Magician of the Week #46: He’s Jolly!

Today’s featured magician is a true classic, both entertaining and mystifying. He wears a heavy cape and a hat, never appearing in public without them; he appears without warning, generally in the dark of night; he defies gravity and other earthly limitations; he charms large animals, who heed his command; and in the manner of enigmatic magicians and stylish wizards everywhere, he wears his beard long.

 

santa

Ah, yes! Ho, ho, ho. I especially like the trick above where he seems to have made five tiny macarons appear inside a gift box. Thanks, magic Santa!

A Lick of Raspberry Ice

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. 

Drawing from Oaknoll, Iowa City, IA
Drawing from Oaknoll, Iowa City, IA

One day in 2016, exploring the halls of Oaknoll, my new Iowa City home, I was stopped in my tracks by a child’s drawing of “raspberry ice” hanging beside a resident’s door. Raspberry ice is almost unheard of in my Midwestern world, and indeed this one came from New York State — a granddaughter’s loving remembrance of her grandmother’s fondness for raspberry ice cones. Once on the Jersey shore it was my cousin Connie’s favorite ice cream cone. I could hardly wait for summer when she would come to live with us again.

We spent our days on the beach and in the ocean. We lived just one empty sandlot from Sam’s near the north end of the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ. Sam’s daughter Dottie was one of our playmates and Sam’s shop was our source for ice cream cones. My brother Bruce liked Sam’s chocolate ones and I liked strawberry, but raspberry ice was always Connie’s favorite. My father John MacKay Shaw made a poem for her that immortalizes raspberry ice.* And my daughter Meg further commemorates it in one of her fabric pictures.

Cathmar's daughter commemorates Sam's in a fabric picture
Cathmar’s daughter commemorates Sam’s in a fabric picture

Daddy visited us on weekends at the shore, and so did Connie’s father. As was his habit in the city, Daddy read and sang with us every evening. Too soon we tired of hearing about other children. He promised to write poems about US. He wrote “Girls and Boys” for Bruce and “Teasin’ Daddy” for me, and for Dottie and Sam “Five Little Elephants” on a chain of gold. Later the friends of the Library at Florida State University published two books of his poems. As adults, Connie, Bruce and I often recalled the joy of our summer days, arguing in fun over which of us was the scaredy cat who inspired “The Ice Cream Ocean.”

Late in John Shaw’s life, Susan Russo discovered his poetry. She chose “The Ice Cream Ocean” for the title of her anthology of poems for children. She illustrated it with round dips of ice cream floating on every page. He was delighted to receive copies of her book in progress but he died in 1984 before he could purchase its final edition.

What fun it would have been to discover this drawing at Oaknoll with my father!

*Sources of poems in books by John MacKay Shaw published by The Friends of the Florida State University Library:
Zumpin’, 1969
“Raspberry Ice” — p. 19
“Five Little Elephants” p. 3
The Things I Want, 1967
“Girls and Boys” p. 13 in ;
“The Ice Cream Ocean” p.38
“Teasin’ Daddy” p. 2

RUSSO, Susan: The Ice Cream Ocean; William Morrow.

12/8 Public Meeting Preview: Comments from Civil Society Participants

In anticipation of our public meeting this Thursday, December 8, 2016, we have asked our Civil Society participants to share comments and recommendations in the form of white papers.  You will find white paper submissions from Patrice McDermott at OpenTheGovernment.org, Nate Jones from the National Security Archive, Elizabeth Goitein from The Brennan Center for Justice, and Steven Aftergood from the Federation of American Scientists by clicking on the links below.  Thank you for your willingness to participate in this important discussion.

Please remember to REGISTER for the public meeting using Eventbrite.

Clarify and Delimit Scope of Classified “Methods,” by Patrice McDermott, OpentheGovernment.org 

“There’s classified, and then there’s classified:” Tangible Steps to Fix the Classification and Declassification System, by Nate Jones, National Security Archive

Eight Steps to Reduce Overclassification and Rescue Declassification by Elizabeth Goitein, The Brennan Center for Justice

Modernizing the National Security Classification and Declassification
Systems Through the Next Administration’s Executive Order by Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists

 

“There’s classified, and then there’s classified:” Tangible Steps to Fix the Classification and Declassification System by Nate Jones, National Security Archive

For the Public Interest Declassification Board:

The former head of the Information Security Oversight Office, responsible for oversight of the US classification system, has acknowledged that classification officials joke that “you could easily classify the ham sandwich.”[1]  Barack Obama has summarized the tension between the public’s right to know and the necessity for the government to keep some secrets as: “There’s classified, and then there’s classified.”[2]  Certainly, much work remains for the Public Interest Declassification Board to meet its goal of “modernizing the national security classification and declassification systems.”  Here I suggest three achievable measures that the next Executive Order on Classification could take to reduce over-classification, improve declassification, and begin to rebuild the public’s trust that documents stamped as “secret” actually contain information that should be withheld from the public.

First, the next Executive Order should further improve the efficiency of the National Declassification Center and expand its authority.  The NDC has eliminated much—though certainly not all —of the National Archives’ backlog of historic documents.  Its “indexing on demand” program serves as a quick and efficient mechanism for researchers to request and usually receive previously classified records.  But further improvements are needed for the NDC to achieve its mission of “releasing all we can, protecting what we must.”  It must completely end its “pass fail” reviews where a single classified word in a document can cause it to “go to the back of the vault” and remain classified indefinitely.  It must also stop allowing multiple re-reviews by multiple agencies of historic documents.    The NDC should also, once again, adhere to the principle of automatic declassification; this principle, established in the current Executive Order[3] but not practiced, requires documents to be declassified without a review when they reach a certain age.  This is the only workable solution to the coming exponential avalanche of digital historic records.  The PIDB has correctly called these malpractices as “wasteful, expensive,“ and “unsustainable.”[4]  Fortunately, the NDC has taken note and begun to remedy them.

Once these inefficiencies are modified and the NDC is solidified as the government’s premier, most efficient declassification mechanism, it should expand to target not just classified documents accessioned to NARA but also those held by the Presidential Libraries. Declassifying documents held by the Presidential Libraries is the bureaucratic equivalent to passing a kidney stone.  For a member of the public to even see what is in the Library’s boxes a researcher must submit a Freedom of Information Act request (which usually takes years to process).  Even worse, any document that has ever been deemed classified is not even reviewed during this process and the researcher must submit a second Mandatory Declassification Review request (which again usually takes years), before possibly having the ability to access this critical history (even then, if it has been censored by an overzealous redactor, the MDR appeal process, again, usually takes years).[5] If the incoming administration is able to utilize the strength of the National Declassification Center to declassify all declassifiable material held by the Presidential Libraries, it will be an extremely beneficial accomplishment.

Second, the incoming administration’s Executive Order on Classification should finally fully realize the Moynihan Commission’s finding that “the cost of protection, vulnerability, threat, risk, value of the information, and public benefit from release” must be considered when deciding whether or not to classify or declassify any document.[6]  This means that no sets of information—including any agency’s operational files—should be automatically exempted from declassification review.  The US government once used this specious claim to attempt to thwart the release of any President’s Daily Brief, ever.  Fortunately, under the current administration the Central Intelligence Agency and National Archives reversed course and released the PDBs from the Johnson and Nixon administrations —though many still have far too many redactions.  Unfortunately, agencies including the CIA continue to ignore the current Executive Order’s instruction that “No information may remain classified indefinitely” and refuse to even review other historically important operational files for release.

