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).

Douleur ou pas de douleur–it was your choice!

One of the things that I love about archival collections (and if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that there are many) is how connected I am to the history that shaped our lives today.  Occasionally, I am nostalgic (until I remember the lack of plumbing), but I am NEVER nostalgic when I work with medical collections and especially dental collections.  I recently worked with a small collection of French dental ephemera and was, as always, surprised by how much the field of dentistry has advanced over the last 100 years.

This collections consists largely of advertisements for dental offices (or cabinets dentaire) in France.  Most of the them advertised American dentists or American methods and bragged about all sort of new methods and drugs.  I was most entertained by the ones that offered patients the choice between pain-free and, presumably, pain-filled procedures. The real question was how much was a pain-free experience worth?  Because one did have to pay extra for it!

What sorts of services were available for a patient?  Just a few are nettoyage de la bouche (cleaning the mouth), extractions sans douleur (painless extractions), reconstitution des dents cassés (fixing broken teeth), obturations (fillings), disparition de la carie (removing decay), aurifications & opérations métalliques (capping teeth), soins préventifs (preventive care), plombage (sealing), and couronnes dentaires artificielles (crowns).  Gold caps could be made quickly and without any suffering!   Painless extractions by a very effective and inoffensive procedure! Teeth filled by a new procedure!

Be aware that beauty WAS important … not just the science and medicine behind these awesome new and if, you were willing to shell out the extra francs, painless procedures.  The Union Dentaire chose to highlight Les Dents Odontalines (possibly a brand of denture?) which were advertised as the most beautiful and the most solid that exist as well as being useful for health and beauty.  A few other dental offices used a fair and smiling lady on their brochures, no doubt as a little extra incentive.

Come explore this fun collection and perhaps next time you go to the dentist, you can inquire as to how much less your procedure will cost if you go for the pain-filled experience!

SAVE THE DATE: Kislak Center’s Annual Archives Month Philly Event : October 16

Defying Convention: Audacious Women in the Kislak Center Collections

Dorothy Searle photograph album, 1914-1917, Ms. Coll. 848

Women have always challenged the world’s expectations of them and the Kislak Center’s Special Collections Processing Center has the proof. Meet the adventurous, globetrotting women who have explored continents, settled in new lands, and made history. From the 15th century to the present, our collections show women as scientists, activists, teachers, explorers, writers, patriots, and healers whose efforts to change the world have inspired countless generations of women. 

The Special Collections Processing Center reveals written and visual accounts of extraordinary, independent women who were determined to forge their own paths.  We welcome you for a one evening show-and-tell during Archives Month to see our rare books and manuscripts chronicling the exploits, adventures and mishaps of these extraordinary women. Join us on Tuesday, October 16th from 5 to 6:30 at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books & Manuscripts in the Class of 78 Pavilion (6th floor of the Van Pelt Library).

Please bring photo ID to enter the Van Pelt Library!

Ma, Mama, Mother, Mumsie, Mrs. Biddle, and Cousin Maria

Despite the prominence of the Biddle men in Philadelphia history, the Biddle family papers are dominated by the Biddle women, and in particular, Biddle mothers.  In typical mother fashion, these mamas kept track of their families, had enough clout that their teenage sons (and grown-up sons) wrote daily letters, and demanded ever more news!  What was extremely fun about this collection was glimpsing the relationships between mothers, their children, their own mothers, and their in-laws.

Biddle Family Tree

This collections seems to be anchored by the marriage of Julia Biddle and Arthur Biddle–yes, two Biddles–in 1880.  The resulting family tree is a sight to behold.  Arthur and Julia shared great-grandparents (Clement (1740-1814) and Rebekah Cornell (1755-1831) Biddle) and their grandfathers were brothers.  As with many old families, there were lots more discoveries of “close family relations” to find.

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