Category Archives: Students and Interns

Preserving Duke’s Photographic History

Post contributed by Rachael Brittain, Harry H. Harkins, Jr. Intern for the Duke Centennial at the Duke University Archives.

As the Harry Harkins Intern, I have been working with the Duke Photography collection to rehouse materials; assist on reference questions; create timestamps for archival films; and help identify collections at Duke related to its early history. My primary focus has been the Duke Photography Job Numbers Collection. which contains original photographs taken by Duke Photography from 1960 until 2018.

Capturing unique images and perspectives of Duke University as well as operating as a hired service to photograph faculty, staff, and student headshots, Duke Photography was present at many major university events, including basketball, lacrosse, football, and other athletics; visiting lecturers and guest speakers; building construction and grand openings; campus scenes, and other aspects of campus life at Duke. The time frame that Duke Photography was active means that there is a mix of analog and digital files, switching to primarily digital in the early 2000s.

An open, brown Paige box contains a few hundred manila envelopes.
The Duke Photography Job Numbers Collection before processing. Look at all those manila envelopes!

As the University prepares for the 2024 Duke Centennial, we wanted to make sure our photograph collections were as accessible as possible. The years between 1988 and 1994 have presented a unique challenge as many of the images are stored in old manila envelopes, some of which are missing. The manila envelopes are a less than ideal way of storing photographs and negatives due to the amount of acid present in the envelopes. Eventually, this would cause the images to yellow. The items stored in these envelopes must be rehoused into safer, archival materials. Across 28 boxes and over 11,000 manila envelopes, I have found 35 mm, 120 mm, 4 x 5″ negatives, contact sheets, prints, and occasionally slide film.

A blue-gloved hand holds a vertically-oriented 4 x 5" negative in a plastic sleeve. The negative shows performer Avner the Eccentric climbing a rope. He is wearing a costume of high-waisted pants with suspenders and a bowler hat.
A negative of Avner the Eccentric performing at Duke in 1990.

The variety of materials used by the photographers largely depended on the purpose and printing needs of the subjects. 35 mm film, both black and white and color, was standard for most events due to its ease of use and availability. 120 mm film, also in black and white and color, produced a larger negative allowing the photographers to print larger, with greater detail, and with less film grain (a granular texture that is left on film when over enlarged). 4 x 5” negatives created an even larger negative and were frequently used to make copies of images. Once an image was printed from 35- or 120-mm film and corrected properly, it was faster for photographers to photograph the final image and print from the new negative, creating a copy negative, these make it faster and easier for an image to be reprinted at different sizes and at a consistent quality.

Negatives need to be stored in specialized plastic sleeves to keep them organized, protect them from fingerprints, dust, and getting scratched, all of which would permanently damage the images and make future use more difficult. Contact sheets—which were created by laying an entire roll of film across a page and helped the photographers to get a quick glance at what photos were on the roll of film and determine which they wanted to print—are being transferred to acid free folders. When more than one page or print is in an envelope, plastic sleeves are used to keep them separated and prevent scratches. This will also make it easier for future researchers and library staff to use the folders without having to use gloves to handle the materials. The Duke University photographers would make contact prints and send them to the different Duke departments so the subjects themselves could select which images they wanted printed.

As I’ve processed the collection, I’ve noted that not every envelope contains prints, as the prints were usually sent off to whichever department requested them. However, there are occasionally black and white prints, done in-house by Duke as well as envelopes full of 3.5 x 5” color prints that came from specialized color printing labs. Occasionally, there are notes left in with the photos, stating who is in each frame, what the event was for, letters requesting images, and notes scribbled on the back of event programs. By capturing events, staff, and students, this collection provides visual documentation of Duke’s recent history and will be made accessible through improved storage and descriptions.

An open gray Hollinger box shows around 30 white paperboard folders, each containing photographic material sleeved in clear plastic.
After processing: the work of Duke photographers, stored in archival sleeving and folders.

Meet Roger Peña, Trent History of Medicine Intern

Post contributed by Roger Peña, Trent History of Medicine Intern for 2021-2022, and Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections.

Roger Peña, wearing a dark blue shirt, stands in front of an exhibit display case. A green sign hanging behind him reads "Good Vibrations: A Look at the Golden Age of Electroshock Therapy."
Roger Peña, Trent History of Medicine Intern, stands by the exhibit “Good Vibrations” that he curated.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Roger, and I grew up in the Boston area. I attended Syracuse University as an undergraduate and earned a Master’s degree in education at Lesley University in Massachusetts. I moved down to North Carolina in 2013 and have served as an educator in private and public schools. I’m currently in my last year at UNC Greensboro’s MLIS program with a specialization in special collections and archives.

