Eureka! Gold Strike Made in the Yukon Territory on this Date in History

•August 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

Having exhausted his luck panning for gold in Alaska after its discovery in 1881, a discouraged prospector crossed the Canadian border into the Yukon territory.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Told by another prospector that gold had been found in a tributary of the Klondike River, George Carmack picked up stakes and relocated there with his brother-in-law, Skookum Jim and another First Nations companion, Tagish Charlie. On August 16, 1896, Carmack’s luck changed. While fishing for silvery-scaled salmon in a creek feeding into the Klondike, the prospector claimed to have discovered some gold nuggets glistening on the riverbed, though, according to his companions, it was Skookum Jim who first spotted the gold.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The three men immediately staked a claim to the gold-rich riverbed, and sparked another gold rush as some 50,000 prospectors descended on the area.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Among them was a twenty-one-year-old adventurer named Jack London. London would later publish short stories memorializing his experiencing in the Yukon wilderness during the “Klondike Fever” days.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

While the prospect of striking it rich attracted tens of thousands of young men like London to the frigid and inhospitable territory, it was the merchants who marketed and sold them “Yukon outfits” and other prospecting equipment that profited from the outbreak of gold fever. Life in the prospecting camps could be lonely, cold, and dangerous.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

When the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was organized in Seattle in 1909, an image commemorating the miners of the great white north was fittingly enough struck on souvenir “gold” medallions.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Canal Inaugural

•August 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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

On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal was officially opened to commercial traffic as the SS Ancon became the first large ship to pass through the locks and sail through the newly inaugurated canal. Today’s post comes to you from Sharf Associate Librarian, Rochelle Pienn, who has been processing, accessioning, cataloguing, and preparing materials about the canal and other grand projects and colonial endeavors of late 19th  and early twentieth century. Here is her report:

The hot topic of pumping out water-logged lowlands in coastal cities currently incites scientists, government agencies and engineers into an overdrive of global debate. Yet a little over a century ago, the goal of the United States was to purposely flood a nearly impassable strip of land to create a highly strategic trade route. On this day in history, August 15, 1914, after hundreds of years of strife, failed attempts, losses of millions of dollars and thousands of lives, the official opening of the Panama Canal did just that. The inaugural passage of the U.S. vessel Ancon proved that a deliberate, directed deluge in a series of man-made locks could make sailing large ships between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans a snap.

The Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at the WolfsonianFIU library contains original photograph albums and rare books documenting both the French and American sojourns to Panama. This stunning antique photograph from 1885 depicts a seemingly endless, barren wilderness only just penetrated by the Panama Canal Railway thirty years earlier.

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

The first Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique workers arrived in Panama in 1881. This photograph album documents surrounding landscape relating to the planning and construction attempt of the Panama Canal by the French.

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

An original albumen print from the album shows a dredge used to begin excavation for the canal. Ultimately, the French were forced to abandon their efforts.

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

In his 1889 book, Five Years at Panama, Wolfred Nelson observes, with a fair measure of empathy, the dire conditions for building through the isthmus.

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

With American colonial interests at risk, President Teddy Roosevelt brought a formidable combination of international government interference, American pressure, excessive manpower and millions of dollars in medical and engineering ingenuity to finally bring the Panama Canal into existence.

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

This photographic plate from Albert Edward’s 1915 book, Panama: the canal, the country and the people, shows the SS Ancon successfully passing through the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914.

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

Edward quotes Teddy Roosevelt’s telegram to the American people and the world on the next page:

“On behalf of the government and the people of the United States I express to you and through you to all concerned in the achievement, the intense gratification and pride experienced today. By the successful passage of vessels through the canal the dream of the centuries has become a reality. Its stupendous undertaking has been finally accomplished, and a perpetual memorial to the genius and enterprise of our people has been created. The fully earned and deserved congratulations of a grateful people go out to you and your colaborers.”

If you’d like to plunge deeper into the tale of the Panama Canal, please come visit the Wolfsonian-FIU library.

 

 

 

A Farewell to Arms and Welcome to “Railroaded” Indians

•July 12, 2017 • 1 Comment

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

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

This week, The Wolfsonian’s art handlers de-installed In the Shadows: American Pulp Cover Art and rapidly installed our new library show, America the Beautiful: American Indians and the Promotion of National Parks.

