Tales of Provenance: Una Vincenzo Revealed in Three Inscriptions

Post contributed by Liz Adams, Special Collections Cataloger

Cover of Knight Asrael: and Other Stories, written by Una Ashworth Taylor and newly cataloged as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin collection.

When I open books, one of my favorite things to do is look for small signs of its previous owners, its provenance: Was the book a gift, with a thoughtful note to the recipient? Did the owner write her name, big and bold, on a flyleaf? Sometimes there are so many signs that a separate story, that of the owner, begins to emerge. This was the case with Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge and her copy of Knight Asrael: and Other Stories, written by her aunt Una Ashworth Taylor.

Inscription by author Una Ashworth Taylor.

Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge was born in 1887 to a family steeped in literary culture. Not only did her aunt Una write Knight Asrael, but her other aunt Ida wrote several novels, contributed regularly to 19th century magazines, and published biographies on Lady Jane Gray, Queen Hortense, and Madame Roland (Palumbo-De Simone, 2004). Her grandfather, Sir Henry Taylor,  was a well-known dramatist and poet (Reger, 2004). This literary heritage is felt early on in Una Vincenzo’s copy of Knight Asrael. Una Ashworth Taylor wrote a deeply personal inscription to her nieces, one explicitly connecting baby Una and her older sister Violet to literature, to the power of reading:  “Here are your stories, Violet, for you to listen to now, to read to yourself soon, & to tell to baby when she is old enough to hear them. September-1889.”

Although it’s unclear if Violet read the chivalric stories in Knight Asrael, Una seems to have, or at the very least, she enjoyed its opening pages. On the front pages of Knight Asrael, there are exuberant blue drawings, signed by their artist: U.T.

Drawings in the opening pages of Knight Asrael.

While these drawings might be some of the earliest known Una Vincenzo works, they are not the last: Una trained at the Royal College of Art, ultimately focusing on sculptural works (Ormrod, 1984, p. 29). A bust of the famed Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky cast by Una now lives at the  Victoria and Albert Museum

Drawings in the opening pages of Knight Asrael.

Una Vincenzo left one more sign in Knight Asrael, an inscription of her own on the title page: “Radclyffe-Hall & Troubridge, Chip Chase, Hadley Wood, Herts.”

Radclyffe Hall is the author of several novels, most notably The Well of Loneliness, an influential work in lesbian literature.  She and Una met in 1915 and moved in together in 1919—after Una formally separated from her husband, Admiral Ernest Troubridge (Ormrod, 2004, p. 65, p.133).   Una and Radclyffe (also known as John) were romantic partners for 28 years, living together at Chip Chase and abroad, until Radclyffe’s death in 1943 (Baker, 2004). Una documented their lives together through photography

Inscription connecting Una Vincenzo with Radclyffe Hall and noting where they once lived together at Chip Chase.

and a biography published after Radclyffe’s death, The Life and Death of Radclyffe Hall. And even after death, Una continued to write letters to her beloved (Ormrod, 2004, p. 286).

When the provenance in Knight Asrael is taken together, the life and loves of Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge begins to break through: her artistic endeavors, her literary nature, and her deep love for Radclyffe Hall. Una ultimately lived to the age of 76, dying in 1963 in Rome, Italy (Ormrod, 2004, p.313).

The Rubenstein Library acquired its copy of Knight Asrael as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, a transformative collection documenting the lives and work of women across several centuries.

 

Works Cited

Baker, M. (2004). ‘Hall, Marguerite Antonia Radclyffe- (1880–1943)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; online edn, May 2015 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37878, accessed 21 July 2017]

Ormrod, R. (1985). Una Troubridge: the friend of Radclyffe Hall. New York: Carroll & Graf.

