Diplomat U Thant, Interviewed by Alistair Cooke

“What manner of man is U Thant?” Alistair Cooke, the noted BBC journalist, asks in this unusually candid and thoughtful 1962 interview with the United Nations Secretary General. Instead of peppering him with the usual political questions of the day and receiving the usual diplomatic non-responses, Cooke starts by asking about U Thant’s childhood. Nonplussed at first, he then good-naturedly enters into the spirit of the talk, reminiscing about his youth in a rice-producing region of Burma, his early careers in teaching and journalism, before an eventual entry into politics encouraged by his friend the future Prime Minister U Nu.

Alistair Cooke, 1974
( Trikosko, Marion S/Library of Congress)

When Cooke does finally broach some of the pressing questions of the day, U Thant’s answers are low key and sensible. In response to the accusation that with all the new (and poor) nations gaining entry to the UN, a majority resolution can be passed in the General Assembly with only seven percent of the paid dues represented, he points out “Your Mr. Rockefeller only gets one vote, the same as the elevator man who may pay only five dollars in tax.” When people complain about the UN overspending he reminds Cooke that peace-keeping missions (which are supported by a separate assessment, often not paid) account for the current deficit. Otherwise the organization works within its budget.

The conversation becomes more interesting when U Thant contrasts the West’s “stress on development of the intellect” with the East’s “stress on the moral and spiritual development of man.” He argues that there should be “a healthy compromise” of these two outlooks on life, leading to a “better psychological climate.” Bertrand Russell and Freud are discussed. It’s (sadly) not the kind of talk one would expect from today’s type of world leader. Yet the problems of 1962 seem no different. “I think mental qualities like bitterness, intolerance, and hysteria have been rampant all over the world,” the Secretary General observes.

U Thant (1909-1974) was the first non-Western diplomat to hold the post of UN Secretary General. He ascended to the position after the untimely death of his predecessor Dag Hammarskjöld and served from 1962 until 1971. At first U Thant had to overcome suspicion from both camps (the West and the Soviet Bloc) that he favored one side over the other. But in his first term he proved to be adept at playing the peacemaker. As the website History in Pieces reports:

Respected for his tough neutralism, and marveled for a poker face that the wife of a leading diplomat likened to an “inscrutable Buddha,” and known for a fondness for smoking cheroot and imbibing daiquiris, Thant had played a crucial role in the settlement of the Cuban Missile Crisis and had long been involved in the increasingly deep involvement of the United Nations in the Congo.

During his second term, the problems he faced as well as the administrations he dealt with proved less tractable. Indeed, listening to the earnest, detached, moderate sentiments the devout Buddhist expresses in this interview, it is hard to imagine him dealing with the raging conflicts and egos that dominated the international scene in the second half of the decade. Biography On Line notes:

In his last period of tenure, the UN had to face a succession of conflicts, such as the Six Day War between Arab countries and Israel, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. The late 1960s also saw an escalation of the Vietnam War. U Thant’s criticism of US involvement led to a deterioration in relations with the Johnson administration, making his period more difficult. U Thant attempted to create direct peace talks between Washington and Hanoi, but these were rejected by the US. He was criticized by the US and Israel during the Six Day war, despite making a last minute flight to Egypt to try and dissuade Nasser from going to war with Israel.

Preceded by the more dynamic Hammarskjöld, who (some argued) died a martyr’s death, and succeeded by Kurt Waldheim, who lied about his connection to wartime massacres and deportations, U Thant seems to be the “forgotten” Secretary General. He comes across in this talk as a genuinely decent and likeable character. One senses this in his New York Times obituary, which notes how:

…in time Mr. Thant proved himself less autocratic than Mr. Hammerskold, he emerged as a quiet, patient negotiator of considerable suavity and composure. …he showed unfailing courtesy to his subordinates and to newspapermen.

Alistair Cooke (1908-2004) was a familiar presence to both American and English audiences for many years. Harold Evans, writing for the Reuters Blog, recalls how:

…Alistair Cooke was the epitome of the civilized man. His English voice, redolent with informed nonchalance, enchanted millions who heard his Letter from America over BBC radio. His observations of American life were cool, witty, empathetic and insightful. He typed them up wherever he was in America, and for 58 years, until he was 95, unfailingly read his words into a microphone in such a beguiling manner it was as if you and he had just struck up a friendly conversation. 

These are the very qualities that raise this encounter above the usual cliché-ridden interview.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150269Municipal archives id: T9453

Jacobsthal’s Dissertation

by Francesca Anthony

Over the last few weeks of volunteering in the Institute of Archaeology’s Archive, I have been attempting to sort the 1908 dissertation of the scholar Paul Jacobsthal. Jacobsthal came to Oxford in the mid 1930s after the Nazi regime legislated to bar Jewish people from public offices, which included university professorships. He is well known for his comprehensive work Early Celtic Art, one of only four books published by Oxford University Press in 1944. His fascinating story has been disentangled from his archive, which was found in the Institute in 2009, by Sally Crawford and Katrina Ulmschneider and is featured in their forthcoming book Ark of Civilisation: Refugee Scholars and Oxford University, 1930-1945. Before Jacobsthal became a prestigious Celtic specialist he started his academic career as a Classical Archaeologist. His dissertation, completed at the University of Bonn under the supervision of Georg Loeschcke, is entitled ‘Archaeological Studies in the Pediments of Grave Monuments’.

The dissertation was discovered in the depths of the Institute as a disordered brown box of original drawings with annotations, pages of rough notes, large photo boards and the bound handwritten dissertation. My first job was to clean the material, which was unfortunately covered in a thick black dust reminiscent of Victorian London smog. I had never previously attempted to clean paper or photographic records. This was done by gently using an archival dry cleaner, rather like soft putty, to pick up the dust, avoiding removing any of Jacobsthal’s pencil annotations. As the dust was lifted, the quality of some of the photos became evident, with the inscriptions clear. These photos are important as it is not known if the grave monuments have been eroded over time, or are even still extant.


The battered box housing Jacobsthal’s dissertation in its cleaned state

It quickly became apparent that there was sense to the chaos in the box. Annotations reveal that the hand-drawn inscriptions and stelae were from Thebes and Tanagra, perhaps made by eye from the ancient sites themselves. Many of these drawings had codes that referred directly to the figure list within the dissertation, and the photographs on the large boards. The folder pages and boards show architectural elements, predominantly focusing on the pediments and inscriptions of these grave monuments. Many were ornately carved and Jacobsthal seems especially interested in those with floral and vegetation motifs, such as lotus flowers and vines. Only two of the images had the addition of colour, in red and blue, perhaps as an experiment for the drawings used in the dissertation figure list.


One of the photo boards showing Jacobsthal’s figures. These beautiful photographs show grave monuments in situ in Tanagra.

p1080134p1080135Details of Jacobsthal’s photographs

I was especially interested in the limited pieces of correspondence with Jacobsthal, as an insight into the scholarly community at that time, and the transmission of academic information across countries; Jacobsthal was communicating with a director of a French museum, for example.


A page of correspondence between Jacobsthal and F. Hiller von Gaertringen.

Most striking of all in the box was a number of pages of mathematical proofs. These extremely complicated calculations were likely made by Jacobsthal’s brother, Ernst Jacobsthal. This is quite extraordinary. Ernst was a famous German mathematician credited with inventing the ‘Jacobsthal numbers’, a specific integer sequence, which like the Fibonnaci numbers was a type of Lucas sequence.


Although the foundation of Ernst’s work had been laid by his own dissertation in 1906, these pages might represent some of his earliest thinking, perhaps unpublished. I think this really exemplifies the joy of archives: you can never be sure what sort of material will emerge, and how significant it may be for understanding the developments of any number of academic disciplines and the lives of remarkable people.

Jacobsthal’s writing is difficult to decipher (and in German), so my engagement with the dissertation was limited to an organizational and visual capacity. I managed to work out thematic patterns from the material, but was sadly unable to read all of Jacobsthal’s annotations, which must surely provide an interesting insight into how the man thought and developed his own work. Some of the rough sketches are beautiful and indicate real artistic talent. It was also interesting to consider the process of writing a dissertation in the early 20th century, which must be vastly different to my experience using computer technology.


One of the annotated sketches found in the box of Jacobsthal’s dissertation

I urge anyone who has an interest in Greek epigraphy, or Jacobsthal himself, to come look at the dissertation!

Francesca Anthony
Mst in Classical Archaeology
Brasenose College, Oxford

News from a volunteer



Several years ago, when we were just beginning work on the archives at the Institute of Archaeology, we were lucky enough to have the volunteer help of Marissa Kings. Marissa was invaluable, working tirelessly to put some of the more chaotic papers into some kind of order. Many researchers who have spent time in the archives have benefitted from her work.

Since moving on from Oxford, Marissa has trained as an archivist and recently got in touch to say she has taken up a post working on a project with the Biodiversity Heritage Library in California. Given that it is cold, dank, and trying to snow here in Oxford, this seems like an enviable move in so many ways. She writes:

I’ll be at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles for the next year researching digital library best practices and possibly how to introduce a crowdsourcing component to the museum’s library and archives.

We look forward to updates from Marissa about her work and will be keeping an eye on the BHL blog!

Kenneth Clark Answers Questions on Plans for the Civil Rights Movement

It is 1967, and Clark has just returned from a “secret meeting” of Martin Luther King, Whitney Young, and other black leaders that was held in Suffern, New York. Reporters are anxious to learn what was discussed in this attempt to “reinvigorate” the Civil Rights movement. Since it was an ostensibly secret meeting Clark is understandably tight-lipped. An attempt is made to probe the split between these elder statesmen of the movement and the younger “Black Power” representatives. Why weren’t Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown of SNCC in attendance? Because Carmichael is in jail, Clark notes, and H. Rap Brown is trying to get him out of jail. He claims the press exaggerates the differences between these two branches of the movement, admitting there is “a gap” but that these men can sit down together. He also points out the leaders of SNCC are very young and that the press reports their wildest statements, something it does not do, for example, when covering Mario Savio, leader of the Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement. He is then asked about another potential rift caused by King’s recently stated opposition to the Vietnam War. Clark finds it a “logical” extension of King’s stated policy of non-violence. A lighter note is struck when Clark is asked about the recent substitution of “African-American” for “Negro,” with Adam Clayton Powell discarding both and simply referring to himself as “a black man.” Clark, who had famous clashes with Powell, expresses surprise, as Powell “…doesn’t seem black to me.” He ascribes the change to impatience of “younger Negros” and doesn’t see it holding any real significance. When asked to use his academic training in human behavior to gauge if there is more hope or despair in the black community, he ruefully answers, “I wish I were that good a psychologist.”

