Graphic Art Selling Revolution, Jewelry, and War

•June 27, 2018 • 1 Comment

Although the Wolfsonian librarians have been extraordinarily busy this summer processing, accessioning, and cataloging a flood of new acquisitions and gifts, this last month we had only a small trickle of visitors. The first group included Charlotte Camille, Ludovic Houplain, and Maxime Vandenabeele, members of the H5 Group based in Paris who will be working with us on a project for the next Art Basel Miami Beach event in December. Dr. Harsanyi provided our guests with a personalize tour of the library installation he curated on early Soviet Constructivist art.

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As the group was particularly interested in graphic art, typography, and logo designs, we brought them into the main reading room to peruse a number of works pulled from our rare book and special collections holdings.

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The materials ranged from a 1908 deluxe reprinting of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra [Thus spake Zarathustra] designed by Henry C. Van de Velde (1863–1957) with typeface designed by Georges Lemmen (1865–1957);

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

… type specimen booklets and broadsides, and guides and handbooks on the theory and practice of layout design;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Steve Heller

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…an ABC gem box with alphabetical designs by Kurt Hans Volk (1883–1962); typeface and photographs of exhibitions designed by Bauhaus artist, Herbert Bayer (1900–1985);

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…unusual and celebrated books designed by Italian Futurists, Fortunato Depero (1892–1960), Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876–1944), Tullio Crali (1910–2000), and Raoul Cenisi (1912–1991);

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

 …brochures and plans for pictogram-like game pieces created by Ladislav Sutnar (1897–1976);

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Rad Sutnar

Later in the month, Dr. Harsanyi and I hosted eighteen visitors from Richline Group, a jewelry manufacturer dedicated to the establishment of an internationally recognized, vertically-integrated corporate branding, production, marketing, and distribution strategy throughout the jewelry supply chain.

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While The Wolfsonian’s library does not specialize in period jewelry, we did have a plethora of reference books on the subject, numerous rare catalogs highlighting the work of European and American gold and silversmiths, as well as a portfolio of plates advertising Art Deco jewelry.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The library also holds the Victory Gold Levi Collection, which, in addition to ephemeral paper and print materials documenting the U.S. propaganda campaign, also includes a number of “V for Victory” pins designed to be worn by patriotic women on the home front.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Victory Gold Levi Collection

Not unlike our earlier French visitors, others in this group were as interested in the logos, branding, photography, and display strategies used in various advertising industry publications also laid out on the tables for them to peruse.

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Finally, Wolfsonian director Tim Rodgers stopped by on a Saturday with Eric and Svetlana Silverman, their daughter, and their guest, Tamao Watanabe, the executive officer and director of Kyowa Kirin.

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The Silvermans were the lenders to Constructing Revolution, Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s Soviet propaganda poster exhibition now on display in our galleries.

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Our own resident expert on the Soviet Union, Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi, curated a library installation, Red and Black: Revolution in Soviet Propaganda Graphics. This installation complements Constructing Revolution by exploring how books, periodicals, and portfolio plates also experimented with Constructivist imagery and Soviet symbols to promote the Socialist revolution.

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As their guest was also interested in getting a sense of our Japanese holdings, I pulled out some highlights, including: vibrant color chromolithographic proofs for greeting cards published in the wake of the Russo-Japanese War;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…historical bindings from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection;

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

… color prints depicting the Great Japan Earthquake of 1923;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

… an accordion-style binding with pochoir (stencil work) modernist designs for perfume and cosmetics packaging (alas, not yet digitized); and Second World War-era Japanese propaganda prints designed to be fashioned into patriotic fans.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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We always feel privileged to be able to share our holdings with VIPs and groups visiting the museum, and to be able to provide our online fans with a digital sampling of the same.

Clear the Tables! French, Cuban, Native American, and Bakehouse Appetizers

•May 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, The WolfsonianFIU rare book and special collections library hosted a number of visits by very diverse groups, and selected rare tidbits for consumption at one of our public programming events. The librarians pulled, displayed, and then re-shelved materials for each group of visitors, only to repeat the procedure again and yet again. Today’s post provides our online visitors with a glimpse of some of the specialties laid out for our guests.

