The Social Security Act Turns Eighty Today: A Wolfsonian-FIU Library Reflection

•August 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Today marks the eightieth anniversary of the signing by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935. To mark the occasion, today’s blog post will consider the origins and history of that federal program that has benefited many millions of Americans over the span of eight decades.

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Gift of Francis Xavier Luca and Clara Helena Palacio Luca

It is worth noting that the idea for a national social insurance plan did not originate solely with the Roosevelt Administration. Then, as now, the prevailing economic climate and presidential politics played important roles in shaping social legislation. The Wall Street Crash of October 1929 and the resultant Great Depression had thrown one-quarter of the American workforce into the ranks of the unemployed.

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Illustration by Giacomo Patri (1898-1978) from his White Collar: Novel in Linocuts

The Wolfsonian-FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The bank failures of the early 1930s, further exacerbated the crisis by stripping away the life savings of millions of older Americans.

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The Wolfsonian-FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Many of the post-depression generation, if we think back at all on the banking crisis, likely remember the actor Jimmy Stewart staving off a panic and bank run in Frank Capra’s Christmas holiday classic, It’s A Wonderful Life.

During the early years of the depression, then President Herbert Hoover believed that it was not the responsibility of the federal government to provide relief, but neither the states nor religious and volunteer charities were up to the challenge. While seventeen northern states adopted varying forms of old age pension laws by 1932, only about 3% of the elderly population benefited from such programs, and nearly ninety percent of these resided in California, Massachusetts, or New York, the home state of Hoover’s Democratic challenger, Franklin Roosevelt. Not surprisingly, in the November elections of 1932, President Hoover was turned out of office in a landslide decision.

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Gift of Francis Xavier Luca and Clara Helena Palacio Luca

In 1933, sixty-six year old Long Beach, California resident and public health officer, Francis Everett Townsend (1867-1960) found himself out of work, and, like so many other elderly folk, without any savings to depend upon.

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“Social Security” print by Stefan Hirsch

The Wolfsonian-FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

In September of that year, Townsend penned a letter to the editor of the Long Beach Press-Telegram promoting an old age pension plan. The Townsend Plan, as it would be called, advocated a 2% national sales tax to fund a $200 per month pension for every citizen aged sixty and over, provided they had no criminal record, were retired from work, and agreed to spend all of the money they received each month in the United States. The plan was thus designed to encourage older people to retire, to provide more work opportunities for younger people, and to stimulate the domestic economy. Townsend’s Old Age Revolving Plan garnered considerable support, given that in 1934 more than half of the nation’s elderly population were unable to support themselves. By 1935, the doctor had attracted 2,200,000 devotees and spawned 7,000 Townsend Clubs, all urging the government to adopt the old age pension plan.

XC2012_07_1_059Caricature of Francis Townsend by Will H. Chandlee, published in Mother Goose in Washington.
Gift of Francis Xavier Luca and Clara Helena Palacio-de Luca

Even as the “grassroots” Townsend movement was gaining momentum, Louisiana governor, populist, and Democratic presidential aspirant, Huey Pierce Long (1893-1935) was making headlines (and waves) denouncing rich banking interests and advocating his own “Share the Wealth” program as “the only defense this country’s got against communism.” His plan advocated a radical restructuring of the economy, capping and taxing personal fortunes with a progressive tax code, funding public works projects, providing a guaranteed minimum family income, free education, veteran’s benefits, and old-age pensions. When the U.S. Senate rejected one of his redistribution of wealth proposals, Long infamously rebuked them, telling them that a “mob is coming to hang the other ninety-five of you damn scoundrels and I’m undecided whether to stick here with you or go out and lead them.”

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Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

By 1935, the Democratic challenger that President Roosevelt uncharitably described as one of the “most dangerous men in America” commanded a radio audience of 25,000,000 listeners, and had attracted 7,500,000 members to 27,000 Share the Wealth Clubs operating under the motto “Every Man a King.”

Long’s Communist detractors seized on his campaign song and slogan and lampooned it in their efforts to paint him as ingenuous.

