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).

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Padraic and Mary Colum Papers

Among the many surprising finds in the Gotham Book Mart collection acquired by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 2008 was a trove of papers of Irish literary figures Padraic and Mary Colum.  Padraic Colum (1881-1972) was a poet, playwright, novelist, biographer, and folklorist, known primarily for his collections of myths and folktales for children, his novels Castle Conquer and The Flying Swans, a volume of collected poetry, and several plays.  Mary Colum (nee Maguire) (1884-1957) was a literary critic known for her memoir, Life and the Dream, the posthumously published Our Friend James Joyce, as well as contributions to such magazines as Scribner’s, The Saturday Review of Literature, and The Forum, where she also served as literary editor.  Born in Ireland, both were associated with William Butler Yeats and other figures of the Irish Literary Revival of the early twentieth century.  Both were involved in the founding of The Irish Review, and Padraic Colum was involved in the founding of the Abbey Theatre.  The couple married in 1912 and moved to New York City in 1914.  Residing in the United States for the majority of their lives, Mary Colum taught literature at Columbia University beginning in 1941, while Padraic Colum served as president of the Poetry Society of America from 1938-1939 and as president of the James Joyce Society in the 1960s.


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Page from an early draft of Padraic Colum’s novel, The Flying Swans

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Two versions of “Briar Blossoms,” a poem by Padraic Colum.

The Colum collection contains materials that will be of interest to anyone interested in Irish literature and poetry, early twentieth century literary criticism, or the Colums themselves.  Much of Mary Colum’s correspondence is substantive and lively, and the correspondence files most notably contain more than twenty-five letters written to Mary Colum by the poet John Hall Wheelock while he was working at Scribner’s.  Series III and IV contain manuscripts and typescripts by both Mary and Padraic Colum, many of them containing handwritten marginal comments and corrections.  Series III also includes several sets of galley proofs of Mary Colum’s Life and the Dream, again often including marginal notes and corrections.  We were especially excited to uncover several boxes worth of bound notebooks containing early drafts of Padraic Colum’s The Flying Swans, various plays, and miscellaneous prose and poetry.  This material documents the writing process of both authors from original drafting through revisions and final touches.  In a few cases, different variations of a single poem can be traced from the original written form in a notebook to annotated typescript to final, published version. Continue reading

The Stewart Culin collection of advertisements

One of the 93 loose advertisements in the collection, with the original date penciled in at the top-left.  I wish grocery prices were still this low.

One of the 93 loose advertisements in the collection, with the original date penciled in at the top-left. I wish grocery prices were still this low.

Before the conclusion of my final semester at Penn I had the pleasure of working on the Stewart Culin collection of advertisements.  This collection consists of two scrapbooks and 93 loose advertisements, largely for products which were sold at businesses located in Philadelphia, collected between 1884 and 1886 by Mr. Stewart Culin, an unorthodox and trailblazing figure in the fields of anthropology and ethnography.  All of the loose advertisements have been organized according to genre (i.e., consumer services, foodstuffs, tobacco products, pharmaceuticals, etc.) and housed in an archival box separate from the scrapbooks.  Progress on this particular project was split up by the end of the term and my month-long dig in Italy, hence the comparative tardiness of this blog post.  Upon my return to Philadelphia I finished off the remaining work and now happily commend this colorful collection of cards from copious commercial categories to collegiate consumers.  Posthumous apologies to Mr. Culin for using the first letter of his surname to create an alliterative string.  The collection’s finding aid is up and running.

An early Wanamaker's ad.

An early Wanamaker’s ad.

The collection contains a bevy of colorful and oftentimes humorous advertisement cards, broadside posters, and clippings.  One informing the general public of a cartography office’s change of address features a list of facetious rules advising clients and workers to smoke constantly in the office, lean back in their chairs, chatter frequently with their deskmates, not hang up their hats and coats – in short, to do all the things they should in fact not do!  The card with equal facetiousness advertised how long appointments would last with certain categories of people such as “life insurance salesmen” – 0 minutes! Continue reading

The marvelousness in Mauchly’s papers

I am still processing John Mauchly’s amazing papers (see previous posts on this collection) and keep discovering items that make me love Mr. Mauchly just a bit more.  As I sift through the many boxes of material that document his work with early computers, I am always most drawn to the material that documents Mr. Mauchly as a human being.