The current Executive Order also includes a provision which states that in “exceptional circumstances” an agency head may declassify “properly classified” information when she deems that “the public interest in disclosure outweighs the damage to the national security that might reasonably be expected from disclosure.”  The language in the next Executive Order should be modified so that this common sense logic applies to all classification and declassification decisions, not merely “exceptional circumstances.”  While the fact that President Kennedy agreed to remove Jupiter Missiles from Turkey to end the Cuban Missile Crisis may be technically “properly classified,”[7] it is not a justifiable secret to keep from the public —and greatly harms the government’s ability to keep its true secrets.

Finally, the Public Interest Declassification Board should get into the declassification business.  The Board has done much good work by issuing guidance and recommendations, providing a forum for public insight, and improving classification and declassification from the inside.  But it has done little to actually declassify documents.  The next Executive Order on Classification –or if necessary, legislation– should empower the PIDB get its hands dirty.  The PIDB should have the authority to compel the NDC or another body to declassify the documents, including those referenced in this piece, that it deems in the public interest —there are trillions of them.

[1] Jonathan Abel, “Do You Have to Keep the Government’s Secrets?: Retroactively Classified Documents, the First Amendment, and the Power To Make Secrets Out of the Public Record,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 163, 2015.

[2] Michael D. Shear, “Obama Says Hillary Clinton Wouldn’t Intentionally Endanger U.S. With Emails,” New York Times, April 10, 2016.

[3] Executive Order 13526

[4] The Public Interest Declassification Boart, “Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Classification,” December, 2014.

[5] In one startling case, it took the National Security Archive 12 years to win the release of a document held by the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library. See http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB427/#_ftn12

[6] “Report of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy,” 1997.

[7] Bill Burr, “Dubious Secrets of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” National Security Archive, February 21, 2014, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/nukevault/ebb457/

Launch of crowdfunding campaign to support the Peter Mackay Archive

The University of Stirling Archives has launched its first crowdfunding campaign to support the cataloguing, conservation and digitisation of the Peter Mackay Archive. Mackay (1926-2013) was a tireless campaigner for African liberation, becoming politically active shortly after emigrating to Rhodesia in 1948. Following his death in Zimbabwe in 2013 the archive was carefully packed up by his family and shipped to the university. Mackay’s family hailed from the town of Doune, near Stirling, and it was his wish that the university become the custodians of his papers.

Working with the university’s fundraising team we have created a campaign for the archive on the Crowdfunder platform. We’ve set a target of £8,000 to be raised over a two month period (closing date 24th January 2017). Depending on the amounts donated supporters can also claim rewards including invitations to launch events, inscriptions on archive boxes and framed photographs from the archive. We hope you can help us in reaching our target! Further details can be found at:

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/petermackay/

An introduction to the Peter Mackay Archive:

The archive provides a comprehensive record of Mackay’s journalism, political activism, travel, photography and charity work. His journals, notebooks, correspondence and papers preserve a detailed account of his life as a writer and activist.

(Photo: Peter Mackay on the Freedom Road, a route which smuggled political dissidents out of South Africa)

Peter Mackay on the Freedom Road, a route which smuggled political dissidents out of South Africa

It includes a large collection of photographs taken by Mackay during his travels around Southern Africa. These images provide a stunning visual record of a continent during a period of great change. The independence struggles across a number of nations are documented alongside scenes from everyday life.

Independence supporters in Malawi photographed by Mackay in 1960.

Independence supporters in Malawi photographed by Mackay in 1960.

The Peter Mackay Archive is a collection of international importance and has already attracted interest from academics and researchers from around the world. The digitisation of his papers will provide online access to this unique archive of modern African history. We look forward to developing the archive as a major research resource for all students of African history and politics.

Some of Mackay's files which contain his correspondence with key figures in the independence movements of a number of Southern African nations.

Some of Mackay’s files which contain his correspondence with key figures involved in African independence

12/8 Public Meeting Preview: Comments from Civil Society Participants

In anticipation of our public meeting this Thursday, December 8, 2016, we have asked our Civil Society participants to share comments and recommendations in the form of white papers.  You will find white paper submissions from Patrice McDermott at OpenTheGovernment.org, Elizabeth Goitein from The Brennan Center for Justice, and Steven Aftergood from the Federation of American Scientists by clicking on the links below.  Thank you for your willingness to participate in this important discussion.

Please remember to REGISTER for the public meeting using Eventbrite.


Clarify and Delimit Scope of Classified “Methods,” by Patrice McDermott, OpentheGovernment.org 

Eight Steps to Reduce Overclassification and Rescue Declassification by Elizabeth Goitein, The Brennan Center for Justice

Modernizing the National Security Classification and Declassification
Systems Through the Next Administration’s Executive Order by Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists

 


Clarify and Delimit Scope of Classified “Methods,” by Patrice McDermott, OpentheGovernment.org

A White Paper Submission to the PIDB:

Section 102(d)(3) of the National Security Act of 1947 (1) makes the Director of National Intelligence responsible for protecting intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure. The director has “very broad authority to protect all sources of intelligence information from disclosure.”(2)

As has been regularly noted, though, almost anything can serve as an intelligence source or method, including a subscription to the daily newspaper. And we have had confirmation since 2013 that assertions—that classified methods were so intertwined with policy discussions that the documents (in particular FISC orders) could not possibly be declassified, even in a redacted form—were not true. They could not be declassified—until they were.(3) Bulk collections of US persons communications records were declared unconstitutional by a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The FISC has also found in several cases that the government’s surveillance, classified as a method, was unlawful.

Executive Orders on National Security Classification have routinely extended the permission to classify intelligence sources and methods. It is instructive to note that a predecessor order, EO 11652, issued by President Nixon in 1972, gave concrete examples of the sort of potential damage resulting from disclosure that would justify a “Top Secret” classification of the information to be withheld: “… the compromise of vital national defense plans or complex cryptologic and communication intelligence systems; the revelation of sensitive intelligence operations; and the disclosure of scientific or technological developments vital to national security.”(4)

The overbroad terminology and lack of specificity in subsequent Orders has given broad rein to the Intelligence Community. Indeed, twenty-five years later Senator Patrick Moynihan addressed this same issue in the 1997 Moynihan Commission report:

Underlying the rationale of “sources and methods” as the reason that information is kept secret is not the content of the information itself, but instead the way it was obtained. Yet the public and historians generally do not care how the information was collected; they want to know how it was used and what decisions it informed. Too often, there is a tendency to use the sources and methods language contained in the National Security Act of 1947 to automatically classify virtually anything that is collected by an intelligence agency–including information collected from open sources.

… Clarification through issuance of a directive by the Director of Central     Intelligence of the scope of and reasons for sources and methods protection would still ensure that sensitive information stays secret. At the same time, such a directive explaining the appropriate scope of that protection would help prevent the automatic withholding of all information that might relate in any manner, however indirectly, to an intelligence source or method.

National security classification should protect our democracy, not shield government actions that – too often consciously and deliberately – go around democratic practices and subvert constitutional protections. The vagueness and un-delimited scope of classified “intelligence methods” needs to be rectified in the next Executive Order to ensure that it does not permit these uses.

(1) 50 U.S.C.§ 403(d)(3)
(2) Central Intelligence Agency v. Sims, 471 U.S. 159, 168-169 (1985).
(3) seehttps://icontherecord.tumblr.com/post/70683717031/dni-announces-the-declassification-of-the
(4) see http://www.fas.org/sgp/library/quist2/chap_7.html

Eight Steps to Reduce Overclassification and Rescue Declassification by Elizabeth Goitein, The Brennan Center for Justice

A White Paper Submission to the PIDB:

In a political climate where consensus is rare, there is remarkably little dispute about the need for classification reform. Officials from Democratic and Republican administrations agree that far too much information is unnecessarily classified and that the current declassification process is wholly inadequate to handle the oncoming wave of classified digital information. It is also clear that our dysfunctional classification system harms national security, as it inhibits information-sharing and invites carelessness.
Below are eight measures the next executive order could include that would go far toward reducing overclassification and rescuing declassification.

