The Henry Mole Diaries: Chronicling a pioneer, farmer and councillor

Nothing beats a good set of diaries for getting a flavour of how people lived in the past. In 2017 the Archives received the diaries of Henry Mole, a Vancouver settler in what is now Kerrisdale, who regularly chronicled his days from 1872 to 1914. There are 35 volumes, each averaging about 50 pages.

A selection of the Henry Mole diaries. Photo by Chak Yung

Mole, who lived from 1839 to 1923, was a successful farmer as well as, from 1894 to 1903, a councillor for the Municipality of South Vancouver. South Vancouver was established in 1892 and comprised all of current-day Vancouver south of 16th Avenue (up until 1908 when the Corporation of Point Grey was created south of 16th and west of Cambie). It amalgamated with the City of Vancouver in 1929.

Portrait of Henry Mole, ca. 1910. Reference code: AM980-S3—: CVA 804-910

In 1855, the then-16-year-old Mole left his home county of Huntingdonshire, England and settled on Ontario’s Niagara peninsula. After a few years, he decided to head for the gold fields out west. Arriving in Victoria in 1882 and then, shortly after, in New Westminster, he found the gold was almost gone. Instead of returning home, he decided to settle in Vancouver. He and a partner, E.J. Betts, pre-empted a piece of land and established a farm in North Arm, now the Kerrisdale area, and in doing so became one of the area’s first settlers.

Detail from Henderson’s BC Directory, 1889.

Mole’s farmland and house were located between Blenheim Street and SW Marine Drive:

Detail from Goad’s Fire Insurance Atlas, 1912. Reference code: AM1594-MAP 342a-: MAP 342a.38

According to a later description by Mole’s grandson, Henry F. Mole, the area in the 1860s was:

. . . nothing but sloughs and ridges . . . .There were no roads – only trails. The only way to travel was to walk – or go by boat up the Fraser River to New Westminster or around Point Grey to the False Creek area and Burrard Inlet. Buildings, fences, implements, bridges and flood gates were all made from lumber cut on farm.[1]

This difficult life was reflected in Mole’s dairies. Each entry started with the weather (he was a farmer, after all), and then proceeded to the day’s business. Entries for each day are quite brief, but nevertheless informative, and the diaries are easy to read thanks to Mole’s quite beautiful and legible hand writing. Here is his first entry from his first diary, from 1872:

Caption: First page of 1872 diary showing Mole’s excellent hand writing. Reference code: AM1676-F01

The entries clearly document how busy the life of a pioneer farmer was. Mole worked seven days a week and his daily routine included farm work, building and repairing dykes, rearing cattle and transporting beef, hay, butter and milk to different places in Vancouver and New Westminster by canoe. He began his work as early as 5 o’clock in the morning and was back home as late as 9 o’clock in the evening or, in some cases, 1 o’clock in the morning.

Excerpt from 1872 diary. Reference code: AM1676-F01

After years of hard work, Mole’s farm began to flourish. Sales increased and farm products were sold further afield to the Vancouver Island area. In 1878, for example, a large order of 14,218 lbs. of hay and 3,985 lbs. of oats was sent to a client named Taylor in Nanaimo. Six cattle were also sold in 1878.

Excerpt from 1878 diary. Reference code: AM1676-F05

Excerpt from 1878 diary. Reference code: AM1676-F05

Although Mole wrote mainly about farm business in his diaries, he did mention some important personal events. On November 7, 1881 he noted his marriage to Elizabeth Ann Cornish:

Excerpt from 1881 diary. Reference code: AM1676-F08

The family grew in 1882 with the birth of twins:

Excerpt from 1882 diary. Reference code: AM1676-F09

Mole was also involved in municipal affairs, and noted his election as a “Councilman” by acclamation in 1894:

Excerpt from 1894 diary. Reference code: AM1676-F21

Mole keeps writing right up to 1914, ever focused on the weather:

February entries from 1914 diary. Reference code: AM1676-F35. Photo by Chak Yung.

A frosty, dull day on February 16th. Close up from 1914 diary above. Reference code: AM1676-F35. Photo by Chak Yung.

Henry Mole’s diaries are an important addition to the Archives’ holdings. Not many daily records of life in Vancouver from the perspective of an early settler exist, and Mole is remarkable in his dedication to the daily task of writing for over more than four decades.

Mole family, ca.1889. From left to right: Polly Paull (Mole’s stepdaughter), Henry Mole, Jane Paull (Mole’s stepdaughter), Elizabeth Ann (Mole’s wife), John Mole (Mole’s son) and Annie Mole (Mole’s daughter) in front. Reference code: AM980-S3—: CVA 804-912

We invite you to come to the Archives and have a look through these diaries and re-live life in late 19th century south Vancouver.

[1] Peter S.N. Claydon and Valerie A. Melanson, ed., Vancouver Voters, 1886, (Richmond, BC: British Columbia Genealogical Society, 1994), 462.

STIrling fund Projects

The Stirling Fund exists to support Stirling’s student community by awarding small grants for activities that contribute to University life. The University Archives recent received two grants from the fund to open up access to our unique collections.

The Brig Digital Archive project will digitise the full set of the first twenty-five years of Brig, the university’s student newspaper, creating a digital archive which will be made freely available on the University Archives website. The paper has been a constant presence in student’s lives, providing an alternative student-centred view of life on campus, since its first issue in October 1969 and we are delighted to be embarking on this exciting project in the papers 50th anniversary year.

The Freedom Road project will support an African history conference which will feature the UK premiere of a new documentary on Malawian history produced by the Lost History Foundation. The documentary focuses on the Mwanza War of 1967 and draws heavily on our Peter Mackay Archive, which provides a rich resource for students of modern African history. The support of the Stirling Fund will allow us to bring members of the Lost History Foundation team to the university to speak about their work challenging and reassessing the modern history of Malawi.

We’re looking forward to working on these projects over the summer months and will provide regular updates on our progress via our blog and social media using #StirlingFund.

Principles of Astronomy as detailed in an atlas by James Ferguson

Ferguson’s planetary phases diagram.

While combing through the vast amount of science related items we hold in Special Collections & Archives, I came across quite the peculiar book. I decided to scour the stacks for it as astronomy has always interested me and I was hoping for some interesting images. I knew from my initial search in the catalog that this item held images; a total of 25 plates, in fact, however what exactly those were was a mystery.

James Ferguson’s
Atlas of plates illustrative of Ferguson’s principles of astronomy is a book that holds multiple illustrations of astronomy related technology from the 1800’s. Ferguson was a Scottish astronomer best
known as the individual who improved and invented many astronomical and other scientific instruments, many of which can be found imaged in this atlas. Surprisingly, the totality of Ferguson’s formal education was met at a single grammar school at Keith in his younger years. His works within the field of astronomy and other sciences can thus only be attributed to his own self discipline, and an ambition to study the sciences.

Remaining cover of the atlas.

The cover of the atlas was made of a cloth fabric that was designed to look like leather, a cheaper alternative for the time, and only has a few pieces left attached to the bare surface show in the image to the left. It is a delicate artifact that needs support when opened however the pages themselves are mostly intact.

I couldn’t help think the images I found in this atlas were the epitome of aesthetic pleasantries. The amount of suns with faces was something I enjoyed most along with the inclusion of zodiac related constellations. Although this is a nice book to look at, there aren’t very many descriptions to go along with them, save for those found on the Orrery illustration on the first page and that found on the map of the world found in the very back of the atlas (see slideshow below for map). As someone who isn’t versed in this subject, I found it difficult to understand not only what these devices were but what they were used for. Despite this, the appreciation for the work itself is still present as it is clearly a magnificent collection of one man’s journey of discovery and invention.

Although his inventions are used for scientific inquiry, they were an item that caught the eye of a totally different set of individuals. I find it funny when researching Ferguson that many of his creations lean more toward the genre of clock-making than scientific discovery, despite the fact that they go hand-in-hand in this particular case. Many of his books detail designs for astronomical clocks that give time of day as well as day of the month, phases of the moon, and the position of the stars. Sometimes, his clocks would even include the state of the tide. If I had a clock like that, I’d want to show it to everyone and, clearly, this sentiment was not lost on clock-makers as they used his designs to build some of the greatest functioning timepieces of the time.

Fascinatingly enough, I’d never heard of James Ferguson until now. When most people think of the sciences, astronomy in particular, names like Nicolaus Copernicus, Isaac Newton, or Johannes Kepler come to mind and rightly so. These scientists created many works and made many discoveries that have led up to where we are today. Ferguson is not lacking in these works either. He produced a number of books during his life, including The use of a new orrery… (1746), Astronomy explained upon Sir Isaac Newton’s principles… (1756), The young gentleman and lady’s astronomy (1768), and The art of drawing in perspective… (1775). 

Regardless of how well-known Ferguson is today, he was widely influential in his own time and has been mentioned by personalities such as Founding Father Thomas Paine and German experimental physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who is most known for his discovery and study of the Lichtenberg figure which is named after him. Ferguson died in London on November 17, 1776, leaving works like this extraordinarily illustrated atlas as a legacy.

You can explore this item further at the Special Collections Research Center at Strozier Library.

  • Plate 11 of the 17 still present in the atlas.


All image are taken by and credited to the author of the blog.

Time Traveling Drama

In celebration of the College’s bicentennial in 1821, we’re reprocessing several large collections in the archives. One of these is the Dramatic Activities Collection – material assembled by Tuffy McGoun, a professor of dramatics at the College. The collection documents the history of dramatic productions and activities on campus. It’s a long history – our first production ephemera dates from 1826!

In addition to giving a great overview of the dramatic life of the college, the collection is an excellent resource for showing trends in design over the decades. Nowhere is this more evident than in comparing several different productions of the same play. I’ve chosen two popular plays to show examples of how different productions handled costumes, set design, and publicity in different decades.

Our first play – The Rivals, a comedy of manners by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, was first performed in 1775. The plot follows the romantic intrigue between several visitors of the town of Bath, England, a popular holiday spot at the time. The play is somewhat forgotten today – though it did give us the term malaprop, derived from the character of Mrs. Malaprop (who unintentionally substitutes the wrong term for similar-sounding words throughout).

