A New Year Resolution from Clement Winston

There are no words to describe how much I love Clement Winston, budget analyst, artist, author, family man, and account keeper.  His papers are both informative and delightful–and happily, we have received a few additions that will be added to the collection this year.

In the meantime, for those of you who may be struggling with your new year’s resolutions as well as any left-over weight gain from the holidays, perhaps you (as I have) will take comfort in Clem’s words of wisdom.

Happy New Year, friends!

Santa … a powerful parental tool for more than 100 years!

I recently completed working on the Harold Dies papers and they are almost entirely related to Theodore Dreiser’s literary estate and the Dreiser Trust.  However, as is the case with many archival collections, I found a few unexpected treasures buried inside envelopes and tucked into folders.  The Dreiser and Dies family trees rival the Biddles when it comes to complexity.  Lots of cousins, lots of siblings, lots of complications.  But this little story below has to do with Theodore Dreiser’s brother Paul Dresser, his sister Emma, and Emma’s two children, George and Gertrude.

Paul Dresser was a singer, songwriter, and actor, in addition to a well-intentioned uncle. It appears that his nephew, George, was a bit on the naughty side … there are several letters written in which Uncle Paul instructs George on good behavior, which includes going to church (EVERY Sunday) and not giving his parents trouble.  It appears that George didn’t listen to Uncle Paul, so, as December rolled around, Uncle Paul did what so many adults faced with naughty kids do: he threatened him with … SANTA CLAUS. Who knew that was a thing as far back as 1903?

Uncle Paul wrote a few delightful letters to his sister Emma and her children, George and Gertrude who in 1903 would have been about 11 and 9 respectively.  In this letter, dated December 5, Paul writes to Gertrude in response to a letter in which she appears to have tattled on George.  He writes,  “I am really surprised at George.  I thought he was a pretty good boy–but from what you say it seems he is not. Well, all I can say is that Santa Claus called on me last night and wanted to know all about you and George.”

The letter ends with a note: “Tell Geo. to behave or Santa will make trouble.  I love this … usually Santa punishes passive aggressively by not bringing gifts, but here … he is going to make trouble!  There is no evidence as to whether Uncle Paul’s threats worked and George decided to be good until December 25.  Sadly for George and Gertrude (and his sister, Emma, to whom he wrote a number of encouraging as well as instructive letters about the children’s behavior), Paul died only three years later and was not around to keep all of them on their toes.

Despite the humor of the contents of these letters, it is easy to see the family’s dynamics, even in just a few pencil-scrawled words.  Paul was Emma’s older brother by six years and his protectiveness of her is evident in every single letter … the message to her kids is that they should always treat her well and make life as easy as possible for her.  His message to his sister is that she should make the kids treat her well and do their part to make her life easier.  The letters are lovely reminders of how family members look out for each other … and how they use any tools at hand to promote their cause.

 

Best Wishes to Students during Finals!

Every time we step outside our office, just now, we can feel the pressure and stress on our dedicated, smart, and awesome student body as they are busily studying and preparing for their final exams and madly writing papers.

So, the catalogers of Penn’s Kislak Special Collections Processing Center send you an encouraging message (painted on silk)  from Mamie A. Jones, a young Philadelphian who we believe was probably a student at Friends’ Central School in the 1870s.  Her sketchbook holds a number of similarly beautiful drawings that she did during the early 1880s.

Good luck, students, at Penn and in schools, colleges, and universities everywhere!

 

History in the Rough–Pondering the Imponderable

Clement Winston was an economist who worked for the United States Bureau of Budget—which doesn’t sound too exciting, right?  WRONG!  It turns out “Clem,” as he was known, is one of the most delightful fellows out there!  A Russian immigrant who arrived in the United States as a youngster, Clem considered himself an American through and through; yet, somehow America did not necessarily agree.  Because of his Russian heritage, Winston was questioned at a hearing before the Loyalty Board for the Department of Commerce in the early 1950s.  Despite this immensely stressful time in his life, Clem was full of creativity, humor, and love for his family.

Join Kislak catalogers at History in the Rough, a pop up exhibit on December 6, from 11:30 to 1:30 in the main floor lobby of Van Pelt Library, to become acquainted with Clem!

Happy Snarky Thanksgiving, 1918

Thanksgiving is all about food … so I love to find Thanksgiving menus of the past.  One hundred years ago, the Americans “celebrated” in Paris, following the Armistice.  This marvelous bit of silliness can be found in the R. Norris Williams collection of World War I material, which is filled with absolute delights.  I think of Williams as a magpie who walked through war-torn Europe and picked up non-shiny bits of history.  His collection is full of ephemera that was probably never meant to last; but thanks to his collecting and preserving, we are gifted with the most amazing array of propaganda leaflets and toilet paper, trench papers, sketches, event ephemera, and notes.