Reducing Overclassification
Overclassification is enabled by a lack of objective criteria to guide original classification decisions. While officials must be able to exercise discretion and judgment, these should not be unbounded. The classification categories listed in section 1.4 of the order are too broad to provide meaningful constraints. Moreover, the concept of “damage to the national security” is not defined and is extremely elastic. The next executive order should create a White House-led commission of senior agency officials charged with (1) tightening the criteria for classification, and (2) providing a definition of “damage to the national security” that sets an appropriately high bar.

Ensuring that the criteria are sufficiently specific will require addressing the treatment of “intelligence sources and methods.” Some agencies interpret the National Security Act to categorically bar public disclosure of sources and methods, without any further inquiry into their sensitivity. In fact, the law requires the Director of National Intelligence to protect against “unauthorized” disclosures only, and makes clear that the classification of sources and methods must be under appropriate legal authority. The next executive order should clarify that sources and methods may be classified only if they otherwise meet the criteria for classification.

Another problem lies in the guidance provided to derivative classifiers, whose role is not to exercise independent judgment but merely to carry forward original classifiers’ decisions. The topics in some agency classification guides are broad or vague, deputizing derivative classifiers to make their own assessments of national security harm. Many guides are outdated and thus unreliable. And classifiers are understandably overwhelmed by the sheer number of guides and topics. The next Fundamental Classification Guidance Review should be directed at addressing these problems.

A major source of overclassification is the absence of disincentives. In theory, agencies may penalize officials for improper classification, but there is little appetite to do so and no system in place to identify individual offenders. The executive order should direct agencies to implement an auditing system, such as the spot audits recommended by the Brennan Center, with mandatory consequences for repeated or intentional misuse of classification.

The classification of rules or legal interpretations that set binding standards for government conduct – i.e., “secret law” – engenders unique harms and constitutional concerns. The next executive order should impose a higher substantive bar for classifying legal authorities and implement additional procedural safeguards to ensure they are classified only in rare cases of clear necessity. The Brennan Center has developed specific recommendations along these lines.

Rescuing Declassification
The current executive order requires “automatic” declassification of information after 25 years unless it falls under certain exemptions. In fact, declassification is anything but automatic. Multiple agencies perform lengthy “equity” reviews, and the so-called “Kyl-Lott amendment” requires line-by-line review absent certification that the information is “highly unlikely” to contain nuclear information. As long as these impediments remain, declassification has no chance of keeping pace with classification. The next executive order should authorize the National Declassification Center to declassify records at 25 years without agency referral, and empower agencies to make broad categorical decisions about which records are “highly unlikely” to contain nuclear information.

Inexplicably, there is no system in place to identify and declassify information classified for less than 25 years, unless it is the subject of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) request. Such information often languishes until the 25-year mark is reached. The next executive order should direct the implementation of a two-tiered system for declassifying information classified for less than 25 years. Where the declassification date is tied to the completion of specific operations or events, the document should be marked accordingly, and classification should be “self-cancelling” – i.e., declassification should happen electronically and without review. In all other cases, an electronic alert should trigger review when a document reaches the declassification date.

Finally, MDR has been highly effective in achieving declassification of information classified unnecessarily or for too long. However, it operates too slowly to be useful when the information sought relates to immediate public controversies. MDR lacks an expedited review mechanism like the one that exists under FOIA. The next executive order should rectify this and establish an expedited review track where the requested information would contribute to a significant current public conversation or debate.

Modernizing the National Security Classification and Declassification Systems Through the Next Administration’s Executive Order, by Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists

A White Paper Submission to the PIDB:

Thank you to Chairman Morrison and to the Board for getting this conversation started.

Assuming that the next Administration will in fact prepare a new executive order on classification policy, I would like to propose two specific steps for consideration: (1) a new procedure for considering declassification of properly classified information, and (2) a new initiative to develop and test innovative information security measures.

1. A new provision for requesting declassification of “properly classified” information

I suggest modifying the current provision in Section 3.1(d) of E.O. 13526 to establish new procedures that would enable the public to seek declassification of properly classified information.

As things stand, information that is “properly classified” is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Likewise, mandatory declassification review does not extend to properly classified information. Classification challenges under Section 1.8 of the executive order only apply to information that is “improperly classified.”

It is true that Section 3.1(d) does currently permit discretionary declassification of properly classified information by the original classifier when “questions arise” about whether the public interest outweighs the need to protect the information. But it provides no procedures for actually raising such questions, or for third-party review of the original classification decision.

So there is a gap in current policy with respect to the possibility of declassification of properly classified information.

We know that properly classified information is sometimes of such profound public interest that withholding it is undesirable and counterproductive. That was the conclusion that was eventually reached by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper concerning the program to collect telephone metadata (known as the 215 program) that was revealed in 2013 by Edward Snowden. DNI Clapper determined in retrospect that early disclosure of the 215 program would have been the best move from all points of view.(1) Yet as an ongoing intelligence surveillance program, it was properly classified under the terms of the executive order, and there was no effective procedure for raising and reconsidering the question of its declassification.

Therefore, I propose that the next executive order should include a provision that would allow members of the public to initiate an appeal to an entity other than the original classifying agency – perhaps a new ISCAP-like body, or an enhanced PIDB with its own declassification authority – and to argue that a category of information that is currently and properly classified should nevertheless be reviewed for declassification and disclosure in light of a compelling public interest. The reviewing entity – which must be independent of the original classifier in order to provide a fresh, unbiased assessment – would be tasked to weigh that larger public interest and to render judgment about whether or not to sustain, or modify, the original classification.

What types of classified information might be subject to such procedures? Notionally, they include intelligence supporting a U.S. decision to engage in military operations, the conduct of detention and interrogation activities, the casualties arising from targeted killing operations, and other categories of information that may be squarely within the boundaries of information that is otherwise properly classified, but that are also of momentous public interest.

A process to enable deliberate declassification of such information should be incorporated in the next executive order.

2. Create a test-bed for new classification policies

Although President Obama spoke in 2009 of pursuing “a more fundamental transformation of the security classification system,” such a transformation has not yet occurred. In part, that is because the current system continues to serve a basic information security function and, in part, because superior alternative approaches have not been devised, tested or validated in practice so that they could be adopted.

It is time to undertake that task of creating the “next” national security classification system.

The current executive order is unlikely to be replaced all at once by an order that prescribes a wholly new and different system. Rather, new approaches may be chosen once they have been proven effective on a small scale. It will be necessary to “build a bridge” to the next classification system through trial and error.

So the next executive order should mandate  the development and testing of “next-generation” classification and declassification procedures on a trial basis.

Of course, it is not enough that these procedures be new and different. They must also meet other criteria such as: simplicity, cost-effectiveness, ease of use, responsiveness to oversight, robust error correction, minimized scope and duration of control (in the case of classification), and increased productivity (in the case of declassification).

Among the kinds of measures that could be evaluated and certified for broader use are emerging technological approaches to facilitating classification and declassification, radical reductions in formal controls on information, expanded authority to declassify, traceability of classification throughout the information life cycle, increased flexibility in authorized access, and so forth.

