Celebrating World Day for Audio Visual Heritage with Hollywood Songs

monday-mourning-on-saturday-night_coverMonday, October 27 is World Day for Audio Visual Heritage, a day promoted by UNESCO and the Co-ordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA), for raising awareness of the preservation issues of the vast and valuable audio-visual materials in our archives. For several reasons, audio-visual information is especially vulnerable to loss: much of it is rare or unique, irreplaceable if lost; it is kept on a dizzying array of media types, many of which have become obsolete; many of these media types are extremely fragile and are prone to degradation over time; and to even know what is on a given recording may require that it be played — an act that could easily spell the end of that particular recording’s life.

The collections of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts at Penn contain some wonderful audio-visual material. Some of it has been expertly preserved, reformatted in high quality digital form, with originals receiving appropriate housing and an environment that will sustain them as long as possible. But the cost of this treatment is high and the amount of material needing attention is ever growing.

a-square-in-the-social-circle-from-the-paramount-picture-the-stork-club_cover Continue reading

Save the date for “Cataloging Conflict” on October 16

archives_monthPlease join the rare book and manuscript catalogers of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts for “Cataloging Conflict,” one of a series of Archives Month Philly events celebrating archives and special collections in Philadelphia cultural institutions. “Cataloging Conflict” will be held on Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 5:30 pm in the Class of 1978 Orrery Pavilion of the Kislak Center.


Inspired by the centenary of the start of World War I, Penn’s archivists and rare book catalogers have combed the Kislak Center special collections for a wide variety of materials documenting war and conflict through the ages. Their favorite finds, which will be on display for this special event, include war propaganda printed on toilet paper, engravings of the Trojan War sold by subscription to fund the 1660 printing of Homer’s Iliad, a spectacular manuscript roll depicting major figures in England’s Wars of the Roses, indulgences sold to raise money for papal armies, 16th-century woodcuts of bizarre inventions for siege-craft and underwater warfare, escape maps and blood chits, soldiers’ songs performed by Marian Anderson, hand-colored illustrations of war elephants, letters to and from soldiers in World Wars I and II, the diary of an American Civil War draft dodger and … Penn’s famous Rocket Cats!


The Class of 1978 Orrery Pavilion is located in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts on the 6th floor of the University of Pennsylvania’s Van Pelt Library (3420 Walnut St, Philadelphia Pa. 19104). The event is free and open to the public. Please bring a photo ID to enter the building. Registration for this talk is appreciated but not required. Please RSVP here or contact us at rbml@pobox.upenn.edu or 215.898.7088.

Nice to meet you. Let’s talk about hats.

Hello, Academic Blogosphere! It’s lovely to meet you. Today I’ll be sharing with you the third collection I’ve worked on since I started here in Special Collections Processing, but first, let me introduce myself. I’m a second-year Post-Baccalaureate student in Classical Studies at Penn. I also did my undergrad at Penn, so I’ve been around for quite some time. My background is in ancient history and civilization, and most of my work focuses on social history in Classical Greece. When I’m not studying dead languages and dead people, I spend most of my time thinking about food. I also write a blog for a local purveyor of cured meats (i.e., BACON! and other stuff), so if I slip in a porcine pun here or there, please forgive me.

Anyhow, on to the collection! Yesterday, Holly handed me a pair of boxes filled with the Bartholomew family’s theatrical scrapbooks. Unfortunately, a large portion of the collection was unlabeled, so it’s hard to say exactly who’s who. A rather thorough combing of the internet turned up virtually no information on the Bartholomew family and not a single picture, so it is impossible to verify the identities of some of the depicted. This leads me to believe that the Bartholomew family acting careers weren’t particularly illustrious.

Despite this letdown, the collection makes up for its labeling deficiencies with a thoroughly satisfying quantity of rather “theatrical” hats. While the scrapbooks are loaded with all sorts of fodder for research, it is the silly headgear that intrigues me most.