Dr. Kenneth Clark (1914-2005) was a major civil rights figure focusing particularly on matters of education. Along with his wife, Mamie Phipps Clark, he conceived and executed the famous test using dolls to illustrate the inherent unfairness of segregated education. As the Encyclopedia of World Biography explains:

Clark and his wife…used four dolls, two that were black and two that were white—all identical, to measure how children felt about the color of their skin. They tested dozens of children in Washington, D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Worcester, Massachusetts, and rural Arkansas. The majority, both black and white, said the white dolls were nice and they all preferred to play with them. The majority also said the black dolls were bad; most of the black children identified with the black dolls. The couple took the results and published them in a book Prejudice and Your Child in 1953. Clark concluded that black children thought of themselves as inferior due to society devaluing them because of the color of their skin. Clark’s research came to the attention of Robert Carter, an attorney who was trying to dismantle segregated schools in South Carolina and was also a part of the NAACP legal team. Clark used the doll test on children in Clarendon County, South Carolina. His results were the same. Carter persuaded Thurgood Marshall, the leading attorney for the NAACP, to use Clark’s findings in the case. Many at the NAACP were skeptical, but Marshall agreed. When the ruling in Brown vs. the Board of Education came down that the “separate but equal” doctrine of segregation was unconstitutional, Chief Justice Earl Warren cited Clark’s findings as having a pivotal role in the justices reaching their conclusion. He told the Washington Post, “The court saw the issue clearly.… A racist system inevitably destroys and damages human beings; it brutalizes and dehumanizes them, blacks and whites alike.”

Clark went on to become the first black professor to gain tenure at the City College of New York (1960), the first black man elected by the New York legislature to serve on the State Board of Regents, and the first black elected President of the American Psychological Association (1971). Yet despite a lifetime devoted to advocating for integration and equality, he was not comfortable with the amount of progress that had been made. Indeed, many years later, he gave the New York Times a much more sardonic answer to one of the questions posed in this interview:

Despite the many honors he won and the respect he commanded, Dr. Clark said he thought his life had been a serious of “magnificent failures.” In 1992, at the age of 78, he confessed: “I am pessimistic and I don’t like that. I don’t like the fact that I am more pessimistic now than I was two decades ago.”

Yet as a conscience of New York politics and of the civil rights movement, he remained an unreconstructed, if anguished, integrationist. A decade ago, during one of his last lengthy interviews, he chain-smoked Marlboros in his home, flanked by vivid African carvings and walls of books wrapped in sun-faded dust jackets, as he professed optimism but repeatedly expressed disappointment over dashed expectations about experiments in school decentralization, open admissions at City University and affirmative action.

“There’s no question that there have been changes,” he said then. “They are not as deep as they appear to be.”

Among the cosmetic changes was an rhetorical evolution from Negro to black to African-American. What, he was asked, was the best thing for blacks to call themselves?

“White,” he replied.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 5709Municipal archives id: T2661

New Collection: The Pride Student Union Records, 1964-2015

2012queerodyssey015We are excited to announce our most recently processed collection, the Pride Student Union Records, 1964-2015. Now a major fixture in the Student Government Association, the collection documents Pride’s predecessor organizations and their steps towards becoming an official agency, introducing non-discrimination policies on campus, and empowering FSU’s LGBTQ+ population.

In 1969, gay and lesbians in Tallahassee organized the People’s Coalition for Gay Rights, which later became the Alliance for Gay Awareness, as a response to the Stonewall Riots. The group was primarily a political organization active in the gay rights movement of the 1970s. In 1973, staff of the University Mental Health Center (now the Student Counseling Center) formed Gay Peer Counseling to provide support and counseling for gays and lesbian students. It became the most active LGBTQ+ group on campus in the early 1970s. In 1978, the group evolved into the Gay Peer Volunteers (GPV), which provided students opportunities for services in the community outside of the counseling environment. To include all students directly served by this student organization, the Gay Peer Volunteers changed its name to the Gay/Lesbian Student Union (GLSU) in 1989, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Student Union (LGBSU) in 1994, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Student Union (LGBTSU) in 1998, and finally Pride Student Union in 2005.

dragwarsThere are several other auxiliary groups at FSU that have served the LGBTQ+ population. In 1984, Gay/Lesbian Support Services formed to continue and expand upon the goals and services of the preceding organizations.  In the 1990s, a specialist in student counseling continued the mission of GPV by founding Gay and Lesbian Allies (GALA), which was later absorbed by Tallahassee LGBTQ+ community center, Family Tree. Safe Zone-Tallahassee was founded in 1997 as a response to FSU administration to fund an LGBTQ+ committee or office space. In 2012, Safe Zone was revamped into Seminole Allies & Safe Zones, and provides workshops to students, faculty, and staff.

The collection contains administrative records, promotional materials, artwork and banners, newspapers, and journal and magazine clippings produced and collected by the organization since the late 1960s. Spanning from meeting minutes to posters for drag shows, protest banners and queer literature, the Pride Student Union Records provide a varied look at the voices of the LGBTQ+ community in Tallahassee.

To see more photographs, ephemera, and artifacts related to the history of Florida State, check out the FSU Heritage Protocol Digital Collections or like the Heritage Protocol Facebook page.

Keri King: Collaborative Research, Collage, and Creativity


In conjunction with our annual Exhibition & Program Series, PPL offers a Creative Fellowship for a Rhode Island artist who creates new work incorporating imagery from or inspired by the library’s Special Collections. Our 2017 Creative Fellow, Keri King, is a fantastic Providence-based artist who creates collage and illustration-based work. Keri has been researching in Special Collections and in our historical magazine collections for several months; below is the first of two guest blog posts showcasing Keri’s creative process!

In my work, I like to blend drawing and collage. I incorporate a lot of source imagery from magazines, newspaper clippings, vintage posters, and such, into each piece. I enjoy how each cut-out element has its own history and adds to an overall narrative with tonal/ textural results.

Research is an essential part of my work flow! For most projects, my process is as follows:

  1. I sketch.
  2. I draft what I like to call my “grocery list” (figuring out what source images I need) & site “shopping centers” (where I can find those images).
  3. I research (I look, I tab, I get a little off track while exploring, I check things out from the library…)
  4. I play with a xerox machine.
  5. I collage.
  6. And I’m back to drawing, synthesizing the varied materials within a collage into one cohesive image.

My process is slightly different for the Creative Fellowship at the library, where I’m creating an 8 foot x 8 foot mural that will be displayed inside the Empire Street entrance to the library. I’ve proposed a collage illustration of a dinner party, with families from a handful of time periods in America coming around a table to eat.


One distinction from my usual research process is that I can’t just pull things off the shelves in Special Collections. Instead, I use the library’s “human Google”: I tell Angela, the Curatorial Assistant, what I’m looking for, and she pulls books and magazines from the stacks for me, which I then look at in the Reading Room. (I got a tour of Special Collections at the beginning of my fellowship, so I have some idea of the frankly magical wealth of resources that are available to me.)


The stuff that Angela finds is always much more than what I bargained for. She thinks of sources I wouldn’t ever have on my radar, and these unexpected shares lead to new, playful connections in my work. My process is energized by our collaborative research.

Since the summer, I’ve looked at all kinds of things, including:

-images of food and characters


-images of locations that could provide a backdrop

Sunken gardens, Roger Williams Park, Providence, R.I.

I’m leaning towards an alfresco backdrop, and I’ve been focusing on outdoor locations in Rhode Island.



One day I went picnic table shopping.

-advertising from old home magazines


I’m fascinated with food advertising from the 1940s into the 1950s, much of which is not very appetizing. I particularly love this savory tomato aspic gelatin. I’m exploring the possibility of a savory aspic hostess.

Because Special Collections materials are often fragile, I can’t Xerox them, so I’ve been working with high-resolution scans and photographs. Right now I’m in my collage and drawing phase.

Keri’s mural will be unveiled on March 1st at the opening event for our 2017 Exhibition and Program Series. Stop by any time between then and June 30th to see the final results of Keri’s work. She’ll also be giving an artist’s talk at the library on April 30th–mark your calendars!

Bad Children of History #31: Audacious Andrew

Today’s tale, the unsubtly-titled “Don’t Blow Out the Gas,” comes from the June 1870 issue of The Nursery: A Monthly Magazine for Youngest Readers (Boston: John L. Shorey).

The first sentence lets the reader know right off the bat that this story is 100% likely to feature a bad child of history:

There was a little boy named Andrew, who thought that he knew better than older folks what ought to be done.


Know-it-all Andrew was visiting his uncle in the city, whereupon his uncle’s maid instructed Andrew to extinguish the gas flame “in a way that she explained” upon retiring, rather than blowing out the flame. You get one guess what Andrew did the moment that she left the room.


The room filled with terrible fumes, and Andrew’s uncle rushed in at the last possible moment to turn down the gas and scold his nephew. You’ll be relieved to learn that Andrew learned his lesson well, in the course of less than a page and a half:

Andrew was much mortified, and felt that he did not know as much as he thought he did. He is now willing to learn from others; and in this way he does not blunder as he once did. He will never blow out the gas again.

Postscript: can we make a collective New Year’s resolution to start using the phrase “much mortified” as often as possible in 2017?