Today, I would like to share one of my favorite things I have ever found in an archival collection.  For those who have not read other posts on Mauchly, these are a few things that he loved:

  • data
  • lists
  • comments about and interpretation of data and lists

(please note that I have provided this information as Mr. Mauchly would have).  His love of data and lists was not limited to his professional life, and throughout his collection one finds many, many delights, including this one about possible names for his new baby girl who was born on April 30, 1951.  No other comments are needed–but please, do read all the way to the bottom of his note!


Fact:  This baby was eventually named Kathy (according to information I found online, she was Kathleen (after her mom) rather than Katherine on the list)!

Telegraph Books collection

Patti Smith's "Seventh Heaven": A draft, unfolded cover, alternate photograph and a published copy.

Patti Smith’s, “Seventh Heaven”: A draft, unfolded cover, alternate photographs and a published copy.

Telegraph Books (circa 1970-1972) is a shining example of an early 1970s poetry and prose publishing company, founded in Philadelphia by Victor Bockris, Aram Saroyan, and Andrew Wylie. Bockris, a 1971 University of Pennsylvania graduate, cites the modest promulgator of poetry and prose as having been, “[a] small concern that proudly put out a few things like Patti Smith’s first books Seventh Heaven and Kodak,” (Amorosi, 1995) amongst other books by authors including Tom Clark, Gerard Malanga, in addition to work by Bockris, Saroyan, and Wylie.

Young poets ruminate on Ezra Pound during the "Mignon Poetry Workshop" in the early 1970s

Young poets ruminate on Ezra Pound during the “Mignon Poetry Workshop” in the early 1970s

While the Telegraph Books collection is represented by a mere four boxes of material, it boasts such artifacts such as day-to-day publisher records including correspondence between the administrators of the company and a variety of authors regarding their then-future-publications, mock-ups, and drafts, to more colorful records, such as the  lamenting poetic verses on Ezra Pound crudely written by 5th and 6th graders, the result of Bockris’ “Mignon Poetry Workshop,” a program revolving around the processes of writing and publishing poetry.

John Pollack proudly holding an artifact of the Telegraph Books collection: a hand-painted sign!

John Pollack proudly holding an artifact of the Telegraph Books collection: a hand-painted sign!

While I was in the throes of finishing up the finding aid for this collection, John Pollack (Library Specialist and Public Services for Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts) informed me that there was an artifact from the collection separated because of its format floating around somewhere in the Van Pelt Library. Not fifteen minutes later, his memory served him correctly and he produced the crown-jewel of the collection: a hand-painted Telegraph Books sign!


Amorosi, A. D. (1995, October 26 to November 2). Mr. International Velvet. Philadelphia City Paper. Retrieved from


The Telegraph Books collection finding aid can be found here.



Joseph Blotner Collection on Thorne Smith

James Thorne Smith (1892-1934) was an American author of comedic supernatural fiction known for his rapier wit and heavy drinking. Born in Annapolis, Smith briefly attended Dartmouth College before moving into advertizing. After a spectacular literary success in 1927, he moved to the town of Free Acres, the experimental village founded by Bolton Hall. His most popular works were his two Topper novels, Topper and Topper Takes a Trip. Smith’s humorous ghost stories influenced many later works of the 20th century, from Casper the Friendly Ghost to Ghostbusters and Beetlejuice. This collection, the Thorne Smith papers, contains two distinct subsets of material, both interesting.

