Black History Month is the month-long celebration of African Americans in the United States. While this month originally started in the United States, other countries have also started to dedicate a month to Black History. This month can be a celebration of the literature, art, political figures, and labor that have contributed to the making of the American economy and culture as a whole. We look toward those figures who have advanced these areas, even when their contributions were considered radical.
In addition to the theme of Black History, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. To address both of these topics, we should discuss the black women who strove towards gaining the right to vote and gain political representation. In the late 1800s, at the peak of the Suffrage movements, Black women worked in schools and churches promoting the ideas of equality of voting, so that everyone could have a say in what was happening in the United States. Unfortunately, many of the suffrage organizations, even those including black men, didn’t allow black women to participate in movements, creating a divide for black women. For this Black History Month, we remember the role black women played in the goal of getting closer to having the right to vote, even though they did not gain this right until 1920.
The history behind why Fire Prevention week started started with an increase in the number of fires in the 19th century, particularly the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Chicago Theater fire of 1903. Here in Special Collections at Lehigh University there are a few books dating back to that time in Chicago’s history. The first one is The Great Chicago Theater Disaster by Marshall Everett. This book gives a detailed account of the The Iroquois Theater, where the fire occurred. It was said that there were no actual floor plans of the theater and that there was only one exit, but the theater could hold up to 2,200 people. The whole building was not up to code and on the day of the fire, every seat was filled. The start of the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit. When trying to flee from the fire, many of the emergency exits were locked and the usher wouldn’t open the door until someone forced it open. This was the deadliest single building fire in American history.
The Chicago Fire has an interesting legend about how a cow on the farm of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary started the fire from kicking over a lantern in the barn. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow starting the fire has since been disproved, with alternative explanations including and exploding comet. The fire burned for two days and killed 300 people. The book Chicago The Great Conflagration by Elias Colbert and Everett Chamberlin goes through the whole history of the land of Chicago as well as the creation of the city itself. The book focuses on the background history of Chicago for the first 180 pages before getting to the science of the fire. The scientific explanations in the book are outdated, including the fire being caused by sun spot caused droughts and dryness in the city itself. While the book isn’t accurate by modern standards, it provides an interesting retelling of the history of Chicago.
Lehigh’s University Libraries Special Collections contains a collection of diverse information. One recent example is the Mary Tompkins Correspondence, which reflects a variety of research topics including: social commentary, business, genealogy, and transportation. This collection features letters written to Mary Frances Reid Tompkins (1908-2004) in the years between the World Wars by three generations of family members (1918-1937). The letters from the Great Depression era are especially poignant in the family’s repeated requests to Mary Tompkins for financial aid. These letters also provide a rich source of information about how a formerly aristocratic Southern family coped with the devastation of their wealth and societal standing resulting from the Civil War. Apparently, Mary Tompkins was one of the few people in her family with a secure and steady job, which was at the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, Georgia. Coca-Cola was one of the very few American businesses that thrived during the Great Depression. In an era when most companies cut back on advertising, Coca-Cola ramped theirs up. In the early 1920s, Prohibition shut down bars that served beer and liquor. In response, Coca-Cola came up with the slogan “The Pause That Refreshes” as a popular marketing campaign which associated drinking Coke as a part of the American way of life, promoting its consumption as a popular way for people to be sociable. To further promote its product, Coca-Cola maintained the 5 cent price per bottle for 50 years, from 1909 to 1959, and developed the innovative six-pack cardboard carrier, which promoted buying multiple 5 cent bottles. (http://www.coca-colacompany.com/history)
Many of the letters also had their envelopes included, which offered clues to Mary’s consistent address at Coco-Cola in Atlanta rather than a frequently changing residence. Mary was very popular, having many friends and interests. The letters requesting aid were sure to reach her at her business address.
A large portion of the letters requested financial aid, some letters from her grandmother, Mary Frances Reid Reese of Carrollton, Georgia, outlined the family’s former wealth and prominent Southern roots. This included the family’s relation to the Sallie Fannie Reid Guards Confederacy army unit, Governor of Georgia John M. Slaton (1866-1955), and Atlanta architect J. Neel Reid, who owned the well-known Antebellum house Mimosa Hall.
Among the envelopes is an unusual one: a commemorative issue from the Canal Zone noting the First Air Mail Express Flight.
