Nicholas Pileggi, The Mafia in New York City

In a one-hour talk that has the easy-going feel of a conversation in a diner, Nicholas Pileggi provides an account of how the Mafia came to power in New York City. 

Pileggi, born February 22, 1933, may well be America’s leading expert on the Mob.  He started reporting on the New York City underworld for the Associated Press in the 1950’s and in the late 1960’s began contributing gripping articles to New York Magazine about the activities of mobsters.  Pileggi’s book, Wiseguys: Life in a Mafia Family, about the organized crime career of Henry Hill, served as the basis for the acclaimed film, Goodfellas, for which he co-wrote the screenplay with Martin Scorsese.  He teamed up with Scorsese again to write the screenplay for Casino, based on the crime writer’s book, Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. 

Pileggi’s 1988 talk is delivered at a time when John Gotti still held sway over the New York Mob, and before anyone had heard of Tony Soprano.  Filled with compelling vignettes, the writer’s lecture is also skillfully crafted.  He suggests that New York City, shaped by the corruption of Tammany Hall, was a perfect foil for La Cosa Nostra, which rode the wave of Southern Italian immigration to America in 1910.  Tammany Hall –itself a reaction to the aristocratic, blue-blood American ruling class — always relied on hoodlums to enforce its machine politics. 

Pileggi describes the New York Mafia, once known as the Seven Families, as a generational power structure.  Its members love and believe in their world and would rather die than leave it.  Thus, a mobster, knowing that his appointed ride in a car to New Jersey will be his last, spends his remaining free minutes giving a bartender the keys to his car and apartment, instead of trying to escape while he has the chance. 

The veteran crime writer says there are three essential bulwarks to Mob culture; the first of which is hard work.  As soon as they wake up in the morning, Pileggi says a Mafioso is “scheming about how to get over.”  The mobster, Paul Vario, insisted that his henchmen provide him with stolen credit cards which he would then use at a restaurant, risking arrest, because the illicit food “tastes sweeter.”  A notorious mob hit man, Dandy Jack Parisi, when asked why he went to Mass every day, replied that he “asks God to give me strength to steal.”

Pileggi describes the second hallmark of Mafia power as the willingness to descend into unpredictable, irrational, “nutty” violence.   Thus, a Mafia “made-man” can become murderous at the smallest insult, like getting bumped unintentionally in a bar.  Think of Joe Pesci, as the mobster Nicky Santoro, and that ballpoint pen in Casino.  “Mobsters aren’t people you want to hang around with,” Pileggi cautions with a chuckle.  “They’re the kind of guys who in high school would step on your glasses if you dropped them. . . . Compassion has been bred out of them.”  The threat of sadistic violence has given the Mob the leverage to muscle in on legitimate businesses and unions throughout New York City.  Violence is such a part of the internal code of the Mafia that beatings administered by police are accepted almost stoically as part of The Life.

The third essential element for Mafia cultural longevity is the ability to live in a protected environment, be it Bensonhurst in Brooklyn, Mulberry Street in Manhattan or Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.  They are limited, unsophisticated worlds, that — until recently — were impossible to penetrate by others.  Literally staring out from behind barroom windows, the Mob knows everyone who comes in and out of these neighborhoods.  The ordinary citizens in such confines are terrorized yet crudely protected by this constant underworld presence.  Pileggi relates one blood-curdling tale of a would-be rapist who made the fatal mistake of following a young woman home to her apartment building in a Mafia neighborhood.  

Pileggi doesn’t worry that his encyclopedic knowledge and reportage of Mob habits endangers his life.  “I am just an anthropologist.  Nobody shoots anthropologists,” he says to an audience member concerned about his personal safety.  The writer leaves it to professional law enforcement to arrest and prosecute organized crime. “I am not Dick Tracy, I just report.”

At the end of his lecture, Pileggi predicts the inevitable decline of organized crime.  He attributes this to changed social factors.  For one, too many children of Mafiosi are leaving The Life to live The American Dream, becoming dentists, lawyers, etc.  Pileggi believes Mob involvement in narcotics trafficking has also taken a toll on the organization.  Sellers and buyers of drugs don’t have the fortitude to maintain the internal code of loyalty and silence known as Omerta.  Mobsters and addicts, caught up in drug stings, have turned state’s evidence, bringing down dozens of their brethren.  Over the last two decades, the Mafia’s influence in New York City has declined dramatically, as turncoats and witness protection plans prove Pileggi’s thesis.

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Nicholas Pileggi’s orginal talk at the NYPL Celeste Bartos Forum was on January 26, 1988. The WNYC broadcast edition of his address was March 28, 1993.

Be Bold. Build Our Future Through Our People

Our fourth strategic goal, our most important goal, focuses on the real treasures of the National Archives–our staff.

The Future statue

Photograph of Female Statue, The Future, Located near the Pennsylvania Avenue Entrance to the National Archives Building, 06/30/1936. National Archives ID: 7657960

 

This goal highlights our commitment to provide our staff with the training, tools and opportunities necessary for the transition into a digital environment. We intend to support staff through creating a culture of empowerment, openness and inclusion through both our processes and new technology. And we want to ensure that we have a diverse workforce, equipped with the skills necessary to fulfill our mission.