Who should perform such development and testing? The Department of Defense, which is the largest generator of classified information, would seem to be a logical choice.

Within DoD, there is a Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) that is tasked to pursue “disruptive applications and new and unconventional uses of existing system and near-term technologies” including “program information management strategies, objectives and technologies.”(2)

While national security classification policy has not been considered part of the SCO portfolio up to now (and it may not want the job), this Office might be a good fit particularly because of its emphasis on practical innovation.

(1) See Eli Lake, “Spy Chief: We Should’ve Told You We Track Your Calls,” The Daily Beast, February 17, 2014; available at http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/17/spy-chief-we-should-ve-told-you-we-track-your-calls.html

(2) DoD Directive 5105.86, Director, Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), November 14, 2016; available at http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/510586_dodd_2016.pdf

This is College Style: Sidney Brooks (AC 1841) Papers

Sidney Brooks letter to his sister Tamesin Brooks, October 18, 1837
Sidney Brooks letter to his sister Tamesin Brooks, October 18, 1837

Sidney Brooks letter to his sister Tamesin Brooks, October 18, 1837, second page top: “The room which I occupy in College is rather a dismal looking place, as the freshmen are put into the poorest rooms. It made me think of the rooms in Barnstable jail, but this is College Style.”

 

Born in Harwich, in Barnstable County on Cape Cod, Sidney Brooks attended Amherst College after preparation at Chatham Academy and at Phillips Academy in Andover. After graduating and teaching for a few years at Chatham, he went on to build Pine Grove Seminary, the first secondary school in Harwich. The building was the future site of Harwich High School, and today it houses the Harwich Historical Society.

The Sidney Brooks (AC 1841) Papers, comprised largely of correspondence and other writing from his school days, provides an intimate portrait of a middling student from the nation’s nascent middle class. Sidney wrote to his siblings of his daily routines and to his father about money, and he kept a detailed ledger of his expenses in Amherst. Financially dependent on his father, the merchant Obed Brooks of Harwich, Sidney wrote home in a tone perhaps recognizable to indigent college students throughout the ages.

Sidney Brooks letter to his father Obed Brooks, June 28, 1838
Sidney Brooks letter to his father Obed Brooks, June 28, 1838
Sidney Brooks letter to his father Obed Brooks, June 28, 1838
Sidney Brooks letter to his father Obed Brooks, June 28, 1838

In a painstaking account in a letter to his father of June 28, 1838, Sidney writes of his expenses at Philips Academy and Amherst College, underlined section page 2 bottom: “if I had, of my own, money or property enough to give me a liberal education and no more, I should not hesitate at all to spend it in this way.”

 

The letter above was likely compiled from a detailed ledger kept by Brooks during his time at Andover and Amherst. In the ledger, he records his expenses for each term. Tuition, boarding and school related fees make up the bulk of his expenses.

Sidney Brooks' school expenses ledger, 1837-1841

Sidney Brooks’ school expenses ledger, 1837-1841.

 

A member of the Athenian Society, one of Amherst’s rival literary clubs, Sidney records the group’s initiation fee in 1838 as $3.00, with subsequent taxes ranging from $1.00 to $3.00 every term or so. Sidney was not the only member for whom the literary society fees might have posed some challenge, in this last decade before their dissolution and waning in the face of new campus societies and fraternities. In Student Life at Amherst College: Its Organizations, their Membership and History (1871), page 29, we find that,

As early as August, 1838, the societies began to be embarrassed financially, so that the members could with difficulty meet the current expenses and pay existing debts. Moneys received from initiation fees, which heretofore had been annually appropriated for libraries, were used to liquidate standing debts. Extensive repairs, etc., upon their Athenaeums increased their liabilities.

In addition to Sidney’s expense ledger and correspondence, the collection includes several prepared speeches on diverse subjects, presumably conducted for the various societies of which he was a part. During the reign of the Alexandrian and Athenian Societies at Amherst, weekly sessions were held for declamation and debate.

Twenty-eight years old when he graduated Amherst, Sidney arrived at the College already practiced in these activities from his time at Phillips Academy in Andover. Sidney was an enthusiastic participant in the Rhetorical Society at the Andover Theological Seminary. In 1834, at the same time Henry Ward Beecher was busy making phrenology the hot topic of Amherst’s Natural History Society, Sidney argued his case for the “science” in the less welcoming atmosphere of the Theological Seminary. (There is no evidence that Sidney was ever invited to become a member of the Natural History Society, or any secret societies, while at Amherst.)

Phrenology, a pseudoscience concerned with measurements of the surface of the head to diagnose traits of character and personality, was hugely popular in the nineteenth century and persisted through the beginning of the twentieth. In 1847, it was popular enough that Edward Hitchcock got his head examined by the professional phrenologists and Amherst alumni, brothers Orson Squire Fowler and Lorenzo Niles Fowler. In 1834, however, Orson Squire Fowler was still a senior at Amherst, along with Henry Ward Beecher, then president of the Natural History Society in its third year of operation.

Perhaps the word hadn’t yet spread to Andover: the impression given by Sidney’s speech is not one of faddish acceptance on the part of his audience. Over several drafts on the subject, Sidney hones his argument, which amounts to a plea for reasoned debate based on empirical facts over the inclination to reject the field on moralistic grounds as a danger to religion. From a rough draft of his speech at Andover:

How much the decisions of this society above mentioned have influenced your minds – or the minds of this community – I cannot tell, but certain it is all investigation and enquiry upon the subject seem to be put to sleep for the present, and ma[n]y no doubt think that it has received its death blow. But I have not introduced the subject to lament its downfall or to sing its requiem nor to renounce the belief which I have so long entertained – nor shall I until I have more efficient arguments to prove that it is dangerous to religion or it is not true.

Sidney’s writing ranges widely across subjects, but always returns to the glory of God the Creator. He records subscription fees to missionary and Bible societies, including an initiation fee and tax (only $0.37) for the Society of Inquiry, the religious society at Amherst. In one speech, his theme is, “Can a Christian consistently accept an appointment at Amherst College?” At the same time, he expounds on such subjects as the astrophysical causes of the aurora borealis and of meteors with apparent enthusiasm, if not expertise. Sidney records $1.56 as the cost of going on a geological excursion with Professor Hitchcock, and $2.00 for subscription to the student literary periodical, Horae Colleginae – the short run of which coincided with his enrollment.

If Sidney’s account ledger provides a glimpse into the spending habits of one among the “indigent young men of piety and talent” educated in the early years of Amherst College, his letters are likewise a window on the melancholic mind of a student far from home. In the spring term of 1838 Sidney switched rooms, a decision he defended in a letter to his brother of July 19:

My reasons for making this moove are several. First I believe I can study more rooming alone. Again I wanted to enjoy the sweets of solitude and I enjoy it much. I know I hurt myself rooming alone at Andover when in that state of mind I was then, but I have not been troubled at all with the melancholia since I have been alone this term. Another consideration of some importance induced me to come down into a lower room — I have always been given somewhat to somnambulism. It has grown upon me much of late, for several weekes, nearly every night, I find myself in the middle of the night, in some part of my bedroom. Sometimes in bed + sometimes out of it pawing around to find out where I was. I thought I might find myself sometime in the act of jumping out of the window–

Rooming alone may have hurt Sidney at Amherst as much as it did at Andover, as he fell ill in the fall of his sophomore year. In a letter to his father of December 20, 1838, Sidney writes of his recovery from illness, “I ought to be very thankful and trust I am that I am restored to health again at any cost. (It would become me better perhaps to say this though if the money which is to defray this cost were my own.)” His sister Harriet visited and tended to him, inflating his bills for room and board considerably. Writing to his father the next spring (April 23, 1839), Sidney reports that Squire Dickinson has declined to deduct any of his college bill for the period of his illness. “If this is the custom,” he writes, “I suppose there is no getting off from it though like many other customs it seems rather hard.”

