Magician of the Week #32: Hermann Homar

This week’s magician, Hermann Homar, was a Kansas native who, after traveling the United States, settled in Chicago, where he performed as “The Wizard of the West”.


The April 1957 issue of M-U-M: Magic, Unity, Might offers a meandering profile of Homar, describing his childhood passing out handbills so that he could get free admission to travelling shows, his adult life as a brakeman on the Santa Fe Railroad, and some lean years touring with a magic show during the Great Depression. (His truck was repossessed en route to Fort Worth, forcing him to put his magic supplies into storage until he earned enough money to continue his journey.)

A favorite tidbit about this Wizard of the West: as a boy, he taught himself how to do magic tricks using books from the public library. (We approve!)

If you’re not yet convinced that Depression-era magicians were tough as nails, listen to this: Homar played a date in Dallas immediately after breaking his right wrist. He brought along a “young friend” to help him get dressed, but his plaster cast didn’t inhibit him from performing the Linking Rings along with the rest of his tricks (although he did recall the show being “less peppy” than usual).

Hermann Homar: a tough, tough wizard.


Memorial Day Celebration Recitation

Memorial Day is a holiday that has changed over time. Today, we tend to associate it with barbeques, sales at the mall, a race on TV and a downtown parade. We often miss the original intention of the holiday, to remember and celebrate those brave men and women who’ve given their lives to protect the United States.

A book in our Shaw Childhood in Poetry collection, Dick’s Festival Reciter, by William B. Dick c1892, gives us a unique look at the holiday following the Civil War and its emphasis on re-uniting the country. Here are instructions for how to decorate and what should be on the schedule for a Memorial Day program circa 1892:

The hall or school assembly room should be profusely adorned with all the accessories emblematic of the occasion, the red, white, and blue being conspicuously represented by flags, shields, and other contrivances easily prepared with pasteboard and gilt and colored paper. Portraits of dead heroes, nicely draped, old military relics and accoutrements, and flowers lavishly displayed, add greatly to the appearance of the hall and the interest of the exercises. The platform for the speakers should especially be rendered as bright and attractive as possible, and to this end everything obtainable should be called into requisition for its adornment.


  1. Opening Chorus                     “Columbia the Gem of the Ocean”
  2. Oration                                       “Decoration Day”
  3. Recitation                                  “Them Yankee Blankits”
  4. Solo and Chorus                     “Viva l’America”
  5. Oration                                        “Tribute to Our Honored Dead”
  6. Recitation                                   “Memorial Day”
  7. Solo and Chorus                      “Marching through Georgia”
  8. Recitation                                   “Brothers Once More”
  9. Oration                                         “Sherman on the Veterans”
  10. Solo and Chorus                      “John Brown’s Body”
  11. Recitation                                   “The Day’s Oration is in Flowers”
  12. Reading                                       “Patriotic Sentiments”
  13. Recitation                                   “For Decoration Day”
  14. Recitation                                   “Our Dead Heroes”
  15. Chorus                                          “God Save the State”

The book then very helpfully also provides the text for all the recommended songs, orations, recitations and readings. In case you feel the need to recite this Memorial Day, here is “The Day’s Oration is in Flowers” by E.L. Hall:

The day’s oration is in flowers;
Sing, ye gardens! Speak, ye bowers!
Let Flora’s rarest banners wave
And fold about the solder’s grave.
Lo! June in red, and May in white,
Their hands will clasp, their brows unite
Above the mounds spread far and wide;
In vales and on the mountain-side;
Round monuments that speak and breathe,
The floral paragraphs we wreathe,
Will emblem glories that entwine
About their brows in climes divine.
Then sing, ye bowers, ye gardens, vie–
In silent eloquence reply.
While incense floats from sea to sea
On winds that sigh, “Let all be free!

Special Collections & Archives will be closed today, May 25th, in observance of Memorial Day. We will resume our normal operating hours on Tuesday, May 26th.

The Claude Pepper Library in Dodd Hall

Last Friday, the Claude Pepper Library at Florida State University celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. Since opening its doors on May 15, 1985 the Pepper Library has provided students and researchers with a place to study and learn, but more importantly, it has provided access to one of the more expansive political collections of the 20th century. In our previous blog post written by Pepper staff member Maria Meade we learned that the original location of the Pepper Library, Dodd Hall, was chosen by both Claude and his wife Mildred for its architectural beauty and the fact that Mildred spent much time there while enrolled as a student at the FSCW when Dodd Hall was the main library on campus having preceded Strozier Library by some 33 years.

From L to R: Frank and Tina Pepper, Senator Claude Pepper and Burt Altman, former FSU Archivist on opening day.
From L to R: Frank and Tina Pepper, Senator Claude Pepper and Burt Altman, former FSU Archivist on opening day.

Interestingly however, the first proposed location for the Pepper Library was indeed the top floor of the Strozier Library Annex. According to the initial proposal for the library, dated June 17, 1977, “material will be housed on a permanent basis in the Strozier Library…A portion of the top floor of the addition [annex] is being planned to house the Pepper Collection. This space will provide storage, study space for students, an office for an archivist as well as space for a replica of the office or offices of Senator Pepper to be arranged to plans formulated with his assistance.” Sadly, Mildred would pass away from esophageal cancer in 1979, and it was during the two year period before her death that the location of the library would be changed from Strozier to Dodd Hall, further honoring Mildred’s time at the university. Thanks to a $475,000 appropriation by the Florida Legislature, Dodd Hall was renovated for its use as the site of the library and museum. The renovations included the restoration of Dodd Hall’s vaulted ceilings, spaces for the Senators recreated House and Senate offices as well as exhibit and research space.

Claude Pepper speaks with the media in the newly opened reading room. Behind him in the distance are his and Mildred's portraits by renowned painter Howard Chandler Christy.
Claude Pepper speaks with the media in the newly opened reading room. Behind him in the distance are his and Mildred’s portraits by renowned painter Howard Chandler Christy.

Dodd Hall would be the home of the Pepper Library for the next eleven years before the collection was moved into storage once more while ground was broken on the site of the new Claude Pepper Center on Call Street. Tune in next week for our post which will give a little history on our current home!

Impeccable Science: Finny Tribes, Horse Fishing, and Dental Apparatus

Today’s post highlights science writing which is not only impeccable, but also delightfully florid, with selections from Dr. G. Hartwig’s The Harmonies of Nature, or, the Unity of Creation (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1866). The book itself is an interesting reflection on homeostasis within ecosystems through predator satiation, various instinctual behaviors, and a balance of “passive and active defences“.

The Harmonies of Nature includes some satisfyingly grotesque scientific diagrams, like this cross-section of the “dental apparatus of the Lamprey, & fang fixed to the roof”.


If that fang fixed to the roof isn’t enough for you, take a gander at this illustration of horses being used to capture electric eels. Hartwig describes it as a “highly entertaining and animated scene”.


(In the spirit of scientific inquiry/ morbid fascination with this mass of writhing aquatic horses, I had to investigate whether Hartwig’s described equine fishing method was a real thing. Apparently 18th and 19th century scientists were very interested in electrical impulses within animals’ bodies, and did scores of somewhat ghastly experiments including one where the charge from an electric catfish stimulated the sciatic nerve in a recently-amputated frog’s leg, causing the leg to kick a little bell. I can’t make this stuff up.

