A History of Hurricanes

•September 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

Sitting in my electricity-less condominium in the wake of Hurricane Irma, I began composing this post in a manner now foreign and unfamiliar: without the use of my laptop. It is hard to remember the last time I took up pen and paper to compose anything longer than a greeting-card note. But having been temporarily deprived—or perhaps blessed—with the loss of electricity, I have had the opportunity to chat more with family and neighbors, hone my domino and card-playing skills, and pick up and read an actual book—at least during daylight hours. It was also a chance to catch up on sleep (since there was little else to do in the sweltering 90-degree heat) and to enjoy the silence only occasionally broken by the raucous cries of flocks of wild conures.

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Photographed by author

It is almost impossible to talk about a hurricane without making comparisons to other storms. Given that Irma was the largest-recorded hurricane ever produced in the Atlantic Ocean, and considering the damage it wrought in the Caribbean, the consensus here in Florida is that despite the downed trees and power lines, and the inconvenience of living temporarily without air conditioning and refrigerators, things could have been much, much worse.

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Photographed by author

Such sentiments, of course, ring hollow to those South Floridians who have lost loved ones to the storm, or to the thousands of persons whose homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged in the Florida Keys, Marco Island, Ft. Myers, Naples, and as far north as Tampa and Jacksonville. But as all Floridians know (or should know), we live in a region whose past, present, and future has and will always be shaped by hurricanes and tropical storms.

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Photographed by Andrea Melendez/The News-Press

I had been living in Florida for about a year when Andrew, a category 5 hurricane, buzzed across the state like a lawnmower in August 1992, completely destroying more than 60,000 homes and damaging more than 124,000 others in Florida City, Homestead, and Cutler Ridge, leaving 250,000 residents homeless. Officially, 38 deaths were attributed to Andrew in Dade County, though those figures may not have included Mexican migrant workers living in trailers in the Everglades Labor Camp when the storm struck.

Courtesy of Sun-Sentinel.com

Courtesy of Sun-Sentinel.com

A major storm striking Miami Beach in 1926 also caused incredible destruction, but far greater loss of life, as residents of the young and relatively small community had relatively little warning and less experience with hurricanes. Believing that the storm had passed, many storm-battered residents attempted to flee across the causeway to the mainland as the eye passed over the island. Hundreds of lives were lost and bodies were never recovered during that storm.

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 The Wolfsonian–FIU, Washington Storage Company Archive

As Floridians take stock of the damages as they take down storm shutters, and work crews clear away downed tree limbs and restore power lines, we inevitably draw comparisons not only to past storms in Florida like Wilma and Matthew, but to storms that raged and ravaged our neighbors in other states. Our thoughts go out to those Houston residents still reeling from the aftermath of Harvey’s floodwaters, and our Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean neighbors dealing with Hurricane Irma’s aftermath and now Maria’s winds and waves.

Courtesy of About-Magazine

Courtesy of About-Magazine

In this new era in which we endure hurricanes of increasing intensity, it is important to recognize that those of us living on the coast are all subject to potentially catastrophic storms and need to remain vigilant and prepared. “Superstorm” Sandy (2012) affected the entire eastern seaboard, making landfall and causing major damage in New Jersey and New York, and Gert (2017) brought unprecedented hurricane-force winds to Northern Ireland.

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Damage from Superstorm Sandy, courtesy of http://newshour-tc.pbs.org

On September 21, 1938, a category 3 hurricane struck Long Island and Southern New England, bringing heavy rains and a storm surge that flooded coastal communities and destroyed thousands of homes, farms, cottages, bridges, railway lines, 3,300 boats, and 20,000 miles of power and telephone lines.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Seven hundred souls were lost to the storm, and 63,000 people left homeless.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership, the federal government deployed the armed forces and Red Cross nurses to help in disaster recovery, but also sent out thousands of WPA workers to help with emergency clean-up efforts.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

WPA photographers were on hand to document the devastation, and Federal Writers Project workers in New England were hired to produce a factual and pictorial record of the worst disaster to strike New England in the twentieth century.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The book that they published likely established “a new speed record in book publishing.”

