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.

At the fulcrum of history: Katharine Graham on On the Media

Watergate. The Pentagon Papers. The Washington Post and its trailblazing publisher Katharine Graham were key players in uncovering these history-shaping stories.

Graham recalled her courageous stands during a February 9, 1997 On the Media interview, describing the background behind some of the stories that shook the nation. A self-described “doormat wife”, Graham took over leadership of the paper after her husband committed suicide in 1963 and led it as it became a nationally recognized paper of record.1 Her role in the Pentagon Papers conflict was depicted in Steven Spielberg’s 2017 film The Post, which earned Meryl Streep an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Graham.2

Graham was also the force behind young reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and executive editor Ben Bradlee in their pursuit of the Watergate break-in story that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon.1 During cases like these, she put herself at great risk of losing the paper and her freedom in pursuit of the truth.

Graham was with On the Media for the publication of her brutally honest autobiography Personal History and discussed her decisions during the Pentagon Papers and Watergate periods, as well as how, during her years at the helm, she led The Washington Post to become a well respected source for groundbreaking reporting.

1 “Katharine Graham”. The New York Times, 2001, July 18, A22.

2 Morgan, David. Oscars 2018: Best Actress nominees. CBS News, 2018, March 4.

Remembering “Remembering Vietnam”

Our exhibit commemorating the Vietnam War closed last week after a 15-month run in our Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery. We used the records in our holdings as well as interviews with historians, American and Vietnamese military and civilians to describe twelve critical episodes in the Vietnam War from Truman Sides with France (1946-53) to the Fall of Saigon in 1975.

Remembering Vietnam exhibit. Photo by National Archives photographer Jeff Reed.

The title of the exhibit comes from an important book by the Vietnamese-American writer, Viet Thanh Nguyen—Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War—in which he reminds us that wars are fought twice, once on the battlefield and once in memory.

That message was clearly reinforced in 15 months of programming supporting the exhibit, thousands of tourists visiting the exhibit, Wounded Warrior visits, Honor Flight participants, school groups, family groups, Vietnam Veterans and their

In the Gallery, we provided an opportunity for visitors to reflect on what they had seen and heard and leave us their thoughts:

“We are a family of Vietnamese refugees, here because of the war.”

“My dad lost his leg and got mean after the war.”

“When I was a young girl, I remember my mother baking
cookies, packing them and sending them to my uncle in Vietnam.”

“My dad died of Agent Orange.”

“My father served from 69-70.  My whole childhood and his entire adult life
was marked by personal, emotional and medical trauma from his service.  Let us never repeat that.”

“My grandpa is MIA from the Vietnam War and it
harshly affected my grandmother.”

“My mom, along with her 3 siblings and her
parents, fled Vietnam 2 days before the Fall of Saigon.”

As a Vietnam Vet, this was an important 15 months to me personally. I often wandered into the exhibit to see who was there, how they were interacting and reacting to the materials we had chosen, and listened in to the hushed conversations—parents explaining to their children, Vietnam Vets comparing notes, lots of tears on every visit. 

We were lucky to have the North Carolina Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association with us twice—with three choppers from the war sited on our Constitution Avenue lawn.  They drew the curious and the informed. They shared their stories and reminded those of us who returned how lucky we were.

Members of the North Carolina Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association talk to visitors on the Constitution Avenue lawn of the National Archives. Photo by Jeff Reed.

I am forever grateful to our exhibit curator, Alice Kamps, and a dedicated and creative exhibits and programming staff for executing such a quality experience and commemoration. And to our National Archives Foundation for their financial and spiritual support!

Early on the morning after the exhibit closed and just before deinstallation began, I had my last walk through. It was a powerfully emotional experience, as it was during my first walk through before the exhibit opened. Proud of what we accomplished!

Looking back at High School in Tallahassee 1957-1987

Since September of last year, FSU Libraries has partnered with Leon High School, Florida’s oldest continually accredited high school, to digitize their school yearbooks and newspaper and provide access to those materials through the FSU Digital Library. This has been a rewarding community partnership for the Digital Library Center and Special Collections & Archives here at FSU as it has allowed us to work closely with members of the Tallahassee community and also given those of us working on the project, many not Tallahassee natives, a unique view into the life of high schoolers in our city starting in the 1920s.

A page spread from the May 15, 1981, Leon High Life. View entire issue here

A new batch of Leon High School (LHS) newspapers was just loaded into the FSU Digital Library. This set spans from 1957 to 1987 during which our area, and the world, saw a massive amount of growth and change, especially technological change. The 1950s issues sport ads for film-based cameras, record shops, and lunch counter drug stores. Fast forward to the 1980s where cassette tapes, college radio, and computers all enter the high school parlance. Not to mention the cultural and social changes these issues record from the point of view of a high schooler. It is a truly fascinating way to look at the history of Tallahassee, Florida and beyond.

You can browse all the LHS newspaper issues here and look at the entire LHS collection here which includes 80 editions of their yearbook, The Lion’s Tale.

Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote

Today’s post comes from Debra
Steidel Wall, Deputy Archivist of the United States.

Almost 100 years ago, the United States House and Senate passed the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
A little over a year later the 36th
state – Tennessee – ratified it
, and the new amendment prohibiting the
states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of
the United States on the basis of sex became law.

Photograph of Suffrage Parade, 1913. National Archives Identifier 593561

Here at the National Archives we are making plans to commemorate this important anniversary.

The cornerstone of our celebration is a new exhibit, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote. It will run in our Lawrence O’Brien Gallery at our building in Washington, DC, from May 10, 2019, through January 3, 2021. The exhibit commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment by looking beyond suffrage parades and protests to the often-overlooked story behind the landmark moment in American history. This fuller retelling of the struggle for women’s voting rights uses our records to
illustrate the dynamic involvement of American women across the spectrum of race, ethnicity, and class to reveal what it really took to win the vote for one half of the people.

This exhibit will be complemented by a traveling exhibit called One Half of the People: Advancing Equality for Women; pop-up exhibits for schools and other venues; a range of public programs and education programs; an active social media campaign; and robust digital engagement activities on our web sites and other platforms.

We’ve put together a group of staff from around the country to coordinate NARA’s activities relating to the commemoration. One of the things we will explore is how to
acknowledge the complicated and painful reality of a suffrage movement that abandoned women of color.

In addition, I’m proud to represent the National Archives as a member of the Congressional Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission.  The commission was established by Congress in 2017 “to ensure a suitable observance of the centennial of the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing for women’s suffrage.” The Commission recently held a public meeting at the National Archives in Washington, and is working on exciting ideas for the

Women Marching in Suffragette Parade, Washington, DC. National Archives Identifier 24520426

One of the special things about working in an archives is the opportunity to see original records in the course of your work. Recently, I had the chance to view the original 19th Amendment. I reflected on how this unassuming-looking document, many messy decades in the making, empowered millions of women to step closer to equality in all aspects of American life, and, how, the records we hold at the National Archives reflect that journey.

BC Gay and Lesbian Archives Posters Now Available Online!

We are very pleased to announce that all 1,936 posters in the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives (BCGLA) collection are now available online, thanks to funding from the National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS). The B.C. Gay and Lesbian Archives Audiovisual and Graphic Material Digitization Project was chosen as one of 21 national projects that received funding from the NHDS late last year. This funding, made possible thanks to the generous support of a private donor, allows cultural heritage institutions and organizations to digitize and make accessible Canadian documentary heritage materials. The Archives received $71,388 to digitize, describe and provide online access to almost 2,000 posters, 5,400 photographs, and over 200 video and audio recordings from the BCGLA dating back as far as the 1940s.

Celebration ’90 poster, 1990. Reference code: AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1394


The digitization project began by re-housing, describing and digitizing the posters series. With a grand total of 1,936 posters, the collection represents a broad range of events and is an interesting example of the history of graphic design in Vancouver.

International Women’s Day poster, 1988.
Reference code: AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.0811

The posters were used to promote various events including health campaigns, demonstrations, activism, club activities and recruitment, pageants, arts events, theatre and dance shows organized by and for LGBTQ2+ communities in Vancouver and British Columbia. Here is just a small sample of the breadth of subject matter in the posters digitized as part of this project:

Persons with AIDS Coalition benefit poster, 1987. Reference code: AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1454

Vancouver Gay Games poster, 1984. Reference code: AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1696

Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society poster, 1995. Reference code: AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1438

Dogwood Monarchist Society poster, 1988. Reference code: AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1642

Out on the screen poster, 1993. Reference code: AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1770

Reproduction and use of the posters is allowed for fair dealing purposes. We have noted the copyright owner when possible, but for most of the posters, the copyright owner is unknown. Further information may be available through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.


Many of the posters are printed using the halftone technique, which uses dots to create an image.

Detail showing halftone dot pattern. Reference code AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1853

If the dot pattern has not been digitized with a high enough resolution, then some strange patterns will appear on the digitized image. We have digitized the halftone posters so that our master TIFF files do not show any strange patterns when viewed at 100%. Some of the JPG files seen online could show some patterns depending on the resolution of the monitor or the browser used to view them.

Here are some examples of the patterns produced.

Detail from a lower resolution scan (400ppi) of “HeartLand : the landscape of the soul”. The various crosshatch patterns are not on the original poster. Reference code AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.0842

Detail from a higher resolution scan (600ppi) of “HeartLand : the landscape of the soul”. Reference code AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.0842

Detail from a lower resolution scan (400ppi) of “Hoarse Raven Theatre presents Hedwig and the Angry Inch”. Note the horizontal yellow lines in the face. Reference code AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.0856

Detail from a higher resolution scan (600ppi) of “Hoarse Raven Theatre presents Hedwig and the Angry Inch”. Reference code AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.0856

Detail from a lower resolution scan (400ppi) of “British Columbia Persons with AIDS Society : I have HIV. It’s complicated. We need to talk about it : prevention at BCPWA”. Note the brown diagonal lines. The image is produced from a pattern of lines rather than dots. Reference code AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.0860

Detail from a higher resolution scan (600ppi) of “British Columbia Persons with AIDS Society : I have HIV. It’s complicated. We need to talk about it : prevention at BCPWA”. Reference code AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.0860

Detail from a lower resolution scan (400ppi) of “Home again by David Blue”. Note the brown diagonal lines. Reference code AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1585

Detail from a higher resolution scan (600ppi) of “Home again by David Blue”. Reference code AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1585

Detail from a lower resolution scan (400ppi) of “Coronation ’86 : our jaded ways : a state of mind”. Note the brown diagonal lines. Reference code AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1807

Detail from a higher resolution scan (600ppi) of “Coronation ’86 : our jaded ways : a state of mind”. Reference code AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1807

We aim to have the BCGLA photographs and audiovisual materials available online by the end of August. For more information about the BCGLA itself, please refer to our previous blog posts announcing the donation and availability of the subject files and the availability of the periodicals, as well as coverage by the Star and Outlook TV (at the 11:10 mark).

