A TALE OF TWO CITIES (AND THREE MUSEUMS): THE RED STAR LINE AND EUGEEN VAN MIEGHEM MUSEUMS (ANTWERP), AND THE WOLFSONIAN (MIAMI BEACH)

•April 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Just yesterday, Vice Mayor Philip Heylen of the City of Antwerp made a special visit to The Wolfsonian. He brought with him several guests for a tour of the galleries, but also to meet with curator Silvia Barisione and myself to discuss possibilities of collaboration in a traveling exhibition about the Red Star Line. The Red Star Line was founded in 1871 as a joint venture between the International Navigation Company in Philadelphia, and the Société Anonyme de Navigation Belgo-Américaine of Antwerp, Belgium, and specialized in the transatlantic immigrant trade. The Wolfsonian has an especially rich collection of posters and smaller format print materials promoting travel by ocean liners, but has far less furniture and decorative arts objects from the ships—something that a collaborative exhibition with the Red Star Line Museum would remedy.

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The Red Star Line in Antwerp served as a major departure station for Europeans planning to restart their lives in the United States, and the museum has been focusing much of its energies in telling the stories of those millions of European-American immigrants. Between 1873 and 1934, more than half a million European Jews, (including composer Irving Berlin and scientist Albert Einstein) sailed from Antwerp to Ellis Island aboard Red Star Line ships, eager to make a fresh start in America, or desperate to escape anti-Semitism, pogroms, and Nazi tyranny in Europe. In the depression years, the Red Star Line continued operating under the ownership of Arnold Bernstein, a German Jew, until the liquidation of the Société Anonyme de Navigation Belgo-Américaine in 1935. In spite of earning the Iron Cross first class for his service to the Fatherland during the First World War, in 1937 Bernstein was arrested, tried, and imprisoned by the Nazis, who, under their appropriation policies, seized his property and sold off the Red Star Line service to the Holland Amerika Lijn. After paying a substantial ransom to secure his release, Bernstein and his wife fled Nazi Germany and ironically enough took passage on Holland Amerika Line’s S.S. Neiuw Amsterdam in 1939, arriving in New York on the same day that Germany invaded Poland triggering the Second World War and paving the way for the Holocaust.

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In 2001, the vacant and decaying warehouses of the Red Star Line were rescued from sale or demolition when the city declared them historical landmarks, and the architects responsible for restoring the edifices on Ellis Island were hired to convert them into a museum. The museum opened to the public in 2013 and has a permanent exhibition featuring Red Star Line objects and artifacts from the Robert Vervoot Collection. Eugeen Van Mieghem Museum curator, Erwin Joos was here with the Vice Mayor to talk to us about the work of Antwerp artist Eugeen Van Mieghan (1875-1930), who documented the emigrant experience at the company docks. While in town, Mr. Joos will be delivering a lecture titled: “The artist Eugeen Van Mieghem and the Jewish emigrants of the Red Star Line.” He will present that talk at 10:00 am on April 13th at the Jewish Federation 4200 Biscayne Blvd Miami, at 2:30 pm on April 17th at the Miami Pinecrest Library, 5835 SW 111th St, Pinecrest, FL 33156, and at 12 noon on April 20th, at the Miami Temple Beth Am, Miami. Mr. Joos was kind enough to present us with a copy of a 2005 catalog of the artist’s work, some of which can also be seen online.

The Wolfsonian’s holdings of Red Star Line materials focus on the more “glamorous” anniversaries and itineraries of the steamship company in the 1920s and early 1930s. The library, for example, hold a rare copy of a book commemorating the 50th anniversary of the sailing of Vaderland in 1893 that inaugurated the Red Star Line service.

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The book also used the occasion to celebrate the inauguration of its newest steamship, the Belgenland in 1923.

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In addition to the transoceanic immigrant trade so well documented by the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, our own library holds some materials promoting the shipping company’s World Cruises. We possess, for example, a rare travel diary belonging to Mr. Roland C. Fenner of Philadelphia, PA, put together as a souvenir keepsake of his 1927/8 “around the world” cruise on the Red Star Line’s S. S. Belgenland.

