Oui, Je Parle Français! FIU French Language Students Encounter Museum Founder Micky Wolfson

•November 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This past Saturday, Modern Languages Professor Maria Antonieta Garcia brought a large group of FIU students and Francophiles to The Wolfsonian for a presentation of French-language materials in the library, and a brief tour of the galleries. Professor Garcia, who also serves as advisor for FIU’s French club, Le Cercle Français, has organized frequent visits to the museum by her students and members of the club.

For this particular visit, Professor Garcia asked us to lay out some rare materials dealing with the topic of France’s overseas possessions and colonies, and items documenting the dark history of the German occupation of France during the Second World War, both subjects for which The Wolfsonian has superb holdings.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Our founder, Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson, Jr., when he is not traveling the world in search of new items to add to our collection, has his home base in Paris. In the last few years, our French language materials have grown considerably.

In the foyer of the library, the students had the chance to see two French artifacts on display in Selling the Golden Leaf, a library installation focusing on tobacco advertising. One item is a viewbook published as a souvenir for the Exposition Coloniale International in Paris, 1931, by the tobacco industry.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The other piece on display is a calendar printed during the Second World War depicting a French woman sharing cigarettes with North African men wearing fezes, thus combining the colonial and world war interests of the visitors.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

The group had the opportunity to see how France represented its colonial possessions at the Paris exhibition of 1900, the Exposition coloniale de Marseille in 1922, and the 1931 Exposition Coloniale International.

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

Although the Paris 1900 exposition is largely remembered for its promotion of the popular Art Nouveau style in art and architecture, it also included various exhibitions of French colonies, particularly some of those of Sub-Saharan Africa. Many of the colonial exhibits included samples of products and raw materials, and were staffed by “native” peoples dressed in traditional attire and demonstrating local handicrafts. In reality, the people brought over to populate these “human zoos” were nearly all “assimilated” persons from the colonies. Some were paid to act and behave as “savages” and others to demonstrate the civility they had learned from their humanitarian-minded colonizers. France’s overseas possessions were also represented by pavilions inspired by the vernacular traditions of the colonies, but designed by important and Modernist-minded French architects.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Exposition nationale coloniale de Marseille in 1922 was actually the fifth colonial exhibition organized in France. Postcards and books published as souvenirs for the exhibition show the importance France attributed to its overseas possession and colonial commodities.

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

Images from one souvenir book demonstrate how native huts and buildings were juxtaposed to modern European buildings in order to reinforce distinctions between “primitive” peoples and their supposedly “cultured” and technologically sophisticated European colonizers.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

Exhibition catalogs and portfolios from the Exposition coloniale internationale held in Paris in 1931 also emphasized France’s greatness as a world empire by picturing peoples of all races under her dominion.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

The fair organizers even erected a museum celebrating the French Empire, designed by Albert Laprade and Léon Jaussely, and covered in bas relief designed by Alfred Janniot to represent the exotic peoples and products of the French empire.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

Visited by 33 million during the six months of the exposition, the Musée Permanent des Colonies still remains, though it has since been renamed the Palais de la Porte Dorée.

Of interest to my French visitors this Saturday was a unique portfolio of watercolor renderings made before the opening of the exposition in 1931. The images show elegantly dressed Parisians strolling through the colonial exhibition to view, if not interact with, the exotic peoples brought to the fair.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

In one plate, France’s technological superiority is implied by an aerial view, designed to remind the viewer that even the highest minaret is dwarfed by the accomplishments of France’s fleet of airplanes.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

Another plate not-so-subtly emphasizes France’s “civilizing” mission by depicting a European woman in a pith helmet teaching Africans gathered in a circle around her.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

Another portfolio with photographic reproductions uses a double-exposure to equate a long-necked native beauty with a tropical palm tree.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

The Wolfsonian holds a strong collection of material documenting the Vichy government established in France under the German occupation during the Second World War. These include propaganda books designed to indoctrinate children in the values of the Fascist-allied regime even as they taught them their ABCs.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Many of these books include photographic or illustrative renderings of the “Marechal,” Philippe Pétain. A hero of the First World War, Petain was installed as a figurehead of the collaborationist government after France surrendered to the Germans. As was typical of the times, images show children looking up to their “grandfatherly” leader with love and adoration.