Anyway, among the electrically-curious minds of history was that of German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, who convinced understandably leery Guayquerie Indians to help him capture electric eels for study and documentation. In his account of this process, the Guayquerie drove about 30 wild horses and mules into the river, where the animals thrashed about, driving the eels out of the mud and subsequently tiring them out by absorbing numerous benumbing shocks. The exhausted eels could then be pulled to shore with small harpoons. You can read the text of von Humboldt’s distressing account of ‘horse fishing’ here.)

Steering our conversation back to The Harmonies of Nature, let me leave you with one of the most impressive and reassuring sentences I’ve read in a good while:


Under the protection of an Almighty Lawgiver the equilibrium of the inhabitants of the ocean is thus constantly renewed though constantly assailed; and though the scythe of death is indefatigably mowing throughout Neptune’s domain, it is but to celebrate the eternal triumph of life.

From a current perspective, Hartwig’s earnest confidence in the resilience of Nature’s systems is almost touching. Let’s all keep our collective fingers crossed for the oceanic eternal triumph of life.

1912 historical layer now available in Vanmap

With funding from the City’s Chief Digital Officer and in collaboration with the City’s GIS and Open Data teams, there is now a Vanmap layer made from a mosaic of plates from Goad’s 1912 Fire Insurance Plan. You can find it in Vanmap’s Aerial Imagery category. The data has also been released as part of the City’s Open Data Catalogue. Cropping and georectification of the scanned images was done by McElhanney.

The Vanmap layer, zoomed to downtown.

The Vanmap layer, zoomed to downtown.

What is Goad’s Fire Insurance Map?

Fire insurance maps are created to depict information used to determine fire insurance liability. These maps typically include information on the materials used in a building and, for commercial buildings, the business that operated there if that use affected fire risk. This map was created by collecting information from approved Registered Plans filed with the Land Registry Office and on-site surveys. The plates, which are not all to the same scale, were bound into volumes and were originally used one page at a time: they were not made to be used as one large plan.

Bound volume of Goad’s 1912 Map

Bound volume of Goad’s 1912 Map

Although other companies created Fire Insurance Maps, the Charles E. Goad Company had an exclusive agreement starting in 1911 to supply maps for the Canadian Fire Underwriters’ Association. Goad’s maps are the ones most often found in Canadian archives. Historical fire insurance maps are used today to aid research into the histories of neighbourhoods and individual properties, particularly the changes in site use over time.

The Vanmap layer includes only the portion of the map within the boundaries of present-day Vancouver, although the published map shows other municipalities.

What kind of information does it contain?

The map shows many types of information in detail.

It shows the location, building materials and footprint of buildings. For commercial buildings, the name of the business is written on the plan. Buildings depicted in yellow are wooden buildings. Buildings depicted in pink are all other material types (brick, brick veneer, concrete, stone, etc.).

A downtown block showing footprint, building materials and business names.

A downtown block showing footprint, building materials and business names.

The original shoreline, where it differs from the 1912 shoreline, has been drawn in dashed lines, as have proposed future developments. You may have to turn off the Vanmap Shorelines layer to see all of the shore information.

Old shoreline appears in heavy dashed lines; proposed developments appear in lighter dashed lines.

Old shoreline appears in heavy dashed lines; proposed developments appear in lighter dashed lines.

Electoral Ward information appears on the map. At the time, Vancouver used a ward system. BC Electric Railway lines are also shown.

This part of Ward 6 shows the streetcar line along Fourth Avenue.

This part of Ward 6 shows the streetcar line along Fourth Avenue.

The map contains many different numbers but they are easy to distinguish from each other. Some of the numbers on the map refer to where the information on the map came from, some refer to the legal land descriptions of the lots, and some are descriptive information about the lot itself.

Numbers in circles refer to the Registered Plan that the mapped information was taken from.

Numbers in circles refer to the Registered Plan that the mapped information was taken from.

Many of the numbers on the map refer to legal land descriptions. Legal land descriptions are the unique identifiers for each registered parcel of land, assigned by the Land Registry Office. The legal land description is made up of the District Lot Number, Block Number and Lot Number. All of this information is noted for each lot on this map.

District Lots (marked as D.L. #) are the very large numbers on the map. Some District Lots are very large and multiple adjacent plates can depict one. Some plates depict all or part of multiple District Lots; the boundaries between District Lots are shown as dotted lines.

Numbers for District Lot 526.

Numbers for District Lot 526.

District Lots are subdivided into Blocks, each with its own number.

Block numbers are shown on the map in bold type in the centre of the block.

Block numbers are shown on the map in bold type in the centre of the block.

Blocks are divided into individual lots. Lots on the map can have multiple numbers drawn in or next to them. Numbers written in the centre of the lot represent the Lot Number component of the legal land description. Lot numbers can be a combination of digits and letters, if the initial lot has been subdivided after initial registration.

Part of a block showing lot numbers in the centre of the lot. Some of these lots are subdivided with letters.

Part of a block showing lot numbers in the centre of the lot. Some of these lots are subdivided with letters.

Numbers written along the inside perimeter of the lot show the lot dimensions. In areas where lots were a standard size, such as in some parts of downtown, some dimensions may be depicted as ditto marks (“); this means that dimension is the same as the lot above or to the left. Check along the row of lots to find the dimension value.

The lot on the left (Lot 1) is 50 feet by 120 feet. The lots next to it (Lots 2, 3 and 4) are the same dimensions.

The lot on the left (Lot 1) is 50 feet by 120 feet. The lots next to it (Lots 2, 3 and 4) are the same dimensions.

Numbers written in the space depicting the road in front of the lot show the street address at the time that the lot was registered. Note that street numbers change over time, especially when lots are divided or consolidated.

Street numbers in the 2100 block of West Fourth Street. Note that street numbers have only been shown for the lots that have buildings on them.

Street numbers in the 2100 block of West Fourth Street. Note that street numbers have only been shown for the lots that have buildings on them.

Numbers written in the middle of the road (e.g. –66’–) show the width of the road.

This is a T-intersection. Both roads are 66 feet wide.

This is a T-intersection. Both roads are 66 feet wide.







In 1912, Vancouver, Point Grey and South Vancouver were three separate municipalities. Street names shown reflect those of the day; many of the street names in the municipalities of Point Grey and South Vancouver were different before their amalgamation with Vancouver in 1929. Some streets in Point Grey also have current and historical names noted. After Point Grey separated from South Vancouver in 1908, some street names were changed.

Twenty-sixth Ave. in Point Grey (left side) runs directly into Twenty-Fifth Ave. in South Vancouver (right side).

Twenty-sixth Ave. in Point Grey (left side) runs directly into Twenty-Fifth Ave. in South Vancouver (right side).

The street network in areas undeveloped in 1912 reflects what municipalities might have planned to build, but in some cases did not end up constructing. Of particular note are the University Endowment Lands and south-east Vancouver, where what this map depicts bears no relation to what was actually built when those areas were developed decades later.

Not how the Endowment Lands were developed.

Not how the Endowment Lands were developed.

Why pick the 1912 map?

The 1912 map is rich with information. District Lot 301 and Hastings Townsite had both been annexed by the City of Vancouver in 1911, and old street names are shown. As noted above, the old street names used in Point Grey before 1908 are also shown.

We have all the plates for the Vancouver portion of the 1912 map, and they are in good condition. This map is in the public domain, so we are free to create with it.

What else does it have?

This map contains a few nice surprises. The old streams and creeks are shown as exposed waterways, with bridges across them at some points.

Two wooden bridges over a stream running into False Creek between Heather and Ash.

Two wooden bridges over a stream running into False Creek between Heather and Ash.

There were blocks devoted to market gardens in Point Grey.

