A NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, OR, A STUDENT RECEPTION WITH WOLFSONIAN-FIU RARE BOOK LIBRARIANS

•April 8, 2015 • 1 Comment

Isabel Brador, a Museum Studies intern who has been cheerfully and enthusiastically working away in our Rare Book and Special Collections Library this semester, organized a reception and after-hours visit for her professor and fellow students this past Thursday. We are always delighted to have the opportunity to share a sampling of our library holdings with our university colleagues. Sharf Librarian Rochelle Pienn took the lead on preparing for the group. Here is her report:

You might have seen Ben Stiller’s family comedy hit, wherein a night guard at the New York Museum of Natural History discovers that the exhibits come to life after the renowned building closes.

Night at the Museum

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM. COPYRIGHT 2006 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX. A SHAWN LEVY FILM.

Did you know that the movie was based on a children’s book by Milan Trenc?

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COPYRIGHT 1993 BY MILAN TRENC. PUBLISHED BY BARRON’S EDUCATIONAL SERIES.

Florida International University Museum Studies students and their professor, Dr. Annette Fromm, were invited to a special almost-end-of-the-semester spring reception at the Wolfsonian-FIU Library to meet and greet the rare book librarians, and to see how special collections books themselves are living objects d’art.

After a relaxing interlude in the Wolfsonian-FIU café for some evening refreshments, Chief Librarian Frank Luca, Associate Librarian Nicolae Harsanyi, and myself, the Sharf Associate Librarian, led our select group upstairs for an exclusive presentation.

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Not only did he demonstrate the beauty of intricately illustrated tomes, but Dr. Luca also spoke about the historical context of individual books’ designs.

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This imposing volume on the 1935 (Second) Italo-Ethiopian War used the ancient Roman symbol of the fasces, an axe protruding from a wooden base, as a way to glorify Mussolini’s Fascist regime.

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This magnificent example of bookbinding encloses a 1903 Amsterdam imprint of Dutch artist Jacob Maris’s work. The Art Nouveau design by C. A. Lion Cachet is embellished with gilded ink.

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Dr. Harsanyi discussed the glorification of German royalty as it pertained to this silver-stamped 1913 imprint from Berlin, aptly titled German Memorial Hall.

In spite of what was a less-than-illustrious reign, this richly decorated history made much of the last German Kaiser, Wilhelm II.

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Dr. Harsanyi cast minimal illumination on one of the Wolfsonian-FIU Library’s most mysterious treasures. This exquisitely hand-illustrated, unique artifact features gilded vignettes of Indonesia during the time of the Dutch colonization. The book is written in Kawi and was produced in Semarang, Central Java, in 1894.

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Next, I introduced our guests to rare and one-of-a-kind materials from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection.

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Japanese artistic prodigy Wakana Utigawa provided the illustrations for this British novel by Fannie Caldwell. The love story was the number one best seller in America in 1907, instigating popular sympathy with Japan following the Russo-Japanese War.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Utigawa’s later stay at New York City’s Astor Hotel was enthusiastically reported on by the New York Times on May 12, 1913. They quoted her less-than-flattering description of the Western artists’ attempt at painting Japanese people, where she quips:

“The Japanese men and women painted by Western artists look very funny to us. You can never find such queer-looking creatures in Japan … The difference between European and Japanese eyes is too much exaggerated. If I were a Western artist I might try to paint the Japanese people, but I certainly would not care to exhibit the paintings.”

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Using stereotypical colors and typefaces that Westerners associated with Asian themes were also common techniques of publishers at the time. For example, this 1903 British imprint on the Boxer Rebellion has a yellow decorative binding and bamboo, vertical titles on the front cover to symbolize China.

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XC2010.08.1.335_136a[1] GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

These charming children’s books of Japanese fairy tales are constructed of soft, double-leaf muslin pages hand bound in red string, with wood-block illustrations in vivid colors on their front covers.

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The archive of Sergeant Edwin Taylor contains an eclectic collection of individual pieces. The items reverberate with the voice of man in the midst of active duty. A handwritten diary, a personal knapsack Bible, an inscribed multi-purpose knife and a Certificate of Freedom all belonged to him—artifacts of his stint in the City of London Imperial Volunteers’ Army of Great Britain during the South African (Boer) War in 1900.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

While the museum studies students weren’t chased around by any ghosts of long-gone soldiers or runaway dinosaur skeletons, they did escape their night at the museum with an alluring insight into the Wolfsonian-FIU Library.

HE/SHE GOES TO WAR: TWO SILENT WWI MOVIES CLASSICS AT THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU MUSEUM

•March 31, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Last Friday evening I had the privilege to introduce a silent film double-feature in the auditorium of the Wolfsonian-FIU museum, with Yankee Doodle in Berlin (1919) and She Goes to War (1929). Although both films were set during the First World War, the films treated that subject matter in very different ways. Yankee Doodle in Berlin was released just one year after hostilities ceased, and its comedic tone provided war-weary audiences with a catharsis and release from the tensions of war.

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She Goes to War, on the other hand, was released a full decade later and provided a serious reflection on the horrors of trench warfare at a time when Americans had grown cynical about their participation in the Great War. Although very different in these respects, the two films did share another theme and focus: each of the plots revolved around a central character transgressing the gender norms during wartime.

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Produced by Mack Sennett, Yankee Doodle in Berlin starred Bothwell Browne, a famous European female impersonator.

