All posts by mlp60@duke.edu

Gilded Age Cures for Soldiers Suffering from Opiate Addiction

Post contributed by Jonathan S. Jones, historian and PhD candidate at Binghamton University

In the Civil War’s wake, thousands of veterans became addicted to medicinal opiates. Hypodermic morphine injections and opium pills were standard remedies in the Civil War era for amputations, sickness, and depression, and they often lead to addiction. Take, for example, the case of A.W. Henley, a Confederate veteran, who recalled in 1878 that, “In the army, I had to use opiates for a complication of painful diseases.” The medicine soon “fastened its iron grip on my very vitals, and held me enchained and enslaved for near fifteen years.”[i]

Historians have long recognized the causative link between Civil War medical care and the high rate of opiate addiction among veterans. However, although we know that doctors were in many ways the originators of the postwar addiction epidemic, we know surprisingly little the about the medical response to the crisis. Did American doctors ignore the opiate addiction among veterans, or did physicians seek to help veterans suffering from addiction? And if so, what did those efforts look like?

These are questions I seek to answer in my dissertation, “A Mind Prostrate”: Opiate Addiction in the Civil War’s Aftermath.” My research benefited greatly from a History of Medicine Collections Travel Grant, awarded by the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The History of Medicine Collections at the Rubenstein Library includes several manuscripts and rare items that suggest answers to elusive questions about the medical responses to Civil War veterans’ opiate addiction.

THE BLAME GAME

Physicians fell under a wave of criticism after the Civil War for causing opiate addiction crisis. Veterans and observers in the media accused doctors of overprescribing opiates to ailing old soldiers and other patients, resulting in widespread opiate addiction. This criticism posed a problem for physicians—so-called “regular” doctors—because it undermined their precarious position in the hyper-competitive Gilded Age medical marketplace. Physicians had been struggling to out-compete alternative healing sects and “quacks” for decades. Being labeled the culprits for the crisis only weakened the regulars’ footing in this struggle.

CHANGING PRESCRIBING PATTERNS

In response to this professional crisis, some physicians advocated for a move away from prescribing medicinal opiates. During the 1870s and 1880s, ex-military surgeons, in particular, exhorted their colleagues in medical journals and scientific studies to prescribe fewer opiates, to substitute the drugs with supposedly less-addictive painkillers, and even to refrain from prescribing opiates altogether. As the ex-Union surgeon Joseph Woodward surmised in 1879, “The more I learn of the behavior of such cases [of overprescribing] under treatment, the more I am inclined to advice that opiates should be as far as possible avoided.”[ii] Such proposals were truly radical, considering that opiates were the most commonly prescribed medicines of the nineteenth century up to that point.

But did physicians heed these warnings? Were radical proposals merely hypothetical, or did physicians implement them in practice? To answer these questions necessitates the close analysis of late nineteenth century clinical records. I was fortunate enough to stumble across one such record in the History of Medicine Collections at the Rubenstein Library, a rare casebook from the Philadelphia Orthopaedic Hospital and Infirmary for Nervous Diseases, professional home of the physician Silas Weir Mitchell.

Pages with handwriting in ink.
Casebook from the Philadelphia Orthopaedic Hospital and Infirmary for Nervous Diseases, professional home of the physician Silas Weir Mitchell.

An eminent neurologist, Mitchell was one of the most vocal members of the anti-opiate camp. Mitchell—whose infamous “rest cure” inspired the feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman to write The Yellow Wallpaper, a feminist critique of Mitchell’s methodswas a prolific writer. In many of his medical works, he railed against the habit-forming potential of medicinal opiates and doctors’ role in facilitating opiate addiction. As Mitchell explained in an 1883 work about pain management, “often, in my experience, the opium habit is learned during an illness of limited duration, and for the consequences of which there is always some one to be blamed.” He blamed doctors who were “weak, or too tender, or too prone to escape trouble by the easy help of some pain-lulling agent” for causing their patients to develop opiate addiction.[iii] Doctors must refrain from prescribing opiates empathetically, Mitchell warned, lest the medical profession continue to be blamed for the opiate addiction crisis.