These gardens are between Laurel St. and Heather St.

These gardens are between Laurel St. and Heather St.

Land was still being cleared for development. A temporary sawmill is shown in South Vancouver between Wales St. and Vivian St. and 64th Ave. and 65th Ave., near “thick bush”.

Temporary sawmill.

Temporary sawmill.

False Creek extends as far as Grandview. It was not filled in until later in the decade.

Marshy False Creek in Grandview.

Marshy False Creek in Grandview.

Anything there that’s not perfect?

The plates of the map were never meant to be fitted together as one large image. We’ve tried to align them with the current street grid, where appropriate, but sometimes things don’t line up. It would be expensive to make everything perfect.

One side of the old Connaught Bridge doesn’t connect to the other side.

One side of the old Connaught Bridge doesn’t connect to the other side.

Stanley Park was not included in the Vanmap layer because it’s not part of the map.

Open data

We’re releasing the georectified map through the City’s Open Data Catalogue. You can download the entire mosaic as a single zipped file in ECW format. You can also download individual polygons in both ECW and TIF formats.

Interactive download section map. The location represented by an individual polygon is roughly indicated by polygon centroids.

Interactive download section map. The location represented by an individual polygon is roughly indicated by polygon centroids.

We hope you enjoy strolling the virtual streets of 1912 Vancouver. Please join us at the launch this Saturday.#HeritageReboot-1165x1800.fw


Bad Children of History #4

Meet John. He’s a fairly nice little boy, but he’s also an apple thief. He couldn’t resist pocketing a few of Butcher Wharton’s “rosy-cheeked apples”. (Better than the pallid apples at home?)


Here’s a picture of John, the pilfered apples, and the “worthy, though eccentric” butcher (alongside an unidentifiable, suspended piece of meat and a terrifying hatchet).

John’s mother caught him in his fruity transgression and ordered him to return the apples. In a classic whoops-but-I-don’t-want-to-anger-the-guy-with-a-hatchet move, John returned to the butcher shop with the apples, and:

On reaching the door of the shop he noticed some other customers in, and a way of getting out of the difficulty at once occurred to him, and one which would not bring him into contact with the butcher, and this was to roll the apples into the shop from the door. So, taking one of them, he rolled in gently along the floor, and doing the same with the second, he set off home in high glee.

Alas, John’s high glee was short-lived, as his mother did not agree with the genius of his solution and sent him back to apologize– to the eccentric fellow with the hatchet and the sharp hooks.

Yes, it was very hard for little John to face up to his erroneous ways, but as the butcher was, as previously mentioned, worthy, he accepted John’s apology and gave him three apples to take home for himself and his siblings.

Let’s hope they were just as rosy-cheeked as the originals.

(Image and moralistic tale from an 1878 issue of Chatterbox, a weekly illustrated newspaper with stories for children.)

Presenting at the Society of Florida Archivists Annual Meeting

This past week, Katherine Hoarn and myself had the privilege of presenting a paper at the 2015 Society of Florida Archivists Annual Meeting in Miami.

Included below is an abridged version of the paper “Adventures in Outreach: A Case Study” by Katherine Hoarn and Rebecca Bramlett.

Exhibits as Outreach

That I May Remember: The Scrapbooks of Florida State College for Women exhibit
That I May Remember: The Scrapbooks of Florida State College for Women exhibit

For the first part of the case study, I drew upon the experiences Rebecca and I had while planning, creating, and installing the exhibit “That I May Remember: Scrapbooks of the Florida State College for Women.” When we began this project, my brain was awash in memories of visiting some of my favorite museums: the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the MoMA in New York, and the Smithsonian Museums in Washington D.C. I was envisioning clean, slick exhibits in bright, open spaces, with beautiful signage, perfectly cut object labels, state-of-the-art security systems, and objects that had neatly and safely arranged themselves into cases all through their own volition. Then I came back to reality. Exhibits are hard work. They can be a considerable drain on staff hours and resources, but at the end of the day, we believe that exhibits have an important role to play in outreach at our institutions.

Exhibits are an important means of outreach because they give exposure to hidden collections. As someone wrote in our exhibit guest book, “I never knew this was here.” Those are exactly the types of people exhibits are meant to attract: people who don’t know about special collections and wouldn’t otherwise walk into our research center. In addition to bringing attention to certain collections, exhibits provide opportunities for community outreach. Since the “That I May Remember” exhibit focused on FSU history, it was easy to generate community interest, but it’s important to think of other historical societies and cultural organizations that might be interested in coming to see an exhibit.

That I May Remember: The Scrapbooks of Florida State College for Women (1905-1947) exhibit
That I May Remember: The Scrapbooks of Florida State College for Women (1905-1947) exhibit

Although they can be a lot of work, exhibits are also a lot of fun. They can increase access, promote community involvement, and give us librarians and archivists a chance to flex our research muscles. Exhibits shouldn’t be an afterthought, but rather an intentional part of any library and archive’s outreach strategy. Now I’ll turn it over to Rebecca Bramlett to talk about another important outreach method, instruction.

Instruction as Outreach

Whether it’s a page from the Gutenberg Bible; cuneiform tablets from ancient Babylon created in 2500 BCE; letters from the eighteenth century, or a first edition of J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”—at Florida State University’s Special Collections and Archives, classroom instruction engages, educates and inspires. Instruction sessions with Special Collections materials can spark new passion and interest, and transform student understanding of a subject by facilitating interaction with the original, primary source materials.

An instruction session in Special Collections & Archives provides students with the opportunity to interact, engage with, and question topically relevant Special Collections materials under the guidance of their instructor and the Special Collections librarian.  It also provides librarians and archivists with the unique opportunity to reach new users, introducing them to Special Collections by granting students the chance to engage with materials outside of a reading room….

Ostraka and manuscript letters, as shown to the Introduction to the History of Text Technologies class
Ostraka and manuscript letters, as shown to the Introduction to the History of Text Technologies class

One way we approached instruction sessions was by looking across collections.  For example, In selecting materials for the introduction history of text technologies, an undergraduate level English class that focuses on the materiality, functionality, and intentionality of the written word, one thing we did was to juxtapose materials—historically and culturally.  We didn’t limit ourselves to just rare books, but included ephemera and manuscripts, as appropriate.  For example, we explored similar functions throughout time, with ostraka—Roman letters written on pottery shards in the early 2nd century and the manuscript letters and the cuneiform tablets detailing economic transactions with nineteenth century ledgers, also detailing economic transactions.

In this particular instance, the combination of rare books, ephemera, and manuscripts helped deepen the understanding the students were trying to reach.  Moreover, different materials engaged different students.

Paying Homage to Margaret Cross Norton

Last week I had an opportunity to visit with Dave Joens and his staff at the Illinois State Archives—the first AOTUS to visit since Wayne Grover was there in 1952.  Dave and I were able to reenact the original photo op at the same catalogue drawer!

Archives-Norton 1953


Dave Joens and AOTUS























Margaret Cross Norton was the first State Archivist of Illinois from 1922 until 1957.  She was a co-founder of the Society of American Archivists, served in SAA leadership roles for many years, and edited American Archivist from 1946 to 1949.  Her “Catalog Rules: Series for Archives Material” trained generations of archivists.

She fought the good fight distinguishing archives from libraries and historical societies:

“One might conclude…that the ideal archivist is a scholar sitting in a remote ivory tower safeguarding records of interest only to the historian.  In reality the archivist is at the very heart of his government and the archival establishment is a vital cog in its governmental machinery.  Archives are legal records the loss of which might cause serious loss to citizens or the government.”