My wife and I have two children—ages 3 and 2 months—and we live in Durham. I love all things history and our house is filled with books and magazines related to several historic topics. I really love to cook and try new recipes. We are HUGE Boston sports fans so you will usually find us watching one of my sports teams on TV.

What interests you in working in a library setting, specifically in the History of Medicine Collections?

I’m 35 and a career changer. I had always thought about going back to school to earn an MLIS but never thought I had the time. The COVID-19 pandemic, school closures, and having some extra time to think about career goals rekindled my interest in earning my degree. I’ve always wanted to work in special collections and archives and hope to continue this work after graduation.

As a teenager, I “lived” at libraries and museums in my hometown of Boston. I love studying all things history and being able to handle old artifacts and primary sources—holding history in my hand! I’m that person at museums and historic sites asking questions, trying to touch everything and reading as many labels as possible. Being a history teacher, sharing stories of the past, and having students research and explore topics that interest them has always been important to me.

I love reading, instruction and all things history so I jumped at the chance to work at the Rubenstein Library. The history of medicine is always present when studying other historic topics and the History of Medicine (HoM) collection encompasses that. Even after months as the HoM intern, I’m still blown away by how vast and diverse the History of Medicine collection is and how much it has to offer. I’ve been able to hold manuscripts, artifacts, and books that are centuries old. There’s a special feeling when you pick up these resources; and you can’t help but feel a connection to the past and the individuals who used or created these materials.

The Josiah C. Trent HoM Internship has allowed me to explore the research aspect of special collections; and  I’ve also been able to create and plan exhibits, helped with reference services and  instructional support, and collaborated with other collections at the Rubenstein Library! It’s been a fantastic learning experience.

Can you share a memorable experience from your internship?

It’s really hard to choose just one memorable experience. I’ve enjoyed getting to know other Rubenstein Library staff and meeting researchers from across the world. Walking into the stacks makes me feel right at home and I always have to take a step back and appreciate how special the collection is. Being able to immerse yourself with the material and learning the ins and outs of academic libraries has been especially rewarding.

Participating and helping to coordinate Anatomy Day and researching and curating physical and online exhibits, like Good Vibrations, have been just a few of my favorite moments. Helping with instructional support is always fun as I was able to combine my past experience as an educator and help students interact with primary sources. It’s always fun to see a student’s reaction when something has caught their interest.

Hand colored illustration from Shunrinken kasho in the Japanese medical manuscript notebooks collection. The illustration shows a doctor in gray clothing tending to a wound in a patient's neck.
Hand colored illustration from Shunrinken kasho in the Japanese medical manuscript notebooks collection.

Do you have a favorite item you would like to share?

Again, hard to choose just one. The anatomical flap books and the Four Seasons are quite a sight to see and exemplify how people have always had a curiosity to touch and personally interact with materials. I really loved the East Asian medical books featured at Anatomy Day: Shunrinken kasho (Shunrinken school family book) from the Japanese medical manuscripts notebooks and Shinkan Geka Seisō 新刊外科正宗. The illustrations in these books are phenomenal.

The amputation set from the mid-19th century has probably been the item I spent the most time with. It’s one of those artifacts that you can’t help but want to learn more about. Being a student of American history and an aficionado of learning about the Civil War, the amputation set from the mid 19th century called my name. I first came across the saw when I was assisting Dr. Jeff Baker and Brooke Guthrie with a History of Surgery class and Dr. Baker asked me if I could handle student questions related to Civil War medicine – which I was more than happy to do!

I was fortunate enough to have a blog post published on The Devil’s Tale and Duke Daily where I was able to investigate the history of the saw and its origins. Holding the amputation saw in your hand,  you can easily imagine a world where physicians grappled with decisions regarding the need for an amputation and  the thousands of soldiers whose lives were forever changed by the war and surgical procedure. It was an eye-opening experience and allowed me to explore the unique but very complicated role that North Carolina played in the Civil War.

 

“Under the Blessed Arm of Freedom” A Blog Series Documenting the Search for Jacob Chiles

Post contributed by Kelsey Zavelo, Doctoral Candidate in History and Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern 2021-2022.

Chapter 2: Digging Deeper

In my previous post on this blog, I wrote about finding an 1847 letter written by Jacob Chiles, a formerly enslaved person, in the Joseph Ingram Sr. Family papers here at the Rubenstein Library. In his letter, Chiles explains what slavery and freedom meant to him and his family.

This week I dig deeper into Chiles’s story by exploring what other documents in and beyond the Ingram papers can tell us about him.

