VISITORS FROM FAR AWAY

•April 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Associate Librarian Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi, and concerns a recent visit to The Wolfsonian museum and library by a group of Chinese museum professionals. The library has a decent collection of rare books, periodicals, and ephemeral items documenting the Yihequan Movement (a nationalist uprising against foreigners and Christian proselytizing, popularly known in the West as the Boxer Rebellion, 1899-1901 ). The uprising was put down by an international expeditionary force under the Eight-Nation Alliance, and although the German forces arrived too late to participate in the fighting, they took part in the subsequent occupation of cities in Northern China, and in punitive expeditions into the countryside in which atrocities committed by the invading troops. Thanks largely to gifts made by Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf, the library also holds materials documenting the first and second Sino-Japanese conflicts (1894-1895 and 1937-1945) and gifts by Steve Heller and former Wolfsonian fellow Eric Dluhosch provided the library with some graphic propaganda from the post-World War II rise to power of Chairman Mao Zedong. Here is Dr. Harsanyi’s report:

This week, the library received a visit by a group of Chinese museum administrators and curators representing the Private Museums Association of Jiang Su Province. We, the librarians, prepared a small display of library holdings relating to China which were very much appreciated by our enthusiastic visitors:

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Our guests had the privilege of being the first visitors to view a recently acquired memorial photograph album commissioned by a German marine gunner as a memento of his service years (1910-1913) in China. Its richly embroidered cover in silk thread features the symbols of both China and Germany, the dragon and the eagle, engaged in an uneasy stand-off that reflected the relationship between the two countries in the decade following the Boxer Rebellion:

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The same symbolic motif of the dragon and the eagle appears prominently on a silk memorial banner complementing the photograph album. Also recently acquired, this remarkable artifact belonged to the same German soldier and will be transferred to the museum’s registrars for storage in the objects collection.

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Next to the banner and photograph album we displayed a rare book published in 1910 in Berlin that dealt with Germany’s military engagement in East Asia at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries:

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The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

In order to illustrate that China continued to be the target of imperialist endeavors until the end of the Second World War, we showed our visitors a war strategy board game dating from 1938. Published by the Tokyo Youth Club, it was meant to indoctrinate Japanese children about how to occupy Manchuria.  While the recto maintains the graphic design discernible in board games, the verso shows actual front lines superimposed on a physical map of the region:

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Political propaganda from the 1950’s and 1960’s in the People’s Republic of China is quite well represented in our library holdings, ranging from children’s books to various English language periodicals. They are chiefly centered around the figure of Mao Zedong, the totalitarian leader who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1949 to his death in 1976.  The illustrations in a series of children’s books meant for English-speaking audiences deliver their propagandistic message through impressive imagery:

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Gifts of Steve Heller

A clipboard style notebook cover features a young female member of the Red Guards enthusiastically waving Mao’s little red book.

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Gift of Steve Heller

Copies of this almost iconic propaganda tool, both in Chinese and in English, are held in our library:

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Gifts of Steve Heller

Our visitors were surprised that our library even had two sound recordings from the period of the Cultural Revolution:

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Gifts of Eric Dluhosch

The accompanying booklet of the latter record uses an original form of musical notation different from traditional Western styles of musical scores:

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Gift of Eric Dluhosch

War and Remembrance: Afghanistan Album at the Wolfsonian-FIU Library

•April 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Today’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Sharf Associate Librarian, Rochelle Pienn. Ms. Pienn has been cataloging and preparing for digitization hundreds of original journals, scrapbooks, and photograph albums donated to The Wolfsonian–FIU rare book and special collections library by Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. These materials provide an intimate look at some of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century conflicts that raged in parts of the world where conflict  continues to brew. Seen from the perspective of current events, these albums appear both timeless and relevant. Here is Rochelle’s report.

The Afghan Defense Ministry confirmed capture of a Taliban leader this morning.

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Afghan National Army (ANA) officers march during a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre in Afghanistan in this October 7, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood/Files TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTSE3V1

 Credit: http://www.afghanistannews.net

World news sources cover ongoing fighting in the Middle East, as U.S. Coalition forces and the Afghan Army attempt to defeat the constant barrage of anti-democratic insurgents. Almost one hundred years ago, Great Britain and Russia jostled for imperial power in the Northwest Frontier Province of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where local tribes already clashed over their regional differences. The Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at the Wolfsonian-FIU Library, a treasure trove of rare and original archival materials, contains this one-of-a-kind photograph album documenting British activity in Balochistan during the Third Afghan War in 1919.

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The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

Lieutenant J. D. Harding of the British Army’s Kent Regiment points himself out in this snapshot.

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 The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

Images such as these of a burning fort and recovery efforts by the frontier forces indicate a familiar sight of destruction.

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 The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

Much of the harsh environment remains unchanged for nearly a century, making foreign military success a challenge.

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 The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

Troops set up camp at the foothills.

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 The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

The Pakistan Lancers marched with the camel caravan not far behind.

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 The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

A Jirga, or a group of Islamic tribal leaders meeting to officiate decision making, discuss the possibility of peace. Baloch people, Pashtuns and British look for an easement.

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 The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

Pathan (Pashtun) prisoners were escorted away from contested territories by British troops.

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 The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

Harding also captured scenes of daily life in the Northwest Frontier natives.

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 The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

The undeniable beauty of the local people made for striking group portraits.

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   The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

This stark scenery still symbolizes the forbidding landscape where desert and war do not seem to end.

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  The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

Harding’s album is one of several original photograph albums documenting the Afghan wars that are featured in the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection. To explore this album further or to see more of our collection, please contact the Wolfsonian-FIU Library.

A Wolfsonian Perspective on Two U.S. Presidential Visits to Cuba

•March 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

Less than a week after announcing an ease on travel restrictions to the Communist-ruled island of Cuba, Barack Obama will make history tonight by flying to Havana, becoming the first U.S. president to visit the island nation since Calvin Coolidge. There are both interesting parallels and differences between the state visits separated by eighty-eight years.

Calvin Coolidge visited Cuba in January 1928 in order to attend and deliver a speech at the 6th Inter-American Conference held in Havana. At the time, Cuba was under the rule of President Gerardo Machado (1871-1939). The Machado family raised cattle and tobacco in Las Villas, though his father left to join the rebels during Cuba’s Ten Years’ War against Spain (1868-1878). Gerardo followed his father’s example when he joined the rebels in the struggle for independence in 1895, becoming one of the youngest to rise to the rank of brigadier general. Running on an anti-American imperialist and nationalist platform, Machado was elected president of Cuba and took office in May 1925, though once in office he cultivated close ties to Washington and Wall Street.

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Mayor James Walker of New York confers with President Machado, February 1927

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

Machado inaugurated a large number of infrastructure and public works projects, which included the construction of the Carretera Central (or Central Highway), and el Capitolio, the neo-classical Capitol building bearing an uncanny resemblance to the one in Washington, D.C.!

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

Whatever goodwill Machado’s ambitious building and modernization policies generated early in his presidency, his tinkering with the Constitution to allow for a second (and extended) term in office, his violent crackdown on dissidents, and the murder of labor leaders and political opponents negated his popularity and transformed his presidency into a dictatorship until his overthrow in 1933.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

When Calvin Coolidge traveled to Havana to attend the Inter-American Conference, it was amid much anti-imperialist sentiment and skepticism among Latin Americans accustomed to U.S. “Gunboat Diplomacy.” At the time of the conference in Havana, the hated Platt Amendment (limiting Cuban sovereignty) was still in force, and U.S. troops were still occupying Haiti and battling against the populist Nicaraguan rebel leader, Augusto Sandino. It did not help the U.S. image that Coolidge arrived in Havana Harbor aboard the warship U.S.S. Texas and amid a flotilla of destroyers intended to project American strength.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

In spite of the show of force, huge crowds gathered to cheer the arrival of Coolidge as his naval escort passed El Morro Castle at the entrance of Havana harbor. News reports described the spectators collectively as the “greatest crowd ever assembled together in the history of Cuba….”

