The Year Without a Homecoming Queen

Serious drama began unfolding in October 1972 in the lead up to Florida State University’s homecoming week. As reported in the Florida Flambeau, students had an unconventional choice for Homecoming Queen: Ron Shank.shank

Mr. Shank’s candidacy for homecoming queen stirred up plenty of controversy. Administrators balked. Rallies were held in his support. Lawyers were consulted. In response to Homecoming Committee chair Dr. Marshall Hamilton’s comments that Shank was destroying the dignity of Homecoming, an commentor wrote:

On the contrary, Dr. Hamilton, we think Ron might enhance the dignity of Homecoming. He certainly appeared dignified in the picture in yesterday’s Flambeau. Such pomp and outright elan–if you will–certainly couldn’t harm the ceremony.

One person even wrote in to express his fears of a racist conspiracy being afoot; Mr. Shank merely being used as an excuse to cancel the entire homecoming court, which had had African-American Queens the previous two years.

Conspiracy or no, that’s exactly what happened. The Homecoming Committee declined to have a Homecoming court for the year of 1972, and University President Stanley Marshall elected to not get involved.

Let’s close with some words from the man himself:

I ran for Homecoming Queen because I don’t believe in parading Women (or Men) around on a stage under the auspices of a beauty contest when physical beauty is only a minor part of a person’s true beauty and definitely not the sole criteria of one’s worth.

Read all about the controversy in the Florida Flambeau in the DigiNole: Digital Library.

100,000 digital objects now online

Late last week, our digitization efforts reached a significant milestone:  we now have over 100,000 digital objects available online for your use and re-use!

Screenshot of Browse Digital Objects result on

Screenshot of Browse Digital Objects result on

We’ll be featuring some of the new content in future blog posts, but here are some examples of what’s been added recently:

Chilly children in Open Air School classroom, ca. 1926. Reference code: AM1376-: CVA 96-3

Chilly children in Open Air School classroom, ca. 1926. Reference code:
AM1376-: CVA 96-3

Sawmill and ships at Fraser Mills, ca. 1900. Reference code: AM1376-: CVA 91-1

Sawmill and ships at Fraser Mills, ca. 1900. Reference code: AM1376-: CVA 91-1

Mayor Art Phillips taking oath of office, 1975. Reference code: COV-S532-F01-: CVA 93-3

Mayor Art Phillips taking oath of office, 1975. Reference code: COV-S532-F01-: CVA 93-3

Many of these images are a result of our ongoing project to digitize the content of our CVA photo reference binders. These red binders contain copy prints and photocopies of many of the photographs in our holdings, excluding those in the Major Matthews Photograph Collection. As collections are digitized and uploaded to our database, we pull the reference copies and retire the binders, one after the other. Frequent visitors to our reading room may have noticed their diminishing number. The binders used to occupy 15 shelves. Now we’re down to only five.

Our ever-diminishing red CVA photo reference binders

Our ever-diminishing red CVA photo reference binders

We have more than photographs online, though. There are over 2500 maps and plans available, such as this one showing Vancouver population density by traffic zone:

Map showing population density by traffic zone, 1955. Reference code: COV-S445-3-: LEG26.4

Map showing population density by traffic zone, 1955. Reference code: COV-S445-3-: LEG26.4

We also have over 540 film and video works online, with more to be uploaded in the coming weeks. Two of our favourites are:

Still from The New Granville Bridge (1954). Reference Code: COV-S361-: MI-2

Still from The New Granville Bridge (1954). Reference Code: COV-S361-: MI-2

Still from Protest (1981). Reference code: AM1487-: MI-252

Still from Protest (1981). Reference code: AM1487-: MI-252

And we have over 230 audio recordings available, mostly from the Dunbar History Project fonds, Yaletown Productions fonds and Vancouver Centennial Commission fonds. Check out a recently added recording of Frank Sinatra inviting residents of Vancouver to the Centennial celebration kickoff event and wishing Vancouver a happy 100th birthday.

Also available online are 554 sets of 1970s City Council minutes representing 23,000 pages of text:

First page of Council meeting minutes, Incorporation Day, April 6, 1971

First page of Council meeting minutes, Incorporation Day, April 6, 1971

And here is a newly-added image of the 1975 City Council being sworn into office:

Alderpersons Rankin, Harcourt, Volrich, Boyce and Kennedy at inaugural Council meeting, 1975. Reference code COV-S532-F01-: CVA 93-5

Alderpersons Rankin, Harcourt, Volrich, Boyce and Kennedy at inaugural Council meeting, 1975. Reference code:
COV-S532-F01-: CVA 93-5

These digital resources would not be available without the support of a number of generous funding agencies and individual donors over the years. Since 2002, the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives has contributed to the description and digitization of our photographic holdings, securing over $133,000 in BC Community Gaming grants and matching that with over $103,000 from memberships, donations and event ticket sales. The BC History Digitization Program has been a source of digitization funding for photographs, maps and plans and text since 2007. Prior to 2009, we made use of funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage and Library and Archives Canada through the Canadian Council of Archives. Organizations such as Lantic Inc. and the Dunbar Residents Association have contributed to specific projects as well.

We’d love to hear how you make use of these resources, and we look forward bringing you many more.

Bad Children of History #29: Quarrelsome Bob

Today’s Bad Child of History, Quarrelsome Bob, is creating a true ruckus. Look at those dust clouds! Look at his rival’s wildly disheveled hair! (Note also that Bob has managed to keep his cap stylishly perched on his head through the melee.)


This belligerent boy can be found on a card in “Game of Master Rodbury and his Pupils”, a card game printed in 1844 by W. & S.B. Ives in Salem, Massachusetts.

The instructions look a little confusing at first glance, but if anyone wants to stop by and delicately try it out, I’m game.

1980 Water Shortage

Amherst College and Western Massachusetts have experienced below-average rainfall amounts for a seventh straight month this year and as a result, water levels in town reservoirs are the lowest they have been in recent history. In mid-August, the state of Massachusetts issued a drought watch for the Connecticut River Region and the Town of Amherst has imposed mandatory water conservation measures for the town, including Amherst College campus.

If you’re on campus, you’ve likely noticed these signs around encouraging conscious consumption and water conservation.

Amherst College 2016 Drought Response poster

In the fall of 1980, Amherst experienced a severe water shortage due to a very dry summer, several hot days in September, an unusually light snowfall the preceding winter, and the yearly influx of many thousands of students to the area.

The Amherst Student, Sept. 11, 1980

The Amherst Student, Sept. 11, 1980

The Amherst Student, Sept. 11, 1980

In early September, University of Massachusetts, the largest of the three colleges in Amherst, closed campus for several days as an emergency response to lessen demands on the town’s water supply.

The Amherst Student Sept 15, 1980

The Amherst Student, Sept 15, 1980

By mid-September 1980, Amherst College director of land conservation and assistant to the director, along with a newly established Amherst College conservation program, met with all first year students to educate about wasteful habits and to promote on-campus awareness about water and energy conservation.  The conservation program offered suggestions to students about ways to reduce their water use:

  1. “Turn off the water when brushing teeth, washing face, and shaving.
  2. Use plugs in sink–fill the sink with hot water instead of letting the faucet run.
  3. Use full loads in washing machines and
  4. For those living off-campus, purchase the low-flow shower heads that all Amherst dorms already use.”
The Amherst Student, Sept. 29, 1980

The Amherst Student, Sept. 29, 1980

The Amherst Student, Sept. 29, 1980By October 1980, the water supply emergency had abated and the Town of Amherst completed the construction of a new well in South Amherst.  Student members of the Amherst Water Conservation Project, a state-funded study, established goals for water conservation in Amherst:

  • “To allow the town to remain self-sufficient in its water supply;
  • To extend the life of the town’s new sewage treatment plant;
  • To postpone or eliminate the need to develop new water sources;
  • To improve water quality by allowing the town to use its higher quality water sources;
  • To avoid future water shortages.”

The Amherst Student reported that members of the Conservation Project were meeting with the Physical Plants at University of Massachusetts, Hampshire College, and Amherst College to ensure that each institution was doing its best to conserve water.