Palumbo-De Simone, C. (2004). ‘Taylor, Ida Alice Ashworth (1847–1929)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; online edn. May 2015  http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/46564, accessed 21 July 2017]

Reger, M. (2004). ‘Taylor, Sir Henry (1800–1886)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; online edn. May 2015 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/27030, accessed 21 July 2017]

New Acquisitions: From the Library of Two Presidents

Post contributed by Thomas Gillan, Rubenstein Library volunteer, PhD candidate, College of William & Mary

The Rubenstein Library has recently acquired an important gift from the Brand Family, descendants from the notable book collector and Duke graduate Harry L. Dalton, class of 1916. This is a French work, Simon de Nantua, written by the French moralist Laurent-Pierre de Jussieu and published in Paris in 1818. It tells the story of its title character, Simon de Nantua, a travelling merchant who trades as much in wisdom as in goods. The book, which was published under the auspices of the Société pour l’instruction élémentaire, was awarded the society’s prize medal in 1818.

 

The library’s copy would be less remarkable were it not for its noteworthy provenance. Thomas Jefferson received the book in 1819 along with a number of other books from his Paris booksellers DeBures Freres. This is one of the books he purchased after selling much of his library to the Library of Congress in 1815. According to an invoice, Jefferson paid 3 francs for the book, which bears his ownership mark on page 17, signified in this case by the block letter “T” written in ink in front of the publisher’s signature mark “1*.”[1] According to James A. Bear, Jefferson employed this system of ownership marks, with slight variations, over a period of about fifty years.

 

In a letter to Philadelphia publisher Mathew Carey, Jefferson praised the “school book” as “undoubtedly one of the best for young learners to read that I have ever known,” and even considered having the book translated into English, “so valuable” would it be “to our Elementary schools.”[3] The book was among those sold at auction in 1829 by Nathaniel Poor and is included in Poor’s catalog of Jefferson’s books.[4] Later in its history, this volume was owned by President William Taft.

 

Nearly 200 years after its publication it seems that there are only two copies held by libraries in the United States, and both of these copies have a Jefferson connection. The Duke copy is Jefferson’s own copy, and the other copy is held by the University of Virginia. Jefferson in 1825 recommended a number of items to the University of Virginia library of which this was one.  This volume is now available in the Rubenstein Library reading room.

 

 

[1] DeBures Freres to Thomas Jefferson, 11 September 1819, Founders Online, National Archives, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-0741.

[2] James A. Bear, Thomas Jefferson’s Book-Marks (Charlottesville, VA: Alderman Library, University of Virginia, 1958), 8.

[3] Thomas Jefferson to Mathew Carey, 13 March 1820, Founders Online, National Archives, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-1143.

[4] Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue, President Jefferson’s Library (Washington, 1829), 9.

Uncovering a Coordinated Effort to Defend Human Rights in 1980s Nicaragua

Post contributed by Erik A. Moore  Ph.D. student in the History Department at the University of Oklahoma, is recipient of a 2017 Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant.

Letter from Rep. David Bonior to Alex Wilde, 1988

This summer I had the privilege of visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to conduct research in the collection of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) records. WOLA’s records are held in the Duke Human Rights Archive. My research was made possible through generous funding from the library through the Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant. Durham is a wonderful city to visit, and the facilities and the staff at the library were great. And the research was fascinating.

 

I am working on my doctoral dissertation that examines how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as WOLA used arguments based on human rights to contest U.S. support of counterrevolutionaries (the Contras) in Nicaragua in the 1980s. The Reagan administration claimed the Sandinista government in Nicaragua was an ally of the Soviet Union and wanted to spread communist revolution throughout the hemisphere. Reagan used the Contras to pressure the Sandinistas to adopt democratic reforms, but, in doing so, Reagan funded and armed a guerrilla force that was accused of committing atrocities against the Nicaraguan people. I am investigating how successful NGOs were at using human rights advocacy to influence U.S. foreign policy. WOLA is as one of NGOs on which I focus in the dissertation.

