All posts by Kate Collins

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.

Sources:
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”).*

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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”).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

New Acquisitions Roundup: The Gay Coloring Book

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.

gay coloring book cover

The Gay Coloring Book
The Guild Press, 1964

Only a handful of these rare coloring books are known to exist. Chronicling the life of Percy and his friends through 24 drawings, The Gay Coloring Book was one of the first books published by the Guild Press to take readers into all-male social spaces such as gay parties and gay bars, as well as the sexual cruising scenes in public parks, public bathrooms, alleys, and bathhouses. The coloring book features illustrations by George Haimsohn, who also published gay fiction under the name Alexander Goodman.

Post contributed by Jennifer Scott, Bingham Center Public Services Intern

New Acquisitions Roundup: Charlotte Perkins Gilman Soap Trade Cards

This week and next, we’ll be celebrating 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 Hartman Center recently acquired a collection of 16 different trade cards for two brands of soap, all designed by Charlotte Perkins Gilman circa 1880-1884, constituting her first published works. Gilman is better known for writing The Yellow Wall Paper and Women and Economics, published in the 1890s, but in 1880, at age twenty, she partnered with her cousin, Robert Brown, and designed trade cards for several soap companies. She had written some stories at the age of ten or eleven, and was a serious diarist, but had never seen her work published. When her mother moved the family in 1873, they began a long period in which they lived on the brink of poverty in various “cooperative housework” households, with little or no support from her estranged father. By the time she was a teenager she had already shown signs of social and economic independence and this venture into business blended that desire with her artistic ambitions.
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These examples, all in very good to fine condition, show a genuine artistic talent, a sense of humor, an appreciation for fantasy and the absurd, literary symbolism, and many depict women working like slaves at their domestic chores. Advertising was a relatively friendly field for women, who often showed talent for illustration and copywriting, and it was also a field that provided some income to up and coming writers and artists. These cards are excellent examples of exactly that scenario for a woman who was destined for fame in other ways.

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Post contributed by Jacqueline Reid Wachholz, Director of the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History

 

New Acquisitions Roundup: Haytian Papers

This week and next, we’ll be celebrating 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.

In 1816, Prince Saunders published the 1st edition of the Haytian Papers. A Collection of the Very Interesting Proclamations and other Official Documents, Together with Some Account of the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Kingdom of Hayti, in London.  Saunders, an African American educator and former instructor at Boston’s African School, had been appointed as an advisor to Haitian emperor Henri Christophe in that same year. The first American printing of the Haytian Papers was published in 1818 in Boston as an extension of Saunders’ work to promote emigration to Haiti by black Americans.HPapers_3crop

HPapers_2The Haytian Papers volume presents a compilation of fascinating state documents, including correspondence between Christophe and French officials addressing France’s attempts to retake Haiti after the independence revolution that took place nearly ten years prior to the book’s publication. Saunders is especially careful to articulate in his introduction that the Haytian Papers are also proof of the intelligence and capacity of the black leadership and citizens of the country.

This recent acquisition by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture is now available for use.

Post Contributed by John B. Gartrell, Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center

New Acquisitions Roundup: Flipping the Flaps

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be celebrating 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.

Building upon the success of our 2011 exhibit Animated Anatomies, our anatomical flap book collection in the History of Medicine continues to grow with the acquisition of an eighteenth century work by Christoph von Hellwig.

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Nosce te ipsum, vel, Anatomicum vivum, oder, Kurtz gefastes doch richtig gestelltes anatomisches Werck by Christoph von Hellwig [1720]

This work is the second revised edition by the German professor Christoph von Hellwig (1663-1721) of Johann Remmelin’s Catoptrum microcosmicum first printed in 1619 and includes over 90 very small and fragile moving parts of the human body. Hellwig’s four plates illustrate the skin, nerves, vessels, muscles, and bones; the female reproductive system; the male viscera and cranium; and the female viscera and cranium. The images depict intricate details through lifting the flaps.  This particular item has a later addition of modesty flaps over the genitalia in facsimile. A student of philosophy and later medicine, Hellwig authored and edited over forty medical and pharmaceutical works, including household medical guides and reports of unusual cases.

Post Contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections

New Acquisitions Roundup: Farm Security Administration Portfolio

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be celebrating 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.