This project was realized as part of the National Heritage Digitization Strategy of Canada thanks to the generous support of a private donor. / Ce projet a été réalizé dans le cadre de La Stratégie de numérisation du patrimoine documentaire du Canada grâce à un don généreaux d’un donateur privé.

Paul Dirac: Early Adulthood and the Start of a Scientific Career

Paul Dirac formal portrait, wearing academic cap and gown. (original image)

Paul Dirac’s record was almost flawless as an undergraduate. In three years, Dirac nearly managed to be at the top of his class in all subjects, the only flaw being a single Strength of Materials course where he ranked second. After receiving his engineering degree at the young age of nineteen, Dirac went on to Cambridge where he pursued a degree in mathematics.

While Dirac was studying and moving forward in his academics, his older brother Felix had settled in Birmingham working in a machine-testing factory. Charles Dirac had supported Paul in his education, going so far as to give him the money necessary to be sure of solvency in Cambridge. However, Charles Dirac had refused Felix his desire to study medicine as he wished. Felix earned little money as a factory worker and was unhappy with how his life was turning out.

Bristol. Florence Dirac at the grave of son Felix. (original image)

In early January of 1925, Felix left his job, stopped writing to his parents and sister, and began living from his savings. A few months later, in March, Paul Dirac received a letter at Cambridge from his aunt Nell. Felix had committed suicide. Dirac’s feelings about this occurrence are unknown, however, after returning home to his family for a short time, it appears that Dirac went back to work as usual.

is speculated that the plummet of Dirac’s productivity in the following months
was due to grief. Dirac’s focus was also making a shift during these years of study
as he was transitioning from working on solvable problems to looking for new,
fundamental research problems. In October of 1925, Dirac entered his last year
of postgraduate studies. During this year was when Dirac first set out the mathematical
basis of quantum theory parallel to the classical theory. Dirac came up with a
theory which sought to describe the behavior of all quantum particles in all circumstances
throughout all of time.

Only a month later, Dirac had finished writing his paper titled, “Fundamental Equations of Quantum Mechanics”. On December 1st, the same day a historical non-aggression pact between France, Germany, and Belgium called the Treaty of Locarno was signed, Dirac’s paper was published by the Royal Society. This marked the start of when Dirac became recognized in the scientific community. Though part of his results had already been discovered by German physicist and mathematician Max Born, Dirac had become a part of a collection of mathematicians and scientists which sought to crystallize quantum mechanics into a complete theory. A year later, in June of 1926, Dirac would pursue a Ph.D. where he would become the first to write a thesis on matters of quantum mechanics.   


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

Triad History Day, April 6

Triad History Day
Saturday, April 6, 2019
10AM through 3PM
Greensboro History Museum

Join us for the first annual Triad History Day on Saturday, April 6, 2019, from 10AM until 3PM, at the Greensboro History Museum (130 Summit Ave, Greensboro, NC 27401).

Triad History Day is a one-day public festival focused on Triad history, both the stories and the people who preserve them. The event will feature a “history hall” with displays from history organizations, a series of lightning round talks focused on local history, as well as booths focused on oral history, preservation advice, and digitization of community materials.

History Hall:

Visitors can learn more about local archives, museums, libraries, and other historical organizations in the “history hall.” Participating institutions include representation from all over the Triad. See the complete participating institution list below.

A series of short talks about local Triad history will take place throughout the day, with speakers announced in late March.

Digitization Station:

Visitors with photographs or other records that help document Triad history can bring materials to the scanning station at Triad History Day. There, archivists will scan the materials for inclusion in UNC Greensboro’s community history portal. Visitors will also receive a copy of the scan.

Oral History Booth:

An oral history booth will allow participants the opportunity to record a 15-minute interview about an interesting story related to the Triad region. Interviews may involve two friends having a conversation, a family member interviewing a family member, or an individual being interviewed by a UNCG graduate students serving as an oral history facilitator. Interviews would be made available through the TriadHistory.org digital collection portal.

List of participating institutions:

  • African American Genealogical Society
  • Alamance Battlegound
  • American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation
  • Belk Library, Elon University
  • Blandwood/Preservation Greensboro
  • Bluford Library, NC A&T State University
  • Charlotte Hawkins Brown
  • Digital Collections, University Libraries, UNG Greensboro
  • Green Book Project, NC African American Heritage Commission
  • Greensboro History Museum
  • Greensboro Public Library
  • Guilford County Register of Deeds
  • High Point Museum
  • Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Greensboro
  • Holgate Library, Bennett College
  • Mendenhall Homeplace of Historic Jamestown Society
  • Moravian Archives
  • North Carolina Collection, Forsyth County Public Library
  • O’Kelly Library, Winston-Salem State University
  • People Not Property, UNC Greensboro
  • PRIDE of the Community, UNC Greensboro
  • Quaker Archives, Guilford College
  • Well Crafted, UNC Greensboro
  • ZSR Library, Wake Forest University

Facebook event details

Exploring the Alicia Korenman Graphic Novels Collection (1983-2007)

Will Eisner Week kicked off on March 1st, so it’s a great time to remind library users of the rich graphic novel and comics resources available in Special Collections & Archives. If you’re wondering who Will Eisner is and why he gets his own week, you can check out SCA Manuscript Archivist Rory Grennan’s brief and informative essay on Eisner’s contribution to comic books here. Florida State University boasts multiple collections with emphases on comic books and graphic novels, including the Robert M. Ervin Jr. Collection[ and the Alicia Korenman Graphic Novels Collection.

Cover art from
Tripodologia Felina, no. 1, 1992 in the Alicia Korenman Graphic Novels Collection

            The Alicia Korenman Graphic Novels Collection is a diverse collection of media, including comic books and strips, graphic novels, zines, books, as well as DVDs and VHS tapes. As detailed in the collection’s finding aid, Korenman’s interest in how women were portrayed by the comic book industry began in the 1990s. She discovered that alternative and small press comic book publishers tendered stories based on everyday experiences and emotions, as well as the female experience.

contents of the collection run the gamut from classic Archie comics from the
1990s to Japanese manga, including a manga adaptation of the popular anime
Cowboy Bebop, as well as a robust assortment of zines. What’s a zine? A zine, according to the Barnard Zine
, is “short for fanzine or magazine, […] a DIY subculture
self-publication, usually made on paper and reproduced with a photocopier or a
printer.” While several zines are in English, at least two titles are also in
Spanish, including Tripodologia Felina, no. 1 (published in 1992 by Producciones
Balazo) and Asi Pasan los Dias/Escuadron Rescate (written and published by Matt
Madden and Jessica Abel, published in 1998). The self-published and small-scale
nature of zines complements Korenman’s interest in more personal stories.

These zines are only the tip of the iceberg and we at
Special Collections & Archives encourage students, faculty, and members of
the public to check out the collection, and our other resources at any time!

For those interested in Eisner Week activities, there are two events happening in the Bradley Reading Room in Strozier Library from March 1-7:

March 5: Graphic Novel Literacy Panel –  https://www.facebook.com/events/424490508306147/

March 7: A Conversation with Will Eisner- https://www.facebook.com/events/298756474133249/

Post written by Lisa Play.

City Makes the Case for Public Broadcasting

WNYC went on the air for the first time on July 8, 1924 at 570 kc (kilocycles). It was a plumb spot on the dial, the first station on the AM band. So it was no surprise that WNYC’s control over such a desirable frequency would be challenged if those running the station were not vigilant. Radio, after all, was the ascendant media platform of its day and competition for a finite number of frequencies was keen. WMCA owner Donald Flamm sought the coveted location and argued that WNYC was not adequately utilizing this slim portion of the radio spectrum. 

On November 11, 1928, the Federal Radio Commission (FRC, the FCC’s predecessor agency) granted WMCA approval to use 570 kc, thus forcing WNYC into a time-sharing arrangement. Though not uncommon at the time, the compact proved to be fraught, and by July 1929, Flamm filed a complaint with the government maintaining that WNYC frequently delayed “signing off, thus destroying the promptness and regularity of WMCA’s broadcasting schedule.” A protracted battle for control of the valuable frequency followed, and then, on April 30, 1932, the FRC ruled that WNYC had to give up 570 kc and move up the dial to 810 kc.

Led by City Corporation Counsel Arthur J. W. Hilly, (pictured above), the City of New York appealed the decision, countering WMCA’s claims and arguing that “the need of the people for municipal services is greater than their need of more commercial broadcasting.”  An abstract of Hilly’s brief to the FRC follows in which he passionately makes the case for public broadcasting. It was originally published in Education By Radio, the monthly newsletter of the National Committee for Education by Radio in its August 18, 1932 edition. 

Abstract of a 1932 legal brief before the Federal Radio Commission by WNYC defending its use of the 570 kc frequency by NYC Corporation Counsel Arthur J. W. Hilly. pg.1
(Education By Radio, August 18, 1932/Media History Digital Library)


Abstract of a 1932 legal brief before the Federal Radio Commission by WNYC defending its use of the 570 kc frequency by NYC Corporation Counsel Arthur J. W. Hilly. pg.2
(Education By Radio, August 18, 1932/Media History Digital Library)


Abstract of a 1932 legal brief before the Federal Radio Commission by WNYC defending its use of the 570 kc frequency by NYC Corporation Counsel Arthur J. W. Hilly. pg.3
(Education By Radio, August 18, 1932/Media History Digital Library)

However, Hilly’s effort failed: the appeals court refused to rule on the issue of commercial versus non-commercial interests, and ordered the frequency shift had to take place on June 5, 1933 —thus setting the stage for a whole new struggle between WNYC and WCCO in Minneapolis. But that’s another blog piece to be written.   

Rabbi Says: Giving Women the Vote Will Mean the End of War!

Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage pin. (LSE Library/Wikimedia Commons)

Rabbi S. Stephen Wise was a founding member of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage, an American group formed in 1910. Within a few years the membership organization had acquired some reputable movers and shakers of the day, including the philosopher John Dewey, progressive publisher Oswald Garrison Villard, author Max Eastman, journalist George Creel and banker/philanthropist George Foster Peabody.

The organization’s charter stated: “the purpose of this league shall be to express approval of the movement of women to attain the full suffrage in this country, and to aid them in their efforts toward that end by public appearances in behalf of the cause, by the circulation of literature, the holding of meetings, and in such other ways as from time to time seem desirable.”

With that goal in mind, members marched, held fundraisers, wrote editorials, gave speeches, lobbied legislators, represented suffragists in court, and yes, even produced a phonograph recording calling for a woman’s right to vote.