Donated to the Duke University Library’s Manuscript Department (now the Rubenstein Library) in 1953, the Joseph Ingram Sr. papers includes approximately 1130 items covering 2.5 linear feet. The bulk of the collection consists of family, business, and transactional correspondence as well as bills and receipts, arranged chronologically, primarily dating to the first half of the nineteenth century.

handwritten bill of sale
Chiles, Thomas, bill of sale to Joseph Ingram, Sr., 13 June 1803, Anson County, North Carolina, Folder 2, Box 5, Joseph Ingram Sr. papers, 1795-1935 and undated, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Based on his reference to having spent “some three score years” in bondage, Chiles may have been around sixty years old by the time of his writing. With Chiles’s possible age and surname in mind, a bill of sale dated June 13, 1803 could be the beginning of his paper trail in the Ingram papers.

The bill details the purchase by Joseph Ingram, Sr. of Anson County, “two certain negroes named Jacob and, other named Ruth, and one horse named Ball for the sum of six hundred Dollars” from a friend of the family, Thomas L. Chiles. The purchase agreement included a clause that essentially boils down to a rent-to-buy-back scheme: Chiles agreed to pay Ingram $60/year to hire Jacob and Ruth on an annual basis, with the understanding that if he were to do this for at least 10 years, thereby paying Ingram up to the original $600, Ingram would “return the said negroes to the said Chiles.” It is likely that Jacob Chiles continued to live in close proximity to both families after 1803, which might explain why he kept Chiles as a surname. In his Last Will and Testament dated 1820, Thomas L. Chiles reaffirmed his agreement to sell Jacob to Joseph Ingram, stating, “It is my will and desire that the Bills of sale I gave Jos. Ingram Sr. for Jacob…to stand good…” Perhaps it was only after this time that Jacob came to live permanently on the Ingram plantation.

The John Hope Franklin Center has digitized scores of similar bills of sale and other items documenting the sales, escapes, and emancipations of enslaved people from colonial times through the Civil War. Browse the American Slavery Documents Collection.

In his letter, Chiles mentions that his two sons, one named Walter, started attending Harveysburg High School during their first winter in Ohio. Founded by Quakers Jesse and Elizabeth Harvey—the latter of whom was also an abolitionist—the Harveysburg School was established in 1831 as the first free school for African Americans in Ohio. Since 1977, it has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as “Harvey, Elizabeth, Free Negro School.” In addition to telling us something about his dreams for his children’s future and possible educational training prior to leaving North Carolina, Chiles’s naming of the school provides a solid foundation upon which historians and others might dig deeper into the historical record to find more traces of him and his family after slavery.

Continue reading “Under the Blessed Arm of Freedom” A Blog Series Documenting the Search for Jacob Chiles

Dispatches from the Nuremberg Trials: The Robert P. Stewart Papers

Post contributed by Elliot Mamet, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Duke and Archival Processing Intern at the Rubenstein Library.

What does it feel like to be a fly on the wall at the Nuremberg Trials? The papers of Robert P. Stewart, recently donated to the Rubenstein Library, provide an answer.

Stewart was an attorney and Duke alumnus who served as a legal aide to Judge John J. Parker at the Nuremburg Trials in 1945 and 1946. There, 24 Nazi political and military leaders were indicted and tried with waging aggressive war, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. 19 were found guilty, and 12 were sentenced to death.

An overriding theme of Stewart’s correspondence is the emotional toll that the evidence of Nazi crimes took on the jurists. His letters tell of film evidence taken by the U.S. army when they first encountered the Nazi concentration camps.  “It really was an awful pictorial display of what the Nazis had done—and it upset Judge [Parker] a great deal. The English judges could not even eat.”[1] Judge Parker, Stewart says, became depressed from hearing so much terrible evidence.[2] Compounding this emotional toll was the homesickness felt by the American legal contingent.

A four-page handwritten letter from Robert P. Stewart to Mary Moss, dated December 2nd, 1945. The letter's addressed airmail envelope is also included.

Also in Stewart’s letters is discussion of the secret 1939 non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the USSR—an agreement first disclosed at Nuremberg. Writes Stewart, “perhaps the most interesting bit behind the scenes lately is the way one of the defense lawyers is trying to introduce a document which purports to be a photostat copy of a secret treaty between Germany and Russia in 1939.”[3] That non-aggression pact paved the way for the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.

Outside of court, Stewart encountered colorful characters during his service at Nuremberg. For instance, he lunched with General Dwight Eisenhower at Eisenhower’s Frankfurt villa, calling Eisenhower “a remarkable man—strictly down to earth,” and noting it was “probably the first time during this war that anyone so lowly as a major sat down to break bread with him.”[4]

Some 35 years after returning from the Nuremberg Trials, Stewart reflected on his service in a profile in The Asheville Citizen. “The most dramatic part of the trials,” Stewart said, “was the evidence on the persecution of the Jews. The films shown and the stories told were horrendous, unbelievable. If I hadn’t been there I would never have believed it.”[5] He was there, and his papers at the Rubenstein help us feel what it was like.