A Dancer in the Family: Mary-Averett Seelye

If you follow this blog –and you should– then you know that Amherst has a lot of collections from missionary families.  Because I work with these collections a lot, especially in arranging and describing new ones, I’ve settled into a comfortable theory about how the work of missionaries changed over the decades and generations.  I notice a first generation of “strict missionaries” whose goal is first and foremost to spread the gospel.  Their children, often born and raised abroad, speak two or three languages, and they know their parents’ work and where it succeeded and where it failed.  They’re still usually missionaries working for the American Board, but their work often branches into teaching at primary and middle-school levels, or working in a medical clinic.  A third generation is even more removed from the original mission work and its members become professors or doctors. Fourth and fifth generations might see some diplomats, government professionals, and journalists.  The shift feels linear.  But I always knew this way of thinking was a broad generalization, and too comfortable.  I knew there would be someone to rock the boat, to mess with my theory — to zig where so many seemed to zag.

Mary Averett Seelye, ca. 1965

Mary-Averett Seelye, ca. 1965

The Williams-Chambers-Seelye-Franck Family Papers (the “Franck Papers,” to be succinct but less accurate) contain an unexpected and substantial section of papers from Kate and Laurens Seelye’s daughter Mary-Averett Seelye, a professional dancer whose particular interest was what she termed “poetry in dance.”  Seelye was careful to explain that she didn’t dance to poetry, she danced poetry – she danced a poem.  It wasn’t an easy concept for some audiences to understand – reviews and articles show repeated explanation.

Seelye seems to have had an eye to her archives fairly early on: her papers make it possible to follow her career from start to finish, and include over 65 years of documentation illustrating the determination and hard work she put into that career.  It contains correspondence, photographs, publicity materials, reviews, interviews, an audio recording of a performance, and one film.

Mary-Averett Seelye was born in New Jersey but her family moved to Beirut (then in Syria) when she was only a few months old.  For one of the many résumés in the collection, Seelye made notes describing her childhood in a way that captures the years that formed her character and provided inspiration for her work:

Mary-Averett Seelye grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, where father taught; mother was active in voluntary women’s organizations.  Grandparents occupied a top floor apartment.  Turkish, French, Arabic filled the air.  She attended an American school, summered under olive trees overlooking the Mediterranean; mosquito netting; jackal howls.  Community-all-ages-baseball every Saturday afternoon provided public measure of the youngsters’ developing prowess to catch a fly and hit a homer.  Parents loved to dance.  Father taught daughters.  Daughters taught brother.  Easter holidays took the family to Palmyra, Jerusalem, Cairo, Damascus.  Part of an ethnic minority–yes–but a privileged one in which occupations were to learn and discover, educate, provide medical, spiritual, and economic help and “live in international brotherhood.”*

The Chambers-Seelye clan in Adana, Turkey, about 1922. Back row: Laurens H. Seelye (AC 1911); Kate Chambers Seelye; Dorothea Chambers holding her niece Dorothea Seelye; William Nesbitt Chambers. Seated: Cornelia Williams Chambers and her granddaughter Mary-Averett Seelye.

The Chambers-Seelye clan in Adana, Turkey, about 1922. Back row: Laurens H. Seelye (AC 1911); Kate Chambers Seelye; Dorothea Chambers holding her niece Dorothea Seelye; William Nesbitt Chambers. Seated: Cornelia Williams Chambers and her granddaughter Mary-Averett Seelye.

A stop along a Seelye family excursion, 1931.

A stop along a Seelye family excursion, 1931.

Seelye’s notes go on to record the family’s furlough in the United States that became permanent for Mary-Averett.  New England replaced the Middle East as home.  Seelye attended Bennington College in Vermont, where she studied drama.  In the winter of 1940, she formed the “Trio Theatre” with Carolyn Gerber and Molly Howe, two fellow graduates from Bennington.  The group performed”pieces incorporating movement and words,” including their version of Abel Meeropol’s “Strange Fruit.”  Seelye then went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for her M.A., which she received in 1944.


Mary-Averett Seelye (at left), ca. 1943, with an unspecified member of the Trio Theatre at the Forest Theatre, located on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Seelye at right. Forest Theatre, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

In 1949 she formed the Theatre Lobby with Mary Goldwater and worked as its production director for nine years.  The Theatre Lobby was a “pocket theatre” located in an old carriage house in the mews behind St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  The cast performed classic and modern works and was interracial at a time when other Washington theatres weren’t.  Seelye’s last work as director for the theater was Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” in 1959.  The collection contains a note from Beckett to Seelye congratulating her on her work.  (Click on images for gallery.)

By the 1960s Seelye’s interest had turned increasingly to solo performances, specifically the concept of poetry-in-dance.  It was work that had grown out of her studies in drama and dance at Bennington College and that she had performed early on, then intermittently during the Theatre Lobby years, and then again — under the title of “Poetry-in-Dance”– beginning in 1957.  She would perform “Poetry-in-Dance” regularly through the 1960s and 70s.   Georgetown University’s Donn B. Murphy wrote a short memoir about Seelye in which he described the work that gathered momentum in this period:

Although American choreographers worked with words as early as Martha Graham’s American Document in 1938, Ms. Seelye was virtually alone in the continuity of her work in this mode, and in the individuality of her performances, presented over a period of more than thirty years.  She was noted for choosing exceptionally challenging literature and joining it with a movement idiom which is more often abstract than illustrative…

Extremely tall and thin, Ms. Seelye’s striking physical presence onstage was enhanced by minimal sculptural forms, carefully imagined costumes, and arresting lighting effects.  Though her works sometimes used music composed by Stephen Bates and Jutta Eigen, they were more characteristically performed to the sound of her voice alone.  She moved around, on top of, and through the sculptural pieces…

Investigating several cultures through personally devised visions in motion, Seelye was an actress-choreographer-dancer linked both with the earliest performers of antiquity, and the latest creators of avant-garde.”*

(Click for gallery.)

In 1972 she formed Kinesis, a logical extension of Poetry-in-Dance. She continued to dance into her late 70s. (Click for gallery.)

Of course, Seelye never forgot her youth in the Middle East.  Her way of remaining connected to the family’s roots there included a trip in the 1980s to perform in Beirut and Istanbul.  She also used Turkish and Arabic poetry in her repertoire in the United States.

Mary-Averett Seelye, posed among ruins, around 1984.

Mary-Averett Seelye, posed among ruins, around 1984.

Seelye’s papers indicate that she had some concern that her particular brand of dance might die with her if she didn’t take care to document her work.  Toward the end of her career she began to work with videographer Vin Grabill to film some of her performances. The result was a three-DVD collection of Seelye’s work, as well as a smaller film, “Poetry Moves,” featuring Seelye’s work with poet Josephine Jacobsen.  Seelye and Jacobsen collaborated for many years, and some of their correspondence is in the collection.  Clips of Seelye’s later performances may be seen at Vin Grabill’s Vimeo site, here.


Franck Papers, Box 14, Folder 1: Resumes and other biographical documents.

The Waking of a Shaw Memory

One of our long-time volunteers, Cathmar Shaw Prange, was unable to come visit this winter and we’re missing her but she did send us a blog post! Cathmar has helped us curate her father’s collection for many years. 

After the Carnival by Richard Maitland
After the Carnival by Richard Maitland (Image: Cathmar Shaw Prange)

Years ago, on one of my visits to the art world of Santa Fe, Richard Maitland greeted me in his studio as an old friend. His painting, “After the Carnival,” hung on the wall. I gasped! It struck me like a bolt of lightning, reawakening an experience I’d had as an eight-year-old and evoking the last lines of John MacKay Shaw’s “Circus Roundels.”

The poet was my father. Mother was moving us into our new home in New Jersey. So he took us across the Hudson to the circus at New York’s Madison Square Garden to keep us out of her hair.

The painting, like the poem, reflects the longing we feel when a joyous event has ended. I would like this poem even better these days had he written it in shorter lines, but I can accept his admiration for Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter.

"Circus Roundels"
“Circus Roundels” from Zumpin’

“Circus Roundels” appears on page 19 of John MacKay Shaw’s second book of poems, Zumpin’. It was published by The Friends of The Florida State University Library in 1969. “Read us zumpin’, Daddy!” we cried every night as he came in the door after work. And soon we were sitting on his lap listening, reciting and singing again.

The Friends published his first book of poems for children in 1967 titled The Things I Want.

The Execution of Kenneth Brown – Edith Cowan’s father

Gerard Foley
Friday, January 6, 2017 – 16:11

The Execution of Kenneth Brown – Edith Cowan’s father – in 1876

Staff at the SRO’s Search Room are on hand to guide clients with their research; helping to navigate our online catalogue, and to find a path through a selection of in-house finding aids. Assisting clients in exploring WA’s largest archival collection and making State Archives accessible is a vital function of the SRO. Often when visiting the SRO’s Search Room, members of the public convey information about aspects of their research to staff. Sometimes clients are seeking information from archives which may provide answers to questions, conundrums and riddles about historical incidents in the past.

One of these riddles is about the execution of Kenneth Brown – the father of Edith Cowan (nee Brown), Australia’s first woman elected to Parliament; her image features on our $50 bill. Some do not know that on 3 January 1876 Kenneth Brown shot and killed his second wife, Edith’s step-mother Mary Ann (nee Tindall), at Geraldton. He was tried in Perth before two juries who could not agree to a verdict, before being found guilty of murder by a third, the judge sentencing him to death.

The Brown family arrived in WA in 1841 and was part of the colonial elite. Kenneth Brown’s father, Thomas, was appointed to the Legislative Council by the Governor in the 1850s and was also a Resident Magistrate. In 1876 Kenneth’s brother, Maitland Brown, was one of the elected members in the Legislative Council, at a time when the electorate was limited to male landowners and leaseholders, and those with a prescribed level of income. Over the years several people have speculated that Kenneth Brown was not executed and was secreted away to America. A few have alluded to Maitland Brown being involved in his escape. Even the Wikipedia entry on Kenneth Brown refers to this possibility, although it also states that this is “improbable”.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to delve deeper into the State Archives Collection, to discover the documentary evidence of Brown’s imprisonment and execution. The SRO has the criminal indictment records (Cons3473, item084 – Cases 741 & 753) as part of the Supreme Court criminal case files. However, these are trial records, depositions and the like, and while they state he was sentenced to death, they don’t record it occurring. It is one set of records in particular – WA’s Convict Records – which reveal the details of Brown’s execution. Chronicling the activities of the ‘Convict Establishment’ – Western Australian colonial administrative department which oversaw the running of WA’s convict and penal system from 1850 until the 1880s – there are various types of archives accessible: convict registers, character books, returns, letterbooks, etc.