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Today, of course, television, digital photography and video, twitter, and internet sharing allow us to see instantaneously the destruction wrought by hurricanes like Maria, battering our Caribbean neighbors even as I write these lines.

 

Courtesy of gzps/instagram

The Red Cross in Time of War

•August 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

On August 22, 1864, the twelve nations attending the Geneva Convention adopted an agreement advocating for the non-partisan care of the sick and wounded in times of war, and recognition of the neutrality of medical personnel. The “Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick of Armies in the Field” was the brainchild of Swiss humanitarian Jean-Henri Dunant, and in honor of his nationality, a reverse image of the Swiss flag—a red cross in a field of white—was chosen to adorn doctors’ and nurses’ uniforms, and to mark hospitals and medical supplies. For his efforts in establishing the International Red Cross, Dunant was honored with the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU Library holds a number of rare photograph albums, books, periodicals, sheet-music covers, and other ephemeral items that document the humanitarian efforts of the Red Cross. During the South African War (1899–1902), Red Cross volunteer nurses played an important role in tending to the sick and wounded during the siege by the Boers of the British forces in the township of Ladysmith.

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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

Medical personnel of the International Red Cross were also active during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), tending to the sick and wounded without regard to nationality.

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

A Photographic Record of the Russo-Japanese War, published in 1905, also lauded the heroic efforts of the International Red Cross and female supporters on the home front in alleviating the suffering of both Russian and Japanese combatants.

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

Doctors and nurses from the International Red Cross and the American Red Cross—the latter founded by Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons in 1881—also served in the First World War (1914–1918).

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

While the Red Cross maintained its neutrality status during the Great War, the belligerents on both sides attempted to use attacks on hospitals and nurses for propaganda purposes. The English nurse Edith Cavall served as the matron of a Brussels clinic that was taken over by the Red Cross when the war broke out. Cavall was arrested and tried by a German military court-martial for helping to smuggle more than 175 British and French soldiers, and Belgian civilians likely to be conscripted, out of German-occupied territory. Despite numerous calls for a pardon, the German High Command considered her Geneva Convention protections forfeited by her own testimony, and she was judged guilty of treason and executed by a German firing squad on October 12, 1915. Her execution prompted a British propaganda campaign against German “barbarism” and inspired thousands of women to sign up as nurses.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

French wartime propaganda also capitalized on alleged German atrocities such as the bombing of Red Cross hospitals, and the murder of Red Cross personnel by the German soldiers. The Wolfsonian–FIU Library possesses two rare mechanical works designed to show German disdain for the Geneva Convention and the neutrality of the Red Cross.

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

Propaganda postcards also depicted “Hun” soldiers as being so desperately hungry that they killed and ate Red Cross dogs trained to locate wounded soldiers on the front lines.

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

During the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson made appeals on behalf of the Red Cross.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Patriotic American magazines, books, postcards, and sheet-music covers all promoted the image of the angelic Red Cross nurse.

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

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Pamela K. Harer

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

Other American posters used the bravery of Red Cross nurses serving on front lines to encourage the public to support the war effort by purchasing war bonds.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Elizabeth Loomis Norton and Richard M. Norton

During the Spanish Civil War (1936–1918) and the Italo-Ethiopian War (1935–1936), the Red Cross emblem was used in propaganda pieces denouncing the “barbarous” atrocities of the enemy, while lauding the humanity of their own side.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

 

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

During the Second World War (1939–1945), the nurses and emblem of the Red Cross were prominently displayed in American wartime magazines and broadsides.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Judith Berson-Levinson Collection

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Eureka! Gold Strike Made in the Yukon Territory on this Date in History

•August 16, 2017 • 1 Comment

 

Having exhausted his luck panning for gold in Alaska after its discovery in 1881, a discouraged prospector crossed the Canadian border into the Yukon territory.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Told by another prospector that gold had been found in a tributary of the Klondike River, George Carmack picked up stakes and relocated there with his brother-in-law, Skookum Jim and another First Nations companion, Tagish Charlie. On August 16, 1896, Carmack’s luck changed. While fishing for silvery-scaled salmon in a creek feeding into the Klondike, the prospector claimed to have discovered some gold nuggets glistening on the riverbed, though, according to his companions, it was Skookum Jim who first spotted the gold.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The three men immediately staked a claim to the gold-rich riverbed, and sparked another gold rush as some 50,000 prospectors descended on the area.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Among them was a twenty-one-year-old adventurer named Jack London. London would later publish short stories memorializing his experiencing in the Yukon wilderness during the “Klondike Fever” days.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