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

On January 16, 1928, Coolidge addressed the attendees of the conference, and praised the “progress” made by the “sovereign” Cuban Republic, exaggeratedly describing the Cuban people as “independent, free, prosperous, peaceful, and enjoying the advantages of self-government.”

As Miami and Miami Beach had been devastated by hurricane in 1926, Cuba had already become popular with American investors and wealthy tourists interested in booking a cruise to escape Northern winter weather and evade the U.S. Prohibition against drinking “intoxicating spirits.”

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

Ironically, on the same day that Coolidge delivered his speech before the Pan-American conference, a Pan-American Fokker F-7 flew seven passengers from Key West, Florida to Havana, Cuba. This marked the inauguration of the first U.S.-flag scheduled passenger service between the U.S. and Cuba, and further augmented the flow of American tourists to the island republic.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

 President Barack Obama will travel to Cuba tonight with his family aboard Airforce One, with only the regular security detail that accompanies foreign state visits. Over the course of his brief visit, Obama is scheduled to confer with President Raul Castro, meet with Cuban dissidents, and to deliver an address to the Cuban people. But after his duties as a visiting head of state are concluded, it is expected that Obama and his family will also do some more typically tourist sightseeing, and to attend and watch an exhibition baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team. Perhaps it is these more mundane and down-to-earth activities that signal a new era in the normalization of relations between Cuba and the U.S.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

A small exhibit in The Wolfsonian–FIU library titled Cuba: From Gunboat Diplomacy to Good Neighbor Policy can be seen by museum visitors at our location on Tenth and Washington in South Beach. The installation was curated by two Florida International University undergraduate students, Famirka Then and Francisco Salas, and examines the early period of U.S.-Cuba relations.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

This coming May 6th, The Wolfsonian–FIU museum will open to the public a new and larger exhibit titled Promising Paradise: Cuban Allure, American Seduction. Curated by myself in collaboration with Rosa Lowinger, author of Tropicana Nights, this exhibition is drawn primarily from a gift of more than 1,500 vintage photographs, pamphlets, posters, periodicals, postcards, and other rare ephemeral items donated by Vicki Gold Levi. While it will examine U.S.-Cuba relations between 1919 and 1959, the exhibit will not be focused on politicians and politics, but rather on the cultural communication and exchange that took place during this period of relatively warm and cordial relations.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

 

Out With the Old, In With the New: FDR’s Inauguration and a New Wolfsonian Library Installation

•March 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

On this date in 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in as the 32nd president of the United States. In delivering his inaugural address, he pledged to “dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor—the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others—the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.”

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The Wolfsonian-FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Franklin Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy was a significant departure from the Gunboat Diplomacy of his distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt. As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, as commander of the Rough Riding volunteer cavalry fighting the Spanish in Cuba, and as Commander-in-Chief, “Teddy” Roosevelt lived by the motto “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Not surprisingly, Teddy was far more prone to bullying his Latin American neighbors rather than dealing with them.

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The Wolfsonian-FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

The Wolfsonian Library has just recently taken down its exhibit on the early history of Miami Beach, From Mangrove to Tourist Mecca, and replaced it with a timely exhibit examining U.S.-Cuba relations titled, Cuba: From Gunboat Diplomacy to Good Neighbor Policy.

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The Wolfsonian-FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

Put together by two Florida International University students, Famirka Then and Francisco Salas, and edited by Sharf Associate Librarian, Rochelle Pienn and myself, the exhibition makes use of several generous gifts to the collection. Famirka has been working in our rare book library as a volunteer for some time, accessioning and cataloguing hundreds of sheet music covers from the era of the Spanish-American War of 1898. These items were originally collected and preserved by Joseph K. Albertson and donated to The Wolfsonian by the Monroe County Public Library in Key West. Famirka made the initial selection of those to be included in the exhibit and worked with Rochelle on the descriptive and interpretive label text for these items.