One series of archives is called ‘Occurrence Books’ recording daily comings and goings in various prisons, gaols and convict depots throughout the colony. These were transferred from Fremantle Prison into the State Archives Collection in November 1967 along with the main tranche of records detailing WA’s convict past. The Occurrence Books of Perth Gaol (Series 690), which have been microfilmed, date from 1875 to 1888, and one volume Cons1156, Occ18 records activities at Perth Gaol from 31 March 1875 to 31 December 1878, covering the period of Brown’s incarceration in 1876. It gives details of the reception and discharge of transported convicts and local prisoners, visits by officials (such as the sheriff, the medical officer and police) and visits by members of the public, religious observances, warders on night duty, etc. Perth Gaol is now part of the Western Australian Museum in the Perth Cultural Centre.

Kenneth Brown is first recorded at the Perth Gaol on Monday 17 January 1876 when he was received from Champion Bay (Geraldton). At 5.50pm the same day it is reported that “The Revd The Dean visited Prisr K. Brown”. Next day the Dean is recorded as having “read prayers” at 6.10am and then later again at 5pm after which he visited “Prisr K. Brown”. “Mr Parker Solicr” had visited Brown earlier the same day and as Kenneth Brown’s lawyer he was a frequent visitor in the months ahead. On Wednesday 18 January 1876 Brown received 5 visitors at the Gaol on “Sheriff’s order”. These included Mr Howard, Mr Parker, Mr and Mrs Hamersley (Mrs Hamersley being Kenneth’s sister Matilda) and “Mrs Brown” Kenneth’s mother who is noted as having a “private interview” with him. Over the next few months the Dean is recorded as visiting Kenneth Brown several times a week, often accompanied by “Mrs Brown”. It is interesting to note that prior to his appointment as Dean of Perth in 1875, Rev. Joseph Gegg had been for a time chaplain at Wandsworth Prison in Surrey. Other members of the Brown family are frequent visitors too, especially “Mr M Brown” – Maitland Brown.

The Occurrence Book reveals that Kenneth Brown received a large number of visitors – almost daily – in comparison to others incarcerated in the gaol. But then he is the only white man recorded as being executed. Three other men were executed on 22 April 1875, “Aboriginal natives ‘Bobbinett’, ‘Wanabu’ & ‘Wandagarru’”. No visitors are recorded for them.

As well as visits, Occurrence Book 18 also reveals Kenneth Brown’s journeys in April and May 1876 to and from the Supreme Court for his trials where successive hung juries could not convict him. It was only when a third ‘tales’ jury was called from those bystanders in and outside the court, was a guilty sentence finally delivered. On 29 May an entry states that Brown was found guilty and at 6.20pm “returned from Supreme Court and placed in irons”.

Kenneth Brown’s daughter Edith turned 15 in 1876 and a “Miss Brown” is recorded in the Occurrence Book as visiting with Kenneth’s mother “Mrs Brown” on 6 March. On 1 April it states “visited by Miss E Brown (private) Sheriff’s order”, so she visited alone. Again she is listed as visiting with “Master C Brown” on 15 May. On several other occasions relatives and friends are recorded as visiting with “2 children”. The day before Kenneth Brown is executed, “Mr M Brown and 4 children” visit the condemned cell at 4.15pm. Kenneth Brown had four surviving children with his first wife Mary Eliza Dircksey nee Wittenoom (a daughter of WA’s first colonial chaplain Rev. J.B. Wittenoom). It was a busy afternoon as Mr Parker had visited at 3.20pm, and the Dean visited at 5.10pm. Maitland Brown visited again at 8pm followed by the Dean again at 8.15pm. This flurry of activity conveys the sense of an impending event. We can only imagine what these visits were like.

At 6am the next morning – Saturday 10 June 1876 – Warder Fishwick is recorded as being “on duty inside” the co ndemned cell and the Dean attended to Kenneth Brown at 6.15am. At 6.55am “Messrs A Brown, M Brown” (Kenneth’s brothers) “S.H. Parker and J. Logue J.P.” visited K Brown. At 7.30am the Sheriff arrived at the prison and at 8am Kenneth Brown was executed. Witnesses present were “The Sheriff, The Rev. The Dean, The Medical Officer (Doctor Waylen), the Gaoler and Assistant Gaoler, Warders Fishwick and McGovern, Sub Inspector Kelly, Serjeants McLarty and Rowe with others of the Police Force – also Mr Maitland Brown J.P. and Mr S.H. Parker (Counsel)”.

At 9.30am the Coroner E.W. Landor arrived with “Messrs James, Churchyard and J. Chipper, as Jury” to conduct an inquest on the body of Kenneth Brown. At 4.30pm the occurrence book shows that Kenneth Brown’s body was “removed by his family under permission of the proper authorities”. A brief coroner’s report is also recorded in the WA Police Gazette of 14 June 1876.

One of the reasons why there may be doubts as to the reality of Brown’s execution is because the local Western Australian newspapers in 1876 barely mention it. The murder incident and subsequent trials are well covered, but the execution is not. However, many newspapers in Australia’s eastern colonies in covering the trial also reported the subsequent execution of Brown. Several of these newspapers, such as the Melbourne Age, described the remarkable nature of the trial – being a “struggle between the innate love of justice in man and the influence exercised in a small colony by personal friendship and local rank”. According to many newspapers in the eastern colonies Kenneth Brown’s case was “of the very simplest character that ever came to a court of justice, or taxed the discriminating powers of a jury”. Whether this is a fair characterisation of the trial is for others to judge, but we can be certain that the execution occurred.


Pass it on! Celebrating Scotland’s sporting heritage

University of Stirling Library

Friday 24 February 2017, 10am – 5pm

This event, supported by the Sport in Museums Network, will bring together all those with an interest in Scotland’s sporting heritage including its creators (competitors and clubs), curators (archivists, librarians and museum professionals) and users (academics and researchers). A programme of talks, displays and film screenings will examine how our sporting heritage is currently being cared for and celebrated. The event will highlight the huge potential of sporting heritage in areas including education, tourism, sporting participation and reminiscence projects. It will also provide an opportunity to discuss future steps to protect and develop our sporting heritage.

Confirmed speakers:

Hugh Dan MacLennan (Sports commentator and Shinty historian)

Richard McBrearty (Scottish Football Museum)

Angela Howe (British Golf Museum, St Andrews)

Chris Wilkins (Sporting Memories Network)

Justine Reilly (Sport in Museums Network)

Richard Haynes (Hosts & Champions, University of Stirling)

The University of Stirling is home to the Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive, which documents over 80 years of Scottish sporting participation on the international stage. Following the Glasgow 2014 Games a touring exhibition was developed. Hosts & Champions: Scotland in the Commonwealth Games has visited ten venues across Scotland, travelled hundreds of miles around the country and been seen by thousands of visitors.

The event is free and open to anyone with an interest in sporting heritage.

Please note that there are a limited number of 50 places available for this event.

If you would like to attend please contact Ian Mackintosh, Exhibitions Assistant, Hosts & Champions, at ian.mackintosh@stir.ac.uk / tel. 01786 467240


Roger Revelle, Father of Global Warming, Predicts Life in the 21st Century

In this 1966 talk at the Rensselaerville Institute, Dr. Roger Revelle produces the usual combination of amusing blunders and uncanny insights one hears when people try predicting the future. “Aging” will still be with us, but with cures of common diseases and organ transplants “most people might die of accidents,” the frequency of which seem to be increasing. “It’s hard to think of what other things people might die of.” Yet he speaks very presciently of the increasing problem of mental health. While narcotics and alcohol addiction will be on their way to solution, the problem of schizophrenia is “very difficult.” Turning to space travel, he predicts regular trips to Mars by 2000, where we will find no intelligent life but perhaps plants and “simple animals” who eat those plants. There will be trips to Venus as well. “Heaven only knows what we will find under its layer of clouds.” The real challenge will be interstellar voyages, figuring how to get a man to the closest stars and back in one lifetime.

As for problems at home, he is remarkably sanguine about the economy. The world of 2000 will be one of affluence and abundance. Because there will be less need for humans to manufacture and farm, a new servant class will arise. This profession will not bear the stigma of its predecessor. Most of the new servants will be college graduates! He accurately forecasts the crisis of what do to with our old people, noting a need to change our concept of retirement. Then there is the problem of where to put our sewage. Our rivers will be in danger of becoming polluted. He ends, somewhat abruptly and surprisingly, with a plea to address to problem of alienation, which he has begun to see affecting the students he meets on college campuses.

Dr. Roger Revelle offering testimony May 28, 1957 on the dangers of atomic fallout as they appear before the joint Senate-House Atomic Energy Committee hearing in Washington, D.C.
(Henry Griffin/AP Photo)

If the speaker were just another academic huckster, all this would be no more than an amusing historical snapshot of once-commonly held opinions. But Dr. Roger Revelle (1909-1991) was a highly regarded and extremely influential scientist and social critic. A prominent oceanographer, Revelle’s early work played a crucial role in the formation of plate tectonics theory which explains continental drift and earthquake activity.  He headed the Scripps Institution of Oceanography as well as  the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. His most controversial scientific discovery is detailed on the American Institute of Physics website:

Before scientists would take greenhouse effect warming seriously, they had to get past a counter-argument of long standing. It seemed certain that the immense mass of the oceans would quickly absorb whatever excess carbon dioxide might come from human activities. Roger Revelle discovered that the peculiar chemistry of sea water prevents that from happening. His 1957 paper with Hans Suess is now widely regarded as the opening shot in the global warming debates.