1915 Pathe’ recording by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise.
(A. Lanset Collection)

The flip side of this rare 1915 record has the voice of Gertrude Foster Brown, head of the New York State Women’s Suffrage Association. You can read about her and hear what she had to say at: Listen to a 101-Year-Old Clarion Call for Women’s Suffrage Preserved in Shellac.


Special thanks to Daniel Sbardella for his expert sonic extraction from the vertically cut grooves at 80 rpm.


Like a fish trying to imagine what reality would be like without water

Technology has led children to be narcissistic, distracted, and unable to focus.1, 2, 3 Those are all criticisms of the 21st century’s connected digital world. But before the age of smartphones, YouTube, text messaging, and social media, the same claims were made about television.

On the eve of TV-Turnoff Week 1996, On the Media delved into the consequences of America’s addiction to television. Alex S. Jones hosted a panel that consisted of Henry Lebalme, executive director of TV-Free America, the group behind TV-Turnoff Week (now Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood); Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism, sociology, and communications at Columbia University; and Michael Kettenring, a veteran television news executive.  

By 1996 television was a mature medium that had long been in the majority of American households: Ninety percent of U.S. households had a television in 1960, and by 1996 that number was near total saturation.4 Lebalme quoted statistics from Nielsen Media Research reporting that the average American was watching four hours of television a day, which translated to 60 full days per year and nine years of solid TV viewing by the time a person turned 65. He thought TV viewing had replaced healthier activities like conversation, family interaction, and physical exercise.

Kettering, the television executive, pointed out that, when used properly, the medium did have positive aspects: “More than ever in the history of humankind we are an informed nation and for the first time… peoples across the globe have an opportunity to reach each other, reach out to each other, learn about each other…we really do have the power to build a global village.” He added that, unfortunately, “Television in general has made us a materialistic culture, desensitized us, made us unprincipled, passive-aggressive, kept us adolescent…We almost literally have become a country of empty suits.”

Kettering also wondered about the changes in students that Gitlin might ascribe to the influence of television. Gitlin said many of his students’ attitudes followed the guidelines of “don’t tell us anything too complicated. Don’t make us read anything too complicated. Don’t make us write an essay. We want to do multiple choice. Don’t make me sit and respond to an argument. Let me come up with a snappy rebuttal.”

How much had television overwhelmed American society? Gitlin mused: “It’s incredibly hard to imagine what America would be without television. It’s sort of like fish trying to imagine what reality would be like without water.”

As society’s addiction has turned to immersion in digital devices in the 21st century, TV-Turnoff Week has become Screen-Free Week, celebrated April 29-May 5, 2019. You might find it ironic that the event has a website: screenfree.org.


1 Taylor, Jim. “Are Media Creating a Generation of Narcissists?” Psychology Today, 23 October, 2012.

2Taylor, Jim. “How Technology is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus”. Psychology Today, 4 December, 2012.

3Taylor, Jim. “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Multitaskers”. Psychology Today, 19 December, 2012.

4 Gorman, Bill. “US Television Households by Season”. TV By the Numbers, 28 August, 2007.

Catalogue updates – February 2019

Lise Summers
Wednesday, February 27, 2019 – 16:31

Long term users of our catalogue will know that we moved to a new system in August 2015.  Like all systems, the software is constantly updating and improving, and we have been working with our providers to get our system upgraded from AtoM 2.0 to 2.4.  Four years is a long time to wait for an upgrade so the sailing hasn’t been as smooth as we would have liked, but the time is right and we are moving the catalogue to the new system over the Labor Day long weekend.

This means that you will be unable to request items online as of 4:30 Wednesday, 27 February; however, you can still request them by phone (08) 9427 3600 or via our email accounts sro@sro.wa.gov.au for public clients and govloans@sro.wa.gov.au for government loans. You can still view the catalogue, just not make any requests.

The reason for this restriction is so that we have a fixed version to clone to the new system. Once the cloning is done and we are sure it is all working properly, we’ll quietly close the old version and change the url to the new one. No need for you to do anything, and any bookmarks you may have for reference should still work.

Some of the new features include increased filters for listing results incuding by start or end date (most useful at series level), and an improved Advanced Search feature. You’ll also be able to save items to a clipboard for export as a csv file.

To learn more about these features and refresh your knowledge of the system, why not come to our forthcoming Lunchtime Seminar, “From A-Z: referencing and research at the SRO”, on March 20 February.  We’ll be talking about the catalogue and also about using the online referencing software Zotero.


Bernie Sanders On the Media and Everything Else

Even in 1995, as a third-term congressman from Vermont, Bernie Sanders inspired a caller named Alan to pick up the phone, call WNYC’s show On the Media, and offer himself to Sanders’ populist crusade with the following words: “Bernie, if you need anyone to work for you, I would like to”.

As the only independent in the House of Representatives and a self-identified democratic socialist, Sanders was on the December 3, 1995 On the Media panel to represent candidates and issues outside the political mainstream. As the 1996 presidential campaign was ramping up, the question host Alex S. Jones posed was: How does the media decide which candidates and issues to cover? Wrestling with that issue along with Bernie and Alex were Judi Hasson, a USA Today reporter covering the Bob Dole campaign, and Tom Hamburger, Washington Bureau Chief for the Minneapolis StarTribune.

In 1995 Sanders was the same feisty political provocateur and critic that the rest of the country got to know during the 2016 presidential campaign. He talked about income disparity, NAFTA, job loss, the Savings and Loan crisis, the corporatization of the media, and other topics he thought were not given proper coverage.

Congressman Sanders challenged Jones, Hasson, and Hamburger with this question: “Who is the leader of the American working class today? Nobody knows…You know who the quarterback of the New York Giants is,” and accused the media for cheerleading the passage of NAFTA: “NAFTA, in my humble opinion, and in many economists’ opinion, has been a grotesque failure.” He also said that the coverage of the Savings and Loan crisis showed “the general contempt at least some officials in television have for the American people.”

Meanwhile, caller Alan asked the panel and the rest of the On the Media audience: “Who is going to stop in front of the train other than people like Bernie Sanders and say ‘Wait! We have to stop. We have to do what’s good for everyone’?

Portrait of Paul Manafort as a “convention fixer”

The August 11, 1996 episode of On the Media included a segment aired on the eve of the 1996 Republican National Convention held in San Diego. One of the topics host Alex S. Jones discussed with Merrill Brown (Managing Editor of MSNBC), Deborah Potter (veteran reporter and a faculty member at the Poynter Institute of Media Studies), and Tony Perry (San Diego bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times) was how the convention would be a “made-for-TV” media event staged by nominee Bob Dole’s convention manager Paul Manafort.

Yes, THAT Paul Manafort.

Manafort had earned a reputation as a Republican “convention fixer” going back to his work for Gerald Ford during the 1976 convention.1 Twenty years later he found himself orchestrating a convention in a new media landscape: A second cable news channel, MSNBC, had just launched; talk radio was a new and important force in shaping public opinion, and the Internet was growing rapidly in reach and influence. After years of televised convention floor fights and contentious speeches, Manafort studied how television covered conventions and stage-managed the 1996 RNC to, as Perry put it, make the convention “a message delivery system” to get the party’s message out through the media coverage.

How did journalists view Manafort’s efforts? Perry said Manafort was “very honest about what he’s doing…I’m going to razzle dazzle you and hope you carry my message as unfiltered as I can get it.” Perry appreciated Manafort’s candor, saying, “I much prefer a man who tells me straight to my eyes that he’s going to manipulate me and then it’s shame on me if it happens.”

A week later Jones, Suzanne Braun Levine of the Columbia Journalism Review, and Bob Steele of the Poynter Institute discussed the media’s coverage of the convention, including ABC’s Ted Koppel departure after the event’s second night. Koppel would complain, “This convention is more of an infomercial than a news event. Nothing surprising has happened. Nothing surprising is anticipated.” 2

Twenty years after his role in the Dole campaign, Donald Trump elevated Manafort to manage his 2016 presidential campaign and the history of that effort is still being revealed.  


1Catanese, David. “Donald Trump’s delegate savior”. U.S. News and World Report, 2016, April 21   

2Vegnoska, Jill. “As seen on TV: Seven classic, crazy political convention moments”. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2016, July 14

The Poetical Star

This post is written by Megan Barrett, a long time student employee in the Digital Library Center in Special Collections & Archives. We’ll be sorry to see her graduate this spring but we know she’s off to big things!

I am currently a senior studying Art History, and I’ve had the opportunity to work as a Special Collections & Archives assistant for the past three years. I’ve helped with a number of fascinating projects, with topics ranging from Napoleonic newspapers to environmental studies, and this semester, I got to spend some time with the collection of John MacKay Shaw.

One of the books I worked with for this project was a poetry collection entitled The Poetical Star, published in London in 1843. The collection begins with an epigraph by the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne: “I have here only made a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the thread that binds them.”

The excerpt of the Byron poem as it appears in The Poetical Star [see original item]

As a student interested in Romanticism, one of the poems in the collection that caught my eye was the “Description of a Mad-House” from Lord Byron’s The Lament of Tasso. The poem narrates the time that the Italian poet Torquato Tasso spent in a mental hospital, and it has become the subject of one of my favorite paintings by Eugène Delacroix, Tasso in the Madhouse (1839). The Poetical Star also includes poetry on abstract ideas of love and time, as well as comedic poetry and wordplay.

Tasso in the Madhouse by Eugène Delacroix
Tasso in the Madhouse by Eugène Delacroix [Original Image: WikiData]

The Poetical Star is one of the many poetry books that can be found as an ebook in FSU’s digital library, especially in the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry collection.

More 2010 Olympic Torch Relay Photographs Available

We have added another 4,830 torch-relay images to the VANOC records already available on our AtoM site. These images belong to series AM1550-S08: Olympic Torch Relay – highlight photographs. The images were selected by VANOC from hundreds (sometimes thousands) of images captured each day from the photographers assigned to cover the relay. The selected images were sent to the torch relay sponsors: Coca-Cola, Royal Bank of Canada, and Government of Canada for the respective sponsors to use for their own purposes.

Lighting Ceremony in Olympia. Check out the highly flammable cellulose nitrate film being used for firelighter in the torch. Reference code (file): AM1550-S08-3-F000-:

The images in the newly released series show more diverse scenes than the torchbearer series published by the Archives last fall (AM1550-S07). While VANOC’s intent for the previous series was to document each person that participated in the relay as a torchbearer, the newly released series features images showing the torch lighting ceremony in Olympia, Greece, crowds gathered to watch the relay, special events held during the day, shots of landmarks along the route, and other scenes that capture the spirit of the relay.