In the mid-1950s, Grover was working on “The Archivist’s Credo” (later Code) and sent drafts out for review.  Our records are rich with the correspondence between Norton and Grover. She challenges language and basic principles, addresses the non-partisan nature of government archives, and makes it clear that archivists are hired to process and serve archives and not to research their own scholarship!

An added general comment to the draft:

“Probably this also does not belong in the code, but I would say that the most important single need for the archivist is for a strong sense of order.  Disorder must worry him.  I don’t think enough emphasis has been placed upon this in the training of archivists.”

Magician of the Week #31: Frank Mehring

This week’s star magician was selected based solely on the merit of his excellent outfit. Look at this dapper fellow!


Magician Frank Mehring won 1st place in the Originality Contest at the 22nd Annual Houdini Club Convention. What did he do that was so original? Whatever happened to this guy? Where can I get an outfit like that? Please let us know if you have the answer to any of these questions.

Photo from Vol. 51, No. 7 of M-U-M: Magic, Unity, Might.

Research Leave Progress Report: Samson Occom

I have been away from Frost Library for the past month on a short (three month) research leave. My research project is to explore the printing history of one of the texts we acquired as part of the Younghee Kim-Wait (Class of 1982)/Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection: A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, An Indian by Samson Occom.

Samson Occom. A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul. New-London: T. Green, 1772.

Samson Occom. A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul. New-London: T. Green, 1772.

This copy of “The Fourth Edition” arrived at Amherst as part of the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Collection. It is generally regarded as the first book published by a Native American author as his own work. At the end of 2014, we received an earlier edition from alumnus Peter Webb (Class of 1974), which I wrote about here. That blog post from January also includes some information about the other editions of Occom’s Sermon held in the Archives & Special Collections at Amherst College. We have two New-London editions, two copies of the 1788 London, England edition, the 1805 Springfield, MA edition, and the 1827 Welsh edition. My interest was piqued, and I began to dig in to the scholarship on Occom to see just how many editions of this text are known to exist.

In 2006, Oxford University Press published The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Leadership and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Native Americaedited by Joanna Brooks. In her biographical sketch of Occom that opens the volume she writes: “A Sermon, Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, An Indian was first published on October 31, 1772. It subsequently went through nineteen editions, ranking Occom as the sixth leading author in the American colonies during the 1770s” (23). This information only deepened my interest and I continued to dig. Other sources repeated the “nineteen editions” statement, and I recently turned up the source of that number: Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England by W. DeLoss Love, a biography originally published in 1899.

In his book, Love notes the popularity of the Sermon and lists nineteen different editions in a footnote on pages 174-175. He also says “There may have been others which we have not met with or seen noted by bibliographers” (174). It soon became clear to me that I had discovered a gap in Occom scholarship that neatly fit my professional training and interests. Love’s own lack of bibliographical knowledge is revealed by his description of ALL printings of the Sermon as octavo, when the majority are clearly quartos. Although there has been some excellent recent scholarship on Occom from a book history perspective, there was a lack of old-school bibliographical data — basic information on the number of editions and the when, where, and why of their publication.

I began my search with two online resources, one free to all, the other a subscription database available through Frost Library. The English Short Title Catalog is freely available via the British Library and is one of the best sources for bibliographical information on books, pamphlets, broadsides, and other printed material produced prior to 1801 in British Isles, Colonial America, United States of America (1776-1800), Canada, or territories governed by Britain, in all languages. (You can read more about its history and scope here.)  The other handy resource, though not available for free, is The Early American Imprints Series, parts I and II, which is one of many databases Amherst College pays to access via NewsBank/Readex. Though diligent searching of these databases, I assembled a list of twenty-two separate editions of Occom’s Sermon.

But database searching was just the first step in my ongoing quest; I am determined to personally inspect as many copies of each edition as I possibly can. It’s important to understand what the term “edition” means, both its technical definition as well as the larger implications. For the technical definition, we turn to Principles of Bibliographical Description by Fredson Bowers:

An EDITION is the whole number of copies of a book printed at any time or times from substantially the same setting of type-pages. (39)

To stick with our two New-London editions for now, what this means is that T. Green (or someone in his shop) picked out each tiny piece of metal type, set it up on the press, printed however many copies they needed, then put all those pieces of type away so they could be used to print something else. Which means that the first New-London edition and the fourth New-London edition, while reproducing the same text, will have some differences.

As luck would have it, I had to make a trip to Philadelphia a couple weeks ago, so I arranged my travel to leave plenty of time for a visit to the Library Company of Philadelphia, where I had identified seven editions of the Sermon. Based on the basic information in their catalog, they appeared to have two copies of the 1772 New Haven edition, so I asked to see both.

New Haven editions. Images courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

New Haven editions. Images courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

It was apparent the moment I saw the second copy that there were two separate settings of type here. Page-by-page comparison of the contents of each copy made it clear that these books were produced from entirely separate settings of type. Already my twenty-two editions was bumped up to twenty-three.

But what does that mean? What insight can we gain into Occom’s life and work by nit-picking over the exact number of editions of this work? Achieving a more accurate count is just the first phase of this project, but I am already starting to make some interesting connections and raise new questions. At the most basic level, each edition is an indicator of consumer demand. No colonial printer would take on the time, labor, and materials costs of typesetting, printing, and binding unless they thought someone would purchase their product. Knowing that there were two New Haven editions instead of just one tells us that there was ongoing demand for this work in and around New Haven after the first edition sold out. Knowing that a total of three separate editions were printed just down the road in New-London in 1772-73 suggests an even greater degree of popular demand.

It will take me a long time to complete my physical inspection of the copies available in the collections of the Northeast — I spent a fruitful day at the American Antiquarian Society last week, and next week I will visit New York Public Library and the New-York Historical Society. I have also expanded my search to include other printed material related to the execution of Moses Paul, such as broadsides, newspaper articles, and another pamphlet — none of which were authored by Samson Occom. What has begun to emerge is a sense of the execution of Moses Paul as a media event that involved multiple participants, rather than the story of a single sermon by a single author.

Hayes-Taylor YMCA Achievers Banquet

Stephen Catlett and David Gwynn from the digital projects unit had the honor of attending the annual Achievers Program banquet held by the Hayes-Taylor YMCA at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering of in Greensboro on Saturday 16 May. We had the privilege of introducing Jamon Oxendine-Blackmon, a student at the Triad Math and Science Academy, who has been participating in the DGH Explorers (Digitizing Greensboro History) digitization project as part of the Achievers Program.

This is an outstanding group of young people who are doing quite amazing things, and it has been a pleasure working with them–as well as with the staff and volunteers at Hayes-Taylor–over the past few months. The project will continue into the summer for our DGH group.

The program also featured an inspirational keynote address by Dr. Drewry Vincent of Greensboro. The mentors and volunteers for the Achievers Program were recognized, as was Mr. Felton Foushee, the program director.

The following video documents some of the program’s activities over the past year:

‘Scotland may be proud’: International opinion of the Scottish National Institution

One interesting item in the Royal Scottish National Hospital collection is the visitor’s book (ref: RS/2/6). In it are recorded the impressions of visiting deputations and individuals. The deputations were usually from Parochial Boards visiting the children they had referred to the Institution but include groups from similar institutions across Britain.

Many of the visitors came from overseas, particularly in the earlier years, and there are comments from Belgium, United States, France, Germany, Norway, Russia and New Zealand.

