It’s confession time: I started working at the Rubenstein after we moved onto the 3rd floor of Perkins. This means that I never gazed up at the ceiling archway of the Gothic Reading Room, and I never wandered our old stacks, traveling the well-trod paths—literally and figuratively– of those librarians who came before me. Our impermanent home is the only one I’ve known. And in truth, I’ve always had a hard time imagining what came before and what comes after. Architectural plans, while incredibly helpful, don’t always capture grand staircases and hidden crannies.
Luckily for all of us, Kat Stefko, the head of Rubenstein Technical Services, and I recently returned to our once and future home. We put on our fanciest construction gear and walked around the floors, all the while marveling at the differences in scale between our temporary location and our new one. Check out the maps cabinets! They are the very definition of bright young things.
With a handy ruler, we were also able to measure the shelf clearance for our new manuscript shelving units. I’m happy to report that our larger manuscript boxes will fit safely and snuggly on each shelf. Can you imagine these filled with boxes?
And just because I mentioned the scale earlier, look at how tall these units actually are! I’m not a small person, but these are the equivalent of two of me. (Don’t worry, fellow staff members and curious readers: our ladders will be sturdy and strong.)
Although we at the Rubenstein love a good field trip, we didn’t tour the stacks just to tour the stacks. We wanted to gain a better sense of how to move our materials from our current abode to our new one. As July 1st swirls closer, we need a solid moving plan, one that takes into account tight turns and elevators, lines of visibility and door widths. Our spaces aren’t quite complete, but we found it incredibly helpful to walk the pathways we’ll take in July, to imagine materials moving at fast clips down hallways and into elevators. It was all enormously satisfying: we know that we can make this move happen, and we’re well on our way to figuring out how to do it.
Post contributed by Liz Adams, Rubenstein Move Coordinator.
Tomorrow night, the famed basketball rivals meet again. Fans in North Carolina and across the country will don their Duke or Carolina blue and gather to watch the game. And Duke’s Cameron Crazies will go crazy, carrying on the tradition of post-game celebrations and bonfires.
According to the records, Duke’s bonfire and bench-burning tradition began in 1986, when there was a large screen set up on the quad for students to watch the NCAA final game between Duke and Louisville. Duke lost, and a few angry spectators reacted with assaults and vandalism. The Police Department was unprepared for such a result, but learned from the experience. During the 1990 tournament, the Police Department opted for a more controlled option of a large screen in Cameron for the Duke vs. UNLV game, with a Duke ID card required to enter. They also sponsored a bonfire in the Card Gym parking lot—with no idea this would set the precedent for a beloved tradition—but few students braved the bad weather.
1991 was an explosive and fiery year: after the watching the game between Duke vs. UNC on screen in Cameron Stadium, students spontaneously set up a mudslide and multiple bonfires. Planned fires for subsequent games burned too big and were too crowded. Duke Police had prepared with stadium evacuation plans and ambulances on standby, but were unprepared for the intensity of student energy—often directed harmlessly, but occasionally leading to violence.
Following the Duke-UNC game and some student injuries, Director of Public Safety Paul Dumas worried for students’ safety during the post-game celebrations. The Police Department organized a special committee to establish policies regulating the bonfires, but as many a Chronicle editorial pointed out, these well-intentioned regulations were difficult or impossible to enforce. For example, a March 25, 1991 editorial noted, “Parts of the policy are ridiculous. Why would a living group ever ‘contribute its bench willingly’ to the fire, as the policy suggests? In reality, the first partiers who get to the quad determine which bench gets sacrificed.”
1992 was even more out of control: many games were followed by unauthorized fires on various quads around campus, as well as some break-ins and emergency room visits. In 1994, the Police Department decided not to support any bonfires despite numerous student petitions, and began citing students for starting unpermitted fires. Yet the momentum was building; Duke was now expected to make it to the national championships each year, and, with memories of bonfires and bench-burnings from previous years, students wanted to celebrate in their own way.
