Yesterday afternoon, the library staff had the privilege of welcoming Sandra Day O’Connor, first woman Associate Justice appointed to the Supreme Court, where she served from 1981 until her retirement in 2006. Ms. O’Connor was treated to a sampling of Americana from the library collection, including some First World War sheet music covers and other propaganda, a variety of New Deal materials, and some Second World War propaganda designed for consumption overseas.

Ms. O’Connor was particularly taken with some CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) ephemera, reminiscing how a couple of camps had been established in or about her father’s ranch out West. She recalled that years later a number of former “city kid” enrollees in Roosevelt’s “Tree Army” who had never before been exposed to rural life, had made return pilgrimages to the campsite which so inspired them with a new-found respect for nature.

Naturally, we also displayed some of the law-related materials in our collection for Ms. O’Connor to peruse. The library holds some extraordinary oversized books illustrated by Violet Oakley, an important Arts & Crafts designer and muralist responsible for painting forty-three murals in the State Capitol, Senate, and Supreme Court buildings in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. One such portfolio, Law Triumphant, containing: The opening of the book of the law and The miracle of Geneva (1933) includes some beautiful color reproductions of some of the murals she designed for the Supreme Court building.

The library also has a number of rare items documenting the infamous “Scottsboro Boy” trials of the 1930s that so polarized depression-era Americans. When nine African-American youths were unjustly accused of raping a couple of white women, their defense was taken up by the Communist Party of the U.S.A.’s legal arm, the ILD (International Labor Defense). Eventually, defense appeals against biases juries and demands for retrials were heard by the Supreme Court of the United States. The Communist Party also planned to publish a linocut block book to help propagandize the cause and expose racial injustice under the Capitalist system. The library holds a unique prototype manuscript for that project that was never realized at that time.

Finally, we included a book with excerpts from Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man.” Published by the Heritage Press in 1961, the hardcover edition with “full linen cloth on which blaze the red flames of revolution” was designed by Roderick Stinehour, bound by Frank Fortney “and his fellow sans-cullottes,” with illustrations inside by Socialist activist and engraver, Lynd Ward.

~ by "The Chief" on March 19, 2010.

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