Footnotes:

[1] Letter from Robert P. Stewart to Beverly G. Moss, December 2, 1945. Folder 2, Robert P. Stewart papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[2] Letter from Robert P. Stewart to Plummer Stewart, January 12, 1946. Folder 2, Robert P. Stewart papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[3] Letter from Robert P. Stewart to Plummer Stewart, May 30, 1946. Folder 3, Robert P. Stewart Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[4] Letter from Robert P. Stewart to Plummer Stewart, November 7, 1945, and letter from Robert P. Stewart to C. C. Gabel, November 7, 1945. Folder 1, Robert P. Stewart papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[5] Tony Brown, “Stewart Had Important Role at Nuremberg,” The Asheville Citizen, September 8, 1981, pg. 9. Oversize Folder 1, Robert P. Stewart papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Library Internship Open House – April 7

Date: April 7, 2021
Time: 3:00 pm ET
Location: Zoom
Register Here

Interested in archival and library work? Come learn about the internships being offered at the Rubenstein Library in Fall of 2021!

On April 7th at 3:00pm Rubenstein Library staff will be hosting an information session and open house where you can learn about the Rubenstein Library, meet the intern supervisors, get details on the internship projects, and ask questions.

The following internships available at the Rubenstein Library in the coming academic year:

  • Consumer Reports Processing Intern: The Consumer Reports Processing Intern will primarily arrange and describe archival materials held in the Consumer Reports Archives collections, part of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing in the Rubenstein Library. The intern may also participate in outreach, programming, and instruction activities, depending on opportunities and the intern’s abilities and interests.
  • Josiah Charles Trent Internship: Working closely with the History of Medicine Collections, this position will provide support for public services and collection development activities of the History of Medicine.
  • Human Rights Archive, Marshall T. Meyer Intern: Working with RL Technical Services and Research Services staff, you will primarily provide support for research services, technical services, and collection development activities of the Human Rights Archive.
  • John Hope Franklin Research Center Internship: The John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture seeks a reliable candidate to fill the position of Franklin Research Center intern. Working closely with the center’s director, you will provide support for public services and collection development activities. This internship provides an opportunity to work closely with the center’s collections which include rare books, personal papers and manuscripts, oral histories, audiovisual, and ephemeral materials that document the African and African Diaspora experience from the 16th century to present day.

What a WONDERful World

Post contributed by Josh Rubin, a first-year student at Duke University from Gaithersburg, Maryland. Rubin is majoring in biology with potential minors in chemistry and linguistics.

As a part of the MedRen Focus program this fall, I was able to participate in the Cabinet of Curiosity activity. This activity, along with Lorraine Daston’s chapter on “Marvelous Particulars” in Wonders and the order of nature, exposed me to, what I believe to be, one of the most interesting Renaissance concepts: wonder.

Heron standing by pond
Object of wonder

For this Cabinet of Curiosity activity, I was required to find an item in nature, describe it using only sensory vocabulary, and attempt to classify it based on categories I would create myself. These categories were not intended to reflect the knowledge we possess today. I was supposed to embody a Renaissance naturalist and organize what I found in nature based on characteristics from direct observation. I ended up taking a stroll through Duke Gardens with another member of my focus cluster to begin my search. It didn’t take long for us to pass the Koi pond and walk by the most elegant type of bird. We ended up staying about half an hour just to watch its behavior and actions. I decided to take a picture of it and, inevitably, it became my object for the activity. I described it as being a blueish gray color, having expandable appendages, and as something which possessed the marvelous ability to fly. If I were to have a cabinet of curiosities of my own, it would be centered around exotic creatures, with this creature in particular being classified as an aviation animal, one with the occult ability to lift itself off of earth’s bounds.

student photos of objects found in nature
Examples that students in the MedRen Focus program chose for the “Create Your Own Cabinet of Curiosity” activity.

