The Inside Story

Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. New York, Chicago: George M. Hill, 1900.
PS3503 .A723 W59 1900
Lurking behind the scenes of this much-loved book and film are political undercurrents relating to the United States’s monetary policies of the late 19th century … in particular the yellow brick road (the gold standard) and Dorothy’s iconic ruby slippers which were actually silver in the book (the Silverite movement).


Commission of Government Experts for the Study of Conventions for the Protection of War Victims, with preliminary documents submitted by the International Committee of the Red Cross and a revision of the of the Geneva Convention and Related Treaty Provisions, 1947 April 14-16.
Albert E. Clattenburg, Jr. collection of International Red Cross conference materials, 1930-1949 (bulk: 1947-1949), Ms. Coll. 1305.
Albert E. Clattenburg, Jr. (1906-1987) was an official and a diplomat with the United States State Department who was involved in the revisions of the Geneva Convention from 1947 to 1949. As you can see, every single line of the conventions was read, reviewed, and edited, if necessary. Other volumes in this collection show how certain changes were argued by delegates from across the world. Creating an ironclad document that cannot be interpreted at will is clearly hard work!

Dos discursos de la cifra, circa 1600.
Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection, LJS 423
This beautiful manuscript was written by a cryptographer in the service of the viceroy of Navarre, in Spain, around 1600. All encoded messages facilitate communication behind the scenes, but one method shown here calls for using a grille to cover parts of an innocuous public message to reveal the private communication in the windows of the grille.

Edmonds, Sarah Emma. Nurse and spy in the Union Army : comprising the adventures and experiences of a woman in hospitals, camps, and battle-fields. Philadelphia: Jonesbro. & Co., 1865
E628 .E36 1865
Sarah Emma Edmonds (1841-1898) was a traveling bookseller before the outbreak of the Civil War. After war was declared, Edmonds disguised herself as a man (alias Franklin Thompson) and joined a volunteer company and served in the Army of the Potomac for two years. This volume tells of her experiences—participating in battle, going behind enemy lines as a spy in various disguises eleven times, and working as a field nurse.

Letters opposing the naming of the Walt Whitman Bridge, 1956.
Delaware River Port Authority records on the naming of the Walt Whitman Bridge, 1954-1965, Ms. Coll. 1043
Who knew that the general public cared what a certain bridge was called? In this case, when the Delaware River Port Authority began the process of naming what is now the Walt Whitman Bridge, it turns out people cared—A LOT. Here are just a small sampling of the letters opposing the naming of the bridge after the famous poet. There were a lot of reasons for the opposition—all of which are contained in 11 very fat folders in the collection!

Meister, Aloys. Die Geheimschrift im Dienste der Päpstlichen Kurie von ihren Anfängen bis zum Ende des XVI. Paderborn: Druck und Verlag Von Ferdinand Schoningh, 1906
652M M477
Dr. Aloys Meister, born in 1866, was a professor of history at the University of Munster. He wrote Die Geheimschrift … which translates roughly to Cryptography in the service of the papal curia from its beginnings to the end of the 16th century, and includes five cryptographic writing tablets. What we really like here is the pencil cipher volvelle written on toilet paper.

Seldes, George. Press credentials, photographs, and documents from coverage of the Great Syrian Revolt, 1925
George Seldes papers, Ms. Coll. 1140 (cataloging in process)
George Seldes (1890-1995) was a journalist and author who worked in Pittsburgh from 1909 to 1916; in London with the United Press; and in France during World War I, with the Marshall Syndicate as a war correspondent. He remained in Europe after the war and spent the next 10 years as an international reporter for the Chicago Tribune. In 1925, he was sent by the Tribune to the Middle East to cover the Great Syrian Revolt. These documents relate to his coverage of the uprising and include press cards,
credentials, photographs, and newspaper articles.

Syndic de la Ville d’Annecy. ‘Oui’ slip from referendum, 1860.
Du Rouvenoz et Cie. records, 1792-1891 (bulk : 1830-1870), Ms. Coll. 514
The records of the Du Rouvenoz family company include memorabilia that allow us to peek behind the curtain of the polling booth. In 1860, Savoyards, the inhabitants of an independent region bordered by France, Italy, and Switzerland, voted in a referendum on the question of becoming part of France. A vote “Oui” was a vote to become part of France; since Monsieur du Rouvenoz’s “Oui” slip is here, he must have cast a minority

Yardley, Herbert O. The American Black Chamber. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1931.
652M Y23
Herbert O. Yardley (1889-1958) was an American cryptologist who in 1919 founded and subsequently led the interwar cryptographic organization called the Cipher Bureau (or the Black Chamber) until it was dissolved in 1929. In 1931, Yardley wrote the American Black Chamber, a tell-all description of the organization’s workings. This particular volume is filled with notes by Charles J. Mendelsohn who wrote on a blank flyleaf, “I do want to correct mis-statements, however, and to point out where false claims are made; and I want to make it plain that H.O.Y. has, in this book, followed a policy of withholding credit from others and claiming all for himself.”

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