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Gift of Francis Xavier Luca

Many historians have argued that it was the threat posed by a Long presidential candidacy that was responsible for President Roosevelt’s shift to the left in 1935. In fact, Roosevelt admitted that many of the second wave of New Deal initiatives that year (including the Wealth Tax, Works Progress Administration, National Youth Administration, and the Social Security Act) had been enacted in an attempt to “steal Long’s thunder,” to co-op Townsend’s supporters, and to silence critics like the popular “Radio Priest” Father Charles Coughlin.

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Caricature of the “Radio Priest” Father Coughlin by Will Chandlee, published in Mother Goose in Washington.
Gift of Francis Xavier Luca and Clara Helena Palacio-de Luca

Just one month after announcing his bid for the presidency, an assassin’s bullet claimed the life of the forty-two year old Huey Long, thus ending any serious Democratic or third party challenge to Roosevelt’s reelection in 1936. But the retirement proposals put forward by Francis Townsend and Huey Long did find life in Roosevelt’s second New Deal, with the passage of his Old Age Assistance (or Social Security) program.

Even Roosevelt’s less ambitious plan was greeted with great skepticism and opposition in the Senate. The Democratic Senator from Oklahoma, Thomas Gore, grilled Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins during a Finance Committee Hearing, asking her “Isn’t this socialism?” and responding to her denial, by insisting again, “Isn’t this a teeny-weeny bit of socialism?”

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Caricature of Frances Perkins by Will H. Chandlee, published in Mother Goose in Washington.
Gift of Francis Xavier Luca and Clara Helena Palacio-de Luca

Even after the passage of the Social Security Act in August 1935, Townsend and others continued to lobby, demonstrate, and push for more generous benefits and provisions.

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Gift of Christopher DeNoon

Social Security passed its first great hurdle in 1937 when the conservative members of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the act. In 1939, spouses and minor children, and the survivors of retired workers were added as beneficiaries to the original program; the following year the first monthly benefit check was mailed off, providing just a little bit more security for the average American family.

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“Security for the Family,” a watercolor mural study by Seymour Fogel (1911-1984)
The Wolfsonian-FIU, purchased with funds donated by Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.

It is ironic that today’s polls indicate that a majority of Americans fear that the Social Security system they have paid into will not be there to help them through their own “golden years.” To this one can only respond using the phrase from President Roosevelt’s 1933 inaugural address: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance….”

The Old Maine and the Sea, or, Spanish-American War Sheet Music at The Wolfsonian-FIU Library

•August 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Today’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Sharf Associate Librarian, Rochelle Pienn. Ms. Pienn is responsible for cataloging a wealth of rare books, photograph albums, and diaries gifted to The Wolfsonian-FIU library by Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. The Sharf Collection has greatly strengthened our holdings of primary source propaganda of the military conflicts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and various colonial endeavors in Africa and the Far and Middle East. We owe the Sharfs a debt of gratitude for providing us with great materials from the Spanish-American War, with an emphasis on the Cuban independence movement, and American naval action and colonial intervention in the Philippines. In making The Wolfsonian rare book and special collections library an important repository of such materials, the Sharfs inspired others to help us build on those foundations. Anne Layton Rice, the Library Administrator of the Monroe County Public Library in Key West, recently facilitated the donation to our institution of eight banker boxes of rare and scarce sheet music covers dating from the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine-American War (1899-1902). These music titles for piano and voice had originally been amassed by long-time Key West resident, Joseph K. Albertson. In the era before radio, sheet music circulated widely and functioned as popular entertainment in people’s parlors and homes; the music titles gifted to The Wolfsonian inspired American support for the conflicts with patriotic marches and sentimental songs often played in dance halls and other public venues. Famirka Then, our library intern has begun processing and cataloging the sheet music; afterwards, each work will be digitized and made available online to the Florida International University community, scholars, and general public.

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Wolfsonian-FIU Library Intern, Famirka Then

Our thanks to the original collector, Joseph K. Albertson for preserving these important materials, and to Anne Layton Rice for facilitating the gift of these music titles which perfectly complement our Spanish-American War holdings. Here is Rochelle’s report:

Six-toed Hemingway cats and mojitos on Duval Street: Key West, Florida contains the quirkiest delights this side of Cuba.

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Ernest Hemingway at table with his cat Cristobal at Finca Vigia.

Ernest Hemingway Photographs Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Along with the great American novelist’s paw-trodden home and the classic rum-based cocktail, Key West features settings and side-trips awash in history. The Monroe County Public Library keeps local archives documenting Key West’s colorful past. Key West branch Librarian Anne Layton Rice recently visited the Wolfsonian-FIU Library to facilitate a gift of Spanish-American War period sheet music, which originally belonged to Joseph K. Albertson, long-time resident of Key West.

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Anne Layton Rice, the author, and Chief Librarian Frank Luca, photo by David Almeida

I recently met Ms. Rice at the Society of Florida Archivists Annual Conference in Coconut Grove (another Florida town filled with eccentric tales and pit-stops). Once Ms. Rice learned of Wolfsonian-FIU Library’s strong holdings in Spanish-American War materials, primarily as a result of the generosity of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf, she decided that the Joseph K. Albertson Collection would be a perfect fit for us.

June 201592910 The Joseph K. Albertson Collection, Gift of Monroe County Public Library, Key West, Fla.

The polarizing patriotism rallied by the suspicious but unexplained explosion on the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor instigated anti-Spain sentiment in America. The Spanish-American War soon ensued, accompanied by much pro-independent Cuba propaganda in the form of yellow journalism, books, and songs.

June 201592906The Joseph K. Albertson Collection, Gift of Monroe County Public Library, Key West, Fla.

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The Joseph K. Albertson Collection, Gift of Monroe County Public Library, Key West, Fla.

June 201592904The Joseph K. Albertson Collection, Gift of Monroe County Public Library, Key West, Fla.

June 201592905The Joseph K. Albertson Collection, Gift of Monroe County Public Library, Key West, Fla.

Miss Evangelina Cisneros became one of the first “reality stars” of American media. Daughter of a Cuban revolutionary, Cisneros languished away in a Cuban prison at the hands of her Spanish jailors until an American reporter, Karl Decker of William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal, intervened. Splashy tabloid-esque newspaper coverage fueled public outcry. A daring rescue catapulted the young beauty into instant international stardom.

June 201592908The Joseph K. Albertson Collection, Gift of Monroe County Public Library, Key West, Fla.

This new acquisition of sheet music complements the Spanish-American War period imprints and souvenir keepsake books from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection. Karl Decker wrote this 1898 book on behalf of Miss Cisneros and from her point of view. Photographs are dispersed throughout the thrilling account of bravery and daring in the name of freedom.

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

African Americans joined the United States armed forces in the war. Their valorous actions in battle impacted popular culture.

June 201592909The Joseph K. Albertson Collection, Gift of Monroe County Public Library, Key West, Fla.

This regimental history published in 1899 contains a rare photograph of African American military officers.

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

XC2010.08.1.30_322Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

Publishers’ decorative bindings attracted readers with red, white, and blue,and Army green covers, with silver and gold lettering and borders, and graphic illustrations of the U.S. Navy.

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

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Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

XC2010_08_1_64_000Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

For access to more rare materials on the Spanish-American War, we invite you to search our online databases at library.wolfsonian.org and digital.wolfsonian.org, or schedule an appointment to visit us at the Wolfsonian-FIU Library. More items are cataloged every day. Let us know if you come across something that inspires you!

BIG GAME HUNTING AND “WILD ANIMAL” SPECTACLES IN THE WOLFSONIAN MUSEUM COLLECTION

•July 31, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It was another era altogether. It was an era of safaris and heroic “Big Game” hunters—white men wearing pith helmets and carrying rifles to shoot “wild” animals in “Darkest” Africa. “Manly” American men like Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway, and Europeans stationed in the colonies prided themselves on pitting their lives against nature’s most dangerous beast.

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WATERCOLOR FROM AN ALBUM, TITLED HELDEN IN AFRIKA (1901?)
THE JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF COLLECTION

But all that is over now, or should be. We have entered an age where most of the world’s wild places have been reduced to national and provincial parks, game preserves, and wildlife sanctuaries, and where cheetahs, leopards, white rhinoceroses, panthers, and countless others have been added to the list of endangered species. The idea of men continuing to kill “big game” for taxidermy trophies is as environmentally atrocious as poachers killing elephants and rhinos to “harvest” horns and tusks. Thanks to the internet, people the world over are now familiar with the pathetic story of Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist (and spare-time big game hunter) who paid $50,000 for the privilege of going on safari and shooting a lion with a crossbow. His victim, Cecil, a celebrated lion fitted with a GPS collar, had been lured out of the Hwange national park, wounded with an arrow, and then killed and decapitated some forty hours later. The dentist and his guides may now be facing serious poaching charges in Zimbabwe.

But this new story is only one in in long line of such scandals. I recall the outrage provoked in April 2012, when it became public that while the Spanish people were suffering through the greatest recession since the Great Depression, King Juan Carlos of Spain was spending more than $50,000 for a safari in Botswana for the privilege of killing and posing proudly with two African buffalo carcases and a dead elephant.

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The recent flurry of international righteous indignation that has arisen over the senseless slaughter of Cecil the lion got me thinking about some related material in the Wolfsonian library collection: items from the era of colonialism, “big game” hunting, captive animal spectacles and other antiquated customs.

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THE LION MOTORDROME—ON THE MIDWAY (OR ENTERTAINMENT SECTION) OF THE CENTURY OF PROGRESS EXPOSITION, CHICAGO 1933-34

My own thoughts turn to Frank Buck (1884-1950), an American adventure-seeker who won world-wide fame as a “big game hunter” and wild animal collector in the 1930s and 1940s.

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Buck had first sought adventure in South America in 1911, returning from Brazil and making a tidy profit selling exotic birds. Appointed temporary director of the San Diego zoo in 1923, he quickly grew bored and quit after only three months to resume his passion for animal collecting. To recoup his losses after the 1929 Stock Market Crash, he co-authored and published an autobiographical book with Edward Anthony in 1930, titled Bring ‘Em Back Alive.

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GIFT OF FRANCIS XAVIER LUCA & CLARA HELENA PALACIO LUCA

The book made the bestseller list and Buck published a steady stream of sequels, including Wild Cargo (1932), Fang and Claw (1935), an elementary schoolbook On Jungle Trails (1936) and Animals Are Like That (1939). Buck won instant fame starring as himself in movie versions of Bring ‘em Back Alive (1932), Wild Cargo (1934), Fang & Claw (1935), Jungle Cavalcade (1941), Jacaré (1942), Tiger Fangs (1943), and even encountered the (Bud) Abbott and (Lou) Costello comedy team in Africa Screams (1949). Disney even spoofed Frank Buck’s popularity in a Donald and Goofy cartoon “Frank Duck Brings ’em Back Alive” in 1946.

Buck also won notoriety for setting up his “Jungle Camp” (complete with “Monkey Mountain” on the Midway Boardwalks of the Chicago world’s fair (1933-1934), a brief appearance with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (1938), and another spectacle at the New York World’s Fair (1939-1940).

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Scenes from this home movie from a fair-goer includes shots of Frank Buck’s Jungle Camp in which monkeys hang out on a giant rock formation.

“Bring ‘em back alive” Buck had become such a household name in the 1930s, that a poster designed to ridicule overly-popular protests had demonstrating simians clamoring “Down with Frank Buck.”

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Frank Buck’s popularity extended even beyond the grave, when a series about his life (starring Bruce Boxleitner) aired in the early 1980s. In this comical clip of one episode, another discontented monkey threatens revenge on the animal collector.

Despite Buck’s “Bring ‘em back alive” trademark, several of his films did include staged “fights to the death” between wild beasts. While Frank Buck’s wildlife harvesting methods would raise more than a few eyebrows today, the tally of wild animals he captured and sent back alive to the world’s zoos and circuses remains impressive. The list includes more than 100,000 wild birds, 120 Asiatic and 18 African antelope, 100 gibbons, 90 pythons, 63 leopards, 60 tigers, 60 bears, 49 elephants, 40 kangaroos and wallabies, 40 wild goats and sheep, 25 giant monitor lizards, 20 tapirs, 15 crocodiles, 11 camels, 10 king cobras, 9 pigmy water buffalo, 5 Indian rhinoceroses, 5 Indonesian babirusas, 2 giraffes, 2 gaurs, and more than 500 different species of other mammals. Perhaps this is why his name and legacy are a far cry from the sullied reputations of contemporary “big game” hunters in pursuit of stuffed trophies.