Sidney Brooks letter to his father Obed Brooks, April 23, 1839
Sidney Brooks letter to his father Obed Brooks, April 23, 1839

Sidney Brooks to his father Obed Brooks, April 23, 1839, first page middle: “If this is the custom I suppose there is no getting off from it though like many other customs it seems rather hard.”

 

In the recessed economic climate of New England following the Panic of 1837, it is little wonder Sidney found himself justifying his various expenses to his father. In a letter to his father of March 21, 1840, he grapples with trying to live frugally while taking advantage of the social opportunities of the college. After acknowledging the forty dollars he has received from home, Sidney implores his father to understand the necessity, for a young man of reputation, of indulging in a certain amount of “liberality,” a concept his father does not seem readily to understand. Describing his own place in the campus society, Sidney writes,

By no means do I rank myself among the highest class here, that class called the aristocracy. If I did I should have to do far different than I do – to carry an ivory or a silver headed cane, never to soil my hands with labor, ride about etc, etc, though among them are some no better able to do it than myself. This class is pretty numerous and popular in College, though I do not know as anyone thinks any the less of me for the plain manner in which I generally go.

Sidney Brooks letter to his father Obed Brooks, March 21, 1840
Sidney Brooks letter to his father Obed Brooks, March 21, 1840
Sidney Brooks letter to his father Obed Brooks, March 21, 1840

Sidney Brooks letter to his father Obed Brooks, March 21, 1840, fourth page top: “It is another kind of liberality that I had principally in view- liberal towards ourselves.”

 

On leaving Amherst, Sidney taught for three years at Chatham Academy before returning home to Harwich and founding Pine Grove Seminary. Pine Grove, a one room schoolhouse whose columned Doric façade seems to suggest that Amherst left its mark, was notable for its nautical as well as classical curriculum. Navigation and surveying were included in its advanced mathematics class.

Sidney became an enlisting officer in 1863 for the towns of Harwich, Chatham, and Orleans, and served as a delegate of the Christian Commission during the war. While ministering to wounded Union soldiers in this role, Sidney wrote a series of letters to his sisters and his wife Susan about his experiences at military hospitals and battlegrounds. These were later edited and marked up considerably, presumably on Sidney’s suggestion to his correspondents that they get his accounts published in the local paper. In one letter dated July 21, 1864, Sidney describes to his sister Sarah the arrival of a delegation from Amherst College: one student, Professor Seelye, Professor Hitchcock (“son of my old Professor”), and Professor Tyler’s son.

Sidney Brooks letter to his sister Sarah, July 21, 1864
Sidney Brooks letter to his sister Sarah, July 21, 1864
Sidney Brooks letter to his sister Sarah, July 21, 1864

Sidney Brooks to his sister Sarah, July 21, 1864, second page middle: “Among our members are three who came last night from Amherst College — one student, Prof. Selee and Prof. Hitchcock (son of my old Professor), also Prof. Tyler’s son. Prof. H. is not to commence hospital work to-day and, wanting something to do, he is now nailing up boxes of papers to go to the Front.”

 

After the war, Sidney sold his school to the town of Harwich in 1869, and in 1880 it became Harwich High School, the first public secondary educational facility there. Later it was called Brooks Academy, and today it houses the Harwich Historical Society. Sidney went on to work for the state, teaching aboard the ship George M Barnard in the short-lived Nautical Branch of the Massachusetts Reform School. Afterwards, he became Shipping Commissioner in Boston, where he lived until his death in 1887.

The Sidney Brooks (AC 1841) Papers are available to researchers in the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.

Full house

A full house in Digital Projects working on Good Medicine. We’re closing in on the halfway point, with almost 20,000 items scanned. Many of these are already online as well, although the site is technically “under construction.”

We’ve also added new material to the Cello Collections and Composer Collections, not to mention the full run of North Carolina Community Progress, an extension publication of the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG) from the 1920s.

And, by the way, we’ve redesigned our website to make it easier to explore our collections. Let us know what you think!

The 2016 Vancity Theatre Screening is now on YouTube

Last month we had another successful run at Vancity Theatre of some of our newly digitized film and video. For those who are unable to attend, and those of you would like another look, we post all past shows on our YouTube channel, including this year’s Vancouver: Exponential Change. Please note that the online content does not include the pre-screening presentation, commentary, or accompanying music. To read more about this year’s screening, please visit our previous post.

Below is the list of films featured in Vancouver: Exponential Change.

Bastard Love – reel 1 (1928)
excerpts
2015-049.1

Bastard Love – reel 2 (1928)
excerpts
2015-049.2

Bastard Love – reel 3 (1928)
excerpts
2015-049.3

Vancouver Honeymoon (1961)
AM1487-:2013-020.24

P.N.E. Parades 50, 51, 52, 53, and 56 – P.N.E. Ground[s] 60 and 61 (c. 1960, 1961)
AM1601-S1-:2012-010.14-1

Vancouver on the Move (1986)
AM1576-S6-2-: 2011-010.2702

Make Vancouver Sparkle campaign (1986)AM
1576-S6-2-: 2011-010.2699

Vancouver Centennial song (1986)
AM1576-S6-2-: 2011-010.2704

Expo views (1986)AM1553-8-S7-: MI-239

“Expo” day 3 – cam[era] rolls 4-5 (1986)
AM1553-8-S7-: MI-244

“Expo” [camera rolls 1-3] (1986)
AM1553-8-S7-: MI-240

Protesters in Pig Masks Take the Mic From Senator Fulbright

In 1969, more than 2,000 people gathered together at the New York Hilton for the first National Convocation of the Challenge of Building Peace. In addition to those following via televised broadcast, attendees mainly consisted of lawmakers, federal employees, scholars and students. They tackled questions such as: Are National Self-Interest and World Peace Compatible? Is Overpopulation a Threat to World Peace? Is Peace Possible in the Middle East? Is America Becoming a Militaristic Society?

In this recording of the luncheon titled “Senators Speak Out,” Broadcaster Chet Huntley opens the panel with optimism that, “world peace is a valid and attainable objective.” He calls Senator J. William Fulbright to the podium but before Fulbright can begin, protesters appear on stage chanting, “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, N.L.F. is going to win!”

The protesters – later identified as the Veterans and Reservists to End the War in Vietnam – wear pig masks, carry Vietcong flags, and deposit pig heads in front of the stunned speakers.1 One protester takes the mic to introduce, “Senator William Racist Fulbright Pig.” Co-chairman Stewart Rawlings Mott acknowledges the protest with amusement, “We were expecting something a demonstration today, we would have been disappointed if we hadn’t had it.” Fulbright jokes, “You never come to New York if you don’t get interesting meetings. I suppose that’s one reason we just can’t get along without New York because it adds spice and interest to our life.”

However, as Fulbright attempts to continue his speech, the interruptions persist as the protesters in the audience shout, “rascist.” Mott invites one representative to make a short statement, in the spirit of freedom of expression. The speaker, described in the New York Times as a “long haired man with a drooping mustache,” does not identify himself and insists that he speaks for no organization. He accuses corporations like General Motors and Lockheed of “suppressing and murdering people all over the world” while lining the pockets of government officials. He warns,

This country is riding roughshod, economically suppressing people in South America in Asia and in Africa. Until we stop the power elite of this country from doing that, we will not have peace and there are people – and they are my brothers and they are here – we’re going to pull it down around your heads! 