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The first set of visitors were interested in some of our French appetizers. Led by Florida International University Professor Maria Antonieta Garcia, twelve students from her French literature, theater, and cinema classes—(some accompanied by their significant others)—arrived to feast their eyes on a variety of items spread out across the main reading room tables.

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Some of the students had expressed in interested in sampling materials dealing with nineteenth century train travel, so we displayed some of those holdings.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Others in the group were interested in the depiction and evolution of women’s roles from a French perspective. The visitors were able to peruse such diverse items as advertising materials, First World War postcards, programs, and rare illustrated books covering such diverse themes as domestic work, regional dress, changing social mores, sexual objectification, and prostitution.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Others at the table included a group interested in the French depictions of race and ethnicity, segregation and integration. Exhibition catalogs, original watercolors, and photographic portfolio plates from the Exposition coloniale internationale held in Paris 1931 provided some food for thought regarding the depiction—particularly of women—and treatment of indigenous peoples from France’s overseas empire in this era.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loans

A calendar advertising tobacco—(recently on display in one of our library installations)—also provided the group with something to consider regarding its visual message.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

A final group of students were interested in early French film, and had the opportunity to flip through a few rare items not yet digitized. After their departure I remembered some portfolio plates from the mid-1920s depicting the Art Deco façades of some Parisian cinemas.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Almost as soon as we cleared the tables, we had to lay out a spread for a group of Getty Council members.

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A couple dozen Getty VIP guests, led by conservator Rosa Lowinger, was planning to travel to Havana, and had stopped at our museum library to whet their appetite with a presentation of some items documenting the U.S.-Cuba tourist trade and cultural interaction during the first half of the twentieth century. As I am beginning to work on an installation about Cuban graphic designer, Conrado Walter Massaguer, and Rosa and I are currently collaborating on a book drawn from a promised gift of rare photographs and other ephemera collected by Vicki Gold Levi, the topic was fresh in our minds and we both talked at length on the subject.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

I pointed out some items that documented the desire to eschew U.S. Prohibition as a driving force in drawing the first wave of wealthy North American tourists to the island in the 1920s, even as the Cuban government passed legislation promoting gambling and other attractions. The first wave of wealthy tourists arriving in Cuba is reflected in such Hollywood films as Havana Widows (1933) and Rumba (1935), and documented in an abundance of photos, periodicals, and memorabilia.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection & Promised Gifts

Even as free-flowing rum, carnival parades, and the sensual rumba dance enticed visitors, the group’s tour guide, Rosa Lowinger spoke about the American investors, builders, and architects who erected the luxurious hotels, casinos, country clubs, and other infrastructure designed to accommodate the rush of tourists.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Promised Gifts

Rosa also described the incredible nightlife that Havana offered visitors returning in the 1950s, and about the impact that Cuban music and dance had on the mainland, as Cuban rhythms were adopted and adapted to suit American preferences. Clubs like the San Souci, Montmartre, and Tropicana lured in visitors with gambling casinos, music, and shows.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection & Promised Gifts

As Cuban performers came to the U.S., the rumba, mambo, cha- cha- cha-, and Afro-Cuban jazz fusions became all the rage in Latin-themed dance halls, and forever changed the American music scene. The visitors had the opportunity to see some of the sheet music and sound recording covers and nightclub programs from the period.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Promised Gifts

No sooner than the Cuban materials were retired from the tables, the library hosted a behind the scenes library tour for six staff member of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian museum.

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I had not long ago put together a library installation documenting the use of Native American portraits and other imagery as a means of promoting tourism to the Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Everglades national parks, and we pulled some of these items and others focusing on the Seminoles for the group to peruse.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift made by Ideal Gladstone, in memory of her husband, John

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

The library also holds some rare books produced during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency. One oversized Work Projects Administration portfolio contains 18 silk screen color illustrated plates made by the Michigan Art and Craft Project in Detroit, reproducing movable masks and figures of the North Pacific coast Indians.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Another book, an illustrated English-Navajo reader designed for Indian children and published by the government to encourage Native Americans to learn English, but to also retain their own language and cultural traditions.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Once the items laid out for the museum professionals had been reshelved, new materials were pulled and set on the tables for a visit by Chris Horn and Emily Barber of the U.S. Forest Service.

