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

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

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

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

As a young-at-heart mature student, I certainly had mixed emotions at discovering that I myself have been archived:

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

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

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

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

Glasgow Branch membership cards (Musicians’ Union Archive)

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

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

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

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


Roethke and Bellow Headline 1965 National Book Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

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

A Brief History of Athletics at Florida State University

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

Football FSU 2

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

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

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

FSU Football 1947

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

Labor Day

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

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

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

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

Skin Vision in the Soviet Union

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150287Municipal archives id: T4057

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bad Children of History #33: Struwwelpeter in Russia

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


So slovenly! Look at that droopy sock!

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


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


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

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

A Web Facelift

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

SCA Landing Page
Our new landing page at

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

Collection Highlights
Collections Highlights page

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

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

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

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

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


Draft National Archives Strategic Plan

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

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

Options for viewing the draft Plan and submitting feedback include:

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

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

We look forward to your feedback throughout this development process.

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

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

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

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

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

NARA’s 2018-2022 Draft Strategic Plan

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

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

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

Highlights from NARA’s Draft Strategic Plan:

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

Other select goals and objectives include:

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

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

Join us for an Archives Hashtag Party!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drama Off Broadway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 151298Municipal archives id: T7418

New Tarpon Club Donation to Heritage & University Archives

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


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

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

There are also videos and photographs in Diginole:

For more information on George Milton:

Giving more context with artifacts: the Reubin Askew Papers

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

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

Catalogue updates – August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Robeson Hosts WQXR Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Ibid.

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

Vancouver’s unbuilt leisure palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moss Hart, Act One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150250Municipal archives id: LT8956

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday into Sunday/August 11 and 12

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

Monday/August 13

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

Tuesday/August 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Flambeau at your fingertips

Florida Flambeau, January 5, 1994
Front Page of the Flambeau following the 1994 Seminole football win at the Orange Bowl

It has been a long time coming to get to this point but I’m happy to announce that we have finally cataloged and completed the upload of the FSU newspaper, Florida Flambeau from 1915 to 1996. This was a massive undertaking for the Digital Library Center and we didn’t even do the scanning! Digitization of these materials was done from microfilm five years ago. The DLC staff did image clean-up and quality control and then students took over creating metadata for every single issue (easily over 10,000 issues for the 80 year period!). Kudos to all the staff and students who have worked on this project.

The Flambeau provides a fascinating look at not only the college community and its culture over these years but what was happening in and around the great Tallahassee area. Being in the capital city of the state, the Flambeau reports on state and national politics often as well as providing insight into how the college was interacting with the rest of the world. It reports on the funny moments (easily one of our most popular issue reports on streakers in 1974) to how the campus handled tragedies (an article on the Challenger tragedy in 1984 notes how hard hit teachers at FSU felt).

The added bonus of having these online? They are now fully text-searchable. Have a relative who attended, taught or worked at FSU? See if you can find their name! To best way to search all the text is to click on the Advanced Search link at the top right of the page and then make sure Search all (metadata + full text) is selected.

We’ll be looking into adding the issues starting in 1997 soon but how now, happy searching!

Eleanor Roosevelt Salutes Helen Keller

It is 1955, and though she is seventy-four years old, Helen Keller, celebrity, author, and activist for the disabled, is about to embark on another journey, this one a staggering 40,000-mile tour of India, Pakistan, Burma, the Philippines and Japan. A banquet is held in her honor at which telegrams from President Eisenhower and other notables are read, speeches by the ambassadors to the countries she intends to visit are heard, and, finally, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt addresses the world’s most famous advocate for the disabled.  Yet, Mrs. Roosevelt argues, we are the ones not in full possession of our senses. “Most of us go through life just a little blind and a little deaf, not…being fully able to hear and understand those with whom we live.” Helen Keller, however, “…somehow understands the needs of the people.” She speaks about touring a hospital built in Finland during World War II conceived of and largely built by “cripples” (the word not having yet taken on its pejorative connotations) and thinking of Keller’s similar determination to succeed despite all odds. There is perhaps an awkward moment, to contemporary listener, when Mrs. Roosevelt advises Keller, should she tire, to take a day off and go sightseeing. She particularly urges her to visit the Taj Mahal. In her concluding remarks, she assures Keller that on this much-publicized trip to Asia, “You love people and in return, they will love you.”

