On the night of Sunday October 16, 1859, twenty-three men emerged from the woods surrounding the town of Harpers Ferry, which sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in present-day West Virginia. Armed with rifles and pikes, their mission was to successfully secure the large cache of weapons kept in the town’s armory and expel the U.S. military from the area. Led by the radical abolitionist John Brown, their overarching goal was to end slavery in the South by force, arming liberated enslaved people in Virginia with rifles and arms from the armory so that they could rise up against the white planter class.
Brown and his followers initially took control of the armory, but were unable to contact the local enslaved people whose participation was crucial in the success of the uprising. Over the next few days, Brown’s men remained trapped in an engine house at the armory, encircled by a much larger force of federal soldiers under the command of Robert E. Lee and Virginia Militia members under the command of William Booth Taliaferro.
After a standoff, the abolitionists who were still alive or hadn’t managed to escape—John Brown among them—were arrested. John Brown was brought to Charles Town in present-day West Virginia and was sentenced to be executed on December 2, 1859.
Among the items in the William Booth Taliaferro papers at Special Collections are various formal accounts from Taliaferro leading up to Brown’s execution, as well as some more unusual items related to the conflict.
Researchers may request to view a pike that John Brown brought to the armory and had intended for use by enslaved people in enacting revolution. After Brown’s capture, the pikes and other weapons taken by Brown were siezed, and this pike in particular was given to Taliaferro as a gift.
The legacy of John Brown sent shockwaves through American discourse and helped ignite the Civil War. Its reverbarations are still felt today, through twenty- and twenty-first-century resistance to white supremacy. John Brown’s pike serves as a reminder of how instrumental artifacts and documents from turning points in history are crucial in developing a sense of both historical power structures and the movitations of people who challenge and create them.
Written by Daniil Eliseev, Student Apprentice.
There’s nothing like browsing through hundreds of Christmas books right after Halloween to get you in the holiday spirit. Even better is spending hours searching through every box for cookie cutters that were listed under the wrong number. Jokes aside, it was an endless pleasure to pour over colorful illustrations of Santa Claus and pick the perfect pages to display for the campus community. Every year, Special Collections puts together an exhibit of books from the Nancy H. Marshall A Visit from St. Nicholas Collection of books. Coming up with a unique theme for this yearly “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” exhibit was the toughest part until I considered what college students think about most during Finals Week (or at least what I did in college): cookies. I doubt many of you have tasted sugarplums, but the sentiment still holds. I even found the version of The Night Before Christmas that I read as a child. There’s certainly nothing better than a project that involves nostalgia and cookies.
(Psst! If you don’t make it to Swem in time to check out the exhibit, fear not! We have a Flickr page with images from many of our exhibits, including this one! Check it out!)
Written by Jane Snyder, Graduate Student Apprentice
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In this month’s dog series post, we decided to focus on dog books related to the December holidays. In doing so, it became quickly apparent that while we have a small number of titles related to dogs and Christmas, we do not have titles related to Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Our awareness of this deficiently will inform future collecting decisions. If there are specific titles you would like to suggest, please hit us up in the comments section.
In the meantime, please enjoy the covers of some of the Christmas-related dog books we currently have in our holdings.
The post Tis the Season appeared first on An Acquired Taste - Swem Library Special Collections Blog.
Down in the belly of Special Collections sits a mysterious blue velvet box. Its contents are simultaneously mundane and bizarre, important for the study of language in Spain, and remarkably unremarkable. The box bears the inscription Matxin de Zalbaren Gutuna, La Carta de Machin de Zalba, 1416. What is it? Why do we have it? What makes it both special and ordinary?
It’s a facsimile of notes written at the beginning of the 15th century by court officials in the Navarre region of northern Spain. Seemingly commonplace, the note asks for explanation of a small budget deficiency before delving into the personal matter of dinner party attendance. Also included further down the page is the note’s reply. What’s really exciting is how the document is written. The first note starts in Romance (Spanish) before switching to the Basque language. The reply is written primarily in Basque. Before the discovery of the original, historians and linguists questioned whether or not the Basque language was widely spoken in Navarre. This example of high officials communicating in Basque, provides evidence that not only was the language writable and readable, but it was used by more than merely the lowest classes.
This is the most sizable example of Basque language writing before the Modern Era. It’s also the only extant text written in Basque before 1500. We have one of 356 copies made, one of only two listed on WorldCat, and the only one at an American university.
Written by Jane Snyder, Graduate Apprentice
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This past spring Sharon Summers, Charles W. Scandrett, Janet S. Hunt, Barbara J. Kaufman, and Sandra S. Ellender generously donated the Civil War diary of Henry Alexander Scandrett to the Special Collections Research Center. Scandrett fought for the Union during the war and recorded his experiences in the pocket diary. His diary begins on May 5, 1862 with a significant announcement:
Was in my first battle today. About 1 Oclock P.M. our regiment was marched into the field about. We were thrown in advance and through some blunder was not reinforced. We have lost all our company officers and our field officers are all wounded. With fifteen others I was taken prisoner and am now in William & Mary college.
Other daily entries document camp life, weather, rations, and events, including serving as a pallbearer for the funeral of one young soldier who died from typhoid fever. Scandrett documents several close encounters with “the enemy,” in one instance writing that “The rebels were firing all night, killing 1 man and wounding three, one mortally.”
Scandrett’s diary is a valuable primary source that reveals fragments of the College’s past, as well as events from the nation’s history. It is one of many artifacts among the Special Collections Research Center’s vast collections that are regularly used by faculty, students, and researchers globally to piece together important historical narratives.