While the prospect of striking it rich attracted tens of thousands of young men like London to the frigid and inhospitable territory, it was the merchants who marketed and sold them “Yukon outfits” and other prospecting equipment that profited from the outbreak of gold fever. Life in the prospecting camps could be lonely, cold, and dangerous.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

When the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was organized in Seattle in 1909, an image commemorating the miners of the great white north was fittingly enough struck on souvenir “gold” medallions.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Canal Inaugural

•August 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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

On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal was officially opened to commercial traffic as the SS Ancon became the first large ship to pass through the locks and sail through the newly inaugurated canal. Today’s post comes to you from Sharf Associate Librarian, Rochelle Pienn, who has been processing, accessioning, cataloguing, and preparing materials about the canal and other grand projects and colonial endeavors of late 19th  and early twentieth century. Here is her report:

The hot topic of pumping out water-logged lowlands in coastal cities currently incites scientists, government agencies and engineers into an overdrive of global debate. Yet a little over a century ago, the goal of the United States was to purposely flood a nearly impassable strip of land to create a highly strategic trade route. On this day in history, August 15, 1914, after hundreds of years of strife, failed attempts, losses of millions of dollars and thousands of lives, the official opening of the Panama Canal did just that. The inaugural passage of the U.S. vessel Ancon proved that a deliberate, directed deluge in a series of man-made locks could make sailing large ships between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans a snap.

The Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at the WolfsonianFIU library contains original photograph albums and rare books documenting both the French and American sojourns to Panama. This stunning antique photograph from 1885 depicts a seemingly endless, barren wilderness only just penetrated by the Panama Canal Railway thirty years earlier.

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

The first Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique workers arrived in Panama in 1881. This photograph album documents surrounding landscape relating to the planning and construction attempt of the Panama Canal by the French.

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

An original albumen print from the album shows a dredge used to begin excavation for the canal. Ultimately, the French were forced to abandon their efforts.

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

In his 1889 book, Five Years at Panama, Wolfred Nelson observes, with a fair measure of empathy, the dire conditions for building through the isthmus.

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

With American colonial interests at risk, President Teddy Roosevelt brought a formidable combination of international government interference, American pressure, excessive manpower and millions of dollars in medical and engineering ingenuity to finally bring the Panama Canal into existence.

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

This photographic plate from Albert Edward’s 1915 book, Panama: the canal, the country and the people, shows the SS Ancon successfully passing through the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914.

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

Edward quotes Teddy Roosevelt’s telegram to the American people and the world on the next page:

“On behalf of the government and the people of the United States I express to you and through you to all concerned in the achievement, the intense gratification and pride experienced today. By the successful passage of vessels through the canal the dream of the centuries has become a reality. Its stupendous undertaking has been finally accomplished, and a perpetual memorial to the genius and enterprise of our people has been created. The fully earned and deserved congratulations of a grateful people go out to you and your colaborers.”

If you’d like to plunge deeper into the tale of the Panama Canal, please come visit the Wolfsonian-FIU library.

 

 

 

A Farewell to Arms and Welcome to “Railroaded” Indians

•July 12, 2017 • 1 Comment

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

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

This week, The Wolfsonian’s art handlers de-installed In the Shadows: American Pulp Cover Art and rapidly installed our new library show, America the Beautiful: American Indians and the Promotion of National Parks.

