Records of Births and Deaths in a 19th Century Small Town

Post contributed by Taylor de Klerk, Josiah Charles Trent Intern for the History of Medicine Collections

A pair of books, nearly identical in appearance, live on the shelves of the Rubenstein Library. Both are beautifully bound and were clearly well-maintained by their original owner, Dr. Charles Brayton, who used them throughout his 19th century career. Despite their outward similarities, these books are almost exact opposites. Brayton kept one volume to document the births he attended and the other to record deaths in the same community: Stonington, Connecticut.

As a practicing physician from the 1870s to the early 1900s, Brayton provided care for many members of this community, which numbered around 6,000 to 8,000 at various points in his career. These books give us a sense of what life in 19th century New England was like, thanks to Brayton’s thorough records.

Each volume documents different types of information. The “List of Births” included the date (and sometimes time) of each birth, the child’s name and gender, the parents’ names and ages, and the baby’s surname. Dr. Brayton also sometimes described the parents’ race, where they were originally from, and any significant details about the birth. The timeline for this volume extends so far that it includes some instances where the babies Dr. Brayton had delivered later grew up and he delivered their children as well.

Photograph of an excerpt from Brayton's Record Book. It's written in cursive on slightly yellowed lined paper. It provides details like the date and time of the birth of Theodora Sylvia
Entry for birth of Theodora “Dora” Sylvia, July 3, 1877

Tracing new mothers back to their own births happens on several occasions, including for Theodora “Dora” Sylvia Holland. Dr. Brayton delivered Dora at 10:15pm on July 3rd, 1877. His notes indicate that this is Theodora A. Daveny Sylvia’s fifth labor, but there are no anecdotes or records of complications. Reading through his notes from the decades that followed, Dora’s name reoccurs several times. Dr. Brayton delivered six of her children! Dora’s first adult occurrence in this book (after her own birth of course) was in 1896 for her second labor. Mrs. Dora Sylvia Holland gave birth to a baby boy at 5:50pm on May 11, 1896.

Another photograph of an excerpt from Brayton's Record Book. It's handwritten in cursive. It lists the details of the birth of John T. Holland Jr.
Entry for birth of John T. Holland, Jr., May 11, 1896
Photograph of entry for death of William Hyde. It is written and cursive and appears to take up a whole page
Entry for death of William Hyde, M.D., September 25, 1873

Conversely, Brayton’s “Record of Deaths” lists the date of each individual’s death, their name, approximate age (if he knew), and reason of death. For some individuals, he also included their relation to other community members and their place of birth. On some occasions Brayton included even more information, such as a narrative of the events leading up to the death.

This is the case for Dr. William Hyde, who died of consumption at 64 years old after spending nearly half of his life with the disease. Dr. Brayton describes Hyde as “a good friend to me and my preceptor in the study of medicine.” Brayton undoubtedly experienced a strong reaction to the passing of his teacher. Brayton’s record goes on to eulogize Hyde by listing his family and accomplishments, though unfortunately none of his five children lived longer than Hyde himself.

Records like these shed light into the practices of those that lived centuries ago. We use these books and others to help Duke medical students and undergraduates understand the historical context of the practices that they learn about in their coursework. Dr. Brayton’s records help us see the ways of life in 19th century small-town Connecticut, even if just through the lens of one man’s professional career.

Dr. Brayton’s List of Births and Record of Deaths are available to view in the Rubenstein Library’s reading room. Click here for more information about using our collections.

Locus Archives Document the History of Sci-Fi

Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Manuscript Processing in Technical Services

Locus, the Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field, was started in 1968 by Charles N. Brown, Ed Meskys, and Dave Vanderwerf as a science-fiction news and fan zine, and it’s still going! For all of the years that the staff have been creating the magazine, they’ve also been saving and collecting correspondence, clippings, and books by and about science-fiction, fantasy, and horror writers.  In 2018 the Rubenstein Library acquired this massive collection (almost 1,000 boxes).  It will be a while before we finish processing and cataloging all the books and papers, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t share a sneak peek of the project mid-process.