The Amherst Student, Oct. 16, 1980

The Amherst Student, Oct. 16, 1980

The Amherst Student, Oct. 16, 1980The Amherst Student gives an interesting glimpse of the 1980 town water shortage and campus-wide response.  A full run of the newspaper is available to read in the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections.

For more information on Amherst College’s ongoing efforts to conserve water and for ideas on how to do your part, visit the Amherst Conserves website.

Congratulations to June Shin, Winner of the 2016 Updike Prize

On Monday evening we celebrated student type design with four talented finalists for our Updike Prize for Student Type Design. Here they are (with typeface names in italics):

June Shin, Ithaka (First Prize)

SooHee Cho, The Black Cat

Cem Eskinazi, Mond

Íñigo López Vázquez, Erik Text

If you didn’t get a chance to attend the event on Monday you can still see examples of the students’ work on display in our third floor exhibition area.

And if you’re an aspiring student type designer, it’s never too soon to start working on your entry for the 2017 prize. Contact us or stop in to ask about the contest.

Thanks to our sponsors, Paperworks, for making the prize possible. And thanks as well to Fiona Ross, this year’s guest speaker, who enlightened our audience on the topic of non-Latin type design.

“Rocky” Takes on Albany

After an Invocation by the Bishop of Albany, a few words from the Secretary of State, the singing of the national anthem, and a rabbi reading from the Bible, Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller is sworn in as the 49th governor of the State of New York. The new governor immediately pronounces this “a fatal time for free man…and for freedom everywhere.” The communist threat is seen as a continuation of the fascist threat that led to World War II. The Manichean world-view of the 1950’s is much in evidence. He sees the globe “divided between those who believe in the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God and those who scorn this as a pious myth.” But one cannot wonder, considering what follows, if this is just lip-service being paid to a popular notion so the ensuing proposals will not be branded as evidence that Rockefeller is “soft on Communism.” Because the actual agenda the new Republican governor lists is as “liberal” and “progressive” (his words) as any put forth by his Democratic predecessors. Better schools, more welfare, even universal health insurance are called for. Social equality and equal opportunity (code words for programs helping minorities) are seen as necessities for fighting communism abroad. This is the way mainstream liberals framed their arguments in the time of the Cold War, arguing less for programs on their own merits than as tools in the battle for the hearts and minds of countries being romanced by the Soviet Union. It provided necessary cover against potential attacks from the right. And so Rockefeller’s extraordinary fourteen-year reign as governor got underway.

Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979) was born to riches and power. It is hard now to appreciate how the family name, which was then associated with oil, monopolies, and strike-breaking, underwent such a transformation due this one ambitious man’s political career. As notes:

In 1958, he decided to run for governor of New York State. His campaign revealed a confident and affable politician, at his best when pressing the flesh and striking up conversations with the people who came out to see him. “Hi Ya, Fella” became his signature greeting. “Rocky,” his nickname. After a massive campaign, bankrolled with his legendary fortune, Rockefeller won the election handily. The New York Times did not fail to notice the historical significance of the result: “The election of Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller has given the final stamp of public approval to a name that once was among the most hated and feared in America.”

For Rockefeller, the governorship of New York was seen a mere stepping-stone to the presidency. But the liberal beliefs he espoused in this inaugural address put him at odds with a large section of the national party. The Encyclopedia Britannica describes how:

With Nixon out of the presidential contest in 1964, Rockefeller again sought the Republican nomination. As leader of the party’s liberal wing, he was opposed by conservative Barry Goldwater, who won the nomination by a slim margin. At the convention, Rockefeller fought strongly, though unsuccessfully, to maintain a commitment to civil rights in the Republican platform. Reflecting deep divisions between liberal and conservative Republicans, Rockefeller, who had denounced Goldwater as an extremist, was heckled by Goldwater supporters during his address. Throughout the ensuing campaign, he steadfastly refused to endorse Goldwater’s candidacy.

Rockefeller tried again for the nomination in 1968 but the party’s geographical and ideological shift was even more pronounced. Seen as the candidate of the Eastern Establishment, he was beaten by Richard Nixon. A brief term as Vice President, after Gerald Ford replaced Nixon, would prove to be as close to the presidency as Rockefeller would ever get. His failed aspirations for national power have somewhat overshadowed the very real effect his long time as governor had on New York State. Jeffrey Frank, writing in the New Yorker, notes: 

As Rockefeller recedes into the recent, unremembered past, he seems an increasingly improbable figure, his surname perhaps more associated with a song lyric (“I’ll be rich as Rockefeller / Gold dust at my feet / On the sunny side of the street”) than with the man who, between 1959 and 1973, transformed New York into a laboratory for the ambitions and occasional excesses of government. He was a Republican, yet a missing link in the Republican Party of today: a moderate and occasional liberal who believed that every problem has a solution, and who could say, “If you don’t have good education and good health, then I feel society has let you down.”


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 48466
Municipal archives id: LT8282

Man in the White Hat

Over the past two weeks we have enjoyed the company of Alice Jaspars, a second year undergraduate who followed up excavation in Cyprus over the summer with a fieldwork placement in the archive, finding out more about the history of archaeology there, and in particular delving into the life of Oxford archaeologist John Myres. She writes:

John Linton Myres (1869–1954) (not to be mistaken with his son of an almost identical name) is a man of countless stories, many of which I have been able to acquaint myself with over the past 2 weeks during my work experience in The School of Archaeology’s Archaeological Archives. Some of these anecdotes beg belief, with a personal favourite of mine recounting how Myres, having caught malaria in Cyprus, ended up on a boat sailing to France with nothing but the clothes on his back and a tin of slightly rancid condensed milk. If I have learnt anything from reading Myres’ autobiography and examining his slides, it is that in his life what goes right goes very right, and that everything else makes a stunning story.


“Levk : bases from N E”: Excavations at Levkoniko by Myres, Menelaos Markides and L. H. D. Buxton 1913. HEIR ID 42196

Myres is perhaps the closest one can come to Oxford personified having spent over 60 years of his life there. His Undergraduate years spent at Hertford College allowed him to make lifelong connections and friendships with the great and the good of his day, as well as creating opportunities for him to excavate. It is during his time at Oxford that Myres was given a £30 grant from the aptly named Cyprus Exploration Fund, to use as he chose within the parameters of a Cypriot Excavation. It is thus Myres was able to become the ‘Father of Cypriot Archaeology’ and alongside German archaeologist Max Ohnefalsch-Richter, he both excavated and wrote up the ‘Catalogue of the Cyprus Museum’. The seasons in which Myres was excavating in Cyprus allowed him to lay out the groundwork for all future Anglo-Cypriot excavations to be based upon.


Myres in his white hat: HEIR ID 34428

Myres’ white hat preceded him in most situations, and rightly so. It was this which he was encouraged to wear to differentiate himself from all other excavators and to prevent himself from being targeted by bandits. His Norfolk jacket with its 15 pockets also gained a reputation as being part of his digging attire and further contributed towards Myres’ archaeological reputation.


By looking through Myres’ slides in the archives and reading his words I have been able to expand my knowledge of Cypriot Archaeology and the way in which individuals fit into a greater academic and social network. The life of John L Myres demonstrates the way in which one individual can have countless different identities, and he himself was far more than simply the man in the white hat.

Alice Jaspars  September 2016

Check Us Out!

The National Archives provides many “entrances” to our content. We have facilities located across the country to bring our records to you and you may find our records where you go to on the web, including Wikipedia, Facebook, Instagram, and many more.  We know that nearly one third of you come to our website via your phones and this experience just got much better.

A few days ago, our website ( underwent a substantial behind-the-scenes overhaul. Nearly 3 million visitors come to each month to search and discover information about the National Archives. The website serves as the primary face of the agency both nationally and internationally and plays an important role in our Open Government efforts to provide greater transparency and access to the records of the National Archives.

The underlying infrastructure was completely rebuilt and migrated into Drupal, an open source content management system. Drupal allows more NARA staff to more easily update the site content, resulting in a fresher experience for you, our users. Although this effort focused on our back-end systems—and was not a visual redesign of the site—there are some enhancements that will be readily apparent to you and I want to highlight here. These improvements include: a better experience on smartphones and tablets, an updated section of the site dedicated to America’s founding documents, and a new searchable calendar of national events.