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

After deconstructing and critically analyzing the materials laid out in the library, I conducted the group in a tour of the galleries where we most fortunately encountered Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. in the flesh! Several students asked Mr. Wolfson some questions, (in French, of course), and our founder responded in kind.

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As the class was next bound for the Holocaust Memorial, we briefly stopped first on the sixth floor to introduce them to our exhibition of the work of the Jewish graphic designer, Julius Klinger.

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A successful and prominent commercial artist working in the Modernist style, Klinger’s career was cut short by the German annexation of his Austrian homeland in 1938. Klinger was deprived first of his livelihood, and ultimately of his life, as he and his wife were transported to and murdered in one of the Nazi death camps.

The G.I. and Democracy

•November 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

In commemoration of the Veterans Day holiday, today’s post will focus on the ideological battle between the forces of interventionism and isolationism in the post-First World War period, and efforts to create an educated American citizen-soldier during the Second World War.

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After the experience of the First World War, many influential politicians and opinion-shapers expressed skepticism over the benefits of American military intervention abroad. Although President Woodrow Wilson had been a chief instigator in the development of the League of Nations, isolationist Republicans had opposed American participation, claiming that membership might threaten national sovereignty and lock the United States into actions dictated by that body.

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Revelations concerning wartime propaganda campaigns and “fake news” atrocity stories from occupied Belgium created an atmosphere of skepticism in post-war America. Hollywood films dealing with the Great War in the 1930s, including All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Heroes for Sale (1933), and others, caused many Americans to question whether the war had actually made the world safe for democracy.

The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry, (meeting between 1934 and 1936 and chaired by Republican Senator Gerald Nye), added to American cynicism towards those banking interests and arms manufacturers—or “merchants of death”—who were blamed for promoting and profiting from U.S. military intervention in the First World War.

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The publication in 1935 of War Is a Racket by Marine Corps Major General Smedley D. Butler lent credence to such cautionary advocates of American isolationism, and a spate of Neutrality Act legislation designed to keep America out of other nations’ conflicts. Alarmed by the Fascist, Nazi, and Japanese military aggression, during his second and third terms in office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt actively pushed back against isolationist and anti-interventionist sentiment.

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Downplaying domestic issues in his 1940 presidential campaign, Roosevelt advocated making America the “Arsenal of Democracy,” arguing that the Neutrality Acts actually aided and abetted Axis aggression and endangered American lives by preventing the nation from helping other democratic nations in their fight against fascism and militarism. Despite the vocal opposition of The America First Committee—(an anti-war pressure group created on September 4, 1940 and boasting of 800,000 dues-paying members at its height)—President Roosevelt managed to steer his Lend-Lease bill (providing aid to Britain and China) through Congress in March, 1941.

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The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 silenced virtually all of Roosevelt’s anti-interventionist critics, U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom and appeasement advocate, Joseph Kennedy. Gerald Nye, Charles Lindbergh, and other prominent members of the America First Committee also fell silent as the group disbanded three days after the attack. With America once again at war, the President was determined that the G.I.s who enlisted, or were drafted, into the conflict knew what they were fighting for. Roosevelt was convinced that democracy depended on an educated and informed citizenry. While the Nazi and Fascist regimes depended on propaganda to forge and motivate armies of unquestioning automatons, American democracy required that the U.S. Armed Forces be informed and persuaded rather than “tricked” into taking up arms.

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Towards that end, the U.S. War Department funded documentary films by such acclaimed Hollywood directors as Frank Capra and John Ford, to explain “Why We Fight,” and why “The Negro Soldier” had a stake in the war’s outcome.