The goal of “Building Our Future Through Our People” includes several initiatives. We plan to:

  • Foster an employee development culture to promote learning and leadership by all.
  • Cultivate a robust, well-connected internal communications environment to support informed action at all levels.
  • Implement innovative practices and tools to recruit, sustain, and retain a 21st century workforce.
  • Create new career paths for NARA employees to ensure that we have the necessary competencies and skills in a digital environment.

As you can see from the initiatives, we take our commitment to the staff of the National Archives very seriously.  It is only by providing a supportive environment for our staff that any of our goals may be achieved.

This is the final post … [ Read all ]

The case of the disappearing medieval buildings…

As we were scanning another box of late 19th century lantern slides, we came across this lovely picture of the Duomo in Florence (Firenze), Italy….

The Duomo, Florence, c.1890

Janice thought she had taken a very similar picture on a recent holiday, and brought her photograph in so that we could compare Florence then and now…

Janice's photograph

But when we put the two images side-by-side, something seems to be missing from the older picture – several medieval buildings have mysteriously disappeared!

Slide3

The illusion of the disappearing buildings is created by distance and perspective. Although the images look similar at first glance, the modern picture is taken from very much further away from the Duomo than the original, and Janice was taking her photograph from a slightly different angle. Buildings which were outside the frame of the Victorian image appear in Janice’s photograph.

Be Bold: Maximize NARA’s Value to the Nation

In this goal we recognize that public access to government information creates measurable economic value, which adds to the enduring cultural, historical, and evidentiary value of our records.

Maximize Value
National Archives Identifier: 196401

When we talk about economic value, we are not talking about the appraised value or the replacement value of our records. Historically, we have talked about economic value in terms of the large number of jobs and economic activity that NARA generates. Examples include the local economic activity generated around our public programs; the numerous professional researchers and authors who write non-fiction and best-selling works of fiction based on NARA records; popular films that came to fruition only because of the existence and hard work of the National Archives.

“Maximize NARA’s Value to the Nation” charts a course forward from this legacy. The course forward supports our transition to digital government, so that we can quickly and efficiently provide public access to our records. We want to ensure our historical government data is accessible by customers when they need it and in the format or technology platform that is easy for them to use. And when we talk about economic value today, we are not talking about commercial value only. We are expanding this idea beyond a simple commercial concept, to consider the social valuation of our returns on investment. These are opportunities to … [ Read all ]

New digital collections

The Digital Projects team announces the debut of several new digital collections:

  • Charles Duncan McIver Records
    This collection makes available the papers of UNCG’s founder and first president, largely in their entirety. Comprising over 123,000 pages of material, the McIver Records document the founding and early years of the North Carolina State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG) and include material on early construction, the typhoid epidemic, and the fire that destroyed Brick Dormitory. This collection was digitized as part of the larger Textiles, Teachers, and Troops grant project funded through an LSTA grant administered by the North Carolina State Library.
  • Robert Watson Papers
    The Robert W. Watson Manuscripts date from 1948 to 1980 and contain manuscripts, typescripts, publisher’s proofs and galleys, clippings, correspondence, photographs, and reviews. Watson was the main architect of UNCG’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, considered one of the best in the nation. The Watson Papers have been digitized almost in their entirety (nearly 6000 pages of material); several folders were skipped due to copyright concerns. 
  • Home Economics, Food, and Nutrition Pamphlets Collection
    The Home Economics and Nutrition Pamphlets Collection consists of government and commercial publications on the subject of home management and nutrition and include educational materials, recipes, household hints, and other materials. The digital collection was built from resources held in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives and the University Libraries Government Documents Collection. All materials are presumed to be in the public domain. The Government Documents portion of the collection was digitized as UNCG’s contribution to the ASERL Centers of Excellence Program. Additional materials will be added in subsequent phases.
More new collections will be announced next week.

Shakespeare Lecture at Exeter Cathedral

Exeter’s Professor Philip Schwyzer will be giving a public lecture tomorrow at Exeter Cathedral.
Prof. Schwyzer (Lecturer in Renaissance Literature and Culture) will be talking about Shakespeare and the folio editions. The lecture is being held with Exeter Cathedral Library & Archives, and the Library’s Second Folio edition will be on display. 


For full details, follow this link to the Cathedral’s website.

Helen Morrisey Rizzuto Introduction

Poet Helen Morrisey Rizzuto says “poems capture a moment in time and render that moment timeless” and that  “all poems begin with an impulse and end…with a discovery.”  On WNYC’s Reader’s Almanac in February, 1979, Poet Helen Morrisey Rizzuto spoke with host Walter James Miller about her work, Evening Sky on a Japanese Screen and read selections from it. 

Samuel Menashe Introduction

In 2004 Samuel Menashe became the first poet honored with the “Neglected Masters Award” given by Poetry magazine and the Poetry Foundation. The award was also to include a book to be published by the Library of America, which turned out to be a “Selected Poems” edited by Christopher Ricks.