1. Responsive to mobile devices: Nearly one third of our web visitors browse on a smartphone or tablet. The updated site now adjusts to provide the best experience for your screen size.Responsive to mobile devices

2. Refreshed look for America’s founding documents: The Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are viewed more than 18 million times a year and are consistently in our top 5 most visited sections of the website. In the past, these important documents were featured in a design that was distinct from the rest of the website and the user experience on mobile devices was poor. We’ve incorporated this content into the main site, making it more accessible on mobile devices, improving the navigation, and better integrating documents with the rest of our online offerings.

Refreshed look for America's Founding Documents


3. Searchable calendar of events: Want to find a fun event for kids or a workshop for genealogists? Our new calendar interface provides simple ways to search by keyword, filter by event location, and by event type. You can also easily add an event to your own preferred calendar (iCal, Google, etc.) so you’ll never forget where and when to join us!

Searchable Calendar of Events

4. Featured records on the homepage: We have added a prominent spot on the homepage for highlighting relevant items from the Catalog. Check here for connections between our holdings and current events and anniversaries as well as newly-digitized records.

5. Improved search: Our new website search is designed to provide more relevant results. We’ve made the search more comprehensive as well, so you will now find results from our Presidential Library websites and the latest news from our many social media accounts.

Improved Search

Our website plays an essential role in helping the National Archives make access happen and connect with our customers. While most of the changes we’ve made to date are behind the scenes, these back-end upgrades are a critical first step towards a full redesign that will improve the look, navigation, and user experience. We are excited to roll out these initial changes and look forward to hearing your feedback.  Add your comments below or send in to

Bedford Book of Hours

In addition to our three newest medieval facsimiles, Special Collections & Archives has recently acquired a high-quality facsimile of the Bedford Book of Hours.

Bedford Book of Hours
An illustration of the Tower of Babel from the Bedford Book of Hours (image credit: Wikipedia)

The Bedford Book of Hours is a lavishly-illustrated early fifteenth century French prayer book made for John, Duke of Bedford, and his wife, Anne of Burgundy. Anne later gave the book to her nine-year-old nephew, Henry VI, as Christmas present. The original manuscript is now in the British Library (Add. MSS 18850). The illustrations were produced in Paris in the workshop of an unnamed artist known to art historians as the “Bedford Master.” The Bedford Book of Hours exemplifies the type of high-end manuscripts produced in secular bookmaking shops for European nobility in the late Middle Ages.

More information about the Bedford Book of Hours and other medieval facsimiles can be found on the Facsimiles of Medieval Manuscripts and Incunabula Research Guide.

Traveling Exhibit: The Black Church in Rhode Island

Blog readers in Rhode Island: check out the traveling exhibit “Do Lord Remember Me: The Black Church in Rhode Island,” curated by Robb Dimmick! The exhibit, from the organization Stages of Freedom, contains images from our collections, alongside other documentation of the history of Black churches, community, and faith in Rhode Island.


The exhibit will be on view tomorrow, October 14th, from 10am – 3pm at the First Baptist Church at 75 North Main Street in Providence. If you can’t make it tomorrow, you can also see it on October 16th at the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket, or on October 24th at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport.

Mayor Lindsay Responds to the 1967 Riots

“Civil wrongs don’t make for civil rights,” John Lindsay quotes Adlai Stevenson, as American cities convulse with riots in 1967. This press conference, held the day after President Johnson’s speech announcing the formation of the Kerner Commission, on which Lindsay would serve, finds the New York mayor in his familiar role of attempting to navigate the minefield of black rage and white backlash as the country threatens to descend into chaos. Lindsay is clearly sympathetic to the plight of African-Americans in America’s inner cities. He is also attempting to maintain law and order while running an underfunded municipal government. He insists there is “no evidence” of a conspiracy or outside agitation linking the riots in Cleveland, Newark, and Detroit, but when a reporter asks if this is the beginning of a “black revolution” there is a painfully long silence before Lindsay responds, “I don’t know the answer to that. I really don’t.” Similarly, pressed about “white backlash,” he frankly shrugs, “I don’t know. I don’t know how to respond to that. I read the same as you do…the same newspapers.”

His solutions range from congress allocating more money to social welfare programs to vague efforts to reach sixteen-year-olds, a problem “we have got to lick.” The causes of the rioting that he reels off, “general conditions, housing, schools, education, city services, job opportunities” are daunting, especially when the only immediate solutions he has to offer are a “splash ladder” from the Fire Department spraying down a playstreet in Harlem, and additional lights for playing fields in “ghetto areas” throughout the city. This press conference took place in late July. The country’s long hot summer was not over yet.

John V. Lindsay (1921-2000) was swept to office in 1966 on a wave of glamour and optimism. The handsome, Kennedyesque liberal Republican represented a break from his machine-backed predecessors. But labor strikes, fiscal decline, and racial tensions made his two terms as mayor among the most bruising in New York City history. Listening to the worried questions posed in this press conference, one realizes the extent to which these sudden and seemingly unconnected riots unnerved America. The Dictionary of National History attempts to put them in context by explaining:

Beginning in April and continuing through the rest of the year, 159 race riots erupted across the United States. The first occurred in Cleveland, but by far the most devastating were those that took place in Newark, New Jersey, and Detroit, Michigan. The former took twenty-six lives and injured fifteen hundred; the latter resulted in forty deaths and two thousand injuries. Large swaths of ghetto in both places went up in flames. Television showed burning buildings and looted stores, with both National Guardsmen and paratroopers on the scenes. These upheavals seemed to come out of nowhere, but that was not really the case. Urban violence, including race confrontation, was always present in America; “politics out of doors,” as it was called in the nineteenth century, was evident in the coming of the American Revolution, the Age of Jackson, the Civil War, and the century following. In the long view, 1967’s explosions were important but far from unique episodes of civil disorder in American history.

New York did not suffer this fate, due in a large part to Lindsay’s credibility among blacks. He is heard here clearly advocating for black causes and sympathizing with their lack of opportunities. In its obituary, the New York Times points out:

…when riots tore at Detroit, Newark, Los Angeles and other cities, he walked the steamy night streets of Harlem and other black areas, tie askew, jacket flung over the shoulder, taller than anyone else, talking to people with only a detective at his side: a calm figure of civic dignity. And while other cities burned, New York had only minimal looting and violence.

As for the Kerner Commission, whose formation is under discussion here, one hears many of Lindsay’s points echoed in its findings. But just as the mayor’s voice seems a lonely one, echoing in the maelstrom of hate espoused on both sides, so the commission’s calls for reform failed to gain an audience. The website History Matters tells how:

President Lyndon Johnson formed an 11-member National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders in July 1967 to explain the riots that plagued cities each summer since 1964 and to provide recommendations for the future. The Commission’s 1968 report, informally known as the Kerner Report, concluded that the nation was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” Unless conditions were remedied, the Commission warned, the country faced a “system of ’apartheid’” in its major cities. The Kerner report delivered an indictment of “white society” for isolating and neglecting African Americans and urged legislation to promote racial integration and to enrich slums—primarily through the creation of jobs, job training programs, and decent housing. President Johnson, however, rejected the recommendations.

As for Lindsay himself, few former mayors have fallen on such hard times after leaving office. Never rich, he suffered from a series of financial reverses that, along with mounting medical bills and lack of health insurance, left him almost penniless. In 1997 an honorary position was found for him and new rules were put into effect enabling him to collect a city pension.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150364
Municipal archives id: LT2654

Home Movie Day Vancouver 2016

This year’s event will be Saturday, October 15 in the Grand Luxe Hall at Western Front, 303 East 8th Ave., 12pm-4pm.14188448_967145463394427_104314119198022744_o


Part of the worldwide Home Movie Day celebration, and organized by the local audio visual community, this event is always festive and fun. You can bring in your own 8mm, Super 8, or 16mm film and VHS video or just come out and see other people’s films.

There will be a demonstration of working with Super 8 film.

We hope to see you there. For more detail, see the Vancouver Home Movie Day Facaebook page.

Vaudeville and Vancouver!

The Friends of the Vancouver Archives are holding their annual fall fundraiser October 23rd, 2pm. The Early Bird discount ends Oct. 12. The event will be an illustrated talk with light refreshments.