Even as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act (the “G.I. Bill”) into law in 1944, pledging veterans unemployment compensation, vocational training, college education, and even federally-subsidized home mortgage or business loans on their return to civilian life, the War Department began publishing a series of educational pamphlets. Written by members of the American Historical Association, these pamphlets were designed to provoke discussion among the G.I.s on a wide variety of topics related to the war and the post-war world America aimed to create. Some titles include: “The Balkans,” “Our Russian ally,” “Australia: our neighbor “down under,” “What lies ahead for the Philippines?,” “Can war marriages be made to work?,” “Will the French Republic live again?,” “What will your town be like?,” “Will there be work for all?,” “Can we prevent future wars?,” and “What should be done with war criminals?”

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Rather than arguing a particular point of view, the pamphlets were designed to “provide factual information and balanced arguments as a basis for discussion of all sides of the question.” Provided to “information-education officers” and operators of Armed Forces Radio Service outlets, the pamphlets were intended to encourage discussion among the G.I.s rather than stifle them or overawe them with foregone conclusions. The pamphlets included color-illustrated covers, and often included photographic, cartoon, and pictorial illustrations. One pamphlet, titled “What is propaganda?,” and featuring Donald Duck on its cover, tried to explain the difference between persuasion and propaganda in order to “inoculate our citizens against the effects desired by the enemies of democracy.”

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Another pamphlet reflected on FDR’s “Good Neighbor” foreign policy initiatives, and supplied discussion leaders with facts, possible talking points, and even suggestions for further reading on the subject matter.

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Yet another pamphlet looked to the future, and provided G.I.s with ideas to consider when deciding “Shall I build a house after the war?”

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Loco for the Locomobile

•November 2, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, T. M. Cleland Archive, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

On this day in 1902, the Locomobile Company—named from a combination of “locomotive” and “automobile”—delivered its first gasoline-powered vehicle to a customer in New York City. Founded in 1899, the Locomobile Company of America had made its reputation building steam-boiler powered vehicles. Recognizing that the future lay in the internal-combustion engine, in 1902 the company hired the young engineer and racecar driver Andrew Riker with the aim of creating a new line of gasoline-driven vehicles.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

Thus was the Locomobile’s Model C born—a steel and bronze framed, four cylinder, 12-horsepower, gasoline-fueled vehicle. Priced at $4,000, the Locomobile was designed for wealthy customers.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, T. M. Cleland Archive, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Unlike Henry Ford’s standardized “Model T” for the masses (which he famously boasted could be had in any color, as long as that color was black), the gas-powered Locomobiles built in the 1910s and 1920s were crafted in a wide variety of styles and colors.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, T. M. Cleland Archive, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Acquired by Durant Motors in 1922, the Locomobile brand continued to capture the high-end automobile market and was advertised as the “Best Built Car in America.” The luxurious Locomobile touring cars, limousines, sedans, roadsters, coupes, and convertibles were very popular with and lauded by their wealthy clientele.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, T. M. Cleland Archive, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

While Ford’s assembly-production churned out cars at one-thirtieth of the price of the Locomobile Model 48, the company prospered building vehicles for an elite niche market—that is, until the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which bankrupted the business.

Happy Alaska Day!

•October 18, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Although it is perhaps difficult to imagine today, in 1867, when President Andrew Johnson’s Secretary of State, William Henry Steward, negotiated a sale of Russia’s Alaska territory, the American press and public originally derided the deal as “Seward’s Folly” and mockingly referred to the territory as “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden.”

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of ZIGGURAT collection of Dennis Wilhelm and Michael Kinerk

Although the $7.2 million purchase transferred a territory twice the size of the state of Texas to the United States—(586,412 square miles, at a cost of less than two cents and acre)—the public thought little of the frozen tundra. Some of the public disdain for the deal might have also stemmed from its association with the wildly unpopular President Johnson, who would be impeached by Congress the following year. Congress, at least, recognized it as a bargain, and ratified the Alaska deal, and marked the anniversary of the formal transfer of territory on October 18 with Alaska Day.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Less than three decades after the United States took possession of the territory, a gold strike sparked a stampede of “get-rich quick” prospectors into the region and the American public reconsidered their skepticism regarding the value of their colossal holdings in the Artic North.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