For several interrelated reasons during the Renaissance, the distinct discipline of wonder–the careful examinations of natural marvels–provided a means of elaborating on the inquiries which developed about the unknown. The studies by Renaissance naturalists and physicians like Giovanni Dondi and Michele Savonarola explained the reasons natural marvels were able to satisfy such queries. First, it was speculated that “most marvels… derived their wonderful properties from occult properties… Second, their intrinsic fascination and charisma set them apart from mundane phenomena,” and third, the mere expansion into the New World further broadened the heterogeneity of marvels simply given their novelty (Daston 136). Thus, a “marvel” or “natural wonder” was a label for an entity with captivating, inexplicable, and unfamiliar physical and functional properties. Such a determination relied on that fact that the emergent study of wonder was empirical and collaborative. To the former, a marvel’s intrinsic properties could not have been recognized from their superficial features but had to be deduced from the senses which were viewed as infallible. To the latter, many of the mysterious properties of marvels had to be described for the first time by Europeans, requiring diverse expert knowledge to generate complex associations as a way to classify such unusual phenomena. In light of the unknown, wonder differed from traditional natural philosophy because it embraced “the emotion of wonder itself” (Daston 144). Characterized by the sense of awe, studying the marvel provided a way to comfort the limitations of the human mind and satisfy the need to regain human control of the unknown. Some additional aspects of wonder worth mentioning include its focus on diversity as opposed to universality and the notion that the people who studied the marvelous were deemed wonders themselves.

The Center for Death Penalty Litigation records: the Practical and Intellectual Lessons of Archival Processing

Post contributed by Hannah Ontiveros, Marshall T. Meyer Human Rights Archive Intern

Fall semester 2020 was an odd one, with new challenges, global uncertainty, and everyone stepping out of their comfort zones to find a way to continue learning and working. For me the semester brought unfamiliar work and novel scholarly considerations. As intern for the Human Rights Archive, I spent the semester processing an addition to the Center for Death Penalty Litigation collection. The CDPL is a Durham-based organization that handles post-conviction appeals for indigent people on Death Row in North Carolina. Their ultimate goal is death penalty abolition. Processing this collection raised productive challenges and questions, creating for me a fresh vantage point from which to consider archival practices and the study of human rights.

 

Archive Boxes on a Shelf
Center for Death Penalty Litigation Archive Boxes

The process of rehousing documents, seemingly a simple task of moving papers to a fresh, neatly labeled folder in a fresh, neatly labeled box, comes with unexpected challenges and questions. If the documents weren’t organized and separated into folders to begin with, where do they go now? How do we label folders to be succinct and descriptive for future researchers while reflecting the documents’ original use by the CDPL? What does one do when they come across, as I did, a folder containing one single piece of paper, with nothing on it but letterhead? (I kept the document alone in its folder—some future researcher might come across it and glean meaning that I can’t see.)

And then there are the photographs. Photographs need to be placed in protective Mylar coverings. This preserves the paper and ink and protects the photos from librarians’ and researchers’ hands when handling them. Again, a seemingly standard task with unexpected challenges. In the CDPL collection, the Human Rights Archives house the organization’s case files, which are expansive. CDPL keeps records from clients’ entire legal history, including their original trial and subsequent appeals, even those not argued by CDPL attorneys. The case files for George Goode, for example, include discovery from his original trial, including crime scene photos. This raised two problems: how do I process these photographs while watching out for my own mental well-being, and how do I describe these photographs for future researchers?

Some of the crime scene photos in the Goode subseries and in others (most notably, David Junior Brown) contain really graphic imagery, including substantial gore. It was very difficult to place the photos in Mylar protectors and rehouse them without looking at them. But I determined that, for the sake of my mental health I couldn’t look at them too much. So I devised for myself a simple and makeshift system of keeping photos faced away from me as much as possible, and keeping them covered with a piece of scrap paper. Having needed to glance at these images in order to process them, I knew the collection required careful description so researchers won’t come across these images without proper warning and preparation.

Center for Death Penalty Litigation File

This raised questions for me of how to describe files with sensitive information in them. We need content warnings that adequately prepare people for the content they’re about to see, but that don’t editorialize too much. Personally, I would describe some of the crime scene photos in this collection as “horrifying,” but that may not be particularly helpful to researchers. Moreover, such description may color researchers’ understanding of the case in a way that’s not productive to grasping the legal stakes at play. With advice from Tracy Jackson in the Rubenstein Library’s Technical Services Department, I opted for describing the images as graphic, and containing gore and deceased persons—at the very least, researchers will know what’s in these folders before opening them. I also opted to place the content warnings in the file and box description in the collection guide, as well as on the physical folder. My hope is that no researcher comes across the photos unaware. It is important that these images, along with the other documents in the collection, are preserved and available for use for productive research on the death penalty and human rights. But it’s also important that researchers are prepared so that their work isn’t hindered by coming across shocking imagery in the archive.