Revelle was a much sought-after scientific advisor in political circles and a “player” in the high stakes game of what one might call educational entrepreneurship. He is credited with founding the University of California at San Diego, despite fierce opposition from University of California trustees and the nearby locality of La Jolla, which feared an influx of Jewish professors. As this at times whimsical and scattershot talk illustrates, his interests were wide-ranging and hardly confined to those of an orthodox scientist or administrator. The New York Times recounts in its obituary:

In 1952 Dr. Revelle became a member of the off-beat American Miscellaneous Society, composed of scientists trying to think of exciting research on which Government money could be expended. The result was the Mohole Project, which proposed to drill through the ocean floor into the underlying mantle. The project died for fiscal and political reasons before a drill platform could be built, but it led to the more conventional Deep Sea Drilling Project, which, with its successor, the Ocean Drilling Program, has probed the floors of all the world’s oceans. Some scientists regard it as the most productive scientific enterprise ever conducted at sea.

Today, Revelle is remembered as “the father of global warming.” A marine research vessel, the R/V Roger Revelle, is named in his honor, as is UC San Diego’s Revelle College. This talk’s vision of the future, one with shared wealth and a universal sense of responsibility, is reinforced up by the Harvard School of Public Health website:

For all his awareness of impending challenges, Revelle…was at heart an optimist. His answer to alarms about the “population bomb” was a broad agenda: feeding and caring for the growing numbers of humanity, especially those in the poorest parts of the globe. As he said in an interview with the Harvard Public Health Alumni Bulletin, “Because of the shrinking size of the world and its growing interdependence, and the fact that all the world’s resources are needed to support the world’s peoples, an effective way of distributing the world’s income more widely among nations must be found if there is to be world prosperity.”


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150037Municipal archives id: T818

Magician of the Week #47: O’Justinaini

This week we’re happy to feature the first Spanish-speaking magician that we’ve found among the pages of our Percival Collection: O’Justinaini, who performed in the American southwest in the early 1920s.


This sensational illustrated border graces the cover of numerous 1920-1921 issues of The Magical Bulletin, complete with stretching owl, spooky eyes, snakes whispering into a skull’s ears external acoustic meatus, and doves in a column of art deco smoke.

As for the improbably-named O’Justinaini, his performances were in great demand in Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California. The Magical Bulletin continues: “a polished gentleman, and a gifted performer, his show consists of high class magic, illusions, and the ever popular crystal gazing and mind reading mysteries, in the performance of which he is ably assisted by his brother, who is also a most talented artist.”

What We Heard and Learned at the Public Meeting

On December 8, 2016, the PIDB held a public meeting to hear and discuss recommendations for improved transparency and open government for the new Presidential Administration. The meeting was an opportunity to also solicit ideas for revising Executive Order 13526, “Classified National Security Information” from our internal and external government stakeholders, including leaders of civil society.  You may view a recording of the meeting here.

The meeting began with an introduction of the PIDB’s two newest members, Mr. Trevor Morrison and Judge James Baker, accompanied by remarks from Mr. Morrison who will serve as the new chair.  Mr. Morrison described the PIDB’s work plan for 2017, including the desire to frame recommendations to the new Administration that support three specific policy initiatives:  reducing over-classification, improving declassification, and ensuring a credible and transparent security classification system.  The Archivist of the United States, Mr. David Ferriero, provided a welcome and update on the open government initiatives promoted at the National Archives, including the work of the Archives to fulfill its mission to “make access happen.”

The PIDB was pleased to have Mr. Alexander Joel, Chief of the Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy and Transparency for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, serve as the keynote speaker at the meeting.  Mr. Joel described the four principles of transparency established by the Director of National Intelligence and his role in the stand-up of the Intelligence Transparency Council, which seeks ways to implement transparency initiatives into the processes and practices of agencies within the Intelligence Community (IC).  Mr. Joel also spoke at length about the issues of compliance and impact of transparency in the IC, and he discussed the costs of transparency, in terms of fulfilling the mission of the IC and in ensuring its credibility to the public it serves.

Ms. Sheryl Shenberger, Director of the National Declassification Center (NDC), provided comments on the successes of the NDC in building and refining its processes to both retire the NDC’s 351 million page backlog and to maintain a steady declassification review program of the new accessions received at the NDC each year.  She provided her thoughts on ways the NDC’s authorities and role may expand to continue building upon the successes it has achieved to date.

Leaders of civil society shared thought pieces on recommendations for the new Administration concerning secrecy and the need for limiting classification to the minimum necessary for national security imperatives.  We heard from Dr. Patrice McDermott of OpentheGovernment.org, Mr. Nate Jones from the National Security Archive, Ms. Elizabeth Goitein from the Brennan Center for Justice, and Mr. Steven Aftergood from the Federation of American Scientists.  You may view the white papers drafted by these presenters here.

The members wish to thank those who presented and who attended the public meeting for their interest in the work of the PIDB.  They are pleased to enjoy a healthy relationship with the civil society community and its leaders and hope to facilitate more conversation around the need to improve declassification and better manage classified information as a government.

“I Foresee in 1950”

This program, broadcast on New Year’s Day, 1950, “the pivot point of the American century,” offers the views of several prominent citizens, each representing a different segment of American society, on what the next fifty years will bring.

Politics comes first, with Senator Robert Taft saying that the world situation depends “on the Russian state of mind.” As for domestic policy, he predicts congress with reject “handouts” and nationalized healthcare. He rails against rising deficits and extravagant spending. But in a reminder of how times have changed, the Republican leader calls for civil rights legislation, a rejection of the poll tax, and stronger anti-lynching laws. Representing the Democrats, Senator Claude Pepper is vague, invoking religion more than policy. He does touch on what would later become his signature area of expertise: “illness, disability, and old age.” Senator Margaret Chase Smith’s comments, read by an announcer, call for more women in government and urges her Republican party to “humanize itself,” fighting the notion that it is “the exclusive club party of wealthy wearers of furs, orchids, and top hats.” Henry J. Kaiser, the industrialist, gives a pep talk on how big business will continue to raise the American standard of living. To ensure this, he wants “tax incentives” (tax cuts) for corporations. CIO leader Philip Murray, his labor counterpart, claims “what is good for labor is good for all the people.” He calls for the Taft-Hartley Act (which restricted the power of unions) to be repealed. Paul Hoffman, who is administering the Marshall Plan, a US aid program devoted to rebuilding Europe, urges for the program to be reauthorized for another two years. Bing Crosby weighs in on the prospects for the entertainment industry. In his trademark relaxed style, he forecasts Hollywood “doing battle with that happy little newcomer, television.” With the increased exposure this new medium brings, in the future artists must “appear half as much and be twice as good.” Finally, speaking to the spiritual side of our nature, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen predicts a wiser and happier people as the new half-century brings a deeper understanding of love. “It takes not two but three to make love; you and me and God.”

Robert A. Taft (1889-1953) was known as Mr. Republican both for his staunch partisanship and his political forebears (he was the son of President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft.) A perennial failed candidate for president, he is remembered as an effective legislator and for his willingness to espouse unpopular views, such as his condemnation of the Nuremberg Trials as “victor’s justice.” As the Encyclopedia Britannica reports:

A steadfast isolationist, Taft opposed U.S. post-World War II involvement in world affairs through such international organizations as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), founded in 1949. Rather, he joined former president Herbert Hoover in calling for “fortress America” and the “principle of the free hand.” It was on these grounds that Taft was most determinedly opposed for the nomination to the presidency. Already a favourite-son candidate at every national convention since 1936, he came to the 1948 convention with considerable nationwide support but lost to the well-organized forces of the internationalist Thomas E. Dewey. Again in 1952 the nomination was denied him by the strong internationalist coalition, which rallied around the popular wartime general Dwight D. Eisenhower. After his party’s victory at the polls Taft became majority leader and Eisenhower’s chief adviser in the Senate.

Bing Crosby (1903-1977) typified the laid-back, jazz-influenced style of singing that dominated the American music charts until the advent of rock’n roll. He was also a successful film actor and, later, television personality. As allmusic.com explains:

Crosby was, without doubt, the most popular and influential media star of the first half of the 20th century. …Unlike the many vocal artists before him, Crosby grew up with radio, and his intimate bedside manner was a style perfectly suited to emphasize the strengths of a medium transmitted directly into the home. He was also helped by the emerging microphone technology: scientists had perfected the electrically amplified recording process scant months before Crosby debuted on record, and in contrast to earlier vocalists, who were forced to strain their voices into the upper register to make an impression on mechanically recorded tracks, Crosby’s warm, manly baritone crooned contentedly without a thought of excess.

Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979) was an extraordinarily popular figure on both radio and television. The Notable Names Database relates how in the 1950’s:

Sheen argued passionately against Communism, racism, and banning prayer in public schools, and supported corporal punishment and Francisco Franco’s fascist insurgency in Spain. When his fame and outspoken statements against the Vietnam war were seen as challenging the church hierarchy, Cardinal Francis Spellman “exiled” Sheen, making him Bishop of Rochester, New York. At Rochester, though, Sheen raised further hackles by repeatedly criticizing the city’s largest employer, Kodak, for racist hiring practices. In his long career he collected millions of dollars in donations, established the Sheen Ecumenical Housing Foundation, and supported numerous Catholic charities, while keeping enough for himself to live a “champagne lifestyle” in his majestic Washington DC home. He died of heart failure in 1979, and was reportedly found in a kneeling position in his own private chapel.

“On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi!”

On November 22, 2002, William Tenn, known as the father of the science fiction satire, visited Spinning On Air to give a lively reading of his story On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi! Now, 14 years later, the story is being republished in full at Tablet Magazine. Listen to the original reading at player above.

About William Tenn

Honored as Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1999, Tenn (the pen name of Philip Klass) was born in London, but was raised in New York City, and began to sell his science fiction short stories in 1946. The Science Fiction Encyclopedia calls him “one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction.” He began writing in 1945 after being discharged from the Army, and his first story, Alexander the Bait, was published a year later. His stories and articles have been widely anthologized, a number of them in best-of -the-year collections. He was a professor of English at the Pennsylvania State University, where he taught — among other things — a popular course in science fiction. William Tenn died in 2010.