 

Letter from U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Study Group, 1988

My work at the library revealed a surprising level of coordination among not only NGOs, but also government officials and Congressional staff members who opposed U.S. support of the Contras. Members of Congress such as Representative David Bonior (D-MI) worked closely with WOLA and other human rights NGOs on issues facing Nicaragua and lobbying other members of Congress to support legislation.[1] I also found a memo from a Congressional staff member, Holly Burkhalter, to the Human Rights Working Group in which she provided analysis of the then-current functioning of the State Department’s Bureau of Human Rights.[2] The Human Rights Working Group was a coalition of national organizations, including WOLA, that periodically met to coordinate efforts toward common goals. WOLA seems to have operated within a large community of progressive human rights-conscious NGOs that often pooled their resources and expertise to influence debates in Congress over U.S. foreign policy. Often, representatives from various organizations met to discuss pending issues and how they could all work together.[3]

Memo from the Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus, U.S. Congress, 1988

This coordination is particularly fascinating for my research because I have found that many of these organizations operated with different agendas, though not necessarily conflicting agendas. One such instance that I found in which the community of human rights NGOs split was over a Contra aid proposal in 1988. Democrats offered a package based on humanitarian non-military aid that served as an alternative to what Reagan and Republicans wanted to offer. The Republican proposal would have centered on military aid. WOLA supported the Democratic aid package in order to bring humanitarian aid to Nicaragua and the rest of Central America and to prevent the Republican plan from coming to a vote and likely passing. Other NGOs, such as the Nicaragua Network, Witness for Peace, and Quest for Peace, all of which worked closely with WOLA throughout the 1980s, opposed any form of aid to the Contras and rejected the Democratic alternative.[4]

My research will continue to investigate strategies and coordination of NGOs opposing the Contra War and how the different interpretations given to human rights influenced the decisions and advocacy of these NGO in lobbying Congress

[1] David E. Bonior to Alex Wilde, Letter, (March 14, 1988), Box 27, Folder: Democratic Contra Alternative, Washington Office on Latin America Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[2] Holly Burkhalter to Human Rights Working Group/Coalition, “The Bureau of Human Rights: Law and Implementation,” Memorandum, (June 24, 1981), Box 433, Folder: Human Rights Working Group 1981, Washington Office on Latin America Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[3] Holly Burkhalter to Human Rights Working Group/Coalition, “The Bureau of Human Rights: Law and Implementation,” Memorandum, (June 24, 1981), Box 433, Folder: Human Rights Working Group 1981, Washington Office on Latin America Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[4] “Special Alert: Contra Aid Packages” (Washington, D.C.: Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus, March 1, 1988), Box 27, Folder: Democratic Contra Alternative, Washington Office on Latin America Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

New Acquisitions – Rev. Caroline Bartlett Crane Pamphlets

Post Contributed by Laura Micham, Merle Hoffman Director, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture

Caroline Bartlett Crane: “America’s Housekeeper,” Renaissance Woman

Portrait from Is God Responsible? A Sermon, Kalamazoo, Mich. 1898.

Caroline Bartlett Crane (1858-1935) was an American Unitarian minister, suffragist, civic reformer, educator, and journalist. Among the first wave of college-educated women in the U.S., she worked as a teacher, school principal, and newspaper reporter before pursuing the call to ministry she first experienced as a teenager.

Bartlett Crane was accepted as a candidate for the ministry at the Iowa State Unitarian Conference in the 1880s. In 1889, after ordination and completion of her first church assignment, she began work at the Unitarian church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Within a short time she led the church to open the first free public kindergarten, a school of manual training and domestic science, a gymnasium for women, a day nursery, a cafeteria, and the Frederick Douglass Club for the “young colored people of the city.” The church continued to expand until it outgrew its building. In 1894 a new one was built and renamed “People’s Church.”  In 1898, after illness and differences with the board, she resigned her ministry.

Published by The Young Men’s Union of the People’s Church of Kalamazoo, Mich., 1896.