Accordingly, Mitchell’s clinical records confirm that he stopped prescribing opiates to chronic pain patients, those at greatest risk for addiction, in his own clinic. Mitchell’s clinic, the Philadelphia Orthopaedic Hospital, was the cutting edge of American neurology in the late nineteenth century. Doctors working there alongside Mitchell specialized in treating chronic nervous pains, headaches, and other symptoms classified under the diagnostic category of neuralgia. During the previous decades, most of these individuals would have been treated with opiates. Indeed, Mitchell prescribed opiates heavily during the Civil War, witnessing the genesis of opiate addiction in several of his patients. Yet by the 1880s, Mitchell reversed course. The clinic’s casebook reveals Mitchell did not prescribe opiates to a single patient among the 62 individuals for which he recorded clinical notes between 1887 and 1900.  Other physicians, I suspect, mirrored Mitchell’s increasingly conservative approach to prescribing opiates during the Gilded Age.

THE COMPETITION

But physicians like Mitchell were not alone in responding to the Gilded Age opiate epidemic. Ailing Americans could choose from a vast spectrum of treatments and healers to remedy their medical woes during late nineteenth century. Unlike today, regular physicians were often outcompeted by alternative healers during the Gilded Age. So-called “quacks”—at least, that is what physicians dubbed them—often impinged on physicians’ customer bases.

Dozens of entrepreneurial healers spotted new commercial opportunities amidst the rising rates of opiate addiction. They invented and marketed a diverse array of treatments for opiate addiction between the late 1860s and the turn of the twentieth century. John Jennings Moorman, the proprietor of a nineteenth century West Virginia hot springs resort, exemplified this trend. I encountered a rare copy of Moorman’s 1880 advertising pamphlet for his White Sulphur Springs resort in the Rubenstein Library. Founded in the late 1830s, Moorman marketed his exceedingly popular hot springs as a cure for a diverse spectrum of diseases during the antebellum years, from rheumatism to neuralgia, jaundice, scurvy, and others.

Blue pamphlet
Front cover of Dr. J. J. Moorman’s pamphlet about the curative properties of White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia, 1880.

Always looking to expand his enterprise, Moorman perceived an opportunity in the rising rates of opiate addiction after the Civil War. Naturally, he expanded his operation to cater to opiate addicted customers desperate for a cure. Moorman began marketing White Sulphur Springs as a treatment for “opium eating” in 1880. Prior versions of Moorman’s marketing material do not include references to opiate addiction.[iv]

Paragraph titled "Use of the Water b Opium Eaters"
Page from Dr. J. J. Moorman’s pamphlet: White Sulphur Springs, with the analysis of its waters, the diseases to which they are applicable, and some account of society and its amusements at the Springs, 1880.

As Silas Weir Mitchell’s casebook and John Jennings Moorman’s advertising pamphlet indicate, Gilded Age medical practitioners responded to the opiate addiction crisis in diverse ways, from prescribing fewer opiates to marketing hot springs therapy for addiction. The rare medical manuscripts held by the History of Medicine Collections at the Rubenstein Library thus made significant contributions to my research, unlocking answers to elusive questions about the various medical responses to Civil War veterans’ opiate addiction.

—————————————————————

[i] Basil M. Woolley, The Opium Habit and its Cure (Atlanta: Atlanta Constitution Printer, 1879), 30.

[ii] Joseph Woodward, The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, Pt. II, vol. I (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1879), 750.)

[iii] S. Weir Mitchell, Doctor and Patient (Philadelphia: Lippincott Company, 1888), 93.

[iv] J.J. Moorman, White Sulphur Springs, with the analysis of its waters, the diseases to which they are applicable, and some account of society and its amusements at the Springs (Baltimore: The Sun Book and Job Printing Office, 1880), 25-26.

