All posts by Kate Collins

Applications Now Accepted for the 2017-2018 Travel Grant Program

t1867-1The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2017-2018 travel grants. If you are a researcher, artist, or activist who would like to use sources from the Rubenstein Library’s research centers for your work, this means you!

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, the History of Medicine Collections, and the Human Rights Archive (new this year!) will each award up to $1,000 per recipient ($2,000 for international applicants to the Human Rights Archive) to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein also offers the Eleanore and Harold Jantz Fellowship, a $1500 award for researchers whose work would benefit from use of the Jantz Collections.

The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, NC, and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers listed above.

More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 31, 2017. Recipients will be announced in March 2016.

The Occasionally Recorded Happenings in the Business and Social Life of Irene Sickel Sims, 1916-1917

In the AMC hit television series Mad Men, Peggy Olson begins her career in advertising as an executive assistant whose skills and conviction enable her to become the first woman copywriter at the firm. Throughout the series, she is portrayed as a burgeoning second-wave feminist whose work ethic and determination enable her to succeed in a male-dominated industry. Although fictional, Olson’s story reflects the experiences of real women who worked on Madison Avenue in the post-WWII period. These mid-century professionals were but one generation of pathbreaking women in advertising. Unbeknownst to many viewers, women had their start in advertising long before Beatlemania hit the U.S. or the mini-skirt was in vogue. In fact, their integral contributions date back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In Frances E. Willard’s Occupations for Women (1897), the author dedicates an entire chapter to the integral role of women in advertising. Willard notes that women

are becoming advertising agents, taking the position in establishments in charge of the advertising department, and above all, are finding large remuneration in writing special advertisements for manufacturing firms […] So clever have women proven themselves in this special line, that hardly a manufacturer having goods toward which he wishes to attract attention, fails to avail himself of their ability. (149)

Irene Sickel Sims was one such pioneering woman. She worked as an assistant advertising manager and chief of copy for the retail advertising bureau of Marshall Field’s Department Store in Chicago. She kept a diary (1916-1917), the front page of which is inscribed with her playful handwriting, “This Then Commences the Occasionally Recorded Happenings in the Business and Social Life of Irene Sickel Sims.” The diary, written 100 years ago, details her work relationships and her day-to-day activities at the bureau, which ranged from business lunches to professional conferences. Many of her entries detail her professional relationships with men, marked by daily encounters, some of which she found frustrating and some of which inspired and motivated her.

Black and White Photograph of Exterior of Marshall Field's Chicago Store
Marshall Field’s Chicago Store, c. 1907, Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection, Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

As she built her reputation in the company, her colleagues regularly sought out her expertise. In August of 1916, for example, a young male co-worker came to her for help with ad revisions. She recorded the interaction in her diary:

R.V.T wrote me Saturday: “Mrs. Sims: You know so well the ways of grammar and the by-paths the trails of rhetoric. Won’t you answer this for a poor section top?” appending a criticism received on one of their signs. I decided then I’d rather have a note like that – I’d rather have all the young men in the dept. coming to me for adv. counsel and criticism than have the best of surreptition loves.

For Sims, experiencing success at work was more exciting than the thrills associated with a secret love affair popularized in literature in film at that time. She found pleasure in her career and thrived off of her abilities to mentor her colleagues, male and female alike. Sims was so successful at Marshall Field’s that other companies regularly recruited her, enticing her to join their advertising departments with formidable offers.

Photograph of two interior pages of Irene Sickel Sims's handwritten diary
Irene Sickel Sims Diary, 1916-1917, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Sims was one of many pathbreaking women to enter into the field of advertising in roles beyond that of a typist or executive assistant. Yet, the majority of employees in executive roles remained white men. It was not until the post-WWII period that significant numbers of women and people of color began taking on positions as ad executives.

You can learn more about Sims and her contemporaries via the Agencies Prefer Men! The Women of Madison Avenue exhibit, opening November 7, 2016 in the Mary Duke Biddle Room at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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.