I thought that a fitting end to this post would be to describe one last item in the library collection. Kubwa Simba is a children’s book written by George D. Lipscombe, illustrated by Joseph Marro, and published by the WPA New Reading Materials Program in 1941.

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Most interestingly, even in this story that predates decolonization, the decline in hunting safaris, and the rise of eco-tourism, the hero is not the “great white hunter” but a black maned lion who roams the Athi Plain between Mount Kilima Njaro and Lake Tanganyika. The book tells the tale of the biggest, bravest, and strongest lion in East Africa, Kubwa Simba, who defends his pride against Masai warriors and even vanquishes a huge black buffalo.

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Towards the story’s end, Kubwa is pursued by a “great white hunter” from New York determined to trap him and bring him back alive.

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This tale, at least, has a happy ending as Kubwa Simba uses all his brute strength to tear a hole in the enclosure and escape into the night, and into legend.

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Whenever I step into the public elevator in the museum and look up at the ornamental lions’ heads mounted there, I will think of Cecil and how much more beautiful it is to contemplate this work of art than a grotesque, stuffed trophy head.

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INDIGENOUS PEOPLES THROUGH WESTERN EYES: VISITS TO THE WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY BY SOME COLOMBIAN SCHOLARS AND A GROUP OF YOUNG AFRICAN LEADERS

•July 15, 2015 • 1 Comment

This past week, we had two sets of visitors interested in the native peoples and cultures of the American and African continents. The first set of visitors were Luz Helena Ballestas Rincón and José Jairo Vargas (professors teaching in the Escuela de Diseño Gráfico de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia). As I guided the two professors and their daughters through the galleries, Dr. Vargas was particularly impressed by a group of Art Deco commercial posters on display which had recently been donated to the collection by Avram and Jill Glazer. Where I have a tendency in my own tours to focus on the visual expression of the messages, Dr. Vargas was very much more interested in and animated by the particular techniques used in the printing processes.

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Dr. Ballestas is a specialist in Native American art, having published (and donated to our library) a book on faunal imagery and symbols in the material culture of the indigenous peoples of her native Colombia. She was very interested in a series of New Deal mural studies on display that depicted North American Indians.

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In anticipation of her library visit, I had pulled a variety of artwork drawing on the material culture of the Navajo, Pueblo, and Blackfeet Indian peoples.

 

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One of the items I had chosen is an oversized portfolio titled Where the Two Came to their Father: A Navaho War Ceremonial. Jeff King (ca. 1865-1964) was born on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Pinedale, New Mexico where he was known in Navajo as Hashkeh-yilth-e-yah. King served as an U.S. Army scout between 1891 and 1911, and rose to prominence as a respected hataałii (singer of sacred songs, or medicine man). In that latter capacity, King performed a two-day long war ritual designed to protect the souls of the Navajo youth leaving the reservation in 1941 to fight for the United States in the Second World War. Maud Oakes, an ethnologist living on the reservation at the time, was granted permission to record the ceremony and the sand paintings. King’s text and Oakes’ paintings were published as a large-format portfolio, which included commentary by the famous mythologist, Joseph Campbell (1904-1987).

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Other Navajo-inspired materials on display were several works on Navajo rug design and a series of English-Navajo language primers published by the Education Division of the U.S. Office of Indian Affairs under the direction of John Collier, Sr. During the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Administration promoted a New Deal for the Indian that recognized native self-governance and tribal sovereignty over communal lands and reservations, stimulated the domestic production of carpets, blankets and other native handicrafts, and encouraged the Navajo to retain their native tongue while simultaneously teaching them English.

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Written by Ann Clark, the Navajo primers describe the lives and seasonal responsibilities of native shepherds and include illustrations by Hoke Denetsosie.

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The guests were also interested in a book on Frijoles Canyon Pictographs which recorded the symbols in hand printed woodcuts by Gustave Baumann.

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But it was Handbook of Indian Dances, (a vibrant color block book about the Pueblo peoples published by Dorothy N. Stewart in Santa Fe, New Mexico), that really drew them in.

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The Wolfsonian-FIU library also holds numerous books, portfolio plates, and Great Northern Railway commercial calendars reproducing Blackfeet Indian portraits made by German-American artist, Winold Reiss (1886-1953).