A Few Highlights

Correspondence

I recently finished processing the manuscript portion of the collection, which includes seven boxes of files relating to more than 800 authors. My favorite part of these files is the correspondence, the bulk of which was written between 1960 and 2009. Many writers wrote to Locus to share news that could be included in the magazine or to quibble about inaccuracies and to suggest corrections. Overall, the correspondence creates a sense of community among a very diverse and spread-out group of writers; people wanted to know who was publishing what, who changed agents, who was involved with such-and-such scandal or lawsuit, who died, who got re-married, etc. Fans may swoon over the signatures of Octavia E. Butler, Arthur C. Clarke, Issac Asimov, and Ursula K. Le Guin (to name a few).  Many of the letters are amicable, some are irate, and some are sassy and humorous. Here, one of my favorite writers, Octavia E. Butler, writes to make an important and sErious correction:

Humorous, typed postcard.
Postcard from Octavia E. Butler

Researchers will find evidence in these letters of a thriving community of writers, publishers, and editors all working to create relatively new and modern genres of fiction.

International Connections

Perhaps of special interest to fans and scholars will be the international ties of the collection, especially to Eastern Europe, the U.S.S.R., China, and Japan. Below, Alexander Korzhenevski provides a report about a science-fiction conference in Sverdlovsk (U.S.S.R.). He writes that the 1989 convention “was the biggest (so far) SF convention in the Soviet Union.” Later in the report he alludes to publishing organizations in the U.S.S.R. by describing how two books arrived at the convention: “Both books were published through (not by, because cooperative organizations here still have no publishing rights) new publishing cooperative organizations (one of them “Text” is headed by Vitaly Babenko), and both of them were delivered to the convention by fans by train (no help from state book-trading organizations).” Korzhenevski’s file also includes a flyer for his business, which is described as “the very first independent literary agency in Russia, operating since 1991.”

Envelope with a lot of space-themed stamps from USSR.
Report on the Aelita-89 Science Fiction convention in the U.S.S.R., written by Alexander Korzhenevski. Check out those stamps!

Stationery

This collection has the best stationery by far of any manuscript collection that I have processed. I wonder what researchers in the distant future will think about these creative designs? Here are 14 of my favorites:

Winged horse with a flaming mane printed on stationary.

Round space ship illustration on stationary.

Fantastical dragon with many arms like a centipede.

Wedding invitation featuring a drawing of a viking woman.  Continue reading Locus Archives Document the History of Sci-Fi

Public Domain Showcase 2019!

Guest Post by Arnetta Girardeau, Duke University Libraries, Copyright & Information Policy Consultant

As you may have already heard, January 1, 2019 marked a very, very special “Public Domain Day.” When Congress extended the term of copyright in 1998 through the Copyright Term Extension Act, it set off a long, cold public-domain winter. For twenty years, no work first published in the United States entered the public domain. But now, spring is here! On January 1, 2019, works first published in 1923 became free to use. And in 2020, works first published in 1924 will enter the public domain, and so on and so on! It’s exciting stuff.  What does that mean to us as creators, makers, teachers, or writers?  It means that we suddenly have access to more materials to rework, reuse, and remix!  Works such as Charlie Chaplain’s The Pilgrim, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Links, and “The Charleston.”

At Duke, we’re celebrating this introduction of new materials into the Public Domain with a competition to showcase what our community can do with the public domain.  We want to see how Duke faculty, staff, and students can use items from 1923 and earlier, all of which are now in the Public Domain!   We have provided a few images below, but feel free to create with any works that you find that are in the public domain (if you have questions about what is and isn’t in the public domain, you can contact us and we’d be happy to talk!) Looking for some more inspiration? Browse our digitized collections for thousands of works published before 1923.

What can you do?

  • Write new lyrics to a song
  • Create a wallpaper for your mobile phone
  • Make a work of art
  • Create a score for a silent movie made in 1923.

What else do you need to know?

  • Any member of the Duke community may enter.  Faculty, staff, students, and retirees are all welcome. Selected entries will be posted on the blog and on Library social media. We have a small number of giveaways to thank you for participating.
  • Multiple entries are allowed;
  • Send in entries between January 9 and January 31 at midnight;
  • Use public domain content;
  • Submit your entries here 

You can read more about the Public Domain in this article by the Duke Law Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

If you have any questions about entering the showcase, or how to incorporate other people’s work into your own, consult the Arnetta Girardeau, Copyright and Information Policy Consultant, at arnetta.girardeau@duke.edu.

From Edward Topsell, The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents. 1658.

 

Trinity College Basketball Team, 1920-1921. University Archives Photograph Collection. Duke University Archives.