The envelope is postmarked May 1, 1930 7 A.M. Cristobal, C.Z. F.A.M. 5, and was sent from Peter W. Reese, an electrician for the Panama Railroad, who was a relative inviting Mary to visit him in Panama. The F.A.M.-5 was a U.S. Post Office (Foreign Air Mail) designated contract airmail route flown by Pan American Airways that inaugurated the route from Miami, Florida to Central America. When combined with F.A.M.-6, this route would become known as the :Lindbergh Circle,” with flights circumnavigating the Caribbean. (see The Cornell Daily Sun, v. XLIX, n. 92, 7 Feb. 1929)
In July 1934, Mary moved from Coca-Cola’s Atlanta headquarters to the bottling plant office in Wilmington, Delaware. In the move, Mary met Lowry S. Danser (1912-2007) who worked for E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co. as a chemical engineer. Lowry S. Danser earned a degree in chemical engineering from Lehigh in 1933, where he was involved with the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and the swim team. Mary and Lowry would eventually marry in 1939. Lowry Danser went on to have a successful career with DuPont, holding a U.S. patent for copper removal from chloroprene. He and Mary lived abroad during numerous assignments for the company, including three years in Japan where they began collecting oriental art. Lowry and Mary, were generous benefactors of Lehigh, gifting artwork and pottery to the University’s Art Gallery. They were members of the Asa Packer Society and the Tower Society. In 2004, Mr. Danser established the Mary T. and Lowry S. Danser ’33 Gift Annuity. On his death in 2007, the Danser estate gift to the University established the Mary T. and Lowry S. Danser Distinguished Faculty Chair in Chemistry. They are buried in the Carrollton (Georgia) City Cemetery, the city postmark featured on many of the envelopes. In death Mary Frances Tompkins Danser returned to her Southern roots.
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.
1959 edition of Return of the King. The earliest edition of Lord of the Rings held by Lehigh Libraries
1993 edition of Lord of the Rings
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.
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.
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.
Today, James Joyce’s Ulysses is considered a classic novel with a secure place in the Western literary canon. English professors and scholars around the world praise the novel’s stream-of-consciousness technique and incredible depth. However, the novel was not always readily available to the public, being banned soon after its publication. In fact, when Joyce decided to publish the novel, he could not find an English publisher that would work with him. A French publisher, Shakespeare and Company, finally agreed to publish the novel and it was available in 1922. Despite this successful publication, several English speaking countries of the world banned Ulysses because of its “obscenity.” A series of court battles ensued to determine the legality of selling Ulysses in the United States.
The question of Ulysses’ legalityin the United States was heard in the court case United States v. One Book Called Ulysses. In 1933, Random House, a publishing company with rights to publish the entirety of Ulysses, decided to instigate a test case against the ban of the book. Random House therefore made an arrangement to import the edition published in France and have a copy seized by the US Customs Service when the ship carrying the work arrived. After Customs confiscated the copies of the book, it took the US Attorney’s Office several months to decide whether to proceed further. The office of the US Attorney finally decided to take action against the book under the Tariff Act of 1930, which allowed a district attorney to bring an action for forfeiture and destruction of imported works which were obscene.
Ulysses was considered obscene because of Episode 13. In this part of the novel, Leopold Bloom and Gerty have a sexual interaction in which Gerty exposes her legs and underwear to Leopold Bloom while she lays on the ground, watching fireworks. Leopold Bloom presumably masturbates as a result of Gerty’s actions as he “puts his hands in his pockets”. The scene’s climax occurs when the fireworks end with a firework in the shape of a “Roman candle bursting in the air.” This moment conveys Bloom’s orgasm and ends his sexual interaction with Gerty.
Judge John M. Woolsey presided over the trial of the United States v. One Book Called Ulysses and he decided that Ulysses was not pornographic. To make this decision, Judge Woolsey spent weeks reading Ulysses, which he described as “not an easy book to read or to understand,” and “a heavy task” (United States v. One Book Called” Ulysses”). The judge ultimately found that the novel was serious and that its author was sincere and honest in showing how the minds of his characters operate and what they were thinking. Therefore, Ulysses was not legally considered obscene and a decade after it was published, it was legally allowed to be sold and obtained in the United States.
Since the uplift of the ban on Ulysses, James Joyce’s novel has been enjoyed and celebrated by millions of Americans. It has been labeled a “literary masterpiece” and entered the American literary canon. The book is so highly praised because of its stream-of-consciousness technique. James Joyce popularized this technique and it is a literary technique that attempts to portray the complexity of human ideas and thoughts through literature. The novel’s attempt at showing the complexity of human thought has made it difficult to read and scholars have argued over the meaning of the novel since it was published. However, an important lesson to take away from Ulysses is that novels must be protected and allowed to be sold and circulated. Novels have the distinct ability of conveying important lessons and messages. Without protecting their legality, their messages will simply fade into oblivion. It is important to preserve the legality of books like Ulysses to ensure that their messages live on. Lehigh Special Collections holds three different editions of Joyce’s Ulysses: the first edition published by Shakespeare and Company, the Limited Editions Club version with artwork by Henri Matisse, and a facsimile copy of the manuscript.