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Sheet music was an important medium for building popular support for the American intervention in Cuba’s independence struggle. In the wake of the explosion and sinking of the USS Maine in Havana’s harbor, propagandistic sheet music cover illustrations and martial or sentimental music constantly reminded Americans to “Remember the Maine.”

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The Wolfsonian-FIU, Joseph K. Albertson Collection, Gift of Monroe County Public Library,         Key West, Florida

Francisco Salas, an FIU student enrolled in my America and Movies: Cuba and the United States, 1898-2016 history class selected photographs, labels, envelopes, magazine covers and other rare artifacts donated by Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf and Vicki Gold Levi. He used these in cases and a Powerpoint slideshow to illustrate changes in policy and relations from the days of Teddy and the “Rough Riders” to the era of Franklin and the “New Dealers.”

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The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

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The Wolfsonian-FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

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The Wolfsonian-FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

This final image, an original photographic print dating from February, 1933, captures a ceremony held at the Monument to the Victims of the USS Maine in Havana, Cuba. It seems only fitting that the joint Cuban-American ceremony commemorating the 35th anniversary of event that triggered American intervention in Cuba’s independence struggle was held just weeks before FDR’s inauguration. Fitting also that this installation on U.S.-Cuba relations opens at this auspicious moment, when another U.S. President has adopted a more conciliatory policy of engagement with the island nation.

Zines for Progress

•March 2, 2016 • Leave a Comment

While I have temporarily assumed the hat of curator and have been busy preparing an exhibition about the U.S.-Cuba relationship between 1919 and 1959, my colleagues in The Wolfsonian-FIU library, Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi and Rochelle Pienn have been attending to visiting high school students working on a Zines project with the museum’s education staff. Here is Dr. Harsanyi’s report:

In December 2015, and January 2016, the first groups of teachers and students participating in the museum education department’s “Zines for Progress” program visited the Wolfsonian-FIU library.*  Using a variety of periodicals displayed for this purpose on the large reading room table, our Chief Librarian, Dr. Francis Luca, explained a multiplicity of meaningful features exhibited by the publications on view.

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The most common form of binding used in the production of periodicals is to staple together the pages and the cover. This requires, however, a more industrial approach to binding. Instead, the students can resort to a more readily available method, that of sewing together the folded leaves:

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Also some magazine designers resorted to metal or plastic spiral binding. This allows the reader to hold the periodical in one hand while reading:

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As a rule, periodicals are printed so that they can reach a large number of readers. A variant to printing is the multiplication of pages by mimeography, a method suited to publications with a small print run.  Our library has several newsletters published in the camps of Civilian Conservation Corps (or CCC), all mimeographed:

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As it was evident in the cases above, the design of titles for the periodicals may involve hand lettering, instead of using regular typefaces:

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In his presentation, Dr. Luca also talked about the importance of the typography and art that go into the design of the front covers of periodicals. He emphasized the unity between content and form in the design of propaganda magazines published by totalitarian regimes.  The military invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939, the event that started World War II, is epitomized on the cover of the magazine “Die Pause”:

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The cult of personality of Mao Zedong is propagated on and through the cover of an English language magazine intended for readers outside China:

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Magazine covers often feature artwork that is meant to attract the would-be buyer through shocking images: the covers of pulp fiction periodicals testify to this marketing device:

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*Other groups of students from Miami area schools involved within the same project visited the library in 2016, according to the following schedule: December 15, 2015 – Law Enforcement High School ; January 14, 2016 – South Miami Senior High; January 26, 2016 – Arthur and Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts; January 28, 2016 – G.H. Braddock Senior High; January 29, 2016 – I Prepatory Academy; February 25, 2016 – Miami Beach Senior High; March 15, 2016 – Miami Beach Senior High.

