Happy 259th Birthday Noah Webster!

Frontispiece of  An American Dictionary of the English Language

On this day, October 16th, in 1758, a pioneer in American English-language education was born. Noah Webster is one of the most influential figures in the early decades of American history; having published some of the most well-known textbooks and dictionaries of the nineteenth century. Webster’s first famous publication came with his 1783 A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, which was nicknamed the “Blue-Backed Speller” for its blue covers. Lehigh Special Collections holds an 1805 edition of Webster’s work The American Spelling Book, a later publication title of the Blue-Backed Speller. Webster aimed to provide a standard for American spelling and grammar, and also sought to educate schoolchildren with books written in America.

In 1801, Webster began compiling a dictionary of American usages and spellings of words. As Americans had slightly different ways of speaking than the English, Webster thought that a comprehensive dictionary would prove useful in standardizing the country’s language. After five years of work, he published A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language in 1806. This volume contained approximately 37,000 words with concise definitions for each. A first edition copy of this work can be found in Lehigh Special Collections.

Webster continued his work as a lexicographer after 1806, and eventually published a followup dictionary in 1828 titled An American Dictionary of the English Language. This work expands on Webster’s first dictionaty by defining over 65,000 words.  Special Collections also holds a first edition of this work, available to interested researchers.

A hand-written letter by Webster is also held by Lehigh, and can be accessed through I Remain: A Digital Archive of Letters, Manuscripts, and Ephemera.

In addition to publishing educational volumes, Webster was active politically and strongly advocated the Copyright Act of 1831. The Webster name is still closely associated with dictionaries as the Merriam-Webster dictionary is still being actively updated and published. The hyphenation is the result of George and Charles Merriam purchasing the rights to Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language following his death in 1843. Noah Webster is still noteworthy today for his push to provide widespread access to high-quality educational resources. As Webster wrote in his 1807 A Philosophical and Practical Grammar of the English Language, “the most necessary learning is, ‘to unlearn that which is naught’.”

Happy Birthday Germantown – A Borough Rich in Literary History

On this day in 1683, the borough of Germantown, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was founded. Despite encompassing an area of only about three square miles, the area has a surprisingly intricate history. Germantown was founded by German Quaker and Mennonite immigrants, and, even today, October 6 is noted as German-American Day. Germantown first became notable a mere five years after its founding, in 1688, when America’s anti-slavery movement took off there, through the issuance of the Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, written by Francis Daniel Pastorius. Germantown also served as a battleground during the American Revolutionary War, when the Continental Army attacked the British garrison there. While a loss for the Americans, the British still suffered heavy casualties. As decades have passed, Germantown’s demographics have consistently changed. While initially comprised of primarily German immigrants (naturally), in the mid-nineteenth century the demographic began to include a large number of Italian immigrants. Another shift occurred around the second World War, as African American families from the south moved to Philadelphia – today, Germantown is a primarily African American community.

While Germantown boasts a truly impressive history for such a small area, what I find most interesting about the borough is its ties to the literary world and Lehigh Special Collections. In the mid-1700’s, Germantown resident Christoph Sauer brought a new element to the infant American printing industry when he started producing books in German and with a standard German type face. In 1739, Sauer printed the first book using a German type face – Fraktur, specifically – in America. Sauer sought to cater to the large numbers of German immigrants in the Philadelphia area who were forced to either buy imported books or use books not printed in Fraktur facing. Four years later, in 1743, Sauer printed the first Bible in any European language in America. Lehigh Special Collections holds original copies of both of these books, which can be seen below.

#BannedBooksWeek 2017: The Lord of the Rings

One of the most influential fantasy fiction stories of all time, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has taken millions of people on the perilous journey through Middle-earth. However, to some, this journey is just too perilous to allow others to read. The books, along with The Hobbit, have since been banned a number of times in various schools and churches with reasons ranging from depictions of smoking to outright satanism.

In a number of schools, The Lord of the Rings has been banned for the frequent use of a pipe by various characters in the book. The National Health Service in Plymouth, England claimed that children were more likely to start smoking because of books and films like The Lord of the Rings. However, the trilogy has seen much harsher criticisms for darker reasons.

All three volumes of The Lord of the Rings

Catholic and Christian communities in particular have had a history of denouncing the books saying they promote witchcraft. The references to darkness and sorcery did not sit well with churches and religious schools. Somewhat recently, a group in the Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, New Mexico set fire to a pile of books that included Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. They claimed the books to be evil and said they were destroying people with their satanic ways.

Ironically, J.R.R. Tolkien was devoutly religious, having converted to Roman Catholicism at a very young age. His Biblical inspiration is often said to show up in characters like Gandalf and in the general story of light versus darkness. An even stronger example, Tolkien’s other work about the world of Middle-earth, The Silmarillion, has numerous similarities to the book of Genesis.