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As the title suggests, the new installation focuses on promotional literature using images of American Indians to encourage tourists to visit national parks in the U.S. Given their vested interests in promoting domestic tourism in the twentieth century, railroad companies became influential boosters of the national parks.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Nearly a century after the steel rail and “iron horse” first bridged the continent and carried Anglo-American pioneers and immigrants into the Indian country, the railroads began carrying a new group of leisure travelers from urban terminals to the national parks. In promoting domestic travel to the nation’s natural wonders and preserves, railroad executives incorporated romanticized images of American Indians and appropriated “traditional” native artwork into their advertising literature and even rail-car decorations. Reviled as “savages” and obstacles to “progress” in previous centuries, the American Indians’ image and imagery were now valued for their association in the American mind with “pristine,” unspoiled nature and “exotic” cultural traditions.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Louis W. Hill, president of the Great Northern Railroad company and owner of several hotels in Glacier National Park, recognized that the Blackfeet Indians who lived in an adjacent reservation could draw in tourists, and he hired many to serve as greeters, storytellers, and entertainers. In the summer of 1927, Hill invited the New York-based artist Winold Reiss (American, b. Germany, 1886–1953) to travel by rail to the park, providing him with a studio and art supplies with which to paint the Blackfeet. Hill purchased all fifty-two of Reiss’ American Indian portraits, encouraged the artist to make semi-annual return visits over the next two decades, and purchased and reproduced hundreds of his paintings on railroad-company calendars, souvenir portfolios, playing cards, and puzzles to promote travel to the park.

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Playing cards

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

The patronage of the Great Northern Railway allowed Reiss special access to the Blackfeet peoples, with whom he cultivated positive relationships and lasting friendships. The artist did not stereotypically focus solely on chiefs or traditionalists in feather headdresses; while many of his paintings did capture Blackfeet elders, children, and others in ceremonial attire, he also portrayed them in modern clothing and blankets that nevertheless remained distinctively American Indian in pattern and fashion.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Always attracted to multicultural themes and subjects, Winold Reiss went on to create the larger-than-life murals and mosaics of American Indians, pioneers, black stevedores, and construction workers that adorned the walls of the rotunda in Cincinnati’s Union Terminal station.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Promoters of the southwestern railroad routes also used images of Navajos, Hopis, and Pueblo Indian material culture and art in their logos and advertising literature. The Santa Fe Line was especially keen on using American Indian imagery to distinguish their brand, sometimes employing subtle American Indian-inspired patterns, and at other times using images of native peoples in their advertisements.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase, The Mitchell Wolfson, Sr. Foundation

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Charles L. Marshall, Jr. and Richard L. Tooke

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Vicki Gold Levi

The association of the railroads with American Indians proved so popular that the Santa Fe company even used these same motifs in murals adorning their ticket offices, in metal ornamental sculptures for the walls of their dining cars, and even for the upholstery used on the railway car seats.

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Corn Dance, mural by William Penhallow Henderson, from the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Ticket Office, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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Hopi Kachina doll-inspired sculptures designed by Paul Cret as wall ornaments for the Santa Fe dining car, The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Visit by Mandela Washington Fellows

•July 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

One week ago, more than a dozen young participants in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders hosted by Florida International University during their visit to South Florida came to The Wolfsonian.

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After taking them on a guided tour of the galleries, I brought them into the museum’s rare book and special collections library to peruse a display of some materials related to sub-Saharan Africa.

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Given that The Wolfsonian’s collection is focused primarily on the period 1850 to 1950, much of what we have related to the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa derives from a colonialist context. There is, for example, a wealth of material documenting various colonial enterprises and imperial conflicts; propaganda produced for colonial expositions; and advertising brochures using representations of welcoming natives to convince European tourists to visit their colonies in Africa. From a number of these works, however, we were able to tease out some glimpses into the lives of the indigenous peoples of the African continent.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Some of the materials pulled from the library stacks included original sketchbooks, journals, and unique photograph albums created by European troops stationed in the African colonies. While many of the photographs and written records focused on the soldiers and their mission, some of the authors showed an interest in the lives of the colonial troops and the material culture of the native peoples.

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Original sketch of Somaliland by C.H.P., illustrator for the London Graphic, 1887

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

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Photograph album of British Army soldier, C.M.E. Wilson, South Africa, 1900-1901

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

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Original sketches of African and German soldiers from Helden in Afrika, 1901

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

Propaganda glorifying the Italian Fascist government’s invasion and attempted colonization of East African are well documented in the collection, and some recently catalogued materials sparked the interest of one of the visitors hailing from Ethiopia.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchases

One rather naïvely optimistic postcard illustrated by Aurelio Bertiglia imagined a kneeling Ethiopian child watching Italian children in colonial uniform painting a map of Ethiopia in the colors of the Italian flag!

