Tag Archives: holidays

The Devil’s Tale Turns One!

Virginia Dare Advertising Card. From the Advertising Ephemera Collection.

Today The Devil’s Tale turns one year old, and it seems only fitting to pause for a moment and celebrate. (It’s also National Dessert Month, so we will be celebrating with a cake here in the RBMSCL.)

Where else would you hear about extracting sunbeams from cucumbers or hear the real back story of the Duke-Alabama football rivalry? Blog followers were the first to hear that Duke had acquired the papers of South Carolina author Dorothy Allison, Nobel-laureate economist Paul Samuelson, and jazz master Frank Foster. Together we marked holidays large and small with selections from our collections, from Thanksgiving to Free Comic Book Day, proving that there’s something in our collections for every occasion (and almost every research interest).

Thank you to everyone who has posted a comment or passed on a post to a friend. We invite you to become a Devil’s Tale follower so we can keep you up-to-date on upcoming events and exhibits and all the latest news. Happy birthday, Devil’s Tale! (And three cheers for our intrepid blog editor Amy McDonald!)

Post contributed by Naomi Nelson, Director of the RBMSCL.

(Intrepid editor’s note: And thanks to everyone at the RBMSCL for their daily help with the care and feeding of The Devil’s Tale!)

Founders’ Day Traditions

(click to enlarge)

The practice of honoring the benefactors of Trinity College and Duke University was formalized by the Board of Trustees on June 4, 1901, when October 3 was designated as Benefactors’ Day in honor of Washington Duke. The original intent “to honor Washington Duke forever” has been kept in spirit, but the name and date of the annual observance has changed over the years. It has been called Benefactors’ Day (1901-1924), Duke University Day (1926-1947), and, since 1948, Founders’ Day. The most elaborate celebrations occurred during the year-long Centennial Celebration of 1938-1939, and on the 100th anniversary of James B. Duke’s birth in 1956.

After the creation of Duke University in 1924, the date shifted to December 11 in honor of the signing of the Indenture of The Duke Endowment. For several decades, tree-planting ceremonies were a traditional part of the festivities. In 1997, the ceremonies were moved back to a date in the early fall, usually the weekend closest to October 3rd. Events include a memorial for members of the community deceased during the year passed, recognition of outstanding students, faculty, and staff, and the presentations of awards for teaching, the Distinguished Alumni Award, and the University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service at Duke.

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.

The Star-Spangled Cucumber

As archivists, we know that we’re supposed to mark the Fourth of July with a remembrance of that most celebrated of documents, our Declaration of Independence. We think, though, that we’ll leave the remembering and celebrating to our fine colleagues at the National Archives, and give some attention to a document of a completely different sort—a pamphlet bearing one of the most wonderful titles we’ve ever come across:

Lest you think we’re joking, here’s a link to the catalog record. The pamphlet reprints an oration delivered by David Daggett to the citizens of New Haven, Connecticut on the Fourth of July, 1799.

Of course, at the risk of spoiling the fun, we have to note that the title is actually a reference to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Since Swift was a pretty funny guy himself, we’re hoping you’ll forgive us.

Happy Fourth of July from the RBMSCL!

Thanks to Beth Ann Koelsch, who brought this treasure to our attention many years ago.

Happy United Nations Charter Day!

The United Nations Conference on International Organization officially convened between April 25 and June 26, 1945 in San Francisco. On 26 June 1945, delegations from 50 countries signed the United Nations Charter, a constituent treaty by which all member nations are bound in an international body and in which organization’s mission and commitment to peaceful resolution are defined.

The Veil by Julie Chen, 2002.
Photo courtesy of Vamp and Tramp Booksellers.


Over fifty years later, book artist Julie Chen wove the text of the famously eloquent Preamble into her 2002 free-standing concertina, The Veil. This carousel book offers the artist’s reflections on the political conflicts in the Middle East through both words and abstract visual meditations which unfold over the text of the charter. The Veil will be featured in the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture’s Book + Arts Exhibit this October.

Post contributed by Christine Well, UNC SILS graduate student volunteer, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

For Mom

On this special day, we’re sharing this cover from the sheet music from 1915 song (words by Edward Morton and James S. Donahue and music by Newton B. Heims). We love the sweet chorus:

Just write her a nice little letter,
Tell her you hope she is well,
Send her some little remembrance,
Something to make her heart swell,
Pet her and call her your sweetheart,
Cheer her and make her feel gay,
Don’t say a word that will grieve her,
Let this be your Mother’s Day.

Of course, we can’t write about mothers without mentioning one of the beloved treasures of the RBMSCL: enslaved woman Vilet Lester’s 1857 letter to her former mistress (from the Joseph Allred Papers). Vilet asks about her precious daughter, whom she had to leave behind when she was sold (ultimately) to a Georgian family. Each time we read it, our eyes get teary and our hearts break all over again.

Happy Mother’s Day, Vilet. Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere!

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.