 

Cover of pamphlet advertising The Bryant and Stratton Commercial School. John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History

 

Chas. Johnson, “A New Rag, Dill Pickles.” 1906-07.

Blue Devils’ Blue Light

Post contributed by Josh Larkin Rowley, Reference Archivist for the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History

Spend a moment chatting with me and there’s one thing you’ll likely learn: I really like beer. Since my arrival in Durham nearly a decade ago, I’ve spent an uncomfortable amount of my income at Sam’s Quik Shop. It’s changed a lot since my time here—expanded indoor space, the addition of outdoor seating, a less surly staff. However, it has always been a hub for me, a family-owned bottle shop that still feels like the Durham I met years ago. In an evolving cityscape featuring more new high-rise condominiums than personality these days, Sam’s is iconic. Like many local beer drinkers, I was stunned but not altogether surprised by the news that the bottle shop will close at the end of the month and the property sold. As a beer-loving member of the Duke community I started thinking about what Sam’s, in all its historical iterations, has meant to generations of Duke students. Taking advantage of resources available in the Duke University Archives we catch a glimpse of the evolution of Sam’s and a feeling for what the institution meant to generations of Duke students.

Sam’s Quik Shop ad from the July 12, 1976 Chronicle. The ad shows an illustration of Uncle Sam driving a car and text about the Quik Stop's hours, products, and address.
Sam’s Quik Shop ad from July 12, 1976 Chronicle

In the 1950s, when the Woman’s College was still active, codes of conduct choreographed interactions between men and women on campus. Consequently, students sought friendly establishments off campus where they could socialize freely. One of these was Sam’s Blue Light Basement, named after the hit song “The House of the Blue Lights,” which opened its doors in 1954 to students eager for a new nightlife spot in the city. Modeled on the German Rathskeller, students could dance to juke box tunes, drink beer, and mingle in proximity to the opposite sex, all without the heavy hand of administrative oversight. In a 1981 profile of Sam’s Quik Shop in The Chronicle, owner Sam Boy spoke fondly of current Duke students who tell him that their parents “came a courtin’” to the Blue Light years earlier.

While the basement boomed, the ground floor Blue Light Cafe thrived as well, with locals and students alike lining up for the drive-up food delivery. During the annual Joe College celebration, a mainstay of every Duke students’ social calendar in the 1950s, students found the time between scheduled events for a trip to the Cafe. “At 5 the lawn concert breaks up . . . a quick stop at the Blue Light for an in-car supper,” reads a poetic homage to Joe College weekend in the 1955 Chanticleer. The in-car service was so popular that by the 1960s local police were required to direct traffic on busy weekends. “Cars were lined up outside looking for a place to park,” Sam Boy remembered. In 1974, Sam and his wife Gerry converted part of the business into a convenience store, changing the name to Sam’s Quik Shop, while retaining the neon Blue Light sign that adorned the facade.

The Quik Shop became a one-stop establishment for anything one might need. From convenience store staples to automotive supplies, the Quik Shop had it all. However, alongside the self-serve carwash, books and newspapers, and VHS rentals (over 3,400 titles!), beer was the most prominent feature of their offerings. Sharing shelf space with standard brands like Miller, Budweiser, and for those with an aversion to beer, Bartles and Jaymes and a large selection of wines, the Quik shop also stocked less familiar names and imports like Old Peculiar, Glacier Bay, Chihuahua, and Sol. “That’s our drawing card as opposed to the supermarkets,” noted a prescient Sam Boy in 1981. Sam’s found its niche.

By 1984, a legal drinking age of 21 put beer drinking by law-abiding college students out of reach. However, thanks to advances in home computing technology and photo editing software, a surfeit of fake IDs hit the nightlife scene in the late 1990s. During this scourge of lawlessness, many Durham drinking establishments reported an increase in fake ID confiscation—IDs most easily identified by their atrocious quality. Sam’s on the other hand reported a decline in the number of fake IDs. “Usually we have a whole wall full by the end of the semester,” exclaimed Robert Clark, a Sam’s clerk in 1999. “Right now, we only have four or five.” (If you were one of those lucky students publicly shamed on the walls of Sam’s circa 1999, let us know!).