Keller then responds. Much of the value of this recording lies in hearing how she actually sounded. In crooning, barely decipherable phrases, translated by her aide Polly Thomson, she thanks the previous speakers and shares her dream of “helping to eliminate blindness and deafness from the earth. My heart will sing with joy. That is Heaven itself.” It is inexpressibly moving to hear how difficult it was for this woman, who addressed multitudes and was known by millions, to form even the simplest sentence. One begins to understand on an almost visceral level what obstacles she had to overcome. One is also lost in admiration at what she was able to achieve.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) lost the ability to see and hear at nineteen months. Her initial descent into becoming an isolated, uncontrollable “wild child” and subsequent rescue by her first teacher, Annie Sullivan, is known to many through William Gibson’s “The Miracle Worker.” But the truth, as Keller related it “The Story of My Life” (quoted here in her New York Times obituary) is every bit as thrilling as the dramatized version:

We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten–a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free. There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that in time could be swept away.

Keller proved to be an exceptional student, attending Radcliffe College and becoming the first blind, deaf person to be awarded a BA degree. By then, her accomplishments had turned her into a well-known figure. She lectured and wrote and crusaded on behalf of the disabled, as well as for many other causes. One interesting aspect of her early public life was a strident embrace of socialism. As the International Socialist Review notes:

The roughly twenty-year period spanning the 1910s and 1920s indisputably represents Keller at her most prolific and radical. Taken as a whole, her various writings and speeches during this time also range over a tremendously large area of subject matter: Capitalism and class struggle, exploitation and revolution, war and imperialism, women’s oppression, racism, and of course, disability. Increasingly, these various issues became integrated into a single condemnation of the established social order. As the socialist and labor movements swelled and advanced during the 1910s, and especially as the cataclysmic nature of capitalism was laid bare with the advent of World War I, Keller—like millions of others across the United States and the world—rapidly and successively abandoned one set of seemingly outworn ideas after another.

“What are you committed to,” an interviewer asked her in 1916, “education or revolution?”

“Revolution,” Keller replied.

In later life, Keller became more closely associated with the generalized, muted, Swedenborgian Christianity we hear her espousing at this banquet. The almost saintly status she attained perhaps obscured more fascinating elements of her rise from near total sensory deprivation to the extraordinarily articulate “vision” of her autobiographical writings. Roger Shattuck, writing in the Harvard Magazine, points out that:

…literary critics such as Van Wyck Brooks, Walter Percy, and Cynthia Ozick, and cognitive scientists such as William James, Oliver Sacks, and Gerald Edelman have found in The Story of My Life and The World I Live In two of the most revealing inside narratives of the formation of what we call human consciousness. The books also offer an exciting case history of an unprecedented feat of individual education against crippling odds and make clear why Alexander Graham Bell, Mark Twain, and Andrew Carnegie regarded Keller and Sullivan as two of the most remarkable women of their time.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150716Municipal archives id: LT6897

Confetti Distribution Devices

Instead of featuring a dashing magician, this week we’re featuring a delightful celebratory page from a catalog of magic supplies.


The 1898 Martinka & Co. catalog from which this page is taken is part of our John H. Percival Magic Collection. (The “German” mentioned in the descriptive text references an 18th or 19th century social dance accompanied by plays and games.)

Also, I’m pretty sure a confetti flute is just any flute stuffed full of confetti. Readers are encouraged to try stuffing fancy-looking flutes with confetti and report back with their results.

Call for Proposals: 2018 Creative Fellowship

It’s that time of year again: PPL is accepting proposals for our 2018 Creative Fellowship.