Vaudeville actors who performed at the Orpheum Theatre, 1914. Reference code AM54-S4-2-: CVA 371-2165.

Vaudeville actors who performed at the Orpheum Theatre, 1914. Reference code AM54-S4-2-: CVA 371-2165.

With its mixed variety of singers, dancers, comedians, musicians, minstrel shows and sing-a-longs, Vaudeville shows crisscrossed North America in the early 20th century. With rail connections to the United States, Vancouver was a major stop on the circuit and Hastings Street was theatre row, home to some of the largest and most glamorous venues in the city.

Join historian John Atkin and artist Tom Carter for an illustrated look at this uproarious era of traveling performers and elaborate theatres. The event will be held at the City of Vancouver Archives in Vanier Park.

Tickets are available on Eventbrite. We hope to see you there!

If you are interested in seeing more about the Friends, they are on Facebook.

Tunguska Event: The Truth is Out There

At approximately 7 AM on the morning of June 30th, 1908, a bright falling star—described as “splitting the sky in two”1—was observed by thousands of people living in the Krasnoyarsk Territory in Siberia. Witnesses reported seeing a flash as bright as a second sun. The ground shook, trees caught on fire and some were flung through the air. Some only heard the thunderous shock, which registered as a magnitude 5 earthquake on the Richter scale by seismographs near the site. According to this 1960s report from Radio Moscow:

It was heard 700 miles away. Instruments registered it in Saint Petersburg, Berlin, London and even Washington. The explosion produced strange disturbances in the atmosphere. The first two nights after the blast were so light that people in Paris could read newspapers and Londoners could even take pictures [without a flash bulb].

Because the event occurred in a remote, swampy area of the Tunguska region, there were no published investigations of the crash site for almost 20 years; Leonid Kulik, a Russian mineralogist led the first expedition in 1927. A 1929 article in the New York Times describes the scene, based on his observations:

In the centre there is an area several miles in diameter, where the earth is torn and furrowed as though by a gigantic harrow, and also pitted, in places, with numerous large circular excavations resembling lunar craters. Around this centre is a broad zone in which lie millions of trees, stripped of bark and branches, and all with their tops pointing outward. They bear marks of a uniform scorch, quite different from the effects of an ordinary forest fire. These trees, some of which are of great size, were evidently blown down by the blast of air produced by the fall of the meteoric mass. The same blast knocked down human beings and damaged houses fifty miles away.

A Tungus [indigenous person of this region] told Kulik that one of his relatives had stores and a herd of 1,500 domestic reindeer in the forest when the meteorite fell. These were all destroyed. Only a few scorched carcasses of the animals could be found; the storehouse was burned down; tools were completely melted.

Contrary to expectation, Kulik did not find an impact crater or debris from the foreign object. He reported an epicenter of trees still standing, but scorched and stripped of their branches like a group of telephone poles.

If this sounds like a good cold open for an episode of the X-Files, the Tunguska event did make a cameo appearance on that TV series, which insinuated the object carried a parasitic alien organism! Indeed, theories persist that this was the crash site for an alien space craft, a miniature black hole, an antimatter collision or punishment from a higher power.

However, the event was most likely caused by an asteroid or comet, which came in contact with the earth’s atmosphere and exploded shortly before hitting the surface, leveling nearly 800 square miles of trees. This mid-air explosion, known as a superbolide, is believed to have been 1,000 times greater than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. 

One can imagine how brilliant and terrifying the Tunguska object must have been to those that witnessed its descent towards earth. A similar event happened in 2013 in which a much smaller meteor exploded in the earth’s atmosphere near Chelyabinsk Oblast in the Ural Mountains. Compared to Tunguska, this event was only 29 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb. 

Meteor over Chelyabinsk, footage taken by Aleksandr Ivanov.
(Wikimedia Commons)


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150282
Municipal archives id: T4052

[1] Rincon, Paul. “Fire in the sky: Tunguska at 100.” BBC News.

Hogenboom, Melissa. “In Sibera in 1908, a huge explosion came out of nowhere.” BBC Earth.

Science@NASA, “The Tunguska Impact–100 Years Later”

Perkins, Sid. “A Century Later, Scientists Still Study Tunguska: Asteroid or Comet Blamed for Siberian Blast of 1908.” Science News 173.19 (2008): 5-6.


Bad Children of History #28: Alfred’s Revenge

Today’s Bad Child of History, Alfred Hardon, hails from a 19th-century story collection called Uncle Paul’s Stories for Boys and Girls, published by the American Tract Society.

Unlike some cautionary tales, which regale us with exciting accounts of juvenile mischief before culminating in the sad results of said mischief, Alfred’s story is pretty tragic from the get-go.


Initially, we learn that Alfred is suffering deep emotional distress due to the fact that William Brown had gone above him in school at spelling that afternoon. (Did you take a look at Alfred’s eyebrows in the illustration above? SO distressed!) And we all know the obvious response to wounded pride, yes?


We’re not told what Alfred has in mind, although the narrator tells us that:

Alfred Hardon was a passionate, self-willed boy, and the well-deserved success of his classmate had awakened evil feelings in his heart, and the bitter seed that had already been sown there immediately sprung up into hatred, and a resolution to be revenged.

Oof, bitter seed! That sounds pretty bad. We find out exactly how bad in the next paragraph, when Alfred’s teacher arrives at school with a “grave countenance” and explains his current condition to his classmates.

As soon as the opening exercises were over, the teacher said: ‘Most of you have, no doubt, heard of the sad accident which has befallen Alfred Hardon. He was found late last night on the floor of Mr. Brown’s barn, just beneath the beam to which William’s swing is fastened, insensible, his right arm broken, and with other injuries, some of which are so serious that, till this morning, his life was despaired of.

‘You have probably heard that it was thought he fell while swinging; but his father called me in as I was passing the house this morning, and, with great sorrow, told me Alfred had confessed that he went to the barn yesterday afternoon, secretly, and for the wicked purpose of cutting one of the ropes of the swing in such a way that when William next used it he would be sure to fall.’

Alfred’s classmates utter “a suppressed murmur of astonishment and indignation” as the teacher explains that Alfred, bedridden with his numerous injuries, is now “very humble and penitent,” and hopes to speak to Willie to ask his forgiveness.

The remainder of the tale consists of paraphrased Bible lessons, which I shall not recount here. Just remember, readers: don’t let bitter seeds take root in your heart, or divine intervention may push you off of a roof beam.

Perth Metro Plans Project

Damien Hassan
Wednesday, October 5, 2016 – 09:31

The State Records Office has been digitising and geo-referencing Perth’s historical Sewerage Plans to provide a fresh perspective on the past hundred years of metropolitan development. Thanks to this new initiative, architects, town planners, home owners and general researchers will be able to approach the information in these plans – which document the growth of the city and often lost parts of Perth – from a completely different angle.

The installation of a sewerage system for the Perth metropolitan area commenced in earnest in 1909 and was an undertaking that was to continue for many years (some parts of Perth remain unconnected to the sewerage scheme to this day). A project of this scale was considerable and was carried out by the newly formed Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage, which became its own department in 1912. 

To prepare for installation, government officers commenced on-the-ground field surveys across Perth in 1905 and produced detailed diagrams of individual properties to show where sewer lines would need to be connected. The State Records Office holds many of these original field and level books at Series 84 (not to be confused with Department of Lands and Surveys field books, which are a whole other set of records). The information from these field surveys was then transposed onto a series of plans at a scale of forty feet to one inch. These are commonly known as Sewerage Plans (Series 634).

The original set of Sewerage Plans were transferred by the Water Authority of WA to the State Archives Collection in 1981 and have been in regular use since then, typically by heritage researchers or members of the public interested in the history of their own property. As per this example, each plan shows considerable detail for residential properties as well as the broader metropolitan area in the first half of the 20th Century. The plans – all 2,202 of them – cover large parts of Perth, but not all of it. The metropolitan area has expanded greatly over the last 70 years so outer suburbs, and even some inner suburbs developed later in the 20th Century, are not covered in the plans.

