THE “GREAT WAR” AND ITS SEQUEL: WWI WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY EXHIBIT TO CLOSE, WWII EXHIBIT TO OPEN

•March 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, three Florida International University (FIU) students enrolled in my America & Movies: War and Anti-War Propaganda Films from the Spanish-American War to the Present history class have been visiting frequently and working furiously on a new library exhibit scheduled to open next week. All three students, Todd Jolly, Natalie Vera, and Stephen Castellanos, are veterans—not according to the military definition of the word—but by virtue of having been contributing curators of the current exhibit commemorating the outbreak of the First World War.

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That exhibition, The Children’s Crusade, focused on propaganda designed to inspire, manipulate, and motivate the youngest citizens of those nations participating in the Great War.

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The students selected a wide variety of formats, including: puzzles, games, sheet music, atlases, postcards, pamphlets, nursery rhyme, alphabet, syllabification, and coloring books. To overcome the limitations of space in the cases, the students also prepared a Powerpoint presentation that ran on a loop on a computer screen in the library foyer.

Among the materials they selected for the show are a couple of my personal favorites. The first is Nursery Rhymes for Fighting Times with a cover in which Mother Goose has been supplanted by a “Goose-stepping” Prussian goose wearing the pickelhaube helmet of the German army.

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GIFT OF MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR.

The text and illustrations between the covers read like “fractured fairytales” in which the German Emperor stands in for Humpty-Dumpty (awaiting his fall), Little Hans Horner, Old Kaiser Hubbard, and other popular nursery rhyme characters.

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GIFT OF MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR.

Another delightful children’s propaganda book is An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog, a parody that caricatures Kaiser Wilhelm as a rabid dachshund who bites an unoffending Belgian man before being chased off by John Bull, Marianne, a Russian Cossack, and a Japanese Geisha.

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GIFT OF PAMELA K. HARER

The story ends “happily” with the recovery of the Belgian and the death of the rabid dog with the Kaiser’s mustache!

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GIFT OF PAMELA K. HARER

Throughout the First World War, things associated with German Kultur fell into disrepute, so that in America, “sauerkraut” was repackaged as “liberty cabbage.” The poor dachshund was transformed into the symbolic scapegoat of anti-German sentiment, as pictured in a series of comic American postcards illustrated by Bernhardt Wall (1872-1956).

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THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

Exhausted by four years of bloodletting, the war-weary nations fighting the Great War ended the conflict in 1918 with an armistice and then a vindictive treaty of peace that almost guaranteed a sequel.

The library is now staging an exhibition titled, At Ease, set to open next week. The exhibit, (opening in time for the City of Miami Beach centennial anniversary celebrations), will showcase the transformation of Miami from a winter tourist resort into a military barracks for U.S. Army Air Forces during the Second World War.

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LOAN OF LAWRENCE WIGGINS

To combat the Nazi submarines responsible for sinking ships off the Florida coast, in 1942 the U.S. military established airbases in South Florida, and over the course of the war, housed, trained, and drilled more than half a million servicemen on Miami Beach. Vacationing visitors and servicemen stationed on Miami Beach could purchase souvenir view books with postcard-sized images that fold accordion-style into a sleeve that could be mailed home; the ones printed during the war alternated images of military life with the more typical holiday scenes.

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GIFT OF FRANCIS X. LUCA & CLARA HELENA PALACIO LUCA

Dr. Judith Berson-Levinson, who organized the annual “Sand in their Boots” Veterans Day events in Miami Beach some years back, donated much of her collection to The Wolfsonian museum, including some of the following items:

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GIFTS OF JUDITH BERSON-LEVINSON

If this brief preview has caught your eye and interest, be sure to visit the exhibit after it opens this coming Friday.

WOLFSONIAN-FIU VISIT TO THE JEWISH MUSEUM OF FLORIDA-FIU

•March 4, 2015 • 1 Comment

Even as the City of Miami Beach prepares for its centennial celebrations this March, two of South Beach’s cultural institutions, The Wolfsonian-FIU and The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU are poised to celebrate their twenty year anniversaries as public institutions. And so it is only fitting that Michel Potop, working with The Wolfsonian-FIU’s “Culture Club” committee, recently organized a tour for our own staff of the exhibitions at the Jewish Museum located a few blocks down Washington Avenue. Here is his report:

This past Wednesday, several of my coworkers from the Wolfsonian-Florida International University joined me on a visit to the Jewish Museum of Florida–FIU. This group visit would not have been successful without the generous hospitality of our Florida International University colleagues from the Jewish Museum, particularly Ms. Eva Shvedova with whom I worked to organize this visit.