 

The Sallie Bingham Center has recently acquired three rare pamphlets written by Rev. Bartlett Crane between 1896 and 1898. Two are sermons delivered in the People’s Church. Why the People’s Church…, published in 1896, outlines Bartlett Crane’s philosophy regarding opening church membership to “any human being who is willing to join in the work of helping the world.” The second, Is God Responsible?, published in 1898, is a reflection and expression of sympathy and support for her congregants after a tragic fire and explosion in a local chemical plant.

Published by The Young Published by The Young Men’s Union of the People’s Church of Kalamazoo, Mich., 1898.

The third pamphlet, If I Were Twenty Again!, also published in 1898, offers the accumulated wisdom of a woman who had already had four successful careers and was about to embark on her fifth and final career. Turning to public health and sanitation reform at the turn of the 20th century, Bartlett Crane successfully campaigned for meat inspection ordinances after discovering unsanitary conditions in local slaughterhouses. She founded the Women’s Civic Improvement League in 1903-4. By 1917 Bartlett Crane had inspected facilities in sixty-two cities in fourteen states. As a result of her work to improve urban sanitation, she was known as “America’s housekeeper.”

A tribute to Caroline Bartlett Crane is a small house in Kalamazoo, Michigan which won first place in the Better Homes in America contest in 1925. Bartlett Crane headed a local committee that designed the house to be functional and affordable for a family of moderate income. Called “Everyman’s House,” it was built by volunteers and received national attention. Almost sixty years later Bartlett Crane’s achievements were recognized by her induction, in 1984, into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. The pamphlets are available for researchers in the Rubenstein Library.

New Acquisitions – Two Significant Gatherings of Black Activists and Intellectuals

Post contributed by John B. Gartrell, Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture

The Amenia Conference, 1925

This past year the John Hope Franklin Research Center has added to its collections materials that document significant public gatherings of black intellectuals during the 20th century.  The first is a publication authored by seminal black scholar W.E.B.DuBois, The Amenia Conference, an Historic Negro Gathering. Published in 1925, DuBois wrote his reflections of a notable meeting held in 1916 in Amenia, NY that was called by the fledgling NAACP, designed to bring black intellectuals who were working to solve, what DuBois referred to in his Souls’ of Black Folk (1910), as the “problem of the color-line.” With close to 60 attendees, this small publication is one of the few, if not only, documents that provides descriptions of the meeting as DuBois noted no record was kept of the conversations. Held one year after the death of Booker T. Washington, in many ways the dean of black leadership at the turn of the 20th century, DuBois stated that “…the Amenia Conference was a symbol. It not only the end of the old things and the old thoughts and the old ways of attacking the race problem, but in addition to this it was the beginning of the new things.”

 

6PAC Press Release

Later in the century, after the wave of black activism in the form of the Civil Rights Movement in the US and waves of independence movements in Africa and the Caribbean during the 1960s, the 6th Pan-African Congress (6PAC) was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1974. The Courtland Cox Papers document the planning and programs held during the week long meeting that was the first Pan-African Congress held in Africa. Cox himself left Howard University in the early 1960’s to a join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and organize against disenfranchisement and poverty in America’s Deep South. Coming out of SNCC, he and a number of SNCC activists became involved in organizing around black consciousness and black solidarity on the global level.

Photograph of 6PAC Meeting

Cox spent time in Tanzania in the early 1970’s and served as secretary-general for the 6th Pan-African Congress, a conference whose history dated back to 1900, although it was the first held after World War II. Over the course of the week in Dar es Salaam, sessions were held to discuss everything from economic empowerment in Africa, environmental issues in black communities, and the meaning of black solidarity around the world.

Both collections are open and available to researchers in the Rubenstein Library.

Frankfurter Kranz: A Frankly Extravagant Cake (1969) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Post contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Coordinator

For my last Test Kitchen post , I attempted a Mexican-Italian fusion recipe from the 1940s. That mostly worked out (destroyed spatula notwithstanding) so I decided to continue with the international cooking theme. Luckily, the Rubenstein Library is a very worldly place. The library has 27 cookbooks  published by Time-Life Books as part of their Foods of the World  series in the 1960s and 1970s. These heavily illustrated books combine cooking instructions with travelogues and food histories. The books usually cover each region of a country and describe how to properly throw a party there.