Through funding provided by the Friends of Battye Library Inc., the State Records Office recently completed digitisation of its set of Sewerage Plans. We plan to make these digital copies available online through our catalogue in coming months. The State Records Office warmly acknowledges the Friends of Battye for its ongoing support and commitment to this project.

To date, clients wanting to access the Sewerage Plans have needed to use microfiche copies at the State Records Office Search Room. Making digital copies available online will allow anyone, wherever they are located, to view high quality versions of the plans (we have digitised the Sewerage Plans from the original drawings in high-resolution). But finding a specific plan remains a problem. Currently, locating a plan (i.e. one that shows your property) requires consulting a set of index plans to obtain the right plan number. This system works, but is cumbersome and not an ideal solution. To resolve this, we have been geo-referencing each plan, akin to providing latitude and longitude coordinates for all plans. To this end, the State Records Office is being ably assisted by spatial analyst Callan Wood who is providing his expertise, time and geo-referencing skills in a purely voluntary capacity.

This means we will be able to make the geo-referenced plans available through a modern mapping interface and searchable by current street location so that Perth residents can view their property as it is now through current satellite imagery, but also as it was many decades ago, even up to 100 years ago for some residents. 

We are conducting this geo-referencing work to create a new and permanent State resource that will support many public research needs both now and into the future, whether for specific property research, as part of heritage assessments, to serve social/local/built history needs and even to assist school projects on local areas or houses. The geo-referenced plans will also be available to use with other datasets, whether historic or current, to be utilised for additional purposes we haven’t yet contemplated.

This project is also proving a good test bed for future geo-referencing work and how we could achieve this on a larger scale. There remains not only many thousands of maps, plans and charts in the State Archives Collection that would benefit from geo-referencing, but also photographic material and even text based records. In addition, we are gaining a better understanding of how geo-referencing software and systems work, as we will need to accept government data and information from these types of systems into the State Archives Collection in the future (a subject for another blog, at another time).

We have called this initiative the Perth Metro Plans Project.

Geo-referencing 2,202 plans is not an overnight task, but we are working to complete this project as quickly as we can. Stay tuned for further updates!


Magician of the Week #45: Robert Hardie

We’ve begun to notice a mephitis mephitis trend in mid-century stage magic. Perhaps you recall Sgt. Phil Jay and his trained skunk, or the skunk in John Levy’s magical menagerie. Here’s another spellbinding skunk, this one being pulled from a red velvet change bag by magician Robert (Bob) Hardie:


Hardie explains his maneuver like so:

The effect is that the magician or emcee comes forward with a huge red velvet change-bag — shows it empty and proceeds to extract a large number of silks, etc. from it, while at the same time reciting a poem, and finally ending with the production of a skunk.

Image and description are from the September 1956 issue of The Linking Ring.

New Acquisitions: Naked Lunch

When “Ten Episodes from Naked Lunch” first appeared in The Chicago Review, public outrage over obscenity caused the University of Chicago to suppress its publication. In response, Chicago Review editor Irving Rosenthal founded a new literary journal called Big Table, whose inaugural issue included a reprint of the ten episodes from William S. Burrough’s novel-in-progress. The completed novel was first published in Paris by Olympia Press in 1959.


FSU Special Collections & Archives is pleased to announce we have recently added Big Table I and the first edition, first printing, second issue of the Olympia Press Naked Lunch to the Gontarski Grove Press Collection. These two new editions strengthen our holdings in William S. Burroughs, which include the first US printing of Naked Lunch by the Grove Press, as well as important Burroughs literary manuscripts and correspondence in the Francois Bucher Papers.

Other new Grove Press titles include: Oh! Calcutta! by Kenneth Tynan and All Men Are Brothers (Shui Hu Chuan) translated by Pearl S. Buck.

A Random Sampling of Decorated Endpapers

Sometimes social media offers up random gifts to brighten your day. Recently I have been enjoying posts from a Facebook group called “We Love Endpapers.” Enthusiasts from all over the world share pictures of both modern and antique decorated endpapers, and occasional links to related blog posts, like this one from the National Library of New Zealand. The post, “Opening up the Covers,” has great information about varieties like paste paper and gilded paper, with useful resources at the end, including the database of images at the University of Washington. In the spirit of “We Love Endpapers,” I offer a few images from Amherst’s collection that have caught my eye over the past few months.

click on an image to see it larger,

click on a caption to view more information in the library catalog




















#AskAnArchivist Day 2016 is Almost Here!

#AskAnArchivist Day 2016

On October 5, 2016, archivists around the country will take to Twitter to answer your questions about any and all things archives and FSU Special Collections & Archives will be there! This day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to connect directly with archivists here at FSU to ask about our work, our collections or really anything archival.

As professional experts who do the exciting work of protecting and sharing important historical materials here at FSU, we have many stories to share about the work we do every day in preserving fascinating documents, photographs, audio and visual materials, and artifacts. Increasingly, our work extends beyond the physical and includes digital materials such as the work done with the FSU Digital Library. #AskAnArchivist Day will give you a chance to connect with those of us in FSU Libraries who are tackling the challenges of preserving our digital heritage for the future.So, ask us anything and everything.

No question is too silly . . .

  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve come across in your collections?
  • If your archives had a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?
  • What do archivists talk about around the water cooler?

. . . and no question is too practical!

  • What should I do to be sure that my emails won’t get lost?
  • I’ve got loads of digital images on my phone. How should I store them so I can access them later on?
  • How do you decide which items to keep and which to weed out from a collection?
  • As a teacher, how can I get my students more interested in using archives for projects?

So, how does it work?

#AskAnArchivist Day is open to everyone—all you need is a Twitter account. To participate, just tweet a question to @FSULibrary between 10am and 3pm on October 5th and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet. Your question will be seen instantly by archivists here at FSU and around the country who will be standing by to respond directly to you. So if we’re not sure at FSU how to answer, we bet we can find someone who can! We also may not know every answer right away, but we’ll do some digging and get back to you ASAP. Even if you don’t have a question right away, we hope you’ll search Twitter for #AskAnArchivist and follow along as questions and answers are shared to get a better idea not just of what we do here at FSU Special Collections & Archives but what archivists are doing around the world.

See you in the Twitterverse on October 5th!

Vancouver Centennial Commission photographs are now online

Thanks to funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program and the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives, we’ve recently completed a project to digitize nearly five thousand photographs and some graphic materials from the Vancouver Centennial Commission fonds that you can easily view and re-use. In addition, we’ve digitized another 1,810 images that are under copyright to other parties, but which can be viewed at the Archives.

Mayor Mike Harcourt posing in a cowboy hat in front of a display of some of Vancouver’s Centennial gifts. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F49-: 2011-010.2027

Mayor Mike Harcourt posing in a cowboy hat in front of a display of some of Vancouver’s Centennial gifts. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F49-: 2011-010.2027

We’ve written about the Centennial Commission records before. Now you are able to see photographs of the events and activities sponsored by the Commission. They document a wide variety of activities, such as sporting events, community events, awards ceremonies, birthday parties and the antics of Tillicum the otter mascot. There was a lot more happening in Vancouver in 1986 than just Expo.

One of the special events was a re-enactment of the first City Council meeting, with the current Councillors playing the parts of the first Council. This was performed at a large table in Gastown on May 10, 1986.

City Councillor (then Alderman) Libby Davies reading the part of Alderman E.P. Hamilton at the Council meeting re-enactment. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F51-: 2011-010.2274-: 2011-010.2274.20

City Councillor (then Alderman) Libby Davies reading the part of Alderman E.P. Hamilton at the Council meeting re-enactment. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F51-: 2011-010.2274-: 2011-010.2274.20

The Commission made a variety of items available for sale, such as raincoats, Centennial flags both large and small, and clothing made from the official Vancouver Centennial tartan.

Tillicum the otter mascot and a staff member model Centennial tartan merchandise. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F39-: 2011-010.2401

Tillicum the otter mascot and a staff member model Centennial tartan merchandise. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F39-: 2011-010.2401

Babies born on New Year’s Day, 1986, and on Vancouver’s 100th birthday (April 6, 1986) were honoured.

Tillicum visits the New Year’s baby in January 1986. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F46-: 2011-010.2226.