 

This processing project was also surprising to me on an intellectual level. The study of human rights is important to my own work. But the driving questions about human rights in my dissertation surround issues of global responsibility for refugees, citizenship, and discourses of deservingness. Prior to processing CDPL documents, I had not given much scholarly thought to death penalty abolition, or to criminal litigation as a method for human rights goals. But this processing project made me think about these things. It made me think about how human rights goals are strived for in criminal courts, and the boundaries and possibilities of the law as an avenue for human rights. Through CDPL documents I could see how attorneys understand their clients as whole and deserving people. I can also see how they utilize legal strategies to make whatever gains they can toward their overarching goal of stopping all executions. This is the value of this internship—it broadens my theoretical and methodological understanding of human rights as a field; and it challenges me to think outside of my existing scholarly and political human rights commitments. Ultimately this will make me a better scholar, with a greater appreciation for how documents are created and preserved, and with a more expansive understanding of the field of human rights.

Pull for Your Candidate

Post contributed by Kaylee P. Alexander, Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern 2020-2021.

Bumper stickers, a MAGA hat, a Hillary Clinton nutcracker, ads for Dick Nixon jewelry, and a Barry Goldwater beer can are just some of the relics of past presidential campaigns to be found in the over thirty boxes of the Kenneth Hubbard Collection of Presidential Campaign Ephemera at the Rubenstein Library. Gimmicky, kitschy and teeming with bad puns, objects such as these have become somewhat ubiquitous in American campaign culture, and the Hubbard Collection covers nearly every presidential campaign that took place between 1828 and 2016. Representing Republicans and Democrats—both winners and losers—as well as candidates running with the U.S. Socialist and Prohibitionist parties, the Hubbard collection provides interesting material and visual cultural insights in the history of American elections by demonstrating a wide range of strategies for advertising and showing support for would-be U.S. presidents.

Going through these boxes over the past month, I was not shocked to find what seemed like an endless supply of buttons, pins and ribbons. Nor was I very surprised to find objects such as that Hillary nutcracker, or the Bill Clinton tie that was kept in the box alongside it; these ridiculous artifacts seemed somewhat logical to me, having seen the bizarre assortment of collectibles—from bobble heads and action figures to, most recently, facemasks—for candidates who have run in my lifetime. No matter how many objects or documents I came across in the collection, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about the first folder I had pulled: a folder containing just one postcard, with a donkey illustration and twine tail. “Pull for Your Candidate,” the postcard instructed, and, in an oddly amusing sort of way, a portrait of William Jennings Bryan (1860–1925) emerged above the donkey as you pulled on its tail. I couldn’t help but chuckle.

GIF of the postcard showing William Jennings Bryan's head pop out from behind a donkey when the tail is pulled.
“Pull for Your Candidate” Postcard for William Jennings Bryan campaign (1908), Kenneth Hubbard Collection of Presidential Campaign Ephemera, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Printed by the Elite Post Card Company of Kansas City, Missouri, the verso provided space for you to compose your own message and address the card to whomever you wanted to send it to. Designed for the 1908 presidential election, in which Bryan faced off against Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, William H. Taft in a “battle of the Bills,” the postcard provided an attention-grabbing method of advocating for one’s presidential pick, not unlike today’s letter writing campaigns, or even contemporary social media activity urging folks to get out and vote.

1908 election postcard with pictures of William Taft and William Jennings Bryan and the caption “Each Bill Would be THE Bill, But which Bill will?”
G. H. Allen, “Each Bill Would be THE Bill, But which Bill will?” Postcard for the 1908 Presidential Election.

A proponent of a progressive income tax and stronger antitrust laws, Bryan was hailed “The great Commoner.” 1908 would be the third and final time that Bryan, formerly Nebraska’s 1st District Representative, would run for president. Unfortunately, it would also be his biggest defeat, earning just 162 electoral votes to Taft’s 321. With Taft’s defeat after one term by New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson, Bryan would serve as Secretary of State from 1913 to 1915. Despite his presidential losses, however, Bryan is still considered to be one of the most influential, albeit somewhat controversial, politicians of the Progressive Era.

A bit of digging revealed that a Republican version of the 1908 postcard, featuring an elephant in place of the donkey, had also been produced for Taft, an example of which can be found in the Dr. Allen B. and Helen S. Shopmaker American Political Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. With both of these postcards available to potential voters, one would have been able to literally and figuratively pull for their candidate and motivate others to do so as well.

Postcard for the William Taft campaign featuring a picture of Taft.
“Pull for Your Candidate” Postcard for William H. Taft campaign (1908), Dr. Allen B. and Helen S. Shopmaker American Political Collection, St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum, University of Missouri-St. Louis.

 

So, with a few days to go before Election Day, be sure to take a lesson from the Elite Postcard Company and pull for your candidate. Every vote matters.

Cookies for the Dead

Post contributed by Kaylee P. Alexander, Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern, 2020-2021

Man dies to live, and lives to die no more…until then, we eat cookies.