Tenn’s works are currently collected in two volumes published by NESFA Press: Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn, Vol 1

We would like to thank Fruma Klass and the estate of Philip Klass for their generous permission to repost this reading by William Tenn of his original work first broadcast on WNYC’s Spinning on Air with David Garland, November 22, 2002.

Portrait of William Tenn
(Photo courtesy of Adina Klass)


Looking Back and Looking Forward in 1965

The late governor and senator Herbert Lehman is remembered at this 1965 meeting of the American Jewish Committee. The well-known civil rights attorney Morris Abram chairs the event, reading a telegram from the prime minister of Israel, Levi Eshkol, and going on to eulogize Lehman, particularly for his standing up to McCarthyism, noting he had “a conscience that did not respond to the fashions of the day.” The rather incongruous method chosen to honor the former governor of New York is to fund in his name a chair in Molecular Theoretical Physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Tel Aviv. Mrs. Lehman accepts an honorary scroll. The emphasis then shifts from politics of the past to politics of the future, as Abe Feinberg, the noted Democratic fundraiser and link between the Jewish community and the current administration, introduces the guest of honor, Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Feinberg lauds Humphrey’s push in 1948 to include a civil rights plank in the Democratic party’s national platform, recalling how he “stood up courageously and tenaciously and…opened up a new era in the posture of this country.” Feinberg claims this new direction energized “ethnic groups” (a code phrase for Jews) who were “sensitive to discrimination” and led to Truman’s surprise victory over Dewey. He then goes on to clearly position Humphrey as the odds-on favorite to capture the presidency in 1968, concluding, “Your career has only just begun!” Humphrey steps to microphone but just as he begins his speech the tape, unfortunately, breaks off.

This meeting provides a snapshot of mid-century Democratic politics, the all-important Jewish vote providing money and a reliable constituency in several important urban centers. The strong bond between Jewish concerns and civil rights is striking. (Martin Luther King Jr., is in attendance.) But this leftward drift would lead to a break with the formerly “Solid South,” which was a crucial component of past Democratic national victories. And so Hubert Humphrey’s prophesied victory never came to pass.

Morris Abram (1918-2000) was a prominent lawyer and public servant who also served as president of Brandeis University and, as can be heard here, as a major fund-raiser for American Jewish and Israeli causes. Abram’s most lasting legacy, however, was in the area of civil rights.  As the New York Times recounts:

Mr. Abram was a young lawyer in Atlanta specializing in railroad cases in 1949 when he began a 14-year struggle to overturn a Georgia electoral rule that gave disproportionate weight in primary elections to ballots cast in predominantly white rural areas at the expense of those cast by urban blacks. The rule perpetuated segregation in Georgia…. Over the years Mr. Abram helped bring cases against the rule to the United States Supreme Court. On March 18, 1963, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who had been briefed by Mr. Abram, argued the case before the Supreme Court. In a historic ruling, the court declared the rule unconstitutional because ”within a given constituency there can be room for but one constitutional rule — one voter, one vote.”

Herbert Lehman (1878-1963) was the first Jewish governor of New York and later the Senate’s only Jew as well. Uncompromisingly liberal, he opposed the anti-immigrant McCarren-Walter Act and went even further out on a limb when he attacked the excesses of Joe McCarthy. Duane Tananbaum, in his book Herbert H. Lehman: A Life of Public Service, tells how:

Lehman continued to speak out against Senator McCarthy and McCarthyism.  He gave speeches in McCarthy’s home state in which he denounced the Senator and his followers for inciting fear in order to achieve their political ambitions, and he lamented the failure of President Dwight Eisenhower and the Republicans to disavow McCarthy and his methods.  Lehman rejoiced when the Senate finally voted to censure McCarthy in December 1954, but he warned that “the forces of fear,” the “anti-Communist vigilantes of the present day,” still posed a grave danger to “our liberties, our traditions, and our way of life,” and that the struggle must continue to safeguard “freedom, our civil liberties, and the principles of justice, of decency, and morality.”

Abraham Feinberg (1908-1998) was widely credited with revivifying Harry Truman’s seemingly moribund campaign for reelection in 1948. Contributions he provided from Jewish backers helped fund the famous “whistle stop tour” which became a rallying point for Truman’s cause. This cemented the bond between the Democratic party and, through its American proxies, Israel. As the website prnewswire notes:

In an interview, Feinberg summarized his long success in Democratic Party politics:  “My path to power was cooperation in terms of what they needed—campaign money.” According to new histories of Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons program including “Israel and the Bomb” by Avner Cohen (1998), Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion secretly named Feinberg his chief nuclear weapons fundraising coordinator in 1958.  According to Michael Karpin’s “The Bomb in the Basement” (2007) Feinberg and 25 others contributed $40 million to the Israeli nuclear weapons program against opposition from presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 70700Municipal archives id: T1248, T1249, T1250, T1738 and T1879

“With Compliments To Our Customers’ Children”


The Louise Richardson Night Before Christmas Collection includes many instances of Clement C. Moore’s famous Christmas poem.  Today’s post highlights a publication that might easily be overlooked by Noelophiles:  a 1910 advertisement for J. Rieger & Company, the self-described “largest Mail Order Whiskey House in America.”

Jacob Rieger & Company was founded in 1887 in Kansas City, Missouri.  Their distillery and distributor offered over 100 alcoholic products, and serviced hundreds of thousands of customers, until going out of business in 1919 when Prohibition began in the United States.

In 1910, eighty-seven years after “The Night Before Christmas” first appeared in print as “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” its copyright had long expired, and anyone who wanted to re-publish the text of the poem was free to do so.  J. Rieger & Co. took advantage of the poem’s status to include it in a colorful four-page holiday advertisement they produced that year.  Nominally a gift for their “customers’ children” that was “suitable for framing,” the interior pages of the pamphlet reveal a Holiday Good Cheer Offer (presumably NOT for children), whereby quart bottles of Rieger’s Monogram 1875 Brand Whiskey were available at a special holiday bulk rate.  The back page of the leaflet includes an original holiday message “expressly for the children of our customers” from Oscar Rieger, grandson of company founder Jacob Rieger.  Without knowing more about the pamphlet’s distribution, we can only guess how many children unwittingly brought home whiskey ads in December 1910.

In absence of Rieger & Co’s “amber colored nectar,” we instead present here a copy of the original pamphlet to help you celebrate the holiday season.  Click through each thumbnail image to see larger-than-life versions of this singular Christmas greeting.

It seems unlikely that the modern J. Rieger distillery is honoring these offers, but if so, don’t forget to add 10 cents per quart in Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and North Dakota.

Happy Holidays to all from FSU Special Collections & Archives!

J. Rieger & Company leaflet, 1910, front page. (Click to enlarge)
J. Rieger & Company leaflet, 1910, interior pages. (Click to enlarge)
J. Rieger & Company leaflet, 1910, back page. (Click to enlarge)









“J. Rieger & Co:  A Kansas City Distillery.” http://jriegerco.com/

J. Rieger & Company leaflet, 1910, Louise Richardson Night Before Christmas Collection, Special Collections & Archives, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida. http://purl.fcla.edu/MSS_12-24


Reaching Out with RDA

This week, the National Archives took yet another step toward the Open Government goals of transparency, participation and collaboration, by joining the wider archival community in adopting the Resource Description and Access (RDA) standard for its authority records. The RDA standard was developed in 2010 as the successor to the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Second Edition (AACR2).

RDA logo

We came to this decision through a series of internal meetings, blogposts, phone calls and discussions with staff across the agency. The input into this agency-wide discussion was remarkable. The initial internal blogpost on the subject received over 5000 views and hundreds of comments from staff. I was pleased to see that the debates were vigorous, which is exactly what should happen in an open and innovative agency. Our critics provided comments that helped to guide and shape our thoughts on the subject and ultimately led to important changes in the way we plan to implement this standard. We also reached out to our peers and after external benchmarking over the past year, NARA decided that moving from our internal standards to RDA was the best choice for the usefulness of our authority records.

But this is much more than simply a practical decision for our authority records. In making the decision to use RDA, the National Archives is opening up to the professional community, to participate with our peers in new ways. We are becoming an organization that is seeking out new connections to the professional community and there is a sense of new leadership possibilities for us as we take these steps.

I am also looking forward to all the opportunities that adopting RDA will provide our staff and our users.  These include:

  • participation in cross-institution collaborations and cooperatives
  • establishing linked hierarchical relationships that can be leveraged for navigation and visualization
  • linking and repurposing NARA’s data to other sources
  • leveraging open source tools built by and for the archival community
  • managing federal records across the lifecycle
  • developing NARA staff professionally to enhance their skills and increase collaboration with other institutions

Moving to RDA from our current standards is far from an overnight process, but we have the right staff with the skills and the desire to implement effectively. Over the next year, an internal working group, consisting of staff from across the agency, will analyze our processes, systems, and data model to determine next steps toward implementation of RDA.

Please join me in celebrating this Open Government turning point for the National Archives!


1960: USS Constellation Catches Fire at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

December of 1960 was a particularly harrowing and gruesome month for New York, particularly for the neighborhoods surrounding Park Slope. On December 19th the USS Constellation (CV-64), a naval aircraft supercarrier caught on fire, claiming the lives of 50 civilian workers and injuring as many as 330 others. This incident occurred only three days after a freak mid air collision of two airplanes over Park Slope, killing 128 passengers and 6 people on the ground. One plane crash-landed in Park Slope and the other in Staten Island. 

Firefighters barely had time to catch their breath when the USS Constellation tragedy occurred, just two miles away. According to a December 24th article in the New York Times, the fire began with an ill-fated series of events:

The valve assembly was knocked out of the tank by an 1,800-pound steel plate resting on a wooden pallet. The pallet was hit by a heavy steel trash bin that had been nudged by a fork-lift truck. The fuel gushed from the tank and ran through work holes in the steel flooring to decks below, on one of which it came in contact with ‘hot work’- either a welding or cutting torch or steel that was hot from such work.