For example Dr J A Peeters from the Colony Gheel was commissioned by the Belgian government to examine the organisation of the Scottish system of lunacy administration. In July 1892 he wrote (in French but helpfully translated in the book) ‘I have been deeply touched by the care which is lavished upon the children. I hope that Belgium may some day have the glory of possessing an establishment organized in a similarly admirable manner’. In July 1894 William S Manson from Stanford University, California wrote ‘Scotland may be proud of this school and its work’.

Entry by William Manson, 1894

Entry by William Manson, 1894

Also included is a touching note of thanks from a grateful parent in Philadelphia, September 1896:

‘I must record my deep sense of gratitude to Mr and Mrs Skene [the medical superintendent and his wife] in whose charge I left my delicate little girl over a year ago. During her last illness of twenty-one weeks duration she has been nursed day and night and every facility given to one to see her at all times…The Children’s Home is not excelled by any one in England or America’.

It is a fitting tribute to what, for its time, was such a progressive institution that it should be recognised as an example internationally.

Save-the-Date: Public Meeting of the Public Interest Declassification Board

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) will host a public meeting to discuss the recommendations included in its Report to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System, and its recommendation to employ existing technologies and develop and pilot new methods to modernize classification and declassification.

The meeting will include a discussion of the technology study the PIDB is conducting in collaboration with Executive Branch agencies.  There will be a briefing on the results of technology pilot projects completed at the Center for Content Understanding at the Applied Research Laboratories (UT: Austin), co-sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Archives.  In his Second Open Government National Action Plan, the President directed the CIA and the National Archives to pilot new tools to provide classification reviewers with search capability for unstructured data and automate initial document analysis, beginning with the Presidential Records from the Reagan Administration’s classified email system.

The Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero will offer opening remarks, a senior official from the White House will give comments on Open Government Initiatives and a research scientist from the Center for Content Understanding will provide a briefing on the pilot projects.

WHEN: Thursday, June 25, 2015, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

WHERE:  National Archives and Records Administration
Room 105 – Archivist’s Reception Room
700 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20408

This meeting is open to the public. However, due to space limitations and access procedures, we require individuals planning to attend the meeting to register on Eventbrite. Please note that one form of Government-issued photo identification (e.g. driver’s license) is required to gain admittance.

HEIRnormous fun and activities at “Social Animals – LiveFriday”

Originally posted on Historic Environment Image Resource (HEIR):

After the successful launch of our crowd-sourcing web platform HEIRtagger – – on Thursday 14th May at Harris Manchester College, the HEIR team has taken their message to the public on LiveFriday at the Ashmolean Museum.

“ A wonderful idea – to tap into the general public – use their eyes…”

The evening started with a blast of the past. Clad in Victorian costumes (including a fake stuffed bird and a profusion of red feathers) Sally and Katharina took visitors on an idiosyncratic journey from Oxford to Constantinople in 1880. Baedeker and Murray guides at the ready, the adventurous ladies braved floods, fleas, and other fiendish foes to quench their thirst for adventure and knowledge.

Our lantern-slide show     The audience

Having arrived back at the present, the public got stuck straight into trying out their tagging skills on several iPads, thereby helping us to keyword our thousands of historic images…

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Impeccable Science: Give Your Lungs a Bath

This week’s impeccable science post features one of our favorite texts, an 1839 health tract entitled Thoughts on Bathing.

Thoughts on Bathing is a trove of essential information. For example, bathing of the entire body is important because it cleans your skin and invigorates your circulation. Cold bathing is particularly beneficial, and can even be fun!

A further explanation delves into the specifics of how the skin breathes and helps “renovate” the blood.


Whatever changes take place in the lungs, by the action of the air upon the blood in the small vessels of those organs, to purify and renovate it, take place also all over the surface of the body; that in this respect, therefore, the skin may be regarded as a sort of appendage of the lungs; and that if the skin be varnished over with a mixture of oil and dust, so that it cannot perform its office, an unreasonable burden will be thrown upon the lungs, which will thereby be weakened, and predisposed to disease.

Not bathing = colds or lung disease. Makes sense, kind of. But to whom is bathing most important? This is where the truly impeccable science kicks in.


This temporary suspension of the offices of the skin is, however, peculiarly dangerous to those who are of light complexion, slender form, with a long neck, and narrow shoulders projecting almost like wings, indicating a chest whose internal organs as well as external dimensions are comparatively small and feeble, and therefore poorly prepared to do that work which belongs to other parts or organs.

Listen up, thin pale people, you’d better remember your weekly cold bath. Your life could depend on it.

You can see more gems from Thoughts on Bathing in the Spring 2012 issue of Occasional Nuggets, which deals with health and exercise.

A Birthday Letter to John MacKay Shaw: Poet, Book Collector, Scholar, and Lover of Children

Hi Pop! Happy Birthday!! You’ll never guess what I’ve been up to since your 100th birthday. Imitating you, that’s what, or at least trying to. But there’s no way I will ever have your gift of gab, your great love of children, or your extraordinary management skills. You described your books; I’m describing your papers. That much I can do. I made descriptive lists of all those articles, photographs, correspondence, autographed materials and other things you collected that complement the books — over 120 boxes of items. Our archivist Burt and his students, you knew him, I think, they developed a finding aid based on my lists. As FSU’s catalog leads the scholar to the books, the finding aid leads him to these complementary materials.

Your collection has grown from the original 5000+ books you gave to Florida State University when you and the books moved to Tallahassee in 1960.   You added many more while you were here, and the library has continued to add books ever since you left us in 1984. You produced eleven volumes of a bibliography of your collection and a keyword index to the poems. We now have an estimated 22,000 books.

Remember how it started. You wrote by hand inscriptions in two books you gave Mom and me on our first Christmas together: Poems for Peter by Lysbeth Boyd Borie and The Little Mother Goose, collected and illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith:

To Mother and Cathmar

 For Christmas nineteen twenty eight
Rhymes for my sweethearts, small and great
Some old, the others up-to-date.

 Pledge to learn well, and I for mine,
For Christmas nineteen twenty-nine,
Will pledge a present much more fine.


After Christmas 1928, my brother Bruce joined us. Every evening, even before you arrived home after work, he and I were clamoring for your attention.

"Snow!"  A fabric picture designed and appliqued by your granddaughter Meg Prange in 2008. illustrating  your poem "Headlights Shine."
“Snow!” A fabric picture designed and appliqued by your granddaughter Meg Prange in 2008, illustrating your poem “Headlights Shine.”

You would pull us up onto your lap and our nightly poetry reading, reciting and singing, would begin. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses for a start, but those poems were about other children. We wanted poems about us. You promised to write them, but only if we told you what to write about. We could do that!

Connie, me and Bruce at Gramma’s house on Samson Street in Philadelphia, 1933
Connie, me and Bruce at Gramma’s house on Sanson Street in Philadelphia, 1933.

You gave each of us, and our cousin Connie too, a black leather binder to hold the copies you typed of the poems you wrote for the three of us between 1930 and 1937. In 1933, you began gathering the poems of each year to be printed in booklets that you sent to your friends as Christmas greetings. I recall how surprised and pleased you were years later when one of the The Friends of Florida State University Libraries told you the poems should be published. When you said you didn’t want anything to do with that process, she took it upon herself to select some of your poems and saw to it that they were published in 1967 as The Things I Want: Poems for Two Children. It was so popular that it went into a second printing, and then Zumpin’ followed with more poems a few years later. We still fill requests for those books every now and then.