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Photograph by Dorothea Lange from Portfolio of 10 photographs by Walker Evans, Dorthea Lange, Ben Shahn, and Arthur Rothstein, selected and printed by Arthur Rothstein.

The photographs made for the Farm Security Administration form a profound pictorial record of American life during and following the Great Depression. Between 1935-1944 the FSA commissioned photographers including Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, Jack Delano, Marion Post Wolcott, Gordon Parks, and Carl Mydans initially to document the challenges facing farmers and migratory agricultural workers as part of the New Deal. The project eventually expanded to include documentation of urban living conditions across the U.S. as well. This collective work for the FSA made a major contribution to the then burgeoning practice of documentary photography and many FSA contributors ultimately became icons of 20th century photography.

This portfolio includes 10 images that Rothstein believed were representative of the FSA’s overall output including the now iconic “Migrant Mother” photograph by Dorthea Lange.

See a comprehensive visualization of FSA photography on Photogrammar.

Post contributed by Lisa McCarty, Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts

Lois Waisbrooker in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

Photo May 20, 2 38 19 PMThe Lisa Unger Baskin Collection is filled with well-known names and gorgeous examples of books, but as I was looking through the recently cataloged books from the collection, I was excited to see three rather plain-looking books written by Lois Waisbrooker in the late-nineteenth century: Helen Harlow’s Vow, Perfect Motherhood, and My Century Plant. Never heard of them? Don’t worry, that’s kind of the point. Back in college as a history major, I studied Waisbrooker, and while she was never particularly well-known, she’s a fascinating example of how writing and books impacted women’s lives in the nineteenth century.

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Portrait of Waisbrooker from Helen Harlow’s Vow

Historian Joanne Passet has done an excellent job tracing Waisbrooker’s life in her book Sex Radicals and the Quest for Women’s Equality. Waisbrooker was born to a poor family in Upstate New York in 1826, and by age twenty she had been pressured into a marriage she didn’t want after getting pregnant, widowed, and forced to place her two children with other families as she didn’t have the economic means to care for them.1 These early experiences shaped Waisbrooker’s political views and her work: she was a spiritualist and then became interested in free love and sex radicalism.

Without a well-off family to fall back on, Waisbrooker struggled to make a life that allowed her to commit fully to advancing the cause of free love and women’s right to self-determination.2 It was never easy for Waisbrooker, but through writing she was at least able to eke out a living. These are just three of more than a dozen books she published, in addition to number of periodicals she founded or helped edit.

"I demand unqualified freedom for women as woman, and that all institutions of society be adjusted to such freedom"
Title page of My Century Plant. Waisbrooker founded Independent Publishing Company herself after struggling to find publishers willing to publish books dealing with sex.

Of course, the life Waisbrooker forged was possible because there were readers eager to read what she wrote. Waisbrooker’s writings validated their own experiences and  helped these women connect with a community of people whose views aligned with their own. In her analysis of readers’ letters published in the newspapers and journals founded or edited by Waisbrooker, Passet found that most of the women writing were working-class and rural, commonly from Midwestern and Western states.3 Isolated in their home communities, Waisbrooker’s work gave these women room to discuss topics like marital rape and women’s sexual fulfillment, literature that resonated with their experiences, and a way to imagine new economic and social models.4

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Newspaper clipping about Waisbrooker’s arrest on obscenity charges that was pasted in Perfect Motherhood

We get a glimpse of Waisbrooker’s readers in this copy of Perfect Motherhood: Or Mabel Raymond’s Resolve. A previous owner has pasted in a newspaper clipping describing Waisbrooker’s arrest in Topeka, Kansas “on the charging of sending obscene material through the mails.” This suggests the owner was not just a casual reader, but someone who followed Waisbrooker’s career and thought this clipping worth saving with Waisbrooker’s writings.

Having Waisbrooker’s works along side books like Of the Friendship of Amis and Amile speaks to the depth of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection and to the variety of ways women have engaged with books and the written word. For Waisbrooker these books were a means of survival, for both herself financially and the ideas she championed. For women readers, these books offered a vital intellectual connection with like-minded women and a path towards their own sexual and economic liberation.

Footnotes
1. Joanne Passet, Sex Radicals and The Quest for Women’s Equality (Urbana,Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 112-113.
2. Ibid., 116.
3. Ibid., 47, 55, 119.
4. Ibid., 153.

Post contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian