WOLFSONIAN FELLOW JILL BUGAJSKI DELIVERS HER PARTING PRESENTATION AS FORMER FELLOW ELIZABETH HEATH PREPARES AN EXHIBIT AT THE FROST MUSEUM
This past Friday, Jill Bugajski wrapped up her Wolfsonian fellowship with a presentation to the museum staff of her findings. Ms. Bugajski, former research associate in the Department of Prints and Drawings at The Art Institute of Chicago, is presently working on her doctoral dissertation in Art History at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. During her three-week scholastic residency at The Wolfsonian, Ms. Bugajski had been sifting through the library and museum objects collections for materials related to American and Soviet art in the tumultuous period preceding the post-World War Two Cold War.
As he confronted the domestic challenges posed by the Great Depression at home and the collapse of democracies and the concurrent rise of Fascist and Nazi regimes abroad, President Franklin D. Roosevelt chose to recognize the Soviet Union. In order to check the aggressive advance of German and Italian totalitarianism and to cultivate better ties with Russia, Roosevelt sent Joseph E. Davies to Moscow as U.S. Ambassador between 1936 and 1938. Joseph Davies purchased Soviet artwork and initiated an unprecedented artistic exchange program between the countries before the war’s end and the onset of the Cold War. The signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939 resulted in the disillusionment of many left-leaning liberals in the sincerity of the Communists in the Popular Front and Anti-fascist movements and resulted in the lumping together of “Communazis” as equally evil totalitarian enemies of democracy. The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 22, 1941 and America’s entry in the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 reignited a thaw in U.S.-Soviet relations.
Two years later Hollywood transformed former Ambassador Davies’ memoir, Mission to Moscow into a controversial wartime pro-Soviet ally propaganda film.
Because of its naively favorable characterization of Stalin’s regime and the whitewashing of the Moscow “Show Trials” and the Hitler-Stalin Pact, conservative critics have dubbed the film with the derisive nickname, Submission to Moscow.
During her fellowship, Ms. Bugajski was delighted to find the museum held a rare poster she had seen illustrated on the cover of an ALA newsletter from 1943, but had been unable to locate before her visit to The Wolfsonian.
A section of the poster includes four figures depicted as Fifth Columnists providing aid to Hitler. Together we engaged in some detective work to try to identify those individuals; frighteningly, we had a large pool of Right-Wing candidates from which to choose!
We compared their likenesses to photographs and other artistic renderings of prominent isolationists, “America First” committee members, “Silver shirts,” and others with known Nazi-sympathies. Although we came up a long list of potential suspects, (including Charles Lindbergh, William Randolph Hearst, Socialist Norman Thomas, Radio Priest Charles Coughlin, Douglas Stuart, Jr., H. Smith Richardson, John Foster Dulles, Senators Gerald Nye, George Sylvester Viereck, Martin Dies, Wisconsin Governor Philip La Follette, and Burton K. Wheeler), we were not able to definitively establish the identities of the men in the poster. Below are some contemporary images and caricatures of Hearst and Coughlin from our own collection.
I thought I’d challenge my readers to scour Google Images and other sources of images to weigh in and help us identify the “Fifth Columnists” pictured in the poster.
During her stay, Ms. Bugajski also looked at some of the CPUSA (Communist Party of the United States of America) materials in our library collection. Among these items was a rare oversized portfolio of two speeches by Vice-President Henry A. Wallace (1888-1965) illustrated with silk screen prints by Hugo Gellert (1892-1985) and published by the International Workers Order in 1943.
GIFT MADE BY ELINOR J. BRECHER,
IN MEMORY OF HER GRANDFATHER, LEO BRECHER
As Ms. Bugajski pointed out during her presentation, Gellert pioneered an unusual process in printing his plates. Whereas silk screen artists most often applied black outlines after all the other colors were already applied, Gellert chose to use only a few colors in his work, to apply his primary colors on top of black detailing, and to overlap colors to add to his limited color palette.