 

A Look at the El Pueblo Inc. Records: Serving the Growing Latinx Population of North Carolina

Post contributed by David Dulceany, Marshall T. Meyer Human Rights Intern and PhD candidate in Romance Studies

El Pueblo Inc. is a Triangle area Latinx organization based in Raleigh, NC. They strive for the local Latinx community “to achieve positive social change by building consciousness, capacity, and community action.” [1] El Pueblo Inc. has been involved in policy change by lobbying state and national politicians and pushing for legislation that benefits the Latinx community, raising health awareness, and especially, spearheading public safety campaigns. For example, in past campaigns, they have focused on reducing drunk driving and encouraging the proper use of child car seats. The organization also specifically focuses on youth issues and youth leadership. They have a separate Youth Program division tasked with running programs for Latino youth that are youth-led. One example is Pueblo Power, a social justice and community-organizing program.

La Fiesta del Pueblo is the organization’s major annual cultural event and it was also the founding event of the organization. [2] La Fiesta del Pueblo features live music, food, arts, and information booths. The event, as well as El Pueblo Inc. itself, has grown exponentially since its inception in 1994. Over the past 25 years, the event has gone from just a few tents and booths to a massive cultural festival spanning several blocks of Downtown Raleigh and boasting tens of thousands of attendees.

Flyer with pinata.
A promotional logo for La Fiesta del Pueblo, 2004. From the El Pueblo Inc. Records, 1994-2018, Digital-materials RL11105-SET-0012.

 

North Carolina, similarly, has seen a tremendous growth in its Latinx population since El Pueblo’s founding. The Latinx population of North Carolina grew by 943% from 1990 to 2010 and it continues to grow: on average, 25% per county from 2010 to 2017. [3] [4] North Carolina now has the 11th largest Latinx population in the United States. [3] Naturally, El Pueblo expanded to meet the needs of the growing community and developed a wide array of programs and campaigns as a result.

I felt an immediate affinity for the material in the archive because of my studies and previous work with Latinx communities and with Latinx literature, art, and culture. As a doctoral candidate in Spanish and Latin American studies, I have had the opportunity both as a student and an instructor to engage in experiential and service learning projects with a number of Latinx organizations. I admired seeing how El Pueblo tirelessly fought for the promotion of Latinx culture and the rights of Latinx workers, students, and families in the state.

One joy of working on an archive containing records from recent history is the ability to directly connect to the ongoing development and work of the organization. For example, I attended La Fiesta del Pueblo 2018 and saw firsthand the successful growth of the event, especially comparing it in my mind to the many old photographs of the early years. Through this experience, I had a more intimate and direct sense of the archival material, being able to engage with it in the present.

One example of an interesting item from the collection is the Public Service Announcement ads created by El Pueblo as part of their Nuestra Seguridad Public Safety campaign, a collaboration with the NC government. These ads were the direct response to the rise in DWI incidents among the Latinx population and the resultant xenophobic and racist backlash from concerned citizens and local government officials. Their message is clear, one person’s bad judgment or mistake affects the whole community and closes doors to everyone. The aggressive tone of the ads is strongly expressed in its rhyming slogan in Spanish “¿Manejar borracho? ¡No seas tonto muchacho!” or “Driving drunk? Don’t be dumb, man!”. I find these ads fascinating because they show the success of mobilizing a community to create change, to both increase Public Safety and defend against discrimination.

Ads against drinking and driving.
Newspaper ads from the Nuestra Seguridad campaign. El Pueblo Inc. Records, 1994-2018 Digital-materials RL11105-SET-0015.
Ad showing the impact of drinking and driving.
Newspaper ads from the Nuestra Seguridad campaign. El Pueblo Inc. Recods, 1994-2018, Digital-materials RL11105-SET-0015.

I believe that this collection would be of interest to any artists, educators, researchers, students, activists, or non-profit workers that want to learn more about the history of the Latinx population in North Carolina and Latinx culture, non-profit organizations in North Carolina, Youth leadership, and the debate on immigration reform post 9/11. The breadth of audiovisual material could also be used in exhibits or as part of book projects.

In our current context of rising anti-immigrant sentiment and policy, El Pueblo Inc.’s ongoing work is ever more relevant and needed. [5] [6] Their records offer a look into the recent history of the state and how the organization has impacted and strengthened Latinx communities in North Carolina.