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The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is located in  what was once the first Temple of Miami Beach, which opened its doors in 1936 to serve the congregation of Beth Jacob. The architect Henry Hohauser was responsible for the temple’s Art Deco style, while the first rabbi designed the seventy-seven stained glass windows.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF FIUNEWS

Visitors can admire the original Art deco chandeliers and Moorish dome.

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While it is always a pleasure to be able to explore the exhibitions, our appreciation of the collections was enhanced by the addition of cultural and historical anecdotes presented to us by the education manager, Mr. Chaim Lieberperson.

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 The Bimah is a raised platform where the Rabbi and the reader pray, and where the Arch and its Torah are placed. In this picture one can clearly see that the Temple is no longer used for prayer as there is no sign of Ner Tamid, or the sanctuary lamp that would have radiated its light from the eternal flame on the altar.

Guide Judith Greenspoon and staff

The main exhibit, MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida, retraces the history of the Jew who settled in Florida from the colonial era to modern days. Work on this venture began in 1984, and after its inauguration in 1990, the exhibition traveled to venues in various state and national galleries for five years before finding a permanent home for the collection in Miami Beach.

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MOSAIC: PANEL ON SEPHARDIC AND RUSSIAN IMMIGRATION / PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JEWISH MUSEUM OF FLORIDA-FIU

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MOSAIC: SHABBAT PANEL & CASE / PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JEWISH MUSEUM OF FLORIDA-FIU

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MOSAIC: SHELL DRESS

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MOSAIC: MISS FLORIDA

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MOSAIC: MAP OF FLORIDA

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MOSAIC: FIRST JEWISH CHILD BORN IN FLORIDA & POCKET-WATCH

The staff also had the opportunity to see The Chosen: Selected Works from Florida Jewish Art Collectors. This temporary exhibit curated by Bernice Steinbaum displays some of the treasures ordinarily found only in private homes and collections.

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Both The Wolfsonian and The Jewish Museum of Florida opened their doors to the public in 1995, and both have subsequently become integrated into Florida International University. Both institutions aim to preserve, study, and promote rare collections of history and culture.

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The-Wolfsonian-FIU[1]The grandparents of Mitchell Wolfson Jr., the founder of The Wolfsonian, left Tsarist Russia in the 19th century and ultimately settled in Key West, Florida. In 1943, Mitchell Wolfson, Sr. became the first in a long list of Jewish mayors who shaped the political and cultural life of Miami Beach. The Wolfson family also invested in pioneering cinematic and television entertainment with the creation of Wometco Enterprises.

Mitchell Wolfson, Sr. campaign ca. 1943

The intimate links between The Wolfsonian FIU, The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU and Miami Beach, are not represented only by Mr. Wolfson’s generous donations but also by the interdependence of our collections.

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The Wolfsonian, for example, holds a small archive of materials documenting the architectural achievements of Henry Hohauser, the celebrated architect of the temple that now houses the Jewish Museum.

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DETAIL OF TEMPLE WINDOW AND FACADE DECORATION

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As the Miami Beach gears up for her hundredth year celebrations, and two of the city’s cultural institutions prepare for their twenty-year anniversaries, we invite the public to come visit us to discover more about the art, culture and history of South Florida.

PERMISSION TO COME ABOARD?: THE BOAT SHOW, AND WAVES OF VIP VISITORS TO THE WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY

•February 21, 2015 • 1 Comment

Every year, traffic on Miami Beach increases exponentially in mid-February as yacht and sailing and power boat enthusiasts from around the world surge into Florida’s “cruise capital” for the annual Boat Show. This year was no exception, and as the boat aficionados poured into town, The Wolfsonian-FIU librarians were pleased to be able to usher a number of prominent VIP visitors around the “dazzle”-painted exterior walls of the museum and into the library for a private tour.