Our Foods of the World holdings include cookbooks covering the foods of the great American West, Africa, France, the Middle East, China, and the British Isles. With so many choices, making a recipe decision was tough. I briefly considered a kulebiaka (a flaky cabbage loaf from Russia) which is, apparently, considered a “food of the people.” The Russian cookbook also contained a decent amount of beet-based recipes that were pretty hard to pass up. The cuisine of nearby Scandinavia (also lots of beets) piqued my interest. It involved a lot of pickled things, dishes served with a side of raw eggs, and much of it was described as “food for a man’s appetite.” Could I even handle that? I wasn’t sure.

Ultimately, I decided to tackle the food of the German people. I don’t really know much about German cuisine. I know that sausages and beer are important, but I assume they eat other things from time to time.

Three images of food: sauerkraut served in a pineapple, German sausages, and a cake

Despite the appealing pictures of meat and sauerkraut artfully served in a pineapple, a hearty German cake called a “Frankfurter Kranz” seemed like the way to go. This cake is described as a layer cake with butter-cream filling and a praline-topping. The cookbook goes on to say that this cake “is a frankly extravagant cake” and “it is a special treat served only on the most elegant occasions.”

Continue reading Frankfurter Kranz: A Frankly Extravagant Cake (1969) — Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Notes from Durham’s Musical Past: Polonaises and Mazurkas on Main Street

Post contributed by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Visual Materials Processing Archivist

There are many music-related collections in the Rubenstein Library, but the Gilmore Ward Bryant papers are special to the history of Durham, North Carolina.  This small collection of diaries, photographs, school records, and sheet music documents a time when turn-of-the-century citizens held cultural aspirations that included unleashing the terpsichorean muse on Durham—hoping perhaps that arpeggios and arias would temper the roughness of the tobacco town (population 18,241 in 1910).

Enter Gilmore Ward Bryant, born in 1859 and raised in Bethel, Vermont.

Gilmore W. Bryant, circa 1870, from the Gilmore Ward Bryant papers

After a successful musical career in New England and Virginia, he was reportedly lured to the Southern upstart town of Durham by the Duke family, who financed the design and construction for what was to become the Southern Conservatory of Music.  Finished in 1898, the grand Italianate-style building stood on the corner of Main and Duke Street, across from the Liggett Myers Building, on land that today belongs to the Brightleaf Square parking lot.

Here is a view of the Conservatory.  This is what you would have seen if you stood at Toreros Mexican restaurant and looked across the street:

Conservatory Calendar, 1920-1921, Gilmore Ward Bryant papers

Its auditorium, practice rooms, and parlors were classically grand in scale—the reverberations must have been amazing, to say the least:

Conservatory Calendar, 1920-1921, Gilmore Ward Bryant papers
Gilmore Ward Bryant, circa 1920, Conservatory Calendar, 1920-1921

“G.W.” Bryant served as Director of the Conservatory, and along with his partner and wife, Mattie Emily Bullard Bryant, the head of the Voice Department (his daughter-in-law also taught piano), kept the undoubtedly expensive venture thriving for many decades.  The school was a huge success, hosting large concerts, alumni dinners, and recitals several times a year.

Bryant was also a composer, penning scores as early as 1895 and continuing into the 1930s.  He wrote and published many pieces, including a “Tiny Waltz” and another piece entitled “Topsy Turvy.”

Sheet Music Series, Gilmore Bryant papers
Sheet Music Series, Gilmore Ward Bryant papers

Eventually, perhaps due to a familiar pattern of rising downtown rents, the Bryants laid the cornerstone for a new Conservatory on South Alston Avenue, then open countryside, in summer 1923, and the old Conservatory was demolished in 1924.  Bryant’s wife writes in her 1923 diary on December 31: “Went up & thru the old Conservatory— was terrible—nearly dropped to pieces.”