Map of Middle-earth located on the back cover of the library’s 1993 edition of The Lord of the Rings

Despite the banning and disputes The Lord of the Rings has suffered, it continues to excite people of all ages. Whether you believe Tolkien promotes witchcraft, references Christianity, or merely creates a magic world, he has certainly influenced the world with his stories.

 

References:

http://world.edu/banned-book-awareness-lord-rings-jrr-tolkien/

http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31766

Earth Day at Lehigh, April 22, 1970

Earth Day as we know it owes its creation to former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. A fitting byproduct of the Environmental Movement in the 1970’s, Earth Day promotes environmental awareness and falls on April 22nd each year.

Nelson took advantage of a political atmosphere ripened by the Teach-in movement, Vietnam War protesting, and the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, which dumped an estimated 80,000 barrels of crude oil into the Pacific. Remarkably, the Day achieved overwhelming support, drawing crowds of thousands all over the country to demonstrate environmental protection and mindfulness. College and university students did not waiver in their support of environmentalism either, sending a wave across the nation.

This wave of support made its way to Lehigh University, with the first Earth Day on April 22nd, 1970 being documented in the Brown and White student newspaper archives. Lecturers and activists visited campus and took a rather drastic tone, the front page reading: “Ecology Ethics Needed for Survival on Earth.” The message was to change our mindset and change our ways of life to accommodate an advancing world.

Humans, unlike most other species on Earth, feel entitled to manipulate and damage the environment for our benefit. “Most animals are born with an inherited wisdom” to not ruin the environment, professor and ecological pioneer Francis Trembley explained. Something needed to change in order for the human race to survive.

The week also featured other significant speakers, but Earth Day was met with some opposition that may still be relevant today. Many argued it was just a day to scare or cast a pessimistic shadow on human development. Still others saw it as mostly symbolic, not achieving any real revolution.

A student writer at the time expressed his opinion of Earth Day in a piece titled, “Earth Day Approach Wrong.” To summarize, pollution is advantageous in a capitalistic society; it’s profitable because being green and environmentally aware doesn’t make money. There’s no incentive. And, all the while students are being informed to change their ways, to take better care of their environment, but the government and large corporations are those who really should be taking notes. The problems of environmental pollution are more ingrained in the way society operates, the way resources are allocated and the way technology is utilized.

As Lehigh celebrates Earth Day again in 2017, it continues a long standing tradition. An Earth Day fair is scheduled to take place on the University front lawn, and the month is filled with other various events, but the questions posed in 1970 remain. And, matters are growing more complex with budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and climate change denial.

Happy Birthday Thomas Jefferson!

Thomas Jefferson is remembered by many living both in and outside of the United States for a variety of for different actions and accomplishments. From enacting Louisiana Purchase, to publishing the Notes on the State of Virginia, to founding the University of Virginia, and writing the Jefferson Bible, his life and actions have captured the interest of people of all walks of life. He was a man who expressed an interest in everything and wanted to educate himself and teach others about all subjects he deemed important. He mastered the trades of surveying, architecture, mathematics, mechanics, and horticulture while practicing philosophy and, most famously, theology. He worked in law for most of his life and in 1775 truly began his political career by writing the Declaration of Independence.

In Lehigh’s Special Collections, there are an 1800 edition of Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia and an 1806 edition of Discoveries Made by Captains Lewis & Clark by Jefferson. Along with these, there are handwritten letters to and from Jefferson in the I Remain digital archive, pictured below.

W. Ross Yates

Willard Ross Yates has an illustrious academic history in the field of political science. Before becoming a professor at Lehigh University, he earned his B.A. and M.A. at the University of Oregon and Ph.D. at Yale University. He was a Fulbright Scholar from 1951 to 1952 and served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946. After obtaining his Ph.D in 1956, he taught at Kenyon College and the University of Vermont before coming to Lehigh.

At Lehigh, he was a professor of political science which would earn him the Hillman Award, the highest honor for a member of the faculty and staff. By the end of his career in 1986 he had held the titles of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Government Emeritus. He not only excelled in the field of political science but was an expert on the history of Lehigh and Bethlehem. He is most well known for his works “History of the Lehigh Valley Region”, Bethlehem of Pennsylvania, the Golden Years, andLehigh University: A History of Education in Engineering, Business, and the Human Condition of which Lehigh Library Special Collections has the original manuscript and notes for. His works are considered the leading resource for Bethlehem and Lehigh history. He displayed the true signs of a Renaissance man with all the activities he participated in, from the Bach Choir, to completing 130 marathons, and winning prizes for gardening and poetry.