More than twenty years earlier, Menashe joined Reader’s Almanac host Walter James Miller in the WNYC studio to talk about his poetry and its criticism. 

Marianne Moore Introduction

In December, 1961 the poet Marianne Moore came to the WNYC studios to talk with Reader’s Almanac host Warren Bower about the recently published A Marianne Moore Reader.

Listen now to Moore explains as she explains how she chose the book’s contents, a mix of poetry and her nonfiction writing. She and Bower discuss the reaction of audiences to her poems and her being a big Brooklyn Dodgers fan.

Talk To Me: Sharon Olds Introduction

Poet, author and NYU professor Sharon Olds was joined by her twin nephews Michael & Matthew Dickman at NYU’s Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House on March 4th, 2010.

In this session of NYU’s Reading Series, Olds read from both old collections and poems she finished on the train that day. The Portland-born Dickman brothers describe how got the “love movement” started with their award-winning fraternally and familiarly inspired poetry.

Pushcart Prize Winning Introduction

Four Pushcart Prize-winning writers took to the (very, very dim stage) at (Le) Poisson Rouge in 2010 to read from their award-winning works.

The night showcased poetry and prose by Kate Walbert, Marie Howe, Dale Peck and Mark Doty. From pieces set in the past, to ones that reflect on the future, the reading offered a wide variety of work (along with lots of writerly banter). Pushcart Press founder Bill Henderson introduces this excerpt of the reading, which features Kate Walbert and Marie Howe.

Darwin: A Life of Poems Introduction

On the Origin of Species more than 150 years old, but the work of Charles Darwin remains as influential as ever. Darwin’s great-great-granddaughter, Ruth Padel, tells her famous ancestor’s life story all in verse. One poem describes Darwin’s awe at the sealife that washed up on the deck of the Beagle. Another tackles how Charles’ scientific ideas did not square with his wife Emma’s deep religious faith. Listen now to Darwin, A Life in Poems.

National Poetry Month and Natasha Trethewey introduction

April is National Poetry Month! Listen to current Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, Samuel Menash, the 2013 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Sharon Olds, as well as Louis Utermeyer, Dylan Thomas, Robert Pinsky, Archibald MacLeish, Marianne Moore —and other anapestic treats.

Natasha Trethewey is the first African American to hold the title of Poet Laureate since Rita Dove in 1993. She’s also the first Southerner since Robert Penn Warren — one of the first Laureates. Listen now to Trethewey from The Takeaway, July 6, 2012.

We Know What You Like

From the May, 1941 WQXR Program Guide:

“My little boy, aged 4, has very definite likes and dislikes in music. He will sit as quiet as a mouse all through Tchaikowsky’s Symphony Pathetique…”

Thus opens one of the communications in the ever-increasing fan-mail arriving daily from WQXR’s many grateful listeners whose growing ranks, to the deep satisfaction of those of us who are purveyors of music, reflect the rising tide of musical enjoyment in America. The observant mother of the above mentioned youngster requests us to broadcast the compositions to which he is particularly attentive, and she encloses a list that is startling in its maturity of selection. Perhaps her child is a precocious music lover. Perhaps he was exposed to music at such an early age that his capacity for absorbing it is greater than that of many an adult. If the classics are largely responsible for his excellent discipline, as contrasted to the behavior of many a lad whose mind seems devoid of the graces, then by all means let us advocate a radio or phonograph in every cradle. Imagine the possibilities of harmony among the adults of the future!

WQXR’s listeners who make themselves articulate to us have more influence in shaping our programs than many non-writing fans realize. Why, WQXR itself resulted from the hunger of the listeners of some half dozen years ago who, hearing a few records in some experimental broadcasts, cried out for more. And their cry was answered. They and those who have since joined their forces often write their approbation or give constructive criticism. Many a rare and beautiful work has been broadcast at the suggestion of a writer. Music lovers have had  more and more opportunity to become acquainted with the music of the masters, and occasionally WQXR has asked them to send in a formal vote for their musical preferences.

Those of us who are responsible for the programs you hear over WQXR realize that the more variety we provide in our musical fare along with the popular favorites, the more pleased listeners will be. We try to keep a balanced program of orchestral, chamber and vocal music, sacred and secular, ancient and modern. But if there is one thing that radio proves, it is that you cannot please everybody all of the time. Since not all tastes are equally catholic, and since there are many musical prejudices, there is bound to be adverse criticism. Of modern music in particular, say you? Not at all. There are those of the jig-jigging of Bach and Mozart and Haydn. And why do we play so much Beethoven? Why so much Sibelius? There must be someone on the staff who dotes on Delius. (There is. I’m it.) And the bad taste of broadcasting the retchings of such contemporaries as he and him and it. It’s the same old story. Beethoven’s symphonies were condemned by his contemporaries, and Mozart’s quartets were disparaged as a distortion of music. For dissatisfied critics, WQXR’s adolescent days should suffice to make them realize the sumptuousness of the ethereal repasts of the present and of the opportunities offered  for selection. Let us look at the station’s very first printed program, that of June, 1936, when the broadcasting schedule was only four hours a day. Here is the program for the first day of that month  and year:

5:00-6:00 p.m. Cocktail Hour — Popular Music

8:00-9:00 p.m. Tchaikowsky–Symphony No. 4

6:00-6:45 p.m.  Light Classics

6:45-6:50 p.m. Press Radio News

6:50-7:00 p.m. Light Classics

7:00-8:00 p.m. Gounod –Faust: Acts 3 and 4

A glance at the broadcasting schedule on a day in the year 1941 reveals a tremendous contrast in favor of the music lover. And to the music lover goes part of the credit for the wealth of tonal beauty flowing through the air, for he is the customer and therefore the one whom we and the sponsors must satisfy.

As a salute to the music lover, WQXR broadcasts during the month of May the thirty-one favorite symphonies and concertos of its listeners. These will be played in ascending order of popularity on Symphony Hall each evening with the exception of May 9th when, on account of a special program, Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony will be played on the 10 o’clock program. Others of your favorites will be scattered lavishly throughout the month, including special concerts by WQXR’s recently enlarged staff orchestra. We hope you derive as much enjoyment from the programs as we do in planning them for you.

Editor’s note: Douglas A. MacKinnon (1903-1984) was hired by W2XR founder John V. L. Hogan in December, 1935 to be the station’s first Program Director. He worked there until August, 1941 and departed as Music Editor. He later worked for NBC and Radio Free Europe. According to WQXR co-founder Elliott Sanger, MacKinnon was a “one-man broadcasting station” when he was hired by Hogan; selecting the music, writing the continuity, announcing and operating the turntables and control panel. This was critical during the station’s infancy but Sanger writes that as WQXR expanded, they needed someone who worked better as a team player and “we had to part company despite his very real abilities.” [1] MacKinnon’s papers, however, imply a more bitter if not acrimonious parting. [2]

[1] Sanger, Elliott, Rebel in Radio: The Story of WQXR, Hastings House, 1973, pgs. 131-132.

[2] Szasz, Tibor, Enescian Documents from the Douglas MacKinnon Archive at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, U.S.A. 2005-2006.

Happy Earth Day – Now Move Your Car

Mayor John V. Lindsay implores New Yorkers to be more tidy on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.

In a wide-ranging speech, the mayor ties the city’s quality of life issues to the greater concerns of the national environmental movement. The business of pollution, he says, is “the twin brother of the business of poverty and despair.”  In order for New Yorkers to contribute to meaningful global change, Lindsay says we must first stop littering and – interestingly enough – “start respecting alternate side parking.”   

In the last half of the address, Lindsay talks about the “immoral and indefensible war abroad”, and argues that resources currently going to support the military industrial complex need to be redirected to the concerns at home.  

New York’s Earth Day drew some of the largest crowds in the country.  The city shut down 5th Avenue and 14th streets for Earth Day and an estimated 1 million people crowded into the streets. Audio courtesy of the Municipal Archives.

Be Bold: Connect with Customers

Connect with Customers
State Fair, 10/1972. National Archives Identifier 545457

The second of our new strategic goals is to “Connect with Customers.”

Having spent most of my career working with the public, customer service is a passion of mine. In my personal life I am always looking for exemplars—places where I am dazzled by attention to service, places which learn from their customers, places which put their customers at the center of the service equation.

At the National Archives, we connect with customers in a multitude of ways: nationwide, face-to-face, over the phone, across the desk, in our research rooms, in the classroom and of course, online.  We have a wide-variety of customer communities, including educators, historians, genealogists, researchers, veterans and now groups such as civic hackers, Wikipedians and many more. We need to become more agile, more creative in connecting with them – whoever they are, wherever they are, to deliver what they want when they want it.

But connection is not just about delivery, it is about engaging with the public in ways we have not done in the past. Much of the work we have been doing with Open Government has been about connecting with customers in new ways.  In speaking about Open Government, President Obama said, “Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made.  It means … [ Read all ]

The Yip Sang Correspondence Project 葉生信件翻譯工程

The Project
葉生信件翻譯工程

This project sought to make available Chinese-language documents which are held in a predominantly English-language archives. A selection of correspondence from the Yip family and Yip Sang Ltd. fonds (AM1108) was used. One of the difficulties with making these materials available is that there are so few local people who can read the old-style Chinese writing. We decided to digitize the letters so that they are available to readers of the old script throughout the world, and to invite them to contribute their translations and interpretations.

This work, completed in 2008, was done in cooperation with the Department of History at the University of British Columbia. W. Wang translated some of the letters under the supervision of Dr. Henry Yu. We are grateful for the financial assistance of the Government of Canada for the digitization of photographs and letters.