Day 10 – Polar bear walks through the Olympic Torch Relay convoy in Churchill, MB. Reference code (file): AM1550-S08-3-F010-:

As with the images in S07, the titles of the images in this series were based on metadata present in the original image files. The images have been arranged into three subseries that correspond with VANOC’s organization of the images – one for each of the sponsors. A fourth set of images was included with the transferred files – the “VANOC Highlights”. These were images set aside for VANOC to use for its own promotional and marketing purposes. However, when we examined the files during processing, we discovered the images in the “VANOC Highlights” were identical to the images present in the “Government of Canada Highlights.” Consequently, only one set of images was kept.

Here are some of our favourites from this latest release:

Day 14 – Torchbearer runs in L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland Labrador. Reference code (file): AM1550-S08-3-F014-:

Day 52 – Torchbearer 202 Gordon Singleton carrying the flame beside the falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Reference code (file): AM1550-S08-3-F052-:

Day 76 – Karina Miller lit the cauldron at the Community Celebration in Vegreville, Alberta. Reference code (file): AM1550-S08-3-F076-:

Day 96 – Torchbearer 6 Ali Hunt (R) passes the the flame to Torchbearer 7 Colette Child (L) on a canoe in Port Hardy, British Columbia. Reference code (file): AM1550-S08-3-F096-:

Day 106 – Torchbearer 5 Mac Stewart carries the flame across the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia. Reference code (file): AM1550-S08-3-F106-:

We have one more series of torch relay images to release later this year, series AM1550-S09, the Olympic Torch Relay source photographs. This series will include all of the images taken by VANOC’s photographers during the relay – over 300,000 in total. Unlike our treatment of the images now available our AtoM site, these will not be available as individually described images. Rather, they will be made available as zip files – one or more files for each day, collectively containing every photo taken during the relay. Keep watching our blog for news of this.




Una propuesta que pretende poner en valor el patrimonio documental venezolano, fomentar el debate para generar acciones encaminadas a la protección, conocimiento y difusión de los documentos conservados en los archivos históricos y demás repositorios documentales; así como facilitar el acceso de los usuarios a esos fondos documentales y potenciar el papel social y cultural de ellos.

En el tomo 25 de la sección O´Leary del Archivo del Libertador, al folio 146 se encuentra este documento que es una proclama del Libertador a los venezolanos con motivo de haberse instalado el Supremo Congreso Nacional; el segundo cuerpo legislativo que se forma en la República de Venezuela y el primero luego de la reconquista del país por las armas españolas tras la desintegración del que declaró la independencia el 5 de julio de 1811.

Esta Proclama sería luego impresa en hoja suelta para que circulara por todo el país, en la imprenta de Andrés Roderick (la cual también insertamos tomándola del ejemplar de la Biblioteca Venezolanista “Lord David Eccles” de la Fundación John Boulton), y afortunadamente hoy contamos con este original para corroborar, entre otras cosas, la fidelidad de los textos con los que se informaba el pueblo de Venezuela durante la guerra de independencia y primer tercio del siglo XIX.

Presidente Interino de la República de Venezuela, Capitán General de sus Ejércitos y los de la Nueva Granada, &.,&., &.

Cuartel General de Angostura, a 20 de febrero de 1819. 9°

El Congreso general de Venezuela ha reasumido el Poder Soberano que antes me habíais confiado: yo lo he devuelto al pueblo trasmitiéndolo a sus legítimos representantes.

La Soberanía Nacional me ha honrado nuevamente encargándome el Poder Ejecutivo bajo el título de Presidente interino de Venezuela. Venezolanos! Yo me siento incapaz de gobernaros; así lo he representado por muchas veces a vuestros Representantes y a pesar de mis justas renuncias he sido forzado a mandaros.

Soldados del Ejército Libertador! Mi única ambición ha sido siempre la de participar con vosotros de los peligros que arrostráis por la República.

Ciudadanos! Una Legión Británica, protectora de nuestra Libertad, ha llegado a Venezuela a ayudarnos a quebrantar nuestras cadenas: recibidla con la veneración que inspira el heroísmo benéfico. Abrid vuestros brazos a esos extranjeros generosos que vienen a disputarnos los títulos de Libertadores de Venezuela.


NARA and Obama Foundation Sign a Digitization Memorandum of Understanding

This week, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Barack Obama Foundation agreed on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding the plan to digitize all of the unclassified textual Presidential records of the Obama administration. The Foundation will select the vendor, with NARA approval, and oversee the contract.

President Barack Obama Works at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, 10/11/2013. National Archives Identifier 118818001

The digitization plan was first outlined in May 2017, and this MOU is the first agreement coming out of the Letter of Intent signed in September 2018.

Approximately 30 million pages of unclassified Presidential records at the Obama Library will be scanned, and the scanned images and associated metadata will become part of the Electronic Records Archives.

Because the records are governed by the Presidential Records Act (PRA), the archival staff of the Obama Library will review the material before their release. The records will then be made digitally available to the public through the National Archives Catalog and the Obama Library website.

Last September we signed a Letter of Intent with the Obama Foundation and, as promised, have continued to work toward an agreement for the digitization of the unclassified textual records of the Barack Obama administration. I am pleased with the progress that this MOU represents and look forward to further progress as NARA and the Obama Foundation partner on this exciting new model.

For information about the records of the Obama administration, visit www.obamalibrary.gov.

One of the County’s Earliest African-American Radio Programs on WNYC 1929-1930

WNYC was one of the earliest broadcasters of a regularly scheduled program aimed at African-Americans. Every Wednesday between November 20, 1929 and July 16, 1930 the station opened its schedule to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for talks by black leaders on a variety of topics focusing on African-Americans and their views on race relations, women, workers, entertainment, politics, literature, and the economy. Probably the best-known speakers were W.E.B Dubois, A. Philip Randolph, and James Weldon Johnson. 

It seems to be generally acknowledged that the premiere of the The All-Negro Hour on Chicago’s WSBC on November 3, 1929 was the first weekly variety show featuring African American entertainers. WNYC’s NAACP slot began only two weeks later. Based on newspaper radio listings (in bold), the series included the following talks. I have added biographical information on the speaker where possible. Unfortunately, the audio has not survived.

November 20, 1929 – NAACP Field Secretary, William Pickens

William Pickens, Chief, Negro Organizational Section, War Savings staff, Department of the Treasury, August 1942. (Library of Congress)

William Pickens (1881–1954) was a founding member of the Niagara Movement and the NAACP. The son of South Carolina sharecroppers, he went to Talladega College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale in 1904. While teaching at Morgan College in Kentucky, he helped organize the Louisville branch of the NAACP and prepare the case Buchannan v. Warley, concerning residential segregation. He left academia in 1920 to succeed James Weldon Johnson as NAACP field secretary. During his time at the NAACP (1920–1942) the number of branches grew to more than 350.

Labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph in 1963. (NYWTS Collection Library of Congress)

November 27, 1929 – A. Philip Randolph on “The Negro Worker”

Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979) was a leader in the civil rights movement and the American labor movement. Just four years before this talk on WNYC, Randolph organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the nation’s first largely African-American labor union. His advocacy and leadership led to President Roosevelt’s 1941 ban of discrimination in defense factories during World War II and President Truman’s 1948 end to segregation in the armed services. In 1963 he headed up the March on Washington organized by Bayard Rustin.

NAACP Director of Branches Robert Bagnall (Library of Congress)

December 4, 1929 – Robert W. Bagnall on “New Aspects of Race Relations”

Robert W. Bagnall (1883–1943), a second generation Episcopal priest, was born in Norfolk, Virginia.  Like his father, he attended Bishop Payne Divinity School in nearby Petersburg.  In 1911 he became rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Detroit. As a founder of the Detroit NAACP he led successful campaigns against school segregation, police brutality, and discrimination at the Ford Motor Company. He was made NAACP district organizer of the Great Lakes region in 1918 and promoted to director of branches in 1919. Bagnall traveled across the country to NAACP branches, raising funds for the national office. Under his leadership, the branch department became the NAACP’s backbone.  In 1931 the NAACP dismissed him because of declining revenue. The following year Bagnall returned to the ministry as rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, where he served until his death in 1943.

December 11, 1929 – Mrs. Ruth E. Whaley on “The Negro Woman in Politics”  (It should be noted that later that same day WNYC broadcast a Welfare Council panel titled ‘Investigating Lynching’ with the NAACP’s Walter White).

December 18, 1929 – Mrs. Lillian Alexander on “The Negro Woman in American Life”

Lillian A. Alexander was on the New York Board of Directors of the NAACP. 

January 8, 1930 – Albon Holsey on “The Negro’s Buying Power”

Albon L. Holsey (1883–1950) joined the staff of Tuskegee Institute in 1914 as an assistant to Booker T. Washington’s secretary Emmett J. Scott. During his thirty-six year tenure at Tuskegee, Holsey worked for Washington’s successors and served as associate editor of the Tuskegee Student. Between 1938 and 1944, Holsey was also on loan from the institute to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, where he was involved with research related to black farmers. Holsey wrote many articles, most related to business topics, and was business manager of Crisis, the official publication of the NAACP, when W. E. B. Du Bois edited the journal.

Elmer A. Carter presents the Springarn Medal to author Richard Wright in 1941.(Library of Congress)

January 15, 1930 – Elmer Carter on  “Negro Literature”

Elmer Anderson Carter (1890-1973) was the editor of Opportunity, 1928-1942, a magazine published by the New York Urban League, when he appeared in the WNYC studio. The magazine was a source of new literature by emerging black writers as well as non-fiction pieces on the sociological and economic aspects of the African-American diaspora in America. According to civil rights activist Pauli Murray, Carter was proud of the fact that as a youth in upstate New York he had known the abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

In 1937 New York Governor Herbert Lehman appointed Carter to the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board. Years later he became the first chairman of the New York State Commission Against Discrimination (the forerunner of the State Division of Human Rights). He was also the first director of the State Human Rights Division until he resigned in 1961. He then served as a special assistant to Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller on race relations.

January 29, 1930 – William Andrews on “The Negro and the Law”

William T. Andrews was a ‘special legal assistant’ at the NAACP in 1930. He would later be a Vice President of the organization.

February 5, 1930 – William Hubert on “Some Trends in Education”

February 12, 1930 – Robert W. Bagnall on “Abraham Lincoln”

For details on Bagnall please see December 4, 1929.

February 19, 1930 – Alene Simpson on “Women and Girls in the Courts”

Rose McClendon as Serena in the original Broadway production of Porgy and Bess (1927),Wikimedia Commons

February 26, 1930 – Rose McClendon on “The Negro and the Stage”

Rose McClendon (1884–1936) was a leading African-American stage actress in the 1920s. Her first notable role came in Deep River in 1926. In addition to acting, she also directed several plays at the Harlem Experimental Theatre. She appeared in the 1927 Pulitzer Prize-winning play In Abraham’s Bosom by Paul Green. In 1931 she was in another Paul Green play on Broadway, The House of Connelly, the first production by the Group Theatre, directed by Lee Strasberg. McClendon founded the Negro People’s Theatre and guided the creation of the WPA Federal Theater’s African-American units nationally and briefly co-directed the New York Negro Theater Unit. 