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Bothwell plays the heroic lead role of Captain Bob White, an aviator who lands behind enemy lines and disguises himself as a woman into order to infiltrate and spy on Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Crown Prince, and other German military leaders. In that disguise, Captain Bob performs a solo dance before the German High Command in a costume and style reminiscent of the “Orientalist” performances of the real life spy, “Mata Hari.”

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To understand the popularity of this gender-bending satire, it is necessary to return to pre-war Germany and the infamous Eulenburg affair (1907-1909)—Germany’s version of the notorious Oscar Wilde trial. In the first decade of the twentieth century, approximately 20 German military officers were convicted by courts-martial of engaging in homosexual activities; 6 committed suicide under pressure of blackmail. Further scandal followed in 1907 when the Kaiser’s chancellor and close confidant, the Prince of Eulenburg-Hertefeld was accused in several court martial and civil trials of engaging in homosexual liaisons with General Kuno Graf von Moltke and other members of the Kaiser’s inner circle.

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In 1907, it had also came out that at Wilhelm’s vacation estate in the Black Forest, one of the Kaiser’s male guests, the Military Secretariat Dietrich von Hülsen-Haeseler, had died of a heart attack after entertaining the guests with a solo dance dressed in a woman’s ballet tutu. Naturally, scenes from Yankee Doodle in which the hero-spy performs a cross-dressing dance to entertain the Kaiser’s military high command would have reminded audiences of the earlier scandals and cast doubt on the enemy leadership’s proclivities and morals.

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In fact, in the November 1907 issue of the German satirical magazine, Ulk, the publishers included a biting satire of their own at the height of the scandal with an illustration of the unhappy royal couple. Captions had the “wife” (German Empress Auguste Viktoria) saying: “I wish you could be a man,” and the dejected “husband” (Kaiser Wilhelm) replying: “Yes, I wish you could be one too!”

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In fact, Yankee Doodle in Berlin was one of two anti-German propaganda films under production in America during the war that starred famous transvestites. The other film, Over the Rhine starred the American female impersonator, Julian Eltin, (and also introduced Rudy Valentino).

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 The project was shelved by the cessation of hostilities in 1918, although it was recut, edited, and released in 1920 under the title The Adventuress, and again in 1922 as The Isle of Love.

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During the war, propagandists also took aim at the German Crown Prince who had a reputation as a ladies’ man and womanizer. One item in the Wolfsonian library collection caricatures “The Kronprinz on the war-path” by depicting him as a “peeping Tom” who is unwittingly ogling his swinish father’s derriere!

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 GIFT OF FRANCIS X. LUCA & CLARA HELENA PALACIO LUCA

Where Yankee Doodle in Berlin was intended as war (or postwar) propaganda using a man dressing as a woman to elicit laughs at the expense of the enemy leaders, She Goes to War had a female lead disguising herself as a soldier and witnessing the horrors of the Great War. While recruiting posters printed during the war did depict women in sailor suits and naval uniforms, these were generally designed to encourage (or shame) men to sign up and take on their manly duties.

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1917 U.S. NAVY RECRUITING POSTERS BY HOWARD CHANDLER

COURTESY OF THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

While thousands of women did don uniforms and play an important part in winning the war, they overwhelmingly did so as volunteer nurses and ambulance drivers.

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 GIFT OF FRANCIS X. LUCA & CLARA HELENA PALACIO LUCA

Before the war, the vast majority of working women were restricted to domestic duties (either as housewives or servants) while some found employment in textile factories. As millions of men went off to war, however, women were encouraged to enlist as Red Cross nurses, or to work in essential war-related industries.

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GIFT OF PAMELA K. HARER

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GIFT OF FRANCIS X. LUCA & CLARA HELENA PALACIO LUCA

Women nurses and ambulance drivers in Britain’s Volunteer Aid Detachment (or VAD) were not allowed to serve at the front lines until after 1915. The 2,800 women enrolling in the Royal Canadian Army’s Medical Corps, however, received paramilitary small arms training and drill; 43 died during the conflict. More than 12,000 American women enlisted as nurses or auxiliaries in the US Navy and Marine Corps; 400 perished in the war.

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PROMISED GIFT OF MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR.

The idea promoted in She Goes to War that women might see combat in the First World War was not such a stretch from reality. One Russian peasant woman, Maria Bochkareva, famously fought with the Russian Army from November 1914 through May 1917, rising to the rank of non-commissioned officer.

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With the authorization of Kerensky’s Provisional Government, she formed and commanded the 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death. The all-woman unit shamed their hesitant male comrades who were unwilling to leave the safety of their trench by going “over the top” without them. Their bold attack forced the German enemy to retreat from three lines of trenches, but when promised reinforcements failed to arrive, the Russian “Amazons” were themselves forced to retreat and give up their hard-won territorial gains. Maria Bochkareva’s unit was still at the front when the Russian revolution broke out. After the unit disbanded, she continued to serve with the “White” army forces fighting against the “Reds” during the ensuing Civil War. She was eventually captured and executed by the Communists.

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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MARBLE BIMAH / PHOTO COURTESY OF FIUNEWS

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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

Sea shells on the sea shore dress

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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LAURENCE MILLER COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

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XC2012.12.38_000THOMAS C. RAGAN COLLECTION, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU

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?

518A3895 LINDA HERNANDEZ, LIBRARY INTERN. PHOTO BY DAVID ALMEIDA

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

 
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