Sources:

[1] www.elpueblo.org

[2] https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/elpueblo/

[3] Office of the Governor of North Carolina, Hispanic and Latino Affairs –

https://cnnc.uncg.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Demographic-trends-of-Latinos-in-NC-12-2011.pdf

[4] “Hispanic population continues to rise in NC as white population trails” –  https://www.charlotteobserver.com/latest-news/article213539719.html

[5] “’North Carolina is becoming our nightmare:’ Undocumented mom speaks out against ICE raids” –

https://abc11.com/undocumented-raleigh-mom-speaks-out-against-ice-raids/5141384/

[6] “7 NC mayors say ‘ICE raids have struck terror in the hearts of many’” –

https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article226258145.html

Women’s Work in the Woods: Women Loggers During World War I

Post contributed by Jessica Janecki, Rare Materials Cataloger

Today’s blog post features a photograph album of 20 gelatin silver prints that depict women loggers at work in England during World War I. This item is from the  Lisa Unger Baskin Collection which documents women’s work across the centuries, from the 13th to the 20th. We chose to highlight this photograph album because it unites two of the Rubenstein’s collecting areas, women’s history and documentary photography.

Red leather spine of book.
The Great War: Glimpses of Women’s Work in the Woods.

Although the title, Glimpses of Women’s Work in the Woods, verges on the whimsical, these photographs show young women hard at work doing the grueling manual labor that, until the Great War, had been done almost exclusively by men.

Woman swinging axe.
Timber felling near Petworth. A typical feller using her axe on a small fir tree.

The women depicted in the photographs were members of the Timber Corps. During World War I, forestry, like many male-dominated industries, was left critically under-staffed and the British government encouraged women to do their part for the war effort by taking on these vital jobs. The images show women loggers felling trees with hand-axes and saws, trimming and “barking” felled trees, carrying logs, and driving horses. These photographs were taken in the summer of 1918 around the towns of Petworth and Heathfield in Sussex, England.

Photograph of tree falling and women fellers.
The tree falling.
Photograph of 6 women scraping the bark off three logs.
Heathfield. “Barking.”
5 women carrying a log.
Heathfield. Carrying the poles out of the wood.
Photograph of two horses and two women.
Timber felling near Petworth. Horse girls bringing logs down to railroad.

These images were captured by Horace Nicholls, a British documentary photographer and photojournalist. He had been a war correspondent during the Second Boer War and later returned to England to work as a photojournalist. Prevented from serving in World War I due to his age, in 1917 he became an official photographer for the Ministry of Information and the Imperial War Museum, documenting life on the home front.

The series was not issued commercially and the album in the Baskin Collection appears to be a unique production. The 20 gelatin silver prints are carefully mounted on cream card stock with gilt edges. The binding is full red leather with the title in gold on the front cover and spine. Each print has a hand lettered caption. Click this link to view the full catalog record.

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

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

Providing Access to Radio Haiti Through Multilingual Metadata

Post contributed by Maggie Dickson, Metadata Architect, Digital Collections and Curation Services

As the metadata architect in the Digital Collections and Curation Services Department at Duke University Libraries, I have the opportunity to work on the design and development of many fabulous digital collections. This includes the Radio Haiti Archive, which has been one of the most interesting—and challenging—projects I’ve worked on throughout my 10+ years of working with digital collections.

Over the past few years, we’ve been standardizing our metadata practices across digital collections so that they will be more scalable and sustainable—we’ve learned the hard way that the more specialized a collection is, the more prone it is to breakages and difficulties over time. The Radio Haiti project needs are really specialized, and the metadata (description) is rich, granular, and multilingual. So, striking the right balance between standardization and specialization is definitely a challenge.

One of the foundational goals of the NEH grant we received for our work with Radio Haiti is to make sure that the collection is accessible to people in Haiti as well as the Haitian diaspora, and therefore we needed to provide description in three languages: English, Haitian Creole, and French. While we’d worked with metadata in multiple languages before, we’d never worked with trilingual content, and the technology we use to present and manage our digital collections doesn’t accommodate multilingual metadata in a sophisticated way. To get around this, rather than create lots of custom metadata fields just for this collection, we decided to use our standard fields, such as title, description, and subject, to store the multilingual content. The metadata displays in the item record and is keyword searchable and, in the case of subjects and formats, faceted. This isn’t the most elegant solution, but it works, and when the digital library community develops support for multilingual content, we will be ready!