 

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THE JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

The souvenir log book and photograph album is personalized throughout with black and white snapshots mounted on preprinted pages depicting tourist attractions and places of interest. A pocket in the inside back cover contains a postcard, a cruise newsletter, and a ticket.

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THE JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

After the cruise was complete, the company also published a standard memory book that could be purchased as a memento of the voyage.

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GIFT OF LAURENCE MILLER

The library also holds a beautiful Art Deco designed menu for the S.S. Arabic dated August 10th, 1929.

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THE MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

A particularly striking Red Star Line publication in the collection is Strange Places & Strange Faces Seen on the Belgenland World Cruise. Promoting the Red Star Line’s “Around the World” itinerary for 1930/1931, the book’s “Orientalist” illustrated cover pictures an elderly Egyptian smoking a hookah with a collage of architectural landmarks and monuments appearing through the Islamic keyhole-shaped doorway behind him.

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THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

Between the covers, the book is profusely illustrated with black & white photographic illustrations of the ship, its amenities, and the various ports where passengers could disembark and explore during their trip.

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THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

The Wolfsonian library also holds a copy of the 1936 tourist class deck plan of the Red Star Line’s Westernland.

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GIFT OF LAURENCE MILLER

RUSSIA, CRIMEA AND UKRAINE IN THE 1930s: RECENT WOLFSONIAN ACQUISITIONS

•April 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

LIBRARY OBJECT(S) OF THE MONTH:
Party to USSR / Intourist State Tourist Company

Anti-Communist propaganda poster

Each morning I have been listening to the news on NPR concerning the dangerously tense relations between Ukraine and Russia following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and escalating threats of secession and defection of pro-Russian provinces in the Eastern Ukraine. And so it seemed only appropriate to focus today’s blog post on a recent acquisition that deals with those regions during the era of the Soviet Union.

Even before the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi provided Russia with some positive PR quickly lost after their intrigue in Crimea, the library had purchased a brochure published by the state-run Intourist Company authorized to organize tours of the U.S.S.R. for foreigners in the 1930s.

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Published in English and designed for an American audience, the booklet opens with photographic illustrations of American tourists posing in the Kremlin, Red Square, and other popular sites in Moscow.

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The booklet then focuses on other popular destinations within the Soviet Union, including the former Winter Palace and the fountains of Petershof in Leningrad.

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But what was of real interest to me as I catalogued the brochure and created the metadata needed to digitize it was the section on “The Ucraine.”

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This section of the booklet describes the “industrial cities of Charkow, Dnjepropetrowsk, the cultural centre Kiev, the port of Odessa, the picturesque scenery of the Dnjepr Rapids” as “important stages of a journey through the Ucraine.” Among the highlights not to be missed on a tour through the Ukrainian capital city of Kharkov were the Museum of the Free Ukraine, the Museum of Ukrainian Arts, and the Ukrainian Revolutionary Museum, as well as the Palace of State Industry, a modern fourteen-story building erected in 1928.

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Kiev is described in the 1930 booklet as home to “510,000 inhabitants, the mother of Russian cities, the cradle of mediaeval Russian culture” and “one of the most interesting cities in the Soviet Union.”

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Dnepropetrovsk is described as being the “most important industrial city” in the Ukraine, hosting the largest iron works in the USSR, many large factories, and a short distance from the “largest water power station in Europe” under construction at that time.

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The Soviet booklet describes Crimea, situated on the Black Sea, as the “Peninsula of Wonders” on account of its “natural beauties and historical relics.” Traveling by rail from the North, the traveler will first encounter Bachtchissaraj, the first “oriental” city, complete with narrow streets, the minarets of mosques, and the Tartaric Khan’s castle. A journey by rail of an hour and a half brings the tourist to Sebastopol, a city of 70,000 inhabitants and the naval port on the Black Sea. The Historical and Revolutionary museums attest to the besieged city’s importance during the Crimean War (1854-1855). Crossing the Tauric Mountains, the traveler arrives in Yalta, described in the brochure as the “Pearl of the Russian Riviera.”

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Blessed with a mild climate, Yalta had been a favorite beach resort of the imperial court, though in the Soviet era, the Czar’s luxurious palace, Livadia and the castles of the aristocracy had been converted into “reconvalescent homes and sanatoriums for workmen and employees.” In Massandra, Crimean wines were stored in “extensive subterranean cellars” while the nearby Nikitski Gardens boasted as being one of the foremost botanical gardens in the world.

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The warm water port city of Odessa is also briefly described in the guide-book, with mention of the 142-metre-long “broad marble steps” leading down to the harbor constructed between 1837 and 1841. The boulevard steps were made infamous by director Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) in the Soviet Propaganda film Battleship Potemkin (1925), when he staged a scene in which Czarist troops march down the stairs, shooting down civilians. During that scene, a dying mother inadvertently knocks her baby’s carriage headlong down the steps in one of the most famous–and copied–moments of cinematic history.

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Film stills courtesy of: http://www.lassothemovies.com/battleship-potemkin/

In reality, the massacre on the steps never happened, but were included in the film by the director for its obvious dramatic effect. Some years later, Dutch anti-Communist propagandists turned the scene on its head by publishing a poster reversing the roles in the infamous scene. The poster, recently added as a promised gift by museum founder Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. depicts robotic Red soldiers descending the stairs to the bottom, where a woman lies dead and her infant cries inconsolably from within an overturned baby carriage.

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Over the last few weeks, the Potemkin steps have again become the scene of conflict (so far bloodless) as pro-Russian agitators attempted to plant a Soviet flag above the stairs, only to have some Ukrainian nationalists tear it down and stage their own pro-Ukrainian demonstrations.

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Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, Sunday March 9, 2014 (Photo courtesy: AP)

One can easily see from these historical documents just how important the industrial, cultural, port, and resort cities of Crimea and the Ukraine were to the Soviets and why both the Ukrainians and Russians are determined to hold onto them.

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A TRIP BACK IN TIME TO THE GILDED AGE AT THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU LIBRARY

•April 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This past Monday, the executive director of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Dr. Joel M. Hoffman brought a half-dozen distinguished visitors with him on a visit to The Wolfsonian.

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After touring the galleries, the group made a special stop-over in the museum library to see a display of some of our rare books and ephemera dating from the 1870s through 1900. Taken from the title of a novel co-written by Charles Dudley Warner (1829-1900) and satirist Mark Twain (1835-1910) published in 1873, this period has come to be known as the “Gilded Age”—from the authors’ criticism of the economic disparities and social ills of the era which they described as being covered up under the thinnest patina of gold gilding.

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The Wolfsonian library holds a number of rare materials dating from this period, with particular strengths in two areas: world’s fair materials documenting the architectural styles of the era, and thousands of advertising cards revealing fashions of dress and popular sentiment through the products for sale and the advertising strategies of the age.

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The first major U.S. world’s fair, the Centennial International Exhibition opened in Fairmont Park, Philadelphia in 1876 and was intended to celebrate “the One Hundredth Anniversary of American Independence, by holding an International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine.”

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As this was an international exhibition, the spectators had the opportunity to admire the artwork, latest inventions, and manufactured goods from around the world.

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The German arms manufacturer, Krupp literally brought their big guns to the Machinery Hall.

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The library collection holds a number of stereograph cards from the fair—popular as souvenirs. When looked at through a stereoscope, the duplicate photographic images merged into a single 3-D image.

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The next truly monumental American world’s fair was organized by Chicagoans to celebrate the Quadricentennial (one year late) of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America.

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Walter Crane (1845-1915) provided a series of illustrations in Columbia’s Courtship that used an Indian maiden to represent Native America before the coming of the Europeans and their transformation into Americans.

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Those attending the fair could expect to see idealized statues of Indians on the fairgrounds, and even be able to gawk at actual Penobscot Indians in a recreated Indian village of birch bark wigwams.

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A prominent Potawatomi Indian leader, Chief Simon Pokagon, though not invited to the fair, attended anyway in order to distribute his Red Man’s Greeting, a pamphlet that read more like a “rebuke” of white Americans for their treatment of the Indians.

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Intent on rivaling the marvels of the Paris 1889 universal exposition (for which the Eiffel Tower was erected), the organizers of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 spent years in planning and millions of dollars landscaping and erecting the pavilions of the “white city.”

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The George B. Post architectural firm (for which the library holds their working reference library) built the Manufacturers and Liberal Arts building—billed as the largest edifice in the world—until it was soon after surpassed in the spirit of architectural one-upmanship.

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Other postcards illustrate the Government, Electrical, and Fine Art buildings.

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To outdo the Eiffel Tower, the American engineer George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. (1859–1896) designed a gigantic moving structure—a rotating observation wheel from which fair-goers would be able to get a bird’s eye view of the entire fairgrounds.

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The following year, the California Midwinter International Exhibition was organized on the West Coast with much fanfare.

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An exhibit in the Midway (or entertainment section of the fair) also  capitalized on the popularity of the Orientalist craze of the times.

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Turning to the Kate Greenaway collection of advertising cards, one can see the way Americans dressed, cleaned and groomed themselves, and consumed a wide variety of products in the Gilded Age.

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Some of the manufacturers are still household names, even if different advertising strategies, messages, and media are employed to move their products.

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The prejudices of the Gilded Age have happily been driven out of the marketplace. Advertisements employing such crass racial stereotypes would not be tolerated today.

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Other of the products being advertised have been made virtually obsolete over time. Once the cottage industry staple of the Gilded Age, the Singer sewing machine has now been incorporated into the design of chic shops as permeable space dividers.

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An avid fan of the Mad Men series, my personal favorite among the advertising cards are those designed to sell B. T. Babbitt’s Soap Powder. One of them depicts a political candidate standing on a podium near the Capitol building. Having just stepped down from his soap box, he curries favor with the electorate by distributing bars of the popular brand of soap.

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In other of their ads, empty Babbitt Soap Boxes are transformed into boats and sleds that sail past those of the competition.

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A final card that drew the attention of one of our guests was one posing the question: “How can the old be made new?”

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When held up to a bright light source, the faded red dress of the woman on the hammock looks bright red once more and a fairy can be seen informing the viewer to purchase the Diamond dyes brand.

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I thought it only appropriate to conclude today’s post with an image from The Social Ladder, another critique of the Gilded Age. The author and illustrator, Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944) ridiculed those “May-December” arranged marriages that saddled beautiful young women with rich older husbands.

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These same sentiments were also captured in the popular song, “A Bird in a Gilded Cage” with lyrics by Arthur J. Lamb (1870-1928) and music by Henry Von Tilzer (1872-1946) which was recorded at the tail-end of the era.

BEYOND THE RAILS BUT NOT OFF-TRACK: THE MITCHELL WOLFSON STUDY CENTRE RAILROAD EXHIBIT AND WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY TRAIN MATERIALS

•April 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This past Thursday, I had the privilege of attending the opening of an exhibition of railroad materials curated by Miami Dade College students under the supervision of Melissa Diaz, Bill Iverson, and Lea Nickless.

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The exhibition, Beyond the Rails: Notes on Trains, Travel, and Society is on display in MDC Museum of Art & Design. The museum, housed in the renovated “Freedom Tower,” is a perfect venue for the exhibition, with its high vaulted ceilings and cavernous spaces that are reminiscent of some of the grand old railway stations.

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And the items that the students chose to include in their exhibit were captivating and well-displayed.

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The impressive array of materials in the show got me to thinking about some of the transportation related items in our own library stacks. Associate librarian Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi had not long ago curated a library display titled: Giants Lighter Than Air focused on zeppelins, and I had put together an exhibit about Italian seaplane squadrons crossing the Atlantic in the 1930s.

We have yet to organize an exhibition on railroads, trains, and locomotives, though we have impressive holdings of such materials. And so I thought that I would use today’s post to provide my readers with a teaser of the wide range of materials in our collection dealing with transportation by rail.

An early piece dealing with trains dates back to the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. The Quaker Oats Company published some advertising cards (probably distributed at a pavilion kiosk) that illustrate the process of creating their cereal products, from the farm, to the factory, to distribution by rail.

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THE MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION

The Germans published a beautiful book about trains around the turn of the last century, linking the technological to the mythical by equating the coal-fed locomotives to smoke-belching, fire-breathing dragons.

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THE MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION

The library also holds several rare books about trains designed for young children printed entirely on durable cloth pages.

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THE MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION

Thanks to the generosity of scholar, collector, and long-time Wolfsonian supporter Frederic A. Sharf, the library also holds some Saalfield’s Muslin cloth children’s ABC books which also include entries like this one for the letter “T” for “Trains.”

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THE JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF COLLECTION

As a symbol of the nation’s technological development, trains were often prominently displayed at many world’s fair venues, including the Louisiana Purchase International Exposition held in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904.

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THE MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION

A Japanese portfolio from about the same period includes vibrant color plates designed as greeting cards, with one plate celebrating the role of trains and technology in helping Japan achieve victory in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905.

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THE MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION

Down the Line, a children’s book published in Great Britain some few years later, celebrated the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company with full-page color illustrations.

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THE MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION

Another Japanese publication gifted by the Sharfs focused on the Chinese Eastern Railway that hauled freight to and helped establish Japanese influence in Manchuria.

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THE JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF COLLECTION

Before the Panama Canal project was completed in 1914, it was the old Panama Railroad that carried people and goods from one end of the isthmus to the other. The old railroad tracks also proved critical to the laborious work of excavating and clearing the canal. As this year marks the hundredth year anniversary of the completion of the canal, Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn is working on our next library exhibit which focusing on that Herculean achievement with materials drawn from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf, the Thomas C. Ragan, and Laurence Miller collections. The exhibit will open at the end of the month.

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JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF COLLECTION

The library even holds examples of model train catalogs that helped popularize the industry by encouraging amateurs to build kits in their basements.

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THE MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION

As the transcontinental railroads spanned the continent and the “iron horse” linked the east coast with the west, many of the railroad companies operating these lines used Indians and Western imagery to brand their lines. In the early 1900s, for example, the Santa Fe California Limited used images of Pueblo Peoples and Native American iconography to sell the public on their routes.

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THE MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION

A few decades later, the Great Northern Railway was still using Indians to publicize the route of the Empire Builder through Glacier National Park in Montana. The company used illustrations taken from Blackfeet Indian portraits painted by German-American artist Winold Reiss (1886-1953) to adorn commercial calendars, and (as I learned at the Beyond the Rails exhibit downtown) playing cards.

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The library also holds a very good run of the pulp periodical Railroad Magazine published in the 1930s and 1940s with graphic color illustrated covers.

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GIFTS OF MELVIN M. HUNT, JR.

The look of trains changed radically in the 1930s and 1940s as industrial designers the world over, including Ettore Bugatti (1881-1947), Raymond Loewy (1893-1986), and Henry Dreyfuss (1904-1972) ushered in the age of streamlined vehicles incorporating the new wisdom concerning wind-resistance and aerodynamics.

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THE MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. PROMISED GIFT

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THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU COLLECTION

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THE MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION

During the depression decade, when many Americans began associating trains with the hundreds of thousands of displaced youths and hobos “riding the rails” and hiding out from the railroad “bulls” policing the lines, railroad companies made a concerted effort to rebrand their industry image.

Consequently, streamlined locomotives were displayed at the 1930s fairs in an attempt to re-instill America’s confidence in railway technology as the symbol of the spirit of progress.

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THE MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION

In the aftermath of victory in the Second World War, many railroad companies felt that America’s crisis of confidence had ended and believed the general public to be enthusiastic enough about trains that they organized stand-alone exhibitions and railroad fairs.

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GIFT OF CHARLES L. MARSHALL, JR. AND RICHARD L. TOOKE

THE POWER OF DESIGN: CONTEMPORARY AND HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES ON COMPLAINTS AT THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

•March 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This past weekend, The Wolfsonian-FIU partnered with public radio station WLRN and the Miami Herald Media Company in hosting a Complaints-themed Power of Design festival complete with exhibitions, guest speakers, moderated debates, and even a complaint choir! I personally sat down and vented about South Florida drivers in the WLRN complaint booth set up in our museum café/shop where the general public was invited to air their grievances or propose solutions to problems. It was not quite as much fun as a kissing- or photo-booth, but far more therapeutic.

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As part of the Wolfsonian’s Power of Design program, the museum opened an exhibition of provocative posters created by contemporary designers and curated by design historian, author, and educator, Steven Heller, photographed here with Wolfsonian director, Cathy Leff, and exhibition designer, Richard Miltner.