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Thomas Ragan, an ocean liner aficionado who has donated hundreds of steamship and ocean liner books and an archive of the Moore McCormack’s “Good Neighbor Fleet”  to The Wolfsonian library, arranged a visit and luncheon reception for Cunard Commodore Ron Warwick and his charming wife, Kim. Also in attendance was Dr. Laurence Miller, former director of libraries at Florida International University, and an avid collector of ocean liner promotional literature. In preparation for our guests’ visit, Dr. Miller had laid out a display of Cunard and Cunard White Star Line materials from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Wolfsonian-FIU library aims to be one of the great repositories of ocean liner materials, including books, brochures, deck plans, and other print media.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

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THOMAS C. RAGAN COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

Below is a small sampling of historic items from our holdings for Cunard and Cunard White Star Lines, some of which provide color illustrations of the exotic ports of call and luxurious public spaces aboard ships like the R.M.S. Carinthia.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

As Commodore Warwick had captained the Queen Elizabeth 2 (christened in 1969) and the Queen Mary 2 (launched in 2003), Dr. Miller also laid out some materials from the original R.M.S. Queens.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

Some of the early brochures offered comparisons between gigantic liners like the first Queen Mary—(launched in 1934) and other monumental structures.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

Others detailed the construction of the great luxury liner, named the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth and launched on September 27, 1938.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

Other items documenting the original Queens (and the successor ships that Commodore Warwick captained), were drawn from the extensive collection of Cunard transatlantic and cruise ship materials that Dr. Miller had donated to The Wolfsonian-FIU library some years back.

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LAURENCE MILLER COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

The Laurence Miller Collection at The Wolfsonian-FIU also includes ephemeral items such as menus and baggage labels.

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LAURENCE MILLER COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

Rather than return these items to their archival boxes immediately following the commodore’s visit, we added to the mix some ocean liner materials from other steamship lines for a presentation later in the week for another VIP visitor.

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On Thursday, the prolific ocean liner author and guest lecturer popularly known as “Mr. Ocean Liner,” William (“Bill”) Miller came up to the library to see a sampling of our holdings.

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LAURENCE MILLER AND BILL MILLER

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LAURENCE MILLER COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

In addition to some of the Cunard Line materials already laid out on the tables, we added a sprinkling of other printed matter. Some, like the Compagnie Maritime Belge document the old colonial  steamship line routes.

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Others, like this brochure for the Nippon Yusen Kaish (or N.Y.K.) Line, used expensive printing and die-cut techniques to allow potential passengers to peel away the layers of the Asama Maru to see the ship’s interior.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

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The brochure above sought to capitalize on the popularity of Audrey Hepburn’s role in the 1953 film Roman Holiday in promoting the Italian Line; the S.S. Andrea Doria listed on the cover became infamous for her sinking off the coast of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts on July 25, 1956 after a collision with another ocean liner, the M.S. Stockholm. Fifty-two persons died in the accident, while the other 1,660 passengers and crew were rescued.

Before we had the chance to reshelve the ocean liner materials, we received a request from Wolfsonian Development Associate, Andrew Nelson, to leave them out another day as he planned on conducting the free weekly Friday night tour of the museum, and thought that the visitors in town for the Boat Show might enjoy a glimpse of these treasures and some recent arrivals.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. PROMISED GIFTS

One item that I had not laid out, but which would have been appropriate given the West Coast ports labor dispute and “slow down” is a rare illustrated periodical documenting the great strike of 1936 to 1937.

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Happily it appears that the West Coast ports and the labor unions, under the threat of federal arbitration) have negotiated a tentative deal, avoiding the violence that characterized the twentieth century repression of striking dock workers.

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THE FALSE PROMISES OF PROPAGANDA: AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND THE GREAT WAR IN THE WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY COLLECTION

•February 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This past Friday, Professor Monika Pobog-Weckert and sixteen Miami Ad School/FIU students came to The Wolfsonian for an orientation and lecture-presentation on the topic of propaganda art of the First World War. On an earlier visit, the students had been guided through a tour of the museum’s current installation, Myth and Machine: The First World War in Visual Culture; yesterday’s visit focused on The Children’s Crusade, an exhibition of rare children’s propaganda books, puzzles, games, and postcards from World War I curated by half a dozen Florida International University History undergraduates last semester.