Subject headings in English, French, and Haitian Creole.
Example multilingual subject headings.

 

Beyond figuring out how to present the metadata to users of the archive, it has also been an ongoing challenge to figure out how to manage the workflow for the development of the metadata—not only is it complex, it is voluminous! Created iteratively by project archivist Laura Wagner and her team of intrepid translators, the metadata passes through several hands and undergoes quite a few transformations before it is ready to go live on the website. Therefore, it has been critically important that we continuously review and revise our process to make sure nothing gets lost or distorted along the way. So many spreadsheets!

Spreadsheet with complex metadata.
An example snapshot of one of our many spreadsheets.

Through much careful consideration and many meetings with project staff, I think we’ve achieved a good balance between meeting project needs and being responsible to the long-term health and sustainability of this and other digital collections. That being said, we still recognize the inherent limitations to providing broad accessibility to this important content—despite the inclusion of multilingual metadata in the digital collection, it is still embedded in a predominantly English language website for an academic research institution located in the United States. And as project archivist Laura Wagner stated in an earlier blog post, “Radio Haiti’s digital archive is not only for scholars writing about Haiti; it isn’t even principally for them. It is for everyone.”

We’re experimenting with a few options to try to address this limitation, including engaging in ‘digital repatriation’ by distributing flash drives loaded with content to cultural heritage organizations in Haiti, standing up pilot collections of the content to reach a broader audience using YouTube and the Internet Archive, and improving the performance of the digital collection in low-bandwidth environments.

Working on the Radio Haiti Archive has been a challenge both in technological ways as well as how we think about collections, collecting, and access. Providing broad, equitable access to our digital collections, through our use of metadata and otherwise, is an intense and critical challenge, but one which we are beginning to tackle with intentionality and enthusiasm.

Discovering Haitian Culture One Sentence at a Time: A Translator’s Journey in the Radio Haiti Archive

Post contributed by Eline Roillet, Translator for the Radio Haiti Archive

Person with headphones sitting at a computer.
Eline Roillet translating Radio Haiti broadcast descriptions from English to French.

“What do you know about Haiti?“ asked Laura during my interview in September 2017. I knew it was a Caribbean country where Creole was spoken; I knew it had suffered a devastating earthquake almost a decade ago; and I knew it struggled economically. And that was about all I knew.

“Well,” she said, “you’re going to learn a lot more”.

And thus began my journey with Radio Haiti. As a French Master’s student in literature, I am in charge of translating thousands of broadcast descriptions from English to French. I love translation. It requires not only the ability to understand the sentences in a text, but their very essence too, and in turn to channel this essence into another dialect. Spelling, conjugation and vocabulary are crucial, of course, but to be a good translator, one must also look beyond the words and explore the context.

Text in English, Creole, and French.
Description in three languages for the digitized radio drama about the Battle of Vertières.

The very first description I translated was about the Battle of Vertières which I promptly researched in order to make sense of who Jean Jacques Dessalines was and his significance for Haiti. To my astonishment, the battle was fought between the Haitian rebels and the French colonial army. In all my years in the French educational system, I was never taught about French colonialism. I never knew Haiti was the first successful slave revolution, nor that France asked for an independence debt, which greatly contributed to Haiti’s economic woes.

Two stacks of boxes holding audio reels.
Newly restored and digitized audio reels from the Radio Haiti Archive.

I felt like I was learning a whole new history, one much less European-centric. Over the course of the last 13 months, I got acquainted with Erzulie and the other Lwa; I admired paintings by the Mouvement Saint-Soleil; I was introduced to the liberation theology; and I learned about how the US devised strategies to control and influence the Western hemisphere. What an eye-opening experience!

This new knowledge has changed the way I think about Haitian history and spilled over in to my everyday life, sometimes in unintended ways. For example, I recently met a Dominican young woman at a bar and when she announced her nationality, I eagerly asked her what her take on antihaitianismo was, upon which she looked at me like I had three heads and declared “This is not the kind of thing I want to discuss at a club.”