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The visitors were most interested in some of the Civilian Conservation Corps items in our holdings, which including brochures, pictorial reviews, clippings, mimeographed CCC camp periodicals published by the enrollees, and even a forestry game board.

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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. Promised Gifts

Putting together this post, I was reminded of the old Grape Nuts cereal commercial in which Euell Gibbons addresses the consumer with the line, “Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.”

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This leads to our last table settings and visitors, appropriately enough, being a group of professionals from the Bakehouse Art Complex, a former industrial art deco era bakery refashioned into an institution offering art studio residencies and programs who came to see some Italian and Dutch treats spread out on our table.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

In addition to some of the rare batik bindings and typographic masterpieces in the collection, the group were able to preview some of the menus, recipe books, and other food-related items in our collection selected for an Into the Stacks event planned for later that week, including some recently donated menus from Louis Miano, David Almeida, and Gina Wouters not yet digitized.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

This last Friday marked Heather Cook’s last day as the Head of Education and Visitor Services at The Wolfsonian–FIU as she and her husband are relocating to Madison, Wisconsin. In her honor, a Wolfsonian Bake Off was organized, with staff members bringing in their special recipes.

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Later that same evening, Heather and Miami’s Crypt Cracker, Nathaniel Sandler, hosted an Into the Stacks Event with some sample for the public followed by a presentation and tour highlighting some of the stranger recipes and interesting kitchen gadgets to be found in our collection. Some high fiber diet recipes from the Depression years, for example, were written by the Kellogg Company to help Americans combat constipation, declared “public enemy No. 1” in one of their recipe books!

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

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And so we end this post with a bon voyage to Heather, and a bon appetite to our online visitors.

Red and Black: Revolution in Soviet Propaganda Graphics

•May 2, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Today’s post comes to you courtesy of associate librarian, Nicolae Harsanyi, our resident expert on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Dr. Harsanyi put together an installation showcasing the red and black experimental Constructivist graphics deployed by the new Socialist state before Stalin imposed Socialist Realism as the only legitimate style. Here is his report:

On Saturday, May 5, curator Jon Mogul will conduct a tour for museum members of Constructing Revolution: Soviet Propaganda Posters from Between the World Wars, the most recent exhibition opened at The Wolfsonian–FIU. A complementary installation about Soviet graphics in the 1920s and early 1930s can be viewed in the library foyer.

Among the most significant movements to emerge in post-revolutionary Russia was Constructivism, which enlisted artists in the project of building a new classless society. The concept of “artist-constructor” defined the relationship between the artist’s work and society. Constructivists applied key principles of the artistic avant-garde—abstraction, the machine aesthetic, and mass production, for example—to the practical design of living and working environments and everyday objects. Since it reflected the social and political purposes of the government, Constructivism became emblematic of Soviet propaganda art. The agitational experience the artists gained through their involvement in the formulation and construction of a new socialist culture transpires in the graphic arts of the 1920s and early 1930s.

Published in 1925, Iskusstvo v bytu [Art in everyday life], a portfolio of 36 plates, provided instructions on how to “construct” various public environments (decorations for communal reading rooms, theater sets, signs for street demonstrations, clothing) as a way to engage directly with the people and convey the symbols defining the new Communist society. Well-known artists and designers, such as Vera Mukhina, Vladimit Akhmet’ev, Anton Lavinskii, and Nadezhda Lamonova, contributed to this portfolio.

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Artists were enlisted to illustrate publications dealing with official initiatives to decorate public spaces on various festive events. This booklet provided suggestions for ornamentation occasioned by the 10th anniversary of the October revolution:

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One of the prominent Constructivist artists was El Lissitzky [Lazar Markovich Lissitzky, 1890–1941].  He had the unusual distinction of being a key member of both the Russian and Western European avant-gardes. His designs incorporated basic geometrical figures and a limited color palette. Published in 1922, Pro dva kvadrata [About two squares] is a children’s book about a black square and a red square that fly to earth. For Lissitzky they symbolized the superiority of the new Soviet order (the red square) over the old (the black square).