March 5, 1930 – Thomas Moseley on “The Negro on the Stage”

Thomas W. Moseley (1878-1971) was an actor and director who played a leading role in Paul Green’s In Abraham’s Bosom, which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1926. In 1931 he appeared in the movie Hell’s Alley. Moseley also served as the executive secretary of the Negro Actors Guild. He appeared in such theater productions as Stevedore, Turpentine, The House of Shadows, The Tree and a musical, Brown Buddies, featuring Bill (Bojangles) Robinson. During World War II he managed a USO troupe touring the European and Pacific theaters.

Percy Verwayne (Sporting Life), Frank H. Wilson (Porgy) and Evelyn Ellis (Bess) in the original Broadway production of Porgy (1927)(Florence Vandamm/Wikimedia Commons)

March 12, 1930 – Frank Wilson on “The Negro on the Stage”

Frank Henry Wilson (1886–1956) was a Broadway actor who also appeared in films. He began his career in vaudeville and appeared in many plays, including the original 1927 version of Porgy and Bess with Rose McClendon and Evelyn Ellis. In 1922, he had a major role in Eugene O’Neill’s play All God’s Chillun Got Wings and a revival of O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones in 1925. Wilson made his film debut in 1932 and later performed in films with stage origins: The Emperor Jones (1933) and Warner Bros.’ Green Pastures (1936) and Watch on the Rhine (1943). 

March 19, 1930 – Mrs. Roscoe Bruce – Unemployment

(WNYC Archive Collections)

March 26, 1930 – Mrs. Cecelia Saunders on “The Negro Woman in Harlem”

Cecelia Cabaniss Saunders was the General Secretary of the YWCA. After graduating from Fisk University in Nashville, Saunders taught school in rural Alabama before coming to New York City to take up social work.  At the time of her appearance in the WNYC studio she had been with the Harlem-based YWCA for 16 years and oversaw the group’s significant growth.   

April 2, 1930 – Mrs. Roscoe Bruce on “Unemployment”

April 9, 1930 – Robert Bagnall on “The Negro in Politics”

For details on Bagnall please see December 4, 1929

April 16, 1930 – Thomas Moseley on “The Negro on the Stage”

Please see the March 5, 1930 entry above for Thomas W. Moseley.

April 23, 1930 – NY State Assemblyman Ellis Rivers on “Negro Legislators, Past, and Present”

Francis Ellis Rivers (1893-1975) received his B.A. from Yale and served in France during World War I. He graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1922. In 1929 he was elected to the New York State Assembly, where he introduced a bill to aid tenants and to set up a tenth Municipal Court district in Manhattan covering Harlem.  In 1937 he was appointed an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan and then a judge. He is noted for breaking the color bar at the New York State Bar Association.

April 30, 1930 – James Thomas on “The Negro and the Courts”

May 7, 1930 – James W. Johnson on “The Negro in Politics”

James Weldon Johnson, December 1932. (Carl Van Vecten/Library of Congress)

James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) was born into a middle-class Bahamian family in Jacksonville, Florida, and educated at Atlanta University. He began his multifaceted career in Jacksonville as a public school principal, lawyer, and newspaper publisher. In 1901 he moved to New York to become the songwriting partner of his brother J. Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954). From 1906 to 1912, he served as U.S. Consul to Venezuela and Nicaragua on the recommendation of Booker T. Washington, and in 1914 he became an editor of Washington’s New York Age. His association with the NAACP began in 1916 and lasted until 1931.  As field secretary, Johnson organized new NAACP branches across the South.  His hiring as secretary in 1920 signaled the rise of black leadership in the NAACP. Johnson resigned in 1931 to teach creative writing at Fisk University.

Dr. May Edward Chinn examining a young patient, 1930. (National Institute of Health)

May 14, 1930 – Dr. May Chinn on “The Negro in Science”

May Edward Chinn (1896-1980) was the first African American woman to graduate (1926) from the University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College. She practiced medicine in Harlem for fifty years and was a tireless advocate for poor patients with advanced, often previously untreated diseases. Chinn became a staunch supporter of new methods to detect cancer in its earliest stages.

NAACP co-founder, scholar and activist Dr. W.E.B. Dubois in 1918. (Library of Congress)

May 21, 1930 – W.E.B. DuBois on “The Negro Vote”

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) was a sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor. He taught history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University, and was one of the founders of the NAACP in 1909. Du Bois had risen to national prominence as the leader of the Niagara Movement, a group of African-American activists who wanted equal rights for blacks. 

May 28, 1930 – Franklin Nichols on “Social Hygiene”

Frank C. Nichols of the American Social Hygiene Association of New York City.

June 4, 1930 – William M. Kelley on “Negro Journalism”

William M. Kelley (1894-1958) was the Editor-in-Chief of The New York Amsterdam News from 1922-1933. He is noted for transforming the paper from a society sheet to a real newspaper during this critical period, known as the Harlem Renaissance. Kelley had previously worked on Chicago’s Champion Magazine and his own New York-based Kelley’s Magazine, where he published the Harlem poets Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and Claude McKay.

June 11, 1930 – The program is pre-empted by City Hall reception for President-elect of Brazil

June 18, 1930 – Herbert Seligmann – “A Race Relations Conference”

Herbert J. Seligmann (1891-1984) was the NAACP’s first full-time publicity director, serving the organization in that capacity from 1919-1932. Seligmann had been a journalist and civil rights activist. His first book, published shortly after joining the NAACP, was The Negro Faces America, a progressive analysis of race relations in the United States. The talk he gave over WNYC in 1930 was in reference to the NAACP’s twenty-first annual conference in Springfield, Massachusetts.

June 25, 1930 – Rev. Emanuel Bolden on “The Rule of Justice in Human Society”

July 1, 1930 – Interracial Race Relations – Field Secretary

July 9, 1930- Charles Allison on “The Negro and Crime”

July 16, 1930 – William Andrews on “The Negro as a Social Unit in New York”

William T. Andrews was a ‘special legal assistant’ at the NAACP in 1930. He would later be a Vice President of the organization.


The Story Behind the V.D. Radio Project

It struck me as odd, even bizarre, that the conqueror of the Nazis, liberator of Europe, should now be sitting before me with a furrowed brow, listening to this dialogue. But there he was.”

You’re right, Dr. Barnouw. The idea of the future leader of the free world, perched in his new aerie atop the ivory towers of Columbia University, listening with sincere attentiveness to a syrupy, organ-drenched melodrama about the great unspeakable anathema of syphilis, is bizarre, even ridiculous.

In 1948, Erik Barnouw was already a respected broadcast radio pioneer and eminent scholar, the kind of man one would expect to become the future author of a classic three-part history of Broadcast Radio. And he was. But if you told him then that a year later that he would coauthor—as a man of no known musical pedigree, just now digging his fresh heels into the roots of ivied academia—the can’t-be-real-but-it-is venereal disease honky-tonk juke box smash, “The Ignorant, Ignorant Cowboy,” while holding the helm of the creative team of a nationwide public health campaign aiming to stop the scourge of syphilis, I’d imagine he would have had quite a laugh.

England took another approach to combating syphilis in this 1943-1944 poster
(Wellcome Trust/Wikimedia Commons)

It’s hard to not view the whole thing as being pretty silly. Part of the reason for that stems from the way the creators of the V. D. Radio Project chose to handle it. Syphilis was so untouchable you had to dance around it, make a play of it. Keep your haha distance. Keep it light. It was the only way to reach people, and there were an estimated 3 million Americans in 1949 who carried the disease and needed treatment. Treatment without fear and shame.

A couple of years ago our colleagues at Studio 360 aired an episode on the VD Radio Project, entitled “VD on the Radio.” We encourage you to give it a listen – it’s as good an overview of the story as you’ll find (Barnouw’s own Media Marathon is excellent overview as well, and we’ve written our own below). But given their difficulties finding Roy Acuff’s contribution in any archives (we sympathize), we thought we’d lend the world a hand and clear ours out. And lo-and-behold there he is.

Included here is our collection of recordings from the V. D. Radio Project, pulled from a variety of sources – Columbia University, the NYC Municipal Archives, and, particularly, the National Archives and Records Administration. Our collection includes promos and PSAs from media stars like Ed Sullivan and Tex and Jinx to politicians like Ike and Adam Clayton Powell. We’ve got Barnouw’s hit song; interviews with doctors and patients; and of course the crown jewel – hours upon hours of (slightly) goofy radio melodramas: some of them have cowboy songs, others have a Lomax (Alan) or a Fonda (Henry). But all of them have syphilis… But, not, you know, like that.

A Short History of the VD Radio Project

In 1943, Dr. John Friend Mahoney cured four patients of syphilis using a then-new treatment, penicillin, shortening what was a long and painful process, seldom followed through the full 18 months to completion, into a week’s worth of trips to the doctor and a handful of shots in the arm.

An example of an earlier WPA effort to combat syphilis
(Works Progress Administration/Library of Congress)

Earlier public health campaigns aiming to end syphilis, like the one pictured at right, had mostly foundered on the fact that the comparatively mild early symptoms of syphilis seemed to disappear of their own accord (or due to some dubious tincture) without the pain and suffering of the then prevalent treatment, leaving the men and women who carried the disease to ignore at their peril the disease’s far more damaging late stage effects. For public health advocates, a quick and painless cure like penicillin was a godsend.

As the war was winding down, Congress passed the Public Health Service Act of 1944, which allowed the PHS to create and pursue aggressive campaigns which would attempt to draw in millions of men and women carrying the sexually transmitted disease for the new and simple treatment. It was under this influx of congressional funds that the PHS’ Lefoy Richman, recalling the Radio Act of 1927’s mandate that radio would serve the public interest, contacted Columbia University professor Erik Barnouw in 1948 to see if his university might be interested in bidding on the opportunity to produce programs that might convince people to seek treatment. Richman, in fact, had pursued dozens of universities with the same offer but hoped the Ivy League’s Lions would consider as well.

Columbia was the only bidder.

Barnouw moved quickly, enlisting top talent, using his connections from his NBC days, his newly-minted role as president of the Radio Writers Guild, and his Columbia University professorship to draw the finest writers, actors, and producers in the business. Under Barnouw’s stewardship, the VD Radio Project (as it was now called) devised a multi-pronged attack, creating a variety of programming aiming to draw in those suffering from syphilis.