By 1938 Bruce and I had lost interest in poetry. How very disappointed you must have been, but you never let on, and we had become too busy with our friends to notice. I did notice though that you were spending lots of time sitting in our big wing chair in the evenings, reading small pamphlets. Little did I know then that they were book dealers’ catalogs, or that the pencil you always held loosely cross-wise between your lips was being used to make checkmarks on the pages. The number of books in our den began to increase, then the number of shelves increased. More books kept appearing to fill the bookcases in our living room. Then I went away to college.

John MacKay Shaw in his study.
John MacKay Shaw in his study.

Within the next ten years, you and Mom moved into New York City. Then retirement from AT&T loomed for you. You had been frustrated in your search of libraries and universities around the country where you and your books would be happy.   You and Mom were visiting us one summer when my friend Jackie stopped by — remember? She suggested her alma mater FSU might be a good repository for your books. Then she followed up that suggestion by writing a letter to the head of the library recommending you and your collection. That did it.

And here you are. And I am here too. Every winter I am having the best of times living with Jackie in our Florida home and working in your collection with the special people here who administer it.

That pledge you made in 1928? You kept it your whole life and FSU Libraries continues to fulfill it. Thank you, Pop, with love and best wishes on your 118th birthday, from Cathmar.

Cathmar Prange is the daughter of John MacKay Shaw, the donor and curator for the childhood in poetry collection that bears his name in Special Collections & Archives. Every winter, Cathmar volunteers to continue organizing and curating her father’s collection and has been doing so for 18 years.

Bad Children of History #3

Today’s post features one historically bad attitude, courtesy of Lily from the eponymous 1870 Lily’s Lesson. Look at her pout!


Not only was Lily feeling grouchy, but she was making sure that everyone could tell she was in a foul mood. In case it’s hard to tell from the above illustration, here’s what she was doing:

One round fat shoulder was pushed up out of her dress; the small hands, which should have been busy about some light work or pleasant play, were pettishly dragging to bits a sheet of white paper which might have been turned to some good use, and littering it about the door, where some one must have the trouble of picking it up; and kick, kick, kick, went the toe of the pretty shiny little boot against the rough door-step.

During the course of this 217-page tale, Lily rapidly progresses from paper-tearing and doorstep-kicking to taking off down the road without her mother, carrying her sister’s kidnapped satchel and a purloined umbrella.

Of course, in the spirit of any good cautionary tale, Lily is then mistaken for a beggar, loses the umbrella, drops the satchel (which is used as a football by even worse children), gets lost while taking a shortcut home through the woods, and falls into a frigid river.

But don’t despair, dear reader: Bruno the Dog pulls Lily from the roiling waters, and after some soul-searching and Ten-Commandments-based-reflection, she makes a full recovery while lying in her own warm bed. It’s quite heart-warming.


Save the date: #HeritageReboot May 23

The City of Vancouver, Vancouver Heritage Foundation, City of Vancouver Archives and Heritage Vancouver will host #HeritageReboot, a fun, hands-on free public event that combines modern technology with heritage conservation.

When: Saturday, May 23, 2015 from 1pm to 4:30pm

Where: Roundhouse Community Centre, Engine 374 Pavilion, 181 Roundhouse Mews (Corner of Davie and Pacific)five-logos-1

#HeritageReboot schedule:
1 pm – Event launch followed by cake-cutting
1 pm – 4:30 pm – City of Vancouver Heritage Action Plan Open House
1:30 – 4:30 pm – Public welcome to experience and use the technology
2:45 pm – 4:15pm – Tours of Yaletown and Engine 374

The event will officially launch four initiatives that use digital technology to open up Vancouver’s heritage in new ways for everyone:

  • The City of Vancouver’s new online platform for public nominations to Vancouver’s Heritage Register
  • Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Heritage Site Finder, an interactive map showing over 2,200 sites listed on the Heritage Register. The tool is searchable, filterable and full of images and information about the sites
  • The City of Vancouver Archives’ digital rendering of the important Goad’s 1912 Fire Insurance Plan.  Newly added as a layer on VanMap, construction materials, building footprint, street names and addresses of the time are now easily discoverable.
  • Heritage Vancouver’s Historic Building Permits Database, a searchable online database of over 32,000 transcribed pre-1929 Vancouver building permits

Everyone is encouraged to unearth the past with these newly created digital tools and use the information to nominate a site to the Vancouver Heritage Register using the new online platform.

The City of Vancouver will also be having its open house on the next phase of the Heritage Action Plan there throughout the afternoon.

Free tours will also be available in the afternoon, including:

  • The Canadian Pacific Railway’s Two Yaletowns 1886-1887 and 1910-1914.  Led by historian and author of the award winning book Vancouver: A Visual HistoryBruce MacDonald.
  • City Building: Yaletown and its Neighbours in the Nineties.  Led by former City Councillor and the current Director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University Gordon Price.
  • A historic tour of Yaletown in French.  Led by the President of the Société historique francophone de la Colombie-Britannique Maurice Guibord.
  • Tours of the Engine 374 Pavilion and the engine to mark the 128th anniversary of Engine 374 pulling the first transcontinental train into Vancouver.  Led by The West Coast Railway Association.

We’ll have a detailed post about our initiative on May 21 to coincide with its public release. We hope to see you at the event on May 23.

Magician of the Week #30: Jack Miller

This week’s magician is someone you may recognize from the illustrated portrait in Magician of the Week #14: Prof. Jack Miller.


The wild-eyed photo above comes from the January 1963 issue of The Linking Ring, published shortly after this dapper magician passed away in late 1962. He was famous for his vaudevillian style and for his expert linking ring routine, and a magic-trick-producing enterprise in North Carolina still carries his name.

April 1911: ‘The wind…is inclined to blow my camera over’

Originally posted on Historic Environment Image Resource (HEIR):

Postcard from GLC: 1910

Looking through Professor Haverfield’s photograph album, our eyes were caught by this postcard from ‘G.L.C.’ (anyone know who this might be?) which is a reminder that taking photographs was a tricky and time-consuming process. G.L.C. was probably using a collapsible field camera, which would still have been a heavy piece of equipment. The camera would have been screwed onto a tripod base to give the camera the stability needed while the glass plate was exposed to light.


G.L.C. writes:

Having splendid weather here except for the wind which is inclined to blow my camera over. The mosaics have quite converted me and I am looking forward to those in the Tunis museum which are said to be better. Hotel Giyimo Rue de l’Eglise Tunis if you care to write before April 14th

The postcard seems to have been redirected to Haverfield on the 11th from his address in Headington, Oxford, to Devon…

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Art//Archives Sneak Peek: Sea Creatures

Tomorrow, as we do every Tuesday, we’ll have Art//Archives open research hours from 10:30 – 1:00.

This week’s theme is Sea Creatures, so we’ll have a few books out in the Special Collections Reading Room showing beautiful examples of creatures from the deep.


Have you been feeling a sudden urge to go to the beach? Are you wondering what that mysterious seaweed-y thing was that you found washed up next to your towel?


These natural history guides and seaside musings might be just the thing for you.


Dr. Pepper: Claude and Mildred Pepper at FSU

Claude Pepper speaking upon receiving an honorary degree from FSU (May 15, 1985)
Claude Pepper speaking upon receiving an honorary degree from FSU (May 15, 1985)

Thirty years ago, on May 15, 1985, hundreds gathered in Ruby Diamond Auditorium at Florida State University for the dedication of the Mildred and Claude Pepper Library and to watch Representative Claude Pepper receive one of his highest honors from FSU. During his career, Claude Pepper forged connections with several Florida colleges and universities. However it was a personal connection to Florida State College for Women (FSCW), and later FSU, which led him to entrust the papers and artifacts from his years of public service to the university. In recognition of his work and long relationship with the school, Florida State President Bernard Sliger conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters on Claude Pepper at the ceremony.