The first Amherst College production took place June of 1843. It was performed three other times: March 1896, February 1906, and May 1963.


Program from the June 1843 production of scenes from The Rivals. Part of the Amherst College Summer Exhibition


Program from the March 1896 production of The Rivals.


Playbill for the 1896 production, performed at the Academy of Music at Northampton. Touts “college men. Costly scenery. Elaborate costumes.”


Cast photograph of the 1896 “Rivals.” Annotations on the back state that this was the first College production to go on tour.


The 1906 “Rivals” program, by the Amherst College Dramatics Association.


Program from a Ware, Massachusetts performance. The penciled annotation says: “The night the curtain came down on Deroin’s head.” Frank Deroin (AC 1908) played the character of Bob Acres.


The 1963 production program. Kirby Memorial Theater was built in 1938.


A production photograph from 1963 depicting the characters Julia and Faulkland.

The second play I chose comes from Shakespeare – the Scottish play! Macbeth was performed at Amherst College in January 1910, November 1941, November 1965, and November 1995. The documentation for the 1941 production is particularly rich, showing the effort that went into the set design and costumes.


A program for the 1910 performance. Note: this wasn’t quite a dramatic production, rather a “reading by members of the Junior Class in public speaking.”


Costumes and set in 1941.



Behind the scenes in 1941.


A set design sketch for the 1941 production.


Program for the 1965 production. This aesthetic look persisted into the 1970s.


Program for the 1995 production.


These images represent only a small slice of the collection which stands at about 72 linear feet of material. As part of the Bicentennial project in the library, we’ll be digitizing a lot of this material in the coming years.




Chatty Whales



All of us in Special Collections have been deeply charmed by the chatty whales and blackfish in this surprisingly entertaining whaling logbook from our Nicholson Whaling Collection.

The logbook is the Journal of the Smyrna (Bark) out of New Bedford, MA, mastered by George Bliss and kept by George Bliss, on a whaling voyage between 1853 and 1857


You can view the full logbook online. “What’s that about a digitized logbook,” you ask? 751 of our logbooks were recently digitized and are available now on the Internet Archive; soon they’ll be added to PPL’s digital collections, along with even more digitized logbooks!

As always, contact us if you’d like to set up an appointment to see any logbooks in person.

Wildflowers of North America

Mary Vaux Walcott sitting on some rocks facing the camera with waterfalls behind her. (original image)

Special Collections here at FSU holds a large collection of books on botany and herbal medicine that go as far back as the 16th century. As much as I would love to scour through the many many herbal encyclopedia we hold, I found myself more interested in the different types of flowers and plants collected and depicted through either art or scientific study that can be found in the archives.

The full collection as it sits in the archives.

Here is Special Collections, we have the five volumes of a collection that holds some of the most beautiful prints of flowers created in the early 1900s. This collection, titled North American Wild Flowers, includes some 400 plates illustrated by American artist and naturalist Mary Vaux Walcott and was first published in 1925 by the Smithsonian Institute.

What’s most interesting about this collection is not the images themselves, but the sweet story of how they came to be. Walcott first took interest in watercolor painting after graduating from Friends Select School, a Quaker college preparatory school. She painted wildflowers she came upon during family trips with her brother who would study and record glacier flow in drawings and photographs as part of his mineralogical studies.

This was only the start for Mary Walcott. She would go on to marry Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Charles Doolittle Walcott at the age of 54. As she traveled with her husband for his paleontology research in the Rockies and throughout Canada, Mary made watercolor illustrations of wildflowers which can now be seen in the five-volume collection held in Special Collections & Archives.

During a 10 year period, Mary would spend somewhere between three and four months in the Canadian Rockies, finding and studying the finest specimens. More often then not, these illustrations were created under “trying conditions” such as on a mountain side of high pass, and at times when a fire was necessary to warm her numb fingers and body. Despite these conditions and others, such as diffused lighting and subjects which had a lifespan seemingly too short for creating art from them, the fruits of Walcott’s labor can be seen in these immortalized specimens.

Each box volume in this collection consists of a slipcase which holds a book listing each flower, describing them in detail, and a plate of each flower beautifully detailed by Walcott’s hand.

The North American Wild Flowers Collection, can be referenced here in the library catalog. For more information please call or visit Special Collections & Archives.

All photo credits go to the author.

Declassification Diplomacy: The United States Declassification Project for Argentina

This morning I presented the final tranche of newly-declassified U.S. Government records to Argentine Minister of Justice and Human Rights, the Honorable Germán Carlos Garavano. The ceremony marks the successful completion of the U.S. Declassification Project for Argentina, the largest government-to-government declassification release in United States history.

David S. Ferriero (left), delivers the final installment of records to Argentina’s Minister of Justice and Human Rights, the Honorable Germán Carlos Garavano (right). Photo courtesy of

This represents the final stage of an historic effort by the U.S. Government to search, identify, review for public access, and provide records that shed light on human rights abuses in Argentina between 1975 and 1984. More than 43,000 pages of U.S. documents from 16 Executive Branch agencies were provided to the Government of Argentina.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has posted the collection as a whole, which can be found here:

Records released by the National Archives’ National Declassification Center are available to the public here:

My remarks from the ceremony:

Good morning Attorney General Garavano, Ambassador de Roa, and Director Quinteros.

I am honored to host you today.  I’d also like to thank John Dinkelman, John Demurs,  Corin Stone, Karen Meyers, and Carlos Osorio for attending today’s ceremony.

My first duty is to welcome you to the National Archives – “my house” – as I like to say.  The National Archives serves a crucial role as our Nation’s record-keeper. Our mission is to collect, protect, and preserve the permanently valuable records of all three branches of the United States Government.  We take this responsibility seriously. Public access to government records strengthens democracy by allowing citizens to hold their government accountable, understand their history, and participate more effectively in their government.

When President Franklin Roosevelt, who signed the legislation creating the National Archives, articulated his vision and our mission during the dedication of his Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York, he said:

“It seems to me that the dedication of a library is in itself an act of faith.  To bring together the records of the past and house them in buildings where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future, a Nation must believe in three things.  It must believe in the past. It must believe in the future. And it must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future.”  Creating their own future—our mission.

Today, the collection has over 15 billion sheets of paper, 44 million photographs, miles and miles of video and film, and more than 5 billion electronic records—the fastest growing record form. These records start with the Oaths of Allegiance signed by George Washington and his troops at Valley Forge and go all the way up to the Tweets that are being created in the White House as I speak.

Millions of visitors and researchers visit us each year to learn about our Nation’s history.  The National Archives operates 44 facilities in 17 states, including 14 Presidential Libraries and Museums, two research facilities here in the Washington DC area, and 14 Regional Archives across the country.

I am honored to host this important event on behalf of the President, the United States Government, the 16 agencies that participated in this project, and the American people.  To set the stage and emphasize its importance, I used my prerogative as Archivist to showcase two treasures from our vault.

Outside of this room, there are two treaties on display. In 1822, the United States was the third nation to recognize Argentina’s Declaration of Independence from Spain.  While our two nations enjoyed good relations and started trading, it was not until July 10, 1853, that our two nations first formalized bilateral relations with a treaty to allow free navigation on the Parana and Uruguay Rivers. This treaty––focused solely on navigation rights––quickly led to agreement of a broader treaty.

This second treaty, the Treaty of Friendship, Navigation, and Commerce, was signed shortly thereafter on July 27, 1853, and expanded our relationship to include agreements to facilitate increased trade.

Please have a look at them after the ceremony.

I also invite all of you to visit “The Public Vaults” in our museum. The Treaty of Friendship, Navigation, and Commerce that the Argentine Confederation gave to the United States is now on display. This ornate version includes a skippet with the seal of the Argentine Confederation.

The U.S. Declassification Project for Argentina is both historic and significant. There have been other declassification projects in the past. But this one stands out for several reasons. First, the project spanned two Presidential administrations. President Barack Obama directed agencies to conduct this project after receiving a request from Argentine President Mauricio Macri. And after President Macri renewed his request early in this Administration, President Donald Trump directed that it continue.

The project is unparalleled for its scope and breadth. Sixteen Executive branch agencies participated, including Intelligence, Defense, and law enforcement agencies. Over 380 employees from these agencies spent almost 32,000 hours searching for and reviewing records on a word-for-word basis.  The results of those reviews are impressive and reflect the President’s interest. Over 43,000 pages were––or are about to be publicly released. The declassification rate on these pages is 97% and aligns with the President’s instruction to release as much information as possible.

Finally, the process for organizing and completing this project is unique. I attribute its success to the inclusion of all stakeholders. They include the Executive branch agencies working with officials from the Argentine Embassy in Washington DC, the United States Embassy in Buenos Aires, and the Argentine Government. There was also dialogue and communication with Argentine civil society organizations, including two videoconferences; historians working closely from within and outside Government; and cooperation with Carlos Osorio from the National Security Archive.

I thank the National Archives staff who participated in this project: staff from the National Declassification Center, the Center for Legislative Archives, the Presidential Materials Division, the Office of Innovation, the Information Security Oversight Office and archivists from the Ford, Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush Presidential Libraries.

Our staff played a key role throughout this project. In August 2016, just two months after receiving the Presidential directive, the archivists in the Presidential Libraries quickly compiled and reviewed over 1,000 pages of Presidential documents. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered these documents to President Macri later that month on an official trip to Buenos Aires. In December 2016, as the Government of Argentina honored the life of former Assistant Secretary of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Patt Derian, U.S. Ambassador to Argentina Noah Mamet delivered an additional 550 pages.

These pages remain significant as they include information from 25 President’s Daily Briefs from the Carter administration. “PDBs” as they are called, are among our nation’s most sensitive intelligence documents and are compiled expressly for the President.

Few others in Government get to read them.

The Carter Administration PDBs were not scheduled for review until the next decade.  These declassified PDBs allow for important context and aid historians in understanding President Carter’s actions and policies regarding human rights violations in Argentina.

In April 2017, President Trump provided over 3,000 pages of newly declassified documents to President Macri.  They included documents from the Carter Library identified by Department of State historians for inclusion in the South America volume of the Foreign Relations of the United States series, the official documentary and historical record of major United States foreign policy decisions and activities.