To bring their programs to the air, Barnouw, Richman, and the VD Radio Project team initially sought out individual stations, but found no takers, with station managers fearing reprisals from the Catholic Church and other powerful organizations who would see the programs as an invitation to licentiousness. So they tried the networks, and after receiving a firm “no” from both NBC and CBS finally convinced ABC to give them a chance. Their first recording, “VD: The Conspiracy of Silence,” (sadly, not part of our collection) aired April 29, 1948, to wide acclaim.

The VD Radio Project also prepared local drives, the first of which was in Jackson, Tennessee. In Jackson, each and every local station carried their programming, which they hoped, combined with planned print and billboard campaigns, would bring in new patients. Barnouw and his team had developed a variety of material – standard-issue soaps, short spots featuring politicians and entertainers, and patient and doctor interviews – but the biggest response came from the three “hillbilly operas” they had prepared for broadcast. The so-called hillbilly operas were famed folklorist Alan Lomax’s idea; He even wrote a few scripts. The programs featured folk, country, and gospel superstars performing their songs in stories tailor-made for their tunes and talents, mini-operettas of meet cute, meet syphilis, meet cure. Needless to say, when they learned of their success, the PHS quickly commissioned more. Hank WilliamsRoy AcuffSister Rosetta Tharpe and many more cut fifteen-minute melodramas specially made to fit their songs and styles, as well as the PHS’ target markets – the rural south and industrial north. Barnouw even found time to pen a jukebox hit, “The Ignorant, Ignorant Cowboy,” at the suggestion of a health officer from the Tennessee drive.

The VD Radio Project was a huge success—according to Barnouw, the Tennessee Health Department reported that in 1949, over 18,000 cases had been drawn to seek treatment by the programs—but it was a short-lived one. In 1953, in one of the first acts of his administration, President Eisenhower, ironically an early champion of the project during his time at Columbia University, discontinued the project. In an additional irony, the variety of diseases that came to be treated by penicillin, and that no longer required as diligent a diagnosis, when combined with the development of technique by which a single dose could cure the disease had the unfortunate effect of making contact tracing, in which people infected by the disease could lead to others, virtually disappear. The disease came roaring back. The cure was too successful. Still, while it lasted, the VD Radio Project was proof of the efficacy of public health radio programs, and helped removed some of the stigma surrounding the treacherous, but curable, disease. 

Notes on the Arrangement 

In Media Marathon, Erik Barnouw mentioned four types of programming created by the VD Radio Project: soap operas, “documentar[ies]” (i.e. interviews with patients), short spots, and “hillbilly operas.”

For this page, we’ve grouped the two “operas” together under Radio Plays+. The vast majority are of the “hillbilly” variety, but they’re all interesting and enjoyable in their own right. The first item (the “+”) is Tom Glazer’s Erik Barnouw-penned hit single “That Ignorant, Ignorant Cowboy.” Principle contributors to the various programs are included in the title. 

Celeb Spots includes short advertisements from famous politicians, entertainers, and doctors urging treatment. All of the Interviews we hold in this collection are on a single track. It features Dr. George Hicks making the rounds with men and women suffering from syphilis, at various stages. And we have two Oral Histories with VD Radio Project head Erik Barnouw, one done by Columbia University, the other done by WNYC Archives Director, Andy Lanset, rounding out our collection.

The Early Years of Paul Dirac

Formal portrait of Paul and Felix Dirac as children.
Paul (in child’s gown) and Felix Dirac. (original image)

Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac was born August 8, 1902,
just a day before the crowning of King Edward the VII. Just as you’d expect, Dirac
and his older brother Felix resembled each other greatly in their early years,
both quiet and sporting thick black curls. Through letters from Florence Dirac,
Paul’s mother, one would find that these two were exceptionally close and loved
being with their father.

Graham Farmelo, writer of The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac argues that Paul Dirac most probably didn’t appreciate being brought up in an environment of unusual circumstances where he and his brother were to receive private education from their school teacher father. In a 1980 conversation with Kurt Hofer, a then Florida State University biology professor, Dirac is quoted to have confided that in his early years, he never felt love or affection.

An formal portrait of the Dirac family with Florence on the left and Charles on the right. Infant Betty, Felix, and Paul are situated between them.
Paul Dirac, Charles, Florence, Felix, and Betty in family portrait. (original image)

Throughout his life, most of Dirac’s acquaintances
had no idea what his childhood was like. At home, Dirac had no photographs of
his father and he kept his father’s papers locked in his desk. In his early
thirties, Dirac wrote to a close friend that to defend himself against the
hostilities he perceived around him he retreated into his own imagination.
Perhaps this is what aided in his superior understanding of scientific inquiry.

Formal portrait of Paul Dirac sitting outside.
Paul Dirac outdoor portrait. (original image)

Around the age of ten, Dirac picked up the hobby of astronomy. Science wasn’t a subject taught at Bishop Road Primary School, however, they did have courses on technical drawing which may have provided Dirac with a foundation in the unique way he interpreted how the universe worked. Years later, the geometrical approaches found in the technical drawing lessons Dirac took in his earliest years would transfer over into the mathematical theories he would pose in relation to theoretical physics and the 20th century understanding of the atom.


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

Winter Wander 2019

At the beginning of February the Archives, Museum of Vancouver, HR MacMillian Space Centre, Vancouver Maritime Museum, Vancouver Academy of Music, and Bard on the Beach hosted the 8th annual Winter Wander. For those who haven’t yet been, it is a fun day filled with activities, performances, and a chance to visit the cultural sites that call Vanier Park home.

Winter Wander gives the Archives an opportunity to show off a selection of our favourite records to visitors who might not otherwise walk through our doors during regular operating hours to conduct research. This year, in addition to our ever-popular first Council minute book, contract for a Chinese opera singer, and prisoners’ record book, we displayed a handful of posters from the recently donated BC Gay and Lesbian Archives fonds, the illustrated panoramic view of the City of Vancouver originally published as a supplement in the Daily World newspaper in 1898, and drawings of unbuilt Vancouver, including that of a stadium that had it been built in the 1930s would be sitting where the Archives is currently located.

Visitors crowd around records on display. Photo: Heather Gordon

Also on offer to visitors were a selection of our digitized moving images playing on a screen, copy prints, and an instant photo portrait area. Thank you to Beau Photo for another generous loan of a camera and backdrop for taking the instant photos.

Two people get their portrait taken at the instant photo area. Photo: Heather Gordon

Two Langara College students from the Professional Photography program joined us welcoming visitors, talking with visitors about their current show, Merging Time, that is displayed in the Archives’ gallery.

Langara students from the Professional Photography program talking with visitors about their exhibit. Photo: Bronwyn Smyth

Helping host the day at the Archives were also members of the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives. With the help of all our volunteers, we welcomed about 650 people to the Archives at this edition of Winter Wander – more than double the number that came last year!

Los archivos de Star Wars

Los archivos de Star Wars

Taschen lanzó un libro que recopila todo el universo de la primera trilogía de Star Wars.

Si hay una franquicia que conquistó fanáticos de todas las edades a lo largo de los últimos 40 años es Star Wars. No tiene que ver con que sea una de las pocas que lo logran, lo notable de esta saga es la intensidad de los seguidores que cosecha. Un objeto de lujo para los antiguos fans y una guía completo para los más nuevos, este libro editado por Taschen es el libro definitivo que compila todo lo conocido sobre las tres primeras películas de la saga que a fin de año estrena su novena parte.

Star Wars llegó al cine en 1977 y el mundo cambió desde entonces. Hubo un antes y un después con el estreno de esta cinta. El público quedó pasmado ante el universo Star Wars, viendo a Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) en su viaje por las galaxias, conociendo personajes como el misterioso ermitaño Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). La historia de Han Solo (Harrison Ford) y Chewbacca, junto a los droides C-3PO y R2-D2.

El escritor, director y productor del proyecto es el gran George Lucas quien creó un mundo moderno de fantasía. Lo hizo con su compañía ad hoc para el proyecto, Industrial Light & Magic, y así desarrolló tecnologías de efectos especiales de vanguardia, que combinó con innovadoras técnicas de montaje y un elevado diseño sonoro creando un nuevo concepto cinematográfico y sensorial.

Realizado en conjunto con George Lucas y Lucasfilm, el libro cuenta la historia de la trilogía original: Episodio IV: Una nueva esperanza, Episodio V: El Imperio contraataca y el Episodio VI: El retorno del Jedi. En sus páginas se pueden encontrar: páginas de los guiones originales, documentos de la producción, bocetos de arte conceptual, fotografías de los rodajes, carteles y una entrevista en exclusiva con el mismísimo Lucas.

En sus 604 página y en un tamaño máxi de 42 por 30 centímetros, por el momento solo se consigue la edición en inglés a 200 dólares. La versión en español saldrá a la venta recién en mayo de 2019. La editorial ya lanzó este tipo de formatos para cineastas como Kubrick, Bergman, Almodóvar, Disney y Chaplin pero también para franquicias como James Bond.

An Underwater View

One of the advantages to the location of Florida State University is we’re not so very far from the Gulf of Mexico. FSU first established a research facility, The Oceanographic Institute, on the gulf coast in 1949 on 25 acres on the harbor side of the peninsula that forms Alligator Harbor, about 45 miles south of Tallahassee.

FSU Marine Lab from the water (St George's Sound on the Gulf of Mexico)
FSU Marine Lab from the water (St George’s Sound on the Gulf of Mexico) See Original Image Record

The Oceanographic Institute maintained a substantial research effort throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The research conducted by the faculty and graduate students was intended to be interdisciplinary, balancing fundamental investigations of the productivity of tropical continental-shelf waters in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico with applied research on practical problems of the commercial and sport fisheries and the use of other marine resources. Various other research locations were also used over the years.

In 1966, FSU formed the Department of Oceanography on campus, and the Oceanographic Institute was closed. A new facility was built across the harbor and further to the west on land donated to Florida State University by Ed Ball, President of the St. Joe Paper Company. This facility opened in 1968 and was known as the Edward Ball Marine Laboratory. Today, it is known as the FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory. For more information on the history of the Laboratory, visit the Lab’s History webpage.

Marine Lab Boat, Seminole. See Original Image Record

Recently, Heritage & University Archives added a collection of digitized materials about the Coastal and Marine Laboratory to the FSU Digital Library. This collection includes photographs, plans, letters and other documentation collected in operating the Lab since the 1950s. The photographs, in particular, show the growth of the Lab’s operations as well as the experiences of its faculty and students at the Lab and on the water over the years. To explore this new collection, visit the Lab’s collection in the FSU Digital Library.

Don Coltman photographs now available

This is the second and final post on the 2018 Steffens-Colmer Studios and Don Coltman Company Photographs Digitization Project, funded by the British Columbia History Digitization Program.