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As the title suggests, the new installation focuses on promotional literature using images of American Indians to encourage tourists to visit national parks in the U.S. Given their vested interests in promoting domestic tourism in the twentieth century, railroad companies became influential boosters of the national parks.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Nearly a century after the steel rail and “iron horse” first bridged the continent and carried Anglo-American pioneers and immigrants into the Indian country, the railroads began carrying a new group of leisure travelers from urban terminals to the national parks. In promoting domestic travel to the nation’s natural wonders and preserves, railroad executives incorporated romanticized images of American Indians and appropriated “traditional” native artwork into their advertising literature and even rail-car decorations. Reviled as “savages” and obstacles to “progress” in previous centuries, the American Indians’ image and imagery were now valued for their association in the American mind with “pristine,” unspoiled nature and “exotic” cultural traditions.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Louis W. Hill, president of the Great Northern Railroad company and owner of several hotels in Glacier National Park, recognized that the Blackfeet Indians who lived in an adjacent reservation could draw in tourists, and he hired many to serve as greeters, storytellers, and entertainers. In the summer of 1927, Hill invited the New York-based artist Winold Reiss (American, b. Germany, 1886–1953) to travel by rail to the park, providing him with a studio and art supplies with which to paint the Blackfeet. Hill purchased all fifty-two of Reiss’ American Indian portraits, encouraged the artist to make semi-annual return visits over the next two decades, and purchased and reproduced hundreds of his paintings on railroad-company calendars, souvenir portfolios, playing cards, and puzzles to promote travel to the park.

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Playing cards

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Promised Gift

The patronage of the Great Northern Railway allowed Reiss special access to the Blackfeet peoples, with whom he cultivated positive relationships and lasting friendships. The artist did not stereotypically focus solely on chiefs or traditionalists in feather headdresses; while many of his paintings did capture Blackfeet elders, children, and others in ceremonial attire, he also portrayed them in modern clothing and blankets that nevertheless remained distinctively American Indian in pattern and fashion.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Always attracted to multicultural themes and subjects, Winold Reiss went on to create the larger-than-life murals and mosaics of American Indians, pioneers, black stevedores, and construction workers that adorned the walls of the rotunda in Cincinnati’s Union Terminal station.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Promoters of the southwestern railroad routes also used images of Navajos, Hopis, and Pueblo Indian material culture and art in their logos and advertising literature. The Santa Fe Line was especially keen on using American Indian imagery to distinguish their brand, sometimes employing subtle American Indian-inspired patterns, and at other times using images of native peoples in their advertisements.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase, The Mitchell Wolfson, Sr. Foundation

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Charles L. Marshall, Jr. and Richard L. Tooke

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Vicki Gold Levi

The association of the railroads with American Indians proved so popular that the Santa Fe company even used these same motifs in murals adorning their ticket offices, in metal ornamental sculptures for the walls of their dining cars, and even for the upholstery used on the railway car seats.

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Corn Dance, mural by William Penhallow Henderson, from the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Ticket Office, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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Hopi Kachina doll-inspired sculptures designed by Paul Cret as wall ornaments for the Santa Fe dining car, The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Visit by Mandela Washington Fellows

•July 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

One week ago, more than a dozen young participants in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders hosted by Florida International University during their visit to South Florida came to The Wolfsonian.

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After taking them on a guided tour of the galleries, I brought them into the museum’s rare book and special collections library to peruse a display of some materials related to sub-Saharan Africa.

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Given that The Wolfsonian’s collection is focused primarily on the period 1850 to 1950, much of what we have related to the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa derives from a colonialist context. There is, for example, a wealth of material documenting various colonial enterprises and imperial conflicts; propaganda produced for colonial expositions; and advertising brochures using representations of welcoming natives to convince European tourists to visit their colonies in Africa. From a number of these works, however, we were able to tease out some glimpses into the lives of the indigenous peoples of the African continent.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Some of the materials pulled from the library stacks included original sketchbooks, journals, and unique photograph albums created by European troops stationed in the African colonies. While many of the photographs and written records focused on the soldiers and their mission, some of the authors showed an interest in the lives of the colonial troops and the material culture of the native peoples.

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Original sketch of Somaliland by C.H.P., illustrator for the London Graphic, 1887

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

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Photograph album of British Army soldier, C.M.E. Wilson, South Africa, 1900-1901

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

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Original sketches of African and German soldiers from Helden in Afrika, 1901

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

Propaganda glorifying the Italian Fascist government’s invasion and attempted colonization of East African are well documented in the collection, and some recently catalogued materials sparked the interest of one of the visitors hailing from Ethiopia.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchases

One rather naïvely optimistic postcard illustrated by Aurelio Bertiglia imagined a kneeling Ethiopian child watching Italian children in colonial uniform painting a map of Ethiopia in the colors of the Italian flag!