For this last tranche of records, the staff at National Declassification Center searched over 740 cubic feet of records and identified over 4,600 pages for inclusion. They included records created by the Air Force, Army, the Departments of Justice, Labor, and State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Joint Staff, the US Information Agency, and US Agency for International Development.

The National Declassification Center staff was supported by declassification professionals from several agencies. I’d like to thank the staff from the Air Force, the Army, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the FBI, the Joint Staff, the Washington Headquarters Services at the Department of Defense, the Navy, the U.S. Southern Command, and the Departments of Justice and State for their work.  This collaboration illustrates how the National Declassification Center brings together people and processes within the Executive branch declassification community to advance declassification and public access to historical records.

There are distinguished retired Diplomats here today – like Tex Harris and Fred Rondon  who helped save lives while working at the Department of State.

Mario del Carril is here representing his wife, Isabel Mignone.  Her sister was arrested and disappeared in 1976. Her mother Angelica was one of the founders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and her father, Emilio, championed human rights and accountability, including testifying in trials.  Azul Hidalgo Sola is also here. Her grandfather, Ambassador Hector Hildalgo Sola was kidnapped and disappeared in July 1977.

The records of Tex Harris and Fred Rondon are here at the National Archives.  The records about Monica Mignone and the work of her parents for justice are here just as records relating to the disappearance of Azul’s grandfather are here. They help tell the story of this period in Argentine history – and in our history.

On your way into this building this morning you passed by two statues. One statue included the words, “Study the Past.”  Using archival records, this project was designed to:

    •         Help families and victims find closure, peace and justice
    •         Ensure accountability and aid judicial processes
    •         Aid Argentine citizens understand its history

The other statue included the words “The Past is Prologue.”  The declassification of these records greatly aids the national history so we can learn from it.

The lessons from these records––and from survivors and those who seek truth and justice for the people of Argentina – are meaningful and offer hope for the future.

Thank you.

Special Document Display: Emancipation Proclamation

The National Archives marks the 156th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation with a special 3-day display of the original document.

The National Archives will display the Emancipation Proclamation in the museum’s East Rotunda Gallery from April 14 through 16, coinciding with the anniversary of Lincoln’s death on April 15. Concurrently, the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 will be featured in the West Rotunda Gallery from April 12 through 16 in celebration of DC Emancipation Day on April 16.

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

Emancipation Proclamation, 1/1/1863. View the full document in the National Archives Catalog

As a milestone in the long journey toward abolishing slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom. The story of the Emancipation Proclamation is one that would help to redefine freedom and eventually change the course of history. Both the Proclamation and the DC legislation represent a promise of hope, freedom, and justice that continues to inspire and resonate with the American people more than 150 years after its creation.

Both documents allowed for the freedom of slaves. President Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia legislation on April 16, 1862, almost nine months before signing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

For conservation reasons, the original Emancipation Proclamation document of January 1, 1863, is displayed only a few days at a time under extremely low light to protect it from damage. This year, visitors can view the documents between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. in the National Archives East and West Rotunda Galleries in Washington, DC. Admission is free and open to the public.

Additionally, the Emancipation Proclamation and the DC Compensated Emancipation Act will be on special display together between 6 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, in conjunction with a related public program that evening.  

The National Archives will host the program, “DC Emancipation Day and the Emancipation Proclamation,” on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, at 7 p.m. in the William G. McGowan Theater at the Washington, DC, museum. A panel will discuss the history and political implications of both documents. Reservations are recommended but not required. Special performances by the Artists Group Chorale of Washington will take place during the display and at the start of the program.

This document display is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation, through the generous support of The Boeing Company.

You can learn more about the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation, its history, and the measures the National Archives has taken to preserve it in our video .

For a more detailed history, including transcripts, of the document, see the Emancipation Proclamation page on Visit our Catalog to view and download high-resolution images of the Emancipation Proclamation and the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862.

A Novel Approach to WQXR

Over the years WQXR has distinguished itself in many ways. But perhaps most flattering have been the authors who included it as part of their fictional works. WQXR on the page helps set the scene, tone and mood as well as introduce a familiar voice or piece of music. The bolding of WQXR has been added to the excerpts.

Harvey Swados writing in Nights in the Gardens of Brooklyn, Atlantic-Little Brown Books, 1960, pg. 37.

All evening the radio had been playing. Now, as we remained still, listening to the voice of the rising wind and the beating of our hearts, the WQXR announcer’s deadly familiar voice broke in on us: “Next we are to hear ‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain’ by Manuel de Falla.”Pauline reached out to turn it off. ‘We don’t need it. We’ve had our own nights in the gardens of Brooklyn, for a whole year.’ She touched my lips with her fingers… 


Ellery Queen, writing in Cat of Many Tails, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1949, pgs. 17-19.

He was wild about classical music.  He couldn’t read a note and he’d never had a lesson, but he could hum snatches of a lot of operas and symphonies and during the summer he tried to take in as many of the free Sunday concerts in Central Park as he could.  He was always after his kids to tune in WQXR, used to say he thought Beethoven would do them a lot more good than The Shadow...

(Special thanks to Jeff Spurgeon)


Thomas Pynchon, writing in V., Harper Perennial, 1986, pgs. 95-96.

The bus driver was of the normal or placid crosstown type; having fewer traffic lights and stops to cope with than the uptown-and-downtown drivers, he could afford to be genial. A portable radio hung by his steering wheel, tuned to WQXR. Tchaikovsky’s ‘Romeo and Juliet Overture’ flowed syrupy around him and his passengers. As the bus crossed Columbus Avenue, a faceless delinquent heaved a rock at it. Cries in Spanish ascended to it out of the darkness. A report which could have been either a backfire or a gunshot sounded a few blocks downtown. Captured in the score’s black symbols, given life by vibrating air columns and strings, having taken passage through transducers, coils, capacitors and tubes to a shuddering paper cone, the eternal drama of  love and death continued to unfold entirely disconnected from this evening and place…


Rex Stout, writing in The Final Deduction, Bantam Books, November 1985. Original copy, 1955, pg. 19.

She said she would, and we hung up. The radio clicked on, and a voice came: “…has five convenient offices in New York, one at the—” I reached and turned it off. When I get to bed after midnight I set it for eight o’clock, the news bulletins on WQXR, but I didn’t need any more news at the moment. I had a satisfactory stretch and yawn, and aloud, “What the hell, no matter what Jimmy Vail says we can say Mr. Knapp must have seen it,” yawned again, and faced the fact that it take will power to get on your feet…

[Editor’s Note: Rex Stout appears to be a real fan. WQXR makes an appearance in at least three of his other works: Some Buried Caesar & The Golden Spider; The Golden Spiders; and The Doorbell Rang].


Jhumpa Lahiri, writing in The Namesake, A Mariner Book, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 2003, pg. 263.

They begin seeing each other Mondays and Wednesdays, after she teaches her class. She takes the train uptown and they meet at his apartment, where lunch is waiting. The meals are ambitious: poached fish; creamy potato gratins; golden, puffed chickens roasted with whole lemons in their cavities. There is always a bottle of wine. They sit at a table with his books and papers and laptop pushed to one side. They listen to WQXR, drink coffee and cognac and smoke a cigarette afterward. Only then does he touch her. Sunlight streams through large dirty windows into the shabby prewar apartment…


Andy Warhol, writing in A: a novel, Grove Press, 1968, pgs. 31-32.

What do you mean Duncan McDonald? [sic]

Yeah uh.

Kaye Ballard had an interview with her on the air and all Kaye Ballard kept saying was, is, “Duncan that’s such a wonderful name, I think, for a woman.” Duncan. Duncan McDonald [sic], the person who announces for W — she has an interview show on at 2:30 on WQ-WQXR and she, and her sponsor is Beshard Rug Company and Lord nad [sic] Taylor.

Oh really?

And all Kaye Ballard gept, kept saying was, “Duncan is such a fabulous name, isn’t that cunningest name you ever heard?” She was great…

[Editor’s Note: Duncan MacDonald was the host of WQXR’s Observation Point program in the 1960s, where she did interviews on books, food and culture.]


Dawn Powell, writing in Angels on Toast, Steerforth Press, Vermont, 1996. Originally published by Charles Scribner’s and Sons in 1940.

On the other hand, as she had pointed out to him, she could show him show girls who had never had a drink in their lives and yet were no balls of fire so far as looks were concerned. She turned the downstairs radio on to WQXR and got the ‘Fifth Symphony.’ She could almost write it herself now —boom boom boom, begin the beginning over and over again till every instrument has got in a few well-chosen remarks, then begin again, and again, ah now we’re getting into it. But no, just where the middle should be the end begins with each little instrument saying a few last words, then altogether, amen, amen, goodbye, –ah but wait a minute, just a last minute suggestion, then goodbye, but wait, one more final nightcap…

(Another tip of the hat to Jeff Spurgeon and Richard Brody.)


Leo Haber, writing in The Red Heifer, Syracuse University Press, 2001, pg. 98-99

I promised my piano teacher at the Henry Street Settlement that I would also listen to classical music on WQXR and WNYC, the city station, and in fact, I did for two hours each evening. At 6:30 P.M., it was the Gambarelli and Divito program –or some advertiser with a name like that– on WQXR presenting short musical pieces, instrumental and vocal…I still managed to hear Felix Weingartner conducting Beethoven symphonies and Toscanini conducting the Tchaikovsky ‘Piano Concerto’ with Vladimir Horowitz at the piano. The opening of this latter piece was actually the opening theme of the WQXR program, and when I was new to all this stuff, I thought that Gambarelli and Divito, the advertisers, were the names of two composers of the work…


Lily Tuck, writing in Interviewing Matisse or The Woman Who Died Standing Up, Harper Perennial, 2006, pg. 8.  First published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1991.

I said, “Molly, I am sure the stereo belonged to Kevin.”

Molly said, “Oh WQXR. Lily, WQXR is the station Inez always listened to. Oh, and have I mentioned this? Have I told you this already, Lily? What Price and Claude-Marie the coroner said when he examined Inez? The coroner said he found drugs in Inez’s blood…”


Anne Strieber, writing in An Invisible Woman, Tor/Forge Books, 2005.