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Lissitzky’s innovations in graphic and book design are strikingly visible in Dlia golosa [For the voice], a 1923 project which comprised 13 poems by Russian Futurist poet Mayakovsky. These poems were meant to be read aloud, and Lissitzky designed a thumb index with titles to help the reader locate a desired verse. He also designed title pages for each of the poems, constructing images by combining typefaces of various sizes printed in red and black.

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Stage sets and costume design remained principal domains the Constructivist artists strove to innovate. Adopting the angularity of Cubism, they reconfigured the stage along geometric designs. A good sense of this is conveyed by the illustrations included in the album published in 1929, Anatol’ Petryts’kyi : teatral’ni stroi [Anatol Petrytskyi : theater costume]:

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Satire was an important tool employed by the official propaganda that aimed to persuade the population to embrace the tenets of Bolshevik ideology. One of main targets of the party line was religion, associated with the old capitalist and tsarist order that needed to be uprooted, destroyed, and replaced by a new society based on the values derived from labor. Caricatures and cartoons by famous poster artists, like Dimitri Moor and Viktor Deni, were published in the satirical magazine Bezbozhnik u stanka [Atheist at the lathe].

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The drive to transform public spaces by way of new architectural projects or ideologically charged messages found echoes in the efforts of the Constructivists to fuse the technical and the artistic. Because of the scarcity of material means that characterized the Soviet economy in the 1920s, however, daring architectural designs survive today only as small-scale models or sketches. Vladimir Tatlin (1885–1953) is mainly known for his design of the Monument to the Third International. Projected as a structure of iron, glass, and steel, taller than the Eiffel Tower, it consisted of twin spirals within which three building blocks would revolve at different speeds (yearly, monthly, daily). The tower was never built.

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Iakov Chernikhov (1889–1951) was a Constructivist architect and graphic designer whose books situate him among the most innovative artists and craftsmen of his time. He elaborated various Constructivist situations that evolve from simple geometrical forms to complex architectural combinations, with the machine form as the embodiment of Constructivist principles in their purest form. He is also known as “the Russian Piranesi” for his fantasy drawings. The color plates at the back of the volume published in 1933, Arkhitekturnye fantazii : 101 kompozitsiia v kraskakh, 101 arkhitekturnaia miniatiura [Arhitectural fictions : 101 coloured prints, 101 architectural miniatures], capture the interplay of architecture, painting, and interior and graphic design. The seeds of his fantasies, however, never had a chance of germinate in the Soviet Union: Stalin’s repressive regime, which effectively put an end to Constructivism in the 1930s, favored a banal architecture based on monumental classicism and Socialist Realism.

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There will be a Library Salon on July 10th in which participants will be given supplementary explanations on the items included in the installation, and will also have the opportunity to view other library holdings that are relevant to the theme of Constructivism and which could not be exhibited because of limited exhibition space.  Please come and see the works discussed in this post, on view through August 5.

 

A Transatlantic Voyage to the “Ocean State”

•April 18, 2018 • Leave a Comment

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

At the generous behest of our board member, Thomas Ragan, Wolfsonian curator Silvia Barisione and I traveled to Providence, Rhode Island this past weekend to attend a lecture by ocean liner aficionado Stephen Lash, to tour and explore the collections of the Ship History Center in Warwick, and to enjoy an ocean liner-themed dinner event. Stepping off the plane and out of the terminal, we were greeted by snowflakes and freezing temperatures.

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If the outside air was more than chilly on this spring day in New England, our reception inside the Ship History Center could not have been more warm and cordial.

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Framed posters of Grace Line and other steamship companies line the walls of the museum, and there are impressive models of ships and liners, including one of Robert Fulton’s North River Steamboat, later christened the Clarmont.

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Fulton’s first commercially successful steamboat carried passengers from New York City 150 miles upstream to the state capital of Albany in 1807. The Wolfsonian–FIU museum has a number of artifacts documenting the 1909 Hudson-Fulton Celebrations.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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

Before the guest lecture scheduled for later that Friday evening, Silvia and I had the privilege of being guided through the library and archives and invited to open boxes and drawers to get a sense of the depth of the collection amassed over many decades by the contributions of SSHSA members and subscribers. Afterwards, we listened to an informative and entertaining presentation delivered by Stephen Lash on the art and design of the French Line.

