William H. Helfand: A Tribute

•November 28, 2018 • Leave a Comment

In commemoration of the recent passing of William H. Helfand (1926–2018), I thought that I would take this occasion to present to my readers a few of the vast collection of display cards, prints, and other ephemeral items he collected, some of which were generously donated to The Wolfsonian–FIU library.



Mr. Helfand received a degree in pharmacy from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1952.


Over the course of his long life, he demonstrated a keen interest in pills, potions, and medical quackery; the manner in which pharmaceuticals were peddled to the public; and even how the imagery of inoculation and vaccination were deployed in nineteenth century editorial cartoons and other political parodies.




Not only did Mr. Helfand collect and preserve such materials; he became an internationally-recognized authority on the subject. For decades he served as a member of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, and as that body’s secretary and president for several years. He penned nearly seventy articles for Pharmacy in History, and published five well-illustrated books, including Pharmacy: An Illustrated History (1990), The Picture of Health (1991), and Quack, Quack, Quack: The Sellers of Nostrums in Prints, Posters, Ephemera, & Books (2002).


We, here at The Wolfsonian, mourn his passing, but celebrate his life’s passion and legacy.




War and Remembrance

•October 30, 2018 • 2 Comments

Earlier this month, approximately twenty Miami-area veterans came to The Wolfsonian–Florida International University in the company of FIU Assistant Professor of History and Health Policy and Management Jessica L. Adler. The group visit to the museum galleries and library was a part of a War and Healing program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Dialogues on the Experience of War initiative. The program aims to explore the process of post-service reintegration into civilian society through an examination of texts, primary sources, and visual arts dating from the First World War to the present. Museum educator Zoe Welch led the veterans on a guided tour of the museum galleries, stopping at various war-related museum pieces on display to initiate dialogue and discussion by the visitors. Harold Engman’s Human Pyramid, a painting with subtle jabs at the Nazi-occupation of his native Denmark and an implicit call for U.S. intervention, proved popular with the group.

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The veterans also spent considerable time debating the meaning and message of Italian artist Egeo Venturi’s untitled work from 1932 depicting two Italian cherub-like youths wearing military hat and playing with guns. Some of the male veterans saw nothing sinister in the painting as playing with guns and emulating their fathers is often typical behavior for young boys. Some of the female veterans, however, were disturbed by the image, noting that the boys appeared to be leveling their toy guns directly at the viewer—a subtle criticism, perhaps, by the artist of the consequences of the militarization of youth in Mussolini’s Fascist dictatorship.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The group also paused in the portrait gallery to ponder the significance of an oil painting by Otto Beyer created in 1919, and titled Revolution. The painting depicts a soldier in the foreground armed with a handgun, with looters and the flames of arson in the background. While Professor Adler and I focused on the historical context of the work of art—i.e. the political and social upheaval and unrest that the German soldiers returning from the front lines confronted on their homecoming—the veterans were moved more by the facial expression of the soldier in the foreground. Most commented on the soldier’s mask of war-weariness, and another thought he betrayed a shocking realization of impending death, as they pointed out what appeared to be a bullet hole in his helmet.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection
Revolution (1919) detail

After concluding the tour of the galleries, the group came up to the library to view Wit as Weapon: Satire and the Great War, an installation curated by three FIU undergraduate students, one of whom is a veteran of war.

Wit as Weapon_Pan2

After talking about the nature of war propaganda and the use of satire to villainize and ridicule the enemy, the group entered the main reading room, where the tables were laid out with a variety of materials.


The items on display ranged from First World War recruitment posters, war art by servicemen and photographic depictions of the front taken by Austrian soldiers, graphic social critiques by anti-war activists in the immediate wake of the war, view books picturing war memorials and other commemorative objects, to representations of veterans in the post-First World War period. The veterans were asked to deconstruct and critically analyze the artifacts on the tables, after which we provided some more information about the historical context of the items.

The veterans were invited to closely examine a set of First World War recruiting posters and to ponder the similarities and differences in the imagery and approaches between those targeting prospective white and African-American recruits.


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


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Wolfsonian’s library possesses a number of books, periodicals, and portfolios of plates illustrated by artists or photographers at the front. C. R. W. Nevinson, for example, published several books reproducing the Vorticist-influenced paintings he made of the front lines. While many capture the camaraderie and heroism of the common soldiers on the march and their experiences in the trenches, several also depict the horrors of war with images of wounded and “shell-shocked” soldiers.






The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Italian, German, and Austro-Hungarian troopers also produced images of the war with charcoals, paints, and cameras that were reproduced as postcards, portfolio plates, and periodical illustrations intended to bolster morale on the home front, but which sometimes also hinted at the horrors of war.







The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection


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

Most every nation participating in the war found it necessary to establish institutions intended to help seriously wounded veterans find therapeutic work to ease their transition from war to peace and make them feel like productive members of society once more.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

A poster by the French artist Jean Carlu was not shy about reminding his countrymen of “the debt” they owed to the seriously disfigured victims of the industrial war.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchased with Curatorial discretionary funds

Other artwork produced during and in the immediate aftermath of the Great War by German artists focused on the loss experienced by bereft mothers and widows, as in the work of Käthe Kollwitz, or George Grosz, who was openly critical of a society that could ignore the burdens borne by veterans maimed and horribly disfigured by the horrors of industrialized warfare.


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



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Other items on display for the veterans date from the 1930s, as anti-war movements were active, as ascendant Fascist and Nazi leaders rattled their sabers and preached the benefits of war as “nature’s hygiene,” and as democratic countries struggled with issues of compensating the services of the First World War veterans under the constraints of the Great Depression. In the United States, 40,000 or so veterans and their families marched on Washington as members of a “Bonus Expeditionary Force” determined to lobby Congress and press them for much-needed war service compensation promised but deferred. The Senate ultimately voted down the bonus bill, and the Army was dispatched to disperse the protesters and burn down the “Hooverville” they had established on the Anacostia Flats outside the capital.



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



The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

A lithographic print by Irving Marantz captures the sense of anger and frustration felt by many wounded warriors in America that were disregarded and disrespected after the war.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

In the same decade, the Italian government erected monuments and inaugurated the Largo dei Mutilati and Invalidi di Guerra in Rome and the Australians erected a magnificent memorial to commemorate the sacrifices of the soldiers of the Great War with Art Deco architecture, bas relief, mural paintings, and sculpture.






The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Our thanks go out to our partners at Florida International University, the Combat Hippies, the Florida State University Institute for World War II and the Human Experience, the Miami Vet Center of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and to the NAH for their support of this program.


Weaponized Wit: WWI Lampoons of Kaiser Wilhelm

•September 4, 2018 • 1 Comment

Last spring semester, I taught an undergraduate history class at Florida International University on the topic of the First World War as depicted in film and interpreted by historians. Three of the students in the course, Christopher Stotts, Stephanie Diaz, and Ayme Cameron, opted to work on a library installation for their final project. The result of their selection, research, and interpretive and descriptive label writing came to fruition last month as the art handlers installed the works and we opened the show Wit as Weapon: Satire and the Great War.




This installation includes a few clips from such First World War propaganda films as Charlie Chaplin’s The Bond (1918) and Shoulder Arms (1918), the latter humorously depicting life in the trenches.

It also includes short clips from My Four Years in Germany (1918), a film based on the memoirs of the American ambassador to Germany, and from Yankee Doodle in Berlin (1919), a satire starring the famous cross-dresser Bothwell Browne as a Mata Hari-like spy sent to seduce the Kaiser and steal his war plans.

The pièce de résistance of the installation is Ye Berlyn Tapestrie, a satire inspired by the medieval Bayeux Tapestry, which recorded episodes in the invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066.


Ye Berlyn Tapestrie closely follows the tapestry it parodies, substituting German war atrocities in Kaiser Wilhelm’s invasion of Flanders, pictured by John Hassall (1868–1948) and published in London in 1915 by “Ye Studio Offices.”



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Ye Berlyn Tapestrie required the creation of a new wall case designed especially to display the piece, which folds out accordion-style to a length of 196 inches. We are grateful for the support of Wolfsonian board member Henry Hacker, who not only donated 225 posters from the First World War to The Wolfsonian in 2010, but has been providing funds to support our library installations, including the new case designed especially for this lengthy satire.


The installation also includes a unique drawing by Louis Raemaekers (Dutch, 1869–1956) picturing Kaiser Wilhem II as a spider on a web


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift

Raemaeker was a Dutch cartoonist so outraged by the German invasion and occupation of Belgium that despite his own country’s neutrality, he published such scathing satires of German atrocities that the Military Command put a price on his head, prompting him to move to England to carry on with his campaign. Raemaekers’ cartoons were so popular that he made a tour of the United States once they entered the war, and his images were picked up by hundreds of newspapers with circulations in the millions. Many of his illustrations were reproduced as postcards and even as cigarette collecting cards.


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

XC2014.12.70.5_000 XC2014.12.70.5_001

XC2014.12.70.6_000 XC2014.12.70.6_001

The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

Once the installation opened, the student curators and the public were invited to a reception to see the finished product, and to peruse a display in the main library reading room of other satirical works dating from the Great War.


FIU student curator, Christopher Stotts





The library holds a significant collection of children’s books, games, puzzles, and postcards published during the Great War. While Wit as Weapon included works that lampooned various leaders and their armies, the majority of the items targeted the German Kaiser Wilhelm II.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Pamela K. Harer


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift

The satires, often published as picture books for children and adults, express outrage over his invasion and occupation of neutral Belgium, and the atrocities committed by his armies against civilians on land and by his U-boat commanders on the high seas.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift

Many of the American propaganda works depict the Kaiser as in league with, or surpassing in inhumanity, Satan and his demons.





The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift

Another book selected by the student curators vilified the Italians for repudiating their alliance to the Central Powers and for instead joining the allies prompted by promises of the Austrian provinces of Trento and Trieste at the war’s end. In this children’s book Maledetto Katzelmacker, pictured on the cover as a pop-eyed bandito with a bloody dagger, conspires with a Frenchman, an Englishman, and a Russian to break into the house of Austria to steal a parrot named, appropriately enough, Trento-Trieste. A German and an Austrian soldier catch the burglars in the act, frighten off the others, and hang the Italian.




The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Pamela K. Harer

The Wolfsonian–FIU Library is a rich resource for materials on the Great War, including vintage propaganda postcards, sheet music covers, and numerous rare books.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase




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

We welcome all of our local readers and those of you planning a visit to Miami to come to the museum to see the installation, on view through January 13, 2019.

Long Live the King: The Italian Liner, the Rex

•August 23, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Dr. Laurence Miller, former director of libraries at Florida International University, and, since his retirement, our most dedicated volunteer cataloger at The Wolfsonian–FIU. In 2008, Dr. Miller donated his extensive collection of post-Second World War cruise line and ocean liner ephemera to The Wolfsonian’s library, where it perfectly complemented Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.’s collection of prewar materials. Earlier this month, Maurizio Eliseo, an expert on the Rex, paid a visit to the museum and was introduced to our holdings by Dr. Miller and our curators. Here is Dr. Miller’s report:

Recently, the staff of The Wolfsonian were honored to receive a visit from Maurizio Eliseo, the well-known author of several notable books concerning famous Italian liners and the maritime tradition that they represent. Thanks to his efforts, the liner Rex may be the best-documented liner in the history of North Atlantic travel. The 51,062 gross ton liner, completed in the summer of 1931, won the coveted Blue Riband, the transatlantic speed record in 1933, and held it until 1935 when bested by the French Line’s Normandie.


The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Maurizio’s books each provide nearly 300 pages of documentation and contain virtually every known photographic illustration of the Rex. A forthcoming third volume on the vessel will be translated into English and accessible to most liner enthusiasts.

The highlight of Mr. Eliseo’s visit came during his visit to the library, where he had the opportunity to peruse two of the largest books in the collection. Both of the oversized tomes include detailed drawings of the décor and fittings, and specifications of materials and finishes to be used in the design of the interiors and furnishings of the second and third-class public areas and staterooms of the Rex.







The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection


The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Rex’s aristocratic profile commanded respect and it was as imposing in external appearance as it was beautiful in its interiors.