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Titled Complaints! An Inalienable Right, the show provocatively displayed vinyl versions of the works on the museum’s façade and the lobby walls and floor!

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The guest curator, Steve Heller, was also on hand on Friday to talk about the project in a public forum shared with museum curators and staff, and another special guest curator, Todd Oldham. Todd had visited the museum some years before and had expressed at that time a complaint that there was a great deal of “dark” materials in our collection. This was the germ of his selection of Wolfsonian materials for an installation he decided to call “Bummer.” Although displayed in the fifth floor galleries in a more traditional way than Heller’s poster show, there was nothing mundane about the objects he chose to exhibit.

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As a participant in the Collecting Complaints talk on Friday, I had focused on Menneske Pyramide [Human Pyramid], a painting in our galleries by a Danish artist who courageously complained against the Nazis and their invasion and occupation of his homeland. Although I had made the selection before the Russian occupation of Crimea, it was almost impossible for me not to think of Harald Engman’s artistic complaint in the context of those being lodged against Putin’s “pan-Slavic” territorial grab in Eastern Ukraine.

While ruminating on the theme of the Power of Design ideas festival, I began to search through The Wolfsonian library catalog to see what other examples of historical complaints I could find. Here are some of the things that I discovered.

As our collection period begins in the aftermath of the industrial revolution, it seems only natural that the first complaints I discovered had to do with the advent of the “machine age” and it effects on the human workforce. British Arts & Crafts advocate and Catholic social reformer, Eric Gill wrote, illustrated, and printed numerous works criticizing capitalist assembly line production that threw men and women out of work, turned workers into mere cogs in the machine, and alienated the craftsman from his handiwork.

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Gill also contributed eleven short essays, printed together with satirical cartoons by illustrator Denis Tegetmeier (1896-1987) attacking such social ills and problems as the inequitable distribution of wealth, labor and leisure, political “machines” that turned voters into cogwheels, and a militarist mentality that reduced men into cannon-fodder.

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The First World War was another watershed moment in generating social criticism of Western civilization and culture. In the immediate aftermath of that bloody conflict, a new generation of German social critics arose to complain against the Prussian militarism they held responsible for turning men into killing machines. Willi Geisler (1848-1928), for example, published a ten sheet portfolio indictment titled: Der Künstliche Mensch [The Artificial Man], which not only condemned Prussian militarism, but society as a whole for turning men into robots or mere mechanical men.

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The more widely known artist Georg Grosz (1893-1959) similarly produced scathing social critiques in post-WWI Germany. His cartoons and social satires railed against the murder of millions of conscripted soldiers, the neglect of wounded war veterans, the evils of Capitalism and bourgeois values, religious hypocrisy, and social ills such as prostitution.

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The Stock Market crash of 1929 and subsequent decade-long depression created a world-wide opportunity for discontent and complaint. The Nazis rose to power on a wave of economic discontent, and their neighbors to the East and West registered their own complaints against rearmament and the revitalization of German militarism under Hitler.

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In the United States, most Americans adopted isolationism as a cynical response to continuing political crises abroad, and voiced their loudest complaints against their domestic economic woes. Artists on the Left, including Hugo Gellert (1892-1985), used the depression as proof of the inevitable doom of an evil and morally bankrupt capitalist system that countenanced starvation, mass unemployment, and mechanization.

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Conservative illustrators and editorial cartoonists also weighed in on the economic and political debate. Many attacked President Franklin Roosevelt an anti-business “tax and spend” Democrat and lampooned and ridiculed his “New Deal” solutions to the Great Depression.

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When the first of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs came under serious attack in Congress towards the end of the decade, even some of the radical and leftist artists who had earlier chastised the President for not going far enough, came to his defense. As conservatives in Congress prepared to pass legislation that would defund the Federal Arts Projects, Hugo Gellert, A. Birnbaum, R. D. Fitzpatrick, William Gropper (1897-1977), and other members of the American Artists Congress published their own set of cartoons defending Federal One programs.