Over the next few years, students insisted on commemorating games with bench burnings, and student-administration tensions increased. During the 1998 season, twenty-five students were arrested for disorderly conduct and starting unauthorized fires, while student editorials accused police of excessive force when responding to unauthorized fires. That year, the administration refused to allow the traditional bonfires and planned giant foam parties instead to celebrate major victories–unsurprisingly, most students were not enthused. In a February 5, 1998 Chronicle article titled “Students reject foam, beg for fire,” freshmen expressed disappointment about missing out on an established tradition and upperclassmen also rejected the plan: “the administration’s heart is in the right place, but foam is kind of a moronic idea.”
Three days after the Duke-UNC game, on March 3, 1998 students burned many benches despite regulations, strategically organizing a decoy to draw police attention away from the real fire. A quote from a Chronicle article following the incident states eloquently: “They took away our alcohol, and we stood by and watched. Then they took away our housing, and we stood by and watched. Then they tried to take away our bonfires, and we went to war.” It was a clever display of student unity to fight back against the administration’s perceived encroachment on their rights, and it worked: the administration sanctioned bonfires and bench burning as long as it adhered to city fire codes.
Duke Police adapted from year to year and recognized a trend of increasingly intense—and, for a few people, dangerous—parties. They tried to engage in public awareness campaigns by requesting support from the University President, Vice Presidents, student government, and Coach K, to encourage safe behavior. The department also began partnering with the Durham Police Department and the highway patrol to enlist enough officers. Yet there was only so much they could do to prevent injury or crime. And, while the police records focus on the number of incidents of injuries or assaults, most students had a good time celebrating their basketball team. It’s an interesting lesson on perspective: depending on your vantage point, you might see the bonfires of the 1990s as riots or as celebrations. Either way, the seeds of a tradition were planted. So whether or not you gather around a bonfire on February 18, enjoy a safe and exciting game!
It’s hard to kiss and make up. This Valentine Cupid, sweet as he is, carried no red roses to Democrats in 1954, only a satirical reminder of “broken promises” made in 1952, the year Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected (along with running mate Richard M. Nixon). This Valentine’s Day, hug your favorite Republican — or Democrat!
This cartoon cover art comes from the records of the Democratic Digest (1953-1961). The small-format magazine was the official mouthpiece of the Democratic National Committee. In addition to correspondence from readers, critics, and Democratic senators and governors, chiefly in response to political issues of the day (among which McCarthyism, civil rights, labor, nuclear weapons, farm subsidies, and party politics), about a third of the collection consists of hundreds of pieces of color and black-and-white layout art, including political cartoons by noted illustrator Leo Hershfield and others. There are also smaller amounts of editorial files and printed material. The Democratic Digest was continued in 1961 as The Democrat.
Post contributed by Paula J Mangiafico, Visual Materials Processing Archivist.
If you live or have spent much time in Durham, you’ve probably seen a few of the annual Duke men’s basketball posters in stores and restaurants. Every year since Coach K arrived at Duke, the men’s basketball team has released a limited-edition team poster featuring that season’s players looking ready to rumble. Each of these posters has a theme, which vary from the inspirational (Believe) to the cinematic (Goodfellas) to the trendy (Networking) to the punny (Duke Rocks).
A few weeks ago, Jim Jarvis, the graphic designer designer who collaborated with Mickie and Debbie Krzyzewski to create these images, gave many of his basketball posters to the University Archives. The majority of them are signed by the entire team and Coach K himself, who often wrote a personal thank-you to Mr. Jarvis on the poster. Many were framed, and hung proudly in Mr. Jarvis’s home for years.
During processing, we almost always remove items from their frames. We do this for a few reasons, mainly to protect and preserve the item, and to make it easier to store and access. Aside from not having enough walls to display the many awesome items in our collections, ambient light shining on displays leads to fading and damage to the materials over time. Sometimes the glass in a frame adheres to the poster, photograph, or document in the frame, leading to irreversible damage to the original, and most materials used in commercial or home framing are not archival quality, meaning acid and other chemicals present accelerate the deterioration of the framed items.