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Mary Payne (Past president, SSHSA board), Stephen Lash, and Captain Dave Pickering (SSHSA board member)

Photograph courtesy of Aimee Bachari, Education Coordinator, Web Developer SSHSA

Many of his projected images highlighted the beautiful Art Deco interiors of the great French passenger ship, the Normandie, also documented in brochures, plans, and books in our own collection.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Thomas C. Ragan

On view in The Wolfsonian’s permanent galleries are two colored laquer, gold-leaf, and plaster bas relief panels designed by Jean Dunand. Titled, La Chasse [The Hunt], our pair are duplicates of those which adorned the men’s smoking room aboard the Normandie.

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of The Frederick and Patricia Supper Foundation, Palm Beach, FL

The following evening, we had the chance to mix and mingle with more than a hundred ocean liner aficionados, board members, VIP guests, archivists, curators, conservators, and other professionals from other maritime museums at the SSHSA’s Third Annual Ocean Liner Dinner and fundraising auction honoring the SS Normandie and the French Line.

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Appropriately enough, the dinner menu for the event was patterned on that served aboard the luxurious French Line’s Normandie, and SSHSA president Don Leavitt and executive director, Matthew Schulte provided a presentation using historic footage and images of the ship projected onto a large screen in the ballroom.

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In describing the inaugural transatlantic voyage of the ship whose prow and hull had been specially designed to minimize drag and a powerful steam quadruple-screw turbo-electric engine to maximize speed, the presenters updated regularly updated the guests with average speed estimates as the ship raced to successfully break the crossing record.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Dinner was followed by a live auction hosted by Lite Rock 105 radio personality Steve Donovan. Though outbid by the “high rollers” in the room, Silvia and I contentedly returned to Miami with fond memories, contacts information, our photographs and copies of the wonderful reproduction dinner menus and passenger lists produced for the event.

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Silvia & Frank Dinner Photo

Our thanks again to our gracious hosts at the Steamship Historical Society of America, the staff and board members of the Ship History Center, and to Thomas C. Ragan for encouraging this trip. We hope that the contacts we have made will result in further collaborations as we look toward organizing our own exhibition on ocean liner design.

An Equestrian Gallop on Miami Beach

•April 3, 2018 • Leave a Comment

While bicycling to work today, I stopped for a few minutes as a couple of stunning horses emerged from a gigantic tent just before the 22nd Street entrance to Miami Beach. The horses and riders are preparing for the Longines Global Champions Tour, the world’s premier show-jumping series. This is actually the fourth year in which the city of Miami Beach has hosted the Olympic-level equestrian sport.

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When I arrived at the museum library after my own (far more mundane) bicycle ride along the boardwalk, I discovered that today also marked the anniversary of the initiation of the Pony Express mail service in 1860. A year and a half before the telegraph and nine years before the first transcontinental railroad connected California to the Mid-West, Pony Express riders carried news and provided mail service between the Missouri and the West Coast, an effort especially critical as the threat of civil war loomed on the horizon. The Pony Express established a string of 100 relay stations covering the 1,800-mile stretch between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California, had a stable of nearly 500 horses, and employed 80 riders to deliver the mail. The first Westbound rider to pioneer the route arrived with his mail packet on April 13, 10 days after having set out; his Eastbound counterpart finished his journey two days later. While the Pony Express became one of the iconic legends of the American West and the subject of many Western movies, it ultimately proved unprofitable and short-lived, and was made obsolete and supplanted only nineteen months after it began by the Pacific Telegraph line. Even as the railroads took over transcontinental travel and mail service, as late as the 1939 New York World’s Fair, even that industry paid tribute to the pioneer spirit of the express riders.

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Honoring Women and Heckling Hitler

•March 27, 2018 • Leave a Comment

What do a Florida International University history class, a Miami Beach Crypt Cracking event, and Women’s History month all have in common? Each of these have a connection to The Wolfsonian–FIU, where student researchers, museum members and visitors, and our online blog fans can juxtapose and make curious connections between such seemingly disparate things as objects and artifacts lampooning der Führer and others hailing the contributions of women to victory over the Axis.