I think every Classicist can tell you that hats are one of the most exciting things about history. My personal favorite is the Phrygian cap, generally worn by non-Greeks as far back, allegedly, as the Trojan War. It looks like this:

See? How could Classicists not love hats! So just imagine my excitement when I stumbled across these babies in the Bartholomew family collection:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As I’m sure you can tell, this collection was a ton of fun to work with. I found it especially interesting to see that the Bartholomew family, since they lived in Philadelphia, left tangible records of their interactions with city landmarks that still exist today. The family scrapbooks include funeral bills from the Olive H. Bair Funeral Home on Chestnut Street near Rittenhouse Square, which I pass on my way to the pharmacy, and playbills from the Walnut Street Theater, where Philadelphians and tourists alike still go to see shows. As a social historian, I’m fascinated by what quotidian things these not-so-prominent actors thought necessary to immortalize in their scrapbooks, and I’m totally blown-away by the fact that those things are still a part of my daily life.

On that note, I think it’s time for me to get started on my next collection, but before I go, let me leave you with this last little bonus image from the collection: a rather seriously-mustachioed gentleman who, much to my dismay, remains identified.

2014-09-17 15-43-05

The papers of Hollywood lyricist Ray Evans

Rehearsing songs from the movie “Fancy Pants.” From left to right: Jay Livingston (at the piano), Ray Evans, Annette Warren, Lucille Ball and Bob Welch. From the Ray Evans papers, Ms. Coll. 860.

The Ray Evans papers document the life and career of Hollywood lyricist and Penn alum Ray Evans. Graduating from Penn in 1936, Evans went on to form the song-writing team of Livingston & Evans, with fellow Penn alum, Jay Livingston. The duo is remembered today for hits such as “Buttons and bows,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Que sera, sera,” the three songs for which they won Oscars. While the collection here at Penn does not include the famous gold statuettes, there is much more in the collection than just a few famous tunes. The substantial collection contains correspondence, sheet music, lyrics, scripts, press clippings, sound recordings, photographs, programs, awards, memorabilia, and art work.

Among the Livingston & Evans anecdotes which have been repeated numerous times is the fact that another hit tune of theirs, “Silver bells,” was originally titled “Tinkle bells.” That is, until Jay’s wife Lynne told them that the word “tinkle” had another meaning besides “a light, clear ringing sound.” But digging a little deeper into the collection we find that those were not the only words to be changed. Indeed, the song, which the duo came to call “the annuity” for all the royalties it brought in, started its life with very different lyrics. Compare: Continue reading

William R. Mathews/John Foster Dulles correspondence

Finishing up my internship here in the Special Collections Processing Center before moving on to digital humanities, I was given yet another little gem of a collection, the William R. Mathews papers. Even though this collection consists of no more than one skinny box of correspondence, I was so fascinated that it took me two days to finish just because I had to read them all. There are two very notable things about this box. The first is that the correspondence is largely complete: that is, I have both sides of the conversations, organized by year, many of them direct replies to each other. The second is who wrote them.

The letters fly back and forth between the editor of the Arizona Daily Star, William R. Mathews, and John Foster Dulles, the U.S. Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1959. They chart the friendship between the two men over nearly seventeen years, from Dulles’ first formal letter to the editor in 1941 to the last in 1957, followed by a few more letters over the years to and from Dulles’ widow. The letters reference visits and calls between the two and their families as well.

From the first “Dear sir” on January 31, 1941, to the last “Dear Foster” on July 19, 1957, the letters show the meeting of two powerful minds, bent towards the same subjects and with many of the same ideas. Dulles and Mathews discussed everything from the role of Christianity and the church in American politics to the Allies’ policies around Germany, the Berlin blockade, and the later Bikini bomb experiments, which Mathews witnessed.

Mathews often advises Dulles on what he thinks Dulles ought to do, up to and including advising him about what he thought Thomas E. Dewey should do as Presidential candidate. He comments on and critiques Dulles’ and Dewey’s speeches, and the two also exchange and discuss each others’ publications and pamphlets, some of which are included in the collection.

The final jewel in this crown is Mathews’ diary of the beginning of the Korean War. He was in South Korea and Japan at the outbreak of the war as a journalist, and kept a fascinating record of what he saw and heard there, as the Americans went from “this will be no problem, we know exactly what’s happening,” to “what on earth just happened?!”