This year, we’re looking for an artist working in the field of performance (theater, dance, performance art, puppetry, acrobatics, etc) to make new, research-based work related to the theme of our 2018 exhibition: hair!

Details on the Creative Fellowship, requirements, and application guidelines can be found here.


FSU facts at your fingertips

Have you ever wondered what the average salary of an FSU professor was in 1961? ($8,940). Have you ever been curious to know how many full-time students were enrolled in 1995? (23,950).fsu-factbook.png

This information and much more is available in the FSU Fact Books now available on DigiNole. There’s a wealth of data in these documents from budgetary breakdowns and property valuations to organizational charts and enrollment statistics.

There’s something for everyone in these documents. History buffs can track the administration and governance of the university. Data enthusiasts have huge sets of information they can use track educational and budgetary trends. Many issues also demonstrate the important role alumni play in the success of the university.

All fact books from 1960 to the present are available to explore.

Bad luck for bees, and other stories.

A selection of hand-colored children’s books from the nineteenth century are available for viewing on DigiNole as part of the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection. This project began as a partnership between the Rare Books Librarian and the Digital Archivist as a way to share some of the collection’s unique pieces. Because the illustrations are hand colored using watercolors, no two editions of a book will be exactly alike.

Two versions of the bird orchestra from The Peacock “at Home.” Left image from PR4613.D37P4 1841; right image from PR4613.D37P4 1834.

Some of the newly digitized books include:

The Wonderful History of the Busy Bees  (QL565.2.W87 1833)

Describing the life of a beehive, this 1833 chapbook is a mixture of science lesson, allegory, and children’s story. The industrious bees serving their queen must defend the colony against the vicious wasp attacks — but there’s a surprise twist at the end.

A Was an Archer Who Shot at a Frog  (GR486.A24 1860 *)

This primer, like many others in this project, would have been used to introduce children to the alphabet using common words and pictures. Unlike our modern examples — A is for apple, B is for bear, and Z is for zebra — A Was an Archer uses such gems as, “K was a king, and governed a mouse,” and “V was a vintner, a very great sot.” A particularly interesting feature of the book is its interactivity; a moveable piece accompanies each illustration, connected to a paper tab on the back of the page. Readers could manipulate the pictures with these tabs to make a character wave or doff his hat. Sadly, most of the moveable pieces have been glued down by a previous owner.

Cinderella, of the little glass slipper  (PN3437.C56 1800z)

A classic fairy tale about the benefits of a virtuous life, this book avoids the grisly endings faced by other heroes (like Little Red Riding Hood, Tom Thumb, the Children in the Wood, or — spoiler alert — the bees from the top of this list). Though the coloring is simple, the poetic rhyme and magical elements would have encouraged children to act with kindness, obedience, and modesty. This chapbook is one of eight hand colored Albany edition stories in the Shaw Collection.

The Smiling Book  (PL864.H42S6 1950)

This book was published in 1950 but made its way into this digitization project due to its exquisitely detailed hand coloring. The Smiling Book is printed on crepe paper, giving it a unique texture and flexibility not seen in many other books. While the book does not follow a particular narrative storyline, the illustrations explore nature, weather, and humanity.


A total of 68 books have been added to the digital collection.

Margaret Mead Addresses the Nation’s Heroin Epidemic

Although she has only studied “cultures addicted to betel nut,” America’s most famous anthropologist shows no hesitation in voicing her opinions at this 1970 symposium on the Social Implication of Drug Abuse. She first describes a country in disarray. Crime is on the rise. Taxi drivers are being “slaughtered.” Respectable people go shoplifting for sport. The entire community is becoming corrupt much as it did during Prohibition. The reason? Drugs, which are seen as “wicked,” and drug users, who are regarded as “sinners.” She calls for addicts not to be stigmatized but seen as “casualties of a badly organized society” and for treatment programs run by young ex-addicts as the Generation Gap has yawned so wide that counseling by elders is useless. Interestingly, she also calls for better pay for the police and complains that they are treated with “contempt.” Her speech seems less a political plea than a prophet’s dire warning as she paints a picture of a morally corrupt culture in which “people are being lied to.”