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Steve Heller

In addition to stereotypical depictions of subservient Ethiopians, a recently digitized Italian portfolio includes surprisingly culturally sensitive and positive representations of some indigenous individuals.

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 The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

The Mandela Washington fellows also had the opportunity to see how African natives and cultures were presented—and sometimes misrepresented—in architecture, publications, and other printed ephemeral formats produced for colonial exhibitions, or to promote colonial foods and products.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Portuguese published a number of colonial exposition catalogs showing off their “little” empire with illustrations of the peoples inhabiting their colonial possessions in Africa.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Similarly, the tiny country of Belgium projected its own importance on the world stage by producing collecting cards representing its huge colony in the heart of Africa.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Francis Xavier Luca

The Wolfsonian–FIU Library also holds tens of thousands of printed promotional materials documenting the rise of colonial tourism and the cruise-ship industry. Steamship companies used brochures and illustrated menu covers to excite interest in the African colonies and their “exotic” inhabitants.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The GI Bill: America’s Promise to the Citizen-Soldier

•June 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Leonard Lauder

Today’s post was inspired by an anniversary: the signing of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (or G.I. Bill) by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on this day in 1944. Witnessing the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe and Japanese militarism in Asia, FDR became convinced that America needed to become an “arsenal of democracy.” Consequently, as war clouds loomed in the other hemisphere, the president stepped back from New Deal reforms aimed at addressing the domestic economic ills of the Great Depression and began combating isolationist sentiment and advocating for an interventionist foreign policy. As victory in Europe became more likely in 1944, the president took action to ensure that the mistakes of the First World War were not repeated.

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Washington Bonus March [mural study] / by Lewis Rubenstein

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Arguably, the Democratic challenger had been swept into office in the 1932 elections by the unpopularity of incumbent President Herbert Hoover’s inaction in the face of the Depression, but also by his shabby treatment of First World War vets. Some tens of thousands of veterans and their families—many of them having lost their homes to foreclosure—had descended on Washington, D.C. to lobby for passage of a “bonus” bill in Congress that would have compensated them for wages lost while serving their country overseas.

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

Following the defeat of the bill in the Senate, President Hoover ordered General MacArthur to use the army to forcibly evict the demonstrators.

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

MacArthur deployed bayoneted infantry, cavalry, tanks, and tear gas to disperse the protesters, and then crossed the river and burned down the veterans’ shantytown—all within view of the nation’s capitol.

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

The heavy-handed action also ensured that President Herbert Hoover’s bid for reelection also went up in smoke.

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

To head off another Bonus March in 1933, President Roosevelt offered Civilian Conservation Corps jobs to the veterans. Hundreds taking up that offer died two years later, when a devastating hurricane struck the Florida Keys before they could be evacuated.

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Photograph by author

Concerned by the cost to government coffers, Roosevelt opposed an immediate veterans’ compensation bill in 1935, though Congress overrode his veto and passed the Bonus bill the following year. As war-tensions mounted in the late 1930s, however, Roosevelt recognized that ramped-up production of war material alone would not sufficiently safeguard American interests and defend democratic allies abroad. As Fascists and Nazis relied on armies of brainwashed automatons, Roosevelt considered the citizen-soldier to be essential to the future of democracy. Once America entered the world war in December, 1941, the U.S. government spent considerable time and energy not merely propagandizing but educating the American soldier.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Steve Heller

Toward that end, the Roosevelt Administration sponsored documentary films like Frank Capra’s Why We Fight.

It also published a series of GI round table pamphlets that were designed not to tell the enlisted men what to believe, but rather to encourage thoughtful debate about our enemies and allies, about their war aims and ours, and about the world that the G.I.s would help shape in the aftermath of victory.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

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

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

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

By signing the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (or G.I. Bill) into law in 1944, Roosevelt promised veterans post-war access to unemployment compensation, vocational and higher-education tuition waivers, and low-interest loans for business and home ownership. Millions of servicemen and their dependents benefited from the G.I. Bill. Over the next fifty years, approximately 20 million took advantage of the educational opportunities afforded by the law, while another 14 million veterans used loans to purchase houses in the suburbs.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Sheryl Gold, in memory of Burnett Roth