The Maine and Spain Exploded Painfully In Vain, Or, Remembering the Maine at The Wolfsonian-FIU Library

•February 16, 2016 • 1 Comment

As I prepared to teach my class last night,  America and Movies: Cuba and the United States, 1898-2016, I realized that I had almost forgotten that the date marked the anniversary of the sinking of the U.S. battleship, the Maine. The United States government had dispatched the ship to Havana during the protracted struggle between Spanish forces and those islanders fighting for Cuban independence.  The mysterious explosion of the warship in the harbor of Havana unleashed a barrage of accusations and counter-charges, triggered a diplomatic crisis, declarations of war between Spain and the United States, and a quick and decisive victory for American military and naval forces deployed in the Caribbean and Pacific. I am currently working on an exhibition dealing with U.S.-Cuban relations between 1919 and 1959 to open in early May, 2016. My colleague, Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn, is presently supervising two FIU undergraduate students as they create another installation, Cuba: From Gunboat Diplomacy to Good Neighbor Policy, scheduled to open later this month. Here is Rochelle’s report. 

One hundred and eighteen years ago yesterday, the USS Maine exploded in Cuba’s Havana harbor. She sank, dragging hundreds of Americans to their demise at the bottom of the sea. The United States, which had positioned this blustery example of its naval might at port to intimidate Spain, immediately narrowed its suspicious gaze on its rival.

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Gift of the Monroe County Public Library, Key West, Fla.

While Spain attempted to quell Cuban uprisings against its imperial rule of the island, America established itself firmly as a player in Cuba’s wildly profitable sugar trade. Spain denied any wrongdoing over the sinking of the Maine and responded to the U.S. accusations by declaring war. The Spanish-American War of 1898 began with the American rallying cry of “Remember the Maine.” The Wolfsonian-FIU Library contains arresting images of the doomed battleship, as well as rousing illustrations of violent clashes between the military branches of Spain and the United States.

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

This colorful plate, reproduced from a painting by Henry Reuterdahl, was printed in W. Nephew King’s turn-of-the-century imprint, The story of the Spanish-American War and the revolt in the Philippines.

This volume brings the human element to the forefront of the tragic event.

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

Inside, the haunted faces of men peer out from the photographic plates.

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

The historic event led to an epic recovery operations.

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

This sheet music cover exemplified a prolific array of pro-war propaganda, readily played and sung by the masses.

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Gift of Vicki Gold Levi

This comprehensive volume came out in 1898, proving the public’s immediate, unquenchable thirst for all information about the war.

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

Renowned war correspondent Richard Harding Davis, quick to back President Theodore Roosevelt’s “gunboat diplomacy” policy in Cuba, wrote witty prose accompanied by caricature-like illustrations by the famous artist Frederic Remington for this 1898 book.

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

An image of the enemy, accompanied by a few choice words by Davis:

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

For more exciting views of the USS Maine and insight into the Spanish-American War of 1898, please visit the Wolfsonian-FIU Library. More examples from our collections will soon be showcased in our new library exhibit.

Sailing (or Avoiding) The Exile’s Line to India

•January 28, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Dr. Laurence Miller, retired director of libraries at Florida International University and life-long ocean liner aficionado and collector. In 2008, Dr. Miller donated more than twenty-five thousand printed items (ranging from menus, advertising brochures, deck plans, etc.) to The Wolfsonian–FIU library, and he has been equally generous with his time and expertise, having continued to volunteer to help us catalog, digitize, and make accessible those materials. Having recently returned from a cruise of the Caribbean aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pearl, I was curious to hear Dr. Miller’s take on the older steamship companies and their voyages to the colonies and other more exotic ports and destinations on the other side of the world. Here is Dr. Miller’s report.

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Novels such as E. M. Forster’s Passage to India, and more recently, the Masterpiece Theatre presentation of “Indian Summers” on PBS, have brought the British colonial period to life in vivid color.  Sometimes the picture painted was realistic and brutal; at other times it presented in great detail the colorful life of those who chose to serve the empire in the British colonial service. Depictions often ranged between the extremes, with the colonizers motivated by a genuine desire to help the native populations improve their quality of life, or alternatively, by mere boredom and insensitivity.