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

In February and March, The Wolfsonian–FIU Library hosted forty Florida International University students enrolled in Professor Terrence G. Peterson’s European History courses on “Nazism and the Holocaust” and “World War II.” Groups of students were assigned to specific archives or topics, including historical artifacts investigating gender roles in the Second World War.

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Some of the students made use of Second World War veterans’ memorabilia documenting the days when the beach served as an Army Air Forces training camp and Miami’s version of “Rosie the Riveter” helped keep ’em healthy and “Keep ’em Flying.”

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Judith Berson-Levinson Collection

These materials were collected by the veteran celebration organizer, Judith Berson-Levinson for an exhibition titled Sand in their Boots, which she later organized as an archive and donated to our museum.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Judith Berson-Levinson Collection

Other students focused on photographs taken by Mel Victor of the campaigns in the Pacific Theater;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mel Victor WWII Pacific Theater Collection, gift of Donna Victor

…materials preserved and donated by Aristotle Ares documenting his service aboard the USS Yorktown carrier stationed in the Pacific;

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…morale-boosting items from the Victory Gold Levi Collection of home-front ephemera;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Victory Gold Levi Collection

…photographs, maps, and documents from the Thomas Barrett Archive documenting the air war over North Africa and Italy;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Thomas Barrett Archive, gift of Susannah Troner

…a large collection of broadsides printed by the German military and Italian Fascists, as well as by the Allied Army forces liberating and occupying the Italian peninsula;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…anti-Axis propaganda leaflets and novelty works designed by the U.S. Government for use in neutral and occupied territories, and envelopes stamped with humorous anti-Axis messages for the home front;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

…anti-Allied propaganda produced by the Nazis and Fascists in support of Mussolini’s Republic of Salò;…

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…children’s propaganda books (many donated by Pamela K. Harer) targeting younger audiences on all sides of the conflict;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Pamela K. Harer

…and a variety of historical artifacts (including broadsides, posters, booklets, portfolio plates, postcards, and personal correspondences) dealing with women and the war.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Leonard A. Lauder

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Martijn F. Le Coultre

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

Some of the students homed in on a set of personalized illustrated postcards and letters written by a young schoolgirl to her brother in the service. These notes not only reveal the attitudes of young persons on the home front, but are probably an example of how patriotic children were encouraged to correspond with servicemen to keep up their morale.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Dolores Trenner

No sooner had the librarians re-shelved these materials than we received a request for items ridiculing the Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, for our Into the Stacks public program headed by Crypt Cracker Nathaniel Sandler. Wolfsonian curator Shoshana Resnikoff pulled out a couple of satirical paintings by Alexander Z. Kruse: the first depicting Kaiser Wilhelm II and Adolf Hitler as a kangaroo and joey; the second depicting der Führer and Il Duce as clowns who conversations over the Espanolaphone were turning Spain into a graveyard during the civil war, 1936–39.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Mrs. Kathreen Kruse, in memory of Martin Alexander Kruse

She also found such comical objects as the “Hotzi Notzi,” a ceramic Hitler pincushion for patriotic women’s sewing needs on the home front.

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To complement these objects, the librarians pulled a number of paper items from the ephemera collection also caricaturing Herr Hitler, including a cardboard version of a Hitler pincushion, a calendar with boot strings to hang Hitler and Mussolini in effigy, a matchbook requiring the user to pull out der Führer’s “hair” to strike a match.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Sandler and Resnikoff came up to the library to make a selection of materials satirizing Hitler to be presented to the program’s participants. While Sandler was amazed by some of humor making Hitler the “butt” of the joke, Shoshana was especially drawn to a set of humorous postcards focusing on the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (or WAACs).

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Jeffrey G. Fischer and Michael Smith

While one might suppose that focusing on Hitler could be a downer or a drag, who wouldn’t be uplifted by seeing caricatures of the brunette leader of the blonde master race in drag!