Wooden construction scaffolding accelerated the blaze, and the ship appeared to start sinking as water was increasingly pumped in to combat the flames. Workers were trapped below deck in air tight compartments for hours until firefighters could rescue them – entering from a hole cut in the hull of the ship. Most who perished suffocated from the poisonous fumes.

A rescue worker, felled by smoke fumes, is led away from the blaze by another rescue worker and a fireman.
(Eddie Hausner/New York Times)

The nearly completed aircraft carrier U.S.S. Constellation caught fire in a shipboard accident when a lift truck knocked the cap off a fuel tank.
(The New York Times)

On this day, the WNYC mobile unit was reporting live from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In a series of “beeper” telephone calls1, a reporter describes the scene as the Fire Department battled for 17 hours to extinguish the blaze, in spite of snowfall above and smoke billowing below through cavernous steel passageways.  

Prior to the fire, the Pentagon planned to sail the USS Constellation to the Pacific Ocean by mid-1961 as part of a Cold War strategy to have three carriers there in operation at all times, with one exclusively holding planes designed to carry nuclear weapons.

This especially challenging month was not yet over for firefighters, who were called to extinguish an 8 alarm fire across two Williamsburg lumber yards and a four alarm fire at a Coney Island gas station. As a December 23rd article in the New York Times describes: 

Yesterday’s blazes were the latest of a series of tests for the city’s 12,000 firemen and officers in the two weeks that began with the pre-winter blizzard of December 11th and 12th. Since that time the firefighters have had to grapple with the worst air catastrophe in history; the fire on the carrier Constellation; a dozen other multiple-alarm blazes and numbing cold and roadways made virtually impassable by snow and ice.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150511Municipal archives id: LT9171

[1] The intermittent ‘beep-tone’ in the recording is due to long standing Federal Communications Commission rules that required journalists to notify a person that their telephone conversation is being recorded. 

Haberman, Clyde, “Recalling a Brooklyn Disaster Otherwise Forgotten,” New York Times, December 20th, 2010

2016: End-of-year review

Well, it’s that time of the year again. Time to tot up our visitor figures and enquiry databases to discover how our collections were used by researchers and find the most popular archives of 2016. For the second year running the collection which has topped our end-of-year chart is the NHS Forth Valley Archive. The collection, which includes the records of Stirling District Asylum (Bellsdyke Hospital) and the Royal Scottish National Hospital, continues to be very popular with family historians, providing a wealth of information on the patients who passed through the Victorian health-care system. In 2016 the records of these local hospitals have also increasingly been used by academics and students across a range of fascinating research projects.

The NHS Forth Valley Archive, our most popular collection for the second year running.

In 2017 the University of Stirling will celebrate its 50th anniversary having opened its doors for the first time on 18 September 1967. The interest in, and preparations for, this important anniversary have resulted in the university’s own archives taking the No. 2 spot. The University Archive holds the official history of the institution in its minute books, reports and publications. It also preserves the unofficial story of life on campus through student newspapers, memorabilia and oral history interviews with retired staff and alumni. We are looking forward to making full use of this material throughout next year’s 50th celebrations!

Our film collections remain incredibly popular with academics, researchers and students. In 2016 the personal and working papers of the director Lindsay Anderson ended the year at No. 3 in our chart. In part this was due to a renewed academic interest in his work sparked by the publication of Lindsay Anderson Revisited: Unknown Aspects of a Film Director (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016). The enduring appeal of films such as If…. and This Sporting Life also brought a number of researchers to Stirling. The collection was also a key resource for our own M Litt Film Studies students who worked on Anderson’s papers during their research placements in the archive.

Our film collections continue to be popular with researchers.

Outside the archives reading room our Hosts & Champions exhibition continued its tour around Scotland, taking material from our Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive to Stranraer, Kirkintilloch, Eastriggs and Grangemouth. Unique items from our collections were also loaned to exhibitions in places as varied as Montrose, Stirling, Paris and Udine!

We ended the year with the launch of an exciting new project to support the cataloguing and conservation of the Peter Mackay Archive, a collection relating to modern African history which was recently donated to the University of Stirling. A crowdfunding campaign has been launched on the Crowdfunder website:


Help us to reach our target by 24 January 2017!

Those results in full:


  1. NHS Forth Valley
  2. University of Stirling
  3. Lindsay Anderson


  1. NHS Forth Valley
  2. Musicians’ Union
  3. University of Stirling


  1. Norman McLaren
  2. NHS Forth Valley
  3. Commonwealth Games Scotland

DLC in Review

It has been a busy year for the Digital Library Center! I wanted to take a moment to bask in our success.

We completed 7 planned digital projects which included:

We also started a long-term digitization project with Le Moniteur, a periodical from our Napoleonic collections.

DLC staff member digitizes a textile fragment.
DLC staff member digitizes a textile fragment.

Collaborative digitization projects were also started with the department of Art History, for which half of the John House Stereograph Collection is now available online, and with the department of Anthropology where we hope to have materials to share online soon!


All in all, we added 6,026 objects to the digital library this year which encompasses thousands and thousands of digitized book pages, letters, photographs and 3-D objects.

It has been a busy and rewarding year as we keep growing how many projects we can take on each year. We’re already working on new projects for next year so stay tuned for what comes next!

Happy Holidays

The Archives will be closed from noon December 23 to 9am Tuesday, January 3.

Front of card from Tucker Battle to the Hamber family. Identifier : CVA 703-

Front of card from Tucker Battle to the Hamber family. Identifier : CVA 703-

Back of card from Tucker Battle to the Hamber family. Identifier : CVA 703-

Back of card from Tucker Battle to the Hamber family. Identifier : CVA 703-

This 1957 Christmas card to the family of Eric Hamber is part of the Social series of the Hamber Family fonds. That series documents the Hamber’s friends and social activities. This card was kept because it contains an image of the sender, Tucker Battle. It also contains an audio greeting on a tiny 78rpm disc, which might one day be digitized.

Marc Connelly Reminisces

“Memory is given to us so we can have roses in December,” the playwright and author slightly misquotes J.M. Barrie at this 1968 Books and Authors Luncheon. Connelly, a noted wit of the Algonquin Round Table, is speaking of his memoir, Voices Offstage. Defiantly emphasizing just how out of step he is with the times, he devotes the entirety of his talk to anecdotes concerning the minor film actor Charles Butterworth, whose only lingering claim to fame is having served as vocal inspiration for the commercial cartoon character Cap’n Crunch. The Brown Derby crowd of Hollywood in the Thirties is evoked. Robert Benchley and Oscar Hammerstein are mentioned. Connelly reproduces the patter of  Hammerstein’s “pep song” for a non-existent Butterfield Athletic Club the circle invented. A well-connected but slender talent, the seventy-eight-year-old Connelly is recorded here still blithely singing for his supper. It is jarring to hear him refer to his fellow authors on the dais, newscaster Chet Huntley and Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas. He seems from an altogether other age.

Marc Connelly (1890-1980) was a playwright, producer, lyricist, and occasional actor. His life was lived in the American theater and film communities, where he seemed to know and socialize with practically everyone of importance. His most famous association, as mentioned above, was with the Algonquin wits of the Twenties. His description of the group, as quoted in Spartacus, still rings true:

We all lived rather excitedly and passionately. In those days, everything was of vast importance or only worthy of quick dismissal. We accepted each other – the whole crowd of us. I suppose there was a corps of about twenty or so who were intimate. We all ate our meals together, and lived in a very happy microcosm….We all shared one another’s love for bright talk, contempt for banality, and the dedication to the use of whatever talents we had to their best employment.

Connelly co-wrote several plays with George Kaufman, the most successful of which was Dulcy (1921.) But his most famous and successful work was The Green Pastures (1930), which featured an all-black cast telling updated stories from the Bible set in the rural South. Although the “simple” characters portrayed now seem primitive stereotypes if not downright offensive, at the time the play was considered a dramatic breakthrough, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The website Bookrags describes how:

…The Green Pastures follows stories of the Bible, such as Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, Moses and the exodus from Egypt, and the crucifixion of Christ, but places them in a rural black southern setting. Thus, one of the opening scenes takes place at a “fish fry” in “pre-Creation Heaven,” during which God spontaneously decides to create Earth and man. God eats boiled pudding, smokes cigars, and runs Heaven out of a shabby “private office” assisted by Gabriel. The settings are roughly contemporary to the time period in which the play was first written and performed, so that, for instance, the city of Babylon is represented as a New Orleans jazz nightclub. The costumes are also contemporary: God wears a white suit and white tie, Adam is dressed in a farmer’s clothes, Eve wears the gingham dress of a country girl, and so on. The play ends with God’s decision, while back at the fish fry in Heaven, to send Jesus Christ down to Earth.

Connelly’s work never again reached such heights. His natural genre was the drawing room comedy, which seemed increasingly irrelevant in the politically-obsessed Thirties and the subsequent psycho-dramas of post-War Broadway. Yet he remained a fixture in the world of theater for many years. He seems to have displayed a modesty rare in such an ego-driven milieu. Nowhere is this more evident than in a quiet self-assessment, quoted in his New York Times obituary:

Seventy years have passed since the theater first filled me with wonder and delight. During that time I have enjoyed its blessings and given what I had to give in its service. I cannot claim to have adorned it with anything as lasting as the embellishments of the medieval sculptors on the cathedral’s face, but I have occasionally tried to brighten its altar with flowers from my garden.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 72185Municipal archives id: T4853 and T4854

Holidays Hours

It’s that time of the year!

The Special Collections & Archives Research Center and Norwood Reading Room will be open 10am to 4:30pm Monday, December 19 to Friday, December, 23. The Claude Pepper Library will be open 9am to 5pm Monday, December 19 to Thursday, December 22. The Pepper Library will be closed on Friday, December 23.

The University, including the Libraries, will be closed Saturday, December 24 through Monday, January 2, 2017.

All Special Collections & Archives locations will resume our normal operating hours on Tuesday, January 3, 2017.

From all of us in Special Collections & Archives, we wish you all a very happy and safe holiday season!