Tillicum visits the New Year’s baby in January 1986. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F46-: 2011-010.2226

Governor General Jeanne Sauvé performed many duties in Vancouver such as presenting awards and cutting an official cake.

Governor General Jeanne Sauvé reviewing the Guard of Honour by the Seaforth Regiment of Canada at Canadian Pacific Station. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F65-: 2011-010.705

Governor General Jeanne Sauvé reviewing the Guard of Honour by the Seaforth Regiment of Canada at Canadian Pacific Station. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F65-: 2011-010.705

There were many, many birthday cakes. Woodward’s Department Store created an enormous one for the public birthday celebration April 6, 1986 at Stanley Park.

20 foot by 24 foot cake for Centennial birthday celebration at Stanley Park, created by Woodward’s. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F65-: 2011-010.639

20 foot by 24 foot cake for Centennial birthday celebration at Stanley Park, created by Woodward’s. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F65-: 2011-010.639

Thanks to the Vancouver Coeverden Society, “Castle Vancouver”, an 80% replica of the castle of George Vancouver’s ancestors, was built at Georgia and Howe.

Part of the Castle Vancovuer opening ceremony, April 4, 1986. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F11-: 2011-010.2748

Part of the Castle Vancouver opening ceremony, April 4, 1986. Reference code AM1576-S6-12-F11-: 2011-010.2748

We have put a small selection of images on flickr as a sample. We also have some audio-visual materials from the Centennial Commission that we think you’ll enjoy, and we’ll let you know when they are available.


This digitization project was made possible by funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia.

India’s UN Delegate Krishna Menon Urges Collective Peace

Krishna Menon, Chairman of the Indian delegation to the United Nations, answers questions from the foreign press in this 1956 edition of International Interview. Menon, an architect of the new nation’s foreign policy, was considered Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s chief confidante or “evil genius,” depending on one’s point of view. Here, his talent for lucid argument and maintaining an inscrutable neutrality when confronting the two superpowers of the day is much in evidence. Asked about Nehru’s recent criticism of Western alliances (which was clearly aimed at SEATO, the American-backed anti-Communist league in Southeast Asia) Menon speaks in more general terms about how such organizations, though advocating of “collective security,” do not always foster “collective peace.”

His recent lauding of the new Soviet leaders and their de-Stalinization program was not meant as an endorsement of that country. Rather, when there are “signs of progress…it’s an error to be cynical about it.” He rejects the characterization that he is being “charitable.” He is being “factual and realistic.” He stands by the dictum that “you cannot establish right ends by wrong means.” He defends the inhabitants of the Marshall Islands who have asked that nuclear testing near their home be stopped. When challenged about the economic exclusionism practiced by some newly freed former colonies, he points out the very real danger of ongoing economic rather than political colonialism. He contends that fear is the great driving force in world politics today, and the most destructive. Menon comes across as an admirable debater and diplomat, untangling and restating questions, managing in his answers to seem both reasonable and yet somehow…elusive.

Krishna Menon (1896-1974) came from a wealthy family and spent the years leading up to Indian independence in England where he formed close ties with the Labor Party. His friendship with Nehru propelled him to the upper echelons of the newly formed government. The website reports:

Brilliant, astute, and point blank, V.K. Krishna Menon was undoubtedly one of the most successful yet aggressive diplomats and statesmen from India. He served at several top positions as the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s close political confidante. The power he held was so immense that it is no surprise that the ‘Time’ magazine called him the second most powerful man in India, after the then Prime Minister Nehru himself! Such was the power he commanded. He was very outspoken and did not think twice before uttering politically incorrect comments if he felt he was right. He was often seen as a bold champion for India in the Western world where he left no opportunity to speak up and defend his motherland.

This unwillingness to fall in line, to instead attempt charting a middle course between the United States and the Soviet Union, was partly based on Menon’s understandable aversion to his country’s sufferings under colonialism and its partitioning at independence. tells how:

…Virtually all of Menon’s thoughts and actions on foreign policy were infused by a deep and pervasive distrust of the United States, which he saw as the primary agent of imperialism, racism, and capitalist exploitation in the modern world. These views were an outgrowth of Menon’s political philosophy and his emotional reaction to India’s colonial experience. For these reasons he also deeply hated Pakistan. He held that Pakistan was created by British imperialism and supported by United States imperialism and, as a theocratic Moslem state, was a historical threat to a secular India. Pakistan’s collusion with China simply strengthened his distrust. His uncompromising position on Kashmir derived from his view of Pakistan and a fear that Kashmir might be the first step in Pakistan’s effort to recontrol the sub-continent. Although some of these positions were less than productive in serving India’s interests, Menon made significant contributions to world diplomacy and to India’s role in international affairs. His representation of nonalignment as an external form of India’s national independence and his efforts to expand the “area of peace” in the world, to press for wider disarmament, and to encourage conciliation in and out of the United Nations were all positive efforts. 

Despite his professed loathing for most British institutions, Menon is credited with having the idea for Penguin Books, the cheap paperbacks of highbrow literature that revolutionized publishing and changed the reading habits of millions. One could even argue that he unwittingly laid the groundwork for what is now seen as that country’s “cultural imperialism.” However, his attitude towards India’s former overlords remained one of deep suspicion. As a retired journalist who covered Menon recalled in his blog My Take by GVK:

Known for his carping comments the man had a delightful way with words. He was fond of telling his British friends, “You know why the sun didn’t set on their empire? Because God didn’t trust the British in the dark”.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150220
Municipal archives id: LT7091


Women’s Athletics at FSU

When FSU became a co-ed institution, the development of women’s athletics took a backseat to men’s varsity sports. While sports clubs like F Club, Tarpon Club, and Gymkana gave women athletes a place to strut their stuff, there was nowhere for them to compete in an intercollegiate setting.

volleyballIt wasn’t until 1968 when FSU’s volleyball team started to shed its club roots and by 1971, was a full fledged team that made its debut at the AIAW National Tournament. Dr. Billie Jones became the permanent coach until 1975, and led the team to a 107-22 record, cementing FSU Volleyball as a mainstay. Historically, volleyball has been one of the most popular sports at Florida State, being a primary event of Odd-Even competitions, so it’s only appropriate that it would become FSU’s first women’s intercollegiate team. Under the coaching of Cecile Reynaud and Chris Poole, the team has won 4 ACC titles and has played in the NCAA tournament 17 times.

Softball is another sport that grew out of a long history at Florida State. Often played at Odds-Events events, it has become one of the most dominant teams in collegiate softball. Helmed by JoAnne Graff from 1979-2008, the team was propelled into success and has competed in the Women’s College World Series 9 times and maintains the highest winning percentage in the ACC. Under new head coach Lonni Alameda, FSU Softball continues its steak of excellence.

basketballBasketball has perhaps been the most popular sport among women athletes over Florida State’s long history. Starting in 1912, FSCW held a basketball game as part of its Thanksgiving weekend events. The popularity of the annual game became a frenzy, and the school decided to add more events to the Thanksgiving program. The popularity of women’s basketball has continued over its 47 seasons as a varsity squad. Officially established in 1970, Women’s basketball has been on of FSU’s most successful teams. The women’s cagers have played in the NCAA/AIAW tournament fifteen times, and has won the regular season conference title three times and the conference title once.

FSU women athletes have excelled in many other sports, too – track and field, swimming, golf, and soccer, just to name a few. With the support of many women, FSU women’s athletics has been able to grow into the powerhouse it is today.


Banned Books Week 2016

Banned Books Week 2016 is here! This year from September 25th to Ocimg_5315tober 1st, we celebrate open access to information and the freedom to read. FSU Special Collections & Archives is host to several frequently challenged and banned classics available for use in our Reading Room, including:

  • The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence (1928)
  • Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury (1953)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (1884)
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965)
  • The Call of the Wild, by Jack London (1903)
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway (1940)img_5313
  • Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell (1936)
  • The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer (1948)
  • Howl, by Allen Ginsberg (1956)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (1960)
  • Ulysses, by James Joyce (1922)
  • Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs (1959)

For more information on banned books, check out the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week website.