See the result of the joint digitization project with UBC Library: http://www.library.ubc.ca/chineseinbc/search.html

Search the Yip Sang materials: http://digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca/cdm4/search.php?CISOROOT=/yipsang

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這個翻譯工作,目的在協助一個以英語為主的檔案館 ;例如温哥華檔案館; 找出最可行的方法,令公眾能夠使用館內的中文資料。工作主要是將部份葉氏家族及其公司的信件(館蔵編號: AM1108),翻譯成英文。 其中最困難的地方,是書信的手寫字體較難辨認,以及解讀信中的舊式文體。為求得到世界各地人仕的幫助, 温哥華檔案館決定將信件製成數碼影像,然後將影像透過互聯網發放到世界各地,好讓有識之士,協助完成翻譯工作。

翻譯工作在温哥華檔案館和卑詩大學歷史系合作下,於2008年完成。而份信件的翻譯是在余全毅博士的指導下,由王小姐完成。

查閱翻譯和數碼化工作的背景資料及成果,請瀏覽以下網址:
http://www.library.ubc.ca/chineseinbc/search.html

查閱葉氏家族及其公司信件的數碼檔案,請瀏覽以下網址:
http://digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca/cdm4/search.php?CISOROOT=/yipsang

Yip Sang
葉生

The Yip family in Vancouver began with Yip Sang’s arrival in B.C. in 1881. Yip Sang, whose real name was Yip Chun Tien (along with two other Chinese names, Yip Loy Yiu and Yip Lin Sang), was born in China in 1845. In 1864, he left his home village, Shengtang Cun, Duhu County in Guangdong province, to travel to San Francisco, where he worked as a dishwasher, cook, cigar maker, and labourer in the goldfields.

Eventually he left for B.C., and in 1881, after first looking for gold in the north, settled in Vancouver and found work as a pedlar, selling sacks of coal door to door. In 1882, he was employed by the Canadian Pacific Railroad Supply Company, where he worked as a bookkeeper, timekeeper, paymaster and then as the Chinese superintendent. In 1885, Yip Sang left the company and returned to China. In 1888, he returned to Vancouver and established the import and export firm of Wing Sang Company.

During his lifetime, Yip Sang had four wives and a total of twenty-three children. He became a naturalized British subject in 1891. Yip Sang was one of the driving forces in the establishment of the Chinese Benevolent Association, the Chinese School and the Chinese Hospital (now Mount St. Joseph’s) in Vancouver. He was a lifetime governor of Vancouver General Hospital, and was also a benefactor of the Public Hospital in Guangdong province in China. He died in 1927.

Yip Sang at his 80th birthday celebration October 22, 1925. Photographer Cecil B. Wand. Detail from City of Vancouver Archives CVA 749 葉生80大壽,攝於1925年10月22日。温哥華檔案館相片編號﹕CVA 749

Yip Sang at his 80th birthday celebration October 22, 1925. Photographer Cecil B. Wand. Detail from City of Vancouver Archives CVA 749
葉生80大壽,攝於1925年10月22日。温哥華檔案館相片編號﹕CVA 749

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

温哥華葉氏家族是由第一代移民葉生於1881年建立,葉生原名葉春田,又名葉來饒或葉連生。葉生在1845年出生於中國廣東省一個農村,他在1864年離鄉後,曾到美國三藩市, 當過洗碗、廚師、雪茄煙工人, 亦曾在金礦場工作。

葉生在 1881 年遷移到加拿大卑詩省, 曾在省北部淘金。 葉生定居於温哥華後, 曾做過賣煤炭小販。一年後葉生受僱於加拿大太平洋鉄路物料公司, 負責入數、 記錄工時及出納等工作, 及後葉生更獲委為華人監工。 葉生在1885年離職返回中國 , 他在1888年重返温哥華創立永生號 ,經營出入口生意。

葉生有4位妻子及23名子女,他在1891年歸化英籍加人。葉生一生致力推重社區發展,他曾參與建立温哥華中華總會、 温哥華中文學校及温哥華中醫院( 即現時的聖約瑟醫院 ),他亦是温哥華綜合醫院的終身理事。 除温哥華外,葉生也曾捐助廣東省公立醫院。葉生於1927年逝世。

The Wing Sang Company
永生號

Wing Sang Company was one of the wealthiest firms in the Chinatown area of Vancouver. It engaged in contracting Chinese workers for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company; the import and export of general merchandise from China and Japan; money remittance from Vancouver to Hong Kong; and the dry-salt herring business with China. It also functioned as a passenger agency with the Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd. The Wing Sang Company was renamed Yip Sang Ltd. in 1950.