The moral of the story, folks, is “don’t hesitate to write a letter to the editor, you might end up with a lifelong friend.”

dear sir Dear Foster 2

John Bartram Association records relating to its foundation and early organization

photo 4

An invitation card to John Bartram’s 200th Anniversary, 1899

For those interested in the John Bartram Association, the organization responsible for the preservation of John Bartam’s former home and garden known today as Bartram’s Garden, the national historic landmark house and garden and treasure to the Philadelphia community and botanical enthusiasts across the globe, the John Bartram Association records relating to its foundation and early organization is now available for use!

This collection, dating from 1779 to 1937 (bulk 1893 to 1911), documents the association’s foundation and early administrative activities predominately through correspondence with individuals and organizations including John M. Macfarlane, Professor Emeritus of Botany at the University of Pennsylvania, the Bartram Memorial Library Committee, Philadelphia Allied Organizations, and the Fairmount Park Commissioners. The collection is accented by newspaper clippings, advertising fliers, and invitation cards that relate to Bartram’s legacy, his former home and garden, his library, and the study of botany.

John Bartram (1699-1777) was born a third-generation Quaker in Darby, Pennsylvania, who followed his father’s footsteps by becoming a farmer. However, his inquiry into the natural world went well beyond farming, into botany and horticulture. These curiosities earned him an important place in the scientific world for his discoveries and generosity in sharing knowledge of the fledgling scientific discipline of botany. Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Swedish botanist and originator of the system of taxonomic classification, regarded Bartram as the “greatest natural botanist in this world,” an achievement yet unheard of from his European counterparts at the time considering his American colonial roots. In 1928, Bartram purchased a 102-acre plot of land from Swedish settlers with the intention of examining its ecology. This plot of land, now known as Bartram’s Garden, was the source of much inquiry for Bartram, in addition to his explorations of the east-coast, from New England to Florida, until the end of his life in 1777.

photo 1

Correspondence from the Philadelphia Allied Organizations requesting that the John Bartram Association join the park systems alliance, 1906

The site of Bartram’s Garden was maintained by Bartram’s descendants and other enthusiasts of the natural world, beginning with his daughter, Ann Bartram Carr and her husband Colonel Robert Carr in 1777 to the formation of the John Bartram Association in 1893. By the time the John Bartram Association was formed, it was evident that the grounds were in need of care that reached beyond the ability and resources of those in charge. The John Bartram Association and the allied park system of Philadelphia negotiated the terms to transfer the care and maintenance of Bartram’s former home and garden to the city of Philadelphia. Thanks to those negotiations, the home and garden are now under the care of the Fairmount Garden System.


A history of the “John Bartram Memorial Library” written by John M. Macfarlane, Professor Emeritus of Botany at the University of Pennsylvania, 1926

In addition to the records pertaining to Bartram’s Garden, this collection documents the development of the John Bartram Memorial Library, a collaborative effort between organizations including the John Bartram Association, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Botanical Society of Philadelphia to accumulate and house the definitive collection of American botanical literature from Bartram’s time to the early 1900s. The library found a home in the University of Pennsylvania in June 1900, only four short years after the formation of the John Bartram Memorial Library Committee.

Needless to say, this collection is a fine compliment to the John Bartram Memorial Library and should also be a welcome reminder to go visit the glorious Bartram’s Garden!

The John Bartram Association records relating to its foundation and early organization finding aid can be found here.

Aaron M. Myers papers

As an intern here in the Special Collections Processing Center, I’ve been thrown feet first into a pile of old paper. Almost literally. Whether it was because I mentioned that I loved Shakespeare, or this collection was just next on the list, I was given the Aaron M. Myers papers: three unassuming boxes full of the ephemera of a man in love with the theater, particularly Shakespeare and particularly as performed in Philadelphia. It also includes quite a lot of photographs and assorted other materials, from guidebooks to theater tickets, from a trip to the British Isles from 1935 to 1936.