Prioritization of Presidential Library Records: The Argentina Declassification Project Releases Records Online

Yesterday, the White House announced the declassification and release of records related to human rights abuses committed under Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship.  The President committed to prioritizing the declassification of these records in March 2016, including the release for the first time of records from U.S. intelligence, law enforcement, and defense agencies.  You can view the records at https://icontherecord.tumblr.com/.

The declassified records originate from four Presidential Libraries operated by the National Archives and Records Administration.  The successful release of these 550 pages of records underscores the PIDB’s recommendation that agencies should continue to prioritize the declassification review of records from the Presidential Libraries.  From the standpoint of their historical significance, the records of former Presidents are, arguably, the most important records needed by the public to obtain an accurate and complete understanding of the nation’s history and role in the world.

The PIDB looks forward to the planned release of more records from this declassification project in 2017 and congratulates the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the fourteen agencies and departments who participated in this successful release.




Japanese History and Culture Books and the John W. Dower Gift

Recently cataloged:

Pohadky Japonskych Deti / Joe Hloucha

Pohadky Japonskych Deti / Joe Hloucha

Published in Prague in 1926, this is a book of Japanese children’s tales, translated into Czech. Along with the tales, about half the book contains the author’s observations of the customs and life of children in Japan. The author, Josef Hloucha (1881-1957), has been called “the greatest Czech collector of Japanese art” and the book is illustrated with over 50 reproductions of photographs and woodcuts from his collection. The binding was designed to mimic the Japanese fukurotoji binding style, which Hloucha was very familiar with–over 600 examples of Japanese books dating from Edo to Taishō periods that he collected now reside at the National Gallery in Prague.¹

This is the only copy of Pohádky Japonských Dě available at a library in North America–how did it come to be here? It is part of a gift to the college from John W. Dower (AC class of 1959) along with his papers. As described in the finding aid for the Dower Papers, Dower is a noted American scholar on the history of Japan, who has won a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, among other honors. His papers are:

chiefly a collection of primary and secondary research materials compiled by John W. Dower in the course of several decades of teaching, research, writing and publication on the history of Japan, particularly with regard to World War II and its aftermath, popular media and racial representation. It includes articles, archival source material, correspondence, photographs, research notes, and draft manuscripts for several of Professor Dower’s publications. … Together with the papers, Professor Dower donated a large collection of books and videos on Japanese history, culture, and cinema. These will be catalogued and added to the main collection of the Amherst College Library or to Archives and Special Collections. In addition, his gift also included 37 boxes of books and files comprising the bulk of the research library for a program and website at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2002-2014) called “Visualizing Cultures,” focusing on Japan and China in the modern world.²

The majority of these books are being added to the circulating collection of Frost Library. At the present time, over 300 have been added, and fewer than 20 have been placed in Archives and Special Collections due to age, scarcity, or fragility. Follow this link to see all the Dower gift books which have been cataloged so far. My heartfelt thanks go to Sharon Domier, the East Asian Studies Librarian, for all her excellent work on this collection.


¹Honcoopová, Helena, “Joe Hloucha – A Short Biography,” in Japanese Illustrated Books and Manuscripts from the National Gallery in Prague: a Descriptive Catalogue (Zbraslav : National Gallery, 1998), 12-14.

²Finding aid for the John W. Dower (AC 1959) Papers, 1850-2010 (Bulk: 1941-2010) http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/amherst/ma288.html


Bad Children of History #30: Once More, With Feeling

It’s true: we’ve discovered yet another version of Heinrich Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter, this one in Polish, hiding in our Edith Wetmore Collection of Children’s Books.


Złota różdżka was published in Warsaw around 1933; it contains a translation of Hoffmann’s original text, with illustrations by Bohdan Bartłomiej Nowakowski, a prolific Polish illustrator and cartoonist.

Nowakowski’s children are quite impressively, gruesomely bad. Look at the determined scowl on this little stomper!


This book contains all your Struwwelpeter favorites, like the fast-withering Augustus Who Wouldn’t Eat Any Soup (below left) and the tragic Pauline Who Played With Matches and her oddly flame-resistant shoes (below right).

The last page of Złota różdżka features a highly seasonally-appropriate illustration of the respective wintery fates of good and bad children everywhere. May we suggest sharing it with the bad children in your life?



Dancer Ruth St. Denis Shares Thoughts on Politics, Feminism and New Work

Ruth St. Denis has her mind on more than just dance. In this 1967 interview one of the pioneers of modern American dance is less interested in describing her current performance projects than speaking about “the state of the world and what women are going to do about it.” She is pushing the concept of Balanced Government, basically a dual presidency held by both a man and a woman. The woman, it is implied, will prevent future wars because “savagery is the male’s temperament.” In practical terms, this would entail setting up small schools attached to the larger women’s colleges where one thousand young women could be instructed in governance. This is necessary because of “the disorders that are bursting forth,” such as the recent Detroit race riots.

The interviewer, Walter Terry, critic for the Herald-Tribune, gamely tries to get her to talk about dance, but the eighty-nine-year-old St. Denis has her own agenda. She rails against TV, not the medium itself, which she calls one of the greatest inventions of all time, but against “the men who run it…their complete and constant pandering to the love and lust of combat.”

Ruth St. Denis in Radha, 1906.
(Jerome Robbins Dance Division/New York Public Library)

Terry finally does get her to talk about Ribbons of the Resurrection, a dance she envisions that would retell the raising of Lazarus. In her interpretation of the biblical story, Lazarus’ entombment signifies “Man’s ignorance of himself.” Another project dear to her heart is what we would now call a multi-media presentation of the Psalms. She then praises the Hindu philosopher Sankara and tells a parable of his which teaches, “Don’t mistake a rope for a snake.” Concluding the talk, Terry lauds her as “The first lady of the American dance, who has changed the course of the theater, and, if she has her way…the course of the world.”

Ruth St. Denis was born in 1879. She debuted as a “skirt dancer,” what was then a rather risqué form of dancing because of the woman’s legs being briefly visible. The impresario David Belasco recognized her potential and had her touring vaudeville, where she became a major attraction. Her career changed when, as yourdictionary.biography describes:

…she discovered an advertising poster for Egyptian Deities cigarettes showing the goddess Isis sitting on a throne. Immediately she saw the possibility of developing a dance on an Egyptian theme. While doing research on the culture and dance of Egypt, she discovered the dances of India. With the help of some Indian friends, Miss St. Denis danced the radha, a freestyle Indian dance. She was the first in the Western world to introduce to a legitimate audience Oriental and Eastern dancing. The dances were accompanied by European music performed on Western musical instruments. American audiences were hostile to her experiments, labeling her the “Jersey Hindoo” and comparing her with the belly dancers at the local burlesque houses.

Despite local opposition, St. Denis’ new style of dancing was a hit, particularly in Europe. She continued to incorporate non-Western techniques into her dance, presenting Egyptian dances and a Japanese ballet based on Noh theater. In 1915, she and her then-dancing partner Ted Shawn, founded the Denishawn School of Dancing. Though she and Shawn had a stormy relationship, both on and offstage, what they accomplished together had a lasting impact. As the New World Encyclopedia points out:

Among St. Denis’ students were future dance pioneers Martha Graham, Doris Humphreys, and Charles Weidman. St. Denis’ choreographic style broadened to include group numbers occasionally derived from Occidental as well as Oriental sources. Among her choreographic innovations was “music visualization,” a style that called for movement equivalents to the timbres, dynamics, rhythm, and structural shapes of music.

Though their partnership was tumultuous (she did not believe in monogamy and he hid his homosexuality for years), it was highly productive, resulting in a successful touring company and one of the first major training grounds for art dance in the U.S.

The Denishawn School closed in 1930. St. Denis’ interests, as this interview illustrates, began transcend “mere” dance, trying to incorporate her art into a more grand scheme for both global and personal salvation. This quintessentially American path took her, on occasion, beyond the realm of culture and into something more resembling a religious quest. But always the touchstone of her nature was dance. The Jacob’s Pillow website describes how:

The dissolution of Denishawn led St. Denis deeper into her spiritual nature and into long periods of artistic oblivion, resulting in such desperate measures as working the graveyard shift in an aircraft factory. Her long life accommodated a number of declines and resurgences, with most of the latter supplied by Shawn through regular stints at Jacob’s Pillow , beginning with a revival of Radha in 1941. She continued to dance well into her eighties, characterizing her later performances with an unusually modest self-assessment: “I move with remembered beauty.”

Ruth St. Denis died in 1968.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150012Municipal archives id: T2211

Remembering the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

“…I could hardly believe Japan had actually attacked us first in such a remote place, yet the whole country has been first stunned then calmly resolved that now we are going to accept the challenge and get it over. They bombed barracks killing 350 soldiers [the total casualties were 2,403 killed & 1,178 wounded] and some ships apparently from an airplane carrier…The President and cabinet met at 8:00PM. Congressional leaders in later. All but Senator Nye of isolationists’ crowd have come around now. I gave out statement, not a question of who has been right but of unity henceforth. Joint session at 12:30PM tomorrow. Well here it is – war – war – God strengthen us all.”

–Excerpt from the diary of Senator Claude Pepper, December 7, 1941

When bombs fell on Pearl Harbor in the early morning of December 7, 1941, the picture of America, as has often happened, was changed. Having only begun to shake off the burden that was the Great Depression, the country was largely isolationist and determined to right its own ship, letting the world without handle its second great conflagration within twenty years. As was reflected in the above excerpt from Senator Pepper’s diary however, the country as a whole came to a realization very quickly: the war is upon us and we must fight. The outpouring of support and the subsequent rush to military recruitment offices by millions of Americans was unprecedented, with the nation rapidly mobilizing to prepare for the next 4 years of global conflict. Not every action taken in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor was warranted however, as Japanese American citizens of the United States, were taken from their homes and interned in camps throughout the American Midwest and Arkansas.

As we remember the 75th anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, let us reflect on the lives lost that day and in the years that would follow, let us contemplate the day’s significance in the history of not only our country, but the world, and finally let us remind ourselves of ways in which we can honor the sacrifices of those who came before.