Claude Pepper giving a Commencement address at FSU (June 11, 1977)

Claude and his wife, Mildred, were a regular presence on the Florida State campus although he had never been in the classroom as a student. Over the decades, they frequently visited the university and attended sporting events and homecomings. Mildred Pepper endowed a scholarship for students in the fashion school. Claude Pepper spoke on campus many times – including giving a commencement address in 1977.

Claude Pepper received the Gold Key in 1938 when he spoke at the FSCW and was later made an honorary alumnus of Florida State University. His 84th birthday party was a gala fundraiser emceed by Bob Hope that raised funds for the creation of the Mildred and Claude Pepper Eminent Scholars Chair of Social Gerontology as part of the Pepper’s legacy at Florida State.

Claude Pepper speaking to a class at FSU (1981)
Claude Pepper speaking to a class at FSU (1981)

Claude Pepper became connected to Florida State University through his time in Tallahassee and relationship with Mildred, a former student of Florida State College for Women. In the months before her death, Mildred Pepper returned to FSU with Claude to determine the location for the Pepper Library and museum. They decided on Dodd Hall- it had been the library Mildred had studied in as an undergraduate.

In his remarks upon receiving his honorary degree, Pepper acknowledged the credit owed to Mildred as his “absent partner.” He believed Florida State University was a fitting place for his papers and museum because her spirit and memories would always be part of the campus. The permanent home for his work would be a monument to all that he and Mildred had achieved together.

Program for the dedication of the Pepper Library and Honorary Degree Ceremony (1985)
Program for the dedication of the Pepper Library and Honorary Degree Ceremony (1985)

Florida State University President Bernard Sliger invited preeminent politicians to speak about Claude Pepper’s accomplishments before awarding the honorary doctorate. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, Florida Governor Bob Graham, and Representative Don Fuqua were invited not just because of the seats they held, but because they were friends and close allies to Claude. Governor Graham spoke for the people of Florida about Pepper’s decades of work both for the state and representing Floridians’ interests on the national stage. Fuqua, the representative for Florida’s 2nd district including Tallahassee, welcomed and introduced the members of Congress that had flown down from the Capitol D.C. for the celebration of Claude Pepper.

Claude Pepper with Speaker Tip O’Neill (May 15, 1985)

Tip O’Neill spoke, at the invitation of President Sliger, about Pepper’s tenacious work on behalf of all Americans to protect policies including the New Deal, civil rights, Social Security, and Medicare. They had worked closely on an agenda since O’Neill’s selection as Speak of the House in 1977. In that time, the Speaker had placed Pepper on the bipartisan commission on Social Security and gave him the chairmanship of the powerful House Rules Committee.

Correspondence and other documents from Claude and Mildred Pepper’s work with Florida State University as well as videos of the ceremony can be found in the Claude Pepper Papers held at the Pepper Library. For more than two hundred additional images from the Pepper’s visits to FSU and the dedication of the Pepper Library, please visit the Florida State University Digital Library.

The Construction of the Great Bridge, Uniting Brooklyn and New York

Hailed as “The Eighth Wonder of the World” when it opened in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was a feat of civil engineering. Thousands of people made the first public crossing with fanfare and fireworks. The road to completion was not a smooth one for the “East River Bridge,” but the stone and steel that linked Brooklyn and Manhattan foreshadowed the official political union that would later form the five boroughs of Greater New York in 1898.

When this episode of New York: A Portrait in Sound was produced in the 1960s, the bridge had already undergone a redesign to remove its rail and trolley lines. Yet, the episode evokes the transit of the past with the sounds of trolley bells, horse’s hooves and old automobile horns.

Designer John Roebling, impatient with the East River ferry between Manhattan and Brooklyn, envisioned a bridge connecting the two, and in 1866 the New York State Legislature passed a bill granting its construction. On one of the final surveys of the site, a ferry crushed John Roebling’s foot on a Brooklyn pier and he died of tetanus shortly thereafter. His son, Washington Roebling took up the role of chief engineer of the project, but contracted Caisson’s disease, or the “bends,” two years into construction while overseeing the work and was permanently paralyzed.

Washington’s wife, Emily, acted as chief engineer on site in his stead. Regarded as the first female field engineer, Emily began relaying her husband’s instructions and, building upon her own working technical knowledge, she frequently consulted with contractors and assistant engineers on the project. Emily oversaw the construction to the bridge’s completion, and though she was well-respected by the engineers and city officials she worked with, she was granted no official title in relation to the project.


Emily was the first person to cross the completed bridge after 13 years of construction, with a rooster in her lap for good luck. One week later at the bridge’s grand opening, President Chester Arthur and New York Mayor Franklin Edson led the first public crossing from Manhattan to Brooklyn. When they reached the Brooklyn pier, Mayor Edson locked arms with Brooklyn Mayor Seth Low.

The bridge was originally designed to accommodate three types of traffic. Two railroad tracks made up the center lane; two lanes on either side were intended for horse-drawn carriages; over the railway tracks, an elevated promenade would serve pedestrians and cyclists. Fifteen years after the bridge opened, the City of Brooklyn became one with New York County (Manhattan and Bronx), Queens County and Richmond County to form Greater New York. That same year, the Brooklyn trolley system made its tracks in the bridge’s carriage lanes. Technology was changing fast, however, and by 1903 the first car had made its way across the bridge as well, and automobiles finally usurped the outer lanes, as well as the center railway lane, entirely in the 1950s.

Meeting the Government’s Email Challenge

Free and equal access to government records is essential to this country’s democracy.  Citizens have the right to see, examine, and learn from the records that guarantee their rights, document government actions, and tell the story of the nation. As Archivist of the United States, it is my job to make sure we identify, save, and make available the permanently valuable records of the U.S. Government. It’s also my job to instruct federal agencies on how to make this “what to keep” decision for records ranging from memos written on old onion-skin paper and stored in filing cabinets to electronic records, including email. This is especially important as the volume of electronic records continues to grow.

What should be saved? Not all or even most federal records make the cut as permanent records. Literally billions of government email records are created each year.  Some are clearly worth saving as permanent records in the National Archives. Many others, which document basic business and administrative activities, are needed for some period of time before they can be deleted.  And still others, such as lunch plans and routine notifications of meetings, can be deleted immediately.

Records Arriving at the National Archives Building, 1935. National Archives Identifier 7820503

The responsibility – and honor – of preserving and providing access to historical federal records rests with the National Archives. However, this work begins within the walls of each federal agency, supported by the National Archives.  Our experts develop guidance, recommendations, and solutions to address the recordkeeping challenge. We provide extensive training and direct counsel for records managers at all federal agencies.

Recently our Records Management leaders met with all agency recordkeeping officials to discuss their responsibilities and how they can best meet the challenges of managing email records. By some estimates, over 100 billion emails are sent and received by the private sector every day; we estimate that the government produces over 40 billion emails a year.

Until recently, the best approach was for each federal employee to decide which of their emails were valuable and then to print out and file these emails manually, or save them electronically. This is the same thing they are supposed to do with all other records they create or receive.  The reality, however, is that few people have the time or expertise to sort and file each and every email consistently, numerous times a day.