The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Many of the brochures, deck plans, menus, and other ephemera in The Wolfsonian’s library collection focus more on the first-class accommodations aboard the Rex. 


The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

While photographic images capture the reality of the ship, artists’ renderings prepared for advertisements published by the Italian Line during the Fascist era tended to exaggerate the size and scale of public rooms and decks.






The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The illustrated brochures are useful, however, in providing an idea of the colors used and of the general elegance of Italian interior ship design in this period. The brochures focusing on first-class public areas also depict the formal dress and attire of the era. Adjusted for inflation, first-class fares for the Rex are comparable to first and business-class fares today, making these accommodations the exclusive preserve of the elite. With the divisions between classes of accommodation strictly enforced on the Mediterranean route, affluent passengers could expect to be surrounded by “the better sort.” The experience for first-class passengers aboard Rex was akin to being a temporary resident in a palace.


The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

If some passengers loved the majestic feel of sailing aboard the Rex, others preferred the more modern interiors of the Conte di Savoia, with its elegant, innovative designs by Gustavo Pulitzer.





The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Conte di Savoia’s first-class smoking room probably provided the inspiration for the ballroom on board the Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2. The writer was asked to choose a few interior illustrations that he thought worth replicating in the modern liner, and took an illustration of this space to the Ft. Lauderdale offices of those working on interiors for the new Cunard ship. Working within the strictures of current fire safety regulations—which limit the longitudinal size of interior spaces—the designers tried to capture the elegance of an earlier era of Atlantic travel. Touches of the Normandie can also be identified aboard QM2.

The Wolfsonian has a particularly fine collection of post-Second World War Costa and Sitmar brochures in the Laurence Miller Collection that Mr. Eliseo also had a chance to examine.



The WolfsonianFIU, Laurence Miller Collection

My first ocean-going voyage took place in 1957 on board Sitmar’s Castel Felice, a student and emigrant ship, which sailed from Montreal to New York in four days for the very reasonable rate of $55.



The WolfsonianFIU, Laurence Miller Collection

Mr. Eliseo wrote an excellent history of the company, The Sitmar Liners and the V Ships, published by Carmania Press in 1998, in the wake of another beautiful book about the Costa Liners published the previous year and co-authored by Paolo Piccine.



Through a Glass Darkly: Colonial Views of Africa

•July 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

On the last Saturday of June, two dozen Mandela Washington Young African Leader fellowship recipients came to The Wolfsonian–Florida International University for a guided tour of the galleries and a presentation of primary source materials conducted by associate librarian Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi in our rare book and special collections library. The group included persons from nineteen African nations including: Ethiopia, Cameroon, the United Republic of Tanzania, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Malawi, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Niger, Namibia, Guinea, Liberia, Madagascar, and Zambia.


The Wolfsonian’s collection focuses primarily on the period 1850 to 1950, a time when much of the African continent was under European hegemonic control. Consequently, most of our holdings of Africa and Africans present the regions and peoples through the distorted prism and perspective of colonialism and tourism. The visitors had the opportunity to see how European “explorers” and imperialists viewed the continent and represented it in colonial expositions.

The Wolfsonian possesses considerable propaganda relating to Italian and German colonial ventures in Africa. The Italian colonization of Eritrea and Ethiopia are well documented in the library collection, with numerous rare books, periodicals, and ephemera dealing with the First (1895–1896) and Second (1935–1939) Italo-Ethiopian wars.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

Most of the materials laid out for our guests were produced by the Italian Fascist regime to “educate” the population about the region, to justify the invasion in 1935, and to promote patriotic pride in the establishment of the Italian Empire.





The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

Aside from overtly “heroic” and “romanticized” depictions of Italians overcoming retreating Ethiopian warriors, most of the publications designed for home consumption tended to focus on women and children to make light of combat and to insinuate that most of the native people welcomed Italian intervention and colonial rule.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Steve Heller




The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

The library does have some anti-Italian propaganda related to the Second Italo-Ethiopian war as well, including a number of issues of Akbaba, a Turkish publication with covers highly critical of Mussolini and the Italian invasion.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Carl Weller published a portfolio of 48 color photographic illustrations of Germany’s colonial possessions in Africa.