Still, the Radio Haiti project has taught me more than I ever could have thought about history, geopolitics, and the cultural context of 1970-2000, and I can honestly say that I am learning more and more every day.

Mèsi anpil Laura and Radio Haiti staff for the experience!

Coming Out and Going Out Since 1940

Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Technical Services

Update: Coming Out Day has been postponed due to rain and will be happening October 27th.

Photos, a card for a dance club, a clipping from a newspaper.
A page in the scrapbook dedicated to nightlife in New Orleans.

In celebration of Coming Out Day on October 11th, I would like to introduce our blog readers to a special scrapbook. Recently, the Rubenstein Library acquired and digitized the Joe H. Hernandez scrapbook. We do not know many biographical details about Hernandez. My esteemed colleague Allie Poffinberger cataloged the scrapbook and discovered that Hernandez “was born in 1924 and worked in the San Antonio General Depot between 1951-1954.” Other facts: he was an Army veteran; he attended night clubs and dance halls; he dressed in feminine and masculine clothing (I am using male pronouns here, though I do not know what this person’s preference might have been); he was probably a member of the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities.

A photo of Vine Street in Hollywood.
Billy Berg’s flyer, 1948.

Hernandez’s scrapbook is both intimate and wide in its scope. It shows a life full of friendship, romance, glamour, and travel. Early on in the scrapbook there is a souvenir flyer from Billy Berg’s, a night club in Hollywood. The flyer is dated 1948 and signed by musician and showman Slim Gaillard. After a little sleuthing, I found out that the club was known for being racially integrated and for being the first club on the West Coast to host Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Billy Holiday also performed there.

Photos and a matchbook.
A page in the scrapbook that features The Colony Bar in Kansas City.

Another souvenir in the scrapbook is a matchbook from The Colony Bar, an openly gay bar that existed in Kansas City, Missouri in the 1960s. It was the kind of place that threw Tea Dances and flashed the lights on and off when they were about to get busted. Oh, how I wish I knew more!

The ticket stubs, matchbooks, flyers, and signed photographs are enough to create a national map of LGBTQ life in the U.S. from the late 1940s to the 1960s. I wish that I had the time to create this map and to describe the nightlife in detail. I also want to know more about Joe H. Hernandez and his friends and family. So, if anyone’s out there, reading this, and you would like to do further research on this scrapbook, please do and please share your findings!

Also, I want to take a moment to appreciate all of my colleagues who acquired, described, preserved, and digitized this scrapbook. Thanks to you all, this scrapbook is now available for anyone in the world (who has internet access and/or can visit the reading room) to research.

And, Happy Coming Out Day! To learn more about the Rubenstein Library’s LGBTQ materials, please stop by and say hello at our table at the Bryan Center.

Two dancers.
A flyer from Club Babalu in Los Angeles.
Postcards, photographs, matchbooks.
A page in the scrapbook dedicated to Los Angeles.

Learning to Listen: A Student Assistant’s Experience in the Radio Haiti Archive

Post contributed by Tanya Thomas, Radio Haiti Student Assistant

Photo of Tanya outside beside a blossoming bush.
Student Assistant Tanya Thomas.

As a Haitian-American raised in Miramar, FL and Petit-Goâve, Haiti, moving to Durham, NC in 2013 for my freshman year at Duke was a culture shock. For one thing, I learned the hard way that ordering patties from a restaurant menu meant getting the ground beef portion of a burger, not a deliciously deep-fried, meat-filled Caribbean staple. As I began to settle into life at Duke and in Durham as a pre-med student majoring in International Comparative Studies with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, I started working on the Rubenstein Library’s Radio Haiti Archive project. The main part of my job was to listen to interviews from Haiti’s first independent radio station, Radio Haiti-Inter, a station that ran from the early 1970s to 2003, finally closing a few years after the assassination in spring 2000 of the station’s director, the agronomist-turned-journalist Jean Dominique. Working on the Radio Haiti project was my work-study job, but the job meant so much more to my Duke experience than extra cash. It gave me the opportunity to explore and understand the history of my homeland, which is why when I graduated in 2017, I wanted to keep working on the project, even while applying to medical school and working as a medical scribe in Miami.