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Before coming upstairs to review the exhibit, I guided the class through our library and digital image catalogs to show the students how to access some of our war propaganda materials virtually, and to deconstruct and critically analyze visual evidence.

As it is Black History Month, I thought that for the purposes of this post I would focus on some materials in the collection that provide insight into the experiences of African-Americans during the Great War, beginning with a couple of posters designed to recruit persons of color into the Armed Services. Given that African-Americans were relegated to second class citizenship, were frequently prevented from participating in elections, and were subjected to residential segregation and innumerable forms of prejudice in the United States, propagandists designing posters aimed at recruiting them in the fight to “make the world safe for democracy” overseas had real challenges to address to overcome “Negro” skepticism. A couple of posters printed by E. G. Renesch used a number of subtle techniques to imply that this was a war worth fighting.

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The first poster, titled True Blue depicts a Middle Class African-American mother and her three children: two young girls in white nightgowns, and an older boy wearing a military-style jacket. The family is pictured gathered around the hearth fire with the wholesomeness and romanticism of a Norman Rockwell painting. Three presidential portraits adorn the wall above the mantel: the nation’s first president, George Washington; the “Great Emancipator,” Abraham Lincoln; and the current president, Woodrow Wilson. While the “head” of the household is missing, his image appears in a flag-draped framed picture wearing a military uniform and cap; his physical absence is explained by the placement of a service flag in the window intended to let their neighbors know that the man of the family was doing his patriotic duty overseas.

Another recruiting poster printed by E. G. Renesch in The Wolfsonian collection is titled: Colored Man Is No Slacker. Although we most commonly associate the last word in the title with someone who is lazy, during the “Great War,” calling someone a “slacker” was the equivalent of calling that person a “draft-dodger.” In the foreground of the poster, a young African-American couple say their goodbyes as a column of uniformed Black soldiers march in the background. The poster primarily uses earth tone shades of tan and olive-green colors, making the red, white, and blue American flag stand out all the more. Although slightly muted, the colors of “Old Glory” are replicated in the blue dress with white trim worn by the African-American woman, and the rose bushes to her left and right—equating love of a good woman with love of country.

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The facial features of the couple appear to have been rendered in such a manner as to deliberately obscure their racial identity, as was the color used for their skin tone. The printer matched their skin to the khaki color of the uniforms worn by the soldiers as if to imply that if they donned the uniform of the United States, they would be seen (and be respected) as soldiers rather than degraded as “Negroes.” Seemingly confirming this interpretation, I was able to locate another recruiting poster by the same printer that employs virtually the same subtle strategies, but makes no attempt to blur the racial identity of the Caucasian soldiers and couple depicted.

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If such propaganda was designed to imply that patriotic African-Americans could expect better treatment during and after the war, it was a false promise. Racial prejudice in the United States was so powerful as to dictate and demand that the prevailing social norms in America be extended to the American Expeditionary Forces serving overseas.

The vast majority of African-American enlistees were relegated to support service, working long and burdensome shifts as stevedores, cooks, and in other non-combative roles. While General Pershing actively promoted Lieutenant James Reese Europe’s “Harlem Hellfighters” Jazz band as “good will ambassadors” in France, the commander of the AEF was loath to deploy African-Americans in combat missions. He did, however, loan out the 371st Infantry to his French allies. Equipped, armed, and led by French (white) commanders, these African-American troops demonstrated their courage under fire.

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Another “colored” regiment led by its white commanding officer, Colonel Thomas A. Roberts was brigaded with the 59th Division of the Tenth French Army under General Vincendon. The French artist Joseph-Félix Boucher (1853-1937) memorialized the colonel and his French liaison officers in a painting reproduced in The American Army in France (1917-1919). The accompanying text written for an American audience claimed that “while the colored infantrymen were usually good, their colored officers were usually incompetent, and lacked the quality of leadership.”

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The French, at least, recognized the heroism of a number of African-American troops with the distinguished “Croix de Guerre” medal.

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Private Henry Johnson was the first African-American trooper to be awarded the Croix de Guerre for his heroic actions in hand-to-hand combat with a superior force of Germans.