Tucked away in the Rubenstein Library’s box of memorial cards, ribbons, notices and ephemera in the Leona Bowman Carpenter Collection of English and American Literature is a lone advertisement for a curious confection: funeral biscuits. Imploring the reader to prepare for death, the ad suggests that one’s funerary arrangements simply cannot be complete without Hick’s biscuits.

Advertisement for funeral buscuits with decorative elements and a short poem.
Advertisement for Joseph Hick’s Funeral Biscuits (n.d.), Leona Bowman Carpenter Collection of English and American Literature, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Joseph Hick was a Yorkshire confectioner. In 1803, he had opened his first confectionery in partnership with Richard Kilner. In 1822, Kilner dissolved the partnership, leaving sole ownership to Hick, who relocated the business to 47 Coney Street. Hick operated his own confectionary until his death in 1860, when his estate and confectionery were left to his three children. Hick’s youngest daughter was Mary Ann Craven, the wife of Thomas Craven whose confectionery at 19 High Ousegate had been in operation since 1840. When Thomas died in 1862, Mary Ann was left in control of both confectioneries, which she merged and renamed M.A. Craven. In 1881, her son, Joseph William, joined the firm and the company was renamed M.A. Craven & Son.

With its thick black border, Hick’s advertisement mimics the design of early obituaries while inclusion of the elegy, “Prepare to Die,” hints towards the tradition of funeral cards. It is most likely, however, that the advertisement was intended to provide the reader with a sample design of what they might expect to encounter on the paper wrapper of Hick’s funeral biscuits.

small accouncement for the funeral of Mary Reed from October 14, 1832
Funeral Announcement for Mrs. Mary G. Reed (1832), Leona Bowman Carpenter Collection of English and American Literature, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Brown paper biscuit wrapper with text from the funeral of Mrs. Oliver.
Biscuit wrapper for the funeral of Mrs. Oliver, Collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, Oxford, England.

In nineteenth-century England—particularly in Yorkshire and Lancashire—it was customary to send funeral biscuits to the family and friends of the recently deceased. These confections would often be served with wine to funeral guests, and the wrappers, which frequently bore the name of the deceased, became souvenirs for those who had been in attendance. While the collecting of funeral tokens, from gloves to spoons, was commonplace well before the nineteenth century, the distribution and collection of funeral biscuit wrappers seems to most closely anticipate—in design, materials, and text—contemporary practices surrounding funeral cards.

artwork on marble showing funerary banquet
Marble grave relief with a funerary banquet and departing warriors (2nd century B.C.), Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The custom has typically been seen as a relic of Antique practices in which funerary banquets and offerings of wine and cakes for the dead were standard commemorative practices. The English tradition has also been likened to the Welsh practice of sin-eating, in which a designated sin-eater would consume a ritual meal, passed to him over the coffin, in order to absorb the sins of the deceased.

An 1896 text on English customs describes the use of funeral biscuits as follows:

At a funeral near Market Drayton in 1893, the body was brought downstairs, a short service was performed, and then glasses of wine and funeral biscuits were handed to each bearer across the coffin. The clergyman, who had lately come from Pembrokeshire, remarked that he was sorry to see that pagan custom still observed, and that he had put an end to it in his former cure. […] At Padiham wine and funeral biscuits are always given before the funeral, and the clergyman is always expected to go to the house, and hold a service before the funeral party goes to church. Arval bread is eat at funerals at Accrington, and there the guests are expected to put one shilling on the plate used for handing round the funeral biscuits. (Ditchfield, 202-203)

This tradition was not limited to the British Isles. Variants could also be found in other countries of Northern Europe, and was carried to the American colonies in the seventeenth century by the English and Dutch settlers. Here, the life of the funeral cookie lasted through the nineteenth century, before crumbling in the twentieth. The tradition lives one, however, in the passing out of funeral cards that, like the packing of the funeral biscuit, function as mementos of the deceased.

Though the original recipe(s) for funeral biscuits seem to have been lost to time, some have suggested that ginger or molasses cookies would have been the go-to flavors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. So, if you’re, like me, interested in resurrecting this uncanny confection, check out these historical and contemporary recipes!

Selected References:
Paul Chrystal, Confectionery in Yorkshire Through Time (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2009).

Margaret Coffin, Death in Early America: The History and Folklore of Customs and Superstitions of Early Medicine, Funerals, Burials, and Mourning (New York: Elsevier/Nelson Books, 1976).

H. Ditchfield. Old English Customs Extant at the Present Time: An Account of Local Observances, Festival Customs, and Ancient Ceremonies yet Surviving in Great Britain (London: George Redway, 1896).