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Later in the week, the library hosted a larger group of Sub-Saharan Africans visiting Florida International University as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

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The Wolfsonian museum collection is primarily focused on the period 1851 through 1945. Given Europe’s political, economic, and cultural dominance in the world in this era, much of what we have related to Africa is focused on military conflicts—such as the South African (or Boer) Wars—and materials documenting Italian colonial ambitions in Ethiopia and Somaliland. Much of our discussion consequently focused on propagandistic images of Africa and Africans produced in the context of colonialism. The library holds a couple of games designed to “educate” Italian children about the geography, history, and natural resources of Ethiopia, and to celebrate the conquests being carried out by their fathers.

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Other items include a set of postcards illustrated by Aurelio Bertiglia (1891-?). These postcards use images of children in colonial uniform to emphasize the supposed “humanitarian” mission of the Italian colonizers, and to imply that the conflict was as bloodless as “child’s play.”

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GIFTS OF STEVE HELLER

Many of the visitors were taken with the cover illustrations of Akbaba, a Turkish periodical that provided strong criticism of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s expansionist designs in the region.

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PROMISED GIFTS OF MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR.

Thanks to the generosity of long-time library supporter Frederic A. Sharf, the library also possess a large number of original diaries, journals, photograph albums and sketchbooks documenting the earlier colonial struggles and conflicts in South Africa.

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GIFTS OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

There are also hundreds of advertisements, brochures, and passenger ship menus in the library collection referencing travel to Africa. Not unlike the “native” themed calendar art of the Great Northern railway, much of these materials were designed to encourage European and American tourists to visit by emphasizing the “exotic” landscapes and peoples likely to be encountered on such trips.

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TWO EMPIRES, ONE PUBLISHER: TWO MONUMENTAL BOOKS IN THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU LIBRARY

•July 10, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Some few months past, The Wolfsonian-FIU’s Senior Development Director, Michael Hughes, brought a VIP visitor to the museum library just before leading a group on a tour of our World War I centennial anniversary exhibition, Myth + Machine: The First World War in Visual Culture. Austrian aficionado Devrin Weiss had asked to stop off in the library first in order to drop off a rather hefty gift: a 25 pound tome celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1908. As I unwrapped the package and we began flipping through the beautifully ornamented pages, I was immediately struck with a déjà vu-like sensation. The library had the previous day hosted another group of visitors, and still lying on the main library table was another heavy tome with strikingly similar decorative motifs. This other volume, however, was dedicated to the German Emperor, Wilhelm II and had been published in 1912–just two years before the outbreak of the First World War that indelibly sullied the Kaiser’s reputation (and ultimately brought down his dynasty and empire). As we turned the pages in unison, Mr. Weiss and I were amazed by just how closely the German book followed the patterns in the Austrian tome. As we have just completed the digitization of the Austrian work donated by Mr. Weiss, I thought I would ask Associate Librarian Nicolae Harsanyi, a specialist in Eastern European history and culture, to share with our readers a glimpse into these two Art Nouveau masterpieces. Here is his report: 

On December 1st, 1912, at the age of 49, Max Herzig succumbed to pneumonia in Vienna. Who was this awardee of the Iron Crown Order and of the Franz Joseph Order? Why is this sponsor of the Vienna Künstlerhaus and Secession important for our library collection at the Wolfsonian-FIU? The answer lies on the shelves in the back stacks of our rare book and special collections library. In our section of oversized holdings, we now have two of the master works of the publishing trade, monumental books produced at the beginning of the twentieth century in Central Europe, bearing the imprint of his name. A propos monumental books, the old line from one of Horace’s odes comes to my mind: Exegi monumentum aere perennius (I have raised a monument more permanent than bronze). Who were being celebrated with these books? The overt response appears in the dedication to the two crowned heads reigning in Germany and Austria, emperors Wilhelm II and Franz Joseph I.

Not long ago, Devrin Weiss, an enthusiastic collector of Habsburg memorabilia and keen supporter of the Wolfsonian, donated a massive elephant folio-sized volume. Published in 1908 by Max Herzig, the tome commemorates the 60th year of Franz Joseph’s reign. Bound in red cloth, the book has a central embedded panel on its front cover which displays a bold gilt stamped design of the Austrian crown.