Aaron Michael Myers received his Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1920s. Both Myers and his wife were dedicated lovers of the theater, and their son Addison went on to become a reasonably well-known actor. Aaron Michael Myers was an assistant or associate professor at Temple University until his untimely death in 1937 at the age of 40. That’s all I know about him. While I could find records of his son (he’s even on IMDB), everything else I know about him comes from Addison Myers’ letter that came with the donation of this collection. From the collection, however, I learned something more about him. He loved to collect things, and was meticulous about what he collected. From his time in the British Isles, he kept and organized pages of postcards for their photographs, as well as prints. There are also years of playbills from the major Philadelphia theaters, and bunches of crackly newspaper clippings I was afraid I was going to break when I tried to read them.

I mentioned Shakespeare, yes? Of course. A large portion of Dr. Myers’ collection is devoted to the Bard. In England, he visited Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon and attended plays at both the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford, and at the Globe in London. Most of the playbills from Philadelphia are from productions of Shakespeare’s plays.

photo 5 - Copy

Playbills from the Broad St. Theatre, as well as theater tickets in an envelop from the Abbey Theatre.

photo 4 - Copy

The guildhall and the law courts of London, 1935

photo 3

Postcard photographs from Stratford-upon-Avon

photo 2(1) - Copy

Trinity church, Stratford-upon-Avon


Canterbury: the Weavers and general view


Most of the playbills are from Philadelphia theaters, especially Broad St. Theatre and the Forrest Theatre. Most of the newspaper clippings (and some playbills) concern the Abbey Theatre Players’ several visits to Philadelphia, documenting what they performed in advertisements and reviews.

There’s also a whole file of the first fifteen publications of The Shakespeare Pictorial, a small magazine of essays about Shakespeare, both as theater and as literature.

shakespeare pictorial

The cover of the first publication of the Shakespeare Pictorial: Occasional Papers










I thoroughly enjoyed this collection, and look forward to the next one!

Esther B. Aresty collection

Four books written by Esther B. Aresty: The Grand Venture (1963), The Delectable Past (1964), The Best Behavior (1970), The Exquisite Table (1980)

Four books written by Esther B. Aresty: The Grand Venture (1963), The Delectable Past (1964), The Best Behavior (1970), The Exquisite Table (1980)

Esther B. Aresty (1908-2000) was a cookbook collector and culinary historian who wrote on cuisine, cooking, cookbooks, and etiquette. Aresty and her husband, Julian Aresty, donated her exceptional collection of rare cookbooks and manuscripts to the University of Pennsylvania in 1996 shortly before they passed away in 2000 and 1999, respectively. This collection formed the nucleus of the University of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive collection of cookbooks and books on the culinary arts. Her own publications include The Grand Venture (1963), The Delectable Past (1964), The Best Behavior (1970), and The Exquisite Table (1980), and a number of pieces of non-fiction and fiction. Additionally, she composed and published the teen romance novel, Romance in Store (1983) under the pseudonym Elaine Arthur.

Culinary themed auction and dealer catalogs, 1937-1989

Culinary themed auction and dealer catalogs, 1937-1989

Aresty’s rare cookbook and manuscripts collecting activities are best represented by her accumulation of auction and dealer catalogs, some correspondence from individuals and organizations regarding Aresty’s expertise in the culinary arts, civic activities in which Aresty took part, in addition to some personal associations and activities, and lecture notes that discuss her history as a collector and her exhaustive knowledge of the culinary world. Additionally, the Esther B. Aresty papers contains incoming correspondence from the American Institute of Wine and Food (founded in 1981) pertaining to her position on their board of advisors. This material includes early administrative paperwork such as its statement of purpose, bylaws, membership forms, agendas, newsletters, and other documentary evidence of the organization’s early life.

The Best Behavior: Drafts and research notes, circa 1970

The Best Behavior: Drafts and research notes, circa 1970

The collection also contains records of her writing career, through correspondence with a variety of publishers, drafts of books, other publications, and unpublished work, and research materials. The publications that are most well-represented in terms of drafts and research materials are her books The Delectable Past (1964)–the fruit of her research into her own vast collection of rare cookbooks and manuscripts, which she describes as “the joys of the table-from Rome to the Renaissance, from Queen Elizabeth I to Mrs. Beeton. The menus, the manners-and the most delectable recipes of the past, masterfully re-created for cooking and enjoying today” (Aresty, 1964)–and The Best Behavior (1970), which deals with “the course of good manners-from antiquity to the present-as seen through courtesy and etiquette books” (Aresty, 1970). There is also documentation of a variety of other publications, including drafts and research materials for books The Grand Venture (1963) and The Exquisite Table (1980), and a romance novel written under the pseudonym Elaine Arthur, called Romance in Store (1984), and a number of drafts of articles, chapters, and other shorter writings.