She sat listening to WQXR and watching the golden, wonderful city pass by outside the windows. She thought of the vast, impoverished world out there. She’d never known before how damn lucky she was to be rich. Never again would she fail to notice the realities all around her. It was all too easy to make reality disappear if you lived in the world of Manhattan wealth…


If, dear reader, you are aware of any other novels in which WQXR appears, please don’t hesitate to let me know at  Thanks!




Marian Anderson on The Listening Room

This week marks both the 80th anniversary of Marian Anderson’s historic Lincoln Memorial Concert in Washington, D.C. on April 9, 1939 and her death on April 8, 1993. As part of this week’s commemorations of the legendary contralto, the New York Public Radio Archives is making available a recently acquired, rarely heard interview.

On June 19, 1974, Marian Anderson was a guest of Robert Sherman on The Listening Room, WQXR’s seminal program of recorded music, in-studio performance, and conversation with some of the world’s finest musicians.  In a wide-ranging discussion, Ms. Anderson talks about her early life, her career in Europe in the 1930s, her historic 1955 debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, her singing of spirituals, and other subjects. 

At the conclusion of the hour-long interview, host Robert Sherman appears clearly moved by the combined experience of speaking with Ms. Anderson, the impact of her recordings, and the power of her presence. He observes:

“You provide not only beautiful music, but you provide inspiration as a person.  And they come together in a very rare way.”

The Marian Anderson interview with Robert Sherman originally aired in 1974, but appears here in a rebroadcast on June 19, 1993, part of the Marian Anderson Tribute episode of The Listening Room. Portions of the broadcast recording presented here have been edited for streaming on the web in an effort to respect the copyright protections on the published music played throughout the program; the interview itself is presented in its entirety.


Additional archival recordings related to this article:

The Listening Room show page

Today in History: Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial

Marian Anderson in conversation with George Shirley




“Field Flowers,” a bouquet of poetry from Eugene Field

Long known as the “Poet of Childhood,” Eugene Field is famous for his satirical and whimsical poems that evoke dreams, mischief, and romance. One of his most well-known poems “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” conjures images of the three eponymous sailors casting nets for stars in a crystal-brilliant sea in a child’s dream. 

All night long their nets they threw 
   To the stars in the twinkling foam— 
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe, 
   Bringing the fishermen home; 
‘T was all so pretty a sail it seemed 
   As if it could not be, 
And some folks thought ‘t was a dream they ‘d dreamed 
   Of sailing that beautiful sea— 
   But I shall name you the fishermen three: 
                     And Nod.1

Field continued his lighthearted and fantastic poems continued to be published after his early death in 1895, at the age of 45. The posthumously published “Field Flowers”  (1896) continues this streak of the magical in the pastoral “Cornish Lullaby”.  

Out on the mountain over the town, 
All night long, all night long, 
The trolls go up and the trolls go down, 
Bearing their packs and crooning a song; 
And this is the song the hill-folk croon, 
As they trudge in the light of the misty moon,– 
This is ever their dolorous tune: 
“Gold, gold! ever more gold,– 
Bright red gold for dearie!” 
Deep in the hill the yeoman delves 
All night long, all night long; 
None but the peering, furtive elves 
See his toil and hear his song; 
Merrily ever the cavern rings 
As merrily ever his pick he swings, 
And merrily ever this song he sings: 
“Gold, gold! ever more gold,– 
Bright red gold for dearie!” 
Mother is rocking thy lowly bed 
All night long, all night long, 
Happy to smooth thy curly head 
And to hold thy hand and to sing her song; 
‘T is not of the hill-folk, dwarfed and old, 
Nor the song of the yeoman, stanch and bold, 
And the burden it beareth is not of gold; 
But it’s “Love, love!–nothing but love,– 
Mother’s love for dearie!” 

As a popular poet of his time, Field’s work was commented in other publications, such as the article “Some Current Literature” by Van Der Dater in the journal Bradley, His Book (1897).

If Field’s poetic works intrigue you, you can further explore the digitized copy of “Field Flowers” at the Special Collections Research Center at Strozier Library or here at the FSU Digital Library.

  1. “Field, Eugene. Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” from “The Golden Book of Poetry” (1947), Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation; originally published in “Trumpet and Drum” (1892). 

Modernizing the Proposed Records Schedule Commenting Process

The records management program at the National Archives has been working to
build an open and collaborative electronic records management community with
federal and industry stakeholders for many years. A key component of this
effort has been increasing access to both approved records schedules via the Records Control Schedule portal and making it easier for the public to review and comment on pending records
schedules. These records management efforts have consistently been a
cornerstone of NARA’s Open Government Plans.

Since 2017, we have been planning, developing, and engaging with stakeholders inside and outside of the National Archives on a new approach for public comment and
review. We have now changed the process by which the public can review and comment on proposed records schedules. Now, these schedules will be available on the Federal eRulemaking Portal,

Proposed Records Schedules on

Prior to this change, individuals interested in making comments had to request copies of the proposed schedules based on a single sentence description in the Federal Register. This request, and all subsequent comments, had to be made by email or regular mail.

The new process, via, eliminates the need to request copies of proposed schedules. After posting on, the public will have immediate access to proposed schedules and supporting documentation for a review and comment period that has been extended from 30 to 45 days.

We are transitioning to as a way to improve our own internal business processes, and also to be responsive to clear, widespread interest from the public to use a web-based platform for a more modern, transparent, and efficient way to review and comment on records schedules. On May 30, staff from our Office of the Chief Records Officer will be holding a webinar to discuss these changes with the commenting public. Additional details about the webinar will be available on their blog, Records Express, in the coming days.

Updating the P.A.M Dirac Collection

At the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester, I began working with the Paul A. M. Dirac Collection found in the Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University. I didn’t really know what I would come across when I got started, but the photographs in this collection would end up being the very beginning of my utter fascination for the theoretical physicist.

I enjoy going to museums and reading books over studying science and math and day of the week. Maybe that’s why when I started this journey through the life of Paul Dirac I was both curious and uncertain. On an average day, I would take one box out of the stacks and start on the latest file of images. A single box could have anywhere from six to forty folders and could contain over 100 photographs. As cheesy as it sounds, each photo really does tell a story. I worked with images from the early 1900s which depicted Dirac and his family in period-appropriate dress. I saw images taken in Russia and Israel and Japan. Truly, despite the man being known for his contributions to theoretical physics, I was coming to know him for much more than that. Dirac wasn’t just a phenomenal scientist–he was a fascinating character all in his own category who traveled the world in the name of scientific discovery.

The first color images I stumbled upon in the collection. (see carnations and group photo)

The majority of the work was done through a spreadsheet where I compiled metadata for each image. Doing this not only updates the information by double checking that dates and events are accurate with a fresh pair of eyes, but it also allows for proper digitization. Organizing hundreds of photos, dealing with copyright, and learning the language of metadata has helped me in understanding how vital this work is. Although looking at these pictures and reflecting on the history behind them was one of my favorite parts of this project, understanding the importance of background work was the true takeaway. I had never truly appreciated the time and effort many individuals put in to make something on the web easily accessible for others and being able to reap the rewards of such work has helped me to understand the many layers it takes to make such content.

Snapshot image of the metadata used to digitize the collections.

After finishing my work on the Dirac Collection photographs, I moved on to his manuscripts and notes. I am still going through this work as it’s a hefty bit of information which I alone cannot decipher. Another team member is working on translating the mathematical notes which I will then compile into another document which will allow the information to be neatly transferred online for the public to view.

Before starting this project, I expected to be apathetic toward the process of having to look up and research people, places, and events in order to most accurately describe an image or document. Instead, I found that, despite what many times looked to be dull and uninspiring images, each photo had a story of its own which bled into the next and created a snapshot collection of the story of one man’s life.

Dirac’s papers now reside in Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University. You may see a complete finding aid of the collection here.

All photo credits goes to the author.

These are a few of our favourite things…

Throughout April @ARAScot are running the #Archive30 promotional campaign on Twitter. Like many other services across the UK and internationally we are delighted to join in and meet the challenge of tweeting all 30 daily topics throughout the month! Today’s theme is #FavouriteItem. Below you will will find the items chosen by our Archives & Special Collections team along with some information on how they came to make their choices.

Script for the film Drifters, 1929 (ref. G2.1.8.1)

Our John Grierson Archive holds papers relating to Drifters, his seminal 1929 documentary about North Sea fishing. They include this copy of the script where the ink has run across the page. I like to imagine that it got wet when Grierson was on board the trawlers shooting the dramatic scenes of fishermen at work

Karl Magee, University Archivist

Draft design for the national flag of Malawi (ref. MK/1/3/1/68)

I love this draft of the new national flag of Malawi as the country prepared to move away from the name Nyasaland and gained independence. By itself it serves as an insight into all the preparations a nation has to make as it forges forward on its own. Not only the tough socio-political choices but the joyous stuff too – composing a national anthem, designing the flag and naming your new country, the things that people will be proud of in the future. It sounds like a hefty task but fun too! In the context of the Peter Mackay archive, it gives you a feel for just how involved he was in the process of independence and considering all the struggles and danger that had gone before and would come after, it’s nice to be able to imagine Mackay and his colleagues sat around a table taking a rare moment away from the political strife to decide just how many rays of sunshine there were going to be on their new flag.

Rosie Al-Mulla, Archivist

1869 edition of The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott (ref. Special Reserve O 00.95 1869)

I like this book because of its local associations. The Lady of the Lake is set at Loch Kathrine in the Trossachs. This edition, bound in Maucline ware, features the Wallace Monument on the front cover and was sold at Stirling Castle as a souvenir in the nineteenth century.

Helen Beardsley, Academic Liaison Librarian

Karak, mascot of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games (ref. CG/2/18/3)

Karak was the mascot for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games and one of the first donations made to our Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive. It featured in our original Hosts and Champions exhibition at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow during the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Without doubt it was the object I had the most problems with when it came to setting up the display due to its habit of falling over every time I closed the exhibition case. In fact if I had a pound for every time I had to re-open the case to re-set Karak I’d have a very health bank balance!

