POSTERS, PICTOGRAPHS, PICTOGRAMS, AND PUBLIC HISTORY AT THE WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY
Earlier this month, The Wolfsonian-FIU librarians were busy hosting two residential fellows—(Sarah Rovang and Michael Golec)—and a visit by thirteen Florida International University students enrolled in Professor Ken Lipartito’s Public History course. The confluence of scholars and students could not have been timed more fortuitously: both researchers are interested in posters, the graphic display of statistics, and other visual ephemera documenting President Franklin Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in the New Deal era; Dr. Lipartito’s students are tasked with researching a selection of materials employing pictograms and pictographs.
GIFT OF FRANCIS XAVIER LUCA & CLARA HELENA PALACIO LUCA
Both of our visiting scholars looked at the posters in the museum’s Works on Paper department that had been designed by Lester Beall (1903-1969) for the REA.
The posters employ abstract and almost pictographic images of everyday objects to convey their messages.
Other materials printed for the REA also made use of pictographic illustrations, including a Guide for Members of REA Cooperatives and Little Waters: A Study of Headwater Streams & Other Little Waters, Their Use and Relations to the Land.
GIFT OF FRANCIS XAVIER LUCA
Although neither publication specifically credits Lester Beall, the latter book was co-authored by Robert T. Beall—(a relative, perhaps?)—who was employed as an economist by the Rural Electrification Administration.
GIFT OF FRANCIS XAVIER LUCA
FDR’s Resettlement Administration also used pictograms in some of their publications, including a book titled: Greenbelt Towns: A Demonstration in Suburban Planning printed by the U.S. Government Printing Office in 1936.
In 1940, the U.S. Maritime Commission produced a spiral-bound booklet making use of vivid color pictograms intended to demonstrate the need for American-flag shipping and shipbuilding.
MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. LONG-TERM LOAN
Another booklet published in 1940 by the Council of Women for Home Missions and Missionary Education Movement, Migrants of the Crops used pictograms on the front cover. The booklet also included a foreword by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace (1888-1965), and used Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographs to argue for better working and living conditions for migrant farm workers.
GIFT OF MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR.
Pictograms had gained an international following and popularity in the 1930s and early 1940s, and publishing houses and book designers in the United States were also using them to create easily decipherable statistical tables.
GIFTS OF CHRISTOPHER DENOON
Because I have been supervising another FIU project involving the cataloging and digitization of the Miami Beach City Hall Archive in preparation for the city’s centennial celebrations in March, I also showed the students some relevant materials in our own collection.
Soon after the United States entered the Second World War after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, many Miami Beach hotels were converted into “barracks” and the city became a virtual training camp for Army Air Force units. Local author and historian, Judith Berson-Levinson had organized veterans’ reunions and compiled an archive of materials documenting Miami Beach in wartime, which she generously donated to the museum library nearly a decade ago. One item from the “Sand in Their Boots” collection is An Official Guide to the Army Air Forces which also uses pictograms as well.
GIFT OF JUDITH BERSON-LEVINSON
If this small sampling of graphic statistics inspired or intrigued you, you may wish to visit our virtual library display website to see a small exhibit we put together a few years back on the subject: http://www.librarydisplays.wolfsonian.org/Statistically-Speaking/StatisticallySpeaking.htm And stay tuned for updates on the new exhibit being planned and put together by Dr. Lipartito’s class scheduled to open at the Frost Museum on FIU’s Modesto Maidique Campus from January 22, 2015 through April 6, 2015.