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Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Dear weekend awaiters,

This is the second installment of a new Lazy Scholar feature, pairing news items with historical archives.

Slate‘s TV Club is diligently following and debating the new season of Mad Men. If you haven’t watched (is that possible?), it’s a 60s scholar’s dream, with carefully reconstructed interior design, fashion, and, yes, language. A few weeks back, Ben Zimmer at the New York Times Magazine offered an inside look at the writers’ efforts to keep the dialogue historically accurate. Scholars of advertising and consumerism, of course, will be thrilled, too, even if the show fictionalizes the origins of many real-life advertising campaigns. Sorry folks, Don Draper did not coin Lucky Strike’s slogan. People were enjoying their “toasted” cigarettes as early as 1919, as this ad shows. Until next Sunday night, you can ponder more of the history behind Mad Men by checking out the beautiful exhibit, The High Art of Photographic Advertisement, thanks to Harvard Business School’s Baker Library. One wonders, were those “Luckies” even more tempting in color?

• Moving on to the big screen, top critics are divided about Eat, Pray, Love, Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir about her post-divorce trip to Italy and elsewhere. You can follow the globe-trots of some earlier American women courtesy of  Brigham Young University’s American Travelers in Italy archive, with digitized copies of travelogues by Sophia Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, and Louisa May Alcott. The Little Women author had this to say about Rome: “Felt as if I had been there before and knew all about it. Always oppressed with a sense of sin, dirt, and general decay of all things.” Not exactly the stuff of summer movies.

• Officials and locals in Louisiana debate whether it’s safe or wise to re-open commercial fishing grounds after the Gulf oil spill. Between 1921 and 1932, LA Department of Wildlife and Fisheries employee Percy Viosca, Jr.,  documented the state’s coasts, and captured many photos of its fishing industry. You can view images like the one below on the Viosca Collection from LSU.

• After much research, McSweeney’s presented the “Editor’s Choice Award” to their favorite “e-Reader”: the Newspaper. It “outclassed its rivals both in terms of size and elasticity” and its “display could be read at full size or, when flipped open, twice its normal width.” Fellow ironical Luddites will enjoy the Library of Congress’s amazing, easy-to-navigate, and free Chronicling America Archive, with searchable copies of newspapers dating from 1860 to 1922, including The Texas Jewish Herald, The Salt Lake Evening Democrat, The Ohio Valley Worker, and the Daily Tombstone of Tombstone, Arizona. Here’s a look at some beachfront fashions from a 1916 issue of the New York Herald-Tribune, “an afternoon gown of black silk.”

• Speaking of fashion, this just in: Urban Outfitters’s fall catalog was shot entirely in and around my adopted summer home, Northampton, Massachusetts. Have the grounds of Smith ever looked so co-ed? You can download the catalog here. And you can see historical images of Smith here, thanks to the college’s library. Below, some ladies play leapfrog on the ice for the Sophomore Carnival of 1922.

That’s all for this week dear readers.

Yours currently,

Stephen

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Dear regular readers,

Today the Lazy Scholar is experimenting with a new feature called Old News, in which current news items are paired with archival finds. Let me know if you like it!

• The New York Times ran a taste-test of strawberry ice cream, only to find that the not-so-local, not-so-artisinal Häagen-Dazs variety beat out the pricier competitors. You can try making your own from scratch, following this recipe for Crushed Strawberry Cream from 1907’s Ice Cream and Candy Makers’ Factory Guide, courtesy of the Smithsonian’s Trade Literature Collection. Many more cool images and texts can be found on their Flickr page.

• You might have heard: the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage. But the fight for marriage equality has deeper roots than you might think. Listen to track 4 from this digitized 1970 episode of “Gay Perspective,” a radio show produced by the Milwaukee-based Gay People’s Union. In this installment, a lesbian couple relates how they sought a marriage license from the Milwaukee County Clerk and were quickly denied. As one woman put it, “Love is not meant to be hidden…. And I won’t hide it. If I don’t get a license now, I’ll keep trying, and keep trying, and eventually I’ll get one.” There’s much more to hear and see in the Gay People’s Union Collection, brought to you by University of Wisconsin.

• Speaking of marriage, in Real Simple, Daily Show correspondents and spouses Samantha Bee and Jason Jones offer advice to make your holy matrimony “divorceproof,” including this useful bit of wisdom: “If you’re irritated by your partner, imagine him as a small child.” For some more tried and true advice, read Marie Carmichael Stopes’ 1918 text Married Love, digitized by UPenn. Its frankness so scandalized readers, the book was banned in the U.S. until 1931. Here’s one of its raciest images: a”curve showing the Periodicity of Recurrence of natural desire in healthy women.”