A world’s fair held in Seattle, Washington in 1909, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, touted the territory’s potential as a source of seafood, lumber, oil, furs and pelts, and other natural resources.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

As was typical of international and colonial expositions of this era, The A-Y-P Exposition also had a midway or “pay streak attractions” section featuring “villages” of indigenous peoples, in this instance Igorrote natives of the Philippines and “Eskimos” from Alaska.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

A decade or so later, author, naturalist, and artist, Rockwell Kent put the territory back into American consciousness with his illustrated booklet, Alaska drawings (1919) and travelogue novel, Wilderness, published in 1920.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

During the Great Depression, artists finding employment under Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration Federal Art Projects, took inspiration from, (and showed slightly more sensitivity towards), Alaska’s native peoples and their culture.

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Two pastel sketches of totems for posters about Alaska, by WPA artist Jerome Roth

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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Oil painting for the Alaska Art Project by Carl R. Saxild,
The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Wolfsonian also holds a four panel mural study created by Richard Haines in 1941 for a competition to decorate the walls of the U.S. Court House in Anchorage, which depicts Inuit fur-traders and American pioneers and fishermen tapping Alaska’s natural resources.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Return of the Natives

•October 12, 2017 • 1 Comment

Earlier this week, Wolfsonian art handlers finished dismantling the library installation America the Beautiful: American Indians and the Promotion of National Parks, and began to put up Selling the Golden Leaf: Exoticism in Tobacco Advertising.

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The former installation—which I had assembled from portfolio plates, puzzles, calendars, advertising brochures, guidebooks, and postcards—examined the ways in which images of Native American peoples were used to promote the National Parks.

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Visit by Third Grade students from the Temple Beth Am Day School

Part of the installation focused on the Great Northern Railway Company’s reproduction of Blackfeet Indian portraits by German-American artist Winold Reiss, to promote travel to Glacier National Park.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

It also looked at the Santa Fe Railway’s cultural appropriation of American Indian symbols and imagery to encourage travel to the Grand Canyon.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchased with funds provided by the Mitchell Wolfson, Sr. Foundation

 Finally, the installation also looked at how Seminole Indians were used to attract tourists to Florida’s Everglades National Park in the automotive age.

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

Even as this installation has come down, new images of native peoples have replaced them on the walls and in the display cases. This new installation—put together by associate librarian Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi—also examines how “exotic” peoples and colonial motifs were used by graphic artists such as Eric Simon and others to sell tobacco products. Here is his report:

Commodity-type products, such as beer, shampoo, gasoline, cigarettes, fast food, soft drinks, detergent, ice cream, and toothpaste, rely heavily on the communicative powers of their advertising and brand names. Images evoking the colonization of the Americas— specifically how the Europeans learned about tobacco and its use from the native populations—frequently occur among the visual strategies employed to promote tobacco products.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. loan

The development of color lithography in the late 1870s allowed companies to create attractive images to better present their products. The artist for the Exposition cigar box inside label has depicted an allegorical representation of the discovery voyage of Christopher Columbus to America. This label was produced by Schlegel Litho for cigars sold at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The official seal of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition contains symbols evoking Virginia’s colonial and independent pasts—the bust of Pocahontas encircled by a wreath of corn and tobacco, and the two crops white settlers adopted from the indigenous populations of the New World.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca

Long before Detroit became renowned for the production of automobiles, the city had earned a solid reputation for manufacturing cigars and chewing tobacco. Scotten Dillon was a major manufacturer of plug, chewing, and non-cigarette smoking tobacco in Detroit, Michigan between 1852 and 1969. By the 1890s, the firm employed 1,200 workers. A label for fine cut tobacco produced by this company features a Native American man holding in his left hand a small bundle of tobacco leaves while invoking a supernatural power with this outstretched right hand. The Woodland Indian tribes— which included the Ojibwa people—believed that tobacco was the unifying thread of communication between humans and the spiritual powers. When praying to the Creator a native held tobacco in the left hand because it is the hand closest to the heart.