Ian Mackintosh, Hosts and Champions Exhibition Assistant

Introducing the HYMAN ShaPIRO Archive

Our archive volunteer Darren, a student at the Centre for Archives and Information Studies at the University of Dundee, introduces a new collection he has catalogued.

University of Stirling Archives

In August 2017, the family of the late Hyman Shapiro gifted
the University Archives three large plastic storage boxes containing dozens of
typed and handwritten manuscripts, research notes and published books. Hyman
Shapiro M.A (1910-1979) was a secondary school teacher of History and English
in the Glasgow locality, including Woodside Secondary School, before being
appointed head of department at Glasgow College. Away from his teaching and
writing career, Hyman ran for candidature for the Glasgow Municipal Election of
1930 for the Dennistoun Ward and it may be argued that much of his writing had
political connotations in support of the Labour Party such as Background
to revolt: a short study in the social and economic conditions that led to the
‘Radical revolt’ on Clydeside in 1820 and of the part played in that rising by
James (Perley) Wilson and the Strathaven weavers
(published in 1945) and Keir
Hardie and the Labour Party
and John Wilkes and Parliament (published in 1971).

It would be safe to say Shapiro had an appetite for
writing and was a highly regarded historian (his work being primarily focused
on secondary school History textbooks for the Then and There Series). After five books published between 1945 and 1972, the biggest of (and probably most ambitious) of
his writing projects would be The History
of the British People
(which was sadly never completed or published before
his death in 1979). From the correspondence found in the collection between
Shapiro and potential publishers, it appears he began working on this project
in 1953. So we can imagine this would have been quite a book if it had been
fully completed and published and would certainly have been a useful go to
source for your history exams!

The collection contains 33 typed manuscript chapters from the unpublished textbook along with Question and Exercises and would have been divided between two volumes, covering all bases of the historical journey of the British people from Britain’s fist inhabitants fast forwarding through the Roman Conquest, Medieval Scotland and England, the Renaissance, Britain becoming a Commonwealth, the Jacobite Rebellions ending in the Eighteenth Century, where sadly the historical journey is cut short!

It would also seem Shapiro was
a great supporter of the Labour Party, as amongst the Political material within
the archive a candidature Labour Party leaflet was discovered dated from 1930
regarding Hyman Shapiro’s political campaign for the Dennistoun Ward of Glasgow
Municipal Election, as well as a Mid Lanark Election leaflet from 1910 for

The collection complements other collections in the University Archives such as The Mitchell Penguin Books Collection, Charles Dickens, Scottish Political Archive and the Amurlee Jacobite Collection. Furthermore, it may be regarded as a useful source for staff and students teaching and studying particular disciplines such as Publishing Studies, Politics and History.

Property tax assessment maps now available

With a nod to international Records and Information Management Month, we’re pleased to announce an addition to the always-popular tax assessment records: the Assessment Division’s Property tax assessment map series is now available to researchers.

The maps appear to have been used to document information that was used by Assessment Division staff to calculate assessed property value for tax purposes. The maps consist of copies of sectional plans created by the City’s Engineering Department, which have been pasted onto board backing for strength.

The condition of the maps indicates they were heavily used by staff, and the maps contain multiple years’ worth of data.

Assessment map no. 117 – Alexandra Street to Matthews Avenue to Arbutus Street to 29th Avenue. Reference code: COV-S711: LEG2282.192. Photo: Sharon Walz

The maps are heavily annotated with property-by-property information, including:

Lot square footage information:

Assessment map no. 117 – Detail showing Blocks 28-30 and 34 of DL 526. Reference code: COV-S711: LEG2282.192. Photo: Sharon Walz

Sale prices of property transactions, often for multiple years:

Assessment map no. 117 – Detail showing part of Block 89 of DL 526. Reference code: COV-S711: LEG2282.192. Photo: Sharon Walz

And sometimes rough assessment calculations:

Assessment map no. 117 – Detail showing part of Blocks 75 and 625 of DL 526 (just south of Arbutus Street and King Edward Avenue). Reference code: COV-S711: LEG2282.192. Photo: Sharon Walz

For many of the maps, we have two versions: one containing information from ca. 1960 to the early 1970s, then a second for the last few years before the City’s responsibility for property tax assessment was transferred to the Province of British Columbia in 1977.

Coverage of the city appears to be virtually complete, though maps for some of the industrial lands adjacent to the Fraser River, especially on the west side, were not included in the transfer. As the maps do not have any naming information on them other than the map numbers, we applied our own naming convention for the sheets: using the names of delineating streets or physical features, in order of East to North to West to South.

Unfortunately, we are unable at this time to digitize this series of maps; the large majority of them require extensive conservation treatment before it would be safe to pass them through our scanner.

We hope this addition to the assessment records is useful for your research, and add another dimension to the history of the city’s development.

Dirac at FSU

It wasn’t until his later years that Paul Dirac moved to work for the University we call home. In September of 1970, after retiring from his position at Cambridge, Paul Dirac moved to Tallahassee, Florida where he was appointed to work as a visiting professor for Florida State University. He was 68 at the time and could have fully retired, but the continuation of his work may be an example of the overwhelming desire Dirac had for the field of science and quantum mechanics.

Tallahassee. Holiday Inn marquee welcoming Paul Dirac on his first visit to the city. (original image)

Prior to his appointment, in June of that same year, Dirac visited the city to test his endurance against the subtropical climate. In the end, he decided to move as Manci, his wife, preferred the weather to that of Cambridge. In 1972, Dirac took on becoming a full professor, a position which allowed him to continue active research and to pass on the knowledge he’d accumulated through the years. During his time at FSU, Dirac supervised a few graduate students, his last being Bruce Hellman who went on to become a physicist for the CIA.

Paul Dirac in his office with last graduate student, Bruce Hellman. (original image)

Tallahassee. Paul Dirac, Leopold Halpern, and two unidentified women together for an outdoor excursion. (original image)

When barking dogs weren’t ruining his walks, Dirac could be found in his spare time visiting the local lakes and sinkholes in an effort to combat the humidity and intense heat of Tallahassee. With a thermometer in hand, Dirac would systematically check the waters and, if they were above exactly 60 degrees Fahrenheit, he would go for a swim.

Dirac had no teaching responsibilities beyond his supervision of graduate students until 1973 when he agreed to give a series of lectures on the general theory of relativity. These lectures were given until 1980 and were used as the basis for his book General Theory of Relativity. He would go on to teach until his death on October 20, 1984, at the age of 82.

The work that Dirac put forth on the subject of quantum mechanics and quantum theory is still an inspiration to physicists today. Dirac’s spirit and the spirit of mathematical beauty, of which Dirac was quite enamored, still persists through science as we know it as theories, he put forward such as that of the single magnetic pole, the magnetic monopole, have not been proven but are enthusiastically looked upon as possibilities for the future of scientific discovery. Dirac’s papers can and should still be read and studied. As it was so eloquently put in The Strangest Man by Graham Farmelo, the more you read Dirac the more you understand quantum mechanics and the brilliant mind of one of the leading pioneers of the fascinating subject.


Farmelo, Graham, The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius, Faber and Faber 2009.

This used to be…

We’re excited to announce that our 2019 spring exhibition is out in the world as of today. And this time we really mean out in the world. Due to our ongoing renovation we don’t have an actual exhibition gallery, so this year’s curator, Angela DiVeglia, moved the exhibition outdoors.

Exhibition curator, Angela DiVeglia, with one of the signs.

parking lot with carsStarting today, you’ll see signs like this one out in the wild, highlighting the fact that what looks like an empty piece of the city actually might have a colorful history. For instance, this looks a pretty nondescript parking lot, right? But it wasn’t a parking lot in 1914; instead it was Melrose Park, home to baseball’s Providence Grays and their young up-and-coming pitcher, Babe Ruth. You can read all about it via the Rhode Tour app or website, where you’ll find historic images of each site.

You can learn more about the exhibition and program series on our website, where you can find a map of all the sites and links to the Rhode Tour website. Or stop by the library later this week to pick up a printed map.

As a bonus, here’s a gallery of installation photos…

standing by a sign

carrying a sign in town
adding rivets to a sign

This exhibition is part of the Year of the City programming.

Student Traditions – past (and future?)

Every so often there seems to be a rush of interest in bringing back old Amherst traditions. Perhaps alumni wish that students of today could experience gathering as a class to sing at the senior fence. Or students wonder if they are missing out on quirky old traditions that could build school spirit.

Well, today I’d like to share with you some of the lesser known student traditions and activities from the past, all candidates for reintroduction into the Amherst traditions of today!

A photograph of four students in white full-body pajamas or body suits, posed in a photography studio.

Amherst College Competitive Napping Team, 1882

Let’s start with athletics – while competitive napping was only a recognized intercollegiate sport for 7 years, Amherst had 5 champion teams during that time. This is the team from 1882; Alfred Humbrey, at left, won the final tournament round with a record breaking nap of 6 hours and 43 minutes.

A photograph of eight students in formal wear in front of a painted backdrop of Johnson Chapel. The students appear to be holding invisible flutes.

Amherst Air Flute Octet, 1886

In the musical realm, Amherst’s well known Air Flute Octet charmed campus and area concert goers for decades before dissolving during the economic depression of 1893 when air flute prices became exorbitant.

Photograph of a group of students with canes and top hats sitting on a large rock, probably from the 1880s.

Amherst On-Campus Rock Climbing Society, date unknown

The short-lived On-Campus Rock Climbing Society was dedicated to finding and climbing every rock on the Amherst campus.

The Puritan Cosplay Club, 1952

The Puritan Cosplay Club was a wildly popular student activity in the early 1950s. The group attended both Puritan Con and Colonizers Con annually along with groups from Williams, Wesleyan, Yale and many other New England colleges.

Photograph of a groups of students formally dressed holding very, very long pipes, posed around a table in a photography studio

Amherst Extreme Pipe Club, 1883

Amherst’s Extreme Pipe Club was a selective group that existed from 1882-1885. Members of the club competed fiercely to have the longest pipe, by 1885 the pipes were observed to be nearing 8 feet long. The club was disbanded by the faculty after numerous custodian complaints of puncture marks in the hallways caused by students struggling to navigate their pipes around corners and through doorways.

Photograph of a large group of young men in a variety of fashions. Most of the men are looking off the side of the picture with sultry expressions.

Summer School for Fashion Modeling, 1888

Amherst also hosted a number of summer schools in the late 1800s. In a addition to the better know Summer School for Library Economy and Sauveur Language School, there was also the Amherst Summer School for Fashion Modeling which graduated dozens of young men who went on to renown in the Paris fashion plate scene. Appearing in this image (second from left in the back row) is Ellery Huntington, Class of 1888, who was later pictured in hundreds of fashion plates out of New York.

Photograph of a large group of students fighting, surrounded at a distance by a crown of observers

Annual Student Brawl, 1925

Photograph of clusters of students rolling on the ground in fisticuffs, behind them is a crown of onlookers behind a rope.

Annual Student Brawl, 1928

The Annual Student Brawl was a beloved tradition that began in 1899 and extended into the early 1930s. On a fine spring Saturday, the president would declare it “Brawl Day” and the student body would gather on the quad or the playing fields. The president would shoot a ceremonial pistol to start the brawl; after 30 minutes, any student left standing would be declared a superior specimen of Amherst manhood and given a purple striped ribbon to be worn on his hat for the remainder of the year. The faculty and citizens of the town of Amherst would bring their families and picnic on the lawn after the brawl.

Photograph of a group of students holding a variety of implements including, an ax, paddles, boards, rope, brooms, and sticks. Students are posed in front of a house.

The Ax, Rope, Club, Paddle, and Broom Society, 1893

The Ax, Rope, Club, Paddle and Broom Society was a secret society that rivaled the many fraternities at Amherst in the 1890s. Each of the implements in the society name was central to one of the society’s rituals. Unfortunately, the details of their rituals have been lost to time so modern researchers are left guessing. We do know that the club was kicked out of seven rooming housing in the span of three years between 1892 and 1984.

Photograph of three men in top hats with guinea pig images on them, presenting a guinea pig on a tray to a fourth man in front of Johnson Chapel.

Amherst Varsity Guinea Pig Breeding Team presenting their winning guinea pig, 1951.

Last, but not least, is the Amherst Varsity Guinea Pig Breeding Team. The team competed in division 3 guinea pig breeding from 1949 to 1957. Pictured here is the guinea pig that took the team to the national championship in 1951. Numerous alumni guinea pig breeders hoped that the school’s mascot would be officially changed to the guinea pig in 2016, but were, alas, disappointed.

Happy April Fools Day!

(All of the photographs in this post are, in fact, real photographs of Amherst College students, the interpretations however… are not. For more information about Brawl Day, please see the Chapel Rush and the Flag Rush. All the other photographs are unidentified.)


Documenting the Holocaust

This is a guest post from Julianna Witt, who is an archival assistant at the Jacob Marcus Rader Center of the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from FSU in 2018 with a Bachelor’s of Arts in History and will be attending University of Illinois for a Master’s in Information Science in Fall 2019. Julianna worked on this project while at FSU’s Institute on World War II and the Human Experience.

Buchenwald Survivors Showing their Tattoos
Buchenwald Survivors Showing their Tattoos [original item]

This collection of photographs captures the atrocities American GI’s witnessed when they liberated and toured the various extermination and concentration camps in Europe following the end of World War II. When they discovered these camps, the American military officials ordered all nearby units to visit and tour the complexes. Some of the soldiers had cameras with them and took photographs of what they saw to send back home. While most of the photographs are from ordinary soldiers, some came from licensed military photographers. These photographs were digitized to spread awareness of what happened less than a hundred years ago in a war that many individuals have relatives that participated in. While many individuals have heard of the Holocaust and know the common terms such as “Auschwitz” and “genocide,” not all have seen the graphic photographs. 

      Never Again. One of the most well-known sayings that was created in response to the Holocaust urges humanity to help prevent genocides worldwide by spreading awareness and advocates for action in order to stop mass murder and violence before it erupts. These photographs serve as reminders of what can occur when fascism takes control. While these photographs are very graphic, they need to be available to view. If not, the remaining items are not telling the full story of what happened and thus could spread misinformation of the events. Even today with all the evidence of the Holocaust, there are still Holocaust deniers who wish to prove the Holocaust was just propaganda. The hope of this project is to spread knowledge of what happened and to give many more examples of how this did occur.

You can explore this collection in DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository. Please be aware this collection does contain very graphic imagery and may not be appropriate for some audiences. You can explore other collections from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience at DigiNole here as well.

Not your garden variety police brutality: On the Media on the Abner Louima case

Reporter Mike McAlary wasn’t sure he wanted the story, and who could have blamed him? He had just come home from a chemotherapy session to combat his colon cancer —but someone (obviously a cop, judging by the insider language he used) had left an anonymous tip on McAlary’s answering machine about a horrendous crime committed by fellow officers.1

McAlary had been hoping to cut back on his newspaper duties to work on a novel, but his reaction to the tip was swift (“If you’re a reporter, you write the story. I didn’t think about being sick,” he would explain later2). So he went to Coney Island Hospital to talk to the alleged victim: Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who had been horribly injured during a brutal sexual assault. Louima said the attack had been carried out after his arrest by police officers at Brooklyn’s 70th Precinct house; Louima’s family claimed they had reached out to media across the city, but they’d been ignored by all but New York 1 television.3

McAlary was skeptical, and so were his editors at New York Daily News —until the newspaper’s police bureau chief confirmed that Internal Affairs was looking into the incident.4 The series of columns by McAlary and Daily News headlines that followed shocked not just the city, but the entire nation, as it cast a harsh light on police brutality.

Two weeks after the arrest and assault of Louima, On the Media tried to tackle the topic of the media’s role in reporting on police misconduct, as well as how gritty television and motion picture portrayals of cops influenced both police officers and the public’s perception of them. In addition, host Alex S. Jones wanted to explore whether reporters were “too cozy with the cops”, or “mugging the police”. Joining Jones for this sometimes contentious discussion were Jim Dwyer, a colleague of McAlary’s at New York Daily News; Leo Wolinsky, an editor at The Los Angeles Times, the paper that had investigated the Rodney King police brutality case; Jannette Walls, Dean of the Howard University School of Communications; and David Durk, a former NYPD officer who, along with Frank Serpico, had exposed corruption in the department during the 1971 Knapp Commission hearings.

At the time, crime statistics in the city and across the country were dropping, and much of the credit was given to tough-on-crime leaders like New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor known for bringing down the Mafia and corrupt corporate financiers. But Dwyer believed that the mayor’s more aggressive policing policies also came with a decrease of transparency, particularly when it came to the NYPD, speculating that “if there were misdemeanors statutes for violating the public access and the freedom of information laws, Giuliani would be in jail. He routinely breaks those laws: he’s been found by courts to do that. [And] one of the areas [where] he’s most suppressed information about is police brutality.” Dwyer added that the criminalization of many nuisance crimes was leading the public, particularly African American youth, to have more interactions with the police —and the results were not pleasant.

The NYPD Blue effect

What role did popular TV shows like NYPD Blue or films like Spike Lee’s adaptation of the Richard Price novel Clockers have on the situation? Dates and Dwyer agreed that both police officers and the public were influenced by the characters portrayed in popular culture; Dates specifically believed that the self-image of African American youth were informed by it, saying that “for them that is a reality, so that violence becomes more of a way of life than what they have experienced in their own lives.” As far as their views of the police, she claimed that “it makes them very cynical about police. [They view the police as] just as bad as the criminals; the only difference is [that] they have a badge.”

Meanwhile, Wolinsky observed how the pendulum had swung in the ways police officers were portrayed, from the idealized partners of TV’s ADAM-12 in the sixties and seventies to the often ethically-challenged rogues of NYPD Blue in the nineties. He believed neither portrayal was “really real.”

For his part, Durk saw that the rogue image was embraced too often by officers, sharing that “it’s a common joke among police circles across the country: ‘You have a right to remain silent as long as you can stand the pain.’”

Wolinsky and Dwyer agreed that big city newsrooms were flooded with more alleged incidents of police misconduct than could be investigated by the media, so what Dwyer termed reports of “garden variety brutality” were “often ignored or tolerated”. So how did the Louima case end up in the headlines? Of course, the brutal sexual perversion of what was alleged arose the public’s prurient interest in itself, but Dwyer’s response was just as troubling: “I think if Louima had been killed . . . the story would probably have not have gotten this amount of coverage, because there would have been a cover account . . . by the officers implicated in this case . . . Had Louima not been alive to give testimony to the contrary, I think this story would not have been as dramatic as it was.”

Reporting on the symptom, but not the condition

Durk lamented that the focus on police brutality stemming from the Louima case was an anomaly, because “the press typically covers an event as opposed to a condition.” Despite that, he pointed out how the officer who contacted McAlary went to the media rather than Internal Affairs, because he was one of “thousands and thousands of honest cops who felt they had nowhere to go” to report misconduct.

McAlary’s reporting would eventually lead to Officer Justin Volpe receiving a sentence of 30 years without parole for his role in the assault. Another officer, Charles Schwartz, would see his conviction for the assault overturned, but would serve five years for perjury.5

In April 1998, McAlary would be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his columns about the Louima case.6 In December of that year, the colon cancer would take his life.7

Louima reached an $8.7 million settlement from the city and the police union and settled in Florida with his wife and children to run a real estate business.8

1  Lisheron, Mark. “It’s the Story That’s Most Important”, American Journalism Review, 1998, June.


2  Lisheron, op. cit.


3  Levitt, Leonard.  NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country’s Greatest Police Force. New York: Thomas Dunne, 2009, 160-161.


4 Levitt, op. cit., 160-161.


5 Fertig, Beth and Jim O’Grady. “Twenty Years Later: The Police Assault on Abner Louima and What it Means”., 2017, August 9. Accessed March 26, 2019.


6  The Pulitzer Prizes, “1998 Pulitzer Prizes: Journalism”, Accessed March 26, 2019.


7  Firestone, David.  “Mike McAlary, 41, Columnist With Swagger to Match City’s”, The New York Times, 1998, December 26, C6.