Banned Books Week, spanning September 24th to the 30th in 2017, is a time when libraries around the country celebrate the freedom to read and raise awareness of censorship. Since 1982 more than 11,300 books have been challenged, with this novel included in that number.
Published in 1925, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald depicted the society result from the end of the Great War in the 20s. Fitzgerald uses the main character, Jay Gatsby, to take the reader through the roller coaster that was life in the 20s, and still today, consisting of poverty, wealth, love, pain, and death. Nick Carraway, the narrator from the midwest and Daisy Buchanan’s cousin, makes his way to New York where he becomes the neighbor of the mysterious Gatsby. With Nick’s help, Gatsby is reunited with the love of his life, Daisy, after five years apart. Gatsby and Daisy maintain an affair until her self-righteous husband, Tom, finds out. Gatsby tries with everything he’s got to win Daisy over, but she refuses to say that she never loved Tom. Turns out Tom is also in an affair, but this discovery has an entirely different outcome. Daisy, blinded with rage, runs Tom’s mistress, Myrtle, over with her car. When Tom tells Myrtle’s husband, George, that Gatsby was the one who did the job, he shoots Gatsby in his pool before killing himself as well. Daisy moves on with her “perfect “ life, pretending as though Gatsby never even existed, and Nick journeys back to the midwest in search for genuine people.
In 1987, the Baptist College in Charleston, SC challenged The Great Gatsby, arguing that Fitzgerald’s novel contains immoral “language and sex references” (Penn State). Although this was a heavy-handed opinion, there are many other interpretations of The Great Gatsby that provide reasons for why the novel should be made available and be taught in schools. Some even believe it is entirely necessary because of the way it can be used to teach valuable, historical lessons about the jazz age, mainly concerning prohibition. People were gluttonous, money was thrown around like candy, providing people with empty and temporary happiness in the form of superficial parties and booze. By Gatsby’s first-hand experience as a man who was only adored for his outrageous parties, his character along with the reader learne that money cannot buy you true friends that will be by your side to the end. None of Gatsby’s so-called friends even showed up to his funeral. The only people that attended were his father, the man with the owl eyes, and Nick. Despite the occasional inappropriate “language and sex references” (Penn State), this novel can be used to better understand the cultural context of the 1920s, rather than mundanely reading about it in a textbook. Such literary experiences can provide deeper meaning and understanding. A 1980 Limited Editions Club printing of this novel, featuring an introduction by Charles Scribner III and illustrations by Fred Meyer, can be found in Special Collections. Several other editions can be found on the 3rd floor of Linderman Library, including the Russian translation pictured here.
Today marks the 139th birthday of Upton Sinclair, who gained fame for his “muckraking” work The Jungle. Born in 1878, Sinclair wrote during the Progressive Era, successfully revealing the horrific conditions of various American industries. He went on to write many more notable books including Dragon’s Teeth, for which he won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Sinclair grew up in New York City in extreme poverty with his mother and alcoholic father. He would sometimes visit his wealthy grandparents, which gave him an idea of what it was like to live in both poverty and wealth. This comparison of lifestyles, he claimed, was what created his socialist ideals. Sinclair only went further into poverty once he married and had a child. However, instead of factory work, he chose to pursue his passion for writing.
In 1906, Sinclair’s career was launched with the publishing of The Jungle. The book revealed the terrible conditions of the meat-packing industry and how the laborers were treated. It ultimately led to the passing of certain acts like the “Meat Inspection Act” that helped regulate the food industries.
One of Sinclair’s following works, Oil!, depicts the destructive nature of the oil rig. Although it did not have the same effect as The Jungle, it still did bring some attention to the impacts of the oil industry. In fact, it inspired Paul Anderson’s movie There Will Be Blood which also exemplified the dangers of oil.
Later in his life, Upton Sinclair wrote the book Little Steel to bring focus to the disorganization of the steel industry. It continues Sinclair’s theme of showing the rejection of the workers and the terrible conditions of the factories.
Because of his works, Sinclair was labeled a “muckraker,” a term used to describe people who sought to expose the truth about corruption in politics and business. These authors and journalists were crucial in the implementation of government regulation and labor unions. Upton Sinclair is partly responsible for many of the basic safety regulations we have today.