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

Another cigar box inside label features a famous Sioux chief, Red Cloud (1822–1909). Born into the Bad Face band of the Oglala Sioux in the Nebraska Territory, Red Cloud became chief of the Oglala Sioux in 1860. For nine years he led his warriors in campaigns the prevented the U.S. Army from opening up the Bozeman Trail to the Montana goldfields. The Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed by Red Cloud in 1869 after the Army garrisons were withdrawn and their forts burned. He then laid down his arms and lived at the Red Cloud Agency in Nebraska, becoming an advocate of peace who often traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with political leaders and to speak to white audiences. He was deposed as chief of the Oglala in 1881. The Red Cloud brand goes back to 1874 and the then frontier town of Red Cloud, Nebraska, where Red Cloud Stogies were manufactured continuously until a fire destroyed the operation in 1922.

XC2017.08.1.1_000   The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

Cruwell Tabak, a German tobacco company founded in 1705 and still existing today, also emphasized the ceremonial importance of tobacco in this image of a tribal chief with a pipe used on an advertising card from the 1930s. American Indians used tobacco to seal peace treaties between tribes and agreements between individuals. The chief kept a special pipe with a long decorated stem called a peace pipe. The stem could be held between quarreling individuals until they reached an accord—smoking together signified that they had reached an agreement or that a bargain had been sealed.

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 The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Born in Germany, Eric Simon (1892–1978) designed advertisements for various German tobacco companies between World War I and World War II. In 1933, he was invited to London to work for Sir William Crawford; as the Nazis took power in Germany, Simon, whose wife was Jewish, decided to remain in England, brought over his family, and ultimately moved to the United States in 1940. Native Americans smoking pipes were a recurrent theme of his designs.

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  The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The installation Selling the Golden Leaf opens today and will be on view through April 1, 2018.

 

Meet the Fokkers: KLM Founded This Day in History

•October 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

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Wolfsonian Curator Silvia Barisione providing museum staff with a preview tour of KLM materials exhibited in Modern Dutch Design, November 18, 2016June 11, 2017

On this date in 1919, KLM was formally founded, making the company the oldest airline still operating under its original name. As the Netherlands had remained neutral during the First World War, Dutch aeronautics had not developed at the pace that it had among the belligerent nations. To revive Dutch interest and popularize the nation’s role in post-war commercial air travel, aviator and lieutenant Albert Plesman helped organize the Eerste Luchtverkeer Tentoonstelling Amsterdam (ELTA, or the “First Aviation Exhibition Amsterdam”) in the summer of 1919, inviting Great Britain, France, and Italy “to strut their stuff.” The Dutch participants flew in former German Fokker aircraft.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The airshow and races proved so popular, that when eight Dutch businessmen organized an airline company in the aftermath of the exhibition, they named Plesman as the new firm’s administrative director. Queen Wilhelmina lent her support to the venture by bestowing the Koninklijke (“Royal”) predicate to the Luchtvaart Maatschappij (“Airline Company”), which became known by the abbreviated acronym, KLM.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The company’s first flight took place nearly a year later, when Jerry Shaw piloted a leased British four-seat biplane from London to Amsterdam. Flights were scheduled only during fair weather, and were suspended during the 1920 winter season, after which, the company began using their own pilots and Fokker aircraft.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

While royal Dutch mail ships had dominated the sea route from Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies, KLM launched its first intercontinental flight to the colonies in the Far East in October 1924 with a single-wing Fokker Trimotor manufactured in the Netherlands.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

By September 1929, KLM booked regularly scheduled flights between Amsterdam and Batavia (Jakarta) and Java. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, the Amsterdam-Batavia route held the record as the longest-distance scheduled air service in the world.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

New Deal Ephemera

•October 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

While the Caribbean islands and West Coast of Florida bore the brunt of Hurricane Irma’s impact, the storm caused comparatively minor inconveniences here at The Wolfsonian. The threat of the storm initially forced the postponement of a visit by a Junior Seminar History class of Florida International University students and also prompted the cancellation of a meeting of the Ephemera Society of America at our museum. A couple of weeks later, however, three intrepid Ephemera Society members ignored the post-storm news hysteria and came down for a visit and to sit in on my own rescheduled FIU class meeting to review, deconstruct, and critically analyze a display of some of the library’s Great Depression and New Deal-era ephemera.