While this collection doesn’t provide records of activities beyond of her personal, collecting, and writing endeavors, it is interesting to note that Aresty was quite productive in her professional life. Among her many achievements, besides a career in advertising and promotion, was her role as writer/producer of Elsa Maxwell’s radio show, Elsa Maxwell’s Party Line. Interestingly, Maxwell was not only a gossip columnist and author, songwriter, and professional hostess renowned for her parties for royalty and high society figures of her day, but an accomplished pianist and culinary expert, like Aresty’s mother, who was born in Keokuk, Iowa, a mere 150 miles from where Aresty was raised in Chariton. As an accomplished woman in the thick of New York intellectual and cultural life, Aresty developed friendships with the well-known cookbook and magazine writers of the day. These associations enhanced her already outstanding reputation and widened her circle of influence.


Aresty, E. B. (1964). The Delectable Past. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Aresty, E. B. (1970). The Best Behavior. New York: Simon and Schuster.


The Dorothy M. Spencer papers

At the end of my last post on the Stewart Culin collection of advertisements, I openly wondered if the Spencer collection of notes on the Munda tribesmen of India would be my last here at Penn.  Happily, that has not proven the case, as I have finished the Spencer collection with about a month to spare!  The collection’s finding aid may be found here.  Now, join me on yet another journey back in time, this time to the Chota Nagpur plateau of India’s Jharkand state in the mid-20th century.

Dorothy M. Spencer was born rather close to us in Chester, Pennsylvania in 1907.  She matriculated at the University of Wisconsin where she received her A.B. in 1930 right at the beginning of the Great Depression.  Just as Culin’s interests led him to ethnography, Spencer’s led her to the sister field of anthropology.  Fresh out of America’s Dairyland, Spencer returned to the good old Keystone State where she undertook studies for an M.A. here at Penn.  She earned her Master’s in 1933.  To relate this to another of our India-centric collections, Spencer’s M.A. studies occurred at the same time as the bulk of the correspondence between Richard Gregg and the leaders of the Indian independence movement.  Although this collection consists of materials from Spencer’s fieldwork in India, her initial interests lay in the South Pacific, and her M.A. thesis “The Dual Organization and Regulation of Marriage in Melanesia” is housed here at Penn.  This thesis and her work in the M.A. program was evidently enough to impress her professors, as she went on to earn a PhD here at Penn in 1937.  Following a short stint as a lecturer in anthropology, she traveled to India in 1939.  In the tradition of Frank Hamilton Cushing, whom you may remember from my last post as Culin’s friend and daring anthropologist who lived among the Zuni for years, Spencer became a participant observer among the Mundari-speaking people of the Chota Nagpur plateau in the Jharkand state of eastern India, living with them and observing their daily habits.

Continue reading

Curtis W. Davis collection on Leopold Stokowski

The University of Pennsylvania already houses a wealth of material related to the orchestral conductor Leopold Stokowski. His papers are preserved in Ms. Coll. 381, his musical scores, transcriptions, and arrangements in Ms. Coll. 350 and Ms. Coll. 351, and the research materials of his biographer Oliver Daniel in Ms. Coll. 382. With the Curtis W. Davis collection on Leopold Stokowski, 1936-1992, the library can now boast five collections on this towering musical figure.

Stokowski is a name that will no doubt still be familiar to many. He is remembered by lovers of orchestral music as the man responsible for bringing the Philadelphia Orchestra to fame, and who left behind numerous recordings that continue to attract listeners to this day. Many others may also remember him from their childhood, as the silhouetted figure who shakes Mickey Mouse’s hand in Disney’s Fantasia, for which he conducted the orchestra. Information about him and his life is also not difficult to find. For this reason, I’ll give only the briefest of biographical sketches here (those who are curious for more might take a look at Oliver Daniel’s biography, available in the library at ML422.S76 D3 1982).

Continue reading