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African-American women also did their part in the Great War. The Wolfsonian library holds a copy of Two Colored Women with the American Expeditionary Forces, a rare book published just after the war. It documents the services rendered (and prejudices endured) by patriotic African-American women serving overseas with the YMCA.

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Sadly, the implicit “promises” of the recruiting posters were not fulfilled in the aftermath of the Great War. Although the African-American troops who fought so bravely to safeguard democracy abroad were initially greeted with a celebratory parade, serious racial strife, numerous race-riots, and lynchings dogged the returning “colored” veterans soon after their arrival back in the United States.

FROM THE BOROUGH TO THE BEACH, OR, THE LIFE OF LINDA THE INTERN AT THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU LIBRARY

•January 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This semester, The Wolfsonian-FIU library is proud to be hosting three library interns: Jonathan Sanabria, Isabel Brador, and Linda Hernandez. Ms. Hernandez has been working under the supervision and tutelage of Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn. In that capacity, she has been cataloging some of the hundreds of reference books donated to the library collection by Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. Today’s post (contributed by Rochelle Pienn) discusses Ms. Hernandez’ internship experience with that collection.  Stay tuned for updates on the work and experiences of our other interns.

Why are we here? Of course human beings have been asking this broad philosophical question throughout the ages. As a writer and a special collections librarian, however, I tend to be more interested in individual experiences that give each of us our unique life stories. It would be these personal points of view, in context with time and place, which result in the historical records of society (and fill our amazing special collections shelves with rare books, original photograph albums, correspondence, and other primary resources). What is it about the past that contributes to the present?

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Part of being the Sharf Associate Librarian involves passing the rare book cataloging torch, as it were, to future librarians. This semester I was pleased to collaborate with the University of South Florida’s graduate program in library studies to administer course credit for work at The Wolfsonian-FIU Library. Linda H., our new intern, hails from Queens, New York, just like yours truly. Curious about her career choice, I asked Linda why she wanted to be a librarian. She seemed surprised. “Oh, I always knew I wanted to do this,” she said. “When I was a little girl, I lived in the Queensbridge projects. They had a tiny room for the library. I remember going there and knowing it was where I wanted to be.” Both Linda and I cherish fond memories of family trips to the New York Public Library, a practically sacred landmark in an asphalt jungle, flanked by its guardian lions, Patience and Fortitude.

 library_lions_fortitude“FORTITUDE,” MARBLE, 1911. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY

I started Linda’s rare book cataloging training by teaching her the basics. To do this, she would pick recently published books from our generous donation from Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. Then she would search the Library of Congress catalog to find what we call in the trade “good copy” for entry into our public online, searchable database.

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For example, current scholars in women’s studies find the stories of Japan’s turn-of-the-century society historically significant. These heavily researched volumes pay particular attention to prostitution in those times.

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In this 1906 period imprint, a Christian traveler from the West recounts her journey in Japan. Upon attending a crowded street parade featuring a public procession of prostitutes, the author lamented, “Closely I looked for the hidden history in the face of each courtesan. I never saw pleasure, not a vestige of joy. If the face were not a blank, it stood for stony indifference, as if the girl were driven blindly on through empty space. Sometimes there were pathos and sadness, a hunger and longing in the eyes which might never again be lighted by hope … Not once did a girl show consciousness of the staring crowds.”

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As a result of British colonialism, interest in all things Oriental became the rage in the Western world at the turn of the twentieth century. Japan, the Middle East, China, and India posed new and exotic sources of exploration for curious Europeans and Americans. Linda discovered this 1999 Sotheby’s auction catalog filled with archival treasures that had been for sale.

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This 1886 image comes from a magnificent, one-of-a-kind photo album in the Sharf Collection. It documents Mr. H. W. Benson’s peacetime service with the 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment of Great Britain, which surveyed the Northwest Passage of India.

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Another photograph album from the 1880s contains hand-colored albumen prints of Burmese and Indian natives. Handwritten captions document the travels of Frederic Houlton Summers, who was employed by Gillander & Co. (mercantile) in its Calcutta and Rangoon branches.

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This spectacular shot shows Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which opened in 1881.