Today Durham hosts several music schools, but the era of grand edifices and classical conservatory training has yet to return.  In the meantime, we applaud the Bryants’ vision for and dedication to their adopted Southern hometown.  Luckily, some of the Conservatory’s records and the Bryant family’s personal papers and photographs have been preserved for researchers at the Durham County Library and the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscripts Library.  You can see the inventory for the Rubenstein collection here:

http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/bryantgilmore/

(Thanks to the Open Durham and Durham County Library websites for background information.)

 

Raphael Lemkin’s Contribution to Describing Duke University Library’s Collection of Soviet Posters

Post contributed by Ernest A. Zitser, Ph.D., Librarian for Slavic and East European Studies 

In 2009, while conducting research for a proposal to digitize Duke University Library’s collection of Soviet-era propaganda posters, I uncovered evidence that the handwritten, English-language titles/summaries found at the top of the thirty items in the original, “General Political Poster Series,” were penciled-in by none other than Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959), “the man who criminalized genocide.”

It is well known that, from April 1941 to June 1942, while serving as a “visiting lecturer” at Duke’s Law School, Lemkin worked on the book in which he coined the term “genocide.” Less well-known is the fact that sometime during that same period, the Polish-Jewish jurist was asked to translate/describe the posters that Professor Calvin Bryce Hoover (1897-1974)—chairman of the Department of Economics and Dean of the Graduate School—had purchased a decade earlier, during his research trip to the Soviet Union (1929-1930).

Until recently, it was believed that there were “no documents …in the collection [at Duke] directly relating to his tenure at the university” and that “Duke Archives does not contain material relating to Lemkin except for a biographical file.” However, an accession record created in 1984, during the transfer of the Russian poster collection from Duke’s Manuscript Division to its Rare Book Room, specifies not only that the first thirty items were “the gift of Dean Calvin B. Hoover,” but also that the “titles of the broadsides were translated by Professor Raphael Lemkin of Duke University Law School.”

Scan of typewritten accession record for the Russian Posters Collection, stating they were a gift of Calvin B. Hoover
Accession record, Russian Posters Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

A comparison of the handwriting on Duke’s Russian posters to surviving examples of items known to be written by Lemkin—such as the draft of a telegram from Lemkin to Mrs. William Dick Sporberg, a member of the United States Committee for a United Nations Genocide Convention, asking her to organize a cable campaign aimed at influencing the American delegation to the UN to support a genocide convention—confirms the veracity of this archival annotation.

scan of handwritten draft of telegram
Draft of a telegram from Raphael Lemkin in Paris to Mrs. William Dick Sporberg (1948)

 

Close crop of one of the library's Russian Posters showing Lemkin's hand written annotation
“Long Live the First of May, Moscow & Leningrad” Lemkin’s handwritten annotation to a 1929 Soviet poster (ca. 1941) View the full poster in our digital repository. 

 

Close up photograph of Lemkin's handwritten annotation on one of the library's Soviet Posters
“Easter. Contrast of joyous Easter of Long Ago with Serious Workers of Com.[munist] Russia.” Lemkin’s annotation to an undated Soviet poster (ca. 1941) View the full poster in our digital repository. 
Closeup photograph of Lemkin's handwritten annotation on one of the library's Soviet Posters
“Capitalistic and Communistic Conceptions of the Army”
Lemkin’s handwritten annotation to a Soviet poster from 1927 (ca. 1941). View the full poster in our digital repository. 

Juxtaposing the hand-written, English-language translations with the posters’ original, Russian-language titles not only reveals Lemkin’s command of both languages—two of the eight that were supposedly at his disposal—but also demonstrates his understanding of communist Russia, and of how the “new, Soviet man” might be different from his capitalist counterpart. This information was undoubtedly very useful to Hoover, the acknowledged founder of the field of comparative economic systems.

The posters, together with Lemkin’s handwritten annotations, can be viewed on the new and improved site of Duke’s Russian poster collection, which was migrated to the Duke Digital Repository in April 2017.