New York City’s Silver Jubilee: The Plan and Promise of WNYC in 1923

New York City’s 1923 Silver Jubilee, celebrating 25 years of borough unification, was a major public relations effort by Mayor John Hylan’s Administration to trumpet its accomplishments and plans for the future. The month-long exposition was headed up by Grover A. Whalen, the city’s commissioner of public works who used it to unveil one of his pet projects: the building of a great broadcast facility that would allow the city to get information and entertainment directly to its residents through the new medium of radio. A year earlier $50,000 had been appropriated for the project by the Board of Estimate and plans for the, yet unnamed, radio station were well under way.

One of the exhibit walls is pictured above. Devoted to what “New York City will broadcast to you,” it shows a transmitting building with ‘crackling’ radio bolts reaching out to an array of New Yorkers eagerly listening to the radio: young men with headphones sitting around a table radio set; a family in front of large console type unit; and children in a bedroom listening at night. Feeding the Municipal Building studio are “radio lines” to various city agencies, departments and legislative offices. Each had a description like these.

Radio programs for the institutionalized.
(NYC Municipal Archives)


Coverage of Board of Estimate meetings.
(NYC Municipal Archives)

Along with assisting the Police and Fire departments, the planned station held the promise of lectures for students, legislative meetings and concerts from city parks, as well as outreach for the Health Department “endeavoring to make New York the healthiest city.”

In addition to subject matter indicated in the exhibit, it was noted that the city would broadcast “popular music, operas and time signals.” The Silver Jubilee Review, the expo’s daily publication, outlined the broadcasting plan in its June 15th edition.

The Officials of the Department of Plant and Structures are of the opinion that there is a new and undeveloped field in broadcasting for municipal governments. The City of New York intends to be the leader in this new field and from a brilliantly illustrated chart occupying considerable space in the Radio booth, a true conception of what New York City intends to do in the development of this infant industry is excellently portrayed. It answers the question: What will New York City broadcast from its new station…

Uncle Sam is already dispensing health through its Radio station at Arlington, Virginia. New York City will dispense health, protection, safety, education, entertainment and in fact, something from every one of its many departments. A closer bond between the people and their government, a more intimate acquaintanceship and the end for which the government is working, the greater happiness of the people, will be attained…[1]

During the Silver Jubilee (held May 28 to June 23 at the Grand Central Palace, then a city convention center) there were daily broadcasts relayed to WJZ, Newark from the “radio broadcasting station” on the second floor of the exhibition hall. Grover Whalen, of course, was among the many speakers.

Commissioner Grover A. Whalen at the Silver Jubilee broadcasting exhibit delivering a speech over WJZ, June 5, 1923.
(Photo by Eugene de Salignac and courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives)

Because radio was still very new, Whalen sought to explain it and its history to-date as part of the exhibition. In addition to the outline for WNYC’s future, the exhibit included  an impressive display of equipment illustrating the medium’s development from the turn of the century to the newest receivers and vacuum tubes of 1923. No doubt a collection worthy, even then, of the Smithsonian, it included a ten-inch spark coil, the earliest transmitting set used on ships and an American receiver from 1901. Behind these displays the following was painted on the wall: “The development of RADIO in the last 25 years has been remarkable!! In the future it will play an important part in municipal affairs.”

Whalen was indeed prophetic and spoke about the station’s impact at the beginning of WNYC’s silver jubilee year in July 1948.

I felt that one of the things that was most important in New York [was] that there should be a station that didn’t have to follow the dictates of any commercial sponsor in order to use the air for the benefit of the people of this great city.

Grover Whalen’s daughter Mary riding in model radio truck at the city’s Silver Jubilee celebration at Grand Central Palace in June, 1923.
(Radio News/WNYC Archive Collections) [2]


[1] “Nightly Radio Talks by Department Chiefs Attract Hugh Crowds of Interested Fans to Municipal Broadcasting Exhibit,” Silver Jubilee Review, June 15, 1923, vol. 1 no. 17. pgs. 1 and 3.

[2]  “Recent Radio Exhibitions,” Radio News, September, 1923, p. 258.

Special thanks to Associate Archivist Alexandra Hilton at the New York City Municipal Archives and Assistant Commissioner for the NYC Department of Records Kenneth R. Cobb.

Interested in more on WNYC history?  Go to: WNYC History.

Subscribe to our weekly E-Newsletter, New York Public Radio History Notes.

General William Westmoreland Reports on the Vietnam War

Dismissing the North Vietnamese government’s “absurd claims of victory,” General William Westmoreland assures the public that triumph in Vietnam is close at hand. This address, given before the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 24, 1967, finds the commander of US forces dealing with a friendly, appreciative crowd. His rosy picture of the conflict is allowed to stand largely unchallenged during the subsequent Q&A. What success the Viet Cong have achieved is not military but “a clever contribution of psychological and political warfare both here and abroad.” We are facing in Vietnam not a civil war but “massive external aggression.” In all areas, US and South Vietnamese forces are gaining ground. The only reason for the enemy’s ferocious determination is a ruthless program of “political indoctrination,” despite which, many of them are now defecting. The general concludes by extolling the virtues of the US Army and assures the nation’s publishers that he is “confident of victory.” The disaster of Tet, and Lyndon Johnson’s subsequent realization that the war could not, in fact, be won, looms less than a year off.   

William Westmoreland was born in 1914. A graduate of West Point, he served in World War II and Korea before being appointed in 1964 to lead US forces in Vietnam. His command was marked by a sharp escalation in a war that, until then, the Army had tried to play more of an advisory role. As The Economist described it:

General Westmoreland’s tactics were simple: take the war to the enemy, and kill him faster than he could be replaced. Where possible, apply overwhelming, stunning force. “A great country”, he liked to say, quoting the Duke of Wellington, “cannot wage a little war.”

But such a win-at-all-costs strategy ran afoul of larger, more global considerations. Johnson did not wish to risk dragging China and the USSR into the conflict. Increased use of draftees sparked domestic protests and civil unrest. (Indeed, the New York Times reported that in front of the Waldorf-Astoria, where this talk was held, protestors were burning Westmoreland in effigy.) These factors remained outside the narrow scope of a military commander. The novelist Ward Just, himself a former correspondent in Saigon, reviewed Westmoreland’s book, A Soldier Reports, in the New York Times, and lamented:

Throughout this sad and defensive memoir there is an air of confusion, bewilderment and pain. And no wonder. Westmoreland was not in charge, though he was very much the man out front. From the evidence presented here, he did not himself understand what the American role was meant to be — he did not see the war as essentially a political struggle, and his descriptions of the development of American strategy and tactics are as chaotic as the strategy and tactics themselves.

Ten months after this address, the Tet Offensive starkly contradicted Westmoreland’s overly optimistic view of the war. Although he stubbornly claimed repulsing the near-takeover of the South Vietnamese capitol “a victory,” neither the public nor LBJ could stomach such a blinkered view of the conflict. Westmoreland was recalled to Washington and peace negotiations were begun.

In retrospect, with the passions of the time now cooled, Westmoreland can be seen here less the stage villain he was often lampooned as, with his John Wayne demeanor and persistent use of military jargon, and more a familiar, almost tragic figure, the general fighting the previous war. He seems to have no clue that boasting about increased body counts, the many “combat-ready” Republic of South Vietnam troops, and what fine “physical specimens” our soldiers have become, misses the point.  As The Guardian newspaper reported in its obituary:

Westmoreland’s main flaw was that he thought that if he confronted the communist forces directly, either on the ground or with his massive airpower, he could simply win by attrition. The communists’ death toll was very heavy, and this encouraged the delusion that the war was being won, as Westmoreland could not imagine how relatively small countries like North or South Vietnam could sustain such massive casualties. … As Stanley Karnow, the Vietnam reporter and historian noted: “Westmoreland did not understand – nor did anyone else understand – that there was not a breaking point. Instead of breaking their morale, they were breaking ours.”

In later life Westmoreland ran unsuccessfully for governor of South Carolina. In 1982 he sued CBS for a report claiming he had knowingly manipulated figures relating to enemy troop strength. The case was settled with neither side admitting blame.

William Westmoreland died in 2005. 