With thanks to funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program we are pleased to announce that we have recently completed a project to digitize 5,300 photographs by commercial photographer Don Coltman.  The photographs are all in the public domain and have been uploaded to the Archives online database with accompanying descriptions and are available to be downloaded, re-printed and used! They join the ~5,000 Coltman photographs previously digitized.

Scenes at Kitsilano Beach and Yacht Club (1945). Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-6176

Don Coltman was born Alfred Donald Coltman in 1898 in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, England. He arrived in Canada in 1904 with his mother Ada, father Alfred Birbek and brother Rex. The family lived and worked around Lethbridge, Alberta. Coltman briefly worked for Canadian Pacific Railway in Lethbridge until 1916 when he joined the Canadian Battalion and was sent to France. During the war, he was buried alive, and then dug out and returned to England with a badly crushed foot. He refused to allow the doctors to amputate his leg; he was left with some damage but maintained the use of his leg for the rest of his life.

After the war Coltman returned to Canada where he and his brother decided to farm 40 acres near Medicine Hat. Coltman did not enjoy farming and went back to work for C.P.R. He met Marie Estelle Dickenson and they married on August 18, 1923. He went on to work all across Canada as the manager for music and appliance departments for various retailers, including the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1939 he and his family moved from Winnipeg to Vancouver while he was working for Dominion Electrohome Industries. In 1940 he and Marie built on his photography hobby and started making and selling postcards using the darkroom set up in their basement.

Don Coltman holding camera, ca. 1943. Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-1039

Coltman joined Steffens-Colmer Studio as manager in 1941. In 1944 he purchased the business, including the negatives and equipment and operated under the company name Steffens-Colmer Ltd. until 1951. In 1945 Coltman started a firm called Western Photo Electric Supplies which became Photolec and he created a line of equipment named Unicolt. He also invented a new design for a tripod and tripod head. In 1949 he and Wally Hamilton formed a company (purchased from Lew Perry) called Trans-Canada Films. The company was responsible for the film “Silver Harvest” (1951).

S.C. [Steffens Colmer] studio shots, exteriors [298 Main Street, Vancouver] (1948).
Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-6918

From 1951 to 1954 he continued to operate the business under Don Coltman Photographic Company (Don Coltman photos). In 1955 he closed the business and sold his photograph collection to Donn Williams. Williams Bros. Photographers Ltd. utilized these photographic records as stock photographs to complement their own photographic records.

In September 1959 Coltman moved to Toronto to become the Eastern Manager of Taylor, Pearson and Carson Ltd.’s photo division. He passed away in Toronto in 1963.

Hudson’s Bay Company flowers. Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-4916

Coltman’s images provide a unique record of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland in the post-WWII period. Subjects include B.C. industries and small businesses such as canneries, ports, sawmills, fishing, pulp and paper making and manufacturing. The photos also document aspects of Vancouver life, including community activities, fashion, businesses, events, sports activities, factories and production; representations of physical aspects of Vancouver, such as parks, bridges, beaches, streets, buildings, schools, shipyard and dock); and portraiture including weddings, families and local employees. As a result, this rich resource will be of interest to historians, teachers, researchers, and Vancouverites who seek to learn more about the social and cultural development of Vancouver and surrounding areas in the 1940s and 1950s.

Here is just a small selection of images digitized as part of this project.

Hudson Bay Co. – store for fashion – magazine job showing street and crest flag (1946). Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-9313

Volney Irons hearing aid (1945). Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-8896

B.C.E.R. Co. Window – Vancouver Umbrella Co. (1947). Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-9853

J.J. Gibbons – 3 cans of Clover Leaf salmon (1946). Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-9432

Seven Sisters, Stanley Park (1940). Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-5896

The photographs in the Don Coltman/Steffens-Colmer series are made of cellulose acetate, and are susceptible to rapid deterioration. For that reason this project posed various challenges and required innovative solutions in order to digitize. You can read more about this process in a previous blog post.

Curious to see more photographs? Visit our Steffens-Colmer Studios Ltd. And Don Coltman flickr album for a larger selection of images from the project.

Two Scenes from Early College History

“…concerning Bill’s College. I believe I could study better at home, than here. Your son, E. S. Snell.”

Strong Snell, about 1847

In this post – part three of the Snell family on the installment plan (parts one and two here and here) – two letters from Ebenezer Strong Snell, Amherst College’s first student, give us a personal account of key moments in Amherst’s early history: President Zephaniah Swift Moore’s move to Amherst in 1821, and the obtaining of the charter in 1825.

The first letter, dated June 1821, is from the end of Snell’s junior year at Williams College.  Written a few days after Moore announced his intention to leave Williams, Snell describes the turmoil that ensued.  Even before Moore’s departure, Williams had been unsettled over the question of whether, primarily because of its remote location, it should move to Hampshire County.  In fact, Moore is said to have assumed Williams would move before he accepted the presidency there and then announced his support in his inauguration speech in 1815 — what an uproar that must’ve caused. But while no one should’ve been too surprised when Moore announced shortly before the 1821 commencement that he would leave Williams for Amherst, it was still a traumatic event for those tied to the institution.¹  To some it seemed that with Moore’s exit the college might fail.  What then would Williams College degrees be worth, the students wondered.

North Brookfield (bottom right), Amherst (center), and Williamstown (top left). Snell’s route between home and college probably took him through Plainfield. “Map of Massachusetts,” by H.C. Carey (1822). From the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

From a geographical perspective, moving Williams to Hampshire County (whether to Northampton or Amherst) would’ve brought Strong Snell quite a bit closer to his family in North Brookfield.  More importantly, Snell’s family had longstanding ties with Moore, so their allegiance probably lay entirely with the president and his stated desire to move the college.  When Moore actually left Williams, Snell was one of the 15 students who accompanied him.

Strong Snell’s 1821 letter is addressed on the outside to his father and folded like a puzzle so that it opens to one letter containing a second folded and sealed page.  The first letter, addressed to “Dear Friends” is carefree and casual–actually, it’s boring.  It assumes that Rev. Thomas Snell, as addressee, would open the letter and read it aloud, for on the side it has a single line that names its intended audience: “You must consider this as addressed to the whole family.”  Think of the Snells gathered in the parlor to hear Rev. Snell read this letter.  The family must’ve thought everything was just fine way up there at Bill’s College. Transcription below images.

Rev.d Thomas Snell., North Brookfield, Mass.

Williams College June 21 1821

Dear Friends,

I expect an opportunity to send to Brookfield tomorrow, though I know not, by whom. Some one passed College this afternoon, and left word with a student, that if I wished to send home, he would oblige me within one or two days. I have not been able to conjecture, who it was; and am very sorry that I could not be called soon enough to see the person. I was before expecting to write in a short time, and to give you an account of my journey, which was too agreeable not to be mentioned. The pleasantness of the season, and of those days in particular, with other circumstances, rendered my ride most delightful. Not perplexed with the usual cares of travelling, I could enjoy the whole scenery, that might come into view, or, by interesting conversation, forget my situation, and imagine myself in the south-west chamber; so that the stage seemed to me, as to [Prince] lee-Boo, a little house, drawn off by horses.² I arrived [in] Northampton about [8?] o’clock in the evening, and started for Wmstown at 4 in the morning; the fields of waving grain looked more beautiful than I can express; the air was fresh and cool; and the early songsters of the grove almost charmed me, as I was hurried over the level shore of the Connecticut. The huge mountains, that fill up the road towards the end of my tour, appeared far less tedious than usual. In short, I never enjoyed a journey as I did this. Esq. Noble’s daughters, returning from Boston, were my company from Northampton to Wmstown. I was but little fatigued, and was able to commence study within two hours after my arrival. I hope to hear soon, that the family are better, than when I left home. Please to remember me with esteem to the Miss Bigelows and Mercy [T.]—-. From your son and Brother, E.S. Snell.

[sideways:] You must consider this as addressed to the whole family.

The second page, intended only for his dad, is where the truth comes out:

This part of the letter I fold and seal by itself, that if you wish you may cut it out and let the other part be seen.

Williams College. June 21

Two or three days ago, the President announced to the students that he had received and accepted an appointment at Amherst; that he should resign his office in College after the next commencement; that as long as he staid here, he should feel the same interest in us, as students, that he always had done, and hoped that none would be so troubled about these circumstances, as to cause any interruption of the usual order. But his wishes & expectations, I fear, will all be scattered to the winds, if I should judge from the present movements within these brick walls.

The Class meetings of the Seniors, I would presume, would average one per day for a week past. And most of their consultations appear to be upon the subject of graduating, &c &c. of the like kind. Ten of the class have bound themselves, that on no condition whatever will they ever graduate in [W.] College. Six more have also bound themselves (before they knew the determination of the ten) that, if the ten came to the conclusion above-mentioned, they would never graduate here. As things now stand, I have no doubt that the Commencement is entirely broken up. Every thing is hilter-kilter; reports fly about the town, to & fro, quicker, as I should think, than the birds could carry them. Every body is full of suspicions. The black wood-cutters and ragged strawberry-pedlars, as they fear the loss of the grand source of their revenue, appear to take as great an interest in the matter as any one. Dr. Moore and the Students are the common subjects of talk in College or town. Destruction, ruin, death and oblivion are the predictions of most of the students concerning Bill’s College.

I believe I could study better at home, than here. Your son, E.S. Snell.

Things got better for Williams College after the arrival of the new president, Edward Dorr Griffin (the third person to be offered the position), who slid into place at noon during Commencement.  Williams had endured years of uncertainty and come through it in one piece, and it would remain “in the valley of the Hoosac, one of the handsomest valleys in the world.”  And Amherst College was open and operating.  But Williams could give degrees – Amherst couldn’t. It didn’t have a charter from the state legislature allowing it to do so, and that was to remain a sticking point for several years.  In the meantime, Amherst gave certificates. Rain checks.  IOUs. A graduate was “deserving of the title and degree of Bachelor of Arts,”³ but he wasn’t getting either one.  Now it was Amherst’s turn to worry about the value of its degrees, or non-degrees.

The town, the students, and the faculty had invested a lot in the promise of Amherst College, emotionally, physically, and financially.  Regional newspapers followed the struggle with the state legislature for the charter, and it wasn’t at all clear to readers that Amherst would triumph. There were enough powerful opposing interests to make it a hard contest.  In the end, the vote in the House was 114 to 95.4


There are of course no photographs from this period, but there are photographs from the 1946 Amherst College Masquers production of Curtis Canfield’s play, “the Seed and the Sowers,” and one scene examines the fight in the legislature (click on image for gallery):

By the time the charter was finally granted in 1825, people who had sweated through the ordeal were ready to celebrate. Strong’s letter of February 23rd captures the moment of Humphrey’s return from Boston with the charter the day before, when a crowd turned out to greet him and see the document.  Strong happened to have caught the stage home with Humphrey and others, so he had a first-person view of the event.