Happily for everyone, Mr. Jarvis’s posters are in great condition. University Archives Drill Intern Jamie Burns and I worked on removing them from the frames, which come in two basic styles: metal 4-piece frames and wooden frames. The metal frames are four metal sides kept together with metal brackets and screws, and are fairly easy to disassemble and reassemble using just a screwdriver.
The wooden frames secure the poster using small metal pieces nailed into the wood before the whole back of the frame is covered in paper. These frames require a sharp blade to remove the paper and small pliers to carefully work out the “nails.”
Once removed from their frames, the posters were placed in very large folders and will be kept in the Rubenstein Library stacks in either large boxes or very large cabinets, often called map cases. Mr. Jarvis’s posters will form the core of a Men’s Basketball Posters Collection, together with some basketball posters previously collected by the Archives, all of which will be available to researchers who want to view them in person.
Receiving this collection was great fun for Tech Services staff, most of whom gathered at my processing table at some point during this process to exclaim over their favorites. New to Duke or a longtime veteran, casual or serious sports fan, we all enjoyed the creative effort and love of the team that went in to these posters.
All of the men’s basketball posters (though not the ones signed to Mr. Jarvis) have been made digitally available through Blue Planet Shots, and you can find them here.
A body of color photography by Kristin Bedford recently acquired as part of the Rubenstein Library Archive of Documentary Arts offers striking images of religious practices in two very different communities of faith, and at the same time challenges cultural stereotypes of African-American worship. The two projects that came out of her experience are titled “Be Still: A Storefront Church in Durham,” and “The Perfect Picture.”
While an MFA student at Duke University, Bedford visited and photographed adults and children in the urban congregation of the Apostolic Deliverance Rebirth Outreach Ministries in Durham, North Carolina for a period of ten months. During worship, she sat in the pews among the congregants, capturing in these rich color portraits what she calls “stillness, contemplation, and the moments between the moments.”
Credit: Kristin Bedford photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
Bedford’s approach to joining these worshippers while photographing them also informed her stay with a utopian community founded by Father Divine in the 1930’s, whose members call themselves the “International Peace Mission Movement.” Bedford lived and worked with the community for five weeks in the summer of 2013 at their estate near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She documented their faith as it is lived out in everyday acts of racial harmony and guided by the divine nature of work: a form of the medieval commandment of “ora et labora.” Bedford came away with extraordinary views of a community that remains devout and committed to the movement despite a declining membership. She titled this project “The Perfect Picture,” an acknowledgment of Father Divine’s credo that the act of taking a photograph is akin to the faith-driven act of striving for unity and perfection in life.
Credit: Kristin Bedford photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
The photographs and supporting materials in “Be Still: A Storefront Church in Durham,” and “The Perfect Picture,” are available for research use in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. An online guide has been prepared for the collection. Please contact a reference archivist before coming to use this collection.
Post contributed by Lisa McCarty, Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts, and Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Visual Materials Processing Archivist.
While you are pondering your favorite Demotivators poster, consider the history of the motivational poster genre. It turns out our predecessors in the Greatest Generation needed to be inspired or, perhaps more to the point, advertisers decided they needed to tap the group’s general deep sense of faithful commitment to shape their behavior in the workplace.
In the early 1920s, salesman Charles Howard Rosenfeld proposed a series of motivational posters for workers to Charles Mather, who worked for his family’s Chicago printing house, the Mather Company. These “Constructive Organization Posters” were sold by subscription in over 300 varieties between 1923 and 1929. In 1925, Rosenfeld and another Mather Company employee left to form their own printing company, C. J. Howard Inc., in order to sell their own line of “Action Posters.”
We have 28 examples of these “Action Posters,” printed instead as a set of cards promoting work habits and qualities that would help the business employee to advance. They hold up examples of those who: consciously earn their fellow workers’ respect, keep healthy and happy, do not worry or gossip, remain loyal to the company, provide accurate work and work steadily, seek constant improvement, have a winning attitude, make good suggestions, take criticism well, and follow through on instructions. All of these traits were in contrast to so-called problem employees, who were unhealthy, resentful, lacking in motivation, and destined to be employed elsewhere in the very near future.