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The popular “before and after” theme in contemporary pictorial works is exemplified in this book on Shanghai, China. New color photographs of landmarks are juxtaposed with antique prints and accompanied by descriptive narrative.

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James Harrison Wilson’s 1888 book, China travels and investigations in the “Middle Kingdom,” covers everything from social customs in Shanghai to the highly profitable opium trade.

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In an album called Le Tour du Monde, or, Trip around the World, well-to-do ladies and gentlemen cruised around Japan, China, the Philippines and India circa 1900. Part of their itinerary included visiting this five-story pagoda in China, seen here perched dramatically at the top of a hill, behind a perimeter wall.

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Passengers also took their own snapshots of natives, temples, and other sites. On this page of the album in the bottom right-hand photo, a “lyon” sculpture defends a doorway.

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This period photograph shows the interior of China’s Temple of the 500 Genii.

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My three wishes for the genii are: 1. for Linda to enjoy her experience with the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at the Wolfsonian-FIU Library; 2. for Linda to have a fruitful career as a future librarian; and finally, 3. for the library lions to bring Linda good luck on her journey.

photo 1LION HEADS, BRONZE, 1901, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU ELEVATOR.

PHOTO BY DAVID ALMEIDA

THE OLD KING COLE AND OTHER “LOST” MIAMI BEACH HOTELS: SOME WOLFSONIAN HIGHLIGHTS

•January 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This past Saturday, January 17th, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by local historian Carolyn Klepser held at the Art Deco Museum as part of the Art Deco Weekend festivities. Although many of Miami Beach’s Art Deco architectural treasures were saved through the efforts of Barbara Baer Capitman (1920-1990) and other like-minded preservationists, Ms. Klepser has recently published with The History Press a book titled: Lost Miami Beach. This book, and her slide show lecture-presentation on the 17th, focus on the earlier mansions, houses, hotels, and other Beaux Arts, Spanish-influence, and Mediterranean style buildings that were not so fortunate in ducking the wrecking ball.

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One of the hotels briefly mentioned in the lecture was the King Cole. As we have a rare publicity photograph album of that amazing hotel, I thought that I would devote today’s post to disseminating a few more images of it, and a few of the other grand hotels that, alas, are no longer with us….

Although John Stiles Collins (1837-1928) had already cleared some of the mangrove swamps originally covering the barrier island in developing its agricultural potential, the island that was to become Miami Beach was  undergoing another transformation in the nineteen-teens and -twenties.

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IMAGE COURTESY OF THE MIAMI BEACH CITY HALL ARCHIVE

Carl G. Fisher (1874-1939), the real estate developer who helped finance Collin’s stalled bridge to connect the island to mainland Miami, had by this time bought up a great deal of property and begun to plant polo fields, clay tennis courts, and golf courses adjacent to a menagerie of new luxury hotels as part of his plan to re-envision Miami Beach as a winter playground for the well-to-do.

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Between 1916 and 1919, Fisher had financed the construction of the Lincoln Hotel, and in January 1921 had opened the grand Flamingo Hotel and even managed to woo President Coolidge to stay there overnight.

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Fisher had afterwards commissioned the architectural firm of Schultze & Weaver to build in 1924 the Nautilus Hotel.

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This luxurious hotel was designed in the Mediterranean style, and included a number of Spanish decorative elements, including a baroque entrance, a curved parapet, and twin towers.

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Never one to rest on his laurels, the following year Fisher hired architects Kiehnel & Elliott to build another Mediterranean-style resort hotel on the barrier island.

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Completed in 1925, the three-story, 60 guest room King Cole hotel was built on the southern bank of Lake Surprise midway between Biscayne Bay and the Ocean.

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An advertisement dating from the year it opened boasted that the hotel afforded “the finest of accommodations to a select clientele of approximately one hundred and fifty guests,” during the January to April winter season.

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Another brochure from the period described the newest Fisher hotel as: “A distinctively superior hotel in the Spanish mode…on the edge of the new 18-hole La Gorce golf course and Nautilus polo fields…convenient contact beaches, hotels, clubs and sport centers…every room with bath…delightful roof garden, spacious verandas, beautiful dining room and lounge…clay tennis courts…making The King Cole a most popular winter home.”

