A couple of nights ago after most of the museum staff had already retired for the evening, museum director Cathy Leff and development director David Skipp led a group of young professionals on a tour of the galleries and library collection. Cathy asked Caroline and David Cardenas (son of Wolfsonian founding trustee and Board member Alberto “Al” Cardenas), to assemble a group of friends and colleagues who had not yet visited the museum but who they thought ought to know about it.

During the tour through the library, our museum director and development director drew the attention of the visitors to several rare materials with a political bent. One such item was the late-nineteenth century publication Parties: Problems and Leaders of 1896, which seems all the more relevant today given our present political party deadlock in Congress over the national debt.


The guest also had the opportunity to see a 1920s presentation album featuring designs by John Russell Pope for a monument to “Teddy,” the Republican Roosevelt, as well as several books from the 1930s critical of his Democratic cousin, Franklin.




The group also had the opportunity to see some of the rare Cuba-themed materials in our collection that document an era of close American and Cuban economic and cultural ties. Some of the early materials, on long-term loan to the institution by museum founder Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., illustrate early twentieth-century promotion of the island to potential American agribusiness investors.


Other Cuban materials in the library collection come from a generous gift made by long-term museum supporter, Vicki Gold Levi, and include hundreds of items relating to the U.S.-Cuba tourist trade from the 1920s to 1950s. Materials include brochures aimed at enticing American tourists to the beautiful beaches and luxurious accommodations to be enjoyed during a stay at the Hotel Varadero.

Other promotional materials from the Vicki Gold Levi Collection encouraged American visitors to shop at El Encanto, billed as “Cuba’s largest and smartest department store.”


Also on view for our visitors were some of the English-language serial guides published in the 1930s and 1940s by the Cuban Tourist Commission and others eager to provide tourists with a glimpse into the “steamship gossip” and social activities to be enjoyed at hotels and other venues.


Other Cuban materials out on display were published in Spanish and intended for the locals. During the war years, many magazine covers linked the struggle for Cuban independence with the patriotic struggle against Nazism and fascism in Europe.


Finally, courtesy of a donation by Michelle Oka Doner, the library also holds some rare invitations and programs from the opening festivities of the Habana Hilton between March 18 and 22, 1958.


The celebrations, however, were obviously short-lived with the fall of the Batista dictatorship the following year, and the ascension to power of the Communist dictator, Fidel Castro, determined to put an end to “Yankee imperialism” in the island nation.

~ by "The Chief" on July 29, 2011.


  1. This is great stuff for us the history buffs. Did you know that Teddy Roosevelt was highly instrumental in the US coin Design and minting of the “New Incused Indian Gold Coins of the 20th century” ? This was a turning point in our nations minting of truly beautiful coins – he was a real student of the classics of the ancient societies. My interest in this topic has also led me to an autobiography of J P Morgan,* who wanted the gold standard, and in the late 1890’s was instrumental in “saving” the US economy with his insistence and actual help in bringing much of our lost gold back from Europe. [ * MORGAN, american financier by Jean Strouse ,Random House] Stephen Suddarth

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