Reference Desk, 1958

What kinds of questions did Duke students ponder 50 years ago?
Here’s a glimpse at some of the questions recorded by Duke Reference librarians in 1958:

Have we (the U.S.) ever been out of debt?

I have to write a paper on the origin of the earth.

I want material on the moon in July 1778.

Where can I find material on safety items in airplanes, like ejection seats?

Is Thurston the Magician still alive? If so, where does he live?

Where can I find how many witches were killed in Europe?

Can you recommend a book on “mind reading”?

Where can I find how to grind the lens of a telescope?

I need some quarto-sized pictures of prehistoric man.

What color is the star Venus in the morning sky?

Are the people of Massachusetts called “Massachusettentians”?

Could you give me a list of brand names of all whiskey made in the U.S.?

I want a list of cities with their pollen counts, so I can locate to a pollen-free community.

Shortly after World War I (probably 1924), you sent me a booklet on inflation. As I recall it, that booklet discussed the evils of inflation and what happened to people in the area it hit. I would like to get a copy of it as a more modern version.

What is the source of the quotation “It is better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness”?

Where in the Manhattan yellow sheets should I look for a company which handles foreign exchange currency and sending money abroad?

I ate some fruit at lunch and I’ve forgotten what it is. Can you help me?

I am writing a 1500 word paper (due tomorrow!)–on how to set up a beach (life saving corps, etc.).

Who makes Edith Lance bras? I want to write a complaint to the company…

Image credit: “Studying Dink, 1957.” Duke University Archives. Durham, NC. USA. Accessed Nov. 17th, 2008.

Written by Hannah Rozear

4 thoughts on “Reference Desk, 1958”

  1. There are lots of good ones, but you may want to check this out: New frontiers of the mind: the story of the Duke experiments by J.B. Rhine (1937). Did you know that Duke was one of the first American Universities to conduct a serious research study about telepathy and clairvoyance?

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