Mead’s talk is followed by a more nuts-and-bolts presentation by Alfred Crisci, from the New York State Attorney General’s office. Crisci takes issue with much of Mead’s position, claiming that the state does, in fact, treat addiction as a disease. He details the legal process for attempting to detoxify and rehabilitate heroin addicts, pointedly adding that “society is not sleeping.” During a contentious question and answer session, the two sides seem to be speaking at cross-purposes, each not hearing the other. Crisci refuses to discuss the criminal aspect of the war on drugs, stating somewhat disingenuously that “it is not a crime in this state to be an addict,” only to be caught possessing drugs. Mead and other audience members attempt to place the problem in a larger context.

These talks provide an excellent snapshot of the cultural divide in the late Sixties and early Seventies. The two sides seem to speak completely different languages. Both are well-intentioned, yet neither can find common ground with the other. The problem they describe is real…and extends even to the dueling approaches used in addressing it. Indeed the ostensible subject of this symposium, “drug abuse” seems only the tip of the iceberg.

Margaret Mead (1901-1978) put cultural anthropology on the map. Her groundbreaking study Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) described young Samoan girls’ passage from adolescence to adulthood as being far less stressful and damaging than in our supposedly more advanced culture. Her implicit endorsement of non-monogamous sexual relations and her focus on women as being the source of true power within the culture resonated with early movements for women’s rights in this country. Mead was not a cloistered academic but a tireless field researcher, popularizer, and (some critics complained) self-promoter. The New York Times in its obituary noted:

The American Museum of Natural History, with which she was associated for most of her professional life, once drew up a list of subjects in which she was “a specialist.” The list read: “Education and culture; relationship between character structure and social forms; personality and culture; cultural aspects of problems of nutrition; mental health; family life; ecology; ekistics; transnational relations; national character; cultural change, and cultural building.” The museum might well have added “et cetera,” for Dr. Mead was not only an anthropologist and ethnologist of the first rank but also something of a national oracle on other subjects ranging from atomic politics to feminism. She took on (and dismissed with disdain) Dr. Edward Teller, the hydrogen bomb advocate, and she was once described as “a general among the foot soldiers of modern feminism.” Insofar as anyone can be a polymath, Dr. Mead was widely regarded as one.

As can be heard in this talk, Mead became as famous a social critic as she was an anthropologist, bringing that discipline’s methods of analysis to bear on contemporary Western problems. This idea, that so-called “primitive cultures” have something to teach us, was controversial. The website of the Institute for Intercultural Studies recalls: 

She affirmed the possibility of learning from other groups, above all by applying the knowledge she brought back from the field to issues of modern life. Thus, she insisted that human diversity is a resource, not a handicap, that all human beings have the capacity to learn from and teach each other.

After her death, much of Mead’s work with the Samoans was challenged. It was claimed her research was faulty and her conclusions invalid. This led to a sharp decline in her posthumous reputation. However, recently this charge has since been refuted. Alice Dreger, writing in The Atlantic, reports:

Paul Shankman, a professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, has for several years been doggedly investigating the smearing of Margaret Mead by the anthropologist Derek Freeman. As Shankman writes in his latest piece, “Freeman’s flawed caricature of Mead and her Samoan fieldwork has become conventional wisdom in many circles and, as a result, her reputation has been deeply if not irreparably damaged.”… But Shankman’s new analysis — following his excellent 2009 book, The Trashing of Margaret Mead: Anatomy of an Anthropological Controversy — shows that Freeman manipulated “data” in ways so egregious that it might be time for Freeman’s publishers to issue formal retractions.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 151029Municipal archives id: T7623 – T7627, T7630

Illuminations: Highlights from Special Collections & Archives


While this blog serves as a running feature of highlights from Special Collections & Archives, our newest exhibit makes the materials we talk about online available for the public to see in person. Illuminations the exhibit features items from our manuscript and rare books collections, Heritage & University Archives, and the Claude Pepper Library. Come and see new acquisitions like the Joseph Tobias PapersPride Student Union Records, Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection, and more.