The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

After coming to power in 1933, Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists began publishing a flurry of books and pamphlets designed to create nostalgia for and indignation over the African colonies lost by Germany after the First World War. The Kraft durch Freude (or, “Strength through Joy”) leisure program was established by the Nazis as a means of popularizing their National Socialist agenda and elevating the German government to become the largest tourism operator in the world. The KdF provided class-free, subsidized cruises for Germans as a means of stimulating the economy, promoting German-flag shipping, and encouraging trips, especially to former colonies in Africa.









The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Other European colonial powers also promoted travel to their respective colonies in Africa.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

While touring the galleries, the visitors had the opportunity to see art objects such as La Barre à Mine (Mining Bar), a statue created by Arthur Dupagne for the Belgian Congo Pavilion at the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques, in Paris. While the painted plaster statue depicts a well-proportioned, muscular African male using a crowbar to break rock, it implies that Belgians would have to supply the brain power.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Printed materials from various world’s fairs and colonial expositions in Europe demonstrate how even architecture was used for propaganda purposes. Parisian architects erected African vernacular structures as pavilions, giving them a modern twist.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. loan


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift




The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchased with funds donated by Vicki Gold Levi

Postcards and children’s coloring books were often distributed at expositions to “educate” and excite interest in African colonies among adult and younger fair visitors.





The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift



The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

At the 1935 international exposition in Belgium, architectural planners deliberately sited and juxtaposed impressive modernist structures next to simple grass and palm thatch huts and “human zoos” to remind visitors of the contrast between “civilized” and “savage” peoples.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The interiors of these colonial pavilions reinforced the message of the exteriors with displays that implied that educational, religious, and humanitarian missions outweighed economic motives.




The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

In spite of the obvious biases and ethnocentricities inherent in the European-produced material about Africa, they are not without historical value. The reader can read diaries, journals, and peruse collecting cards as well as sketch and scrapbooks to catch a glimpse of “authentic” African dress and customs in the artwork and photographs that grace their pages.




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




The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection




The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase



Graphic Art Selling Revolution, Jewelry, and War

•June 27, 2018 • 1 Comment

Although the Wolfsonian librarians have been extraordinarily busy this summer processing, accessioning, and cataloging a flood of new acquisitions and gifts, this last month we had only a small trickle of visitors. The first group included Charlotte Camille, Ludovic Houplain, and Maxime Vandenabeele, members of the H5 Group based in Paris who will be working with us on a project for the next Art Basel Miami Beach event in December. Dr. Harsanyi provided our guests with a personalize tour of the library installation he curated on early Soviet Constructivist art.


As the group was particularly interested in graphic art, typography, and logo designs, we brought them into the main reading room to peruse a number of works pulled from our rare book and special collections holdings.


The materials ranged from a 1908 deluxe reprinting of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra [Thus spake Zarathustra] designed by Henry C. Van de Velde (1863–1957) with typeface designed by Georges Lemmen (1865–1957);



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

… type specimen booklets and broadsides, and guides and handbooks on the theory and practice of layout design;


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Steve Heller



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…an ABC gem box with alphabetical designs by Kurt Hans Volk (1883–1962); typeface and photographs of exhibitions designed by Bauhaus artist, Herbert Bayer (1900–1985);



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…unusual and celebrated books designed by Italian Futurists, Fortunato Depero (1892–1960), Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876–1944), Tullio Crali (1910–2000), and Raoul Cenisi (1912–1991);





The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

 …brochures and plans for pictogram-like game pieces created by Ladislav Sutnar (1897–1976);





The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Rad Sutnar

Later in the month, Dr. Harsanyi and I hosted eighteen visitors from Richline Group, a jewelry manufacturer dedicated to the establishment of an internationally recognized, vertically-integrated corporate branding, production, marketing, and distribution strategy throughout the jewelry supply chain.




While The Wolfsonian’s library does not specialize in period jewelry, we did have a plethora of reference books on the subject, numerous rare catalogs highlighting the work of European and American gold and silversmiths, as well as a portfolio of plates advertising Art Deco jewelry.





