Category Archives: Manuscripts

April Showers Bring New Finding Aids!

Our technical services archivists have created a veritable deluge of new finding aids for some of our older collections. All of the following collections are open for research. Please contact the Special Collections Library at special-collections(at)duke.edu with any questions.

Japanese Matchbox Label Collection, circa 1910

400 vividly-colored Japanese matchbox labels are mounted in a contemporary paper album and housed in a custom-made cloth box. Unfortunately, the name of the person who created this marvelous collection is unknown.

Ann Atwater Interviews, 2006

Master and use copies of Jeff Storer’s oral interviews with Ann Atwater, an African-American civil rights activist based in Durham regarding her friendship with Ku Klux Klan leader C. P. Ellis.

Montrose Jonas Moses Papers, 1789-1960

The papers of this drama critic, journalist, and author of works on American and European drama and on children’s literature includes correspondence with giants of the turn-of-the-20th-century theater, including Eugene O’Neill, Percival Wilde, David Belasco, and Margaret Anglin.

Thomas Lee Settle Papers, 1795-1949

The papers of this Virginia surgeon, said to have pronounced the death of abolitionist John Brown, shed light on the practice of medicine in the 19th century. Of particular interest are documents detailing Settle’s own medical service for the 11th Virginia Cavalry.

Patricia Derian Papers Coming to Duke

The Archive for Human Rights has signed an agreement with Patricia Murphy Derian to serve as the repository for her papers, which document her long career in human rights.

Patt, as she is known to friends and family, was involved in the civil rights struggles in Mississippi prior to being tapped by President Jimmy Carter to head the newly-minted Bureau for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. In 1977, she became the nation’s very first assistant secretary for human rights.

Her papers consist of country files, general files, correspondence, and a collection of audio and video interviews. Processing of the collection will begin immediately and should be complete by summer of 2010. If you’d like to arrange a visit to view the collection, or if you have any questions, please e-mail us at special-collections(at)duke.edu.

Post contributed by Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist.

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.

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.

A Valentine’s Day Puzzle

William Tell Steiger, undated
William Tell Steiger, undated

In November 1828, William Tell Steiger wrote in his notebook that he had presented his beloved Anna Maria Shriver with an anagram: “O evil here I am at.”

He continues, “she deciphered it and returned an anagram in answer containing the following: ‘That love deserves to be returned.'”

Three years later, the couple married on September 20th.

We leave you to puzzle out the first anagram (which you can find in our Steiger-Shriver Family Papers). And yes, Anna Maria Shriver was the great-great-great aunt of journalist and First Lady of California Maria Shriver.

Bundled Up and Ready for School


These cheerful and warmly dressed children, enrolled in Durham’s Scarborough Nursery School, were posed on the front steps for a class photograph on a chilly day in 1932. But this was 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression. Durham was in the heart of the Jim Crow South.

The significance of this progressive school is tremendous. Founded by Mrs. Clydie Fullwood Scarborough, it provided effective and healthy daycare for African American children. With a safe place for their children, mothers could confidently work and help provide the family with necessities, including these little coats and hats.

The detailed inventory of the Clydie F. Scarborough Papers, 1818-1984, which documents her work, is available here. For more information on using this collection, contact the RBMSCL staff at special-collections(at)duke.edu.

Post contributed by Elizabeth Dunn, Research Services Librarian

Paul Samuelson Papers Coming to Duke

Paul A. Samuelson, 1950.

The papers of preeminent American economist Paul A. Samuelson (1914-2009), the first American recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics, will be added to the Economists Papers Project in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke. Before his death on December 13th, Samuelson had decided to donate his papers to Duke, where they will join the collections of his MIT Nobel Prize-winning colleagues Robert Solow and Franco Modigliani, as well as those of Nobelists Kenneth Arrow, Lawrence Klein (Samuelson’s first Ph.D. student), Robert E. Lucas, Douglass North, Vernon Smith, and Leonid Hurwicz (all links lead to collection inventories). The Economists Papers Project, developed jointly by Duke’s History of Political Economy group and the RBMSCL, is the most significant archival collection of economists’ papers in the world.

Samuelson was the singular force leading to the post-World War II reconceptualization of economics as a scientific discipline. His “neoclassical synthesis” wedded modern microeconomics to Keynesian macroeconomics, both of which were stabilized through his landmark Foundations of Economic Analysis (1947). His textbook, Principles of Economics, grounded the vocabulary and teaching practices of the economics profession in the second half of the twentieth century, and his career in MIT’s economics department made it the world leader in scientific economics.

Post contributed by E. Roy Weintraub, Professor of Economics, Duke University.

NB: The Paul Samuelson Papers will be transferred to Duke in stages over the next several months. If you are interested in conducting research in the Samuelson Papers once they are made available, please contact Will Hansen at william.hansen(at)duke.edu.