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THE DAUNTLESS DANE: THE ANTI-NAZI ART OF HARALD RUDYARD ENGMAN

•March 18, 2014 • 2 Comments

In preparing for the up-and-coming events associated with the Power of Design (or PODfest) I was asked to choose an object on display in The Wolfsonian-FIU galleries that struck me as a good example of the positive power that complaints could have in fostering change in the world. Without hesitation, I immediately selected a painting on the fifth floor that I’ve always been drawn to: Menneske Pyramide (Human Pyramid)—a painting by Harald Rudyard Engman (1903-1968) which provides a scathing indictment against Danish acquiescence and collaboration in the German occupation of his homeland during the Second World War. The oil on canvas painting was executed in 1941 sometime after Engman left Copenhagen but continued to produce his bitterly satirical art in the seclusion of North Sealand.

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Engman had good reason to leave the Danish capital when he did. The audacious and daring artist had opened an exhibition of his anti-Nazi art in a Copenhagen gallery on Amager Square just days before the German army invaded neutral Denmark on April 9, 1940. At a time when the Danish monarchy, cabinet, and parliament timorously hoped that their declarations of neutrality would be respected by their giant neighbor to the south, and other artists ignored such troubling themes, Engman was unveiling paintings that depicted the ugly nature of war and unflinchingly lampooned the military pretensions of Fascist and Nazi aggressors.  

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In one painting from this period, Engman depicts Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, and Hermann Göring as villainous characters from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin with a young Jewish girl standing on the slave auction block.

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The public who flocked to this shocking exhibition had only a small window of time to reflect on the anti-Nazi message of this fearless (if foolhardy) artist. Just after 4:00 AM on April 9, 1940, the German government simultaneously issued an ultimatum and ordered its huge army into Denmark on the pretext of acting “to forestall a British invasion.” Greatly outnumbered and ill-equipped, the Danish army was unable to marshal anything but a token show of resistance, while the country’s naval forces disgracefully took no action at all. As Nazi bombers roared across the sky over Copenhagen and dropped propaganda leaflets calling for peaceful submission, the King, prime minister, and cabinet formally capitulated before breakfast. In return for promises that as a Germanic “brother” people, the Germans would “respect Danish sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the King and cabinet acquiesced in the occupation of the country and their status as a “model protectorate” for the duration of the war.

While Engman’s exhibition in the Danish capital was immediately closed down by the authorities, after fleeing to North Sealand the artist continued to produce paintings highly critical of the Nazi occupiers.

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As the Gestapo and their Quisling collaborators imposed strict press censorship and soon began to arrest and imprison Communists, Jews and other “enemies” of the state in concentration camps, Engman deserves to be lauded for taking such a courageous and dangerous stand. Ultimately, the artist was forced to flee his homeland altogether and to take refuge in neutral Sweden, where he contributed to the anti-Nazi movement by publishing drawings in several journals and publications promoting the Allied cause and advocating resistance and sabotage in the occupied territories.

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One of the most powerful and striking of his lampoons of Herr Hitler turns the tables on the dictator by labelling him a “rat” and depicting him as a pedophile. While Hitler cowers under the beam of a flashlight, he is identified by a courageous girl (with Denmark embroidered on her skirt) and is cornered by Winston Churchill, Chiang Kai-shek, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin dressed in policemen’s uniforms.

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Although many pragmatic Danish politicians—even those who hated Hitler and everything he stood for—had bowed to the inevitable and had counseled capitulation in order to make the best of a bad situation, the iconoclastic artist stout-heartedly refused to censor his art or surrender his principles, and is thereby deserving of the title of a true resistance leader and hero.

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THE INTERNSHIP: OR, THE SOMETIMES-LIFE OF AMANDA SOL, RARE BOOK CATALOGING APPRENTICE AT THE WOLFSONIAN – FIU LIBRARY

•March 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Today’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn. Ms. Pienn is single-handedly responsible for accessioning, cataloging, and creating the metadata that allows our patrons to access the bibliographic records and digital images from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection. The extensive (and growing) Sharf Collection at the Wolfsonian includes rare books, photograph albums, and other ephemera documenting the wars, colonial expeditions and projects of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It also includes a treasure trove of rare materials on the rise of the Japanese Empire and her interaction with her neighbors in the Far East. Having been approached after class by a student enrolled in my History course who expressed an interest in Korea and the Far East and in pursuing an internship at The Wolfsonian, I was delighted to be able to direct her to Rochelle and the Sharf Collection. As Rochelle is presently organizing a library exhibition on the Panama Canal to mark the hundred year anniversary of its completion, I figured she could use the help of an intern-cataloguer. Here is Ms. Pienn’s report:

“How do I format a Korean name in the cataloging record?” My Florida International University student intern looked at me with some trepidation. “I know in Asian countries people put their last names first. But I noticed that in the book they formatted it Western style. What should I put in the 100 field?” Her anxiety was due, of course, to the fact that she had already anticipated my response.