Screamfest IV: Stranger Things at the Rubenstein

0001Date: Monday, October 31, 2016
Time: 2:00-4:00 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room
Facebook Event Page

What things hide behind the Rubenstein Library’s walls?

This Halloween explore the library’s creepiest and most macabre items during our special open house. We’ll display tales of witchcraft, monsters, investigations of the paranormal, and more terrors from the Rubenstein Library’s collections.

This event is free and open to the living, the dead, and visitors from parallel dimensions.  There will be candy. Lots and lots of candy.

Movers and Shakers: Robin Morgan and Ms. Magazine

wonder-womanDate: Thursday, October 20
Time: 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Location: Breedlove Conference Room, 349 Rubenstein Library
Optional Facebook RSVP

Please join us for a conversation with Linda Lumsden, associate professor at the University of Arizona School of Journalism, about her research project, The Ms. Makeover: The survival, evolution, and cultural significance of the venerable feminist magazine. Dr. Lumsden received a Mary Lily Research Grant recipient to conduct research at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History.

Light refreshments will be served.

A Delicate Balance: Understanding the Four Humors.

During my tenure as the Research Services Graduate Intern at the Rubenstein Library, I had the great fortune of exploring the fascinating history of the four humors, a topic that is far afield from my doctoral research on the culinary history of New Orleans. Setting aside my copy La Cuisine Creole, I picked up a first edition of Henry Peacham’s Minerva Britanna (1612) and paged through whimsical woodcuts that featured long swordsmen, lions, and laurelled lutenists. Although New Orleans’ history is bedazzled by myth, that of the four humors seems surreal, emerging out of a world occupied by dragons and vengeful gods. What resulted from my foray into this cosmos is a new exhibit in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room, entitled, “A Delicate Balance: Understanding the Four Humors.”

photo of "A Delicate Balance" exhibit
A Delicate Balance: Understanding the Four Humors, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Photo credit: Ashley Rose Young.

The four humors were a means of analyzing a person’s disposition as well as her physical, mental, and emotional health. Within this belief system, every person had a unique humoral composition that shaped her behavior, appearance, and interactions with the broader world. Visualized as bodily fluids whose levels were constantly in flux, Hippocrates named the four humors black bile, phlegm, yellow bile, and blood. Each humor was paired with one of the four elements of earth, water, fire, and air and was assigned qualities of cold, moist, dry, and hot. Their influence on the body changed with external factors like the time of day, the season of the year, and the age of a person.

The origins of this medical philosophy and practice are attributed to the Indian Ayurveda system of medicine as well as ancient Greek, Roman, and Islamic physicians. This holistic approach to human health was pervasive in the Medieval and Early Modern periods and remained a common means of assessing and treating the human body until major advancements transformed medical practices in the mid-nineteenth century.

Prior to these innovations, medical practitioners sought to help ailing patients by restoring the delicate balance of the humors and did so through techniques such as bloodletting and herbal remedies. The new exhibit features a bloodletting fleam that a physician would have used to lance open a vein to remove excess blood from the body so as to bring equilibrium to a patient’s internal fluids. In the United States, doctors employed bloodletting through the Civil War to treat soldiers suffering from infection and fever.

Bloodletting fleam
Three-blade folding fleam with brass shield, 18th or 19th century, Dr. Callaway Collection Artifacts, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Consumption also played a major role in balancing the four humors. Throughout Early Modern Europe, for example, physicians kept gardens with plants that were assigned to a particular humor. They believed that patients could restore their bodies to full health by consuming carefully crafted herbal remedies comprised of stems, leaves, fruits, and nuts. Practitioners organized gardens to represent the potency of medicinal plants. Some of these historic gardens still exist today. The circular Minerva Garden in Salerno Italy, for example, is divided into four quadrants representing the four humors with the most potent plant life at the center of the garden. This garden is a physical embodiment of the healing powers ascribed to plants within the humoralist system.

Minerva Garden, Salerno Italy.
Minerva Garden, Salerno Italy. Photo credit: Ashley Rose Young.

In the next few weeks, I encourage you to visit the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room on the first floor of the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library so as to glimpse into the rich history of the four humors and their impact on medical practices in the Early Modern period through today.