• The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Postal Service is apparently ailing, as, wouldn’t you know it, people have switched increasingly from paper mail to the electronic variety. You can start mourning the passing of stamps by checking out Arago, the collections site of the National Postal Museum. Take, for example, these 1979 “Endangered Flora” stamps. Because one endangered species deserves another.

• Courtesy of the Library of Congress, the Denver Post has put online 78 beautiful color photographs taken from 1939 to 1943 for the Farm Security Administration. To those used to imagining the 1930s and 40s in black and white, the color images have a way of bringing that period a little bit closer. You can view many, many more on the Library of Congress site, including this photo of a Florida “juke joint.”

Yours currently,

Stephen

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Many who like procrastination like this blog,

Today’s post, number three in the Lazy Scholar’s ongoing Divided States project, comes to you from  Brian Distelberg, a historian of twentieth-century U.S. culture and politics and a PhD candidate at Yale. I first encountered Distelberg’s work in the most recent issue of GLQ, featuring his rich and insightful article on gay book critics and the emergence of gay visibility politics in the 1970s. His dissertation examines minority groups’ campaigns to combat stereotypes and encourage “positive” representations in film, television, and other media between the 1940s and the 1990s. His other interests include gay and lesbian history, African American history, and the regional history of New England in the twentieth century.  He blogs about his research, contemporary politics and culture, LGBT issues, and other topics at his website.

“It would be a brave man who would sit down, alone or with company, and attempt a portrait of this State. Present-day Connecticut is too diversified and restless to yield an easy likeness.”

So wrote John B. Derby, state director of the Federal Writer’s Project, in his preface to Connecticut: A Guide to Its Roads, Lore, and People (1938), the Nutmeg State’s entry in the sequence of guidebooks that inspired the “Divided States” posts. Today, Connecticut is perhaps even more “diversified and restless” than it was in the New Deal era. But thanks to an abundance of archival material digitized by its libraries, universities, and historical societies, you can delve into its past in search of your own “portrait of this State” with relative ease.

Derby’s preface invokes the nineteenth-century engraver John Warner Barber, who travelled and sketched the state’s towns for his book Historical Collections of Connecticut (1836). You can browse hundreds of Barber’s drawings and engravings at Connecticut History Online (CHO), a portal and search engine that offers access to the collections of a number of historical institutions. In 1934, just shy of a century after Barber’s volume appeared,the state completed a first-in-the-nation photographic aerial survey. Check out “Aerial Surveys,” one of over twenty subject-based digital collections created by the Connecticut State Library, to search the images, and others from 1938 and 1965, by town and by street. Here’s a view of the state capitol in Hartford in 1934, opened in 1879, and here’s the famous onion-domed factory of Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company. (Another State Library exhibit has numerous images from the corporate records of Colt, one of Connecticut’s many arms manufacturers, including this charming photo of a young girl holding a Colt .45 revolver.)

About thirty miles east of Hartford is Storrs, home to the University of Connecticut, which was established in 1881 as the Storrs Agricultural School and serves as the state’s land-grant university. That heritage helps explain the impressive-looking College of Agriculture Building depicted in this undated postcard, one of hundreds from throughout the state included in the Boston Public Library’s Tichnor Brothers Inc. Postcard Collection and available on Flickr.

The Thomas J. Dodd Research Center offers several ways to dig deeper into the history of student life at UConn. As a Syracuse basketball fan by marriage I’m not exactly an enthusiast for UConn athletics, but the historian in me is still fascinated by the films of football and basketball games from the 1930s and 1940s digitized by the Dodd Center. You can also browse volumes of Nutmeg, the university yearbook, stretching from 1915-1990. Although the image quality is disappointing and each page features an obtrusive watermark, the yearbooks remain fascinating time capsules. Take a look at the 1970 volume, filled with Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel lyrics, images of antiwar protests, and student organizations like the “Parachute Club,” all coexisting somewhat uncomfortably with more traditional fare like freshman beanies, fraternities, and the ROTC. (And, hey—is that kid holding a vuvuzela?)

Down in New Haven, meanwhile, is Yale University, which I’ve called home for the past four years. If you’d prefer a sense of the daily pace of student life, the Yale Library Digital Collections allow you to browse and search past issues of the Yale Daily News dating from 1878 to 1992.