Robin M. Jensen, “Dining with the Dead: From the Mensa to the Altar in Christian Late Antiquity,” in Commemorating the Dead: Texts and Artifacts in Context, Studies of Roman, Jewish, and Christian Burials, eds. Laurie Brink and Deborah Green (New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2008)

Summer Strevens, The Birth of The Chocolate City: Life in Georgian York (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2014).

 

Colonizing Latin America with Pan American World Airways

Post contributed by Leah Tams, Pan Am CLIR Grant Intern.

The United States has long been an empire with colonial holdings, even since its inception. The U.S. has carried out its colonialism in many different ways, depending upon the time period and area being colonized. In the 1930s and 1940s, the “Good Neighbor Policy,” first articulated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, became an avenue for the United States to commercially influence Latin American nations. In the spirit of the Good Neighbor Policy, the United States didn’t send hundreds of people to colonize Latin America—instead, it sent businesses to establish and extend their economic influences within the region. One of the key businesses sent to Latin America was Pan American World Airways (Pan Am).

This colorful ad for the Pan American Airways System shows a crowd in stereotypical South American clothing, including a man on horseback, watching the arrival of a Pan Am airplane. The tagline reads "The good neighbor who calls every day . . . "
The Good Neighbor Who Calls Every Day…, Pan American Airways System, 1941, AdAccess Digital Collection

The John W. Hartman Center’s earliest ads from Pan Am illustrate the Good Neighbor Policy in action: “Out of the Muck of the Mazatlán,” Pan Am created airfields in Latin America, which were heralded as “Another ‘Stepping Stone.’” These “stepping stones” would allow the United States to connect with various Latin American cities and civilizations, thus extending U.S. influence southward. Other early advertisements were even more overt in their reference to the policy, proclaiming that Pan Am was indeed “The Good Neighbor Who Calls Every Day” who would create meaningful—and influential—political and economic contact between both regions. As historian Jennifer Van Vleck argues, “the development of commercial aviation did important work to make the U.S. presence in Latin America appear more benign while also bringing the region within closer reach of Washington and Wall Street.”[1]

Once Pan Am had an established presence in Latin America, it was fairly simple to begin advertising the wondrous destinations available—particularly because Pan Am (or, more accurately, Panagra, as the joint venture in South America was known) presented the region as an almost-undiscovered land. Ads from the late 1940s assured travelers that they would “travel in the intrepid footsteps of Pizzaro [sic],” in a paradise “spangled with the glories of past centuries.”[2] These intimations of Francisco Pizarro—the Spanish conquistador who invaded Panama and Peru—and other overt references to the colonialist efforts of Pan Am, which injected U.S. influence and culture into South America, would continue for decades.

A black-and-white announcement of JWT's new advertising campaign for Panagra airline. In green text, the announcement proclaims "Greatest campaign since Pizarro!" Images of the ads that will be included in national print publications are included.
Greatest Campaign Since Pizarro, PANAGRA, 1962. J. Walter Thompson Co., Domestic Advertisements Collection

In 1962, the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT), Pan Am’s principal advertiser, launched a campaign for Panagra that touted the “Charms of South America” to potential travelers. To its travel agents, JWT called this effort the “Greatest Campaign Since Pizarro!” Other Panagra advertisements from the 1960s celebrate Pizarro’s lasting impact upon Lima, Peru, stating that “He laid out the city’s streets, the government buildings, the cathedral, just where you see them today.” With these references to and celebrations of Pizarro, it seems as though Pan Am is encouraging its travelers to once again conquer and colonize Latin America—in fact, Panagra ads from 1965 invite travelers to “Capture the city Pizarro couldn’t!” (referring to Machu Picchu in Peru) and underscore the flippant imperialism of the U.S.

This ad shows a color aerial photo of Machu Picchu with the tagline "You've taken your fill of the Acropolis; you've stormed the seven hills of Rome. Now . . . Capture the city Pizarro couldn't!"
Capture the City Pizarro Couldn’t, PANAGRA, 1965. J. Walter Thompson Co., Domestic Advertisements Collection

To be sure, contemporary advertisements for Pan Am’s flights to Europe portray the continent and its destinations as commodities, most often as dollar amounts. But where European cities and regions are reduced a monetary figure, they are never reduced to places that can be conquered, subdued, or gifted civilization the way that Latin America is. In Latin America, it seems that Pan Am found the perfect candidate for profit and U.S. imperialism, veiled in the thin language of adventure.

[1] Jennifer Van Vleck, Empire of the Air: Aviation and the American Ascendancy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 54.

[2] “Panagra Vacation,” 1947, https://repository.duke.edu/dc/adaccess/T1593.