Category Archives: From Our Collections

“The Power of Refined Beauty: Photographing Society Women for Pond’s”

Date: 5 April-22 August 2010
Location and Time: Special Collections Gallery during library hours
Contact Information: Jackie Reid, 919-660 5836 or j.reid(at)duke.edu

Nadejda, Marchioness Milford Haven, n.d., by Edward Steichen. Photograph courtesy of the J. Walter Thompson Company Archives.

Nadejda Mikhailovna Romanov Mountbatten, Marchioness of Milford Haven, won a Charleston dance competition at Cannes in 1921 with the future King George VI.

Anne Tracy Morgan organized the American Fund for French Wounded, earning the Croix de Guerre and recognition from the French Legion of Honor.

Clare Josephine O’Brian Egerton, Duchess of Sutherland, lost $84,000 of jewels on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

Along with other socialites, heiresses, and royalty from families such as the Vanderbilts and the Roosevelts, these women appeared in Pond’s socialite endorsement campaign, masterminded by the J. Walter Thompson Company. The Hartman Center‘s new exhibit,”The Power of Refined Beauty: Photographing Society Women for Pond’s, 1920s-1950s,” charts the course of this wildly-successful thirty-year campaign.

Adding to the prestige of the campaign, the women’s photographs were taken by distinguished fashion photographers such as Edward Steichen, Baron Adolph de Meyer, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, and Cecil Beaton.

A print catalog of these photographs will complement the exhibit. Please e-mail hartman-center(at)duke.edu to request a copy.

Because Thomas Jefferson Said So

And now for a brief history lesson. George Walton was the governor of Georgia for two months in 1779 and then from 1789 to 1790. We found this letter (click image to enlarge) from then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson among the small collection of Walton’s papers housed at the RBMSCL. Jefferson writes that he is sending Walton “two copies duly authenticated of the Act providing for the enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States.” Jefferson is referring, of course, to the Census Act of 1790, which authorized the first census of the inhabitants of the new United States.

The census, you see, is very dear to the archivist’s heart. We often use census records, whether it’s to learn about families from long ago whose papers we’re processing or to help researchers discover information about their great-great-great grandparents. So we hope you won’t mind our appeal to you to carefully fill out and mail your census forms. After all, we have Thomas Jefferson’s authority behind us.

RBMSCL Scholars: Emily Herring Wilson

We’re beginning a new feature today! We’ve asked some of the wonderful authors and scholars that the RBMSCL has hosted over the years to contribute a few words on their new books and research projects. We’re going to start with an essay from Emily Herring Wilson, editor of the newly-released Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence: Discovered Letters of a Southern Gardener.

Years of research for a life of North Carolina garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence (1904-1985) led me many places, but none more inviting than my trips to Duke’s Special Collections Library, where I found hundreds of letters in the Ann Preston Bridgers Papers that brought Lawrence to life as no other materials, including interviews with family and friends who had known her. As I went through box after box of letters from Elizabeth to Ann (all beautifully catalogued by Janie Morris), I discovered a collection that not only informed the biography I wrote about Lawrence (No One Gardens Alone) but gave vivid testament to the importance of women’s friendships. (Bridgers, a successful playwright and a founder of the Raleigh Little Theatre, was teaching young Elizabeth how to write and how to live, all vividly revealed in the letters.) This month John F. Blair, Publisher, released my edited collection, Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence: Discovered Letters of a Southern Gardener. Among the books I have been privileged to write or edit, it is my favorite because of the charm and intelligence of a private life.

These letters from Elizabeth to Ann are lively with gossip, anecdote, reflection, regret, aspiration, and love—the love of friends, the love of gardens, and the love of literature. I still regard it as a miracle that they were not destroyed after Ann’s death in 1967 but ended up in the Bridgers Papers. I hope that you will read them and enjoy them as much as I did.

New Audubon Birds on Display

We’ve just turned the pages of our double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America.

This month, stop by the RBMSCL’s reading room (103 Perkins) during open hours to view these new prints:

Red-headed Woodpecker (Picus erythrocephalus)
Hooping Crane (Grus americana; at left)
Rough-legged Falcon (Buteo lagopus)
Blue Jay (Corvus cristatus)

Visit this earlier blog post for a brief explanation of the monthly page turning.