Sam’s Quik Shop ad from the November 11, 1988 Chronicle. Ad shows a map of Sam's location and information about the products they carry.
Sam’s Quik Shop ad from the November 11, 1988 Chronicle

“It has been said that one cannot stand in the way of progress,” began an editorial by student Marc Weinstein in the October 5, 1990 issue of The Chronicle. The extension of the 147 Expressway to the west turned the area around Sam’s Quik Shop into a construction and traffic nightmare that affected the livelihood of the family-owned business. While approving of necessary infrastructure improvements, Weinstein went on to say that he equally liked Sam’s Quik Shop. “I like being able to snatch a 6-pack of Colt 45 . . . rent Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo, and grab some hot pork rinds at 10 on a Friday night,” said the Trinity senior. Weinstein vowed to contribute in some small way to ensuring the survival of this “shoppers paradise” by making extra trips to the Quik Shop each week. His fear, surely shared by many, was that the institution would go the way of Pete Rinaldi’s Chicken Palace, a beloved eatery on 9th Street.

Alas, progress has finally caught up to Sam’s Quik Shop. As another Durham landmark is swapped for clean, commodious living, let us—Durhamites and Duke students alike—mourn the loss of one of the city’s most enduring locales . . . over a beer, of course.

Green Book Provides Guide to a Bygone Era

Post contributed by Bennett Carpenter, PhD Candidate in Literature and African and African American Studies Intern 

The movie Green Book, in theaters now, has garnered both acclaim and criticism for its depiction of the African American pianist Don Shirley’s 1962 tour through the Jim Crow South. But it has also engendered newfound interest in the original Green Book, a vital resource for African American travelers in the early- to mid-twentieth century.

Car travel appealed to many African Americans in the Jim Crow era, both for the sense of freedom it engendered and as a means to escape the segregation and discrimination experienced in public transportation. But travelling by car presented its own difficulties. In addition to the pervasive threat of police harassment on the road, many hotels, restaurants and even gas stations refused to cater to Black customers—not only in the overtly segregated South but also in the nominally integrated North. As a result, Black travelers had to plan ahead.

Scan of cover of "1962" edition of Green Book: Guide for Travel and Vacations
1962 Green Book Cover

First published in 1936, the Negro Motorist Green Book provided African Americans with an invaluable guide to relatively safe stopping points along the road, along with a list of local businesses that would provide food, gas, a place to sleep and a warm welcome. The book was created and published by New York City mailman Victor Green, who tapped into a network of Black postal workers across the country to provide him with information about local conditions.

Here at the John Hope Franklin Research Center, we hold a copy of the Green Book from the same year that the film takes place—1962. A glance through its pages grants many insights into African American life in the mid-20th century. The entry for Durham, North Carolina, for instance, lists two restaurants, a hostelry and a hotel—all located in the historic Black neighborhood of Hayti.

Scan of pages 74 and 75 from the 1962 Green Book, listing business in North Carolina, including Durham
1962 Green Book, pp. 74-75

Founded by freedmen in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, Hayti was an important center of Black life for the better part of a century. It attracted such famous visitors as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, who called it “the Negro business mecca of the South,” recommending it as a model for other African American communities to follow.

By the time the 1962 Green Book appeared, however, the community was on the verge of precipitous decline. That same year, the city voted to build Highway 147 through the middle of the neighborhood, dividing the community and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. Federal money promised for rebuilding failed to materialize. The community would be further torn apart by additional attempts at so-called “urban renewal”—famously dubbed “Negro removal” by James Baldwin for its disastrous impact on Black communities.

Today, none of the four Durham businesses listed in the 1962 Green Book remain. Two—the Bull City Restaurant and the Biltmore Hotel, both on Pettigrew Street—have been torn down, the once bustling businesses replaced by parking lots. DeShazor’s Hostelry has also been demolished; a strip mall now occupies the spot where it once stood. At 1306 Fayetteville Street, the former College Inn Restaurant has been replaced by the New Visions of Africa Community Restaurant. Opened in 2004, it provides free daily snacks to children and sells low-cost, healthy meals, with an emphasis on community self-sufficiency.

Scan of cover and page five of "Travelguide." The cover is a photograph of two black women sitting on a boat on a lake. The interior page lists business in Alabama.
Left: 1956 Travelguide cover, Right: Travelguide, p. 5

The Green Book was not the only such travel guide available to African American motorists. A 1956 booklet in our holdings, simply titled Travelguide, also promised to help Black travelers experience “Vacation & Recreation Without Humiliation,” as a caption on the cover put it. Inside the booklet, an inset note predicted that “the time is rapidly approaching when TRAVELGUIDE will cease to be a ‘specialized’ publication,” envisioning “the day when all established directories will serve EVERYONE.”