But given its history as a “Model City” for urban renewal programs after World War II, New Haven also provides a window onto the broader history of U.S. cities in the twentieth century. Yale experts helped to make New Haven’s urban renewal policies, and Yale scholars and its libraries have since helped to document those policies’ often-tragic results.  For a multimedia introduction to the history, have a look at Life in the Model City: Stories of Urban Renewal in New Haven, a digital exhibit combining text, images, and oral history recordings. Then continue on to the Yale Library’s Historical New Haven Digital Collection, which allows you to browse images by neighborhood, as well as maps and a compendium of census and other demographic data. (Much of it seems to be the primary sources gathered by Douglas W. Rae for his 2003 study City: Urbanism and Its End.) Here, for instance, is a before-and-after image of the Oak Street neighborhood, bulldozed and replaced by a highway, and another celebrating the construction of the Elm Haven public housing project in the Dixwell neighborhood near Yale’s campus (which has since been demolished to make way for new townhouse-style homes).

Connecticut History Online also furnishes fully-searchable access to many more images from the files of the New Haven Redevelopment Agency—a fantastic teaching tool.

If that all isn’t enough, in two years, the Connecticut Humanities Council will launch another digital resource for exploring the state’s history, the Encyclopedia of Connecticut History Online (ECHO).  Until it debuts in 2012, you can follow the compilers’ progress and sample some of the content at their blog, ECHO Underway.

Yours in steady habits,

Brian Distelberg

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To anyone who’s ever read an academic monograph on the beach,

The fiancé and I have relocated to Northampton, Massachusetts for the summer. For the moment, I’m still trying to find my bearings, which mostly means charting the routes between our apartment and every café in a two-mile radius. My friend Katie has also lent me her bike while she gallivants through the physical archives of Europe, though I discovered within a minute or two that I have actually forgotten how to ride (with a  slightly skinned knee to prove it).

It’s too soon to make any grand observations about Northampton or Western MA, but not to search the digital archive for glimmers of the past. So I turn to Digital Treasures, a joint archive of Central and Western MA’s industrial and agricultural history. The pickings are a little slim for Northampton itself, unless you’re a big fan of Calvin Coolidge, who lived and died here. In the photo below, he was spotted building (or at least modeling beside) a go-kart with his son, just a few years before he would head to the White House.

Maybe I’m just hungry, but personally, I’m a little more thrilled by these 1930s images of Holyoke’s A & P. Nothing like a long line of white guy in white pharmacist’s coats to rouse the appetite.

If that leaves you famished, you can also check out the selectively digitized recipes from the McIntosh Cookery Collection, including “Mother’s Buns” from the 1941 community cookbook What the Westminster Men Eat and How Their Wives Prepare It. I’m less sure what to make of Our Pet Cook Book from 1937 published by the MA Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The title suggests Depression-era dishes made for pets, or more grimly from pets. But in reality, like most community cookbooks, it was mostly an assemblage of recipes from the locals.

Still the real star of the McIntosh collection is their elegantly designed New England Chowder Compendium, which allows you to compare wild variety of chowder recipes (corn! oyster! clam!) decade by decade. Here, for one, is the fish chowder recipe from, yes, Our Pet Cookbook. Which raises the important question: would penguins make good pets?

Check back later in the summer for more Western Mass artifacts. For now I’ll sign off with this recording from the Massachusetts State College Glee Club courtesy of “UMarmot.”

Yours in summer garb,

Stephen

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Dear Prodigy pioneers,

This week and next, the undergrad dorm where I’m a resident tutor is putting on their annual musical—this year Guys and Dolls. And complete Carrie Bradshawesque narcissist that I am, that got me thinking back to my own theatrical past, specifically trying out for my high school’s production of Guys and Dolls my freshman year. The task, of course, was geared to traumatize the weak of vocal skill—sing the opening verse of “Luck Be A Lady.” Simple enough, except I started about two octaves too high. I dropped out a few days later, and so my on-stage career ended. I found a few years later, that I much preferred a place behind the scenes, in the audience, or, apparently, at the computer.

The digital archive, in fact, contains a host of valuable sites dedicated to the performing arts. For an appetizer, try the Hansen Collection from UNC. It includes beautiful broadsides, like the one to the right, from an 1870 Boston performance of Rip Van Winkle, adapted by Dion Boucicault (more on him here).  You’ll also find correspondences, posters, and some stirring photographs. And if you were wondering, celebrity sponsorship didn’t start in the twentieth century. Witness below, soprano Minnie Hauk hawking the Warner Brothers’ corsets. (I initially misread “Abdominal” and “Abominable.” So much for truth in advertising).