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Steve Heller

In addition to stereotypical depictions of subservient Ethiopians, a recently digitized Italian portfolio includes surprisingly culturally sensitive and positive representations of some indigenous individuals.

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 The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

The Mandela Washington fellows also had the opportunity to see how African natives and cultures were presented—and sometimes misrepresented—in architecture, publications, and other printed ephemeral formats produced for colonial exhibitions, or to promote colonial foods and products.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Portuguese published a number of colonial exposition catalogs showing off their “little” empire with illustrations of the peoples inhabiting their colonial possessions in Africa.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Similarly, the tiny country of Belgium projected its own importance on the world stage by producing collecting cards representing its huge colony in the heart of Africa.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Francis Xavier Luca

The Wolfsonian–FIU Library also holds tens of thousands of printed promotional materials documenting the rise of colonial tourism and the cruise-ship industry. Steamship companies used brochures and illustrated menu covers to excite interest in the African colonies and their “exotic” inhabitants.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The GI Bill: America’s Promise to the Citizen-Soldier

•June 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Leonard Lauder

Today’s post was inspired by an anniversary: the signing of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (or G.I. Bill) by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on this day in 1944. Witnessing the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe and Japanese militarism in Asia, FDR became convinced that America needed to become an “arsenal of democracy.” Consequently, as war clouds loomed in the other hemisphere, the president stepped back from New Deal reforms aimed at addressing the domestic economic ills of the Great Depression and began combating isolationist sentiment and advocating for an interventionist foreign policy. As victory in Europe became more likely in 1944, the president took action to ensure that the mistakes of the First World War were not repeated.

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Washington Bonus March [mural study] / by Lewis Rubenstein

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Arguably, the Democratic challenger had been swept into office in the 1932 elections by the unpopularity of incumbent President Herbert Hoover’s inaction in the face of the Depression, but also by his shabby treatment of First World War vets. Some tens of thousands of veterans and their families—many of them having lost their homes to foreclosure—had descended on Washington, D.C. to lobby for passage of a “bonus” bill in Congress that would have compensated them for wages lost while serving their country overseas.

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

Following the defeat of the bill in the Senate, President Hoover ordered General MacArthur to use the army to forcibly evict the demonstrators.

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

MacArthur deployed bayoneted infantry, cavalry, tanks, and tear gas to disperse the protesters, and then crossed the river and burned down the veterans’ shantytown—all within view of the nation’s capitol.

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

The heavy-handed action also ensured that President Herbert Hoover’s bid for reelection also went up in smoke.

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

To head off another Bonus March in 1933, President Roosevelt offered Civilian Conservation Corps jobs to the veterans. Hundreds taking up that offer died two years later, when a devastating hurricane struck the Florida Keys before they could be evacuated.

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Photograph by author

Concerned by the cost to government coffers, Roosevelt opposed an immediate veterans’ compensation bill in 1935, though Congress overrode his veto and passed the Bonus bill the following year. As war-tensions mounted in the late 1930s, however, Roosevelt recognized that ramped-up production of war material alone would not sufficiently safeguard American interests and defend democratic allies abroad. As Fascists and Nazis relied on armies of brainwashed automatons, Roosevelt considered the citizen-soldier to be essential to the future of democracy. Once America entered the world war in December, 1941, the U.S. government spent considerable time and energy not merely propagandizing but educating the American soldier.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Steve Heller

Toward that end, the Roosevelt Administration sponsored documentary films like Frank Capra’s Why We Fight.

It also published a series of GI round table pamphlets that were designed not to tell the enlisted men what to believe, but rather to encourage thoughtful debate about our enemies and allies, about their war aims and ours, and about the world that the G.I.s would help shape in the aftermath of victory.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

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

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

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

By signing the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (or G.I. Bill) into law in 1944, Roosevelt promised veterans post-war access to unemployment compensation, vocational and higher-education tuition waivers, and low-interest loans for business and home ownership. Millions of servicemen and their dependents benefited from the G.I. Bill. Over the next fifty years, approximately 20 million took advantage of the educational opportunities afforded by the law, while another 14 million veterans used loans to purchase houses in the suburbs.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Sheryl Gold, in memory of Burnett Roth

Much Ado about Mummies

•June 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Today’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn. Pienn has been processing and cataloging a treasure-trove of rare books, photograph albums, and ephemeral items donated to The Wolfsonian–FIU Library by Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. Here is her report:

This week, Universal Studios plans to release a new incarnation of the hit movie The Mummy. The concept of a resurrected man turned zombie monster has been scaring paying theater audiences through several separate film franchises since 1932. My favorite version stars Rachel Weisz, who plays a late Egyptologist’s plucky daughter working in the Cairo Museum’s archives. It’s 1926, and the lovely librarian soon encounters a great evil….