8 Fertig and O’Grady, op. cit.

“Dad, if I went to Dartmouth, do you think I’d be mugged?”

Sometime in the 1990s in Japan, the son of Washington Post Japan reporter T.R. Reid’s had just watched a one hour special on Japanese TV which highlighted the high murder rate in New Hampshire. Reid’s son was considering attending Dartmouth College, and he wondered whether attending the Ivy League school would be dangerous. “This,” the journalist thought, “is the picture of our country that comes through over there.”

That was one of the views of America, as seen through the eyes of the media overseas, expressed in a November 5, 1995 On the Media segment. Hosted by Alex S. Jones, it also included a panel with Reid, Claire Bolderson of the BBC, and Victor Fuentes, the New York correspondent of ECO-TV, a Spanish-language news service seen in Latin America.

Bolderson noted the love-hate relationship the British had with America. She said the U.S. was seen as “a violent, terrible place where everyone is going to get killed [that triggers the thought of] ‘how can anybody want to live there?’ . . . At the same time, we envy this country hugely . . . We love it and think it’s successful and prosperous and full of celebrities —and we’re completely fascinated with it.”

In 1995 the media was rife with speculation on a possible presidential run by General Colin Powell. Reid believed that America was managing diversity better than other countries and that “Colin Powell’s election would be spectacular for the image of the U.S. It would prove that diversity works.”

According to Bolderson, America was also seen as a political trendsetter; for instance, Newt Gingrich’s rise was leading European conservatives to “look to the American right” for examples of successful strategies.

Latin America’s view of the U.S., according to Fuentes, also swung between tales of racial strife and economic opportunity, with “streets paved with gold.” This led Jones to quip, “America may not be the land of milk and honey —unless you’re looking at it from Peru.”

“My radical solution is that we consider women human beings”

On January 7, 1997, The New York Times published an op-ed piece by Gloria Steinem titled “Hollywood Cleans Up Hustler” that protested the Oliver Stone-produced and Milos Forman-directed biopic The People vs. Larry Flynt. Steinem wondered whether Stone or Forman would have made a film that lionized a publisher who distributed photos of abused animals, rather than one who degraded women, as she felt they had done in their film version of Flynt’s First Amendment scuffle with Jerry Falwell.1

Less than two weeks later, Steinem spent an hour with On the Media to discuss her protest against the critically acclaimed film, which she called “profoundly dishonest.” The show also heard from callers, some of whom defended Flynt and the film.  

Steinem disapproved of the film’s portrayal of Flynt as a champion of the First Amendment. Her take on those who did not share her assessment was classic Steinem: “You and I can stand up and say anything critical about the president . . . about multinationals . . . about public smoking . . . [and] about all kinds of things and nobody tells us we’re hostile . . . [or] that we’re damaging the First Amendment; yet, uniquely, when we speak against pornography, that’s very often the case.”


1 Steinem, Gloria, “Hollywood Cleans Up Hustler”, The New York Times, January 7, 1997.

1925-1933: The Years That Count

Paul Dirac lecturing at blackboard, Iowa City, Iowa. (original image)

There is no question as to whether Paul Dirac was a great scientist. From his keen eye for mathematical beauties to his contributions as a pioneer in quantum mechanics, one can only argue that Dirac was anything but ordinary.

peak was between the years of 1925 and 1933. Despite being only one of many
theoreticians who aided in the discovery of quantum mechanics, Dirac’s
contribution was entirely special. He created a clear vision for quantum mechanics
as it became a new branch of science and as Freeman Dyson puts it, “His great
discoveries were like exquisitely carved marble statues falling out of the sky,
one after another” (Farmelo 428).

Paul Dirac with W. Heisenberg (with newspaper) in street. (original image)

During this time, Dirac held an 1851 Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 which allowed him to fund his research for the next three years. He also made close connections with theoretical physicist and quantum mechanics pioneer Werner Heisenberg starting in 1925, which would start a fifty-year friendship. At the young age of 24, Dirac completed his Ph.D. and produced the first thesis on quantum mechanics ever to be produced.

Unlike other quantum theoreticians, whose papers were hard on the eyes and imperfectly formed, Dirac’s book The Principles of Quantum Mechanics gave this new field a fine, polished look. He presented quantum mechanics as if it were a work of art—and to him it most surely was. In 1933, Dirac was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics alongside Erwin Schrödinger for “the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory” which arose from his years of research.

Despite being somewhat of an unknown face in a scientific community where intellectual giants such as Einstein and Darwin are most remembered, Dirac can be “counted as one of the greatest of all scientist” because the notions which were put forth by him are still being developed and continue to contribute to modern thinking (429). Today, scientists can smash together particles at high energies. They have created a huge particle accelerator at CERN which can recreate the conditions of the universe to within a millionth of a millionth of a second of the beginning of time. Dirac acted as a stepping stone for the scientific community by taking the position of a co-discoverer and by authoring the action-principle formulation of quantum mechanics.


Farmelo, Graham, The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius, Faber and Faber 2009.

Paul Yee photographs and audio recordings now available

A few years ago we were delighted to receive the personal papers of author and historian Paul Yee. Yee is one of the founders of the Pender Guy Radio Collective and the author of numerous books for children as well as Saltwater City: An Illustrated History of the Chinese in Vancouver. His records were made available for research in 2014, and, thanks to funding from the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives in 2017 and 2018, we were able to digitize all the photographs in the Paul Yee fonds and now have them available online.

Exterior of Wing Hing Dry Goods, unit block East Pender, April 1981. Reference code: AM1523-S6-F72-: 2008-010.0490

The photographs in the fonds total about 3,700. Many of them come from Yee’s family and his own work, however some were given to Yee from families during interviews and research and Yee kept them as part of his records. About half the photographs form a single photograph series, while the rest are mixed with textual records in files throughout the fonds.

Many of the photographs document the activities of businesses and community organizations such as the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver and the Pender Guy Radio Collective. There are also many photographs showing festivals and various Chinatown neighbourhoods and buildings across Canada.

A Pender Guy volunteer at an on-air broadcast from Strathcona Community Centre, ca. 1978. Reference code: AM1523-S6-F12-: 2008-010.0994

Chinese Cultural Centre volunteer and child at Mid-Summer Festival, Strathcona Community Centre grounds, 1977. Reference code: AM1523-S6-F08-: 2008-010.3863

200 block East Pender Street, looking west, March 1979. Reference code: AM1523-S6-F70-: 2008-010.0450

There are also many family photographs documenting Yee family holidays and showing immediate family members, including his Aunt Lillian and Uncle Foon Wong, and their close friends.

Hand coloured portrait of Lillian (Ho) Wong, ca. 1912. Reference code: AM1523-S5-1-: 2008-010.4347

Lillian Ho Wong, Vernon Yee and Paul Yee (1961). Reference code: AM1523-S5-1-F019-: 2008-010.3787

In addition to being an activist and writer, Yee was also an archivist and public servant, working first at the City of Vancouver Archives and then the Archives of Ontario. His personal records therefore reflect some of his work caring for the records of others. Here he is in front of his office at the AO.

Paul Yee at the door to his office at the Archives of Ontario, ca. 1990. Reference code: AM1523-S6-F75-: 2008-010.0565

And here he catches our Digital Conservator Sue Bigelow at work in the vault at CVA in 1986. Sue is still here today!

Conservator Sue Bigelow working in the stacks at the City of Vancouver Archives, 1986. Reference code: AM1523-S6-F23-: 2008-010.1378

Additionally, we have finished digitizing and uploading Yee’s 1977/1978 and 1987 oral history interviews with Chinese Canadian seniors and community members. These recordings are now online as well. Here is one example where Dick Yip recalls his youth and young adulthood in early 20th century Chinatown.

The audio recordings are a rich resource that provide details and stories about the people and places that are central to the history of Vancouver’s Chinatown.

We hope you enjoy searching and experiencing these newly available resources.

The Birth of a Cable News Nation: On the Media on the debut of Fox News

Bitter rival billionaire media moguls with titanic egos…A politically ambitious mayor…Deals and double deals…The birth of Fox News played out like an epic Tom Wolfe satire come to life, and was the topic of discussion for an October 13, 1996 segment of On the Media.

Fox News was a late entrant to the newly-waged cable news war: MSNBC, a collaboration between NBC News and Microsoft, had first aired as a cable news competitor to CNN three months earlier. But when News Corp Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch finally got his entry on the air on October 7, 1996, it could not be seen by 1.1 million New York City cable subscribers.1

Why could the majority of New York City cable subscribers not see Fox News unless they were strolling past the FNC studio windows in Midtown Manhattan? As television critic Eric Mink explained in a column for the New York Daily News (a competitor to Murdoch’s New York Post): “Toss a dart at the Time Warner/Fox News Channel dispute, and hit a hypocrite…” 2

Time Warner had merged with Ted Turner’s Turner Broadcasting System in 1995. As part of the Federal Trade Commission approval of the merger, Time Warner, which operated Time Warner Cable, the leading cable provider in New York City, had to allow access to another cable news channel to compete with CNN.1

Digital cable and its vastly broader bandwidth was still years away, so providers had a finite set of stations to allot (as lamented in the 1992 Bruce Springsteen single “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)”). In the case of Time Warner Cable, there were 75 channels and nothin’ for Fox News to be on: Time Warner had already given one to slot MSNBC when it launched to replace NBC’s America’s Talking channel. Murdoch was willing to overpay for access (reportedly $10 per subscriber.) He thought he’d made a deal with Time Warner to carry Fox News, but Time Warner changed its mind, citing its previous agreement with NBC. 3

That’s when New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani entered the picture. Murdoch’s Post had endorsed Giuliani’s candidacy and defended his administration’s policies after his election; Giuliani’s then-wife, Donna Hanover, was an on-air personality for the local Fox station’s newscast. Since Time Warner would not give Fox News a slot, the city floated the idea of using one of the city’s five public access Crosswalks channels to show Fox News. Adding to the mix of conflicting interests was that Time Warner Cable’s franchise agreement with the city was up for renewal in 1998 —but that did not keep Time Warner from suing to keep the city from giving a Crosswalks channel to Fox. Then, Murdoch threatened to move the Fox News studios and their reported 14,075 jobs out of the city. Since MSNBC’s studios were across the Hudson in Secaucus, and CNN was headquartered in Atlanta, Giuliani pitched support for Fox as the Big Apple job creator of the three channels. 3, 4

Not lost on anyone was the disdain Murdoch and Turner had for each other. Turner had branded Murdoch a “schlockmeister” and compared him to “the late Führer” 1, and as television critic Marvin Kitman joked during a September 29 segment of On the Media, “Murdoch wanted a cable news network because he feels CNN is a left wing organization and it’s under the influence of Ted Turner and Hanoi Jane, as he still calls Jane Fonda…” (Turner and Fonda were married then.)