Over at the University of Louisville, the Macauley’s Collection chronicles the life of a family-owned theater in the Bluegrass State. The archive includes photographs of countless actors unknown today, including Anna Boyd, dressed below left as a man. For cross-dressing in the other direction, you can see a photograph on the right of once-famed performer Julian Eltinge. (Check out Sharon Ullman’s excellent chapter on Eltinge in Sex Seen to learn more, and click here for yet more cross-dressing from the Macauley collection).

Eager for other images of 19th century actors and actresseses? Try this collection of cartes-de-visite from the University of Washington. There you’ll find, lo and behold, photographs of Mr. Joseph Jefferson himself in his role as Rip Van Winkle, before and after his big sleep. (How do you like that for continuity, dear reader!)

As Benjamin McArthur explores in his well-received study, The Man Who Was Rip Van Winkle, made his name playing the famous napper, and became one of the best-known comedic actors of the American stage.

Alas, that’s all for this time.

Curtains down,

Stephen

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Dear deadline dodgers,

Regular readers may have noticed my online output has slowed lately, for which I can only blame the short days, the rainy weather, and that fine art some call “dissertating.” Alas, in my delinquency, I missed a chance to offer a Black History Month missive—so I hope you’ll accept this belated attempt.

One of the most vivid records of the African-American past come through studio photography—posed portraits of men and women, often donning their finest suits and dresses. The Duke University Library, for one, holds the beautiful collection of Michael Francis Blake, who opened shop in Baltimore in 1912. The majority of his subjects are now unknown, like the woman on the left who posed in Blake’s studio, and the man on the right, who posed outside.

The Smithsonian, meanwhile, has a striking archive of black D.C. photographer Addison Scurlock. Most of his images come from later decades, and hint at both improvements in photographic technology and in African-American status.  Here are two photographs circa 1940, on the left, one of Sergeant Eddie Gibson, on the right, one of Mrs. Lucretia Guy on the right.

 

One would have to do a closer investigation to see if Blake and Scurlock’s photographs feel more intimate, more knowing, than those of some of his white contemporaries. How did the power dynamics shift, the conversations in the studio change? Case in point, University of Virginia’s digital archive of portraits by white photographer Rufus Holsinger’s work. It includes hundreds of images of African-Americans from Charlottesville and the vicinity, throughout the nineteen-teens, like the two below.

George S. Cook, meanwhile, picked up photography and then taught it to many others throughout the late nineteenth-century South. He would later buy many of his students’ negative, eventually amassing thousands. Virginia Commonwealth University’s Through the Lens of Time puts his collection of African-American portraits on view. They are not not without moral ambiguity. Some of the photographs seem to delight in validating stereotypes, like this one of a boy hugging a watermelon.  Yet others seem intensely vivid, like the one below of a boy in a patchwork hat. The names and identities of the photographers, like their subjects, have since been lost, leaving the images alone to speak for them.Until next time, I remain yours tardily,

Stephen

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Dear online wanderers,

Today, I bring you the second installment of “The Divided States,” my small effort to uncover the digital archives of each and every American state, from sea to shining sea. (Read  “Pennsylvania Mania” if you missed it). This time, we head northwest to South Dakota.

South Dakota’s been on my mind the last few weeks as I started re-watching HBO’s exquisite but, alas, ended drama Deadwood, set in the historic Black Hills gold mining camp. The original settlers broke with an 1868 treaty that promised the land to the Lakota Sioux. For one interesting take on Lakota tribe, check out the Smithsonian exhibit on Alice Flecther. A single woman with little formal training, Fletcher did anthropological fieldwork in the Great Sioux Reservation in the fall of 1881, just two years before the reservation was officially “opened” to ambitious settlers. To the right is a photograph of her guide Wajapa.

You’ll find many more photographs at the Digital Library of South Dakota, with collections from many of the state’s universities. The photo archives of USD are especially evocative. Check out the  portfolio from a 1999 exhibition, including the image to the left, from a 1954 performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream.

For yet more photographs, also check out the archive’s of the state’s historical society, at Heritage West.

And be sure to head over to the again bounteous Internet Archive to watch a 1940 film about gold mining, part I and part II. Or take a peek at the original WPA Guide to South Dakota, with wonderful illustrations like this grim drawing of “Hangman’s Hill”—just to prove Deadwood‘s portrait of swearing, murderous settlers isn’t entirely off the mark.

That’s all for this week, dear readers.

Yours in infamy,

Stephen

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