That day was not far off. In 1964, the passage of the Civil Rights Act ended legal racial discrimination in hotels, restaurants and all other public accommodations, muting the need for specialized travel guides. Within a few years, publication of the Green Book and other Black travel guidebooks would cease. The Travelguide’s optimistic proclamation had thus proved prophetic.

On the top of the same page from the 1956 Travelguide, however, another inset sounded a different note. “Many of the N.A.A.C.P. Presidents in southern states have been removed from this issue,” it announced, “due to the danger of increased violence by those individuals who are opposing the Supreme Court and the Interstate Commerce Commission in respect to segregation in travel.”

In the gap between these two insets—the one prophesizing an end to racial discrimination, the other warning of increasing racist violence—can be read both the triumphs and tribulations of the Black freedom struggle across the twentieth century.

Percy and Ella Sykes: A Photographic Journey Through Chinese Turkestan

Post contributed by Paula Jeannet, Visual Materials Processing Archivist

This post is part of “An Instant Out of Time: Photography at the Rubenstein Library” blog series

A recently acquired photograph album offers a study of the landscape, culture, and the realities of travel in a remote region in the steppes of Central Asia, through the camera of British Army officer Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes.  Charged as acting Consul-General in Chinese Turkestan, now Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, Sykes had to travel from England to the capital city of Kashgar.  In an unusual turn of events for the time, he was accompanied on this arduous overland journey by his sister, Ella Constance Sykes, also a Fellow of the Geographical Society and a well-regarded writer on Iran.

In March 1915, when the two set off for their arduous nine-month journey, World War I was in full tilt, thus their northerly route through Norway.  Meanwhile, in Central Asia, after decades of conflict which included the Crimean War, Russians, Turks, English, Chinese, and British Empire troops from India, were still grappling to extend their control over these strategically important regions.  Lieutenant Colonel Sykes’ camera recorded the presence of these nationalities.

Chinese troops lined up with bayonets and drummer boys.

Three Russian officials standing together, a camel passes by in the background.

 

In researching this collection of photographs, I discovered that brother and sister also recorded their experiences in a co-authored travel memoir, Through deserts and oases of Central Asia (1920, available online); it includes many of the photographs found in the album.  To find a written companion piece to a photograph album is a stroke of luck, as with its help I could confirm dates, locations, and a historical context for the photographs found in the album.

Ella Sykes wrote Part I of the memoir, which describes the journey in vivid detail, and her brother, Part II, which focuses on the region’s geography, history, and culture.  In her narrative, Ella occasionally recounts taking photographs of various scenes, such as the image on page 92 of women at a female saint’s shrine.  A note in the image index states that “The illustrations, with one exception, are from reproductions of photographs taken by the authors” (emphasis mine); clearly, some of the book’s illustrations are her work.  The question arises, did she take any of the images found in the album?

Of the photographs in the album that also appear in the Sykes’ book, several are found in the section written by Ella, leading one to think perhaps she took them, including a different version of this group, found in the album:

Kirghiz women standing together in front of a yurt.

However, the title of the photograph album, handwritten in beautiful calligraphic script, states: “Photographs taken by Lt. Col. Sir Percy Sykes to illustrate Chinese Turkestan, the Russian Pamirs and Osh, April-November, 1915.”Title page of photo album.

With this title in hand and my cataloging hat on, and without firm evidence of Ella’s hand in the album’s images, I officially record Sir Percy Sykes as the album’s sole creator.

Through researching the context for Percy Sykes’ photograph album (a copy of which is also held by the British Library), I learned a bit about the history of the region and of his role in the administration of British affairs.  I was also serendipitously introduced to Ella Sykes.  Even though in her fifties when she traveled, she clearly had great stamina as a horsewoman and adventurer, and was a keen observer of the people, landscapes, and animals she encountered.  Sir Percy writes in the book’s preface: “To my sister belongs the honour of being the first Englishwoman to cross the dangerous passes leading to and from the Pamirs, and, with the exception of Mrs. Littledale, to visit Khotan.” (p. vi)  Ella Sykes was a founding member of the Royal Central Asian Society and a member of the Royal Geographical Society as well.  She died in 1939 in London, while her brother Percy died in 1945, also in London.