Web page that includes description in English and Haitian Creole.
A screenshot of an interview described by Tanya Thomas in the Radio Haiti Archive.

As an assistant for the Radio Haiti Archive, part of what I do is listen to Jean Dominique’s daily Face à l’Opinon interviews. I then describe these interviews in English and Haitian Creole so that anyone, from academics who study Haitian history to someone curious about twentieth century Haitian life, can browse and learn. I tag the relevant topic, place, and name labels to go with the descriptions. What made Radio Haiti special was the fact that Jean Dominique interviewed peasant farmers and grassroots activists just as often as he did political leaders and members of the intellectual and economic elite. It’s one thing for a renowned journalist to interview a member of parliament about how a policy affects peasants. It’s another to interview a rice farmer and local activist about how government organizations are actually impacting their livelihoods. No social position was too small to be heard on Radio Haiti. Listening to hundreds of these interviews helped me gain skills and insights that I will use moving forward as a doctor who aims to provide care to underserved populations.

Tanya and Laura sitting back-to-back in a work cubicle.
Tanya Thomas working with Laura Wagner, Radio Haiti Project Archivist.

As a medical scribe, I work in the consult room as the patient is being seen by the doctor. I listen to their health concerns in real-time and type their symptoms and relevant information about their life circumstances into their electronic medical record. In the summarizing sections of the notes, I condense the entire visit to the patient’s most pressing symptoms. I also record what the doctor tells me that she or he finds during the physical examination, and the treatment plan they decided on with the patient. I write these notes not only for the doctor’s own reference, but also for anyone with access to the patient’s record. For example, this could be a paramedic taking a seriously ill patient to the hospital, or a judge in a court of law if the visit were to come up in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

In that respect, medically scribing a patient encounter is quite like describing Radio Haiti recordings. In both these jobs, my notes must be clear enough to lay out the situation so that someone reading what I wrote for the first time can be caught up enough to know what the most pressing thing that happened was, and what related issues can be investigated for further context. Though I am a subjective human being, I must faithfully and dispassionately communicate what happened and who said it with as little subjective input as possible. Whether listening to descriptions of injustice and human rights violations in the Radio Haiti materials, or creating a record of the pain and suffering of a patient in the clinic, it can be difficult to keep my emotions from clouding my understanding of events, but critical distance remains crucial to the work at hand. Moreover, the patients we served in the Miami clinic were, like many of the people Jean Dominique interviewed at Radio Haiti, people who are excluded from the political process or silenced in clinical encounters: immigrants, undocumented people, people who do not speak English, and poor people. I have learned to balance the processing of personal information with the larger social responsibility of providing a service to the marginalized, and this skill is something I will keep nurturing throughout medical school and beyond.  As I reflect on this past year and prepare to start medical school this month, I realize that by working as a medical scribe and an assistant for the Radio Haiti Archive the most important skill I have learned this year has been listening. As one of Radio Haiti’s old jingles went, “Radyo Ayiti: anvan nou pale, nou koute w!” (“Radio Haiti: before we speak, we listen to you!”)

The Rubenstein Library staff, and particularly the Radio Haiti team (Laura Wagner, Craig Breaden, Patrick Stawski, Sarah Schmidt, and Naomi Nelson) would like to congratulate Tanya on starting medical school at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine this week! We are proud of you, we appreciate everything you’ve done for this project, and we wish you bon chans as you undertake this next exciting step.

Nature’s Remedy: “All Druggists Sell the Dainty 25 Cents Box”

Post contributed by Erin Rutherford, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern, 2017-2018

In early 1900s America, an individual seeking relief from myriad ailments could choose from myriad purported treatments. When looking to cure “indigestion, bad breath, loss of appetite, sick headache, and rheumatism,”[1] one could turn to an array of syrups, lozenges, tonics, or tablets. One such product, extremely popular for several decades, was Nature’s Remedy.

The man behind Nature’s Remedy, Augustus Henry Lewis, began his pharmaceutical career as a pharmacist in Bolivar, Missouri. Teaming up with his nephew James Howe, Lewis moved his company to St. Louis in 1901, soon becoming the A.H. Lewis Medicine Co.