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Photographed by Lynton Gardiner

Diane de Blois, who serves as the editor of the Ephemera Society journal, arrived at the museum with her husband and business partner, Robert Dalton Harris. The couple are co-proprietors of the amazing West Sand Lake, New York-based American ephemera store, aGatherin’. Another Ephemera Society member, Kara Accettola of Little Sages Books, arrived at the museum to observe how The Wolfsonian uses art and ephemeral artifacts to augment university students’ understanding of the cultural history of America during the Great Depression.

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Photographed by Lynton Gardiner

The twenty undergraduate students taking my Junior Seminar have been divided up into groups, with each group making weekly oral reports on five types of primary sources: literary;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchased with funds donated by Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.

visual;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

motion picture;

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

museum objects and artifacts;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchased with contributions from Sam Herzberg, Leonard Lauder, Juliet Possati, Marco Possati, Mary Vuglen, and the Wolfson Family Foundation/Louis Wolfson, III

and music and sound recordings.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The meeting at The Wolfsonian introduced the students to VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies), image deconstruction, and critical analysis of historical artifacts.

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Photographed by Lynton Gardiner

The students and visitors had the opportunity to examine a wide variety of ephemeral items, including: rare books, periodicals, pamphlets, portfolio plates, campaign stickers, advertisements, display cards, fans, pennants, sheet music covers, broadsides, calendars, mimeographed bulletins, posters, song books, and sound recordings.

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Photographed by Lynton Gardiner

Collectively the class analyzed the iconography created to promote and critique President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration (NRA). The students noted the patriotic colors used for display cards, and we talked about the significance of the use of a Native American “Thunderbird” with lightning bolts and a cogwheel in its talons to symbolize the Administration’s aim of revivifying the nation’s depression-dormant industry.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The students noted how critics on the left caricatured the NRA symbol, with the Socialists converting it into a Capitalist eagle with industry and the nation’s hapless workers in its clutches.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Communists also lampooned the NRA symbol on the cover of Labor Defender, using photomontage images of starving and striking workers within the hollow outline of the eagle and superimposing a swastika over the same to imply that the program was fascist.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

Critics from the right also parodied the program, celebrating its demise when the conservative justices of the Supreme Court ruled the NRA unconstitutional.

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

The students had the opportunity to view ephemeral items promoting the entire alphabet soup of New Deal programs. These included Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) yearbooks, handbooks, badges, and even mimeographed newsletters produced by the young enrollees themselves.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

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

Much of the brochures, pamphlets, and booklets produced by the Administration to document the economic problems of the Depression and to tout the effectiveness of FDR’s New Deal solutions focused on words and images of jobs and work.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Christopher DeNoon Collection for the Study of New Deal Culture

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Christopher DeNoon Collection for the Study of New Deal Culture

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

Communist detractors devoted considerable effort and propaganda to recruiting African-Americans to their cause, focusing on racism, Southern chain gangs, lynchings, the plight of the Scottsboro Boys, the inequities of sharecropping, and the fact that the percentage of unemployed blacks was double the rate of their white counterparts.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Roosevelt Administration made successful overtures to African-Americans, wooing and winning over many black Republicans to the Democratic Party by the 1936 presidential election with federal relief and work programs that promised the community equal pay and fair employment. The First Lady, Eleanor, was also recognized as an outspoken and tireless champion of civil rights.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Source unknown

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

While many of the New Deal programs did much to alleviate the suffering brought on by the Great Depression, it was the outbreak of the Second World War that actually brought America back to full employment. With millions of men shipping off to the European and Pacific front lines, the need for workers to fill war-production assembly required campaigns to bring six million women into the workforce.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Martijn Le Coultre

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Leonard A. Lauder