For more information about the photograph album, see the collection guide.  The album is non-circulating but is available to view in the Rubenstein Library reading room.  It joins other Rubenstein photography collections documenting the history of adjacent regions in the Middle East, Central Asia, Russia, India, and China.

Additional links:

Photograph portrait, reportedly of Ella Sykes, from the Long Riders Guild of travel narratives.

Some biographical information was taken courtesy of:  Denis Wright, “SYKES, Ella Constance,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2008, viewed December 10, 2018, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/sykes-ella-constance

Applications Now Accepted for the 2019-2020 Travel Grant Program

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2019-2020 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, the Human Rights Archive, and the Archive of Documentary Arts, will each award up to $1,500 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 Library also awards up to $1,500 for individuals who would benefit from access to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history collections through the Harry H. Harkins, Jr. T’73 Travel Grant.

The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, North Carolina, 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, 2019. Recipients will be announced in March 2019.

126 Years of Fascination with Lizzie Borden

Post Contributed by Michelle Runyon, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture Graduate Intern.

On August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were found after being murdered with an ax. Andrew’s daughter Lizzie was immediately suspected and she was subsequently tried for the couple’s murders. The public was entranced with the grisly crime and Lizzie Borden’s trial. Many were unpleasantly surprised when she was acquitted of her father’s and stepmother’s murders. Lizzie Borden continued to live in her hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts, until her death even though she was ostracized by the community.

Even since her death in 1927, Lizzie Borden has continued to catch the public imagination. In the 126 years since Bordens’ murders, there have been books, podcast episodes (for example, Unsolved Murders Episode 23), movies, and even an opera which tells the gruesome story of the the Bordens’ murders. The Duke Libraries holds dozens of works inspired by the story of Lizzie Borden.

Here at the Rubenstein Library, we have a few different items related to Lizzie Borden and her trial, including a two-volume scrapbook that details Lizzie Borden’s trial through contemporary newspaper clippings. Although we are not certain who compiled the scrapbooks, their existence is evidence of the public’s fascination with the Borden murders from the beginning and the attention that was paid to Lizzie’s trial.

Photograph of opened scrapbook. Clippings from newspapers have been pasted in. The text is very small and the newspaper browning at the edges.
Clippings in the Lizzie Borden scrapbooks, Rubenstein Library

The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection includes a brief manuscript relaying events in Fall River surrounding the two murders  and an autograph album collected by Jennie Nuttall, a resident of Fall River, MA, which includes a verse and signature by Borden from before the murders took place. This volume will be included in 500 Years of Women’s Work: the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection exhibit opening at the Rubenstein on February 27, 2019.

We also have an album in the Bobbye S. Ortiz Papers featuring a song about Lizzie Borden, as sung by the Chad Mitchell Trio!

composite image showing the front of the album "The Best of chad Mitchell Trio" on the left and the reverse listing the track listing on the right. The first track on the album is "Lizzie Borden"
Front and back cover “The Best of Chad Mitchell Trio,” from the Bobbye Ortiz collection

As evidenced by the release this year of film entitled Lizzie inspired by her story, Lizzie Borden continues to be a figure of macabre fascination to many. Her story and the stories of the murders are retold time and time again.

Movember Adventures in the Archive

Post contributed by Zoë Eckman, PhD Candidate in English and Research Services Intern.

At the beginning of this month, I became intrigued by the event called “Movember” or “no-shave November.”  It’s an awareness-raising charitable event in which mustaches are grown over the month to spark conversations about men’s health and encourage donations.  Inspired by this event, I decided to delve into the resources of the Rubenstein to research the simple topic of facial hair.  What I discovered spanned centuries, genres, materials, and occasionally conflicting opinions about beard and mustaches.

Because the Rubenstein’s collections are so expansive, it may seem intimidating to begin a research project – but experience in libraries will hone your research skills and introduce you to new tools which are advantageous no matter what subjects you’re fascinated by.  The most important thing to bring with you are questions – what could I discover about the way facial hair has been viewed over time?  What importance (if any) did facial hair have in the past?  There was a lot of material to wade through, but I chose things which seemed interesting to me and might help me answer my questions.