The Wing Sang Building, at what is now 51-69 East Pender Street (renamed and renumbered in 1907 from 29-35 Dupont Street), was built in 1889 and greatly extended in 1901, and is thought to be the oldest surviving building in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Wing Sang building, ca. 1901-07. Photographer unknown. City of Vancouver Archives CVA 689-54 永生號大樓, 攝於約1901-1907年間。温哥華檔案館相片編號﹕CVA 689-54

Wing Sang building, ca. 1901-07. Photographer unknown.
City of Vancouver Archives CVA 689-54
永生號大樓, 攝於約1901-1907年間。温哥華檔案館相片編號﹕CVA 689-54

永生號曾經是華埠其中一間最興旺的商號,主要業務包括為加拿大太平洋鉄路公司輸入中國勞工、中國及日本的商品貿易、温哥華及香港兩地的往來滙款、以及中國的咸魚貿易,永生號亦是太平洋輪船公司的其中一個代理。永生號在1950年改名為葉生有限公司。

永生號大樓位於片打東街51至69號,大樓建於 1889年,及後在1901年作大幅擴建。永生號相信是温哥華華埠現存最古老的建築物。

Acquisition of the Materials
葉氏家族檔案的捐贈及存館過程

In June 1989, Randall Yip contacted the Archives on behalf of the Yip family regarding the Wing Sang Company building, which was still owned by the family but had not been in recent use. The building was to be renovated, and there were papers and artifacts within which might be of historical interest. Over three days that August, five staff members packed and retrieved over forty boxes of materials found in two levels of the building.

Additional materials were later donated by family members, but the majority of the fonds was salvaged from the building.

Materials after acquisition and freeze fumigation. Archives staff photo, 1991 經泠涷殺菌及除蟲處理後的部份文件,攝於1991年。

Materials after acquisition and freeze fumigation. Archives staff photo, 1991
經泠涷殺菌及除蟲處理後的部份文件,攝於1991年。

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1989年6月, 葉氏家族的一名成員,代表家族聯絡温哥華檔案館,商討一批存放在永生號大樓內的文件及文物。當時葉氏家族仍然擁有該大樓,但大樓已空置多時。由於大樓將會 重建,葉氏家族希望該批有歷史價值的文獻,能夠得到妥善保存。 温哥華檔案館遂於同年8月在大樓展開工作,5位檔案館的職員在3日內,整理及包裝超過40多箱文件。

大樓內發現的文件,成為葉氏家族檔案的主要部份。而葉氏家族的成員,亦捐出個人珍藏的家族資料。

Opening the Safes
打開保險庫

Two safes, including a large walk-in, were opened by a professional safecracker. The walk-in safe was unlocked, but the outer set of doors was rusted shut, so the metal had to be cut away with a torch in order to gain access. The contents were protected from the shower of sparks by the inner doors.

The smaller safe was empty.

recovery-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

永生號大樓內有一個大型的保險庫,保險庫有內外两層門。 雖然保險庫沒有上鎖,但由於外門已生銹至不能開啟 ,要由技師用燒焊器,將外門燒開,才能取出保險庫內的文件。由於有保險庫的內門保護,文件未為燒焊火花所破壞。

大樓內亦有一個較小型的保險庫,但裡面空無一物。

Document Recovery
文件修復

Eleven of the boxes of documents were taken from the walk-in safe, but as many of them had been wet and moldy for a long time due to a leak in the ceiling, even after freeze-drying only four boxes could be salvaged. All materials, both wet and dry, were fumigated in a freezer to kill insects.

Rotted wooden shelf and moldy ledger books, walk-in safe, 1989. Staff photograph. 大型保險庫內,已腐爛的木書架及已發霉的帳簿,攝於1989年。

Rotted wooden shelf and moldy ledger books, walk-in safe, 1989. Staff photograph.
大型保險庫內,已腐爛的木書架及已發霉的帳簿,攝於1989年。

檔案館職員在保險庫內取出11箱文件,但由於大樓的天花板長年漏水,大部份保險庫內的文件,因長期受潮而發霉。縱使經泠涷殺菌及抽濕處理,只有其中4 箱文件能保存下來。所有保存的文件,無論乾或受潮,都要存放泠藏庫內,進行殺菌及除蟲。

The Correspondence
關於這些信件

Yip Sang acted as an unofficial postmaster for his own employees and other local Chinese workers for correspondence to and from China. Letters addressed using Chinese characters would not be delivered by the Canadian postal system. Yip Sang had the means to transport mail to China using his import/export business. In addition, his building served as a poste restante for incoming mail to be delivered to itinerant workers.

While the characters are no different than those which have been used for thousands of years, the writing style of the time employed fewer characters than are used today to express the same idea, making interpretation a challenge. In addition, many of the handwritten characters are difficult to read. We chose only legible letters for the project.

Letter #454   信件編號 454 Add. MSS 1108-454 envelope, undated Add.MSS.1108-454 信封,年代不詳

Letter #454 信件編號 454
Add. MSS 1108-454 envelope, undated
Add.MSS.1108-454 信封,年代不詳

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

除了是一位商人外,葉生亦充當其員工的非正式郵政局長,負責收發員工往來温哥華與中國两地的書信。原因是當時 的加拿大郵政局,看不懂信封上的中文書地址。恰巧葉生經營两地貨物的出入口生意,故此員工的家書便連同葉生的貨物,一起往來温哥華與中國,而永生號大樓亦 是員工郵件的代收及待領中心。