Rights! Camera! Action!: The Self-Made Man

Date: Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Patrick Stawski, 919-660-5823 or patrick.stawski(at)duke.edu, or Kirston Johnson, 919-681-7963 or kirston.johnson(at)duke.edu

The Self-Made Man, the fifth film in the Rights! Camera! Action! series, Bob Stern decides to end his life after being diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness.

Susan Stern, the film’s director (and Bob’s daughter), will lead discussion following the film.

The Rights! Camera! Action! film series, which is sponsored by the Archive for Human Rights, the Archive of Documentary Arts, the Duke Human Rights Center, the Franklin Humanities Institute, and Screen/Society at Duke’s Arts of the Moving Image Program, features documentaries on human rights themes that were award winners at the annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The films are archived at the RBMSCL, where they form part of a rich and expanding collection of human rights materials. Additional support for this screening is provided by the Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Divinity School Institute on Care at the End of Life.

Ashkar-Gilson Manuscript in the News

The RBMSCL’s Ashkar-Gilson Manuscript is currently on display at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum where it has been reunited with another fragment from the same 1,300-year-old scroll.

The story of the reunion of these two manuscripts, which contain portions of the Song of the Sea, was picked up on the AP wire. Here’s a link to the article as it appeared in the Jerusalem Dispatch.

This photo of the Ashkar-Gilson manuscript was taken with special lighting so that the writing on the aged manuscript could be seen.

New Audubon Pages on Display

Stacks Manager Josh Larkin-Rowley and Duke Law student Amanda Pooler examine Audubon's Raven.

Every month, RBMSCL staff members turn the pages of the four volume double elephant folio set of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. This keeps the rare volumes from developing “preferential openings”—tendencies to open to one particular page that often result when books are on display for long periods of time.

Duke Law student Amanda Pooler, making her first visit to the Rare Book Room, helped select the new openings. She chose the Brown Pelican (Pelicanus Fuscus), the state bird of her native Louisiana, as well as the Raven (Corvus Corax); the Carolina Parrot (Psittacus Carolinensis); and the Kittiwake Gull (Larus Tridactylus).

Stop by the RBMSCL reading room (103 Perkins) during open hours to view these gorgeous prints.

Thanks to Beth Doyle, Collections Conservator, for helping with this post. Check out Beth’s own post on the Audubons over at Preservation Underground.

“Abusing Power: Satirical Journals from the Special Collections Library”

Date: 22 February-11 April 2010
Location and Time: Perkins Library Gallery during library hours
Contact Information: Meg Brown, meg.brown(at)duke.edu

"Pobre España" by Anonymous. From La Flaca, 12 September 1872.

The RBMSCL’s outstanding collection of over 60 satirical magazines from Europe and North and South America offers a panoramic view of international journalistic caricature from its origins in the 1830s to the present day. This exhibit, which gathers vivid examples from these periodicals and places them in their historical context, surveys the spectrum of comic journalism, examining the visual languages of graphic satire, and investigating its rhetorical power.

Curated by Neil McWilliam, Walter H. Annenberg Professor in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies with the assistance of students in his “From Caricature to Comic Strip” course, the exhibit coincides with “Lines of Attack: Conflicts in Caricature,” an exhibition of contemporary and historical graphic satire at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

To see images from the exhibit, and to learn more about the RBMSCL’s collection of satirical journals, visit the exhibit’s online guide.

Behind the Scenes: Intern Angela DiVeglia

Most people associate Victorian women with high tea and corsets, not with struggles for justice and equality. However, Angela DiVeglia, graduate intern at the Sallie Bingham Center and co-curator of “I Take Up My Pen: 19th Century British Women Writers,” spends much of her days examining the relationships between current feminist thought and the work done by early feminists in the United States and Great Britain.

Angela DiVeglia gives this Frances Power Cobbe pamphlet a thumbs-up.

Several of the items in the library’s current exhibit, such as the pamphlet above (Our Policy: An Address to Women Concerning the Suffrage by Frances Power Cobbe), were produced by strong and outspoken feminists who wrote and lectured widely during a time when women were still expected to remain within the domestic sphere.

DiVeglia writes, “It’s really inspiring and grounding to work with these kinds of materials; it’s easy to think of our own struggles outside of their historical contexts, to feel like we’re the only people fighting these particular fights. Seeing pamphlets and books produced by people like Frances Cobbe and Annie Wood Besant—women who were often ostracized for their work, and who occupy marginal places in history—reminds us that we’re actually part of a huge, rich legacy of people who want to create a better world.”

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the exhibit yet, it will be on display in the Perkins Library Gallery until February 21!