“Check the Library of Congress Authority database,” I intoned predictably. “And take your time,” I added.

“LC Authority doesn’t agree with me,” she lamented, but dutifully began to search for the book author’s name in the sometimes convoluted online resource.

“This is cataloging,” I smiled. “It takes some mental adjustment.”

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Ms. Sol, an FIU student, found The Wolfsonian – FIU Library through her professor, Chief Librarian Francis Luca. After she expressed interest in historical materials on Korea and Japan, we decided to introduce her to rare book cataloging, using period imprints from the Sharf Collection, which were published during the time of the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars. Ms. Sol’s sharp mind, lively intellect, and experience with secular data systems are major assets in tackling the detail-oriented, sometimes counter-intuitive complications of cataloging rich, accurate records for special collections materials.

After giving Ms. Sol basic training in MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging) and RDA (Resource Description and Access) rules, the standard coding and style platforms for research university cataloging, we introduced her to the finer points of descriptive metadata (how to correctly format and impart keyword searchable terms when describing scanned images). Below are some examples of the types of books with decorative publishers’ bindings that are in Ms. Sol’s cataloging queue:

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British colonialism evoked a near obsessive interest by those in the West of the mysterious Orient. The cover of this 1888 description and travel account by Henry Faulds features the Japanese koi fish, a symbol of good fortune, mounted by a youth. The yellow color of the cloth book cover was also commonly used to indicate something of Asian nature, along with the Asian-style font.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

This 1892 publication by New York’s Charles Scribner and Sons describes the flora, fauna and people of Japan. Birds are also featured prolifically in publishers’ decorative bindings of Japanese themed books. In Japanese culture, cranes, which mate for life, were admired for their fidelity.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

The cover of this 1894 Baker and Taylor Company book, published in New York and London, depicts a Japanese rickshaw, stamped in gold gilt. The human-towed rickshaw was the quintessential method of quick, economical transportation in the crowded city streets.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Onoto Watanna’s real name was Winnifred Eaton. This made up Japanese-style pseudonym capitalized on her mixed Chinese and British ancestry. The popular cherry blossom motif is used on the cover this edition of her enormously well-received story. Adaptations were seen on both Broadway and film in the early 20th century.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

A gilt-stamped depiction of an elegant Japanese woman in a kimono illustrates the cover of Lord Redesdale’s The Garter Mission to Japan, published after the Russo-Japanese War. It is possible that the woman is meant to represent an enigmatic and alluring geisha. The subject of geishas continues to fascinate the West today.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

The cover of this illustrated guide shows a silhouetted man reading and writing, surrounded by vignettes of iconographic Japanese scenery. The art of Japanese calligraphy and the Japanese alphabet of pictographic characters attracted much interest in the West.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

This 1906 novel was the only book by Mary McNeil Fenollosa not published under her pseudonym, Sydney McCall. Mrs. Fenollosa married her third husband, the renowned Asian art scholar Ernest Fenollosa, after their much publicized affair that resulted in Ernest leaving his first wife for Mary. The scandalized pair moved to Japan where both their careers flourished. An adaptation of The Dragon Painter premiered on the silent American movie screen in 1919.

To answer our intern’s earlier question about formatting Asian names in the MARC 100 field of a cataloging record, according LC Authority’s practice, it’s normalized in the order of “last name, first name” (usually, as-most-often-applied, and for now). The Library of Congress remains a dynamic organization. Along with the Cataloging Committee of the Rare Book and Manuscript Section of the American Library Association, plus other professional groups and governing bodies, the art and skill of rare book cataloging continually evolve.

 
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