Muffins (1852) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Muffins baked and blog post written by Jessica Janecki, Rare Materials Cataloger

When looking for a recipe to test, I immediately remembered a book I had cataloged for the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection , Ladies’ Indispensable Assistant, published in 1852 (available in digitized form through Hathi Trust or in print. 

Title page for book "Ladies Indispensable Assistant"

This book was memorable for its extraordinarily long title. When faced with titles of this length, catalogers frequently resort to truncation, but I had risen to the challenge:

Ladies’ indispensable assistant : being a companion for the sister, mother, and wife, containing more information for the price than any other work upon the subject : here are the very best directions for the behavior and etiquette of ladies and gentlemen, ladies’ toilette table, directions for managing canary birds : also, safe directions for the management of children, instructions for ladies under various circumstances : a great variety of valuable recipes, forming a complete system of family medicine, thus enabling each person to become his or her own physician : to which is added one of the best systems of cookery ever published : many of these recipes are entirely new and should be in the possession of every person in the land.

This mixing of food and medicine is fairly common in household management works of the time, when cooking, preparing home remedies, and caring for invalids all fell under the purview of the mistress of the household, but I had never before seen a household management book with instructions for keeping canaries, let alone one which felt the need to advertise this in the title.

In the hopes of producing something palatable and edible, I skipped the sections on home remedies and medicinal plants and went straight to the “valuable recipes.” I had high hopes, after all, the title page declared this “one of the best systems of cookery ever published.”

I settled on Muffins.Image of recipe in book. It reads: Mix a quart of wheat flour smoothly with a pint and a half of luke-warm milk, half a tea-cup of yeast, a couple of beaten eggs, a heaping tea-spoonful of salt, and a couple of table-spoonfuls of luke-warm melted butter. Set the batter in a warm place to rise. When light, butter your muffin cups, turn in the mixture and bake the muffins till a light brown.

Reading over the recipe, I had all the ingredients. However, several steps were required to convert this into a usable recipe for modern kitchens. First, the recipe was short on instructions, lacking rising time, cooking time or oven temperature, information difficult to provide at a time when cooking might be done over an open fire or on a coal burning cast iron stove. Since this was essentially an enriched yeast dough, like a brioche with less butter, I consulted similar modern recipes to get an idea of cooking time and oven temperature. I decided on 400 degrees Fahrenheit and to simply bake until light brown as instructed.

On to the ingredients. A quart of flour is approximately 4 cups. By comparison, the muffin recipe in my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook calls for 1 ¾ cups of flour to make 1 tin’s worth of muffins. So right away I knew I wanted to halve the recipe. This was also before modern instant yeast, so I knew the measurement of a half cup of yeast would be for some sort of home made yeast preparation, recipes for which I had leaved past before spotting the muffins. Since I did not want to grow my own yeast, I decided to use the active dry yeast I had on hand. 1 teaspoon would be the usual amount of yeast to use with my proposed amount of flour if I were making bread. The recipe called for “wheat flour,” which to modern readers might mean “whole wheat,” but in 1852 whole wheat flour was called graham flour, after health nut and fiber aficionado Sylvester Graham. Since this was a yeasted bread dough, I decided to use the white bread flour I had on hand. I also substituted cashew milk for regular milk, since that was what was in my refrigerator.

Photograph of ingredients used in the recipe: bread flour, active dry yeast, and cashew milk
Modern Ingredients

Here is the recipe I used, adjusted to modern measurements and reduced by half:

2 cups unbleached bread flour
1.5 cups cashew milk
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 beaten egg (grade A large white)
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

To compensate for my modern yeast, I proofed it in the warmed cashew milk with a tablespoon of sugar before adding the yeast-milk mixture to the flour. This made a very wet and sticky dough. It was so wet that I did not bother with covering it and simply left it on top of the stove to rise.