The first was a play written in 1707, Colley Cibber’s “The Double Gallant”. While the play itself isn’t about facial hair, it contains the brilliant quote:  “Modesty’s a starving virtue, madam, an old threadbare fashion of the last age, and would sit as oddly upon a lover now as a picked beard and mustachios” (p. 30).  Clearly, in the eighteenth-century in Britain, growing facial hair was not the route to choose when attempting to choose a paramour.

Scan of "The Double Gallant" open to the title page. Opposit the title page is an engraved illustration of a man and woman in aristocratic 18th century dress. The woman is looking a way from the man who is bowing close to her.

Not so in France in 1842, when Eugène Dulac’s “Physiologie et Hygiène de la Barbe et des Moustaches” [image 2] encouraged young men to grow beards and mustaches because they were a visual symbol of male dominance – something women, in the author’s opinion at least, found extremely attractive.

Title page of "Physiologie et Hygiene" It includes an illustration showing three men seated on low chairs, with two women kneeling on the floor before them.

After this, I discovered a comedic song from 1931 called “Put Away the Moustache Cup” in a book of music called “Soft boiled ballads : a collection of heart-wrecking songs.”

Scan of sheet music for "Put Away the Moustache Cup." The music is decorated around the edges with images of cupid and devils.

Wanting to know what a “mustache cup” was, I searched the library and found a physical example of one in the Richard Pollay ACME Advertising Collection  which advertised hair dye (so if you think branded giveaways like coffee mugs or water bottles are a modern trend, think again).

Photograph of a mustache cup. It is a mug with a semicircular ledge inside. The ledge has a half moon-shaped opening to allow the passage of liquids and serves as a guard to keep moustaches dry. The side of the mug features an advertisement for Acme Hair Dye.

Also not a modern trend, I discovered, was the removal of beards and mustaches considered unattractive.  A book from 1906 encourages the removal of “unwanted facial hair” on women through the hot, new medical procedure of electrolysis!  One hundred years later, the feminist magazine “Bitch” included an article in their essay collection titled, “Beyond the Bearded Lady:  Outgrowing the Shame of Female Facial Hair.”

Perhaps one of the most famous mustaches in the world belonged to the artist Salvador Dalí, whose facial hair was so iconic that it was given its own book, “Dalí’s Mustache.”  The book is a “photographic interview” in which short questions are posed to the artist, he responds in his iconoclastic style, and a picture is featured in which his mustache is styled to match his answer.  When the question, “What do you see when you look at Mona Lisa?” is asked, he responds like this:

Facial hair also has local historical significance:  in 1953, to celebrate Durham’s centennial, a group of 3,093 men paid a $1 membership fee, got a button, and pledged to maintain facial hair of some sort (you can learn more about that here, in a previous intern’s blog post).  “Grow a ‘Mo, Save a Bro” is one of Movember’s mottos – the Durham men called themselves “The Brothers of the Brush.”  On the opposite end of the spectrum, a Winston-Salem man was, in 1974, required by his employer to shave off his mustache and remain clean-shaven.  He filed a lawsuit with the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and we have the records of his struggle to maintain his personal facial hair and insure the rights of others to do the same (he was going to lose his case, unfortunately, so settled out of court).

So, researching something as simple as facial hair has lead us from the 18th century through the 19th, 20th, and into the 21st.  We’ve encountered fictional texts, medical treatises, musical ballads, advertisements, surreal art, historical events and lawsuits, and feminist journalism.  The Rubenstein is a research tool which contains a wealth of items touching diverse and seemingly disparate subjects.  All you have to do, no matter what you’re interested in, is dive in.

 

Your Obedient Servant: Hamilton and Burr Letters at the Rubenstein Library

Post contributed by Kate CollinsResearch Services Librarian

The opening of the hit musical Hamilton at the Durham Performing Arts Center has meant letters we have from Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and other figures in the musical have been getting some attention on campus, in the press, and in our reading room. We’re always excited to share our collections, especially when they relate to a musical that grapples with questions of whose voices are included in history and how historical narratives are constructed.

Want to hold and read a letter that Hamilton or Burr wrote? These collections are available in our reading room and open to all, so come visit us.