Fulbright once again tries to continue his remarks in response to the protest which is met with continued heckling. Flustered, he yields the podium to Senators Jacob K. Javitz and George S. McGovern who he hopes “will not arouse the same interest.”

Jacob Javits watches the protest melee after a pig head has been placed before him.
(Don Hogan Charles/New York Times)

Javitz is not amused! He asserts that this type of violent and tasteless protest does not advance the cause of peace. Refusing to pause for heckling, he continues with his speech in support of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and limiting of an anti-ballistic missile system. He delivers a message (presumably to the protesters): “One of the big problems of all liberal groups is that they are magnificently idealistic but they are so long term that nobody could care less. Here is an immediate opening in which the peace movement in this country can really can get started in a very tangible way, with a very practical result, and with a real likelihood of success.” 

McGovern also contributes his disapproval of the protester’s interruptions and, like Javits, refuses to respond to continued heckling. He calls for the conclusion of the Vietnam War, cuts to military spending and the anti-ballistic missile system in support for focus on domestic issues. These points he would raise repeatedly as part of an unsuccessful run for president against incumbent Richard Nixon in 1972.

A few days later Chet Huntley reacted to the incident in his NBC Radio editorial segment, Chet Huntley’s Perspective on the News

The most compelling reaction is one of almost disbelief that these young people could be so ignorant of who their best friends are. It leads one, as a matter of fact, to the conclusion that they want no friends, they want no allies and they are not interested in improving or building. They seek to destroy…

That word ‘establishment’ is getting overused here of late but it seems to be escaping the attention of our American young people that the establishment is not as tough or as unyielding as they make it. It is quite likely that the establishment… whoever or whatever it is… would resist any and all efforts of direction and change of policy from within. It is changing now. It is young Americans who have entered business and industry in recent years who are now guiding and leading our corporations into social activity of all kinds. But the dissident minority insists that it happen all at once.”2

This recording, unfortunately is incomplete. The two tapes were found in a previously uncataloged group of recordings, mainly ranging in date from 1968 to 1970. So far only one other recording from this event has been found in this collection: Is America Becoming a Militaristic Society?

The title on the back of the box describes the session as, “U.S. Senators speak out – Bedlam breaks out during Senator Fulbright Address.”
(New York Public Radio/NYPR Archives) 

[1] “Outbursts by Hecklers Silence Senator Fulbright at a Peace Luncheon Here,” New York Times, March 6, 1969

[2] Johnston, Lyle, Good Night, Chet: A Biography of Chet Huntley, 2003, pg. 188-189

 

Thank you to Annie Sollinger, Digital Image Metadata Librarian at University of Massachusetts Amherst for research assistance. 

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150826Municipal archives id: T7121, T7122

Mark A. Bradley Appointed Director of the Information Security Oversight Office

We are pleased to forward the news that Mark A. Bradley was named as the new Director of ISOO, and therefore is the new Executive Secretary of the PIDB.  His new role will become effective December 25, 2016.

Mr. Bradley is currently the Director of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), Declassification, and Pre-publication Review, National Security Division, Office of Law and Policy at the Department of Justice (DOJ). In that capacity, he chairs the DOJ’s Department Review Committee, serves as its Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) representative, sits on its Access Review Committee, which hears and decides security clearance revocation appeals, and handles a variety of other special assignments. While at the Department, he has also served as the Deputy Counsel for Intelligence Policy, the Acting Chief for Intelligence Oversight, and the Director of the National Security Division’s FOIA/Declassification unit. He has been a member of the Federal government’s Senior Executive Service since 2003.

Before joining the Department of Justice in November 2000, he served as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s legislative assistant for foreign affairs and intelligence matters and as his last legislative director. He co-drafted the legislation that established the Public Interest Declassification Board. Mr. Bradley, who remains a member of the District of Columbia Bar, has also worked as a criminal defense lawyer in the District of Columbia defending indigents accused of serious crimes.

The Society for History in the Federal Government awarded A Very Principled Boy, his biography of Soviet spy Duncan Lee, its 2015 George Pendleton Prize for being the best book written by a federal historian in 2014.

Mr. Bradley is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Washington & Lee University and holds an M.A. in Modern History from Oxford University, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia.

The PIDB extends its sincere congratulations and welcome to Mark in his new role at ISOO and on the PIDB!

Dramatic Agent Audrey Wood on Her Career and Tennessee Williams

Audrey Wood doesn’t just represent, she advocates. In this 1965 talk given at the Rensselaerville Institute, the famous dramatic agent describes the path that led her, in sometimes circuitous, sometimes fortuitous fashion, to becoming the preeminent representative of playwrights in America. Much of the story, naturally, centers on the discovery and subsequent relationship with her most famous client, Tennessee Williams. When she first heard of Williams, then a virtual unknown, he had held a variety of menial jobs, including “plucking feathers from squabs.” She wrote him, inquiring in general terms about his plans, and after many weeks received a postcard grandly announcing, “I have decided I like your letter the best.” She goes on to describe the well-known debacle of his first play, Battle of Angels, which closed after one performance in Boston, before his legendary success with The Glass Menagerie.

Every playwright, she asserts, is different. Williams never lets her see a script until it is, as he puts it, “a full polished jewel.” William Inge, however, gives her scripts that are “like the bud of a flower that hasn’t opened up.” She describes the sometimes maddening process of “keeping after him” until each scene, in turn, becomes fully realized. Robert Anderson (author of Tea and Sympathy) is more of a pro. He “lays everything out and knows before he begins what he’s going to write about.” Carson McCullers, who had never written a play before Member of the Wedding, was practically forced into writing drama by Williams, who sat her down at a table and made her adapt the novel.

This talk of relationships, rather than individual plays, makes it clear how intimate and personal Wood regards the agent-playwright bond. She makes this explicit at the end of the talk, proclaiming “there is no greater joy in the world than believing in a writer and seeing him through and knowing that you were right.”

Audrey Wood was born in 1905. The daughter of a theater manager, she grew up reading and passing judgment on plays. Early in life she determined her mission was “to find young American playwrights.” With her husband William Liebling, who represented actors, she formed the agency Liebling-Wood. But success did not come until her championing of Williams finally bore fruit. As John Lahr wrote in his biography, Tennessee Williams; Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh (excerpted from the website Chicago Tonight):

Wood fiercely believed in Williams and in her own instincts. On April Fool’s Day, 1939, tipped off to his talent, Wood had written the unknown author, “It seems to me, from what I’ve heard about you, that you may be exactly the kind of author whom I might help.” She judged him “not a finished dramatist” but “highly promising.” By May of that year, Williams had joined forces with Wood, who promptly sold one of his short stories to Story magazine. “You are playing a very long shot when you take an interest in my work,” Williams wrote her. So it had proved. More than anyone in the Broadway audience that opening night [of The Glass Menagerie], Wood understood the precariousness of his situation. “I’d reached the very, very bottom,” Williams said, recalling his state of mind. “I couldn’t have gone on with these hand-to-mouth jobs, these jobs for which I had no aptitude, like waiting on tables, running elevators, and even being a teletype operator. . . . I couldn’t have made it for another year, I don’t think.”