Today, September 12, 2017, marks the 171st wedding anniversary of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. Since their marriage in 1846, Elizabeth and Robert have became some of the most well-known poets and writers in history. Born on March 6th, 1806 in Durham, England, Elizabeth Barrett Browning began writing novels at the age of six. She went on to produce one of the largest bodies of juvenilia left by an English writer. Some of her works include Sonnets from the Portuguese, published in 1847, and An Essay on Mind: With Other Poems, published in 1826, both of which can be found in Linderman Library’s Jane Austen Exhibit. It is interesting to note that one of Elizabeth Browning’s works held by Special Collections, a supposed 1847 printing of Sonnets, has since been confirmed as a forgery. You can read more about this forgery at the University of Chicago’s library website. The title page of this forged work and its books plates are pictured below:
On the other hand, Robert Browning, born May 7th, 1812 in Camberwell, London, claimed that he learned more over weekends than during his time at school. His father introduced him to Greek literature and drawing, while his mother taught him how to play the piano and appreciate classical music. After being sent home from school on many occasions for making his peers feel inferior due to his exceptional intelligence, Browning’s parents decided to home-school him, which is where his talents flourished. Many of his works are also present in Lehigh’s Special Collections, including an 1855 edition of Men and Women and The Ring and The Book (1868-69).
As for Elizabeth and Robert’s love story, they came to each other’s attention when Elizabeth publicly praised Robert’s poetry in an 1842 journal and a personal poem in 1844. Robert responded to these acknowledgments by posting a letter to her on January 10th, 1845, telling her that “I love your verse with all my heart… and I love you too.” The two continued to exchange letters every few days, and they finally decided to meet in person on May 20th, 1845 at 50 Wimpole Street. Although Elizabeth was very ill and six years his senior, Robert claims that it was love at first sight. The couple ended up eloping on September 12th, 1846 at St. Marylebone Church with only two guests: Robert’s cousin and Elizabeth’s maid. For their honeymoon, they decided to travel for several months to places such as Paris, Avignon, Marseilles, Leghorn and Pisa. After 171 years, the Brownings are still a significant part of literature and deserve to be celebrated in both their love and their work.
Marjorie Stone, ‘Browning , Elizabeth Barrett (1806–1861)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3711, accessed 12 Sept 2017]
In 1629, John Winthrop joined the Massachusetts Bay Company, after gaining a royal charter to start a colony in New England. Under the condition that the Company and charter be moved to America, Winthrop agreed to sell his estate in England and move to the new colony along with his family. The other members of the Massachusetts Bay Company agreed to these terms and then elected him the first Governor of the New England colony. He was a prominent Puritan and a well liked leader, who was chosen to be Governor on twelve occasions during his time in New England.
John Winthrop was born on January 22, 1588 in Edwardstone, England. He died in office on April 5, 1649 at the age of 61. Winthrop attended Trinity College, Cambridge studying law, after which he served as a Justice of Peace and held a government office and was a country squire at Groton. He had four wives and sixteen children. Winthrop was a highly religious man who devoted himself to scripture and prayer, becoming a devout puritan. By 1640 he became the “custodian of Massachusetts’ orthodoxy”. In 1641 he helped write the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, the first legal sanctioning of slavery in North America.
His push for group discipline and individual responsibility was key to the colony’s success. When Winthrop was not in office as Governor he sat on the Colony Council or the Court of Assistants.
On this day, May 11th, in 1871, John Herschel died at age 79. Herschel was a knowledgeable Englishman, known for his studies in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, and various other areas. Herschel was educated in scientific practices at a young age, growing up under the influence of his father, astronomer William Herschel, and his aunt, astronomer Caroline Herschel.
John Herschel studied a variety of subjects, but his most prevalent work was in the field of astronomy. His first major astronomical publication was a continuation of his father’s studies on determining the parallax of a star. This work, published in Transactions of the Royal Society, cataloged systems of double stars and was recognized by the Paris Academy and the Astronomical Society. Today, Herschel is commemorated by a crater on Earth’s moon, named the J. Herschel Crater. See the crater via the following image/link:
Another significant contribution by John Herschel were his experiments and developments in photography. He was able to produce photographs based on his knowledge and studies of chemical processes, and his studies led to multiple related publications. The term “photography” was coined and popularized by Herschel and he developed the first photographic fixer to preserve photographs.
One of John Herschel’s important publications was his Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy, an edition ofwhich can be found in Lehigh University’s Special Collections. Published in 1931, this book explores the philosophy of scientific research and discovery. Herschel describes abstract science as being “independent of nature,” with artificial systems of creation, deemed to be language, notation, and rational. These systems were designed by humans to analyze and understand our world, and Herschel explains each one with examples in education. Early in the book, Herschel defines science as, “the knowledge of many, orderly and methodically digested and arranged, so as to become attainable by one.” Lehigh University Special Collections also holds a number of letters and other publications written by John Herschel, mostly related to his astronomical research.