The remainder of today’s blog is contributed by Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn, and deals with some materials from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection that she has been cataloging. A former fellow and Professor of History at Florida International University has been looking over rare photograph albums from the Boer War and other military conflicts over colonies before the First World War in preparing for a future class and exhibition at the Frost Museums teaching gallery on the Modesto Maidique Campus. Here is her report.
THAT’S WHY THE LADY IS A NURSE: FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT OF THE LADYSMITH SIEGE,
FROM THE JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF COLLECTION AT THE WOLFSONIAN
Sometimes a story from the past is so compelling that it supersedes time. When History Department Professor Elizabeth Heath and I discussed the possibility of an upcoming exhibit at the Frost Museum, we both gravitated toward the original photograph albums in the Sharf Collection. In an age of text messages and twitter feeds, the importance of holistic archives is magnified. History as antiquity can be experienced by an audience in the form of preserved narrative accompanied by the stark reality of photographs. Often these black and white images were taken by individual soldiers or civilians with their own cameras as they personally dealt with war in a strange country, or recorded their own observations of natives in foreign lands, during the period of British colonialism.
A particularly powerful tale can be found in, “Experience of a siege: a nurse looks back on Ladysmith,” a typescript account and original photograph album by Nurse Kate Driver, later Mrs. J. J. Boyd. The photographs are striking, and display an uneasy quality of any relatable person’s real life, interrupted. Driver notes, “All photographs except the first were taken by Dr. Currie’s orderly, who came equipped for the job.”
Driver joined the Natal Volunteer Nurses in 1899 at the outbreak of the South African War (Second Boer War) with the encouragement of Dr. O. J. Currie, whom she met during her training at Grey’s Hospital in Maritzburg. The British Army and the Natal Volunteers established a hospital at Ladysmith, where Driver was stationed during the formidable Boer siege against the British stronghold there. The typewritten manuscript, prepared by Driver’s daughter sixty years after the events, contains descriptions of wartime nursing and medical care of wounded soldiers in accounts of the days leading up to, during, and after the siege.
Young and inflamed by the thought of wartime service, Driver, along with the other nurses, soon finds herself overwhelmed with too big a job and too few resources. The sounds of warfare just outside the hospital are terrifying, and Driver and her colleagues fight their own hysteria to rise to the occasion of nursing their patients:
“It was quite impossible to sleep, of course, but we tried to stay in bed as much as possible, and from our beds we could see the shadows of shells like threads on the wall as they passed between us and the sun; and seconds later we could hear them explode.”
Soon the sick and wounded began flooding into the tents. Enteric, or typhoid fever affected the weakened population. With the Boers cutting off supplies at the railway, the situation at Ladysmith deteriorated dramatically. The nurses as well as the patients became ill and hungry. Driver eventually succumbed to enteric fever as well, for a while.
“A miserable day I well remember was one of torrential rain. My tent leaked all over me. I ached beyond words … My blankets were wet and I could feel the cold damp coming up my bed. I tried to pull my covers away from the worst leaks but every movement was painful.”
Driver personalizes her story with anecdotes about her fellow nurses, wounded men she knew from her hometown, and the illustrious Dr. Currie.
“Nurse Ruiter’s father lived in Ladysmith and had sent her some fowls. One sensible little hen laid every second day, and for a while I had a beaten egg brought up to me on these days. In spite of this wonderfully kind help I still felt weak and starved and very inadequate as a nurse. When I looked at the other nurses still on duty I guessed that they felt very much the same as I.”
Death became a daily reality:
“By the next night Guthrie Smith had been moved into another tent alone … now when I spoke to him he did not recognize me … He was near the end and soon became unconscious … I felt stunned and sick at heart at losing him … After crosses were put up to all the first casualties, I asked our orderly to photograph the cemetery so that his name could be seen.”
Included at the back of the album is a hand-drawn map of the Siege of Ladysmith. The British lines are in red.
On February 28, 1900, Lord Dundonald and General Buller finally arrived with relief. The harrowing 180-day siege was over. Nurse Driver concludes her transcript with the native word “Pelindaba,” which means “finished,” or “the end.” Over one hundred years later, the Treaty of Pelindaba would designate official nuclear-weapon-free zones in Africa. South Africa is among the countries that ratified the Treaty.