We wish you Happy Holidays, no matter where you find your motivation.
While I processed a collection of correspondence between two lovers, a handful of letters stuck out. Martha Simpson, then Martha Eleanor Booker, a young African American woman working on her teaching degree at Elizabeth City Teachers College, had a penchant for writing in code. Paul Simpson, her love interest, did not share the same inclination, but did indulge her in his responses. As I read through the letters, the code used in three of them piqued my curiosity. My search revealed that the code used seems to be a form of carnival Pig Latin, also known as Czarny, Z-Latin, or Carny (Hautzinger 30).
Martha first sneaks in her secret code at the closing of a letter from January 10, 1951, with a little taunt, “Ha, ha, I bet you can’t read it.” Paul’s response to this letter, dated January 13, 1951, briefly acknowledges that he, indeed, could read her secret language with the opening line “Dizear Cizheré,” before continuing his letter unencumbered by the extra z’s.
But Martha doesn’t give up. She continues the code in a response from January 17, 1951, written half in this “z-language,” eventually switching back to conventional English.
Martha’s next letter clearly was not on pink paper (did you catch that one?), but she did keep on with her code. The secret language was formed by inserting iz after the first consonant, and if there was no consonant present, beginning the word with biz. In linguistic circles, this is known as iz-infixation and has been linked to rap and hip-hop music. Examples include Frankie Smith’s 1981 hits DoubleDutch Bus and Slang Thang (or Slizang Thizang), both of which boast the iz-infix in their lyrics. More recent examples include work by Snoop Dogg and Kanye West (Viau 1). But these letters come decades before the iz-infix made it big in music, and the question remains: Where did this secret language come from?
We think the answer is this: carnival slang. Published accounts of Carny go back to 1926 (Russell and Murray 401), well before Martha was writing to Paul. It was a language immersed in the subculture of the carnival, intended to distinguish between outsiders and the true Carnies, given the questionable legality of the carnival. Sarah Hautzinger describes it as a dialect that “rearranges English to make it unintelligible to the unenlightened ear” (32). In Czarny, “a Z-sound is inserted after the first consonant, and if the word begins with a vowel, before the vowel sound, in the first syllable only” (32). This certainly seems a lot like the iz-infixes found in the letters between Martha and Paul. Rumor has it that this carny talk found its way into popular culture years later.
Whether or not their secret language was descended from Z-Latin, the coded (and uncoded) correspondence between Martha and Paul D. Simpson provides an interesting read. Recently acquired by the Rubenstein, these roughly 300 letters detail the love, life, and struggles of a young African American couple on their way to becoming teachers.
We recently welcomed a new staff member Tracy Jackson to the Rubenstein Library! We asked her a few questions to help us—and you—get to know her a little better!
Tell us a little bit about your new job at the Rubenstein Library!
My job here at the Rubenstein is Technical Services Archivist for University Archives. I’ll be overseeing the processing of University related collections, including the arrangement, description, and preservation of current and new materials, and I’ll also be a part of the Technical Services Management Team. Since I’m new to Duke, I’m really excited to be working with such great collections and knowledgeable colleagues.
How did you become an archivist?
I knew I was interested in archives when I went to library school, but couldn’t have said why until I started working in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives at UNC. I just loved getting to know the materials, seeing the faces and personalities of people from the past, and since I also worked the reference desk in the graduate library, getting to tell people about all the cool stuff I’d found and why they should go see it, too. Getting to work in-depth with collections is what makes this job so great.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve discovered in an archival collection and why?
With a small collection of family photographs, I discovered a gold-plated, decorative set of make-up cases from the 1940s. There was a powder compact with mirror and a lipstick case, and they were beautiful. In collection of family letter from the 18th and 19th century there was a young woman’s dance card from a ball, with a tiny pencil still attached. I love finding the unexpected in collections, especially the things that remind me how much the people who created them were really not very different from us.
What aspect of your new job are you most excited about?
I’m so excited to get to know the collections here. Duke has such rich collections, and the University Archives document the incredibly diverse activities of the University. I’m very excited about diving in and getting to know, then getting to share, what we have.