Wood’s success with Williams helped her to then develop an impressive stable of playwrights. One gets the sense she exuded a shrewd mix of maternal nurturing talent and the more conventional hard-boiled persona of a tough negotiator. Herbert Mitgang, writing in the New York Times, lauded how:

…her reputation continued to grow among producers, playwrights and actors; she was open to new ideas and forms on and off Broadway and in the regional theater. It was said that if Miss Wood recommended a play to a producer, half the battle was over. An admiring producer once said, ”Hell, you can’t do business with her, she’s too honest.” Among her playwrights, her style was legendary. She called some of them by their last names, as if not wishing to intrude on their privacy. Reporting good news, she would say, ”Are you sitting down, darling?” But she could also inquire quietly, ”How are you fixed for money?”

Alas, her much-publicized partnership with Williams was not destined to last. Years of drugs and alcohol fueled his paranoia. In 1971, blaming her for the negative critical reception of his recent efforts, he left her. She continued to represent many of the finest American dramatists, including Arthur Kopit and Murray Schisgal. In 1981, though, she suffered a stroke and did not regain consciousness during the last years of her life. It was a particularly bitter ending for a woman who was a vocal advocate for the right to die and a member of the Euthanasia Society. At the time of her memorial service, her biographer recalled a client once saying, “Audrey is small, but you can’t knock her down.” That is the impression this talk gives, of a gracious, quietly determined woman.

Audrey Wood died in 1985.

 

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150038

Municipal archives id: T820

What’s happening in the archive?

new-rolling-stacksWell, it’s been busy round here. The new rolling stacks have made a big difference to life in the archive. At last the archives are beginning to be more accessible. Thank you, School of Archaeology!

Before the stacks went in, everything that used to be in the basement space had to be cleared out, which led to some interesting new discoveries…

jaquetta-bosIt isn’t too attractive at first sight, but someone had written ‘Jacquetta Hawkes? Portugal?’ on the side, so we started taking everything out of the box and found some treasures, including:
arrowheads

These objects were collected during Jacquetta Hawkes’ trip to Portugal in 1950. We’ve set an undergraduate volunteer onto the task of cataloguing the material and finding out more about it.

There was also evidence of the building’s previous incarnation as home to the Department for the History of Art…library-instructionsUseful advice on how to handle albums. On the subject of albums, new acquisitions  include a set of books and papers..

chester-scrap-book chester-scrap-book-close-up

The scrapbook belonged to the Reverend Greville John Chester, and the photographs inside appear to come from the Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem in 1864-5, by James McDonald:

jerusalem It’s going to be interesting researching the collection: we’ll be adding the photographs to the HEIR on-line database.

We’ve also been busy with archive visitors, including one who also brought some material for us to look at relating to the Stuart Piggott archive. Piggott wrote some notes about archaeology on a sheet of scrap paper torn in half. Inevitably, we found ourselves more interested in the ‘wrong’ side of the paper, which is a reminder that Piggott was not going to let the small detail of the Second World War and his army enlistment get in the way of research. We suspect Piggott was responsible for the sketch…

piggott-wartime-sketch

 

WNYC and the WPA Federal Art Project

The Works Progress Administration or WPA was launched in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide employment during the depression. Under the WPA there were new roads, dams and other public works project. It also put artists, actors, writers and musicians to work contributing their share to the cultural development of the nation.*

Artists were paid by the hour, on average, $26 a week and many were given their professional start by the WPA. On WNYC’s Forum of the Air in 1938 the actor Burgess Meredith credited the WPA with promoting new art.Although the WPA art project was primarily designed to give employment to unemployed artists, the result has been the establishment of the beginning of a vital art movement which is unparalleled in history.”

At the time there was a lot of controversy about funding abstract works. Yet, one of the few places open to such new ideas was WNYC.

Stuart DAVIS

Mural for WNYC Studio B by Stuart Davis
(WNYC Archive Collections)

Of all the artists who were engaged to do the murals at WNYC, Stuart Davis was the most well known. He was also a leading proponent of abstract art. He spoke at the dedication of the murals on August 2, 1939 (above audio). “I say it is of crucial cultural importance when a city institution like the Municipal Broadcasting Company comes forward in sponsorship of abstract art. It is in harmony with the broad democratic cultural policy of WNYC.”

Davis’ painting was eleven by seven feet and hung in WNYC’s Studio B. With antennas and wave, it pulled together images of radio and sound equipment. Music represented by a very stylized saxophone.

In 1965 the mural moved to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on long-term loan. It hangs in an area where it’s surrounded by some of Davis’ other work, and it’s seen by millions of visitors every year. For more on Davis please see: Art in Public: Stuart Davis on Abstract Art and the WPA, 1939. 

John von WICHT

Hans Von Wicht mural for Studiov  C.
(Photo courtesy of the Art Commission of the City of New York/FAP-WPA Photo)

In Studio C, there was a very different kind of wall panel by John Von Wicht. He was one of the many immigrant painters who worked for the WPA, and his work was a lot more geometric. The shapes seem to be simultaneously floating in space and anchored. At the time, von Wicht said he was trying to emulate the style of Bach in his work. Today the mural is at the Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza branch. It may be difficult to think that it was created for a radio station, but if you look at it closely you can see some microphones and, of course, a record.

Louis SCHANKER

Louis Schanker mural for lobby and reception area.
(Photo courtesy of the Art Commission of the City of New York/FAP-WPA Photo)

There’s a lot of movement in Louis Schanker’s mural. He was a very animated personality and he liked to paint big. In fact, at WNYC, a group of his fans who called themselves the Kibitzers Club used to come and watch him paint. He was an eccentric kind of guy. He ran away from home and to join the circus, where he looked after the elephants. If you look closely at this picture, there is a lute and a zither, a cello, and a harp, and the suggestion of ghostly musicians keeping them in play. Today the mural can be seen in its original location near the north elevator banks on the 25th floor of the Municipal Building at 1 Centre Street in Manhattan.

Byron BROWNE

Byron Browne WNYC mural.
(Photo courtesy of the Art Commission of the City of New York/FAP-WPA Photo)

Of all the artists, Byron Browne was the only one who tailored his work to fit the studio. He painted directly onto the acoustic tiles that were the soundproofing of the room. The mural (as well as the von Wicht) and some of WNYC’s Warren McArthur furniture had been used as part of 1986/87 Brooklyn Museum show The Machine Age in America, 1918-1941. Unfortunately, the mural did not return to WNYC but was moved to the city office of Management and Budget on the north side of the Municipal Building. Eventually, there were changes to those offices and the work was stored with the Art Commission of the City of New York. The mural was recently conserved and installed in the new Staten Island Courthouse.

Louis FERSTADT

Louis Ferstadt’s “Radio Service to the Public” in April, 1938.
(Photo courtesy of the Art Commission of the City of New York/FAP-WPA Photo)

The second and unfinished panel accompanying Radio Service to the Public.
(Photo courtesy of the Art Commission of the City of New York/FAP-WPA Photo)

The real mystery works are the two panels by Louis Ferstadt. They were never hung although originally commissioned and intended for the Director’s Office. The smaller, incomplete panel features an ear in the center, a radio announcer or operator and a girl on a swing with her legs like a phonograph needle on spinning record. The second panel shows musicians, an ear and around the outside are figures of people. It was titled “Radio Service to the Public.” Of all the murals, it is the least abstract. One might liken it to the more social realist works of the period with a political message. In this case, that radio is here to bring people together and enlighten them.

Louis Ferstadt is probably better known as a comic book artist than as a muralist. Many in the world of comics and graphic novels revere him for his pioneering work in the field. We can’t help but think that the work he did for the American Communist Party paper, The Daily Worker in the 1930s, may have something to do with why the WNYC mural never got mounted, and to this day, cannot be located. Perhaps, dear reader, you know where it is?