Ashley Rose Young, curator of "A Delicate Balance" exhibit, giving an exhibit talk in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room
Ashley Rose Young, curator of “A Delicate Balance” exhibit, giving an exhibit talk in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Photo credit: Jennifer Scott.


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.

The Naked Truth: Jean Kilbourne on Advertising’s Image of Women

Date: Thursday, September 15
Time: 3:30-5:00 p.m.
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library 153
Optional RSVP on Facebook

jean kilbourne headshotFeminist activist and advertising critic Jean Kilbourne’s pioneering work has helped develop and popularize the study of gender representations in advertising. Her presentation will show if and how the image of women has changed over the past 20 years and powerfully illustrates how these images affect us all. She is the creator of the renowned Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women film series and the author of the award-winning book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel.
Kilbourne gaultier001

This event is part of the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History’s 25th anniversary lecture series focusing on women in advertising, and is co-sponsored by the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and CultureJean Kilbourne’s papers are held by these two centers.

Hitting the Books in North Carolina

Kids across North Carolina will begin trudging back to school this month, trading in the freedom of summer for the mysteries of the hypotenuse and iambic pentameter. Many of them will, of course, be asking that age-old question: why do I have to learn this? As a young North Carolinian, I frequently puzzled over the usefulness of math, plate tectonics, and why knowing that President Taft got stuck in a bathtub was so essential to my educational development. Did my predecessors complain about school? Undoubtedly. What would they have been complaining about? That is the question this post sets out to answer.

The Rubenstein Library holds many items that offer a glimpse into North Carolina school rooms during the 19th century. Schools of the past would be unrecognizable to students today.  Early North Carolina schools were rarely described in positive terms and helped contribute to the state’s reputation as the “Rip van Winkle state.”  Until the 1880s, public education in the state was a local affair. County school boards reigned supreme while the state superintendent had little power and remained a distant figure in Raleigh. School funds were largely raised at the local level and many school buildings were built by local community members. Schools were small, often just a single room, and operated in four-month sessions to accommodate students who were needed on the family farm. The curriculum for young North Carolinians reflected the common school model that was popular in 19th century America. Students of all ages and levels were taught in one classroom by one teacher who relied on memorization and repetitive oral exercises to educate the group. A student learned at his own pace, and grades, as we think about them today, did not exist. There was also an emphasis on moral instruction. Local communities saw schools as the place (other than church) to form good, responsible citizens for the future.

1908 certificate from Durham Public Schools showing photographs of the county’s four graded schools.
1908 certificate from Durham Public Schools showing photographs of the county’s four graded schools.

As it did with most aspects of American life, the Civil War brought change to the classroom. This transformation was slow- attempts to improve the school system were hampered by the state’s poverty following the war and budget woes that lingered into the 1870s and 1880s. But as the state slowly became a more urban one, railroads extended their reach, and industrial growth offered new lines of work, state leaders recognized that a new educational model was needed if the state was to join the modern “New South.” To that end, school reformers turned to the graded school model that first took hold in antebellum New England. Graded schools were based on standardization. Students were promoted to a new grade level only after they had met a certain criteria. Written examinations, rather than public oral recitations, became a way of marking progress and obtaining a good grade was necessary for academic success. Memorization gave way to an emphasis on students understanding the information and being able to apply what they had learned. The first graded schools in North Carolina opened around 1870, but began to spread across the state in the 1880s and 1890s

1860 common school register from Forsyth County, North Carolina.
1860 common school register from Forsyth County, North Carolina.

The school register shown above provides a place for teachers to list the “books used” for instruction. The Rubenstein Library has a number of these registers from across the state and a fairly long list of textbooks used by students can be generated through the registers. Luckily for us, the library holds many of the listed titles.

If I had been a student in the 19th century, The Elements of Algebra would have been my least favorite textbook. Unlike the large math textbooks of today, this volume fits easily in one hand and is filled with text. Problems are immediately followed by solutions. The equations and steps needed to solve the problem are rarely shown. The problems are strikingly practical. For children in the rural South, learning to calculate the number of oxen a farmer purchased would seem like a useful skill. Calculating the length of cloth or the division of a man’s estate upon his death would also have been familiar to students.