The first set of material is a series of correspondences between Joseph Blotner, then a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, and a number of individuals in the literary world as well as Smith’s personal friends. Blotner was working on a paper that would eventually become his dissertation, “Thorne Smith: A Study in Popular Fiction.” From Smith’s various publishers and publicists to noted authors such as Ogden Nash and H. L. Menken, the correspondences span a wide range of individuals. Blotner would go on to become one of the most respected scholars of William Faulkner, befriending the author and publishing the definitive Faulkner: A Biography in 1974.

Topper Manuscript Page

The first page of Smith’s manuscript for Topper

The second set of materials is comprised of Smith’s own handwritten notes and manuscripts for a number of short stories and novels, nine in all, including both Topper and Topper Takes a Trip. Additionally, there are a number of typescripts for these same novels. Topper, sometimes known as The Jovial Ghosts, is the story of what happens when banker Cosmo Topper, who is trapped in a boring marriage, buys a used car only to discover that the car is haunted by its previous owners. A ghostly couple, George and Marion Kerby, died when they crashed the car into a tree. The friendly spectres take Topper on a whirlwind of zany adventures, vowing to liven up his dreary existence for good. The Topper novels were so successful that they led to a film version starring Cary Grant, which blossomed into a trilogy and a television series written in part by Stephen Sondheim as well as a radio drama.

Thorne Smith suddenly died of a heart attack while vacationing in Florida. It is unknown whether or not he became a humorous ghost like those in his books.

The John Scott collection of letters

After finishing the Rosengarten collection, my next project was a small assemblage of letters from the papers of John Scott, the finding aid for which can be found here.

Mr. Scott was a Pennsylvania native son with a storied family.  His father, John Scott Sr., was born near Gettysburg in 1784 and made his living as a tanner and shoemaker.  He served his country both on the field in the War of 1812 and in the halls of power as both a Pennsylvania and United States Representative.  His brother, George Washington Scott, moved to Florida where he became a successful plantation owner and businessman, and served the Confederacy as lieutenant colonel of the Fifth Florida Cavalry Battalion during the Civil War.  After the war, Scott established a successful business in phosphates and manufacturing, and became the primary benefactor of the Decatur Female Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, which then took the name of his mother Agnes in honor of his gift and thrives today as the Agnes Scott College.  John Scott Jr. remained in the Union during the war, practicing law in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania and followed his father into politics.  In 1862, he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where he remained until 1868, when he was appointed to represent Pennsylvania in the United States Senate.  As a Republican, he was embroiled in the politics surrounding Reconstruction, including a Congressional investigations into the outrages of the Ku Klux Klan and the overall progress of southern reintegration and African American enfranchisement.  He was not up for re-election in 1875, and worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad as legal counsel until the final year of his life.  If you’d like to visit him today, you can find his grave in our own Woodlands Cemetery next to campus.

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Making a good marriage in the French bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century

The Napoleonic Civil Code (1804) states the total legal incapacity for French women, who move from their father’s to their husband’s guardianship. From then on, it is necessary for women to make a good marriage, and their education focuses on making them good wives and mothers. In Claire Sallard’s notebooks, circa 1824-1836, which are principally composed of short stories dictated or commissioned by her tutor, the morals of the French bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century and the way of thinking they imposed on women show through.

The short story entitled Les trois mariages [The three weddings] is typical of the state of mind that prevails in these notebooks. The moral of the story could be summarized in one major statement: marriages of convenience, acceptable both to family and society, are the most successful unions. The first young lady in the story, Hortense, weds a rich and miserly man, who suits her family but lives on the fringe of society because of his cupidity, so she ends up jilted and sad. The second one, Eudoxie, falls in love with a young good-looking aristocrat who is used to gambling, and she marries him, with her mother’s blessing, but in spite of her father’s advice. In the eyes of society, it is a brilliant marriage, but their love fades and their life together turns into a nightmare. Finally, the third young lady, Cécile, who proves to be the heroine, despite her love for a young and pleasant aristocrat, chooses to marry an honest and virtuous man whom her father likes and who fits her late mother’s guidance. They enjoy “a calm happiness, free from the happy and sad torments coming from the turmoil of deep passions”. Claire is the model of the type of woman whom the reader is invited to follow.Sallard

The three weddings, like other short stories in Claire Sallard’s notebooks, are somewhat reminiscent of the novels Balzac writes in the same years. Les Mémoires de deux jeunes mariées [Letters of Two Brides] and La Maison du chat-qui-pelote [At the Sign of the Cat and Racket] offer very similar reflections.