Lee Krasner WNYC WPA mural sketch on display at New York Public Radio
(Display courtesy of the Pollock-Krassner Foundation and Robert Miller Gallery)

Lee KRASNER 

She was a gregarious young abstract artist who was influenced by the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian with whom she used to go dancing in Harlem. Later she married Jackson Pollock. Krasner worked hard and did many sketches for her WNYC assignment. They began as a series of still-lifes and gradually became more abstract. Unfortunately, she never got to complete her painting because the WPA mural project came to an end with World War II.  However today, at her bequest, her estate sells sketches for the murals and donates the money to support needy young artists. Two of these reproductions can be viewed on the eighth floor stairwell landing at the WNYC and WQXR studios in Manhattan.

Max BAUM

Finally, one last contribution of the WPA Federal Art Project to WNYC remains on site. It is a cast aluminum sculpture “Harpist” by Max Baum and can be viewed in New York Public Radio’s eighth floor reception area. Very little is known about Baum. A single page in the archive files at the Museum of Modern Art in New York indicates he was born August 10, 1910 and studied for four years at The École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and eight years with the sculptor Aaron J. Goodelman. He also indicated that he spent months at the Musée Bourdelle in Paris. Baum designed the marquee and bas-reliefs for the Victory Building in Toronto in 1930 but otherwise did freelance sculpture and casting between 1928 and 1935. He wrote: “I consider myself best for work at architectural sculpture, since I have always studied that and have had varied experience at actual work and commissions.”

Harpist by Max Baum
(WNYC Archive Collections)

WNYC Masterwork Bulletin, September 1939.
(WNYC Archive Collections)

______________________________________

*The WPA played a major role in WNYC’s history and ensured that the station not only stayed on the air, but grew significantly and prospered. WPA funding also underwrote drama and music programming, the rebuilding of our studios and the construction of a state-of-the-art transmitter facility in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

This article is based on a slideshow script originally written by former WNYC Senior Archivist Cara McCormick.

Audio courtesy of the New York City Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.  Thanks to MOMA Archivist Michelle Harvey for her research assistance.

Louis Ferstadt painting WNYC’s “Radio Service to the Public,” January 25, 1939
(WPA Photo/Smithsonian Archives of American Art)

 

The Moon and Scientific Racism

One point I often make when talking with students about the books in the Archives & Special Collections is that printing is a capitalist enterprise. What I mean by that is that one must possess sufficient capital to purchase (or hire) a printing press with all of its equipment (e.g. type); then one must pay for the paper and the ink, the labor of setting type, the labor of operating the press, the warehouse space required to store your printed sheets, and so on before any profit can be made. If you want illustrations in your book, that would involve a completely separate process that requires its own specialized equipment and highly skilled labor, all of which requires funds.

It’s especially important to bear in mind the financial underpinnings of print when we look back at the history of scientific publishing. Which gives me an excuse to talk about one of my very favorite books: The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite by James Nasmyth (London, 1874).

moon-tp

Here’s a quick summary of Nasmyth’s project from an article by Frances Robertson in the journal Victorian Studies:

Having made his fortune as an industrialist and inventor with his Bridgewater Foundry in Manchester, the mechanical engineer James Nasmyth was able to retire in his late forties, in 1856, in order to devote himself to his longstanding passion for astronomy (Nasmyth, Autobiography 329). His main astronomical project, from 1842, had been a sustained series of lunar observations, culminating in his publication The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite (Nasmyth and Carpenter). Among the reasons Nasmyth’s book is noteworthy is that it was one of the first books to be illustrated by photo-mechanical prints.

Nasmyth used his fortune to publish his own peculiar theories about the moon, making full use of the very latest technology to include photographs like these:

moon-hand-and-apple

The caption summarizes part of Nasmyth’s theory: when things get old, they shrink and become wrinkled; the moon is old, therefore its mountains may have been formed by shrinkage. He also had theories about volcanic activity being another factor in the formation of the lunar surface, which he supports with another piece of photographic evidence:

moon-vesuvius

Bearing in mind that this work was published in 1874, these couldn’t possibly be actual photographs of the lunar surface and the region around Vesuvius in Italy. Nasmyth had the means to pay for the construction of plaster of Paris models of lunar and terrestrial landscapes, then to pay for photographs of those landscapes, which were then published in his book to support his theories. Of course the lunar surface looks remarkably similar to Vesuvius — he built both of the models!

While these photographs are beautiful to look at, it would be impossible to defend them as reliable scientific evidence of anything.

moon-crater

But if you have sufficient funds to produce a lavishly illustrated book, you can make whatever claims you want. I like to imagine the less wealthy amateur astronomers who read Nasmyth’s book and disagreed, but did not have the same means of promoting their counter-arguments. Nasmyth’s use of a range of illustration techniques makes this work a wonderful specimen for the teaching of book history, but I wouldn’t rely on it for any information about the moon.

moon-mountains

All of these points are equally true of another nineteenth-century work in the Archives & Special Collections: Crania Americana; or, A Comparative View of the Skulls of Various Aboriginal Nations of North and South America: to which is Prefixed an Essay on the Varieties of the Human Species by Samuel George Morton (Philadelphia and London, 1839).

crania-americana-tp

Although it was published decades before Nasmyth’s work, these two works are very similar in their use of printing technology to advance a particular scientific theory — a theory that modern science has absolutely disproved. Morton lays out his methods and apparatus for measuring the hundreds of human skulls he had collected.

crania-aparatus Many scholars have written about this book, a recent piece that specifically addresses Morton’s use of illustrations appeared in 2014 in the journal American Studies: “”Even the most careless observer”: Race and Visual Discernment in Physical Anthropology from Samuel Morton to Kennewick Man” by Fernando Armstrong-Fumero. Morton’s book boasts of the seventy-eight plates and color map right on the title page, a common practice, but one that ought to remind us that those plates were expensive to produce. The addition of color to the map was also a labor-intensive prospect, since each map was colored by hand:

crania-map

A map like this one appears to be authoritative, but the data on which it is based are deeply flawed. Morton includes several pages of “Phrenological Measurements” — phrenology being the pseudo-science of determining personality traits and other characteristics by measuring human heads. According to phrenologists, human behaviors such as “Secretiveness,” “Hope,” and other categories can be quantified by measuring the appropriate part of the head:

crania-table

I am intentionally NOT showing any of the plates of human skulls, mummies, and pickled heads that Morton includes in his work, but here is the “Phrenological Chart” in which the physical areas for each trait are outlined:

crania-phrenological

Morton was a major contributor to what is now known as “scientific racism” — the claim that different groups of homo sapiens can be categorized and ranked based on “objective” scientific measurements. I will be posting more on this topic in the months ahead as we prepare an exhibition on the topic of the dissemination of scientific racism over the last 300 years and more. The thread that connects the two books in this post runs throughout scientific publishing — the factors of technology and funding have shaped the history of scientific communication almost as much as the data and field work on which these works are based.

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club

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Parts of the Pickwick Club in their original wrappers (Special Coll Vault — PR4569.A1 1836)

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Charles Dicken’s first novel, was published in installments by Chapman and Hall from March 1836 to November 1837. There were 20 parts issued in 19 volumes for a shilling each with 43 engraved plates. The first two parts were illustrated by Robert Seymour, who originally pitched the project to Chapman and Hall as a series of sporting sketches with accompanying commentary. But once Dickens – then known by his pen-nickname “Boz” – came on board the project, Seymour’s role was diminished. Dickens was notoriously hard on his illustrators. On April 20, 1836, Seymour committed suicide. R. W. Buss was brought on board to provide illustrations for the third part, but he was quickly replaced by H. K. “Phiz” Browne, who