Both of these positive and negative images have their counterparts in the colonial maritime services of other countries, especially those created by the French and Dutch.

The weeks spent getting between the home country and colonial destination are most often given casual treatment, sometimes deservedly so in view of the mundane experience provided by lines providing this essential service. Transportation, rather than the sea experience, was primary. Especially on the P&O and Orient Line, passengers often found the social hierarchies applied to the social interactions on board. This drove many British passengers to lines such as Messageries Maritimes (serving French colonies), Lloyd Triestino, and Dutch companies.

In Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Exiles’ Line” (1890), the poet panned the seagoing experience of P&O.

“Twelve knots an hour, be they more or less,

Oh slothful mother of much idleness

Whom neither rivals spur nor contracts speed!”

In the days before air conditioning, the P&O ships with their stone-colored superstructures and black hulls must have felt like ovens during the passage through the Red Sea in summer.

Leaving aside the social atmosphere on board, in the 1930s the seagoing experience became much better. As Noel Coward observed during a post WWI voyage in the Orient, even P&O had “Pulled up their socks.”  The Wolfsonian–FIU museum and research center has a rich collection of promotional materials about the British, French, Italian, and Dutch colonial liners.

Some of the characters in “Indian Summers” might have reached their destinations in the brand-new Orcades of Orient Lines which in the 1930s set new standards in décor and accommodation for British colonial liners. Leading the way was Orient Line, which became a subsidiary of P&O after the First World War.

Below one can see the forward superstructure of the new Orcades, unfortunately sunk by a German U-boat off South Africa during the Second World War in 1942.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The ship’s décor featured an absence of dark wood paneling. Instead, interiors were intended to provide a light an airy atmosphere, good cross-ventilation with, on higher decks, windows that opened.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Many of these vessels, upgraded and equipped with air-conditioning, survived to be used as cruise ships during the fifties and sixties.

At about the same time, Harold Nicolson chose a Dutch colonial liner, Willem Ruys, for what was probably the first ocean voyage he had ever taken for pleasure rather than business. Friends had advanced funds to send Nicolson and his wife, Vita Sackville-West, on an extended ocean voyage via the Royal Rotterdam Lloyd.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

Willem Ruys, which had lain incomplete in the shipyard throughout World War II, was one of the most beautiful and elegant colonial liners ever built. In the shipyard, snipers fought occasional battles with the occupiers around the hull which was miraculously almost undamaged during this period.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

Willem Ruys exemplified Dutch contemporary elegance of the late 1930s.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

Our Masterpiece Theatre characters might have elected to go further afield to choose the Lloyd Triestino’s Victoria–more fashionable and, perhaps beautiful, than any of the competition. She linked Italy with the Asia, including, of course, stops in India.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Possibly the most beautiful of all the colonial liners was the motorship Victoria, the design masterpiece of Gustavo Pulitzer Finali.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Unfortunately, she too was a World War II submarine victim while carrying Italian troops to North Africa.  But during the thirties, she was a favorite of many Europeans sailing to the Orient.

The French company Messageries Maritimes sought to reflect its colonial destination in the interiors of its vessels sailing to and from French Indo-China, and Japan. The Felix Roussell, dating from 1930, is typical of the ships that maintained the maritime links between France, Indo-China, and other destinations in Asia.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

Like many other vessels in colonial service, the ship had an afterlife as a cruise and transatlantic ship. She carried with her to the last the lovely wooden paneling and Oriental carving illustrated both in the Messageries illustrations above, and in the brochure of the Arosa Line, below.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

Here is the Arosa Sun in her afterlife as a transatlantic liner and cruise ship.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

Throughout her days as a transatlantic liner, cruise, and emigrant ship, she retained the interior decorative detail more appropriate to an Indo-Chinese setting while helping to meet the demand for low-cost transportation from Europe to Canada.

 
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