Tell us something unique about yourself.
I tried a couple of careers before becoming an archivist, and for a short time I lived in Los Angeles and tried out special effects make-up artistry. I worked on a few student films and ultra-low-budget movies, and even though I didn’t do it for long, it was a lot of fun. These days I only use those skills at Halloween, though!
It is a rare treat for me to have a chance to process some 19th century family letters. The family papers of Col. David S. Wilson, from Dubuque, Iowa, arrived in March 2014, thanks to a generous donation from the Kirby, Pfohl, and Quigley Family. The collection was discovered in an attic. It reached the Rubenstein Library as it was discovered, with rusty pins and covered in black dust. Considering its age and environment, the letters themselves were in terrific condition — just filthy. A lot of my time was spent cleaning the paper with special sponges that attract grime.
I was pleasantly surprised by the contents of the letters. Col. David S. Wilson is moderately famous in Iowa history for his service in the state legislature in the 1850s and early 1860s, and for raising the 6th Iowa Cavalry in 1862. His regiment fought the Sioux in the Dakota Territory. Wilson later worked as a lawyer in both San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and eventually was appointed district judge back in Dubuque.
The collection does not focus on Wilson’s military career, but instead consists largely of letters between David and his family, particularly his wife, Henrietta, and their four children. The letters cover personal topics such as in-laws, health, and finances, and reveal the hardships the family faced as David was frequently separated from his loved ones. They seemed to genuinely miss each other, and it was nice to see such warmth conveyed in their letters.
Also notable in the collection were the courtship letters received by the couple’s daughter Gertrude (also known as “Gertie”) in the mid-1870s. Gertie had at least six different suitors in 1872 and 1873, and their letters to her dominate the correspondence from that period. Emotions turned raw as she rejected a few declarations of love. Gertie finally married George Brock, from Chicago, in March 1874.
The collection includes more than just correspondence; there are also some legal documents, land grants, and a diary from David S. Wilson’s 1860 term in the General Assembly. One of the land grants includes a signature from President Franklin Pierce. The children’s activities, particularly their schooling, are documented through report cards and flyers. I also came across this handmade score book, which was largely empty, but I was excited to see what sport it was for: baseball. Along with all his other activities, it turns out that David Wilson was also a pitcher.
The Col. David S. Wilson Family Papers are now fully processed and available for researchers. You can explore it for yourself using the collection guide.
Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.
Our colleague Mary Mellon is currently reprocessing the Benjamin Duke Papers to provide more refined description. Among the many fascinating pieces of correspondence within the collection, she has found a letter, dated November 16, 1896, from Trustee A. P. Tyer to Ben Duke. In it, he makes a not-so-modest proposal: that Duke give a $500,000 endowment and that the school be renamed Duke College.
“The only hope that Trinity College has of ever being endowed is found in the Dukes. I therefore ask that you give the College five hundred thousand dollars as endowment and allow the Trustees to name it “Duke College.”
In 1896, the school was just four years old in its new Durham location. There was great concern about longterm viability, despite the generosity of the Duke family up to that point, including providing the funds to bring the school to Durham. $500,000 in 1896 would have been around $13 million in today’s money.
To sweeten the deal, Mr. Tyer added,
“This will forever take away the feeling of uncertainty, make the college an assured success forever, put the Dukes in front of all southern benefactors, largely increase the number of students, bring even a better class of patronage to the college, make it possible for others to give to it, be the greatest monument any southern man will ever build, be a perpetual benefit and blessing to the human family, and constantly glorify God your Father.”
Ben Duke remained a steady and heavily involved benefactor, but never made a gift at the level requested in the letter. The month after this letter was received, Washington Duke, Ben’s father, gave a $100,000 endowment, contingent on women being admitted on equal footing with men. In 1924, Ben’s brother, James B. Duke, established the Duke Endowment, which helped fund a massive expansion of the college, and led to the renaming of the school—not to Duke College, but to Duke University.
Post contributed by Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist, with assistance from Mary Mellon, Technical Services Intern.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University