雖然中文字已沿用了數千年,但由於當時所用的文體跟現代的有所不同,加上當時的人比現代人用較少的字,來表達意思,令翻譯工作遇到困難。由於大部份信件的字體十分潦草,我們只揀選了一些字體容易辨認的信件,來進行翻譯。

Sample Translations
一些翻譯樣本

Letter 352 信件編號 352 Add. MSS 1108-352, undated Add.MSS.1108-352, 年代不詳 Wang Kuopang notified Wang Kuoyue that he has remitted five hundred and ninety dollars to Wing Sang Co. The letter has a literal translation of "being taxed while entering Vancouver (or Canada )." 王擴胖匯至永生寶號與王擴月五百九十六元。內有“打稅入埠”字句。

Letter 352
信件編號 352
Add. MSS 1108-352, undated
Add.MSS.1108-352, 年代不詳
Wang Kuopang notified Wang Kuoyue that he has remitted five hundred and ninety dollars to Wing Sang Co. The letter has a literal translation of “being taxed while entering Vancouver (or Canada ).”
王擴胖匯至永生寶號與王擴月五百九十六元。內有“打稅入埠”字句。

Letter 398 信件編號 398  Add. MSS 1108-398, undated Add.MSS.1108-398, 年代不詳 Cheng Wenzong thanked Mr. Ye for hiring a doctor for the wife of Jiang Boding. She has telegraphed Cheng that "she is recovering [from illness]." 陳文宗來信謝葉公代為為江伯定之妻 " 請醫 ," 其妻已來電“云好轉。”

Letter 398
信件編號 398
Add. MSS 1108-398, undated
Add.MSS.1108-398, 年代不詳
Cheng Wenzong thanked Mr. Ye for hiring a doctor for the wife of Jiang Boding. She has telegraphed Cheng that “she is recovering [from illness].”
陳文宗來信謝葉公代為為江伯定之妻 ” 請醫 ,” 其妻已來電“云好轉。”

Letter 430 信件編號 430  Add. MSS 1108-430, undated Add.MSS.1108-430, 年代不詳 Kuang Shulin informed how he spent the 1,000 dollars that Kuang Maiju sent to him in purchasing properties and taking care of underprivileged family members. 鄺樹林告知去年收到叔父寄與之一千元是如何用以置產與照顧家中弱勢者。

Letter 430
信件編號 430
Add. MSS 1108-430, undated
Add.MSS.1108-430, 年代不詳
Kuang Shulin informed how he spent the 1,000 dollars that Kuang Maiju sent to him in purchasing properties and taking care of underprivileged family members.
鄺樹林告知去年收到叔父寄與之一千元是如何用以置產與照顧家中弱勢者。

Letter #454   信件編號 454 Add. MSS 1108-454 page 1, 1913 Add.MSS.1108-454 頁1, 1913年 I. Liang Xianxi informed Liang Xianen that he has received the twenty dollars, but the medical expense for his grandson was over ten dollars. He also informed that “your parents are both over eighty years old, please return home early.” 信一:梁賢熙告知梁賢恩已收到二十元,但孫兒醫療費“即花十多元,”並叮囑“慈嚴已八十高壽,請儘早回家。”

Letter #454 信件編號 454
Add. MSS 1108-454 page 1, 1913
Add.MSS.1108-454 頁1, 1913年
I. Liang Xianxi informed Liang Xianen that he has received the twenty dollars, but the medical expense for his grandson was over ten dollars. He also informed that “your parents are both over eighty years old, please return home early.”
信一:梁賢熙告知梁賢恩已收到二十元,但孫兒醫療費“即花十多元,”並叮囑“慈嚴已八十高壽,請儘早回家。”

Letter #454   信件編號 454 Add. MSS 1108-454 page 2, undated Add.MSS.1108-454 頁2, 年代不詳 II. Liang Huanfu informed his father, Liang Xianen that "our family is fine. The annual family expenses are two hundred dollars and because there are some young ones, the estimate [expenses] is three to four hundred dollars." 信二:梁換福告知父親梁賢恩“家中安好。每年家中花費約兩百元又有幼小者,估計約需三四百元,以應家用。”。

Letter #454 信件編號 454
Add. MSS 1108-454 page 2, undated
Add.MSS.1108-454 頁2, 年代不詳
II. Liang Huanfu informed his father, Liang Xianen that “our family is fine. The annual family expenses are two hundred dollars and because there are some young ones, the estimate [expenses] is three to four hundred dollars.”
信二:梁換福告知父親梁賢恩“家中安好。每年家中花費約兩百元又有幼小者,估計約需三四百元,以應家用。”。

Letter #454   信件編號 454 Add. MSS 1108-454 page 3, undated Add.MSS.1108-454 頁3,年代不詳 III. Liang Huanfu informed his father, Liang Xianen that "he has given up his studies in order to find a job to meet the family need.” His second uncle is already eighty years old, so please mail the money back home early for buying rice and food. 信三:梁換福告知父親,梁賢恩,為應家急已“棄學圖工,”並且“二伯已八十,請早寄銀兩回家,以應米糧之需 。”

Letter #454 信件編號 454
Add. MSS 1108-454 page 3, undated
Add.MSS.1108-454 頁3,年代不詳
III. Liang Huanfu informed his father, Liang Xianen that “he has given up his studies in order to find a job to meet the family need.” His second uncle is already eighty years old, so please mail the money back home early for buying rice and food.
信三:梁換福告知父親,梁賢恩,為應家急已“棄學圖工,”並且“二伯已八十,請早寄銀兩回家,以應米糧之需 。”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preserving Local History Update

On March 20, I participated in the eighth annual Carolyn & Norwood Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo on behalf of our team.  It was certainly an exciting and informative expo – there were at least a hundred other student presenters!