For this reason, the National Archives has asked the software industry to create automated systems, which take personal decision making out of the process, to capture electronic records and separate the permanent from the temporary.  In the meantime, our staff has created an approach for email management called Capstone. Under Capstone, an agency designates a number of senior officials as Capstone officials, and saves all of their email as permanent records.  All other agency employees’ emails are viewed as temporary and are saved for an appropriate period of time. We’re now using Capstone at the National Archives and will base our guidance on real-world experiences.

Since 2011, we have worked closely with the White House to require all agencies to adopt Capstone or a comparable approach for managing emails by 2016. Congress has also helped by passing new amendments to the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act late last year to modernize these recordkeeping statutes. Most notably, the law now requires officials who use a non-official email account (which only should be done as a last resort) to copy or forward those emails into their official account within 20 days, or be subject to disciplinary action.

The challenge of electronic recordkeeping is not unique to the federal government; universities, corporations, and privately owned businesses all wrestle with similar issues.  But the challenges are clear:  the volume of electronic records being created is enormous; providing access to these records is difficult and critical; and forecasting what will be “historically important” requires a blend of art and science. These are the challenges and opportunities that compel records and information management professionals. The National Archives is an essential resource to other agencies – we provide training, guidance, and structure for modernizing and reforming records management.  Federal agencies must follow our lead to ensure that our National Treasures – in paper and electronic form – are saved for future generations.


Remembering Singer and Folklorist Guy Carawan

Guy Carawan, who died Saturday at the age of 87, is probably best known for introducing the song “We Shall Overcome” to the African-American Civil Rights Movement.  On April 15th, 1960, he performed a version of it, which had been worked out by himself, Pete Seeger, and others, to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Raleigh, NC. After that night, the anthem quickly caught on and became one the most popular freedom songs of the 1960s.

Carawan’s involvement in American music wasn’t just as a performer and activist.  He had a keen folklorist’s interest in the origins and history of the southern American musical tradition, and he came within that context to the WNYC studios in 1966.  In this episode of Adventures in Folk Music, Carawan sings and tells stories from Sea Island, a part of the Golden Isles of Georgia, and the home to important gospel and folk singers like Bessie Jones and Mable Hillery.

How to enjoy your own backyard: A world according to the Nelson Brothers

Elmer, Arthur and Walter Nelson lived in the small town of Goshen, New Hampshire, in the late 19th century. They used incredible imagination to make the most of their rural home by creating a remarkably detailed imaginary world right in their own backyard. They left behind wonderful drawings, imagined periodicals, maps and stories chronicling their own adventures and the adventures of their characters. So if you are ready to get outside for your own adventure, even if you go no farther than your own backyard, the Nelson brothers could serve as able guides. They will have you planting seeds, using new tools, and pulling boats and bicycles from the garage in no time at all. Amherst College recently acquired the Nelson Brothers Collection and it is now available for viewing online, so take a look and get inspired for some springtime adventure of your own.


The collection shows a remarkable ability the boys had to imagine life beyond their backyard and to make the most of  their surroundings as a springboard to adventure.  The physical layout of their imaginary world was based on the Nelson family land. Islands in a backyard stream became whole continents in the boys’ imaginations. Each boy conquered a continent and developed histories, people and heroes. The stories convey a rich appreciation for the outdoors, a desire for adventure beyond the life of the farm,and a childhood vision of the larger world.Nelson Brothers Novelties

The Nelson brothers were often extremely detailed in their creations, demonstrating a sustained dedication to their imaginary world and to the broad range of topics that captured their interest. Take, for example, a fictional Nelson brothers seed catalog. The entries are detailed, informative and clearly based on experience, possibly mimicking seed catalogs seen in real life. Thoughtful details provide the reader with a clear vision of what to expect from a particular seed. Fictional Nelson brothers varieties showcase their creativity.

An Adventure on Red RoverIf you are in the mood for more excitement than gardening is likely to bring, then you might try one of the adventure stories. An Adventure on Red Rover, for example, tells the story two boys who are held captive by three large birds in a cave on a mining island. After five long days they are rescued by two friends and manage to escape what looks like a rather unpleasant experience.

In form, creativity, execution and storytelling, this collection offers viewers a glimpse into the very special lives of three adventurous young men. These digitized items and more from the Nelson Family Juvenilia can be found in the Amherst College Digital Collections, and of course the originals are located in the Archives & Special Collections.


Impeccable Science: Final Exams Edition

This week’s installment of Impeccable Science is chosen in a spirit of empathy for the many students who are currently mired in final exams while longing for carefree time in the May sunshine.

As we all know, intense study can be harmful to your health. For proof, look at this 1833 volume by Amariah Brigham, a doctor from Connecticut.


What terrible things can excessive studying do to your body? For starters, it can give you dyspepsia.


Dyspepsia is generally considered a disease of the stomach primarily. But I apprehend that in a majority of cases, especially among students, it is primarily a disease of the brain and nervous system, and is perpetuated by mental excitement.

It can hamper your immune system’s ability to fight off disease, especially if you’re studying hard while you’re still young.


I have seen several affecting and melancholy instances of children, five or six years of age, lingering awhile with diseases from which those less gifted readily recover… The chance for the recovery of such precocious children, is in my opinion small, when attached by disease…

And finally, the mental excitement caused by excessive study can case rampant insanity- but only if you’re studying the arts and humanities. Chemists and physicians never suffer from insanity.


In all countries, the disease [of insanity] prevails most among those whose minds are most excited. Aristotle noticed, in his day, the great prevalence of insanity among statesmen and politicians. It is said, the disease prevails most among those whose minds are excited by hazardous speculations, and by works of imagination and taste; and but little among those whose minds are exercised only by calm inquiry. The registers of the Bicetre, in France, show, that the insane of the educated classes consist chiefly of priests, painters, sculptors, poets, and musicians; while no instance of the disease in naturalists, physicians, geometricians or chymists has occurred.

Preparing for migration

Lise Summers
Friday, May 8, 2015 – 15:53

Looking back over the past year and a half, I’m amazed by how much we have done, and how close we are to going live with our new system. 

A snapshot of the homepage for the new archival database system

We’ve been working with our developers, Gaia Resources, to develop a system that is responsive to client needs and meets best practice for archival description, nationally and internationally.  The end result is something which meets those requirements, but still provides opportunities for further improvement and development which would allow for a much richer research environment. Resourcing, both in terms of the system and staff and volunteer time to create and develop descriptions, will be the main challenge in taking these ideas forward.

Before we go live, we are developing a backup system for the digital objects (we are all about preservation and vital records, after all) which will keep them offsite in a replicated, secure environment. We’ve undertaken a test migration of over 700,000 items, series and agency descriptions, and checked that the data has come across from our old system. Sometimes, this has meant identifying and creating new fields for legacy data, or thinking very clearly about the way in which data is used and how meaning is derived in order to match old fields to new. We’ve made sure that formatting has been retained, and that the look and feel of all the data is consistent.

There have been staff training sessions in loading descriptions, using the system, creating reports, managing loans and search and browse techniques.  We’ve now started providing training in search and browse for our government agency clients, to enable them to better find records relating to their business concerns, and streamline the government loans process.  We’re looking to provide similar training to long term and professional researchers, and are looking for opportunities to connect with various interest groups to develop training for them. In the meantime, we have developed some online search tips and hints on the website for you to look at and familiarise yourself with the differences between our old and new systems.

Once we have all the systems in place, and the data has been tested, we’ll close down AEON and go straight to the new system. We’ve devised a 404 page, in case links break, and to get you started on the new search page.  Keep your eyes on our website, Facebook and twitter pages for more details on when the go live date will be.