People familiar with the history of Amherst College will note that Strong misdated his letter by two years — he wrote “1823” — but there is no doubt that the charter was granted in 1825, and that Humphrey, whom Snell refers to as President (“Prest“), didn’t assume that position until later in 1823, after the death of President Moore in June of that year. It’s bizarre that Snell misdated the letter in this way — one can only speculate about how it happened — but there seems no doubt.  In the transcription that follows the images of the original, I kept his date but noted that it was in error.


Amherst. Feby. 23—1823– [sic]

Dear Mother,

I stopped into the stage at N. Braintree about half past one with very agreeable company. In the first place, there were Prest Humphrey and Mr. Austin Dickinson, who came and took dinner at Mr. Fiske’s while the stages were changing and other passengers taken in. Then Miss Mary Jocelyn (if I have spelled it right) and her Brother going to Enfield. Mr. Barr, the singer, going to Greenwich, three students, coming here to the Academy; and one man unknown to me. As you see I met a larger party of acquaintance than I often do in Brookfield or Amherst. The President seemed to be in very good spirits, and very soon after he had come into Mr. Fiske’s informed us that he had the charter in [his] pocket, and that it might be seen in the next [Recorder]. But he regretted that the house thought fit to sacrifice two of the most active Trustees as a peace-offering to the opposition. Mr. [Nathan] Fiske and Esq. [John] Smith were removed from the board.5  The President told Mrs. Fiske to congratulate her husband on being dismissed in so good company and on receiving what might be esteemed so signal an honor, since all would understand that they were removed on account of having so faithfully served the interests of the Institution. The inhabitants of the village here were on the “tiptoe of expectancy” when the stage-horn sounded. The front of Mr. Boltwood’s tavern was blackened with the crowd of anxious spectators, waiting to see who had come and what news the passengers had brought. The horses had not stopped before Edward and James were thrusting in their heads and shaking hands with their father. Edward asks “have you got the Charter?” The Pres. answered in the affirmative. James, half way between laughing and crying, says “O-h-h-h! you wouldn’t come without that.” The joyful report flew quick through the throng, and when I alighted one broad smile was resting on all their countenances. Soon I felt them pressing by me into the house, to hear the charter read by Mr. [Austin] Dickinson, who had a copy of it with him. But I felt not at all inclined to follow. More than half sick with riding, I thought a feather bed would do me more good than all the chartered colleges in the union.

President Heman Humphrey brings the charter home: “Men of Amherst! We are at long last a chartered college.” (From the 1946 production of “the Seed and the Sowers”).

We have not made out much today. Every body’s attention is taken up with the celebration of the afternoon and evening. I have come near jumping out of my seat repeatedly in the school-room at the report of the cannon. And now (8 o’clock in the evening) the people are expressing their joy by firing cannon, ringing bells, and illuminating College[s] and Academy. A committee was sent by the townsmen to the President this morning to consult him respecting the expediency of doing all this. He said he should not advise it, but would not object, if the people were desirous of making a celebration. If I had been consulted, I should have expressed the same sentiment—at least the former part of it. Now it seems rather strange to me, that the populace are not willing to concur in the opinion of the two principal men in town. At 9 o’clock, subscribers from the neighborhood (I know not who,) will take supper at the Mansion House, when 17 reports will be heard from the cannon, in honor (I suppose) of the 17 Trustees. Many respectable gentlemen in town are helping on this business, but it looks to me too much like boys’ play. I cannot relish it in the connection in which I must view it – if it were on some military occasion, I should enjoy the roar of the field-piece, & the brilliancy of the illumination, but I can now express my joy better by writing home.

I have been in to see Mrs. Moore [Phebe Moore, widow of Pres. Moore]—find her nearly as well as before she was taken sick. She and Miss Cary send much love. Dr. Humphrey’s youngest children are considerably unwell; their hired girl very sick. Illness is quite prevalent in town.

24—I find I received a wrong impression respecting the supper last night. I supposed it would be attended only by part of the College students and some young towns-people who wished to have a high. But I afterward heard that it was attended by a regular and respectable, as well as numerous collection. About 100 were present, consisting of the Prest. and all the other faculty of college, college students, and inhabitants of both east and west streets. Mr. Heath had previously asked me and Mr. Paine [Elijah Paine, Class of 1823] to attend but could not tell us who would be present. We laughed at the idea of being at the tavern with a toasting company at [9] or 10 at night, and receiving no further invitation, we staid at home about our business. It is possible we may be thought rather odd, but that will never trouble us.

Professor Estabrook returned last evening. He is about to take his wife and child and remove 700 miles to the south, into Virginia, the name of the town I have not heard. He has engaged a private school and is expecting to superintend an Academy for a very handsome salary. We have 40 students in today. I feel rather more “like work” than I did yesterday, or when I left home. I am called away to school and must put what I have written into the office.

Let the first one who can spend time return a letter as good, at least, as this, and as much longer as is convenient.

Your oldest boy—

Please to remember me to all the gentlemen—Father, Doctor, Brothers Thomas and William. Likewise to all the ladies—Sisters Martha, Sarah, Tirzah and Abigail, and every body else.

Newspapers all over the region echoed Snell’s description of the celebration and described the toasts he missed by being such a stickler for propriety and choosing a feather bed over the charter celebration:

How amazing is it that we have letters from the first student to enter Amherst College, and (all the more amazing) that he writes about these important early events in Amherst’s history?  There are more letters in the Snell Family Papers, many of which refer to other events in Amherst College history, and all of which shed light on this large, vibrant family of Western Massachusetts.



1. Read more about this period at Williams College here:  a_history_of_williams_college-excerpt-re-moore

2. For “Prince Lee Boo,” see “The History of Prince Lee Boo.”

3. In the entertaining little volume of chapel talks about Amherst College history called “the Seed and the Sowers,” Curtis Canfield writes about the charter problem and includes the text of one of the graduation certificates: seed and the sowers-excerpt-sm

4. See William S. Tyler’s “A History of Amherst College,” p. 151.

5. Tyler explains that these two trustees were probably removed because they were “among the active agents in the founding of the College, and as such, particularly obnoxious to its enemies.” Snell doesn’t mention the third trustee who merited removal, Rev. Experience Porter. Ibid, 153.

Barbara Carroll: A Birthday Gift

Today is the birthday of the late pianist and singer Barbara Carroll, the pioneering jazz musician remembered by the New York Times’ music critic Stephen Holden as “a beloved fixture of Manhattan nightlife” whose style and unfailing sense of swing “embodied a timeless bohemian elegance and artistic grace.[i]”

Barbara Carroll was born on January 25, 1925 in Worcester, MA. She studied piano as a child, and by the age of seventeen was enrolled at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.  But despite her talent as a classical pianist, her musical passion was for jazz —a passion that she developed listening to the recordings and remote radio broadcasts of the great swing players of the 1930s and 1940s. According to Carroll, “As soon as I heard Nat Cole and Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson, I was hooked. Totally hooked.[ii]” She formed her first band at the age of fifteen, and began playing dances and other events in Worcester and, eventually, in Boston. But by the mid-1940s, the lure of the dynamic bebop jazz revolution taking place in Manhattan was too strong to resist.  She withdrew from the conservatory, left Massachusetts, and set out for New York.

Barbara Carroll’s aspiration to be a professional pianist came about in an era when the deck was unambiguously stacked against her, or any woman instrumentalist trying to make it in jazz.  In 1990, she spoke with WNYC’s Steve Ross about some of the obstacles that she encountered in the 1940s:

You were pre-judged then, you know, because you were a woman. You were pre-judged before they ever heard you play.

I knew one pianist from Boston, he was established a little bit here [in New York], so sometimes when he’d get called for two engagements on a Saturday night, and if he was already booked for one, he’d try to send me for the other one.  But he couldn’t tell them that I was a girl because then the bandleader wouldn’t have hired me. So he would say, “I’m going to send Bob Carroll. Bob Carroll will be your pianist. Or Bobby Carroll.” And of course then I would arrive, and I’d say “I’m your pianist for the evening!” Well, they had no choice…[iii]



Listen to Barbara speaking with Steve Ross about how she got started, the New York club scene, and the challenges for women in the 1940s. (from New York Cabaret Nights, WNYC, 18 June 1990)



Undeterred, Barbara Carroll put together a trio and, in 1947, within a year of arriving in Manhattan, she landed her first major gig on 52nd Street —the epicenter of jazz in New York, where she appeared on a bill at the Downbeat Club with Dizzy Gillespie, one of bebop’s most influential artists.

Charlie Parker and Red Rodney look on as Dizzy Gillespie and The Barbara Carroll Trio (seen in the mirror’s reflection) perform at the Downbeat Club, c. 1947.
(William P. Gottlieb Collection (Library of Congress))

1952 ad for the supper club, The Embers
(New York Daily News, 18 March 1952)

Other bookings followed quickly in New York, and around the country. By the early 1950s Ms. Carroll had become a frequent headliner at The Embers, the preeminent super club on East 54th Street. Working at The Embers was among the first of her major long-term night club engagements, and one that helped establish Barbara Carroll as mainstay of New York’s jazz and cabaret scene.


2015 ad for the jazz club, Birdland
(New York Times, 30 October 2015)

 Ms. Carroll’s other legendary New York residencies and extended club engagements included those at the Algonquin Hotel’s Oak Room, the Carlyle Hotel’s Bemelmans Bar (the Upper East Side venue where she was booked for two weeks, and stayed on for twenty-five years[iv]), and at Birdland, the jazz club on West 44th Street where she held forth weekly until just a few weeks before her death in 2017 at the age of 92.

In celebration of her birthday, we have a gift: a recently rediscovered, rarely heard gem of Barbara Carroll in performance on WNYC’s show New York Cabaret Nights. This episode of New York Cabaret Nights, which aired on June 18th, 1990, was recorded at Rainbow and Stars, the Art Deco cabaret room on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Center. Ms. Carroll is joined by her friend and frequent collaborator, the bassist Jay Leonhart. Highlights from the broadcast, found in the audio player at the top of this page, include joyous renditions of Mercer Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be,” and the Jerome Kern songs “Nobody Else but Me” and “I’m Old Fashioned.” As you might expect, and as she had done for more than seven decades, Barbara Carroll swings.

The complete June 18th, 1990 episode of WNYC’s New York Cabaret Nights is available here.  All extant episodes of the entire series are available here, and are part of the New York Public Radio Archives collection.


[i] Stephen Holden, “Barbara Carroll, Pioneering Jazz Pianist and Singer, Dies at 92” The New York Times, 14 February 2017

[ii] Live from Rainbow and Stars, New York Cabaret Nights, 18 June 1990, WNYC

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Jazz Legend Barbara Carroll, www.barbaracarrolljazz.com/biography