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150001
Municipal archives id: T1140-T1141

Stephen Henderson’s Replies


The slaves on the sugar estates – do they appear hardworked dispirited and oppressed? Open your eyes and ears to every fact connected with the actual condition of slavery everywhere – but do not talk about it – hear and [see] everything but say little.*

1824-shepard-chas-u-1850sIn 1832, Yale’s eminent scientist Benjamin Silliman advised botanist Charles Upham Shepard (Amherst Class of 1824) on how to negotiate his visit to the South, where Shepard was to investigate sugar plantations in order to assist Silliman in the production of a report to the United States government on the sugar industry.  The investigation had begun in 1830 with a request from the House of Representatives to Secretary of the Treasury Samuel Ingham to “cause to be prepared a well digested Manual, containing the best practical information concerning the culture of the Sugar Cane, and the fabrication and refinement of Sugar, including the most modern improvements” (“Manual” preface).  Ingham’s successor Louis McLane gave the project to Silliman, and Silliman divided it into tasks for four men, including Shepard, who went to Louisiana and Georgia, “where the sugar cane is cultivated.”

In his advice to Shepard quoted above on how to treat with the planters, Silliman was suggesting that he avoid antagonizing them with any kind of anti-slavery argument if he wanted the planters to cooperate with the research.  Elsewhere — in correspondence between Silliman and Amherst’s President Edward Hitchcock — Silliman comes across as someone who could at once view slavery as an original sin and – from his own earlier visit to the South — observe that most of the slaves he saw were “well-treated,” simultaneous opinions that were probably typical for his time and station.  We don’t know what Shepard’s views were, but it’s likely they were similar to Silliman’s.

The Charles Upham Shepard Papers contain some of Shepard’s notes and correspondence relating to “the sugar inquiry,” including several documents from planters who either answered Shepard in the form of his questionnaire or who wrote their answers in a letter. Many of these focus on the manufacture of sugar from cane, rather than on growing cane itself.


Shepard’s sketch of a “Steam Boiler” used in the manufacture of sugar. (C.U.Shepard Papers, Box 3, Folder 5.)

In at least one case, though, we have notes in Shepard’s hand from his conversation with a planter. The planter was Stephen Henderson, who owned several cotton and sugar plantations, including one named Destrehan, a plantation that exists as a tourist site today.

The name “Destrehan” might not have caught my eye if I had not recently watched the film “12 Years a Slave” and then read both the book from 1853 on which the film was based and a little about the making of the film.

The film includes a scene filmed in Destrehan’s “mule barn,” which was re-purposed to serve as plantation owner Edwin Epps’s cotton barn.  If you’ve read “Twelve Years” or watched “12 Years,” you’ll remember that Epps is the man who enslaved Solomon Northup for ten years — he was apparently the cruelest of Northup’s many tormentors.

"Antebellum splendor": the home of Edwin Epps as it appeared in the 1970s.

The home of Edwin Epps as it appeared in the late 1970s. This photograph was probably taken by Dr. Sue L. Eakin, who brought “Twelve Years” back into public view after many decades in which it was nearly impossible to find a copy.

So, what exactly did this folded-up document that mentions Destrehan say? Here it is, including Shepard’s blurry ink-over-pencil tracing, abbreviations, and mistakes, in a sort of poisoned verse form. It’s a modest-looking document whose early 19th-century handwriting – itself dashed off probably while meeting with the planter– resists quick understanding, but transcribing it reveals sobering truths.  Perhaps only Kara Walker could illustrate this text properly.

























Of course, the people performing the labor described in the document above had names and identities. The document below is the first page of the registry of slaves on Henderson’s estate at the time of his death in 1838, five years after Shepard made his notes. This page shows only the first dozen of the 152 people listed on subsequent pages in the document.



Destrehan Plantation’s site has a transcription of the full list of enslaved people. The complete inventory of Henderson’s estate is available through or   See also the new National Museum of African American History and Culture for complementary material on subjects discussed in this post.  The Museum opens next week, and the New York Times has published a preview featuring samples from parts of the museum.

*”Mr. Silliman’s Instructions,” Charles Upham Shepard Papers, Box 3, Folder 5, page 4.

Launching the Beta Program for our Remembering WWI App

Today we’re launching the public beta program for the Remembering WWI iPad app, which puts newly digitized primary source materials into the hands of teachers and museum professionals nationwide. The app is a product of a two-year collaboration among the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the National WWI Museum, and others, all working toward the goal of connecting teachers, students and history enthusiasts to primary sources in interesting new ways.

I’ve written a few times about the moving and still images related to World War I and II that have been part of a large scale digitization effort at NARA over the last few years. In addition to the digitization of these rarely-seen photographs and moving images, this app is part of a long-term community engagement plan to connect with existing and new audiences for NARA. On our NARAtions blog, the team has shared how we’ve taken a user-centered design approach to one of our first cross-unit productions, and opened up our collections to free and creative reuse.

We welcome your participation and feedback in this beta program for the Remembering WWI app. The best way to get involved is to join the conversation on the History Hub, where you can learn about downloading the beta app, participate in user experience research, and share your feedback and ideas to help inform changes to the app before being promoted in schools and museums in February 2017.

WWI app screenshot 1

The app features a geographical interface that allows users to explore the archive, but also provides special resources for teachers and curators using the app.

WWI app screenshot 2

The geographical interface makes it easy to connect to content that is relevant to your own communities.

WWI app screenshot 3

WWI films have been broken into short segments based on theme and location, so that you can explore WWI moving images in an entirely new way. There are always links back to the catalog so you can view the film in its entirety.

WWI app screenshot 4

You can also view collections based on a number of diverse themes and locations, and also create your own collections from primary source materials based on subjects you may be studying or want to highlight.

Shaping the city: more records of Vancouver’s Planning Department now available

We are pleased to announce that we are now able to make available a significant volume of records from the City’s Planning Department. The Department has been responsible for land use planning, administering the Zoning and Development By-law and administering development services since 1952.

The Hollies (1388 The Crescent), taken during a walking tour of Shaughnessy by Planning Department staff, ca. 1980. From file COV-S648-F0651

The Hollies (1388 The Crescent), taken during a walking tour of Shaughnessy by Planning Department staff, ca. 1980. From file COV-S648-F0651

The records included in this large batch include additions to the principal records series for the Department (COV-S648 Planning operational records), as well as smaller additions to COV-S650 Civic and Urban Design Panels records and COV-S602 Zoning Secretary’s public hearings files.

Our archival processing work also has resulted in the creation of a number of new series, as the Archives received its first transfers of these records:

Some of these newly-acquired records go back to the foundation of the Planning Department in 1952, when it was created from portions of the former Building Department and took on some of the responsibilities of the Town Planning Commission.

Map of the initial 1955 development scheme for the Oakridge Mall and adjacent areas to the south and west. From file COV-S648-F0643

Map of the initial 1955 development scheme for the Oakridge Mall and adjacent areas to the south and west. From file COV-S648-F0643

The records cover many of the department’s responsibilities for planning and development services in Vancouver, including:

  • Implementation of and revisions to the Sign By-law
  • Creation of and revisions to the Zoning and Development By-law, No. 3575
  • Establishment and abolition of building lines along City streets
  • Planning of and revisions to Vancouver’s street grid and laneways
  • Land use planning around the harbour and transportation linkages to the Port of Vancouver
  • Planning an expansion of Vancouver International Airport in the early 1970s, including citizen involvement in the planning process
  • Beautification and re-development of downtown business districts in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Administration of federally-funded urban renewal projects in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Participation in the Fraser River Estuary Management Program, and land use planning in the Fraser River lands
  • Administration and assessment of the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program
  • Studies to design and construct a freeway network through the City, including a proposed twinning of the Lion’s Gate Bridge and plans to replace the Connaught Bridge (the second bridge at Cambie Street). The records of this project will be examined in more detail in a later blog post.
  • Acquisition of the original Shaughnessy Golf Club and the debate over the site’s use
  • Redevelopment of railway lands, including the development of Oakridge Mall and the surrounding area
  • Evolution of industrial land use policy and re-zoning for non-industrial uses
Photograph of West End view obstruction study model. From file COV-S648-F0662

Photograph of West End view obstruction study model. From file COV-S648-F0662

These records cover some of the critical issues that faced the City’s development in the second half of the 20th century, and we hope you find the records provide valuable background information behind the decisions that have shaped the City for the last 60 years.