiss diplomats had still not received any definite word. Everyone remained on standby and at the edge of their seats for another five hours.

Excerpt of August 21, 1945 letter from Nat Rudich to Morris Novik.
(Courtesy of Glynn Rudich)

Mayor La Guardia at 7:35 PM August 14, 1945. You can hear the celebratory horns and whistles in the background.

Excerpt of August 21, 1945 letter from Nat Rudich to Morris Novik.
(Courtesy of Glynn Rudich)

This letter is a sobering reminder of the pre-digital age when history making events were not instantaneously flashed across the screens of billions of smart phones, televisions, tablets and computers. Vacuum tubes, like incandescent light bulbs, were the common carriers while transistors and microchips remained in the domain of science fiction. Still, you could say this coverage was 24/7 news in its infancy; clunky and filled with all the noise and static that came with a mechanical analog world.  

As for the letter writer Nathan M. Rudich, he directed radio and live shows for the Civilian Defense Organization and the United Nations during the war. In fact, some of these radio dramas were broadcast on WNYC and others aired at WOR and WINS. He also taught in the Dramatic Workshop at the New School (later known as the Actors Studio). In 1944 he came to WNYC as the station’s drama director, rising to Program Director by the end of 1945. It was Rudich who would offer a young Canadian-born folksinger named Oscar Brand the chance to do a radio show.

After WNYC, he was a partner with Mike Jablons and Jack Gaines in a public relations firm. During the 1950s he was a program director at WLIB, then owned by the brothers Harry and Morris Novik. Rudich moved on to be a television producer and director at WOR. Subsequently, he worked as publicity manager at United Artists before spending 16 years as executive assistant to Otto Preminger*, the movie director and producer, earning Associate Producer credit on several Preminger films. When Nathan M. Rudich died in 1975 at the age of 56, he was the national director of marketing services for the 20th Century‐Fox Corporation.

Original transcription disc sleeve from the 9:45 a.m. August 14, 1945 broadcast by Mayor La Guardia
(Courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives)

In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, a sailor and a nurse kiss passionately in Manhattan’s Times Square, as New York City celebrates the end of World War II, on August 14, 1945.
(AP Photo/U.S. Navy/Victor Jorgensen)

Audio courtesy of the New York City Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.



Three apples from “Apples of New York,” by Spencer Ambrose Beach.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association summer conference takes place this weekend at Hampshire College.  One of the first seminars was “The Full Skinny on Healthy Orcharding” with Michael Phillips from Lost Nation Farm in New Hampshire.  Yours truly was there, learning about fungal duff management and other good things .

As it happens, the seminar was held right down the street from the site of Professor Edward Tuckerman’s little home orchard, which he called Applestead.  Tuckerman and his wife, Eliza, built Applestead over the period of a few years in the 1850s, beginning not long after they moved to Amherst from Boston.  The house was of stone – built to last, Eliza said in a letter to her sister Mattie.   Eliza’s letter also suggested that the house was designed by Edward Clarke Cabot, a well-known architect and, again according to Eliza, an old friend of Edward’s.

It was a beautiful house, and Edward put a lot of effort into designing the grounds, for in addition to his many interests, including botany, religion, history, and genealogy, he was also a zealous gardener.  After he scoured the seed catalogs and planned the garden beds for beans and potatoes and peas, he envisioned many fruit trees.  The modest plan for his orchard — “Preserve carefully” he wrote on the front — is now in the Cushing-Tuckerman-Esty Papers at Amherst College.  There, among the pears and cherries, an observant orchardist will see that he has planned for several fine apple varieties, namely Rhode Island Greening, Baldwin, Northern Spy, Red Astrachan, Sops of Wine, Porter, and Gravenstein, shown in a detail here:

Most of these apples are still available to plant today – I have a few (okay, most) of these myself.  Part of the lure of heirloom apples is the names, and for some budding apple growers it’s hard to resist buying an example of every curiously-named apple.  It’s nice — probably very wise — to have a selection in your orchard of modern, disease-resistant apples such as Liberty, Enterprise, or Freedom (what bloody boring names, though), but it’s far more addictive to track down heirloom varieties such as (to list a very few) Razor Russet, Cornish Gilliflower, Hubbardston Nonesuch, or Westfield-Seek-No-Further.  How can you resist?  The Tuckermans didn’t resist.  They planted their orchard.


Detail from a larger photo, showing the Tuckerman orchard in early spring.


The Tuckerman’s mature orchard in 1921, when Applestead was a fraternity. Note the train running past the house — the track was added only a few decades after the Tuckermans built Applestead.

Detail from map of Amherst, 1873, by F. Beers. “G.F. Tuckerman” should read “E. Tuckerman.”

The property and the orchard only lasted about 70 years.  In the 1920s Amherst College administrators decided that the athletic facilities should be improved, and that the Tuckerman property would be the site of the “Amherst College Base Ball Cage.”  The map at left shows the three properties along “Broadway” (now South Pleasant Street) that would be torn down in order to erect the Cage.  In a few pages devoted to this project in Stanley King’s “Consecrated Eminence,” the destruction of Applestead received only one sentence: “The stone house, known as the Tuckerman house, then standing at the site, was taken down.”  The orchard is long gone, but somewhere — even as pieces or pebbles or dust — that indestructible stone is brooding over the razing of Applestead.

Detail from a photograph in the Buildings and Grounds Collection showing the Cage and its grounds. The Tuckermans’ property would have been to the right of the train tracks.