Illuminations: Highlights from Special Collections & Archives will be on display through the fall semester in Strozier Library’s first floor exhibit space Monday-Friday 10am to 6pm.

Student Societies of Amherst Academy & Their Questions

This week’s blog post comes from our Bicentennial Metadata Librarian, Amanda Pizzollo:

As avid readers of this blog will know, Amherst College was conceived out of the previously existing Amherst Academy. As Frederick Tuckerman points out in his book on the academy, the founders of Amherst Academy are also the founders of Amherst College. Yet the school’s connection to the foundation of Amherst College is not the only reason that Amherst Academy is worthy of attention. Nor are the school’s connections to Emily Dickinson and Mary Lyon the only highlights of its existence. Though I’m as big a fan as any of Amherst College, Emily Dickinson, and Mary Lyon, I have also thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Amherst Academy for entirely unrelated reasons.

I work at Amherst College as a metadata creator. You know all that information like title, dates, a brief description, and subjects that you see when you look at a digital item in ACDC? That’s supplied by folks like me who get to look at these things and describe them in hopes that it helps you find them. Right now, I’m working on metadata for the Amherst College Early History Collection that we mentioned previously on the blog. It includes items about the history of Amherst Academy as well, and last week I stumbled upon two particular treasures: notebooks of minutes from the Franklin and Platonic Societies of Amherst Academy.

Platonic Cover

The cover of the Platonic Society administrative notebook looks rather unassuming doesn’t it? Hey, don’t judge a book by its cover.

Both the Franklin Society and the Platonic Society were student literary societies, and they both may have been secret societies (though that’s not entirely clear). In March of 1836 these two societies would merge into one and be renamed as the Washington Society. The notebooks I’m describing include minutes, names of members, and other administrative records from 1833-1835 (in the case of the Franklin Society) and from 1834-1836 (in the case of the Platonic Society). Taking a look at the minutes, I’ve gotten a feel for what their weekly meetings were like. Of course there were variations, but mostly it went like this:

  • Review what happened at the last meeting
  • Vote on officers (if it was time for that)
  • Debate on the question posed at the last meeting
  • Decide on the consensus for the question debated (or have the Society President decide)
  • Pose a question for the next meeting’s debate and assign members to lead the debate
  • Address other society business like proposing new members

There have been lots of interesting things about looking through these notebooks, for instance the first entry in the Platonic Society’s notebook reads:

“And it came to pass in the fourth year of the rain of Alva, A whose sirname is Hurd, the rules of the notoriously courageous family of Plato, that the discrete and scientific disciples of Uncle Plato collected themselves together in the usual place at the sounding of the academical invariable and thunder resounding alarm….”

It goes on to describe the start of the meeting: “soon all arose, and instantly Each by the stealth and fierceness of a Lion, took and guarded the posts of their duty well.”

Later in the same entry, it discusses the meeting’s debate and the leaders of it, society members Stone and Thayer: “..eminently courageous children of the Brother Plato and both remarkably well skilled in fight—These fought well for a season till at length by the stealth and cunningness of a fox, the venerable Sapis which is Stone surrounded Thayer and by the force of Situation and art pulled down by his house and sitt fire to and burned up his riches.”

Alva A. Hurd, mentioned in the first line, was an Amherst Academy student and society member. Sapis, noted later, signs this entry E.J. Sapis as he was acting as secretary and scribe for this meeting.  It seems likely that Sapis and Stone (Elijah J. Stone) are the same person since he states “Sapis which is Stone” and since both are E.J. Why he used Sapis in his signature is unclear. Thayer was likely James S. Thayer based on the Amherst Academy catalogs, and of course he and Stone were the society members debating in this meeting. Now, the handwriting can be a bit tough to decipher at times, so I’m not sure of that last word in the “sitt fire to and burned up his riches” sentence. It could be riches, or it could be ricks perhaps, or something else entirely. Most meeting minutes don’t read like this, and it seems likely that Sapis/Stone was exercising his writing muscles and ability for tongue-in-cheek prose with this first notebook entry. It was certainly an enjoyable read for me.