W&M Libraries’ Digital Services team digitized Scandrett’s diary and you can access the scans via W&M’s Digital Archive.
Author and historian Wilford Kale (class of ‘66) was instrumental in coordinating the donation of the Scandrett diary. Kale recently published his latest book, From Student to Warrior: A Military History of The College of William and Mary, which features many items from Special Collections. Join us for his book talk today, Monday, November 13 at 5:30pm in the Ford Classroom in Swem Library, when he will discuss the role the university and its faculty, students, and alumni have played in the military from the French and Indian War to the present day.
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In 1918, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany, effectively ending World War I. This Saturday marks the anniversary of this event, commemorated as Veteran’s Day in the United States, Armistice Day in France, and Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom. In honor of this event, our November Dog Book series blog post highlights a booklet about some of the dogs of World War I.
“War Dogs of the World War,” published in 1919, is dedicated “To those who love dogs, those faithful friends of mankind.” In 1914, animal lover Countess Mary Yourkevitch (a native-born Russian who made France her adopted home), established the Refuge in Neuilly, a training school whose sole purpose was to train dogs for war work. Some were trained to work for the Red Cross, some for trench work, and others became messengers. Six hundred dogs were trained and sent to the Front. Some made the ultimate sacrifice; some returned crippled; and some returned unscathed, at least physically. After the war’s end, dozens of these dogs returned to the Countess’s care. John I. Anderson, the author of the booklet, wrote, “Knowing the burden placed upon her, both in a financial and physical sense, I am writing this story of the heroic deeds of these wonderful animals. Every penny derived from the sale of this booklet will be devoted to assist this noble work of the Countess Yourkevitch of Neuilly, France.” To be honest, several of his stories of individual dogs are truly heartbreaking, such as that of Monte, who worked as a picket dog and returned to France after four years of service, suffering from shell shock and completely traumatized.
However, Anderson also introduces us to Toby, the fox terrier whose job was to keep the trenches free of rats. Toby served three years at the Front and is credited with killing four thousand rats during that time. He was returned to the Countess after a stray bullet cost him part of a leg. Despite his energy, Anderson describes Toby as the “most agile three-footed tyke I ever saw, and sets the pace for all the other dogs in their gambols about the grounds.” We also learn that the soldiers taught Toby some tricks, including saying his prayers, rolling over, and singing.
Anderson also describes meeting Dick, a French poodle, who had worked for two years as a guide at the Soldiers’ Home for the Blind. Anderson writes, “It is no unusual sight to see two men or more, arm in arm, being guided by Dick through various parts of the grounds. Sometimes you meet them picking their way through the adjacent streets, Dick always on the alert for their safety.”
It’s only fitting that we take the time to also remember and acknowledge the service of military dogs this Saturday. “War Dogs of the World War” is just one of many titles associated with war dogs. If you are interested in learning more about our holdings, please visit the W&M Libraries online catalog or visit us in Special Collections. We’ll be happy to help you!
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As a child of the 90’s, I’m pretty familiar with trading cards. Pokémon and Yugio cards were all the rage throughout my younger years, but little did I know that trading cards have a much richer history than keeping myself occupied throughout elementary school.
Before there were trading cards, there were cigarette cards. Slipped inside your packet of tobacco or, eventually, your box of rolled cigarettes, these cards were a marketing ploy that depicted everything from scantily clad women to popular baseball players from the time. You would collect the various different gals or guys and eventually have a small collection of your own. In time, the cigarette card would give way to the baseball card.
While processing a collection, I happened upon a few 1930s cigarette cards. Packaged with Golden Grain granulated tobacco from Brown & Williamson Tobacco, these cards featured stars and starlets from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Among these stars was Jane Wyatt, who is known for playing the matriarch in the TV show Father Knows Best, and Lyle Talbot. Talbot, whose actual last name was Hollywood, had a role in the Ed Wood film, Glen or Glenda.
What really stood out to me was the card for Jean Muir. Muir’s card promotes her upcoming role in the 1934 film Dr. Monica. Though she may look like your typical “Old Hollywood” starlet, Muir is better known today for being the first actor blacklisted during the era of paranoia and anti-Communist sentiment known as the Red Scare. Muir’s name was published in an anti-Communist pamphlet in 1950, in which she was described as a Communist sympathizer. She was fired from her TV show gig and only starred in a few TV movies throughout the remainder of her career.
Sometimes work in Special Collections can be anything but glamorous. Processing collections often means getting a little dust in your eyes and the occasional paper cut. Other tim, however, you find unexpected treasures that reveal an even more unexpected narrative. For someone like me who loves Old Hollywood as much as I love the archives, these cards were that treasure.
Written by Mallory Walker, Mosaic Fellow.
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You may recall from our first series blog post that the Special Collections Research Center holds the second largest collection of books on dogs in the United States.
Today’s blog post highlights one of our many titles, Journal of a Neglected Bulldog by Barbara Blair, published in 1911 by George W. Jacobs & Co. of Philadelphia.
The Nov. 25, 1911 issue of The Publisher’s Weekly states that “In this book the ‘author’ – a most observant bulldog – relates some of his experiences, comments upon life as he sees it, moralizes upon the human weaknesses and frailties revealed in mankind, and incidentally exposes the love affairs of his master and a certain young lady named Mildred.” The bulldog – Little Slam – even dedicates the book to “Cats I have Chased.”
The book also features several illustrations by Eugene A. Furman.
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