Pundits wondered what Fox News meant when it promoted itself as “fair and balanced”.5 Would it hew conservative as the front and editorial pages of Murdoch’s Post did, or would it end up in the middle-of-the-political-road, as Kitman was predicting? On the Media panelist Mike Schneider, a Fox News anchor, said he thought the channel made clear delineations between its news and opinion programming.

Was there really an audience for two, let alone three, all-news cable channels? Were there enough advertising dollars for all of them? Panelists Elizabeth Lesly, media editor of Businessweek, and Mark Jurkowitz, ombudsman of The Boston Globe, and Mink, as well as many experts, were skeptical. A few weeks earlier Kitman had quipped, “It’s not going to be very widely seen. That’s one of the major problems with Fox News…In some cities you’ll be able to pick it up on your toaster and electric toothbrush.”

While these initial questions and controversies continued to swirl, later OTM segments would follow the fighting as the first volleys of the great cable news war were fired.


1 Young, Steve. “Fox News takes on CNN”., 1996, October 7.


2 Mink, Eric. “Fox-TW spat full of phony baloney lotsa hot air in this fight, but viewers are out in the cold”, New York Daily News, 1996, October 10.


3 Landler, Mark. “Giuliani pressures Time Warner to transmit a Fox channel”, The New York Times, 1996, October 4.


4 Levy, Clifford J.  “An old friend called Giuliani, and New York’s cable clash was on“, The New York Times, 1996, November 4


5 Mifflin, Lawrie. “At the new Fox News Channel, the buzzword is fairness, separating news from bias”, The New York Times, 1996, October 7.

Everglades National Park Commission Papers

Dew in the morning, NPSphoto, G.Gardner
Dew in the morning, NPSphoto, G.Gardner

In our current climate of growing environmental concern, the
condition and protection of national parks has become a recurring part of our
24-hour news cycle. Everglades National Park is Florida’s most famous national
park and is as central to the state’s identity as its famous beaches. According
to the
Park Foundation
, over one million visitors from all parts of the globe
visit Everglades National Park every year. The park has also been lauded as a
World Heritage Site, as well as an International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland
of International Importance. But how did the Everglades go from millions of
acres of unprotected swampland to one of the United States’ most important and
unique protected natural spaces?

Through the power of bureaucracy, of course!

As August Burghard, Chairman of the Everglades National Park Commission, notes in a 1946 letter, “To The Property Owners Within the Everglades National Park Area”, “The Everglades National Park is not a new thing. It had its beginning in 1929 when the Florida legislature passed an Act providing for the acquisition of the park lands and property in Dade, Monroe, and Collier Counties for the purpose of conveying the same to the United States Government to be used as a National Park.” The letter further details the reasons for the creation of the Everglades National Park and the Commission’s duty in acquiring land by donation to achieve this end. This letter, as well as the minutes from the first meeting of the Everglades National Park Commission are available for viewing in the Special Collections Reading Room. If you would like to dive into some of the earliest history of Florida’s most famous national park, you can start your journey here

William E. Barton Collection of Walt Whitman Materials

The William E. Barton Collection of Walt Whitman Materials was compiled by Barton and gifted to the Amherst College Archives by his grandson Randall Barton (AC 1937) in 1968.

A head-and-shoulders portrait of Walt Whitman facing front by photographer George C. Cox, mounted on gray paper. Whitman's signature is on the mount beneath the portrait.

Portrait of Walt Whitman by photographer George C. Cox, Box 1 Folder 30A

William Eleazar Barton (1861-1930) was an American Congregational minister, lecturer, teacher, and author. He was born in Sublette, Illinois in 1861 to Jacob and Helen (Methven) Barton. After becoming ordained in 1885, Barton married Esther Treat Bushnell and became a missionary in Robbins, Tennessee. Barton served as minister in Robbins, Tennessee, then Oak Park, Illinois until his retirement in 1924. Barton died in Brooklyn, New York in 1930.


 Walt Whitman notes on consciousnes, Box 1 Folder 7

In addition to his role as a Congregational minister, Barton wrote and published numerous books. While most known for his extensive research on Abraham Lincoln, Barton appears to have collected these Walt Whitman manuscripts and related materials, perhaps while conducting research for his 1928 published volume Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman.


 Walt Whitman unidentified pros, Box 1 Folder 10

The collection contains a small assortment of Whitman manuscripts, portraits, and various printed material. The collection also contains few items created by William E. Barton, including research notes, transcriptions, photostatic copies, and correspondence.


Army hospitals and cases: memoranda at the time, 1863-‘6, Box 1 Folder 1

More information about another item from this collection, John Burroughs’s autograph manuscript of “Flight of the Eagle” with emendations by Walt Whitman, can be found in this past blog post:


John Burroughs, “Flight of the Eagle”

The final version of “Flight of the Eagle” was published as the last essay in John Burroughs’s Birds and poets (New York : Hurd and Houghton, 1877). This manuscript has been separated from the collection and cataloged:

A finding aid for the William E. Barton Collection of Walt Whitman Materials is available.  Much of this collection has been digitized and is available in the Amherst College Digital Collections.

A Portrait in Courage at the Norwood Reading Room

This post was written by Kacee Reguera, an undergraduate senior at FSU pursuing a Studio Art degree in Printmaking, Artist’s Books, and Photography. A love for art preservation and the history of our university led her to an internship with Heritage & University Archives at Special Collections.

During the summer of 2018, we received a collection of items belonging to Katherine W.  Montgomery and her family. Katherine Montgomery attended Florida State College for Women from 1914 to 1918 and became heavily involved in athletics. She was on the varsity team of several sports, a member of the F-Club, and the sports editor for The Florida Flambeau. In 1920, she began teaching Physical Education at Florida State College for Women (FSCW) and spent over 30 years leading the Physical Education department. She developed curriculum for the intramural athletics program at FSCW, spearheaded the construction of a new gymnasium, and even published a book titled “Volleyball for Women”. Katherine Montgomery’s contributions to our university have proved timeless. We used this collection as an opportunity to commemorate her lasting effect on our university.

1 red rose
Note from Katherine’s Diary

The collection contains items belonging to three generations of Montgomery family members. Katherine had two younger sisters that also attended FSCW during the 1920s. The collection includes diaries and scrapbooks belonging to each of them. These items brought to light how involved with FSCW the Montgomery family really was.

diary poem
Page from Katherine’s Diary

scrapbook page
Page from Anne Montgomery’s Scrapbook

This collection was gathered over time by Edwin F. Montgomery, Katherine’s nephew. Many of the items in the collection are ephemera relating to Katherine’s passing. These items provide a much broader understanding of the impact Katherine had not only on her community, but also on individuals.

Telefax from Dr. Grace Fox to Edwin F. Montgomery

With the new items acquired from this collection and some from previously held collections, we curated an exhibit in the Norwood Reading Room at Strozier Library that forms a better understanding of Katherine’s values and ideals, as well as her contributions to Florida State College for Women and Florida State University. The exhibit features Katherine’s original mortarboard and tassel, excerpts from her diaries and notebooks, and awards she received.

The Norwood Reading Room is located on the second floor of Strozier Library and is open Monday-Thursday, 10am to 6pm and on Fridays 10am to 5:30pm. Please stop by to see the new exhibit!

Happy Sunshine Week 2019!

Each year, Sunshine Week honors and promotes a dialogue about the importance of open government and access to information—values that are central to the mission of the National Archives and Records Administration.

I can’t think of a better place to be celebrating Sunshine Week than here at the National Archives, because we not only contribute, but serve as a leader in open government. This year’s celebration of information access began with an event on Monday, March 11, where I was fortunate to host a special one-on-one conversation with Beryl A. Howell, Chief Justice of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Our discussion on the role of the Freedom of Information Act, open government, transparency, and the legal landscape was sponsored by the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS).

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell, U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, and Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero discuss open government and the legal landscape at Sunshine Week events on March 11, 2019, at the National Archives in Washington, DC. (National Archives photo by Martha Murphy)

Other highlights of the day included opening remarks by U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, and closing remarks by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Both lawmakers have had a role in the evolution of FOIA and shared their views on its role in an open and accessible government. We also hosted a discussion panel, moderated by Thomas M. Susman, Director of Governmental Affairs for the American Bar Association and Founding President of the D.C. Open Government Coalition, looking at “OGIS @ 10: Past/Present/Future.” A second panel, moderated by Jason Baron, Of Counsel, Information Governance and eDiscovery Group, Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP, explored the topic “Looking into the Crystal Ball: How Will Electronic Recordkeeping in Government Agencies Change over the Next 10 Years?”

More information about this event and participants is available on our Sunshine Week website. My conversation with Judge Howell, as well as the other panels and discussions from the event are now available to watch on the National Archives YouTube channel.

Throughout Sunshine Week, the National Archives is also sponsoring a special citizen archivist mission focusing on transcription of two historically important civil rights cases held at the National Archives at Atlanta: Browder V. Gayle, which contains documents resulting from a Federal court suit that challenged segregation within Montgomery, Alabama’s public transportation system, and Williams V. Wallace, a lawsuit that was pivotal in inspiring Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Citizen Archivist Dashboard offers more information on how to engage in the transcription challenge.

You can find other events throughout the government celebrating Sunshine Week 2019 on the Sunshine Week’s Event Calendar. To learn more about OGIS’s work, visit their web page or follow the FOIA Ombudsman blog.