The expo was particularly well set up, and I greatly enjoyed viewing the presentations and posters of others. The expo was set up in an interesting way that really provided students the opportunity to present in ways that best suited individual needs and presentation styles.  There were three options for presenting:  poster, verbal presentation, and creative presentations.  I chose to make a poster to hang for public viewing, as did most of the other participants.   Several judges came by to view each poster and ask questions.  The judges seemed interested in what we are doing, and several commented that this project seemed innovative and well done.  That feedback was certainly the type that we like to hear, and it was encouraging – we want to see how outsiders view our purpose and our mission as much as possible.

Next up on the agenda is wrapping up calls to potential participants, making possible on-site visits, creating charts and a modified presentation for a few upcoming events, and working on that all-important best practices manual!

The Lasting Appeal of Night Mail

Nearly eighty years after its release, Night Mail (Wright & Watt, 1936), produced by the General Post Office Film Unit, is still relevant to documentary filmmaking – its style, content and representation being key to the fundamentals of the non-fiction film. Night Mail follows the journey of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway postal service from London to Scotland, as it collects and delivers Britain’s mail.

A scene from Night Mail (ref. Grierson Archive, G Photo 55)

A scene from Night Mail (ref. Grierson Archive, G Photo 55)

Forsyth Hardy, film critic and John Grierson’s biographer, wrote in 1979 about the lasting appeal of the film in his book Grierson on Documentary – “Of all the hundreds of films which emerged from the documentary movement in the 1930s it has most surely stood the test of time.” Perhaps this is because the nostalgia evoked, was of a time in British culture that seemed untouched by modernity. Paradoxically however, the film proved to be stylistically and socially progressive. Modernist concepts such as commercial rebranding and details like expressionistic images – the beveled, clean lines of the titles, the specially commissioned music and poetic verse suggested a cultural shift.

Founded by Grierson in 1933, the G. P. O. Film Unit made documentaries to promote British industry to the British public. Films such as Granton Trawler (Grierson, 1934), about the fishing industry reminded the nation that respect and gratitude should be given to everyday workers. Referring to this concept Night Mail director Basil Wright said that the film was, “commissioned by the post office […] to explain to the Post Office workers how this particular aspect of the vast organization happened” (ref. Grierson Archive, GA.10.55). Grierson went on to say, “It was some satisfaction to take those letters G.P.O and make them stand for what was most progressive in the cinema” (ref. Grierson Archive, G3.14.5).

Night Mail’s appeal was partly due to the collaboration of modern disciplines and experimentation in sound and visual style. The combination of Grierson’s production, Cavalcanti’s sound direction, W.H.Auden’s poetic verse and music by composer Benjamin Britten constructed an almost avant-garde aesthetic. The juxtaposition between man and machine – the close-up shots of the moving pistons, the point of view shots from the engine drawing the audience in and the precise timing of the mail bag pick-up as postal workers listen to the beats of the wheels on the track – evokes a poetic artistry. Talking to the B.B.C about the pre-production, Grierson recounts the emotional connotations, “The train had become the living embodiment of a whole slice of British life” (ref. Grierson Archive, G7.23.3).

Detail of bust of John Grierson by the sculptor Kenny Munro at Stirling Train Station.

Detail of bust of John Grierson by the sculptor Kenny Munro at Stirling Train Station.

On its release, Night Mail was successful, in part due to transportable projection units. In Sight and Sound in 1937, J.B. Holmes, director of productions at the G.P.O discussed their method of distribution, “With machines, operators, screens and films, they were capable of showing in almost any sort of premises” (ref. Grierson Archive, G3.P4). Aside from the influential use of the cinematic device and the modernist propaganda ascribed to the film; far beyond the filmmaking world, railway enthusiasts have sustained the appeal of Night Mail and as a result, in 2013 a sculpted bust of Grierson was introduced to Stirling railway station.

(Susannah Ramsay, M. Litt. in Film Studies)

Typographical Ransom Notes #1: Fine Port and Ham

For a while now I’ve been planning on making a repository to store interesting pages from type specimen books that I come across during the day. And, more importantly, I wanted a place for visitors who use the Updike Collection to share their own images (we welcome researchers taking pictures of the materials they’re using when they visit). That site is now up and running: typesampling-logo1There are only a few images available at present, but expect many more in the future. And to celebrate, here’s the first post in an occasional series of ransom-note-style collages taken from images on the site: FinePortAndHam