The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The library also holds the Victory Gold Levi Collection, which, in addition to ephemeral paper and print materials documenting the U.S. propaganda campaign, also includes a number of “V for Victory” pins designed to be worn by patriotic women on the home front.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Victory Gold Levi Collection

Not unlike our earlier French visitors, others in this group were as interested in the logos, branding, photography, and display strategies used in various advertising industry publications also laid out on the tables for them to peruse.


Finally, Wolfsonian director Tim Rodgers stopped by on a Saturday with Eric and Svetlana Silverman, their daughter, and their guest, Tamao Watanabe, the executive officer and director of Kyowa Kirin.


The Silvermans were the lenders to Constructing Revolution, Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s Soviet propaganda poster exhibition now on display in our galleries.

Constructing Revolution_18A3202

Our own resident expert on the Soviet Union, Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi, curated a library installation, Red and Black: Revolution in Soviet Propaganda Graphics. This installation complements Constructing Revolution by exploring how books, periodicals, and portfolio plates also experimented with Constructivist imagery and Soviet symbols to promote the Socialist revolution.

Red & Black_Panorama1

As their guest was also interested in getting a sense of our Japanese holdings, I pulled out some highlights, including: vibrant color chromolithographic proofs for greeting cards published in the wake of the Russo-Japanese War;



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…historical bindings from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection;


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

… color prints depicting the Great Japan Earthquake of 1923;





The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

… an accordion-style binding with pochoir (stencil work) modernist designs for perfume and cosmetics packaging (alas, not yet digitized); and Second World War-era Japanese propaganda prints designed to be fashioned into patriotic fans.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection


We always feel privileged to be able to share our holdings with VIPs and groups visiting the museum, and to be able to provide our online fans with a digital sampling of the same.

Clear the Tables! French, Cuban, Native American, and Bakehouse Appetizers

•May 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, The WolfsonianFIU rare book and special collections library hosted a number of visits by very diverse groups, and selected rare tidbits for consumption at one of our public programming events. The librarians pulled, displayed, and then re-shelved materials for each group of visitors, only to repeat the procedure again and yet again. Today’s post provides our online visitors with a glimpse of some of the specialties laid out for our guests.


The first set of visitors were interested in some of our French appetizers. Led by Florida International University Professor Maria Antonieta Garcia, twelve students from her French literature, theater, and cinema classes—(some accompanied by their significant others)—arrived to feast their eyes on a variety of items spread out across the main reading room tables.


Some of the students had expressed in interested in sampling materials dealing with nineteenth century train travel, so we displayed some of those holdings.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Others in the group were interested in the depiction and evolution of women’s roles from a French perspective. The visitors were able to peruse such diverse items as advertising materials, First World War postcards, programs, and rare illustrated books covering such diverse themes as domestic work, regional dress, changing social mores, sexual objectification, and prostitution.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection



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




The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Others at the table included a group interested in the French depictions of race and ethnicity, segregation and integration. Exhibition catalogs, original watercolors, and photographic portfolio plates from the Exposition coloniale internationale held in Paris 1931 provided some food for thought regarding the depiction—particularly of women—and treatment of indigenous peoples from France’s overseas empire in this era.




The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loans

A calendar advertising tobacco—(recently on display in one of our library installations)—also provided the group with something to consider regarding its visual message.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

A final group of students were interested in early French film, and had the opportunity to flip through a few rare items not yet digitized. After their departure I remembered some portfolio plates from the mid-1920s depicting the Art Deco façades of some Parisian cinemas.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Almost as soon as we cleared the tables, we had to lay out a spread for a group of Getty Council members.