Photograph of wet dough in a glass mixing bowl
A very wet dough

I checked at 10 minute intervals until it looked “light,” hoping for a doubling in volume. After an hour I decided it had risen enough. I scooped the batter-like dough into a greased muffin tin and baked until light brown, which turned out to be 25 minutes.

Image of fully baked muffins in a metal muffin pan
Hot out of the oven!
Photo of a single deliciously golden brown muffin
The finished product

These were delicious hot out of the oven. They were crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside, sort of a cross between a roll and a muffin. They also reheated well in the microwave. I would make these again.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.

Brimming with wanderlust, Lillian Boxfish traveled to Manhattan to start her career as a “daring and unmarried” woman in 1926. And so opens the first chapter of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

This fascinating premise is inspired by the life of Margaret Fishback, a poet and pioneer in the advertising industry whose papers are part of the Hartman Center Collections. Kathleen Rooney, the author, uncovered the intriguing history of Fishback in the spring of 2007. With the support of a Hartman Center travel grant, Rooney looked through hundreds of documents, piecing together Fishback’s life story. Fishback was raised in Washington D.C., earned her bachelors from Goucher College in 1921, and became a divisional copywriter for Macy’s in 1926. She was immensely successful and employed her playful and witty language in diverse advertising campaigns. Her early career success was recognized by local newspapers, one of them describing her as “the highest paid advertising woman in the world.” She went on to work at several other advertising agencies including Cecil & Presbrey, Warwick & Legler, Young & Rubicam, and Doyle Dane Bernbach whose clients ranged from Chef-Boyardee to Simmons Beauty Rest. All the while, she built her poetry career, publishing several books, the most widely received One to a Customer: Collected Poems of Margaret Fishback (1947).

Black and white photograph portrait of Margaret Fishback
Margaret Fishback during her time at Doyle Dane Bernbach, c. 1950-1964, photograph by G. Maillard Kesslere, Margaret Fishback Papers, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Inspired by the remarkable career of Margaret Fishback, the story of Lillian Boxfish provides a mesmerizing glimpse into the personal life and inner most thoughts of a career-oriented, gregarious woman living and working in one of America’s most dynamic cities. The main character is an octogenarian residing in Murray Hill. She has an effortless routine, stopping by local establishments and regularly visiting old friends in the neighborhood. Rooney plays with time like she plays with language, seamlessly weaving flashbacks of Lillian’s young adult life in New York with the octogenarian’s meanderings.

Photograph of a stack of 5 books related to women in the advertising industry. "Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk" is on the top

Early on, we learn that Lillian grew up in Washington D.C. in a family that valued poise and polish over her natural adventurousness and inquisitive mind. Her mother strongly disapproved of these latter characteristics, hoping that Lillian would marry and pursue the domestic arts with great fervor. Instead, Lillian modeled her dreams after the life of her unconventional aunt, Sadie Boxfish. It was her aunt who introduced Lillian to poetry, which became one of her passions, through a series of postcards written about a fictional adventurist named Phoebe Snow.

Lillian’s mother seethed with disapproval whenever a new postcard arrived, painted with vibrant, playful words.

Miss Phoebe Snow has stopped to show
Her ticket at the gate, you know.
The Guard, polite, declares it right.
Of course—it’s Road of Anthracite

As Lillian recalls, “In [my mother’s] contralto above my ear I could hear, in her neat bosom behind my head I could feel, her disapproval: not of Phoebe, but of Sadie.” Although strong, her mother’s opinions were not strong enough to keep Lillian in D.C. and so the novel recounts a young woman’s quest of self discovery and professional success at a time when the diadem of the Chrysler Building first sparkled on the New York skyline.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is a refreshing and poetic novel. The prose is captivating, the characters are compelling, and the topics are relevant, ranging from discussion over equal pay to sexual liberation. A thrillingly progressive character for her time, Lillian Boxfish is delightfully portrayed in this historically-inspired novel by Kathleen Rooney. As the academic years comes to a close, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk should make your short list for summer reading.

Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University