Page from The Elements of Algebra with word problems about wine, cloth, and sheep.
Page from The Elements of Algebra with word problems about wine, cloth, and sheep.

Like math books, spelling books or spellers are commonly listed in the registers. The state of North Carolina published its own speller in 1892 and it is a surprisingly good read. Described as “a complete graded course in orthography,” this book was a product of the state’s graded school movement. Tailored to North Carolina classrooms, the preface explains that the book is intended to “aid Southern children in acquiring the pure language of America as it is found in the South.” In addition to listing practice words of increasing complexity, the book provides passages and poems that can be used to practice spelling the words in context. These chunks of text are often quotes from prominent North Carolinians, like Zebulon Vance, or lofty odes to the wonders of the state. My particular favorite is the anonymous passage that says “You must love your State very much. It is the best land on earth for a good home. Do not think that you can find more joy in some State far off, for all who go from our State soon want to come back.”

Learning to spell in North Carolina also means learning that your state is the best.
Learning to spell in North Carolina also means learning that your state is the best.

Geography seems like it would have been the most fun subject for students. Matthew Fontaine Maury’s geography books were popular and heavily illustrated. Maury’s First Lessons in Geography takes students on a trip around the world. One lesson begins with an invitation: “Would you like to go to sea? Suppose we take an imaginary voyage from Norfolk to Spain, that certain things may be explained to you, and your lessons made easier to learn.” Readers are taken on a journey through all of the continents and make brief stops to learn about each area. During a stop in China, students would learn about foot binding, rice, and religious beliefs. Writing in the late 1870s, Maury, unsurprisingly, has few good things to say about non-Western people. The Chinese, for instance, are described as starving “heathens.” Maury, however, can hardly find anything negative to say about England, France, or, of course, the United States.

Young North Carolinians go on a voyage to China.
Young North Carolinians go on a voyage to China.

We’ve come a long way from the one-room school house. Our textbooks and school records look significantly different than they did in the 19th century. It has been a while since I took the SAT, but I doubt casks of brandy or “the pure language of America as it is found in the South” were involved. While the lack of constant standardized testing and four month school terms may seem exciting to students today, I remain grateful that I went to school in a time of air conditioning and indoor plumbing.

Leloudis, James L. Schooling the New South: Pedagogy, Self, and Society in North Carolina, 1880-1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Post contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Coordinator. 

A Stoic Survivor: Duke’s Latin Manuscript 159

The Rubenstein Library’s Latin Manuscript 159 includes fragments of two well-known texts by Seneca the Younger (or Lucius Annaeus Seneca, 4 BCE – 65 CE), the Roman Stoic philosopher, as well as an epitaph for Seneca. This modest manuscript is comprised of only two small leaves of vellum, apparently separated from a florilegium (a medieval compilation of writings assembled by a scholar). A mid-12th century manuscript, it likely derives from Northern France. Duke University acquired it in 1995.

Latin MS 159 is an exciting piece, even though these surviving bits don’t include a single complete text by Seneca. Among the texts included, however, are the majority of letter 79 from Seneca’s Epistulae ad Lucilium (Letters to Lucilius) and the opening of his De Beneficiis (On Benefits). Letter 79 has been described by scholars as a discourse on scientific discovery. In it, Seneca asks his correspondent Lucilius to climb Aetna (Mount Etna) in Sicily to make first-hand observations, and to write something from his impressions. Climbing a volcano is no easy thing, but Seneca is crafty in his shaming: “Now if Aetna does not make your mouth water, I am mistaken in you” (“Aut ego te non novi aut Aetna tibi salivam movet”).*

Epistulae ad Lucilium 79: 7: “Now if Aetna does not make your mouth water, I am mistaken in you” (“Aut ego te non novi aut Aetna tibi salivam movet”).