By the way, what happened to Claire Sallard? Whom did she marry? In 1843, at about twenty-three, she married the forty-year-old landscape painter Paul Huet, and they seem to have been a close couple.

Leonard B. Meyer papers, 1935-2008

Musicologist and composer Leonard Meyer may have retired from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988, but his personality lives on in the Leonard B. Meyer papers, 1935-2008, which is now completed and ready for researchers at Penn’s Special Collections Center. “Lenny,” as he was known to friends and colleagues, has in a sense never left the Van Pelt-Dietrich library, where his many published works continue to draw students and scholars to the fourth floor’s “ML” section. This collection supplements the books in the stacks with a sizable body of important related material.

All of the materials that one might expect to find in a scholar’s archival collection are present, such as drafts and notes for his writings and his correspondence, where his ideas evolved and strengthened as they were tested out on his colleagues. Especially noteworthy are the extensive notes for the abandoned book project Music as a Model for History, where Meyer had planned to use his theories of how the mind processes music as a metaphor for how we understand history. But just as exciting (and even more fun!) are the types of documents that might not be found in every scholar’s papers and which reveal Meyer’s distinct personality. These include a range of items, from the more serious (such as Meyer’s original musical compositions, personal letters, etc.) to the utterly silly (joke poems).

A few of the letters reveal the serious musician already present in Meyer as a teenager. Meyer was born in New York City and grew up in nearby Scarsdale, where he studied music from an early age. Like many parents, Meyer’s father did not wish his son to continue music professionally and preferred that he focus on subjects considered better suited to building a respectable career. Undergraduate Lenny reluctantly gave over his major area of study to philosophy, but refused to relinquish his musical life entirely. In one letter from the collection, he writes to his parents, “I know father does not wish me to continue my music seriously during my first few years at college. He would rather have me concentrate on my college work alone. This I cannot and will not do.

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The Joseph G. Rosengarten collection

Frequent readers may recall my last post on the autograph collection assembled by Francis Campbell Macaulay, the Philadelphia lawyer, Renaissance literature enthusiast, and early benefactor of the Penn museum.  The next project in my queue was a collection assembled by Macaulay’s contemporary Joseph George Rosengarten, whose contributions to the University’s development are a tad more conspicuous than Macaulay’s, not least because Rosengarten managed to get his name plastered over the reserve section at the Van Pelt Library thanks to his years of service as a trustee.  The finding aid for the collection can be found here.

Like Macaulay, Rosengarten practiced the lawerly trade.  After obtaining both an A.B. and M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and being admitted to the bar, Rosengarten took a year abroad in 1857 to study Roman law at the University of Heidelberg and to travel.  After his return, Rosengarten had the extraordinary luck to witness a major event of American history.  According to the obituary written by Penn orientalist and librarian Morris Jastrow, Jr., Rosengarten, while travelling with his father George D. Rosengarten, and other directors of the Pennsylvania Railroad on a tour of inspection, arrived in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, on the 18th of October, 1859, and witnessed the detachment of U.S. Marines led by then-Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee storm the fire engine house in which John Brown and his raiders had barricaded themselves.  Rosengarten saw Brown himself lying prostrate on the ground, having been wounded by a saber-blow from Marine Lieutenant Israel Greene, and later recounted his eyewitness experience in an Atlantic Monthly article.

Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry presaged the American Civil War, which Rosengarten served in on the Union side, first in Company A of the Pennsylvania Artillery, a volunteer unit composed largely of lawyers like himself, and later in the 121st Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, of the Army of the Potomac.  He earned himself some heroic merit at the Battle of Fredericksburg, in which he picked up and carried the colors after four previous sergeants had been “disabled” (in Jastrow’s own clean language).  This brought Rosengarten to the attention of Union general John F. Reynolds, who appointed Rosengarten to his own staff.  Rosengarten served at the Battle of Gettysburg, and after the Civil War gave his time to numerous public institutions in Philadelphia, including the Lankenau Hospital and Drexel Institute.  He oversaw the reformation of the boys’ and girls’ reform schools, and was institutional in securing a grant from Andrew Carnegie which allowed many of the Free Library’s branches (including that at 40th and Walnut on our own campus) to be erected.  He served the University of Pennsylvania as a trustee of both the college and the library.  He also pursued his scholarly interests, which revolved primarily around the social history of Germans and French in the United States: their role in the country’s founding, development, and wars.  He wrote several books on the subjects, including “The German soldier in the wars of the United States,” “French colonists and exiles in the United States,” and “Frederick the Great and the United States,” among other publications and articles.

The collection he put together which I have just completed processing consists of many historical documents he used in his researches, as well as correspondence and historical material of great (if unfortunately in a rough state of preservation) interest.  The collection came to me nicely pre-housed, with the documents protected in acid-free folders alphabetized according to topic or individual, stored in three archival boxes.  Also included are two large scrapbooks that came housed in a slipcase.  Unfortunately, from the one look Holly and I were able to give one of the scrapbooks, we ascertained that while the actual historical materials pasted on or sewn into them are in fine condition, the scrapbooks themselves have deteriorated to a point beyond which they can be safely handled.  As such, this portion of the collection unfortunately must remain out of the hands of researchers and processors until conservation has had the opportunity to rescue it.  I thus cannot speak with great experience about the scrapbooks themselves, but the few documents I did see in one of them looked like a treasure trove for researchers.

I divided the collection into three series: Correspondence, Historical Manuscripts, and Printed Matter and Scrapbooks.  Correspondence consists largely of thank-you letters to Rosengarten from those who received (and in most cases read) a copy of “French colonists and exiles in the United States.”  Recipients included senator and industrialist Henry Algernon du Pont, Penn Shakespeare scholar Horace Howard Furness, United States senator, Attorney General (and eventually Secretary of State) Philander Chase Knox, founder and first chief of the United States Forest Service Gifford Pinchot, and President Woodrow Wilson.  Historical Manuscripts consists of numerous primary sources collected by Rosengarten in the course of his researches.  Highlights from the series include two sundry documents annotated or signed by Benjamin Franklin, 3 letters and a signed order from Frederick the Great, an autographed letter signed from the marquis de Lafayette and 5 from the comte de Rochambeau, and 2 letters and payment orders apiece from Baron Friedrich von Steuben.  Other big names in the series include Robert and Gouverneur Morris, John Jay, David and Joseph Rittenhouse, Louis XVI of France and Louis Philippe, and the infamous diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand.  The third and final series consists of the aforementioned scrapbooks and some miscellaneous printed matter.  The printed materials consist of 3 battle maps, original Massachusetts and Virginia dollars (of vastly different denominations – 500 Virginia dollars versus 9 Massachusetts pence!) and a separate folder of photographic negatives, containing some unidentified prints of ships and the photographed text of a letter from Baron von Steuben to Colonel Benjamin Walker.

This is the third collection I’ve finished since moving on to archival work.  At this point my new responsibilities have started crystallizing into a comfortable routine, much as rare book cataloging did after I began in late Fall 2012.  I still enjoy my job as much as I did back when I started, and am continually thankful for the opportunities to expand my knowledge and interact with the past.  I’d seen Rosengarten’s name over the Van Pelt reserve, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time getting to know the man behind the name, his history, interests, experiences, and public services.  Now that I respectfully lay Rosengarten to rest,  the next item in my queue is the John Scott collection, which you all will duly get another blog post for after it is completed!  Until then.