The Michael Strassfeld papers, 1901-2015 (bulk: 1968-2015), which came to Penn in 2015, are now processed and open for research. Michael Strassfeld (b. February 8, 1950) is an American Reconstructionist Rabbi. Raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, Strassfeld was profoundly influenced by the burgeoning Jewish anti-establishment movement in the Boston area in the 1960s and early 1970s. The Michael Strassfeld papers contain the records of the his education and life’s work. Represented are elements of his Orthodox upbringing, traditional Jewish education, influence of the Jewish anti-establishment and countercultural movements, and his training and practice as a Reconstructionist Rabbi.
The Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Americana is now available for research. Besides their fine work building the Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Early American Judaica, available to researchers at Penn’s Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, the Kaplans built a small collection of American non-Jewish material as well. It includes a collection of printed books and an eclectic assortment of manuscripts and photographic material. Among the manuscripts are account books, ciphering books, diaries, letter books, penmanship notebooks, and recipe books. Each of these categories is quite interesting and can be explored further on the collection’s finding aid.
The largest grouping in the manuscript series is a collection of 22 ciphering notebooks dating from 1764 to 1870. These exemplars provide a superb view into the ways mathematics was taught in North America through the mid-nineteenth century. As outlined by Nerida Ellerton and M.A. (Ken) Clements in their book Rewriting the History of School Mathematics in North America, 1607-1861: The Central Role of Cyphering Books, the “cyphering tradition” allowed students of various ages and abilities to prepare their own ciphering books by employing formulaic presentations of mathematical rules followed by the computation of particular practical exercises. Continue reading
The E. Sculley Bradley papers are now processed and available for research. Sculley Bradley was a University of Pennsylvania English professor from 1926-1967 and vice provost of undergraduate education from 1956-1963. His papers include his personal and professional correspondence, 1923-1962, material from several literary censorship cases he testified for, corrected drafts of his manuscript for the Variorum edition of Leaves of Grass, ephemera and graphics associated with Walt Whitman, and a small amount of materials on other authors. His censorship files are some of the more interesting materials in the collection.
From 1948 through 1966 Sculley Bradley was involved in a series of literary censorship trials, acting as a witness on the side of the authors, publishers, and/or booksellers. His first case involved the seizure of over 2,000 books confiscated from 50 different bookstores, department stores, and newsstands in Philadelphia, PA in 1948. Among the books seized were James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan and A World I Never Made; Sanctuary and The Wild Palms by William Faulkner; God’s Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell; Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr.; and Harold Robbins’ Never Love a Stranger. The book raids were undertaken by the Philadelphia police vice squad upon complaints of “ministers, school authorities, and others.”
Bradley was recruited to serve as an expert witness in this case and in several subsequent ones. In the files for these censorship cases, Bradley has collected correspondence concerning his testimony, newspaper and magazine clippings, receipts for his consultative charges, and in some cases copies of legal briefs. In preparation for giving his testimony, Bradley worked diligently. If he did not already have a copy of the book in question, the publishers would send him one. He read it (usually not for the first time) and wrote up detailed notes on the characters, plot, purpose, and context of each book so that he would be prepared to discuss it, and defend it, in court.
The Philadelphia seizures actually led to more than one courtroom. A Pennsylvania State suit against five of the booksellers went to the Court of Quarter Sessions, Philadelphia, while a Federal case in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was lodged by publisher Vanguard Press and author James T. Farrell against the Philadelphia police. Sculley Bradley testified in both trials. It isn’t completely clear how the Federal case turned out, but the State case was a victory for the booksellers. Judge Curtis Bok found that the books were not obscene and dismissed the charges against the booksellers. He wrote a thorough opinion on the matter, finalizing with “I hold that the books before me are not sexually impure and pornographic, and are therefore not obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, indecent, or disgusting.” Judge Bok’s opinion was such a hit with booksellers, that the publisher Knopf had it typeset on fine paper in a clothbound limited edition of 500 copies printed by Grabhorn Press in San Francisco!
In addition to the Philadelphia cases, other censorship cases arose in Fall River, MA (focusing on the book Duke, by Hal Ellison), Detroit, MI (The Devil Rides Out, by John H. Griffin), Youngstown, OH (Down All Your Streets, by Leonard Bishop), and additional cases brought in Philadelphia, PA as well as several other cities (for The Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller). Bradley also signed on to an amicus curiae brief prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in defense of Ralph Ginzburg, who published the erotic journal Eros and other works which were confiscated in the mail in 1962. Some of the cases Bradley was involved in made their way to the United States Supreme Court.
Processing the “Adalbert Riedl collection of prayer and song leaflets” was quite enjoyable for several reasons having to do with its material qualities, and it was also relatively easy, because it had been pre-arranged and had a typed paper inventory. It allowed me to learn about a region of world I didn’t know too much about (Burgenland in Eastern Austria), made me brush off my high school and college German, and provided seemingly endless visual stimulation, what with so many great religious and secular illustrations included on most of the pamphlets. It also was fascinating from the standpoint of printing and illustration history, as it covered a wide period of time, from at least 1746 to 1929 and perhaps later.
The short story about Adalbert Riedl is that he was an Austrian teacher, politician, museum director, collector, and folklorist (for more information, please see the Biographical note in the online finding aid). After going into education and then dabbling in party politics (a stint in Dachau concentration camp seems to have taken care of that ambition), Riedl settled down to work at and eventually run the Burgenland State Museum (Landesmuseum Burgenland) in Eisenstadt, Austria. There he championed the folklore of his native region and wrote several books on the subject. While the content of the pamphlet collection is not only from this region, it is representative of Riedl’s interest in collecting the cultural production of a given area. Continue reading
The Oliver Daniel research collection on Dimitri Mitropoulos is now processed and open for research. Oliver Daniel was a composer, music producer, and musicologist, who wrote a biography of conductor Leopold Stokowski in 1982 and was working on a biography of conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos at the time of Daniel’s death in 1990. Daniel had conducted more than 180 interviews with over 120 individuals from 1982 to 1989 while researching the biography. Daniel’s longtime partner and executor of his estate Donald Ott sought an author to complete the biography and made Daniel’s oral history transcripts and notes available to author William R. Trotter, who completed the book, Priest of Music: The Life of Dimitri Mitropoulos, published by Amadeus Press in 1995. Ott donated the collection to Penn in 2006.
The oral history interviews and research materials cover all aspects of Mitropoulos’s life and career, including his early life in Greece and his conducting positions in America as principal conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, music director of the New York Philharmonic, and principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Daniel interviewed musicians who played and sang for Mitropoulos, conductors who were mentored by him, and composers whose works Mitropoulos premiered and championed domestically and abroad.
Additionally, from 1944-1948, Mitropoulos served as principal conductor of the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra, which was the name applied to the Philadelphia Orchestra during its summer months performing at the outdoor amphitheater in Fairmount Park. For a time, Mitropoulos’s Dell concerts were wildly popular. Trotter indicates that crowds reached up to 7,000 per concert in Mitropoulos’s first season there and up to 14,000 in the 1947 season. In 1948, however, the Republican convention was held in Philadelphia, and attendance took a significant hit. Philadelphians were either at the convention or watching it at home—it was the first political convention to be broadcast on television. In the middle of that season the Dell concerts were abandoned altogether. Continue reading
Monday, 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.
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