More detail on his life can be found on his obituary linked here:

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/mcall/obituary-print.aspx?n=willard-yates&pid=183929737

#ColorOurCollection: Lehigh Special Collections Coloring Book

Lehigh Special Collections is happy to be participating in the New York Academy of Medicine’s #ColorOurCollection event!

#ColorOurCollections is a week-long coloring fest on social media organized by libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world. Using materials from their collections, these institutions are sharing free coloring content with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections and inviting their followers to color and get creative with their collections.

#ColorOurCollections was launched by The New York Academy of Medicine Library in 2016.

View and download our coloring book at http://library.nyam.org/colorourcollections/lehigh-university-libraries-special-collections-coloring-book/ or download it as a PDF file here: Lehigh Coloring Book

Images were selected from recent library exhibits and previously digitized materials.

“History at Lehigh in 1884”: Notes from Lectures by Dr. Henry Coppee Taken by Henry Bowman Douglas, 1884

Coppee Notes Title Page

Dr. Henry Coppée is considered one of the most substantial figures in Lehigh University’s development into a world-class institution. Selected by Asa Packer, Coppée served as the first president of Lehigh University from 1866-1875. Coppée Hall at Lehigh University was named after Henry Coppée, and now houses the Department of Journalism and Communications. During his time as a professor at Lehigh, Dr. Coppée taught subjects such as English literature and history. Although an engineer himself, as President of Lehigh, Coppée believed that all students should have a well-rounded, liberal-arts education. Lecture notes taken in 1884 by an engineering student in Dr. Coppée’s class , Henry Bowman Douglass, reveal subject material surrounding the Roman Empire’s influence on the development of Europe. Much of Lehigh University’s current history curriculum focuses on the Roman Empire, offering courses such as “Ancient Roman Religion” and “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”

Coppee Notes Languages

When the Soviet Flag Flew Over Lehigh: May 1937

Crowd sitting around flagpole

Roughly 500 bright eyed and bushy tailed “sub-froshes” (prospective freshman) got more than they signed up for on a fateful morning in May, 1937. Apparently, they didn’t see “Communist flag viewing party” in the fine print of their schedules. Also, University admission tour guides must have forgotten to mention the day’s special event.

Students swarmed the courtyard, which, on any other day would’ve meant there was free food, but today it was to gape in disbelief as a Soviet Union flag waved atop the University flagpole.

Believed to be an elaborate prank put on by sympathizers of the communist movement, or perhaps just a couple of goons looking for a good laugh, the flag caused quite the frenzy.

The pranksters had managed to jam the flag’s pulley system so it could not be simply lowered to the ground. Incidentally, the fire department’s longest latter was “too short.” Thus, all hope fell into the hands and spikey feet of a daring steeplejack.

Flag pole safety note
A note advising students not to try and retrieve the flag. It reads: “Note. This pole is in questionable condition. Please do not attempt to climb it. Let’s play SAFE.”

Man holding soviet flag

Thankfully, the steeplejack succeeded in his mission unharmed and once the flag was finally taken down, it was replaced by the glorious Lehigh University brown and white.

The Soviet flag fell into the custody of a Delta Tau Delta fraternity brother, who allegedly hung it up in his room. Yet today, the flag’s whereabouts are unknown.

Bob Dylan at Stabler Arena, 1981-2013

In honor of today’s announcement that Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, let’s take a look back at his connection to Lehigh.stabler-81

dylan-81-review
Review of Dylan’s 1981 Stabler Arena performance from the Brown and White

 

Bob Dylan first performed at Lehigh’s Stabler Arena in 1981. This performance came during what has been described as Dylan’s preaching, gospel, or “born-again” phase, which followed his conversion to Christianity in the late 1970s. The set list for this concert, as well as all of Dylan’s other concerts, is available on his website. Since 1981, Dylan has made six additional appearances at Stabler arena in 1995, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2010, and most recently in 2013. His initial visit to Lehigh in 1981 proved to be on the earlier end of his career, with  his first album released in 1961.

dylan-1965
Advertisement from a 1965 issue of the Brown and White

Prior to his appearance at Stabler in 1981, Dylan’s influence on the student body was apparent in both the favorable and unfavorable references to him made in the Brown and White. In comparison to another folk music act that played at Lehigh in 1965, the student reviewer commented, “I can only describe Dylan’s voice as a premature senile croaking coming through a musty rain-barrel.”  It seems that after 51 years, the Nobel Prize Committee has repudiated this reviewers opinion that “ranting and wailing, moaning and groaning about how the world is going to hell in a bucket isn’t my idea of good folk music.”

music-review-1965
Review of a folk-music performance referencing Bob Dylan from a 1965 issue of the Brown and White.
dylan-99
Review of Dylan’s 1999 Stabler Arena performance in the Brown and White.
dylan-2000
Review of Dylan’s 2000 Stabler Arena performance in the Brown and White.