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Although the architecture was decidedly Spanish in influence, the interior paid tribute to the legend of Old King Cole with large oil paintings by Howard Hilder adorning the lounge.

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The “rustic” dining room, was designed to evoke a nostalgia for the Middle Ages with its eleventh-century heraldic decoration.

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Medieval motifs were also in evidence in other public spaces, while the guest bedrooms were tastefully decorated in a more modern style.

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As noted in Carolyn Klepser’s lecture and book, during the Second World War, both the Nautilus and the King Cole hotels were temporarily converted into military hospitals; while the King Cole housed the Miami Heart Institute, the original building was torn down in August 1965.

CHARLIE, OR NOT CHARLIE: A WOLFSONIAN REFLECTION ON ATHEISM, RELIGIOUS SATIRE, AND TOLERANCE IN THE WAKE OF THE CHARLIE HEBDO MASSACRE

•January 17, 2015 • 2 Comments

All this week there has been a flurry of news coverage focusing on the aftermath of the horrific massacre by two French Muslim gunmen of cartoonists and staff working for the controversial and avowedly atheistic Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly newspaper. The terrorists who perpetrated the murders claimed to have been moved to the most extreme violence by the magazine’s publication of irreverent depictions of the Prophet Mohammed.

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Charlie Hebdo is no stranger to controversy or to the violence its cartoons can provoke. The weekly’s origins stretch back to 1960, when Georges Bernier and François Cavanna first began a leftist, anti-religious, political satirical monthly magazine under the title Hara-Kiri, adding a weekly (“hebdo”) edition in 1969. After making a rather tasteless lampoon on the occasion of the death of former president Charles de Gaulle in November 1970, L’Hebdo Hara-Kiri was banned. The editors changed the title to Charlie Hebdo to sidestep the ban, and as an homage to the Peanuts character Charlie Brown.

Over the years, Charlie Hebdo has continued to publish irreverent (and some might say provocative and inflammatory) satires targeting religious hypocrisy and Christian, Jewish, and Islamic fundamentalism. When in February 2006, the editors published a front page titled “Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists” accompanied by a cartoon depicting a weeping Prophet with the caption “It’s hard being loved by jerks,” French politicians were divided in their response. French President Jacques Chirac condemned such “overt provocations” that attacked others’ “religious convictions.” But when the Grand Mosque filed a lawsuit against the editors alleging racism, future presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande made statements coming down on the side of freedom of expression. In 2007, the courts sided with and acquitted the editors. Other irreligious Charlie Hebdo cartoons have been met with peaceful street demonstrations, while a satire of Sharia law in 2011 provoked a fire-bomb attack on the newspaper’s offices. The most recent (and deadly) attack on the satirical magazine’s headquarters in Paris ultimately resulted in the murder of the magazine’s editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, five cartoonists, five other staffers, two police officers, and the wounding of eleven others; a co-conspirator took hostages and the lives of four persons in a Jewish supermarket.

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In the aftermath of the bloody attacks, forty world leaders and two million Parisians took to the streets, many under the banner, “Je suis Charlie” or, “I am Charlie.” Circulation of Charlie Hebdo jumped from a normal run of 60,000 issues to the sale of seven million copies of the “survivors’ issue” printed in six languages with a defiant cover cartoon of a tearful Prophet taking up the slogan of the demonstrators. Perhaps this proves that the pen yet remains mightier than the sword (or assault rifle).

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PHILIPPE WOJAZER, REUTERS

The issues of religion, freedom of speech, and tolerance are all issues France has historically had to wrestle with. During the era of “Enlightenment,” French philosophers and satirical polemicists such as François-Marie Arouet (1694-1778)—more popularly known by his nom de plume, Voltaire—were using their pens to stir up controversy. Voltaire, for example, used his satirical wit to attack religious superstition and the power wielded by the established Catholic Church, to criticize intolerance, to advocate for free speech, freedom of (and freedom from) religion, and to call for the separation of church and state. Not surprisingly Voltaire’s radical ideas and writings caught the attention of censors, landed him in prison, or forced him into exile. Whatever his own religious views, (still the subject of heated debate), Voltaire remained a passionate advocate for religious tolerance. He argued that “It does not require great art, or magnificently trained eloquence, to prove that Christians should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all men as our brothers. What? The Turk my brother? The Chinaman my brother? The Jew? The Siam? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God?”