The recto of the second surviving leaf contains the opening of De Beneficiis (On Benefits or On Gifts and Services). This work concerns the giving and receiving of benefits, but also how to express gratitude appropriately. For this Stoic, ingratitude is pervasive in humanity: “Nor is it surprising that among all our many and great vices, none is so common as ingratitude” (“Nec mirum est inter plurima maximaque vitia nullum esse frequentius quam ingrati animi”).

De Beneficiis 1:2: “Nor is it surprising that among all our many and great vices, none is so common as ingratitude” (“Nec mirum est inter plurima maximaque vitia nullum esse frequentius quam ingrati animi”).

We’re fortunate (and grateful, Seneca!) to have this manuscript, which has a family relationship with two other pieces in our collection. Seneca was the uncle of the poet Lucan, and the Rubenstein Library has two important Lucan manuscripts in our collection, Latin 118 and Latin 125.  These manuscripts – along with our many other early manuscripts – are invaluable for teaching and research. Contact us for more information about our early manuscript collection!

*Translations from the Loeb Classical Library.

Post contributed by David Pavelich, Head of Research Services.

New Acquisitions Roundup: Robert J. Cox Papers

Cox2The Human Rights Archive recently acquired the papers of journalist and human rights activist Robert J. Cox.  Born in England, Cox arrived in Argentina in 1959 to begin work at the English language Buenos Aires Herald where he would eventually rise to the position of Publisher and where he would remain until his exile in 1979.  During his tenure at the Herald, Cox witnessed and reported on the turbulent events of Argentina’s modern history including the growth of left wing guerrilla groups such as the Montaneros and right wing paramilitary groups such as the AAA, the short-lived but tumultuous presidency of Isabella Peron, and the massive human rights abuses of the military dictatorship which ruled the nation from 1976 to 1983.  During the dictatorship Cox worked closely with human rights groups and activists including Marshall Meyer and Patt Derian whose papers are also part of the Human Rights Archive collections, to expose the crimes of the dictatorship and to help the abducted and disappeared as well as their families.  Detained, jailed, and threatened, Cox and his family went into exile in 1979, but he continued to work on human rights issues in Argentina as well El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Anti-communist propaganda, Movimiento De Unidad Nacional, c. 1970’s. The pamphlet this image came from asked readers, “If today they want to exchange Christ the Redeemer for Christ the Guerrilla, tomorrow won’t they want to exchange the Pope for Mao Tse Tung?”

New Acquisitions Roundup: Trinity College female basketball player poster

This week we’re continuing last week’s celebration of the beginning of a new fiscal year by reviewing some notable items and collections that arrived here at the Rubenstein Library in the past year.

The University Archives acquired a variety of exciting materials during this past year, including lemur behavior data, early planting plans of Duke Gardens, and social media created during campus protest. Today, however, we are highlighting one of our smallest accessions this year, a single poster of a young woman playing basketball, given to us by an alumna whose family business was given the poster some years back.


A note that accompanied the poster says, “Picture that hung on the dorm room wall of Alton Monroe Cameron and J. O. Renfro, class of 1914 at Trinity College, Durham, North Carolina.” This poster is one that was issued in 1911 to depict a generic player, but someone along the way decorated the player to be a Trinity College student, using blue ink.


It’s hard to know what to make of this depiction. In the early 1910s, there were no “official” women’s sports teams, although they did take physical education classes. A short article in the 1912 yearbook, The Chanticleer, suggests that such a team would have been a hilarious joke in its time, resulting from “stages of acute Woman’s Suffrage, and Literary Society agitation.”  Why the accompanying photo of a group of women was taken, and why they are holding a football, is anyone’s guess.


In many ways, the poster raises more questions than answers. Was there actually a women’s basketball team at Trinity then? Did Cameron and Renfro like the idea, or mock it? What did female students at the time think? And why didn’t they cut a hole in the net for the basketball to fall out?


Even without knowing the answers to these questions, the poster is enchanting to us today. We hope it did reflect Trinity women’s participation in athletics, sixty years before a recognized women’s basketball team would be formed at the school. It may have been a joke in its day, but now it tells us how deep the roots of women’s athletics at Duke truly are.

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, University Archivist