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Copyright Universal Studios

In the real, present-day Wolfsonian library, The Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection contains an antique photograph album compiled by a young, vivacious New York socialite who witnesses an unprecedented mass of mummies.

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

By 1901, Miss Katherine “Kate” Batcheller, daughter of New York State Assembly member Judge George Sherman Batcheller, already enjoys a privileged upper-class education and social status at the age of twenty-one years old. Kate travels with her father, whose post as American Representative in the Court of First Instance in Cairo by President McKinley is followed by President Teddy Roosevelt’s decision to appoint him to the Supreme Court of Appeals in Alexandria, Egypt in 1902.

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

Earlier on her trip, Kate visits Tromsø, Norway, where she photographs polar bear skins, reindeer, and Laplanders.

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

Reindeer

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

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

She also captures a glimpse of the S.S. America out to sea with the Baldwin-Ziegler North Pole expedition (which predates Ziegler’s later attempt by two years).

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

In July, Kate’s ship passes the German Kaiser’s yacht in the Norwegian fjords, where she opportunistically snaps some shots of the emperor on the gangway.

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

While taking in Berlin sights, Kate sees a few fast cars.

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

Kate arrives at the Port of Suez. In a nearby Arab village she meets Muslims on a religious pilgrimage making their way across the desert.

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

Kate and her father pass through the ancient city of Philae during the construction of the Aswan Low Dam in 1902.

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

Kate’s canine pal reunites with the family, per her cryptic caption. Perhaps the puppy was wary of ancient curses.

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

Spearheaded by the Egyptian government, the colossal project of transporting and properly housing antiquities from the pyramids reaches an apex of activity in the spring of 1902.

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

These startling snapshots capture the terrifying pile of uprooted pharaohs and their sentineling sarcophagi.

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

A month later, the family finds itself at a more contemporary tomb: Admiral Sampson’s funeral in Washington includes the President of the United States as part of the procession. Sampson’s legacy features a resounding victory at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish–American War.

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

At the graveyard Kate takes a photograph of this famous Augustus Saint-Gaudens statue. Colloquially known as “Grief,” the ghostly memorial guards the plot of suicide victim Marian Adams.

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

After a stop at home in Sarasota Springs, Kate and her father are soon back at sea. Miss Batcheller seizes an historical moment on deck with this quintessential portrait of President Teddy Roosevelt.

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

To see more of Katherine Batcheller’s exciting tour around the world, visit The Wolfsonian–FIU Library.

Out From The Shadows: Pulp Periodicals And Paperbacks

•May 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Vicki Gold Levi

Earlier this month, four Florida International University undergraduate students taking my America & Movies course elected to curate a library installation, In the Shadows: American Pulp Cover Art, for their final class project. The class viewed and critically analyzed twelve films that focused on social problems in America from 1900 to the 1950s. The students were invited to search through and make selections from the library’s “pulp” magazine and paperback collection to investigate some of those same issues. These magazines, published using cheap pulp paper and glossy covers with lurid and salacious cover art, were marketed to male audiences interested in exotic adventure and “true-crime” detective stories.

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

Provoked by the current controversies surrounding the “demonization” of Muslims, Joseph Perez looked for historical antecedents in pulp literature. In The Wolfsonian’s library collection, he discovered a number of young men’s adventure magazines from the 1930s with cover art stereotyping Middle Easterners and North Africans as menacing Muslims.

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

Another of the students, Erica Melamed, was interested in the increasingly sexualized depictions of women used to sell periodicals and paperback novels in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s.

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

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Vicki Gold Levi

Tiffany Breslawski focused her energies on periodical covers with gangsters, kidnappers, femme fatales, and damsels in distress.

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

Finally, Mauriel (“Junior”) Fernandez set his sights on the pulps in which Nazi thugs and Japanese warmongers and saboteurs muscled out the criminal competition on wartime adventure and true-crime detective magazine covers.

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

This coming Tuesday, The Wolfsonian will be hosting a members-only library salon event celebrating the library installation. The reception will include a tour of the installation and a lecture presentation on the interplay between pre-code and film noir movies and pulp magazine cover art. Join us for an evening of gun-wielding gangsters, hard-boiled detectives, femme fatales, and damsels in distress!

RSVP to anelson@thewolf.fiu.edu / 305.535.2656 if you’d like to attend.