Nature’s Remedy patent medicine tin. History of Medicine Artifacts Collection, 1550-1980s. Beyer Family Collection Artifacts, 18th century-circa 1935. Received from Dr. and Mrs. Emil C. Beyer. Box 8, Item hbeyer0031.

Tin boxes filled with Nature’s Remedy churned out of the factory. By 1906, the business had grown so much that it moved into “a handsome new building at the corner of Fourth and Spruce Streets.”[2]

 

Paper ad targeting women and girls
Identifier MM0227 Mother Nature – as Health’s Guardian. 1923. Medicine and Madison Avenue, Digital Collection. John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History

 

Advertising campaigns described Nature’s Remedy as “Mother Nature in a pleasant, helpful form – all vegetable and a skillful blend of her own plan of insuring health.”[3] Slightly more descriptive circulars referred to the product as a vegetable preparation that “act[ed] on the stomach, liver, kidneys, and bowels.”[4] Marketing was so rigorous that the company enlisted a composer to produce a tune to popularize Nature’s Remedy. The first chorus from the 1928 sheet music, purchased to be played at home on a ukulele or banjo, reads as follows: “No matter whether you have wealth, Just as long as you have health, You ‘feel like a million!’ If you just wear a great big smile, You are in the latest style, You ‘feel like a million’ But when you wear a frown, And your health is run down, You feel bad, you look sad, At the whole world you are mad! And then you follow nature’s course, Banish all of that remorse, You ‘feel like a million!’”[5]

Black and white bilboard advertisements.
Item ID AAA7481, Nature’s Remedy digestive aid tablets, Dentyne gum, Doran’s Coffee, Loveland (4 advertisements). Foster & Keisler (Placement Company). Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Archives, 1885-1990s. [1900s-1910s].

Black and white billboards.
Item ID BBB4564, Wheat, Cigarettes, Gasene Naphita Soap, Natures Remedy Tablets, Fatima Cigarettes, Fatima Cigarettes, Adams Black Jack Chewing Gum, unknown, Holsum Bread (9 advertisements). Foster & Keisler (Placement Company). Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Archives, 1885-1990s. Undated.

What ingredients did these tablets contain? A chemical analysis conducted on the product in 1923 by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed the presence of burdock, juniper berries, sarsaparilla, mandrake, rhubarb, dandelion, prickly ash, aloes, cascara, and Belladonna root.[6] A write up in JAMA went on to delicately allude to its effects: “The manufacturers of these tablets direct the purchaser to take one every night for a week. They very kindly allow the sufferer (from the effect of the tablets) a few days to recuperate and then suggest that the week of torment be repeated and if this is survived, another few days of rest is allowed before another round of torture and so on ‘until the bowels become strong enough to do their work.’”[7]

Whether of the belief that the product was a nostrum, a placebo, a bonafide cure, or a temporary comfort, the list of contents – and Mr. Clark’s description – make the purpose of the pill clear: It was a cathartic mixture, a purgative, a laxative.

Although some may read the remedy itself as cause for a sour stomach, there is something rather kismet in this tale. Under the full leadership of Mr. Howe, the same “handsome” factory went on to manufacture one of America’s leading brands of antacid tablets.

[1] A.H. Clark, “Nature’s Remedy Tablets,” JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, March 1919. Quoted in American Medical Association, Propaganda Department, Miscellaneous Nostrums, 5th edition (Chicago: American Medical Association, 1923), 63.

[2] “A. H. Lewis Medicine Co. Outgrew Its Building,” The Pharmaceutical Era (35), 6 (1906), 639.

[3] Identifier MM0227 Mother Nature – as Health’s Guardian. 1923. Medicine and Madison Avenue, Digital Collection, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History. Retrieved from https://repository.duke.edu/dc/mma/MM0227

[4] American Medical Association, Propaganda Department, Miscellaneous Nostrums, 63.

[5] Waldon, W. Feel Like a Million. St. Louis, Mo.: A. H. Lewis Medicine Co., 1928. Print.

[6] American Medical Association, Propaganda Department, Miscellaneous Nostrums, 64.

[7] Ibid., 65.