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GIFT OF DEVRIN WEISS

Titled An Ehren und Siegen reich: Bilder au Oesterreichs Geschichte (Rich in honor and victories: pictures from the history of Austria) the book is introduced by elaborately colored plates, and is profusely illustrated with black-and-white reproductions of various moments in the history of the House of Habsburg. The decorative elements were designed by Heinrich Lefler (1863-1919), Joseph Urban (1872-1933), Joh. Jos. Tautenhayn, Ludwig Huber and Rudolf von Larisch (1856-1934).

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GIFT OF DEVRIN WEISS

A gallery of all the Habsburg monarchs until 1908 decorates the front and back paste-downs of the book.

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GIFT OF DEVRIN WEISS

The memorial book described above were similar in design to those in a similar volume which Max Herzig originally published in 1904, Deutsche Gedenkhalle (German memorial hall) celebrating the glory of Emperor Wilhelm II. The Wolfsonian library has the second edition of this tome, which was produced in 1912, also under the guidance of Max Herzig. This immense volume of German history and remembrances was illustrated with monumental full-page color illustrations by (among others) Heinrich Lefler and Joseph Urban.

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The historicizing design of the page layout as well as that of the decorations is strikingly similar to the volume about Austrian history.

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There are a few noteworthy difference as well as similarities. The border decoration used in the Deutsche Gedenkhalle uses a floral motif associated with Germany (the oak leaf) and the paste-downs are decorated with the coat-of-arms of the provinces that united to form pre-World War I Germany.

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Today the two empires celebrated in these books belong to the past, but the Art Nouveau artistry of the books produced by Max Herzig survives to this day.

LOVE KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES: A WOLFSONIAN REFLECTION ON THE SUPREME COURT RULING ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

•June 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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CINDERELLA “THE SOPHISTICATED” DANCING WITH HER PRINCE CHARMING
(MUSIC COMPOSED BY HOLLAND ROBINSON
& ILLUSTRATIONS BY HIS LIFE PARTNER, MAC HARSHBERGER)

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling yesterday which recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry anywhere in the nation, I thought that I would provide a few images from The Wolfsonian-FIU collection to confirm the notion that love knows no bounds, even if it has taken our society some time to recognize the same.

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I thought that on this occasion, I would focus on an archive in our collection of the artwork of Frank MacCoy (“Mac”) Harshberger and his partner, the musical composer, Holland Robinson. Their life-long partnership and collaboration began in the 1920s, when the “twenty-something” friends from Tacoma, Washington went abroad after the war and became part of the expatriate American artistic clique that coalesced in “gay Paris.”

Two years of pre-med studies in the States had been enough to convince Mac that his true interest did not reside in medicine but in the fine arts, and he convinced his father to arrange for him to train in Paris in the atelier of Maurice Denis. In Paris, Mac embraced the new Art Deco aesthetics in his own work; there he was also reunited with his sister and muse, Kay—(who had recently married Jean de Landry)—and two other friends from his home town, Holland Robinson and Nina Payne.

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Holland had a real talent for music, and had been earning a living in Tacoma playing piano to accompany the silent films being shown in a local cinema. There he made the acquaintance of Nina, who came to the same theatre as part of a traveling vaudeville company. Learning that his best friend, Mac was off to Paris, Holland also made the decision to uproot and move to Paris and to devote himself to the serious study of music composition. There he absorbed the new harmonies of Satie and Debussy and combined them with American lyricism and Jazz. Nina also traveled to Paris and as a dancer became a star at the Folies Bergère.

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During their sojourn in Europe, the four friends became inseparable bon vivants enjoying the artistic and social life.

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WATERCOLOR OF JEAN AND KAY, HOLLAND AND MAC IN GENEVA, FROM HARSHBERGER’S MANUSCRIPT, UNE MEMOIRE D’UNE VISITE (1925)

In Paris, the aspiring artists and life partners collaborated on projects in which Holland composed music and Mac provided illustrations for the sheet music covers.

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In 1926, Mac and Holland moved back to the States, opening a grand studio in New York. There they launched Robinson-Harshberger Productions, publishing graphic art, limited edition books, and illustrated sheet music.

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Kay and Nina later returned to the States, also settling down in New York, where Kay provided lyrics for some of Mac and Holland’s musical and artistic publications.