So, with memories of 1918, Happy Thanksgiving, 2018 … hopefully caster oil is not on your menu!

History in the Rough–100 years after the Armistice

100 years ago, in 1918, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the armistice was signed between Germany and the Allies, bringing World War I to an end.  The war had gone on for four years resulting in around 40 million casualties (about 20 million dead and 20 million wounded).  Across the world, the news was shared, entries were made in diaries, and events to celebrate and memorialize the dead were organized.

Join Kislak catalogers at History in the Rough, a pop up exhibit on November 12, from 11:30 to 1:30 in the main floor lobby of Van Pelt Library, to rediscover the moments that led up to that historic day and its aftermath as societies healed.

History in the Rough–Are Computers Newsworthy?

Today, almost everyone walks around with a tiny and powerful computer in their pocket … but in 1946, when John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert invented the first all-electronic computer, the ENIAC, right here on Penn’s campus, it took up the entire basement of the Moore School.  Until his death in 1980, Mauchly worked in this emerging field and reduced the size of a computer down to “a computer in a suitcase.”  In 1962, he predicted that business folk would be carrying computers in their suit pockets!

The Kislak Center holds the John Mauchly papers which demonstrate the man and the evolution of computing technology over the past 72 years.  Join Kislak catalogers at History in the Rough, a pop up exhibit, November 8, from 11:30 to 1:30 in the main floor lobby of Van Pelt Library, to see a few documents (both fun and technical) from the collection of a man who truly changed the world.

HISTORY IN THE ROUGH

The Special Collections Processing Center is excited to introduce History in the Rough, a series of Pop-Up Exhibits to be held on the main floor lobby of the Van Pelt Library.

Special Collections ARE History in the Rough—they are the raw material of our past—unpolished, un-edited, and un-interpreted.  We know that history is written by the victors and Napoleon Bonaparte said “history is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.” Special collections provide a fuller spectrum of our past—you will find the good, the bad, and the ugly—but it will be someone’s truth.  Archival collections hold letters, diaries, photographs, speeches, and articles by people who lived during historic (and not so historic) events.  Rare books demonstrate the views of the writers and issues of the time—some were even banned.

In the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, you will find thousands of stories … all of which tell part of our larger and collective history.  Come to History in the Rough … discover just a few of these stories!

Being sick, English style

The congested head, the hacking cough, the sore, sore throat … we have all suffered through the common cold.  May I suggest Syrup of Squills?  Or perhaps Dr. King’s Pectoral Balsam?  We recently acquired a collection of English pharmaceutical labels from four chemist shops all located at 32 High Street, in Emsworth, England, which operated from the 1890s to the 1930s.  The August 24, 1895 Chemist and Druggist reports that Alfred Mumford purchased Mr. Edwin Stubb’s business at High Street, in Emsworth; in 1904, Mumford retired, selling his business to H.J. Carr and Co.; in 1924, Harry J. Carr died; and by 1925, W.T. Slatter was in business at 32 High Street.  It is unclear how long Slatter was in possession of the business before H. Densem became the owner.

Carr and Slatter both sold solutions for the common cold.  If you were suffering when Harry J. Carr was the pharmaceutical chemist, he probably would have sold you Syrup of Squills which was used for easing a cough.  By the time that Slatter was in business, you would have been sold “Dr. King’s Pectoral Balsam,” which was described as “A safe and speedy cure for Coughs, Colds, Bronchitis, Asthma, Pleurisy, Shortness of Breath, Hoarseness, Sore Throat, and all Affections of the Chest and Lungs.”  Around the same time period, chemist shops sold “The Ruby Cough Mixture” for coughs, colds and sore throats.  The list of ingredients (which includes vinegar of squills) scarily lists “tinct. of Camphor (Poison).”

If you had a kid and were worried about “Wind, Griping, or Stomach-ache,” you might have given them H. Densem’s “Children’s Soothing Mixture, which you will be relieved to know was free of opium or, for that matter, “anything injurious.”  Whew. According to my research for this collection, and specifically Ray Church, the number of chemists and druggists increased “from something over 10,000 to more than 40,000,” from 1865 to 1905, as a result of a variety of factors including national advertising for patent or proprietary medicines, increased transportation, and “the growing number of wholesaler-manufacturers who, by expanding the supply and range of ingredients, facilitated retailers’ ability to make up their own preparations,” (Church, Roy. “The British Market for Medicine in the late Nineteenth Century: The Innovative Impact of S M Burrows & Co.,” Medical History. Volume 49, Pages 281-298, 2005).