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Sadly, such laudable sentiments were forgotten in the wake of the French Revolution, the “Reign of Terror,” and counter-revolutionary violence of the late eighteenth century. Anticlericalism and opposition to established religion was part of the very fabric of the French Revolution and integral to the formation of the secular values of the French Republic.

The tragic and dramatic events surrounding the controversial weekly got me to thinking about the larger historical context of religious satire, censorship, free-speech, and hate speech, and representations of the same in The Wolfsonian library collection. Also no stranger to controversial materials and topics, the museum and research library hold a wide variety of politically, racially, and religiously provocative items.

Not unlike the early French Republic’s experiments with dechristianization and the establishment of a nationwide Fête de la Raison aimed at promoting republican secular values, the early revolutionaries in Russia also satirized religion in general, and specifically ridiculed Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in their bid to make Communism the new faith. The Wolfsonian library holds a decent run of the periodical Bezbozhnik u stanka, or, Atheist at the Lathe, published in Moscow between 1923 and 1931.

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Edited by M. Kostelovskaia and featuring the work of illustrators such Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Deineka (1899-1969) and Dmitrii Stakheivich Moor (1883-1946), the Atheist at the Lathe spared no religion as it dedicated itself to rooting out “superstition” and promoting Communism.

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One illustration even depicts an Orthodox priest assisting a Cossack sniper and Royalist machine-gunner shooting down upon mass demonstrators from the vantage point of a church bell tower.

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I find the illustration especially ironic given that it was a Russian Orthodox priest and populist leader, Father Georgy Gapon (1870-1906) who led the unarmed demonstrators in a march to present a petition to the Czar at his Winter Palace, where they were shot down by the Imperial Guard on “Bloody Sunday,” January 22, 1905.

The Supreme Deity is frequently lampooned in the color cover and interior illustrations, invariably depicted as an ancient, diminutive, bespectacled, bald man with a snow-white beard. In one full-page illustration, the biblical story of Genesis is satirized with God playing surgeon and removing one of Adam’s ribs, while on another cover, the ridiculous deity angrily races with a ladder to punish Adam and Eve, who are out on a limb eating the forbidden red fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

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Other cartoon illustrations make satirical attacks on the Christian faith by picturing foxes in the role of preachers, deceiving and bleeding poor working class yokels.

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Jesus Christ and Russian Orthodox priests are often depicted in the periodical as being used by or in cohorts with the forces of reaction and capitalist “fat cats” in top hats.

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GIFT OF STEVEN HELLER

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Devout Russian Orthodox Christians must have cringed at depictions of their Savior loaded down with bombs and under the command of the counterrevolutionary Capitalist enemies of the Communist regime, much as Muslims may have been offended by Charlie Hebdo cartoons picturing the Prophet as a terrorist hiding bombs under his turban.

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As Muslims and Jews made up important and influential religious minorities in the new Soviet State, their faiths and traditions were also subjected to ridicule in the Atheist at the Lathe.

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One cartoon encouraged Muslim women to take down their veils, transform them into babushkas, and sweep away the vestiges of repressive religious patriarchy.

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Of course, such religiously charged cartoons were rendered all the more powerful by virtue of the Communist regime’s stamp of approval for attacking the religious enemies of the Soviet state.

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GIFT OF STEVEN HELLER

Cultural values had so shifted in Putin’s Russia that in 2012 feminist punk rock performers from Pussy Riot were arrested and convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for staging a forty-second nonviolent protest in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

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IMAGE COURTESY OF INNOKENTY GREKOV’S BLOG POST “PUSSY RIOT DAY OF SOLIDARITY” DATED AUGUST 16, 2013

As a historian and librarian dedicated to the principles of free speech and opposition to censorship, I can only hope that we can consider more carefully Voltaire’s example: neither to give in to fear of reprisal, repression, or self-censorship, but also to consider how our words and actions might impact persons of other faiths and views. Above all, we must urge tolerance and remind ourselves that others are free to print and perform as they will, just as we are free to read or ignore such expressions as might offend our own sensibilities.

 
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