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Martijn F. Le Coultre

If such images weren’t enough to bring on the giggles, there were also sheet music covers depicting Donald Duck pelting der Führer in the face with a tomato, and postcards which showed him literally getting his butt kicked by an Aryan-looking American woman in uniform!

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Charles L. McCarney, Jr.

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

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As Shoshana noted in her presentation, there was some contemporary criticism leveled against the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) playing on the fear that donning a military uniform threatened to make women more masculine (or to emasculate men). To allay and counter such concerns, many of the series of comical WAAC postcards illustrated by Max Halverson (1924–2006) emphasized the women’s short skirts and shapely legs, poked fun at female drivers, or depicted them doing non-threatening domestic chores or using domestic objects like a rolling pin to take down Hitler.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Jeffrey G. Fischer and Michael Smith

And in keeping with the Women’s history theme for March, I thought I’d end today’s post with the message printed on the following WAAC postcard.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Jeffrey G. Fischer and Michael Smith

 

Cruising the French Caribbean aboard the S.S. Wolfsonian

•March 7, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The Wolfsonian’s rare book and special collections library opened its doors to the public and provided tours all day Friday and Saturday, March 2 and 3 as part of the Tout-Monde Festival, the first Caribbean contemporary arts festival in the United States. The event was organized by Vanessa Selk, attachée culturelle et éducative, and sponsored by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the USA, in close partnership with the France Florida Foundation for the Arts.

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The Tout-Monde (or “Whole World”) concept was originally introduced by Edouard Glissant (1928–2011), a Martinique-born philosopher and poet who dedicated his life and art to recognizing and celebrating the diversity of peoples and cultures, and who believed that “opening up to the Caribbean is opening up to the world.”

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As part of the Tout-Monde celebrations, the Wolfsonian librarians organized a display in the main reading room of Caribbean materials pulled from our extensive collections of printed cruise line and tourism literature.

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The public was invited and encouraged to explore rare children’s books with colorful pochoir illustrations depicting Columbus’ landfall in the Caribbean;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…rare aluminum-foil embossed books, brochures, cutaways, and deck plans of the great French luxury liners: the Normandie, L’Atlantique, and the Ile de France;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…children’s coloring books, original watercolors, and postcards depicting Martinique, Guadalupe, and French Guiana, published in tandem with various colonial and international exhibitions in Paris;

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

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

…and portfolio plates with photographic images of the bas-relief façades of buildings and pavilions representing the French Caribbean at the Exposition Coloniale Internationale held in Paris in 1931.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchased with funds donated by Vicki Gold Levi

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

The display and tours drew 114 visitors into the library over the two-day open house, including visits by the French Consul General Clément Leclerc and Cultural Ambassador of the festival and former Minister of Justice of France Christiane Taubira, who took particular interest in the materials depicting French Giuana.

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

Cruise ship aficionados and library donors Thomas Ragan and Elise Grace Holloway also stopped by for the festivities, the latter bearing gifts of some Grace Line stamped silverware.

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The majority of interwar and post-Second World War, Caribbean-related items spread out on the tables were brochures and advertisements drawn from the Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., Laurence Miller, Thomas Ragan, Elise Grace Holloway, Andrew and Roni Smulian, and John Henry collections of ocean liner and cruise industry promotional materials.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

The display included brochures that packaged first-class accommodations aboard freighters and cargo ships, before the advent of container ships made them commercially obsolete.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

Many brochures focused on the ships themselves, emphasizing their size, amenities, and the comforts of first-class travel.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Thomas C. Ragan Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Bill and Elise Grace Holloway Collection

Others sold passengers on travel to the Caribbean by emphasizing encounters with the “exotic,” employing the tropes of tropical palms and images of beautiful island women on brochure and menu covers.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

Some employed stereotypes of smiling, dark-skinned islanders, racist caricatures all too common to the era.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

Still other brochures played with the Caribbean’s history of corsairs and pirates to attract tourists to the West Indies.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Marco Island Historical Society

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

But whatever the strategy deployed to encourage tourists to book passage to the region, more often than not it was the balmy climate, aqua-blue waters, natural beauty, and diversity of the Caribbean community noted by Edouard Glissant that kept them coming and that continues to generate interest today.

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