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The prolific and happy partnership of Mac and Holland continued to thrive in the mid-to-late twenties.

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The 1929 Stock Market crash brought an end to the “roaring twenties” and ushered in a decade of economic depression that also took its toll on the Robinson-Harshberger partnership. While societal norms and the customs of those times did not allow Mac and Holland to marry, neither was their relationship a hidden or secret thing. Mac and Holland were partners in every sense of the word, and their collaboration has left us musically and artistically richer as a result.

SOMEWHERE I’LL FIND YOU, OR, PUBLISHERS’ DECORATIVE BINDINGS ON THE PHILIPPINES FROM THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU LIBRARY

•June 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Today’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn. Ms. Pienn has been working to catalog and digitize the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at The Wolfsonian-FIU. This collection is a treasure trove of rare books and often unique diaries, journals, and photograph albums documenting colonial enterprises in the Middle East and Africa, and military conflicts in the Far East. With the Philippines and China Sea controversies in the news of late, Rochelle has provided us with some materials from this region.

China’s recent creation of military outposts not far from the Philippines prompted the United States and Japan to protectively conduct naval maneuvers nearby. Ironically, almost seventy-five years ago, the Japanese occupied the Philippines in a hostile siege during the Second World War. In the vault of cinematic classics, the romantic film, Somewhere I’ll Find You, reunites its starring couple in Manila right as the Unites States is called to war.

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COPYRIGHT MGM STUDIOS

The movie’s leading man, the legendary Clark Gable, began filming right after his third wife, Carole Lombard, died in a plane crash. Upon its completion, Gable enlisted in the Army to fight against the Axis.

Looking even further back in history reveals a time when the United States and the Philippines were at war. Gifted to the U.S. by Spain after the Spanish-American War, the Philippines rumbled with unrest. Filipino natives became unwilling subjects of our republic and began a revolution. The Jean S. and Frederic Sharf Collection at the Wolfsonian-FIU library contains period rare books from the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), documenting this critical episode in the region.

Karl Irving Faust wrote Campaigning in the Philippines in 1899. His family’s American military roots stretched as far back as the Patriot War of 1837 on the U.S.-Canadian border. The cover is embellished with gilt-stamped decorations, including the emblem of the Second Oregon Infantry of San Francisco. The volunteer regiment secured Manila before fighting the Filipinos.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

A year later, Charles R. Mabey, Sergeant of Light Battery A Utah Volunteer Artillery, wrote The Utah Batteries: a History. The red cloth cover is stamped with a crude cutout illustration of an Army volunteer. Passages contain unapologetic racial slurs.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Stephen Bonsal’s book of fiction, published in 1900, masquerades as an actual collection of military correspondence. The officers enter the Philippines feeling overconfident, only to find a violent rebellion that threatens to overpower them. The golden horseshoe pictured on the cover is a visual representation of a literary metaphor, referring back to the Spotwood Tramontane Expedition in the early 1700s. Apparently the shiny souvenirs were promised to those who trekked through the Blue Ridge Mountains with then-governor Spotwood to signify their long and arduous journeys on horseback.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Hancock’s 1900 adventure novel traces the exploits of his fictional hero, Dick Carlson, pictured on the cover with his Filipino captors.

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A similar theme is explored in the 1906 imprint, Captured: the Story of Sandy Ray. The khaki-colored cover and the paste-down illustration of the story’s hero emphasize the military basis of the story. However, this work of fiction contains a romantic element as well, which is perhaps why the protagonist appears more portrait-ready than trenches-ready.

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This 1898 volume provides a more panoramic perspective of the Philippines from the point of view of a female journalist. Margherita Arlina Hamm may have been the first American war correspondent. She traveled extensively, covered the Spanish-American War, and wrote prolifically. This book is illustrated plentifully with photographs, and contains Hamm’s observations of race, industry, architecture, and social customs in the country.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Finally, Joseph Earle Stevens provides this somewhat precious account of living in post-war Manila. While he seems to enjoy the novelty of his surroundings, Stevens expresses polite impatience and distaste with the general lack of sophistication of his Philippine lifestyle. Before page 50, he employs an entire Filipino family to clean and choose his daily outfits.

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Explore The Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at the Wolfsonian-FIU library for other fascinating tomes on the Philippines.

 

 

 
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