Alexander Hamilton Letters, 1780, 1791

In November 1791, Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, wrote to Abisha Thomas and James Taylor, treasury agents for North Carolina, trying to find out if North Carolina had ever issued its own debt certificate in exchange for those of the United States. This may seem like one of the more technical provisions in the Funding Act of 1790 (which Jefferson complains in the musical has “too many damn pages for any man to understand”), but it relates to one of the most important pieces of Hamilton’s financial plan for the new nation: the federal government’s assumption of debts incurred by individual states during the Revolutionary War. The vigorous debates that surrounded Hamilton’s economic vision for the US were re-imagined in Hamilton as a rap battle in “Cabinet Battle #1.” Hamilton, of course, did succeed in getting congressional support for his financial system, thanks to the deal he made with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the Compromise of 1790.

The letter was likely written by a clerk (Hamilton was a busy guy!), but it does bear his signature, just below the closing “Your Obed. Servant.” This was a common closing for letters between elite men in the 18th century. Burr and Hamilton both used it (if not sincerely) during the heated exchange of letters that led to their duel, earning the phrase a prominent spot in the musical.

This collection also includes a newspaper clipping of a republished letter, 1780, from Hamilton to Elizabeth Schuyler concerning the Benedict Arnold affair and the death of Major John André.

Burr, Aaron. Letter, 1793, Dec. 24 : Philadelphia, to Mrs. Burr.

In this letter, we see side of Burr only hinted at in the musical. Here he’s not Hamilton’s political adversary, but a devoted husband trying to find his wife, Theodosia, relief from her “distressing illness.” Theodosia and Aaron Burr’s relationship gets only a couple of lines in the musical, but as is alluded to, Theodosia was married to a British officer when Burr began courting her during the war. Theodosia and Aaron did eventually marry in 1782, following the death of Theodosia’s first husband. The Burrs’ marriage was one built on affection, friendship, and respect for one another as intellectual equals. photograph of 1793 written by aaron burr to his wife

Theodosia had been ill for much of their life together and by 1793 was in severe pain. Aaron Burr writes this letter to Theodosia from Philadelphia, where he was serving in Congress, on Christmas Eve, 1793 to say he had consulted with Dr. Benjamin Rush, the prominent Philadelphia physician, and Rush advised she take hemlock. Burr had not told Rush Theodosia was already taking hemlock and is pleased that Rush’s opinion aligned with the medical advice they’d already received. He closes his letter saying he hopes the hemlock “may restore you health and to your affectionate, A. Burr. ” Sadly, Theodosia was likely suffering from cancer, and died just five months after this letter.

Otis, Harrison Gray. Letter, 1803. (from Alexander Hamilton)

Hamilton wrote this letter to Harrison Otis, another prominent lawyer and Federalist, advising on whether a particular document would be admissible as evidence in an ongoing lawsuit related to an insurance claim following the seizure of a trade ship by the Portuguese off the coast of Brazil. Otis was one of the lawyer’s representing Hamilton’s brother-in-law, John B. Church (with whom Burr had previously dueled!), in the case.

Van Ness, William Peter. Letter, 1805. (from Aaron Burr)

Following his duel with Hamilton and the end of his term as Vice President, Burr went on a seven month trip through the western states and territories, making his was all the way down to New Orleans. Van Ness served as Burr’s second in his duel with Hamilton, and as this letter shows, Burr continued to rely on Van Ness. Burr writes Van Ness from Chillicothe, Ohio, the state’s capital at the time, asking Van Ness to meet him in Berkeley Springs, Virginia (now West Virginia) “as soon as may be possible (I don’t say convenient),” and instructing Van Ness to contact some of his supporters: the physician and editor “Dr. I” (Dr. Peter Irving) in New York, and the Philadelphia merchant Charles Biddle.  Burr also mentions plans to meet his daughter Theodosia Burr Alston and son-in-law “Mr. A” at the Springs on November 4th.

Schuyler, Philip J. Letter, 1801, May 2 : Albany, to Thomas Barclay, Esq.

Philip Schuyler was Hamilton’s father-in-law and served as one of New York’s senators in the First United States Congress. A Federalist, Schuyler lost his re-election to Aaron Burr, who ran as a Democratic-Republican, in 1791. Schuyler regained his senate seat from Burr in 1797, before resigning the next year due to poor health. In this letter, Schuyler, a chronic sufferer of gout, gives his case history and writes of Samuel Stringer’s prescribed treatment against gout, the inhalation of oxygen.

 

Bibliography

Goebel, Julius, Jr., ed. The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton; Documents and Commentary. New York: Columbia University Press, 1964.

Nancy Isenberg. Fallen Father: A Life of Aaron Burr. New York: Viking, 2007.

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