I also enjoyed looking at the officer positions in these societies. There’s the standard President, Vice President, and Secretary roles, and there were also Critics, a Librarian, Prudential Committee members, and Questioning Committee members at many meetings. My favorite position title, though? Definitely the Bell Ringer.

Franklin 1

The officer names and positions chosen at the October 15, 1835 Franklin Society meeting

What I’ve found most interesting with these notebooks, however, are the weekly questions debated. Many are a glimpse at history, and some are still debated today. Below is a sampling of questions debated in one or both of the societies. I’ve kept spelling, capitalization, and most punctuation (or lack thereof) the same, but I have added some question marks since these were often omitted in the notebooks. There’s plenty more questions than these in the notebooks, too.

“Ought the man who kills another in a duel to be subject to our criminal laws?”

“Is memory more dependent upon nature than upon habit and Education?”

“Ought ladies and gentlemen to obtain their education in separate academies and seminaries?”

“Which is the more powerful, Education or wealth?”

“Ought Emigration to be encouraged?”

“Ought Foreign Emegration to be encouraged prohibited?”

“Which is the greater Evil, Intemperance or Slavery?”

“Is the manufacturing interest of our Country more important than agriculture?”

“Was De Witt Clinton possessed of greater talents than Alexander Hamilton?”

“Was the revolution of 1830 in France a benefit to that nation?”

“Ought any government to interfere in any religion?”

“Which has the greatest influence in this our country, fashion or Education?”

“Which has the most influence on society, wealth or talent?”

“Which has caused the greater loss of lives war or intemperance?”

“Is celibacy a violation of moral duty?”

“Which enjoys most happiness him who is called a poor man or him who is called rich?”

“Had the conduct of General Andrew Jackson during his administration been commendable?”

“Ought the liberty of the press to be restricted?”

“Which has the greatest claim to our benevolence the Indian or the Slave?”

“Ought capital punishment to be inflicted on convicts?”

“Is phrenology on the whole beneficial to science?”

“Ought the Colonization Society to be supported in preference to the Anti Slavery Society?”

“Should appointments be given in Colleges as rewards of Scholarship?”

“Ought Menageries to receive publick patronage?”

“Ought any person after arriving at the age of discretion to be prohibited from attending any religious meeting they choose?”

“Is deception justifiable in any case?”

“Which ought most to be encouraged, Commerce or Manufacture?”

“Have military heroes been beneficial to the world?”

“Were our forefathers justifiable in their treatment to the Indians?”

“Who was worthy of the more Honor, Columbus or Washington?”

“Which is the most beneficial to community Man or Woman?”

“Ought imprisonment for debt to be abolished from the United States?”

“Which is the most unhappy the Slave or the Drunkard?”

“Which has been the cause of the most Good the Magnet Needle or the Printing Press?”

“Is the influence of females in the affairs of the world greater than that of males?”

“From present appearances is it probable the Roman Catholics will gain the ascendency in this country?”

“Is married life more conducive to happiness than single life?”

“Are rail-roads beneficial to the country?”

“Which is more injurious to the public novel reading or gambling?”

“Ought the poor to be supported by tax on the community?”

“Ought Quakers to be compelled to do military duty?”

“Does fashion exert a greater influence in society than education?”

“Which is the most beneficial to the country Academies or common Schools?”

If you want to read more questions, see how members voted on them, delve more deeply into the life of the Amherst Academy student society Bell Ringer, or hear more of the thrilling prose of secretaries like Sapis/Stone, then never-fear, friends. You can see these notebooks now in Archives & Special Collections as part of the Early College History Collection, and not too long from now you’ll also be able to browse these pages on ACDC.

Click to view slideshow.