A couple dozen Getty VIP guests, led by conservator Rosa Lowinger, was planning to travel to Havana, and had stopped at our museum library to whet their appetite with a presentation of some items documenting the U.S.-Cuba tourist trade and cultural interaction during the first half of the twentieth century. As I am beginning to work on an installation about Cuban graphic designer, Conrado Walter Massaguer, and Rosa and I are currently collaborating on a book drawn from a promised gift of rare photographs and other ephemera collected by Vicki Gold Levi, the topic was fresh in our minds and we both talked at length on the subject.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

I pointed out some items that documented the desire to eschew U.S. Prohibition as a driving force in drawing the first wave of wealthy North American tourists to the island in the 1920s, even as the Cuban government passed legislation promoting gambling and other attractions. The first wave of wealthy tourists arriving in Cuba is reflected in such Hollywood films as Havana Widows (1933) and Rumba (1935), and documented in an abundance of photos, periodicals, and memorabilia.








The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection & Promised Gifts

Even as free-flowing rum, carnival parades, and the sensual rumba dance enticed visitors, the group’s tour guide, Rosa Lowinger spoke about the American investors, builders, and architects who erected the luxurious hotels, casinos, country clubs, and other infrastructure designed to accommodate the rush of tourists.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Promised Gifts

Rosa also described the incredible nightlife that Havana offered visitors returning in the 1950s, and about the impact that Cuban music and dance had on the mainland, as Cuban rhythms were adopted and adapted to suit American preferences. Clubs like the San Souci, Montmartre, and Tropicana lured in visitors with gambling casinos, music, and shows.






The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection & Promised Gifts

As Cuban performers came to the U.S., the rumba, mambo, cha- cha- cha-, and Afro-Cuban jazz fusions became all the rage in Latin-themed dance halls, and forever changed the American music scene. The visitors had the opportunity to see some of the sheet music and sound recording covers and nightclub programs from the period.





The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Promised Gifts

No sooner than the Cuban materials were retired from the tables, the library hosted a behind the scenes library tour for six staff member of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian museum.


I had not long ago put together a library installation documenting the use of Native American portraits and other imagery as a means of promoting tourism to the Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Everglades national parks, and we pulled some of these items and others focusing on the Seminoles for the group to peruse.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection




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




The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift made by Ideal Gladstone, in memory of her husband, John


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

The library also holds some rare books produced during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency. One oversized Work Projects Administration portfolio contains 18 silk screen color illustrated plates made by the Michigan Art and Craft Project in Detroit, reproducing movable masks and figures of the North Pacific coast Indians.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Another book, an illustrated English-Navajo reader designed for Indian children and published by the government to encourage Native Americans to learn English, but to also retain their own language and cultural traditions.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Once the items laid out for the museum professionals had been reshelved, new materials were pulled and set on the tables for a visit by Chris Horn and Emily Barber of the U.S. Forest Service.


The visitors were most interested in some of the Civilian Conservation Corps items in our holdings, which including brochures, pictorial reviews, clippings, mimeographed CCC camp periodicals published by the enrollees, and even a forestry game board.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Christopher DeNoon Collection for the Study of New Deal Culture






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

Putting together this post, I was reminded of the old Grape Nuts cereal commercial in which Euell Gibbons addresses the consumer with the line, “Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.”


This leads to our last table settings and visitors, appropriately enough, being a group of professionals from the Bakehouse Art Complex, a former industrial art deco era bakery refashioned into an institution offering art studio residencies and programs who came to see some Italian and Dutch treats spread out on our table.




The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

In addition to some of the rare batik bindings and typographic masterpieces in the collection, the group were able to preview some of the menus, recipe books, and other food-related items in our collection selected for an Into the Stacks event planned for later that week, including some recently donated menus from Louis Miano, David Almeida, and Gina Wouters not yet digitized.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

This last Friday marked Heather Cook’s last day as the Head of Education and Visitor Services at The Wolfsonian–FIU as she and her husband are relocating to Madison, Wisconsin. In her honor, a Wolfsonian Bake Off was organized, with staff members bringing in their special recipes.


Later that same evening, Heather and Miami’s Crypt Cracker, Nathaniel Sandler, hosted an Into the Stacks Event with some sample for the public followed by a presentation and tour highlighting some of the stranger recipes and interesting kitchen gadgets to be found in our collection. Some high fiber diet recipes from the Depression years, for example, were written by the Kellogg Company to help Americans combat constipation, declared “public enemy No. 1” in one of their recipe books!



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





And so we end this post with a bon voyage to Heather, and a bon appetite to our online visitors.